Farewell to a favorite

Alex & Ika in Cooperstown, which reopened as a new restaurant today.

Alex & Ika in Cooperstown, which reopened as a new restaurant today.

Put a gun to my head and ask me to name my favorite upstate New York restaurant and I’ll eventually blurt out Alex & Ika.

I love how I always feel at home at Union Hall Inn. I love the crispiness of the chicken thighs at Hattie’s and the nostalgic feeling I get when I walk into Jack’s Oyster House. And I would be perfectly happy eating every meal for the rest of my life at the Northampton Diner.

But with Alex & Ika in downtown Cooperstown, it was love at first sight. And now it’s gone.

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Not wild about Wendy’s pulled pork additions

The Wendy's pulled pork sandwich, as pictured on the company's website.

The Wendy’s pulled pork sandwich, as pictured on the company’s website.

The news the other day about Wendy’s going pulled pork crazy on its menus can’t possibly be good news, can it?

Pulled pork sandwiches are one thing. Pulled pork fries and a pulled pork cheeseburger are another. But I’m not complaining because of some notion of pulled pork integrity. I’m not necessarily a purist.

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It’s great pumpkins, Charlie Brown

Pumpkins for sale last week at the Mohawk Harvest Produce Auction. Tens of thousands will be sold there Tuesday.

Pumpkins for sale last week at the Mohawk Harvest Produce Auction. Tens of thousands will be sold there Tuesday.

Tuesday at the Mohawk Valley Produce Auction is one of my favorite days of the year, because it’s such an off-the-wall day for one piece of the local farm community.

It’s the annual pumpkin sale, when tens of thousands of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes overtake every piece of the auction property in Minden. Auction manager Ben Fisher said he expected to sell 300 to 500 bins of pumpkins — and by bins, I mean a box the size of a pallet which needs to be loaded by forklift. Jack Be Littles, Fairytale, pie pumpkins — more varieties than you could possibly know what to do with.

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Not mom’s deviled eggs


A few weeks ago, I dug into a new cookbook, “The Preppy Cookbook,” written by my friend Christine Nunn, a chef who once reviewed restaurants for the same newspaper I did.

Christine, who runs the kitchen at Grange in Westwood, N.J., will put foie gras and microgreens on the same menu as a casserole made with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. Because Christine cooks from her heart and her head.

I was thinking about her the other day when a food show spread included these deviled eggs. Garish, freaky and psychadelic, and flavorwise, nothing to write home about. It reminded me how much flavor Christine could coax out of a humble egg.

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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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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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