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New Executive Chef Renews Its Unique Flare on Broadway
By Taunia L. Kipp
For Saratoga TODAY
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Don’t let the name fool you, The Wine Bar of Saratoga has been a culinary gem in the spa city for many years in addition to its great selection of wine and spirits. Recently, the Broadway-based restaurant and lounge announced a new Executive Chef and dinner menu to even further enhance the restaurant’s dining experience along with some other recent and planned changes to help revitalize their unique flare.
In recent months, Owner and Operator Melissa Evans has been taking progressive steps to renew the restaurant’s energy and to create a refreshed customer experience.
“We’ve been in business for 14 years now and have been generally happy with the experience that we’ve been able to create for our patrons,” said Melissa Evans. “But I’m excited to make some changes in order to create some new energy. My goal is to encourage new customers to visit us for the first time and previous customers to discover The Wine Bar all over again. We’re not just about great wines. We¹re also about great food, a welcoming atmosphere and exceptional service.”
In December, Evans hired hospitality veteran Matt Campion as the Restaurant’s Manager. Campion studied hospitality management and boasts several years of high-end restaurant management experience including his most recent work with Mazzone Hospitality having worked at both 677 Prime in Albany and serving as Restaurant Manager at Prime at Saratoga National.
Changes since Campion’s arrival include the introduction of a new cocktail menu and plans for a regular live entertainment schedule along with planned events such as wine parings, cigar tastings in the restaurant’s NY state certified smoking lounge and other activities at the restaurant and lounge.
“We need to offer a unique experience,” says Campion. “Broadway has so many great bars and restaurants that we need to make a distinct impression on those who visit us. We do that by offering a variety of outstanding reasons to come in the door: the food, the wine, the smoking lounge, the entertainment and the service. There’s a reason for everyone to come in and we know that once they do, they¹ll always come back.”
Also this month, Evans introduced her new Executive Chef, Cameron Nealey to the team and unveils a new menu. Nealey studied under renowned chefs from Thomas Keller's world famous French Laundry located in California¹s Napa Valley and also at Keller's Manhattan-based, Per Se Restaurant. Getting his start in the Saratoga Springs area at Siro's under Chef Tom Dillon, Nealey says that the new menu at The Wine Bar will be a collaboration of his experience with multiple cuisines, his passion for fresh ingredients and his goal of producing flavors that "Everyone can relate to".
The new menu will feature what Chef Nealey refers to as “elevated comfort food.” He says that these are dishes that give you the warm, homey feeling of eating something delicious while being presented in a new and modern fashion. “I've been really fortunate to train under some world class chefs throughout my travels,” says Nealey. “To be able to return to my hometown of Saratoga and to showcase what I've learned is truly a dream come true.”
The new menu is now available. The restaurant is located at 417 Broadway and is open Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. until Last Call with dinner being served until 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended for parties of four or more by calling (518) 584-8777. For more information, visit thewinebarofsaratoga.com.
- John Travolta To Receive Lifetime Achievement Award
SARATOGA SPRINGS— Attention dance and pop culture enthusiasts: Mark down August 9 on your calendar, as the National Museum of Dance (NMD) will have it’s own version of “Saturday Night Fever.”
Saratoga TODAY has learned that at NMD’s August 9 Gala, legendary dance/actor/singer Gene Kelly and former New York City Ballet Principal Dancer/Choreographer Jacques d'Amboise will be enshrined in the NMD Hall of Fame.
Also, John Travolta, whose iconic performance in Saturday Night Fever pushed the dance and cultural phenomenon of Disco to the forefront, will be the recipient of the Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ms. Michele Riggi, President of the Museum’s Board of Directors, also stated that the August 9 Gala will mark the grand opening of a special facility at the Museum— The Mr. and Mrs. Ronald A. Riggi Theater. This will be a 48-seat film screening theater, but will provide the additional community asset of serving as a “black box” theater for live performances as it will be equipped with a stage.
“The foundation laid out by our founders (Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and Mr. Lewis A. Swyer) gave us a great platform to grow upon,” Ms. Riggi said. “In my nine years as Board President, I’ve been fortunate to help elevate and broaden our program offerings.”
