“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast”

John Gunther

There’s something about brunch that’s completely different from any other meal. Sure, you could argue that brunch is a mix of breakfast and lunch but it really isn’t. It’s a meal of magic and deliciousness CreoBrunch1that not only makes it socially acceptable to drink before noon but reminds you that it’s the weekend and it’s okay to indulge sometimes.

I had the opportunity to try the brunch menu at Creo (Stuyvesant Plaza, 1475 Western Ave, Albany) this weekend. Creo already had a well established a Sunday brunch but just a few weeks ago they started a Saturday brunch as well. The menu is the same [found here] but just imagine how great a brunch could taste knowing you don’t have to be at work the next morning! (NOTE: I received a different menu in the restaurant than the one posted online. A lot of the items are the same but it should be noted that though some are not on the menu on the website, each of these dishes were on the menu I received in house)

The first thing you need to do is get a bottomless brunch. For $15, you get unlimited drinks during the brunch and if you plan on having anymore than 2 drinksCreo2 (and of course you will), it’d be a waste not to. I took it upon myself to try each of the cocktails for you so you know where to start. First, I had a BeerMosa ($7). I know what you’re thinking and believe me, you’re wrong. A regular mimosa is orange juice and champagne but this is orange juice and beer. Don’t knock it until you try it, it was a great balance and a great start to our meal. Next, I tried the bellini ($9). It was my first bellini so I can’t really compare it to anything but it was good anyway :) Then I had the poinsetta ($10) which was champagne and cranberry juice. Four words: loved it, order it. I ended with the original mimosa ($8) and it was great. Perfect amount of orange juice to end the meal on.

Now the best part of brunch, all of the delicious things to try! To start, we got a basket of blue cheese scones and corn & cranberry zucchini muffins. Grab the cranberry zucchini quick, they’re my favorite and I don’t really like cranberries that much. Our first dish was Wood Fired Farmer’s Eggs ($13), 2 eggs baked in marinara sauce with grilled bread. Creo 3It was a perfect dish to start off with because it was very light and perfect enough to split with someone. The sauce was great, the eggs were runny and the flavors just went so well together. Take the bread, soak everything up in it and enjoy.

Next, we had the toastadas ($14- pictured in the slideshow). Toastadas are eggs, chorizo, crispy corn tortilla, cheddar cheese & salsa roja. This is a must order. The crispy tortilla with the runny egg and cheese- it’s like breakfast nachos. Who doesn’t like nachos? The chorizo bumped up the flavor to a whole new level. I would’ve been happy with just this for breakfast, actually, I would be happy eating this for breakfast every day.

Last course was my eggs benedict ($14) which is eggs Creo5on an English muffin with a thin slice of Canadian bacon covered in hollandaise sauce served with home fries. My Mother ordered the corned beef hash ($16), house corned beef, peppers, onions, potatoes, over easy eggs with a balsamic cherry glaze. I liked the eggs benedict. I usually order the eggs benedict as a base since it’s kind of a brunch special. I didn’t really taste much of the Canadian bacon, it was sliced very thin, and the hollandaise was delicious but I just kept finding myself going back to the tostadas. My Mother’s was amazing. The corned beef was melt-in-your-mouth and that balsamic cherry glaze was not something I thought was going to be as delicious as it was.

The final course was ice cream. Apple Butter Cheesecake ice cream. I’ll let those words settle in because yes, it was just as Creo6delicious as it sounds and with that was Thai Tea. It was so interesting to get the two flavors and textures of the ice cream in one dish. The cheesecake ice cream was very creamy and if I wanted a dish of ice cream, I’d love to be able to go to my fridge and grab that. To end brunch, Thai Tea is the way to go. It’s refreshing and palate-cleansing and it didn’t hurt that it was also delicious.

Overall, brunch was awesome and Chef Eric Sell is amazing and super sweet. Solange, our fantastic waitress (seriously, ask for her, she’s the best), said that he brings a great energy to the restaurant and you can tell. He has an incredible backstory too- from Chicago to Hong Kong to Japan and Italy, New York City and now we’re lucky to have him here! If you’re looking for a brunch, you need to try this one out. Now if you want brunch Saturday and Sunday, you can! Enjoy and let me know what you ordered!

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“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

James Beard

I’m from Schenectady and I would love to see anyone who would fight the fact that Schenectady has the best Italian food in the Capital Region. It’s just that- a fact. What goes best with Italian food? Italian bread. I’m so happy I had the opportunity to get a tour of the facilities of one of my personal favorite bakeries in the area, Mastroianni Bros.

