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Photo by: B.A. Nilsson

Join the Club
By B.A. Nilsson

Pinehaven Restaurant & Caterers
Pinehaven Country Club, 1151 Siver Road, Guilderland, 456-7111 ext. 132. Serving lunch and dinner Thu 11-8, Fri-Sat 11-8:30, Sun 11-7. AE, D, MC, V.
Cuisine: American with surprises
Entrée price range: $11 (chicken parmigiana) to $17 (New York strip)
Ambience: spacious and pleasant
Clientele: good sports

If I were a Pinehaven Country Club member, I would view this influx of outsiders as a grim, unpleasant phenomenon. I’m misanthropic enough to resent seeing people admitted free into the club to which I pay membership dues. Yet as a nonmember who recently paid a couple of visits to the club’s restaurant, I have to commend those I encountered for being utterly charming. Not that it was old home week or anything, but my fellow diners were far more friendly to me than I would have been to them.

Open to the public for dining for just over a year, the restaurant offers late-in-the-week lunches and dinners in one of three pleasant, golf-themed areas. You may find the hemispheric sunroom most attractive, with its ring of tables surrounding the bar and several TV monitors in view; there’s also a smaller, more formal room a couple of stair-steps up.

At my daughter’s insistence, however, we sat near the fireplace in the third room, a fireplace flanked by trophy displays. It’s the kind of room—it’s the kind of place—where you think in terms of old-fashioned fare, and I was hankering a steak. They offer a 12-oz. N.Y. strip for $17, a 20-oz. sirloin for $16, the former with an onion marmalade, the latter with parmesan-garlic butter.

But lamb was one of the specials, a Moroccan rack of lamb with a green olive and tomato relish, served over a charred tomato coulis ($22). Fancier than what I think of as country-club fare, but that’s only to the club’s advantage. It arrived as a good-looking, no-nonsense plate dominated by the meat, four two-bone cuts arrayed atop the coulis and topped with the relish, and alongside was a fat pancake of onion-y mashed potatoes shaped into a patty and fried, and a side serving of sautéed squash and carrots, buttery enough to claim attention.

Each of the entrée plates was similarly dressed—potato pancake, side of squash—and suggested a chef with enough self-awareness to recognize his own skill without needing fussy presentations to underscore it. In this case, it’s Brian Wagner, a graduate of Schenectady County Community College’s renowned cooking program and a veteran of several noteworthy area restaurants.

His dinner menu puts those much- preferred chicken-based entrées on the first page, five different preparations priced from $11 to $15, including pasta-accompanied, Marsala-moistened and cheese-topped versions. Chicken chasseur ($15) got the classic French sauce of mushrooms and shallots in a demi-glace, just a touch saltier than I prefer.

A market-priced catch of the day was scallops, a generous serving that was cornmeal breaded and deep fried ($17), a good way to make up for the reduced flavor now allowed by the seafood industry. Traditional fish and chips is $11, featuring ale-battered haddock; pasta primavera is $12; and an Asian-scented pot roast is $14. Pork, veal and other seafood items also are available.

Entrées include a salad, upgradable to a very nice Caesar for $1.50; the house salad, while a good blend of unusual greens and familiar vegetables, had been refrigerated for a while after it was plated, with the resultant loss of moisture.

Appetizers are more conventional, with soup (French onion among them) and chili leading the way. Bar-food favorites like mozzarella sticks ($5) are available, prepared and served exactly as you’d expect. The stuffed portobello ($7) is a single large cap with a filling based on sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese, far more complex in flavor than the usual version. And the quesadilla ($7) is almost a dinner portion in itself, filled with chicken and cheese and served with sour cream and salsa.

Brenda and Gary Stevens took over the food service here a couple of years ago, enhancing the menu and opening the restaurant to the public. Catering is also offered, with banquet facilities on the premises, and if the attention to detail is as good as we experienced, I’d keep this place in mind.

We also explored the lunch menu, starting with a terrific pork-and-white-bean soup ($2) and enjoying one of the better burgers I’ve sampled ($5): a half-pounder that you can enhance as you wish, with hand-cut fries for an extra dollar. Lunch salads include a grilled chicken Caesar ($6.50), upon which the sliced chicken breast is marinated and really grilled and far tastier than what you’re served in the chain restaurants.

