The countdown to the holidays has started…has everyone gotten all of their present shopping out of the way? Now this post is not going to be a restaurant review, more of a gift idea for those who need some inspiration as it gets closer and closer to the holidays. And the idea is (drum roll please) what better gift to give than a taste of Saratoga! There are a number of stores that you can visit to put together a gift basket of Saratoga food. Show some of that Saratoga pride and let people know just how delicious the town is!
The first store I visited on this gift basket adventure was Saratoga Salsa and Spice. This store has got just about everything – salsa, hot sauce, hot fudge, spices, everything. The store showcases local Saratoga companies, though they have other brands as well to bulk up their incredible collection of hot sauces. Saratoga Salsa and Spice has pre-made gift baskets that I suppose you could pick up if you were in a hurry, but we both know it’s more fun to make your own. I personally like (love) the Best in Show hot sauce and the Saffron Aioli, either could go with just about any meal you can think of. Another plus – you can use one of your Spa City coupons here, $5 off if you spend $15 or more (which you will have no trouble doing, you’ll want everything).
The next store for your gift basket can be the Saratoga Candy Company. If nothing else, throw a Peppermint Pig in the basket for the true Saratoga experience. Does everyone know the story of the Peppermint Pig? The Saratoga Candy Company also has other Saratoga themed sweets that are just too adorable to not put in the gift basket. And yes, you can use a coupon here too; who said gift shopping had to put a strain on your wallet!
Last but not least on the gift basket taste tour of Saratoga – the Saratoga Olive Oil Company. I was awestruck when I first walked into this store, it’s absolutely amazing. They have a million different types of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. And the best part is, you can TASTE THEM ALL. Now you may be wondering, what could I possibly use Blood Orange Olive Oil for? Good thing they are super prepared and have a recipe handout for different flavors to inspire your inner culinary creativity. I love talking to the people who work here and having major foodie moments, they know so much about olive oil and will take the time to make sure you pick out the perfect flavor for your gift basket.
So that’s all for now for your Saratoga gift basket. Leave a comment if you can think of other great local food companies that you can add, I’m always looking for new places to try. I’m sure you can also find all sorts of non-perishable goodies at the Saratoga Farmers Market. Oh and before I forget, this is a great gift for someone who lives out of town but if you are making a basket for a Saratogian make sure to throw in a Spa City Food Pack!
Best of luck with your shopping!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Last night I went to a very special restaurant for a very special occasion. I'll start this off by saying that after last night, Capriccio now one of my favorite restaurants in Saratoga . We walked into the restaurant and immediately fell in love. The setting was beautiful - romantic lighting with flowers on every table, pieces from local artists on display and a gorgeous dark wood bar...I might have felt slightly underdressed in my black skinny jeans but oh well. We were warmly greeted and given our choice of table either by the window or tucked in the back. We chose the window seat where it was a little quieter and settled in as our waiter talked to us about the specials of the night.
For our appetizer, we decided to be a little adventurous and ordered the Octopus Carpaccio. I honestly had no idea what to expect and was very surprised when this was on our table almost immediately after ordering. (Sorry for the amateur photos, my pre-New Year's resolution is to take better food pictures)
I realized that I had never had octopus expect for calamari and I wouldn't even know how to recognize it otherwise...who knew this was what it looked like! This dish was thinly sliced octopus dressed with lemon olive oil and capers, with some arugula on the side to compliment it perfectly. The subtle taste of the octopus was brought out by the lemon olive oil and given an extra kick by the capers...what more could you want.
Well, I'll tell you what more you could want in an appetizer - some of Capriccio's wood-fired bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic. Oh man, that was some good bread. I didn't know about their wood-fired oven (imported from Napoli, how fancy!) so was curious when the bread tasted a little smoky. Absolutely delicious. Now I'm even more excited to try some of their pizzas, I can only imagine how the wood-fired oven adds to the already amazing flavor combinations they have put together.
