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Canali's

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We have been on a search for good pasta in the Capital Region lately, so naturally Canali's found it's way onto our list, as they are well known for their homemade pastas.  Canali's is in Schenectady.

We went with another couple, so after the break below, you can see pictures of what they ordered, but since I didn't try them, I won't be commenting on them.

I wanted to try one of their chicken dishes that came with a side of pasta, but they refused to sub fettuccini for whatever non-homemade pasta came with the dish because 'The chef won't do that'.  Maybe I've been watching too much Restaurant Stake Out where they say, "the customer is king", but I thought refusing to do a simple subsitution (I even offered to pay an upcharge) is completely unacceptable.  That was the first negative on the night, but luckily, it was also the only one.

So I cancelled my chicken dish and ordered Fettuccini Alfredo with chicken ($16.99) because, after all, we were on a search for good pasta, not store bought stuff I can get at Olive Garden.  The alfredo sauce was super thick and flavorful, the pasta was cooked to perfection, and the chicken had a nice crisp on it, it was an absolutely perfect dish.

Josie had a similar dish with he order of Fettuccini Carbonara ($14.99).  Her pasta was really just an alfredo with some extra stuff in it, not a true cabonara, but the pasta was cooked to perfection.

Besides the great flavors in our dishes, they were also huge.  I was really hungry, and I still had enough for dinner the next night, Josie, and the other two people with us got an additional two meals out of the one plate - all for a reasonable price.

Service was great, with our waitress cracking a joke or two and interacting well with our group.

So with the great service and tasty dishes Canali's gets a good review, but losses points for the fake cabonara and inflexibility to adjust to simple subsitutions. - 4 Forks.

Click 'read more' below to see pictures of their Cavatellit with a tomato basil cream sauce and their Linguini Loisa.

 

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Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken

Fettuccini Carbonara

4fork

cost15-20
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Read more: Canali's

Towne Tavern

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Towne Tavern is located in Averill Park.  It is a two story tavern with a natural feel to it.

We started off with the 4 x 4 appetizer ($7.50).  It is four of their ribs, with all four of their sauces so you can try them all.  The ribs are cooked perfectly, nicely smoked, with the pink in the ribs as proof.  The dry rub is flavorful and the star of the dish.  The sauces are all unique and the two of us argued a bit about or favorites :)

I ordered the Beef n Bleu Pasta ($17.25) - a bed of fettuccini topped with strips of tender Flat Iron steak grilled over the coals combined with fresh button mushrooms and simmered in a light bleu cheese cream sauce.  The pasta and the steak were cooked well (steak was a perfect medium as ordered), but the cream sauce lacked any real flavor.  It was a good sized plate that I would probably order again

Josie ordered the pulled pork dinner with corn and baked beans ($14.95).  She loved the sides and the cornbread, and the pork was super tender, but the sauce on it was very vinegary, and was difficult to eat without using some of the bbq sauce we got with our appetizer.  Once you put some less bitter sauce on it, it was quite good.

Service was a little slow on the Friday night we were there, but that is to be expected with crowds.  All staff members we encountered were friendly and professional.

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4 X 4 (4 ribs to try all their sauces) Black and Bleu Pasta
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Pulled Pork Dinner

3fork

cost15-20
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Home Front Cafe

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The Home Front Cafe is located on Main Street in Altamont. The decor accomplishes exactly what the cafe advertises, "We hope you will feel as though you are stepping back in time to your mothers', grandmothers' or even your great grandmothers' home!! Journey back to the 1940s with us." Everywhere you turn, there's memorabilia from the 1940's, with a lot of focus on WWII.

There's protective glass on top of the tablecloths, and in between are letters, papers and various items from the 1940's. The cafe itself is decorated exactly as you would imagine the kitchen of a grandparent, or great grandparent to be. There were toy boxes for children too play in (which a couple of children went back and forth, and back and forth doing just that) There were also lots and lots of pictures. While there's something to be said for homage and remembrance (and grandma's house), I kind of felt awkward ... I felt as if I wasn't really walking into a dining establishment, or place of business.