I was met by Bill Busacker [President], MastroianniBros1who is probably one of the nicest people I’ve met, and we were off! I probably fangirled a little too hard since I found it so fascinating to see where my favorite bread is actually made.

When I first walked in, the smell hit me in the face. It was delicious! Sure, you can bake bread in your own house but imagine loaves on loaves on loaves of your favorite bread being baked in one room, aka. heaven. The process starts in a room with this huge bag for flour. Their flour is cut and brought in from the Port of Albany. They bring flour in huge tanker trucks a little more than once per week and put them through tubes that dump into this huge bag that can hold 60,000 lbs of flour. When I say huge, I mean huge. You would have to put 5’10” me standing on my head at least 3 times over for that height.

Next, the flour is brought in by vacuum to MastroianniBros2mixing bowls to weigh all the ingredients so that they get the same measurements every time. Each mixing bowl holds about 650 lbs of dough. After that, the bowls with the dough are rolled over and dumped into hoppers. They have one that has a mold for loaves and the other for their rolls. It felt like I was on a real-life episode of Unwrapped. it was so cool! Once the loaves are cut and put on a rack to sit, each one holding about 80, they’re then rolled into a room to rise. Most of the facility is 50 degrees but one step in this room and you can feel the humidity. 90 degrees and 70% humidity, I felt like I could do a hot yoga session in there with the delicious smells of bread!

Finally the best part in the bread-making process, the cooking! There are 10 beautiful brick ovens with 2 doors each (20 ovens, technically) where they can bake about 1280 loaves an hour! These ovens were incredible.  I got a chance to peek inside of one and it went so far back that they have a special machine to put the loaves in and take them out since it’d be hard to reach MastroianniBros3in there otherwise. I think the special trick is the 23 inches of stone at the bottom of each oven that Bill told me about. That’s how they cook the magic, happiness, and delicious in each loaf.

It was overall an incredibly interesting process. Mastroianni Bros was founded in the 1923 by 8 Mastroianni Brothers and they still hold the same delicious standards to this day. Now, you can find their bread all across the state and they’re still growing as a company. They’ll soon be coming out with a homemade sourdough (I got to get a preview smell of it, I approve), a Brooklyn Deli Rye, and an All-Natural 7 Grain that I’m pretty excited to try. They also recently started a partnership with some other delicious Schenectady brands like Gatherer’s Granola, Villa Italia, Casa Visco, Garafalo’s and Pede Brothers. They’re planning on working together to promote locally owned food and beverage manufacturers in Schenectady and across New York State. If you haven’t tried a loaf of their Italian bread, Whole Wheat, Cinnamon Raisin, Honey Oat or more, you need to. This is the first brand I grab from the grocery store when I’m eating anything that involves marinara sauce.  Next, I’m gonna make pizza with their pizza dough, also available in stores. So, grab a loaf and tell me how much you loved it, because I KNOW you will!

They’ll be sponsoring a ton of events in the future with their new partnership, starting with a retirement party for Uncle Vito from PYX106 at Malozzi’s on October 14th!

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“The Wright brothers flew right through the smoke screen of impossibility.”

Charles Kettering

I’ve had a Facebook page for my blog for a while but I just started really working on my Instagram page a little bit more (I find it more fun anyway). I love connecting with local businesses and following what they’re doing and in doing so, I came across Screen Designs Inc. (2009 Central Ave, Colonie). ScreenDesignsI’ve seen the name around the various social media channels so I decided to reach out to them and see if I could get a sort-of behind-the-scenes look of what they’re doing. If you see a great design or a great t-shirt print, chances are it was done here. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to meet with Mark McGuire and get a brief run-down of the operation and I found it incredibly fascinating.

I tried to tape the conversation I had with Mark (as I usually do) but of course my phone was being obnoxious so as a result, I’m not going to get any of the professional names of these machines right. Be forewarned!

First, I got to see how the shirts are printed. The shirts are decided on ahead of time, of course, depending on color or material. The machine itself looks like a giant wheel with shirts on each of the spindle-like parts waiting for the color to be printed on. I first thought it was funny that there was paper on the ground underneath the shirts, ScreenDesigns 2until I accidentally rubbed against ink somewhere and realized they need that to keep it clean (I’ll get back to that later). That’s one thing I was honestly incredibly impressed with, it was almost immaculate. I assumed with all of that ink, it would be everywhere but it just goes to show what pros they really are.