But the pizza would have to wait for another visit, last night I got the Baked Eggplant while my date got the Beef Scallopine alla Rosina. Both dishes came with polenta and vegetables. I'm not gonna to lie, I love polenta and everything but I've always thought it was a fairly bland option. Well ladies and gentlemen, Capriccio did the impossible, they made polenta exciting! It was flavorful and hearty, the perfect side for both of the dishes we got. Take a look, don't these dishes look amazing?
The Baked Eggplant was the perfect comfort food, exactly what I needed on a cold December night. Underneath all that cheese is eggplant, roasted red pepper, and spinach. Yum. The tomato sauce was truly amazing, you could have given me a bowl of that sauce and I would have been happy. And I know I said it but I'll say it again, I loved the polenta.
My date definitely enjoyed the Beef Scallopine alla Rosina, though when he first got the dish it was missing the crispy prosciutto. Never fear, waiter to the rescue! As soon as we pointed it out, our waiter apologized and immediately brought a little dish of prosciutto for my date to add to his meal. It's that kind of service that makes a great restaurant experience...the prosciutto was what made the entree so enticing on the menu and adding it really made the meal.
And now dessert.
That my friends is a slice of Orange Ricotta Cheesecake. Sweet, light, delicious, and exactly what I wanted after such a decadent dinner. As with the polenta, I was skeptical due to my bias towards New York style cheesecake over Italian cheesecake. But once again, Capriccio proved me wrong. This cheesecake made me wonder if I had preferred New York style cheesecake only because I had never had good Italian cheesecake before...because this was definitely the best I have ever had. Maybe I'll have to go on a cheesecake spree to test out this theory.
So besides amazing atmosphere, service, and food, Capriccio also has some other exciting things going for it. For example, you can save $8 with your Spa City Pack coupon...think about it, that's a glass of wine or appetizer right there! Another thing, Capriccio hosts sunday family dinners where adults are $25, kids are $15, and kids under 10 are free! What an amazing tradition to start with your family, every Sunday going to a local restaurant for good company and good food. Speaking of good company and food, Capriccio also organizes trips to Italy! WHOA! I'm not too sure on all of the details, but it seems like they go as a group to experience everything that Italy has to offer. Check it out, and if anyone has been on one of these trips feel free to leave a comment, I'm so curious!
And while you are checking out those trips online, make sure to make a reservation for Capriccio for your next special occasion, you'll have a great experience.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Today I had a lovely brunch with some friends at The Turf Club, another Saratoga restaurant I had never been to before. As anyone who lives in town knows, finding a place for brunch can be difficult. There are a few favorites in town that always have lines around the block and by the time you sit down everyone is too hungry to do anything but shove food in their face. Not that I don't love those Saratoga classics, but sometimes I am just too hungry to wait. Keeping those experiences in mind, I was overjoyed when we we walked in and had our choice of tables.
The Turf Club is certainly a classy establishment. We chose a table near a window, though if we had seen it earlier we would have chosen a seat next to the cozy fireplace. There were beautiful decorations everywhere and calming music in the background - this was definitely not your paper tablecloth with crayons kind of brunch place.
After delivering our coffees our waitress informed us that they were out of quiche and hash. Definitely a little unusual to have so few customers and to already be out of food, but I suppose that happens sometimes. I ordered one of my favorites, eggs benedict with smoke salmon and hash browns. One of my friends ordered chocolate chip pancakes while the other ordered bacon filled waffles with strawberries. After checking with the kitchen, our waitress found out that they were also out of strawberries...seriously? For a place that prides itself in brunch, you really should be stocked up on your fresh fruit. In the end, my friend ended up picking raspberries to go with his waffles instead.
I was so excited when our food came! My eggs benedict came with a crispy potato pancake that had the perfect amount of spice to it, delicious! Unfortunately, I was the only one who was totally satisfied with their meal. My friend who ordered the chocolate chip pancakes saw as soon as she got her plate that two of her three pancakes were burnt, covered by the one pancake that was not. Honestly, if there are not that many people in the restaurant to begin with - take the time to do it right. If you burn a couple pancakes, throw them out and make a few more, it's not like there's a huge rush. And apparently they were out of raspberries as well. Instead of getting fresh fruit on his waffles, my friend got a raspberry jam topping. Not that it didn't taste good, it just wasn't what he had asked for.
