Albany, NY’s The Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark [classic article]

When you’re on the road from Baltimore to points north, like Albany, don’t you want to eat where the locals do? Nobody wants to get stuck at the touristy place or the all-you-can-expense lobbyists’ hangout. Albany has a funky neighborhood on Lark Street, not far from the State House. There’s a casual-but-gourmet atmosphere, very gastropub with its inventive presentations and use of traditional pub ingredients, such as offal and game: The Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark. Executive Chef Jason T. Baker is a cool guy – he seems like one of the patrons, rather than being aloof – who’s a classically trained chef from Le Cordon Bleu. I’m glad I got to check it out.

To try lots more of his excellent technique, you might want to go the many small plates route.

Extra care is taken with the ingredients, even for cocktails.  The seasonal and refreshing JacK Rose uses Harvest Distillery Hudson Valley apples Applejack, along with fresh lemon juice, sugar and fresh Grenadine.

One of the most luxurious starters I’ve ever had was their Potted Fois Gras with grilled bread, Maldon sea salt and mostarda. It was real fois gras, not mixed with fillers, served in a wide-mouthed glass jar. One of those times I wanted to run a finger through the remains when I was done! It was a rich and sublime.

The Kurabota pork belly was served with maple lacquer, sunny side up egg and chorizo. This might be the most inventive “bacon and eggs” dish extant. The sweet and savory, spicy and fatty/mild contrasts were great.

Of course, being a wine bar, the server was expert in picking glasses that would work with each of the flavor notes, including local wines.

Dessert-wise, the Grand Marnier Genoise with roasted almond and chocolate shell was a grown-up way to do chocolate. It was garnished with salt flakes in a modern twist and had a complex mix of textures.

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