There’s a machine for everything each with a very talented person behind it. An embroidery machine if you want the logo sewn on instead of printed, this amazing washing device that will take the ink out of anything, and a huge dryer to set all the prints. They’ll not only help in creating your vision on a shirt but they’ll help with the entire process. If you’re looking for business cards, shirts, banners, awards, honestly anything, go to their website and get a free quote and see what they can do for you because based on the work I saw while I was there, it’s not only going to be quality but you’re going to love it.

Oh, right, how I ended up with ink on myself to show just what I klutz I am. So I was looking at one of the guys cleaning off all the ink from the stencil they just used to print with, ScreenDesigns3until we noticed I had white ink on my navy blue skirt. I just assumed it was ruined by no one else’s fault but my own until they told me if I had a change of clothes, they’d take it out no problem. This ink is meant to stay on clothes and they were going to take it off like I split ketchup on myself. It was pretty amazing. Before I knew it, the ink was dried on my skirt to make it easier to take off and then blown off with a magical powerful dryer thing. Ta daa! Skirt was like new!

Everyone I talked to while I was there was incredibly nice. Manny, the owner, is a sweetheart who you can tell not only cares about his business and employees but treats each customer like a friend. I’m going to be updating my blog soon and when I get my new business cards, I don’t have any intention on going anywhere else. Check out their previous designs on Instagram and give their page a “Like” on Facebook.

“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” -Mark Twain

Every so often I tend to find myself getting backed up with things to write about. I enjoy writing about food and I really enjoy writing about experiences and things to do but sometimes I find great products but they get lost because I can’t really post a whole segment on them. Also, it’s Labor Day and it’s a relaxation day, for me anyway, so here’s a quick post. For the below local products, the same goes: they were both delicious, both found at Whole Foods and both perfect for the end of Summer so check them out!

Beths Farm KitchenPeanut butter and jelly sandwiches have to be up there with my favorite kind of sandwich ever. Peanut butter in my eyes can do no wrong so I love changing up the flavors of jelly and was happy to find Beth’s Farm Kitchen Black Raspberry Jam.

She has a multitude of flavors and I need to try them all. Beth Linskey started this company in 1981 in an 1850s farmhouse in Columbia County. All fruits are purchased locally or regionally except for citrus fruits that don’t grow well in our climate.




As much as I try, my iced tea has to be sweetened. I’ve tried unsweetened a bunch of times and it IMG_1807just doesn’t do it for me. Imagine the moment I found sweet tea! Born and raised in Upstate New York, though sweet tea has been around, it’s not so in your face as it is in the South.

This tea is my new favorite. I just lost my Grandmother in July 2014 so hearing Maria’s story about her Grandmother pulled on my heart-strings in a big way. Nani used to make this for her family all the time and after a message sent from “Up above (or whatever you may or may not believe in),” Maria decided to make it for mass consumption and put Nani’s face on the front of every bottle and I’m pretty happy about that.

Thanks Nani for the sweet tea, each one I drink is for you!

“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.” -Ludwig van Beethoven

As much as we don’t want to think about it, it’s inevitable, Winter is coming (and not the Game of Thrones kind). What we have to do is think about the positive: Pumpkin spice all the things, PikaFarmhot chocolate, sweatshirts, and soup. I love soup and I know where I’m going to turn for soup this Winter- Pika’s Farm Table (876 Neighbourhood Rd, Lake Katrine).
I first saw Pika’s Farm Table at the Schenectady Greenmarket except I knew them as the stand that had the delicious waffles. Recently I went to a blogging event at Whole Foods and had the chance to try their soup and I fell in love.

Pika was born in Belgium, which proves how delicious those waffles are and worked in Italy and France. They say on their website that their meal “are a true ode to our Belgian Grandmothers, who made a meal out of the freshest ingredients.”

From what I got to try, I love the Lentil Spinach soup. It’s vegan, gluten-free and is all-natural. Take a look at the ingredients and they’re: vegetable broth, carrots, tomatoes, lentils, onions, spinach, olive oil, garlic, cumin, pepper, and salt. All things I not only can pronounce but all things I can find in my own fridge. Unless you want to eat the soup immediately, you must keep it frozen or refrigerated. PikeFarm2I asked Pika about her soup and she gave me a little tip. Freeze the bag of soup that you plan on bringing to work with you, use it as an ice pack and by lunchtime, there’s nothing left to keep cool and your soup is defrosted- brilliant!