There was a lot of hometowm feel in the air. It was very "Cheers," where the staff knew the names of just about every customer who walked through the doors (well, except for us). Seating isn't intuitive. You walk in, the bell rings, but you don't know whether you'll be greeted, or should seat yourself. There were also a couple of tables that were in neglect of being cleaned. As we rounded the corner to the second part of the cafe (there's a left, and right side), we caught the attention of a passing waitress who said we could sit anywhere. Just as with Snyder's, we chose to sit on the side with the highest concentration of wait staff activity (the left).

We were promptly greeted, and presented with menus. I ordered French Toast, with Bacon. Brian inquired on any particular specialties and was recommended to try any of the Omlettes. He ordered one with Bacon & American Cheese.

Food was up pretty promptly. The French toast was 'okay.' It wasn't the best it could be, but it was at least somewhat tasty. It was a little haphazardly cooked, however. It seemed like the bread was sloshed around enough to gather a good amount of egg, then plopped to cook in its puddle. You'll see more of what I mean, in the picture. By contrast, the bacon was not good. It tasted microwaved, and poorly microwaved at that. I wouldn't order that again. It takes skill to render bacon unappealing.

Brian's "omlette" really wasn't an omlette at all. Typically, in an omlette, the ingredients are chopped, mixed with the eggs, and cooked together as one unit. In this rendition, the eggs were cooked first, then whole strips of bacon, and cheese were inserted into the middle, and the eggs were folded in half over the filling. That said, the eggs were the solo star of the dish. They were cooked fluffy. The rest of the plate was mediocre or 'okay' (potatoes cooked well, but with zero flavor, and overdone toast).

I have to say, in all of my reviews, this is the first one where I'm finding myself questioning whether I should be reviewing this place at all. Where, on the one hand, it is a cafe ... On the other hand, it's clearly geared and driven to be "grandma's house;" and, really, who would want to critique "grandma's house?"

For what it's worth, I will render my review (because it's my civic duty as your CRFoodie), but, the rest I shall leave up to you.

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French Toast w/Bacon Bacon & Cheese Omlette

3fork

cost5-15
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Snyder's

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Snyder's is located in Clifton Park, on Route 9, just North of Route 146. The interior looks brand new, and was divided into front and back seating sections. When we arrived, we waited patiently by what looked to be the hostess station. There was no sign saying to seat ourselves, and no sign saying to wait and be seated, so there was no way to know what we were supposed to do. Thankfully, a friendly, neighborhood Sherriff was perched nearby. He noticed us, and told us we could seat ourselves anywhere.

We went for the back section, as it had the highest concentration of server attention and was where the kitchen was. Upon finding a booth, we were promptly greeted with menus.

I ordered French Toast, with a side of Bacon. I'm beginning to think that this will be my breakfast meal measurement for dining establishments. Brian inquired as to what was good, or, in other words, is there something special that the diner is known for? Our server was new, so she couldn't really answer that question, but recommended the combo plate that came with Pancakes, Eggs any style, Bacon, Sausage, and toast. Brian ordered that, plus a side of Home Fries. Our order arrived in good time, and I give a plus for that.

However...

I'm consistently amazed at how difficult it's been to find a good French Toast in this area. This one, although the batter did distribute throughout the bread, had absolutely no flavor. I couldn't taste vanilla. I couldn't taste cinnamon. Brian said he could detect a hint of cinnamon, but outside of that, there was nothing that indicated this dish was anything more than egg battered bread.

I found more flavor, and overal success, in Brian's pancakes. They were fluffy, and cooked well. Normally I shy away from pancakes because I know how easy it is to make them dense and unappealing. These ones weren't. I was more a fan than Brian was. His eggs were cooked perfect, for my tastes. He ordered them scrambled, and I happen to be a fan of a softer scrambled egg.

