Last night I had the pleasure of spending the evening at the Fusion charity event for the Albany Barn http://www.albanybarn.org/ it was great because it combined two things I am very passionate about, food and local arts. I don't have any photos since it was very dark there, but it was a great event showcasing some local chefs as well as work from local artists that was auctioned off to benefit the Albany Barn group. Currently they are rebuilding an old school in the Arbor Hill neighborhood (the bad neighborhood) in Albany into an artist community and arts center. You can check out their website for more info.
Despite my earlier bout with the flu this week I was there with bells on ready to test all the food. Sadly no photos since the lighting there was horrible it was very very dark at the venue, but I'll tell you all about the foods and chefs there.
There were 5 local chefs and they were given a challenge to use a season and an aroma in their dish.
Elliot from Creo, a local restaurant (http://www.creorestaurant.com/) I enjoy very much had probably the best dish of the night. His theme was the smells of fall, and he did an anise and cider braised smoked pork rib with a turnip and parsnip puree with a pine water chartreuse nectar. Sounds fancy and it was, but it was also just well cooked homey food. The rib was fall off the bone tender and the puree was a nice compliment to the smoked flavors. Even the pine water which seemed kind of silly to me complimented well. It was a well designed plate of food because it melded well together. You could taste each flavor, yet they blended together rather than fighting each other.
Second would probably go to Ric Orlando of the New World Bistro http://newworldbistrobar.com/ who chose winter aromas. New World Bistro has had lots of attention locally, recently being voted best vegetarian and best place to take a date in Metroland newspaper. He made an oak smoked chicken thigh with a cranberry pearl onion compote and a smoked winter squash risotto. The risotto was so so, honestly risotto in a large setting like this is never very good, it usually just ends up being a very gummy rice. Risotto should really be made in small batches to order. Multiple places tried risottos at the event and none of them were any good, but his chicken was very good so I'll still give him points.
Mark Graham of Max London in Saratoga Springs http://maxlondons.com/ made lamb meatballs with a salad of microgreens and roasted beets with a vinaigrette. It wasn't bad, but honestly didn't notice they were lamb if I hadn't read the sign and they just tasted like average meatballs nothing too fancy.
Yono Purnomo of Yono's http://www.yonos.com/ was there as well. I was disappointed by his offering as it has been on my list of places to eat recently. It's a pricey fine dining establishment, but you can't be perfect every time. They also tried a risotto, a jasmine rice risotto, which again was pretty gummy and lacking in flavor. It was served with a Bakimi Goreng, which is similar to to a lo mein. It was good, but not great, again I just feel as though it wasn't very inventive or original. He also had chicken simmered in a coconut curry sauce.
Last was AJ Jayapal who is part of the Malozzi restaurant family, a local family that owns many restaurants in the area, most of them kind of cookie cutter fine dining, overpriced great place to take a date if you're trying to impress someone, but don't want to really put any effort into the date, lol. He had angus sliders with a mango pepper chutney. Eh... sliders have been pretty overdone lately and since these were all precooked and reheated they just we're great. You can't judge all these restaurants by large scare catering events, but it is hard not to when one or two really shine and it makes you wonder how much of a handicap you should give the others.
All in all a great night where quite a bit of money was raised for a great new local art center under construction and some pretty good food was had.