But the Museum’s robust financial health during Ms. Riggi’s tenure, through our economy’s uncertain economic times is a remarkable achievement. “We’ve gone from $5,000 in our bank account to over a million,” Michele Riggi noted.
She shared the nominating and election processes for the Museum’s Hall of Fame Induction and Lifetime Achievement awards, which are different. “For The Hall of Fame, we have a nominating committee of about 50 dancers, educators and others in the discipline. A preliminary list of several is generated and this is discussed for about six month among the committee members.” Ms. Riggi notes. “Eventually the Board of Directors receives a list of six nominees, and votes on the eventual winner(s).”
For the Lifetime Achievement Award: “This is initiated by the Board and the President. We are looking for a person who has had a broad impact on popular culture, which includes dance but includes much more.” She said.
At press time, Michele Riggi could confirm that Patricia Ward Kelly, Gene Kelly’s widow will be in attendance at the NMD Gala, and will also be delivering a presentation about Gene Kelly’s life and times the following day at Skidmore’s Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Center.
As for an appearance by John Travolta?
“We’re trying.” Ms. Riggi said.
So that may or may not happen. But if history tells us anything, in the long run it’s a losing proposition to bet against anything Michele Riggi is “trying” to do.
SARATOGA SPRINGS— As parents, local entrepreneurs Lauren Rose and Lynn Pohl can relate to the dilemma a mom or dad faces when walking or wheeling their children past brightly colored vending machines that have become a part of the landscape.
The siren call of bright colors, TV marketing campaigns and of course, high fructose corn syrup makes an attack of the “mommy, mommy I want’s” an inevitable result.
Somehow, to most kids, something that comes out of a vending machine just tastes better.
And thus, parental resistance has often been futile — until recently. Lauren and Lynn explored some options and decided there was a better way: a way to satisfy a child’s vending mania and still provide nutrition.
They founded Go2Snax, an affiliate of the international firm Grow Healthy Vending – a company whose mission is to offer “an alternative to the standard junk food and sugar-laden drinks that dominate the marketplace.”
Lynn and Lauren have begun to place their high-tech vending machines at various places in our market with many more likely to come this year. Currently, you can look them over at Cutting Edge Martial Arts (175 Ballston Ave, Saratoga Springs), Global Fitness (in the Shoppes of Malta at 19 Kendall Way) and at The School of The Arts at The National Museum of Dance (99 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs).
“We view our company as a community-based social wellness partnership.” Lauren Rose said. “Our machines are customizable, but all the products are designed to meet or exceed nutritional guidelines, including the USDA’s “Smart Snacks in Schools” mandate.
There are hundreds of different items to choose from and with the growing popularity of healthy foods there are many names you will recognize: Stacey’s Pita’s, Kashi Foods, PopChips, Horizon Organic Milk and Clif Bars are some brands that have already carved out markets for themselves, and their taste will get a welcome reception from your discerning X-year-old.
The machines themselves utilize a touch-screen that is user-friendly, accepting cash, coin and debit/credit cards. Your kids might find it to be as fun to navigate as a Wii game, but for parents, an important feature is that when a product is touched, the nutritional information label is displayed to encourage a quality, thoughtful selection before purchase.
The shelves within each machine are customizable depending on the needs of your location. The basic configuration is with three rows of snacks and two rows of drinks. But they can be made up as “snack-heavy,” “drink heavy” or “snack-only” as needed.
Best of all, the machines are delivered, installed and do not cost the location anything. In fact, Go2Snax has a generous commission and profit-sharing partnership that any location can participate in.
“With the growing awareness of childhood obesity and healthy eating, from the White House on down, this is something we are very proud to be a part of,” Lauren said. “It’s a business that works in concert with a greater mission.”
Indeed, it would be a surprise if you don’t see Go2Snax machines in many local schools, large retail facilities and offices in the near future. The confluence of good taste and good nutrition can be an irresistible combination.