The homefries were cooked perfectly, but lacked seasoning completely. In fact, that seemed to be a theme. The eggs had not even a dash of flavor (though they were cooked well). The potatoes were perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of crisp but would have taken more work to make them palatable than it was worth.

The stars of the meal were really the meats. Both the bacon, and sausage were winners here. They had a wonderful flavor, and were cooked well. Second to the meat, the toast was also perfect. Brian ordered Italian bread for his toast, and it was buttered well on both sides, in addition to being perfectly toasted (not under, not charcoal).

The meal was "okay." Not something I would run back to try again.

 

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French Toast w/Bacon Combo Platter

3fork

cost5-15
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Illium Cafe

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Illium Cafe is located in Troy, on Broadway, which is around the back side of where the outdoor Farmer's Market is held. The restaurant is not a restaurant per se, but a breakfast and specialty sandwich place. The decor is a bit rustic, but also nice and open. When I arrived, it took a few minutes for me to be seated. As it turned out, the one server on staff was also doubling as host, and was in the back at the time.

Since I was dining solo, I had to be creative in ordering my menu sampling. For my "dine-in" meal, I ordered the Cajun Pork-belly & Crispy Prosciutto Open Faced Panini. For "to-go" items, I ordered the Chimichurri Surf & Turf Sandwich, and Crispy Peanut Butter & Jelly Pain Petite.

The theme of my experience is "almost perfect." Each dish, while wonderful in many ways, was just "one off" from being perfect. Take the Cajun Pork Belly, for instance. What can go wrong with a sandwich of bacony goodness? Sadly, the misstep here was with the savory bread pudding. It really wasn't savory at all. There was a sweetness, and maple flavor, that really didn't go well with bacon, eggs, and cheese. The bread pudding would have been best served as its own menu item because it had great flavor. Just not a flavor that went with the rest of the dish. Also, the construction of the sandwich made it impossible to cut through with the butter knife that's provided. It really needs a steak knife. However, the other components (brie, bacon, eggs, spinach) were absolute perfection. The hollandaise sauce had no flavor, so I'm kind of negating its presence for the most part.

My "to-go" items were sampled soon after, to ensure freshness for my review. For the Surf & Turf, the filet was absolutely divine. It was tender, juicy and flavorful. I was skeptical that a filet, served on a sandwich, would actually be tender. I was happy to have been proven wrong. My main critique was that the blue cheese really overpowered the dish. In general, filet and blue cheese go really well together. However, with marinated flavors in the filet, and a pesto dressing that comes with its own competing cheese, adding blue cheese to the mix was just one step too much. Again, a great sandwich, but just one step away from perfection.

The PB&J was dessert on a sandwich! I'm normally not a peanut butter person, but throw chocolate hazlenut, marshmallow, and jam, and even I'll turn into a believer. The one component that made me sad was the condition of the marshmallow. It was so warm that it basically bled underneath the sandwich, making the eating of it a challenge and ridding the inside of much of the marshmallow flavor. The makings of a great sandwich, but a misstep on part of the execution.

One highlight I do have to make is the bread. Whether it was the savory bread pudding, the foccacia, or ciabatta, the bread was some of the freshest, and moist I've had. Along the same lines, their homemade cole slaw was very, very good.

My server was very pleasant, and friendly. However, I believe he may have been new. His tone of voice was so low, I found it difficult to hear him. He also wasn't too familiar with ingredients. I do give him credit for going back to the kitchen to ask. Since the open floorplan gave direct view of the kitchen, it wasn't difficult to overhear the conversation transpire between the chef and the server. I was somewhat disappointed to hear the tone of the chef. She didn't really seem overly willing to help answer a simple question.

All in all, would I return to Illium? Yes. The individual flavors were that good, even with the execution missteps. I'm intrigued to see what their other offerings taste like.

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Cajun Pork-belly & Crispy Prosciutto Open Faced Panini Chimichurri Surf & Turf Sandwich
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Crispy Peanut Butter & Jelly Pain Petite

4fork

cost5-15
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