Good Eats, Tasty Drinks, and Royale Fun for the Arts

Wine and Dine for the Arts hosted a three-day arts, food, and culture festival in downtown Albany last weekend, with a glittery gala as the capstone of the event. It was a whirlwind weekend of good eats, tasty drinks, and enjoyment of the visual arts, starting with the Mayor’s opening celebrations at Albany City Hall and ending with a five-course meal at the Albany Capital Center.

Jim and I gussied ourselves up, attended the gala in sparkling heels (me) and Chuck Taylors (Jim), and headed over to the Albany Capital Center. From the moment we were greeted at the door with a sparkling rose, we knew we were in for a palate-pleasing evening.

We wandered through the Casino Royale-themed reception, sampling Ric Orlando‘s arrabbiata, tasting specialty jams and cheese, and sipping on beverages that elevated our imaginations to far-off restaurants in the Mediterranean. Orlando’s cooking made me long for a trip to Sicily, and he conveniently is also sponsoring such a trip for Nippertown folks.

If I had stopped eating at that moment, my palate would’ve been sated. But the Grand Gala had so much more in store for guests, with signature chefs from Daley’s, Yonos, Toro Cantina, and Nicole’s whipping up specialty dishes paired with wines for dining delight.

I chose to eat from the vegetarian menu while Jim sampled from the main menu, and we oohed and ahhed over each plate’s presentation before we even tasted a morsel. I was overjoyed by Chef Courtney Withey‘s appetizer and swooned later at Chef Dan Gordon’s ginger and honey-poached pear. The pear, by the way, was dressed with a walnut-coconut brittle and goat cheese crouton; it may be my absolute favorite thing I have ever eaten. 

Jim went a bit crazy over Chef David Zuckerman’s grilled lamb loin, gently savoring the saffron potato-carrot gratin served with Moroccan eggplant on the side.  The aroma of the lamb was enticing to even me, a known lamb lover (think of Shari Lewis’ Lambchop, and you’ll understand). The dessert impressed him visually, as he smiled ear to ear as he cracked open the giant lacquered cherry ganache mousse with his spoon before scooping out the fluffy filling.

Almost as much fun as eating was watching others dressed in swanky attire bidding on an auction featuring local venues and far-flung escapes. All this benefited the local art scene, which made a strong showing at the event with live performances of visual art creation from the Barn, a mini concert from Capitaland Chorus, and a special performance by Mr. Vegas and his showgirls.

At the night’s end, we resolved to attend this gala again next year with our Nippertown team of writers and photographers, as it was too much fun to celebrate alone. We encourage our readers to consider joining us at next year’s Food and Wine Festival.

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