SOS Youth Outreach Drop-In Center Provides Services For Young Adults In Need
SARATOGA SPRINGS— The Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) Youth Outreach Drop-in Center at 20 Walworth Street is completing its fourth month of operation and is making an impact in a variety of ways.
The Drop-in Center, which is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., serves an important demographic: young adults, ages 16 to 21. The services provided are diverse and can make a difference on both the quality of a young person’s day-to-day life as well as providing increased potential for their futures.
On any given day, the clients and their individual needs determine the services provided. As SOS Youth Outreach Coordinator and Case Manager Crystal Swinton puts it:
“You never know what the flavor of the day will be.”
But the Drop-in Center appears quite ready for anything.
A new client, or first-time visitor might be very surprised by the array of services available here. The basic necessities we often take for granted, such as a shower or laundry facility with materials provided, or a healthy lunch or snack is always available (provided weekly from Sweet Mimi’s Café on Phila Street. Two volunteers from St. Peters youth group coordinate this: Tori Los and Max Liebers.)
But a client can also get educational help or job search guidance including resume writing assistance, all designed to improve a client’s work readiness. Those without a physical address can utilize the SOS P.O. Box. A computer and printer are available with Internet access. Once a week, Siobahn A’Hearn, a nutrition program educator from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Eat Smart New York” program is in-house to provide nourishment guidance and techniques. Public health nurses visit regularly also.
“The small group of volunteers we have are extremely resourceful,” Ms. Swinton notes, “We are fortunate to have most everything we need.” Although, she notes that there is an ongoing need for bottled water (should someone wish to drop off a case or two during the week, please note that it should be clearly marked for the youth drop-in center so it gets to the right destination.) Ms. Swinton cited one need for consistent transportation down to the CAPTAIN Youth and Family Center in Clifton Park twice a week so that clients could take advantage of CAPTAIN’s high school diploma equivalency programs.
There are also outreach activities to stimulate the mind and body, said Ms. Swinton, such as a recent rock-climbing trip, with other off-site activities planned as the weather brightens.
But it is obvious that there is never a day with anything less than a warm and sunny atmosphere, combined with several rays of hope, on any day one visits the Youth Drop-In Center. Crystal Swinton, her volunteers and the SOS staff make sure of that.
To learn more about the services at the SOS Youth Drop-in Center, contact Crystal Swinton at (518) 321-8239.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Behind a large gray, unmarked door on Phila Street is a nearly two-year-old software and web design company MadGlory. Out of view of passerby, it is a fast-growing company that was a small offshoot of yet another tech startup. Today the company employs 20 individuals and is able to accept projects at discretion – typically ones that serve between 5 million – 20 million customers.
Shipping projects with this extensive reach is a “sweet spot” for their company’s enthusiasm, teamwork and professionalism, said Brian Corrigan, MadGlory president. However, this year Corrigan; Clarke Foley, director of operations; and Seth Louey, creative director, created the “Level Up: Creative Tech Conference 2014” scheduled for October 8 and 9 and what is intended to be the spark that ignites the community of Saratoga Springs and its talent to set the ground work for attracting and retaining tech startups closer to home.
After only having announced the conference a week ago, Corrigan said that word has already spread. They are speaking with “big brains” such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to be guests at the event.
With a planned 200 ticket capacity and about eight to 12 keynote local and national speakers, the responses that MadGlory has received have only confirmed interest in the creative technology field. The type of experience the event is expected to encompass is to be a personable one, allowing for plenty of opportunities for people to connect, as well as give the chance for local businesses to represent themselves alongside some of the “big” invitees.
“What better way to inspire people than to show them a bunch of people who already did it (developed careers/companies in web technology); people they can work with to bring outside companies in,” Corrigan said. “We want to show them this area. The amount of engineering talent that bleeds out of this area every year is astounding. We sent former employees to Microsoft, Brightcove, Blizzard, Activision, Disney and SoundCloud. We've got people everywhere that have just left, and it's too bad because it's a really nice place to live.”
The break-neck speed by which MadGlory has progressed since it was established July 11, 2012, and whose products have reached 55 million users in 145 countries for publishers such as Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Riot Games and Atari was attributed to the aspect of teamwork balanced with individual drive to do successful work.
