Breakfast surprise



It was seven years ago a group of investors built the 74 State boutique hotel in downtown Albany and hired a friend of mine to be its sales director. He was long gone by the time I finally got there for a night out with my wife this weekend.

Also gone: Those owners, the next owners, the owners after that … and, sadly, the restaurant, a casualty of the newest round of owners, who paid $3.8 million for it, according to a Times Union story.

So much for our breakfast, which was included in the gift certificate Julie and I bought at an auction.
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Summer camp in cold



What a great weekend!

In my 30 years in and around Christian camping, I’ve never seen a camp try to pull off what we did at Sac this weekend: Offer a winter camp program that didn’t require group leaders. Using some of our summer staff, we offered a program for more than 50 local teens, many of them unchurched, that duplicated the social, recreational and spiritual experience of camp.

And we tried to do the same with the food. Here’s a look:
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A box of potential



No pastry chef in the world will suggest using chocolate chips for anything but baking cookies.

I cheat, and I’m OK with that.

Chocolate chips are my all-purpose melting and baking chocolates of choice. They are durable enough to withstand the temperature swings of the kitchen (40 degrees on quiet winter days, 85 in summer’s brutal heat and humidity). They’re cheap. They’re ready to use. And they easy to dump out and store in 5-gallon pails.
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Mozzarella experts



One in every 300 residents of Hamilton County, N.Y., knows how to make mozzarella. Can any other county make that claim?

This was a blast. I had the opportunity to show a group of about 15 youngsters in a girls group from Adirondack Bible Chapel how to make real, honest mozzarella cheese from curd (available from some specialty shops), then turned the process over to them.
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Dining differences



Thank you, Open Table restaurant reservation system, for reminding me that I don’t dine out like I used to.

This photo in an email was an amusing reminder of my changing geography, tastes and preferences (and yes, finances). Australian lamb chops, foie gras terrines and $200 checks are out. We’re not in Jersey anymore. We don’t have the cash, and I don’t have the desire.

Give me a choice between dropping $200 at Yono’s in Albany or a good chicken sandwich at Hattie’s in Saratoga Springs and I’ll take the chicken sandwich — maybe even to go. Put me in Wine & Roses in Broadalbin — the best restaurant in Fulton County — and I’m more apt to select the smoked chicken enchiladas while Julie opts for the New York strip.

These days, this is what constitutes a great night out:
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