Want to find where to buy their products? Their website lists at which farmer’s markets they’ll be selling and you can always go to Whole Foods in Colonie Center. If you’d like, you can also order their products online and pick it up at a local farmer’s market. I miss them at the Schenectady Greenmarket but I love how accessible and local they are. What’s your favorite kind of soup?

“New mysteries. New day. Fresh doughnuts.” – David Lynch

I’m going to start off this obvious blog post ABOUT donuts by saying that typically, I don’t like donuts. Cider donuts to me are completely different. There’s some magic and love that goes into each and every one that makes it taste like unicorns and puppy dogs. Being from Upstate New York, I’ve had a number of cider donuts and I don’t like naming anything my “favorite” but if I had to choose, these would come pretty darn close. Cider Belly Doughnuts (25 N Pearl St, Albany) has put a new spin on the regular cider doughnut. Usually the options are sugar or no sugar, but Cider Belly has seriously stepped up their cider doughnut game.

“The Usual Suspects” as they call them are their signature 6 donuts: Original Cinn (basic cider doughnut), Sugar Daddy (w/ Cinn Sugar), Sap Sucker (w/Maple Frosting), The Venitian (w/Cappuccino Frost), The Glazer (w/ Sugar Glazing) & Das Yum (w/ German Chocolate).

You honestly can’t go wrong. I had a sample of each of these and I still have no idea which I liked the best. Each doughnut is made fresh and you can taste the difference. I love the decor of the whole cafe. I didn’t get a chance to take it all in since I was there originally for work. There’s no doubt I’ll be going back so keep a lookout for an updated post when I can get a closer look! What I should have done was pair it with hot cider but the weather is still a little warm for that.

Individual doughnut ($1.00); Six-pack ($5.00); Baker’s dozen ($10.00)

“I’m pretty sure eating frozen yogurt every day would solve 100% of my problems” -Anon.

I love frozen yogurt but my problem with a lot of places is that the flavors taste fake or too sweet and of course sometimes the toppings aren’t what I’m looking for at all. AyeladaOn top of it all, a good number of frozen yogurt places in the area are national franchises. That is, until I found Ayelada (1210 Troy Schenectady Rd/Rt 7, Latham). To be honest, I didn’t actually find them I was invited. I drive past Ayelada every day to and from work and though I’ve always wanted to stop by, after work I’m usually exhausted but now that I’ve been there, that will most certainly change.

I walked in and was immediately impressed, the place is incredibly clean. There are a great number of different types of toppings & some are local. At first glance, you can tell that this place is different. Unlike a lot of frozen yogurt places you’re used to, the employees put your toppings on for you. I kind of prefer this, that way I don’t over-weigh my yogurt with a bunch of stuff, the employees do it by the spoonful. Also, on the wall are local farms that they partner with which, of course, I love. To name a few (the rest are listed on their website): Bowman Orchards, Lloyd Spear Beekeeper, Our Daily Bread, Ronnybook Farm, Saratoga Peanut Butter, Sundae’s Best Hot Fudge and more!

The ingredients? Fresh skim milk and yogurt from independent farms and fresh flavors and fruit. The dairy does not contain antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones and loaded with probiotic. As they explained to me, every yogurt starts out with the same basic ingredients and then the flavor is added. Ayelada2For example, to make key lime pie they add key lime, for blueberry pie they add actual blueberries. So though you could taste the flavor there, it wasn’t overpowering so you could honestly add any topping and it could go well together. What surprised me was when I had a taste of the creamsicle, I assumed it was going to come out orange but it was the same color as the rest – no artificial coloring. The yogurt is created in small batches fresh each day at each location, meaning no prepackaged mixes. Can’t get any better than that!

I was also pretty impressed with the prices (taxes included). Mini -3oz ($2.50), Small- 5oz ($3.50), Medium – 8oz ($4.50), Large – 12oz ($5.50) & Pint – 25oz ($6.00). One topping is $1, two toppings are $2.50 and Loaded (3 or more) is $1.75. Have a gluten allergy? Make sure you tell your server and be sure to try the gluten-free cone ($2.50).

Overall, I LOVED their yogurt and I can’t believe I’ve driven passed this place so many times and didn’t stop after work because I was tired. Frozen yogurt makes everyone feel better, anyway, right? Keep an eye on their website to see which flavors they’re featuring that day. There’s also a sign on the street if you can’t get to the site. If you can’t decide, check out what the staff suggests and maybe give that a try!

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