Lunch options also include a variety of sandwiches, priced in the $5 range, club sandwiches for $6.50, and a few entrées, such as those chicken quesadillas, an omelette platter, or, for $15, a sirloin.

Note that the tip, calculated at 17 percent, is written into your bill, a longstanding club policy and one that more restaurants should adopt. It’s hard to figure what’s worse in our culture: math skills or dining-out savvy, and the service at the club warrants decent compensation.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

“What a friend we have in cheeses,” rhapsodized poet William Cole. More and more farmstead dairies are making fine cheeses, and to recognize this trend, the Regional Farm & Food Project is hosting Cheese and Libations: A Spring Pairing Party from 7-9:30 PM, Sat, March 20, at the North Pointe Cultural Arts Center on Route 9 in Kinderhook. The event will celebrate the Spring Equinox with a fine array of New York state farmstead cheeses and New York state artisan wines. Cheese and Libations is a benefit for the RFFP, a nonprofit membership organization that fosters sustainable agriculture and connects farmers and consumers in 12 counties of eastern New York. The party features a wine and cheese tasting led by Susan Sturman of Port Washington, N.Y.-based Epicurean. Music will be provided by pianist Adrian Cohen, and the evening also will include hors d’oeuvres, desserts and a silent auction. Tickets are $20 for RFFP members and $25 for nonmembers; send your check or money order to RFFP, 295 Eighth St., Troy NY 12180. Tickets purchased by March 12 will be entered into a drawing for an assortment of New York wines. Tickets will be held at the door. For more information, contact M.L. Healey at 271-0744 or farmfood@capital.net. . . . Cooking classes with chef David Lawson have resumed at Aubergine (Rts 22 & 23, Hillsdale, www.aubergine.com) on Thursdays during most of the coming weeks. “An Italian country lunch” is the theme March 11; April 8 features favorite recipes from the Roux Brothers and London’s Le Gavroche, while April 15 will be a French regional event: a culinary tour of the Loire Valley and the Sologne. Classes run from 10:30 AM through the conclusion of lunch (around 2 PM) and cost $75 per person, which includes materials, lunch, wine, tax and tip. Call the restaurant at 325-3412 for more information. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food@banilsson.com).

(Please fax info to 922-7090)

We want your feedback

Have you eaten at Pinehaven Restaurant & Caterers, or other recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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Actually one of the things I usually like about B.A.'s reviews, that was missing here, is that he often brings his family, specially his child to these meals and includes their dining experiences in his columns. As a parent who is always looking fo kid-friendly places that also serve good food that I'd want to eat, so I especially enjoy "his take" on what his daughter orders and how she likes it too, as well as the entire dining experience...

Margo Matzdorf
East Greenbush

I have never been to Ogdens but look forward to the dining experience. B.A.,,your review leaves me anticipating a delicious dining experience. Thank you for the suggestion, it is fun to try new things and I will let you know how I liked it,although, as usual, I am sure you are right on the mark.

Mary Pezdek

It's me again B.A. The Chain Restaurant loving fat guy who loves big, heaping helpings of prepared, marketed fried things. Even Chicken Fingers.

I could care less about Daniel's at Ogdens to be perfectly honest. I read the review mostly because my office stares right at it's front door and we all watched as the refurbishing was done. My problem here today is with your first two paragraphs.

The kind of news article that bugs you is what percentage of Americans spend 30 minutes or less preparing food!?!? You know what kind of news article bothers me? "Remains of a woman found stuffed in a barrel......" or "....Albany Police Lt. dies from injuries sustained in shootout with suspect." I realize food and it's service and preparation may be the all consuming obsession in your life, but please tell me you have a bigger heart than that.

Maybe the reason "44 percent of weekday meals in the U.S. are prepared in 30 minutes or less.." is that some people work 2 or 3 jobs. Some people may be a single parent with young children, who may only have less than 30 minutes to spare.

But I promise you this, the next time I get 35 minutes or so.........I'll order some Kobe Beef, puff pastry, shitake mushrooms and the ingredients to make a proper buerre blanc....dim the lights, put on a bowtie, apron and plenty of snotty attitude and invite you over for dinner.

Are Chicken Fingers ok for an appetizer?

Mark Eriole
East Greenbush

I really love this guys knack for picking "the best kept secrets" in the Capital District. Way to go B.A.! Keep up the good work!

Mike Aldrich
Rensselaer



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