I would say that overall The Turf Club had good food, they just did not necessarily take the time to make sure that it was great food. Despite my experiences today, I would like to give The Turf Club a chance to really shine, it definitely has the potential. I would also highly recommend bringing one of these super cool coupons with you when you go. Have you guys all bought your local coupons yet? We saved $8 off of our total bill, which makes a difference! I love these coupons, they make it possible for me to fully enjoy everything that Saratoga has to offer - even on my unemployed graduate student budget.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
So in the theme of trying new restaurants in Saratoga, my friend and I decided to try Dango's on Caroline Street for lunch. Advertised on it's window as an "Irish Pub, Steak House and Sport Bar", Dango's is certainly all of those things. In fact, the first thing I noticed when we walked in were the TVs. Everywhere. Literally everywhere. We counted nine behind the bar, plus one for every booth. That's a lot of TVs.
After scooting into our very large booth, our waitress came up to get our drink orders. Dango's has an impressive draft beer selection as well as "anything you can think of that comes in a bottle". And not only was there such a huge variety, but everything was very reasonably priced! Seeing as it was lunch, we decided not to get anything alcoholic, but I am definitely keeping that in the back of my mind for a future happy hour.
While we waited for our appetizer I was able to get a good look around. When I picture a sports bar in my mind, I picture Dango's. Dark wood, dim lighting, comfort food menu and very friendly bartenders. I also loved how big the booths were, this is definitely the kind of place you would want to go with a big group - one of those "let's order a couple pitchers and every fried appetizer" kind of nights.
For our appetizer we ordered cajun bbq shrimp, something a little out of the ordinary for pub food. Our dish came with four shrimp doused in delicious goodness with a side of what we think was a bleu cheese sauce. Not too shabby. Since it's starting to be that time of year, we both ordered soup for our lunch, I got a lobster bisque while my friend got a New England clam chowder in a bread bowl. (Anyone else counting down the days to chowderfest?)
The chowder was very good, unlike many other chowders that I've had Dango's put a healthy amount of clam and potato in theirs. And man I wish a got a bread bowl. As soon as we got our soup I stared at that bread bowl and couldn't remember the last time I had one...definitely too long ago. There's something about the comfort of hot soup mixed with the food coma of a carb overload that is just perfect for a cold December afternoon.
So I have to say, I was pretty disappointed in my lobster bisque. It was incredibly heavy and a little too reliant on its cream base. I actually couldn't finish it, which is saying a lot for me. Who knows, maybe a bread bowl would have made up for it's blandness? Next time I go I'll have to try something else, they certainly had plenty of other choices on their menu. Though, one of the things I was very aware of was Dango's serious lack of vegetarian options. I'm one of those vegetarians that eat fish (I feel so weird calling myself a pescatarian) so I had my choice of fried seafood, but some of my stricter vegetarian friends would have had a difficult time finding something to eat.
Overall, I enjoyed my lunch at Dango's. Sports bars are certainly not my usual scene, but I can still appreciate their food. Who knows, maybe I'll go appreciate their happy hour specials soon too. And for those of you who enjoy sports and good beer, Dango's is the place to go. Even if you follow some obscure sport that no one has ever heard of, Dango's already has a TV with the game on for you.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
I went to Tiznow this past Sunday for dinner and I have been hurrying to put together the blog because I am just so excited to write this post! I can't tell you how many times I have passed this restaurant and never thought to go. I couldn't even tell you why, it's not that I had heard bad things or that I got a strange vibe - it just never occurred to me to go. Thanks again to Restaurant Week and my goal to try new places, I gave Tiznow a chance and I'm sure glad I did!
When we first walked in I was very impressed by the atmosphere. Very elegant and romantic feeling...and what a huge space! I barely even noticed the huge flat screen TV over their well stocked bar. This definitely seemed like a great first date/anniversary dinner kind of place. After my date and I ordered we settled down for a very promising meal.
