exactly does Saratoga want to eat? “And where are they
coming from?” I shouted uselessly, as I cruised the
downtown streets in a vain search for parking. It wasn’t yet
June when we visited—it wasn’t even Saturday—and Broadway
was crawling with what passes for our beau monde, clutching
their Gap bags and looking fashionably windswept.
more around the block and we’re going home,” I declared. My
wife likened me to a fundamental body part.
by Price Chopper and walk some of that weight off,” she said.
“We’re going to dinner.” Our daughter, crowded into a rear-seat
corner, rolled her eyes and turned up her iPod. This is why
I was in a reasonably foul temper when we reached Broadway
and the restaurant we sought.
Gelding opened in June 2006, the brainchild of the husband-and-wife
team of Scott and Jamie Beale and Jamie’s sister, Kelly Keefe,
all of them veterans of various aspects of the restaurant
business. “Jamie and I started a catering business in Saratoga
in 2000,” says Scott, “and it grew popular enough that people
began telling us we should have a restaurant.”
to name it something horse-related,” says Jamie. “We live
near the track and we’re big racing fans. And we wanted to
have a restaurant that’s classy and nice.”
always been aware of grey horses,” Scott explained. “If a
grey horse is in the race and you don’t bet on it, it invariably
wins. We thought of a number of words to go with it, and gelding
seemed the most interesting, but we were worried about what
it suggests and the effect it might have on customers. Turns
out it didn’t bother anyone, and people around town refer
to the place as ‘The Gelding.’”
great sympathy for the titular beast as we were escorted inside.
We opted not to sit at one of the pleasant outdoor tables
because I’d had enough of the tourist parade. We passed the
bar area that dominates the front half of the restaurant,
and I resented the swarm of summer-dressed guys around the
cleavagely precocious women.
through the proffered menu and asked myself again: What does
Saratoga want to eat? What caught my eye were the starters—“shareables,”
as they’re termed. Bruschetta ($7). Calamari with shrimp ($14).
Cheese and artichoke dip ($10). Mainstream stuff. Not what
I’m looking for.
came a few more items, and my interest was stirred. There
are spiedies ($9/$12). There’s something called honey-praline
Brie ($11), and this I had to sample, because it promises
(and, ultimately, delivers) warm Brie garnished with crushed
pecans, sweetened with honey and caramel for that praline
flavor. Yes, it is surprisingly, not to say disturbingly,
sweet, and thus weird to be dredging bread through, but it’s
set off by tart Granny Smith apple slices, and once you understand
what’s coming, it’s pretty addictive. Like the guacamole ($11):
a very smooth blend, made in-house, sporting a little kick
from the addition of tequila, and served with plenty of chips.
it Tuscan-Cajun-California cuisine,” says chef Scott. “What
I’m looking for is a way to give your normal kind of dish
a flair. Take chicken or veal Marsala. I call it ‘St. John’
and do it with cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, Riesling, three
kinds of mushroom—it’s a different twist.” It’s what my wife
enjoyed. The dish is available in a $14 or $24 size, and even
the former, which she self-righteously selected, was a satisfying
portion, served over Asiago-enhanced pasta.
what Saratoga wants is fairly standard stuff. But, as the
menu goes on, I’m liking ever more the way Scott messes with
did you have?” he asked when we spoke a few days later.
I admitted. “I don’t usually order them when I go out . .
I do them differently,” he finished for me. Indeed. “Like
my Capetown sauce. I did a wine- tasting dinner with South
African wine a while back, and did a lot of research on the
food. I saw that people were doing a lot with peppadew peppers,
so I used them to make my own version of a Piri Piri sauce,
which is so popular I also serve it on a burger.”
my sirloin (12 oz. Black Angus, $30) in the Island’s End preparation,
in which the beef is crusted with crushed espresso beans and
peppercorns, pan-seared and finished with a jalapeno-enhanced
red-eye gravy. An inspired variation on the surf and turf
concept is his Royal Sonesta, named for the most beautiful
hotel in New Orleans’s French Quarter ($27). At its heart
is an andouille sausage sauce, but more evident is the slice
of tenderloin, served atop a crab cake with a flavorful kick.
This my daughter seized upon, and she wouldn’t let go. Both
meat plates were garnished with sun-dried tomato-enhanced
mashed potatoes and a crisp baby-string-bean sautée.
sets the tone for the rest of the entrées, which take conventional
ingredients and spin them into creative original places. They’re
then accompanied with a killer wine list: eleven pages of
carefully-chosen bottles that reflect the restaurant’s curiosity
and have won them Wine Spectator awards.
the dining room—tin-ceilinged, art-enhanced—is a different
animal than the bar area, but, like so much in Saratoga, there’s
a coexistence I suspect is symbiotic. We felt relaxed and
well-served, and, by the time we left, I had to be reminded
how grumpy I’d been going in. I walked the several blocks
back to the car without complaining.