At MadGlory, everyone is outdoing you all the time, but in a good way, Foley said. “It’s a friendly competition and a collective goal.”
As MadGlory continues to keep its door revolving; filling a niche in the professional fields of software design, programming languages and web design, from their location in Saratoga Springs but shipping projects out to customers nationally and internationally, they are looking to help establish the reputation of having infrastructure to support tech startups in the Spa city.
Establishing that kind reputation is the first step to addressing the disconnect between talent resources and job opportunities, Chris Wink said, editor of Technical.ly, a publication that covers early stage tech companies in Baltimore, an area which attracted two tech startups from New York within the last several months. “One thing you see is that across the country in all markets and regions is the interest in technology, its development and finding a regional distinction.”
Stephen Wilcox, head of interactive group at Fingerpaint and a Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau board member is helping MadGlory with the logistical aspect of the conference. He recalled an earlier discussion with Corrigan about the option of hosting “Level Up” in Troy, as opposed to Saratoga Springs, as a tech-centered community and event host. (See correction at end of story)
“There are other companies making those kinds of decisions, and it has a lot to do with the support of what is around as far as getting jobs,” Wilcox said. “There is a groundswell going on, and this conference is a big part of bringing national attention to Saratoga Springs as a tech destination.”
Robert Manasier, CEO of In Focus Brands, a company that has previously raised millions for tech startups in Saratoga Springs as well as started them, said: “There is a lot of talent here but not a lot of investment. Now, you have state government involved and it’s helping to create traction in the area. Most of our companies weren’t local in the beginning. It takes time to drive the conversation and the collaboration that’s needed.”
Correction: Stephen Wilcox is aiding MadGlory with the logistical aspect of the conference, but his quote was in regards to MadGlory moving their company to Saratoga Springs, not the conference itself 'Level Up'.
Article before correction said that Robert Manasier was the director of Diamond Point Advisory Group -this is incorrect. Diamond Group was sold and Manasier is now currently the CEO of In Focus Brands.
Senior Housing Proposed For Lake Avenue
SARATOGA SPRINGS – For weeks, residents had seen the signs.
First, the signs said that The St. John Neumann Residence on the St. Clement’s campus at 233 Lake Avenue was “for sale.” Then later, “sale pending.” And though there was some buzz that the Bonacio Corporation was the pending buyer, the actual development details were a closely guarded secret.
The big reveal took place at the Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 18 as a contingent led by Attorney Michael Toohey, The LA Group’s Principal-in-Charge C. Michael Ingersoll, Bradley Birge of the Saratoga Springs Planning Office and Sonny Bonacio detailed plans for an “adaptive reuse” of the residence – converting it into senior housing.
A total of 85 senior apartments have been proposed for the residence. These would not be assisted living facilities but rather accommodations designed for ages 55 and older.
The item before the council, which passed unanimously, was to “merit for review” a change in the comprehensive plan and zoning maps that would re-designate the parcel containing the residence to UR-1, which Mr. Toohey noted was the zoning designation for the surrounding neighborhood, and allow for the senior apartment project to be a permitted use. Currently the building is zoned for Institutional/Educational use.
The design proposed to the council involved minimal modifications to the building’s façade, which Mr. Toohey described as an important building to the city as well as a major “entrance statement” for those entering the city from the East.
The major structural adaptations would not be visible from Lake Avenue. Two additional wings will be built onto the residence’s rear side, and parking will be increased. Mr. Toohey detailed to the council a tree survey that had been completed prior to developing the plan, with the intent of minimizing the loss of trees on the property.
The sale of the property is contingent on the zoning change, and there will be many meetings (before Design Review and Zoning committees as well as further planned neighborhood information meetings) before the zoning modification can actually be made official.
Should the project proceed, there will also be a need to attend to several environmental issues at the St. John Neumann Residence. These include asbestos and mold abatement, the costs of which Mayor Joanne Yepsen noted, in expressing support for the project, had driven other developers away.