And then. Suddenly. The Game was on the TV. I couldn't even tell you what game (Giants vs. ???) all I know was that it was The Game. As soon as that happened, heads turned and conversations died. There was one couple that actually repositioned themselves so that the husband could have a better view of the TV. Talk about the romance factor plummeting. For a place that seemed so focused on being a classy establishment it seemed strange for them to have this aspect of a sports bar. There were many looks of disappointment and of "well if I knew we would just be watching the game we might as well have stayed home". Tiznow, if you're reading this, change the channel to the Yule Log or something.
While this was happening, our appetizers arrived. One word: WOW! I got a butternut squash soup that was unlike any I had ever had. Topped with cilantro, there was a gingery taste to it that was unforgettable. My date got the Tiznow salad which was also delicious, even though it had to compete with my soup. Our entrees were even more impressive. I got the seared yellow fin tuna with a sweet soy sauce (I guess that's where their asian/french fusion comes in?) while my date got bacon wrapped shrimp. At first I was surprised with how small the portions were, but to be honest they were the perfect amount. I guess that's just the American in me expecting an obscene amount of food when I really don't need that much.
So I'm going to say it again just because it was that good: get the tuna. It was cooked perfectly and the coconut-ginger rice complimented it just the way it was supposed to. Way to go Tiznow. My date enjoyed his bacon wrapped shrimp, though I think with his appetite being slightly larger than mine he could have gone for a little more food on his plate.
Then came dessert. This is where our waitress really shined. She was extremely friendly throughout the night, and very attentive. Since it was restaurant week, we only had one option for dessert: chocolate dipped strawberry and banana filled pastry puff. Sounds pretty amazing, right? When I told her about my (tragic) chocolate allergy, she was very nice to have the kitchen make me a sort of strawberry banana crumble with the filling, whipped cream and everything. Yum! I have to say, I always appreciate when restaurants not only take my allergy seriously, but make sure I still get dessert!
Overall, Tiznow was a pleasant surprise. I had no expectations going in and still have no idea why I had not gone before. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone looking to impress a date or the in-laws...just make sure to avoid game night.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Welcome to my blog! So before we begin I thought I would tell you how I came about the idea to write a restaurant review blog. It all started with Saratoga's Restaurant Week. I was looking through the list of places to go and had the sudden realization that I hadn't heard of half of them! How is it possible that I've been living in Saratoga for so long and had never heard of so many restaurants? This is particularly surprising given my undying love of food. I pretty much love anything that has to do with food - cooking it, buying it, talking about it, and EATING it. Going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do, and it's not that I have particularly high standards, but I believe that restaurants should take pride in their work. After all, food is an art!
So I've decided to stir things up a little bit. I want to explore as many restaurants in Saratoga as I can, and I'm going to report back what I discover. We're talking atmosphere, service, budget-friendliness, allergy accommodation, and of course the food itself. It's going to be great, get ready.
So you may be asking yourself, where did she go after realizing that she hadn't been to many of the Restaurant Week options? Well I was meeting up with a friend for happy hour last Friday and we decided to go someplace we had never been: Gaffney's. To be honest, I had been there before, but only very, very late Saturday nights to enjoy their slightly stale popcorn if you catch my drift. To be honest, I didn't even know they served food!
Well I can tell you, it was definitely a pleasant surprise. After ordering our $3 draft beers and a couple of orders of calamari we settled ourself in the corner of the bar. Actually - our bartender settled us there. We had the most amazing bartender who first saved us from a creepy man at the bar by sitting us at a table and then told us the best way to experience happy hour without spending that much money. Pretty awesome. Did you know that Gaffney's has all sorts of inexpensive drink specials? The calamari was really good as well, though I thought the sauce could have used a little more oomph. Preferably more garlic, but that's just me, I could always use a little more garlic. Overall we were very glad that we tried Gaffney's for happy hour. I'll have to go back for a real meal and report back.
Here's to the Savoring Saratoga project...bon appetit!