bc Restaurant: Behind the Scenes

14 Feb
bc sign

bc Restaurant is located in Armory Square.

Wayne Cafariella, executive chef at bc Restaurant

Native of Patchogue, Long Island

On the difference between modern dining and fine dining

bc’s culinary style is modern dining. We say this instead of fine dining because we don’t want anyone’s experience to be stuffy or snooty. There’s nothing wrong with “Fine Dining” but it’s not what we’re trying to do down here. We want to be that every-day location versus being “oh, that fancy place we only go to once a year.”

bc bar

bc strives to be a neighborhood hangout people can visit often.

We want people to feel comfortable coming in to the restaurant wearing jeans to enjoy a four-star meal. I think our ingredients separate us from the average restaurant because it’s about being in tune with what’s fresh and available and also about working and collaborating with local artisans. The restaurant recently underwent a renovation to give it an update and a more comfortable feel. The restaurant has new hardwoods to give it a warm feel and we’ve added a large communal table at the front of the restaurant. People can grab a drink there or sit and eat their meal. The communal table has been a big hit so far. It really breaks down boundaries because there is such a mix of people sitting together. People will strike up conversations as the food comes out and it’s like you’re catching a show when you sit there. You can basically see the whole restaurant from the table- the kitchen, the back room, the front room and the bar. We think if people come in and try our food, they’ll understand what we’re talking about. We want bc to be a place you want to come to on a weeknight or a weekend- that spot right in your local neighborhood.

On bc’s dishes and the ingredients they use

Pretty much all of the food we serve at bc is familiar food. A lot of it is comfort food.

wayne cafariella

Executive chef Wayne Cafariella moved to Syracuse after seeing the atmosphere in Armory Square.

We’re not reinventing the wheel, but everything we do, we take pride in. Dishes like lobster mac and cheese or roast chicken are familiar, but even though people have had versions of these dishes before, they will be wowed by our version. What sets us apart is using the highest quality ingredients and preparing dishes to the highest quality. Part of that means taking what ingredients we can get and trying to do the best with them. We get the freshest ingredients we can which means we use as much local product as we can. We are already planning our menus for summer with local farmers. Suppliers will come to our door to show us what they have to offer. Ken from Fresh Herbs in Fabius grows a lot of stuff for us, like microgreens for garnish. We were really blown away by his product. Grindstone Farm in Pulaski is another local outfit we work with. I moved to Syracuse in October; I have friends and family here. I fell in love with Armory Square and liked that there was a really great green, locavore scene here.

On Dining Week at bc

Dining Week gets people to come into the restaurant who don’t usually come in.

bc dining room

bc offers a modern dining experience.

We’ll be running our full menu during Dining Week, too, so that people have a chance to try everything. The Dining Week menu will feature good, quality ingredients, so that we can get the person who hasn’t come in before. Consistency is important because we need to wow that person every time they come in. The Dining Week menu is a mix of bigger hits along with dishes that aren’t on the regular menu. We offer a meat, fish and chicken for entrees to give people a choice. The Dining Week menu also features desserts so that we can really show off what we do. We make all of our desserts in house and have tweaked the recipes so that they’re perfect. The courses will feature regular portions. Since Valentine’s Day will lead right into Dining Week, we plan to be prepped and ready to go. Everything will be ordered fresh and our fish will be flown in overnight. We plan to change the menu every four seasons and will unveil a spring menu in March. The spring menu will feature fresher produce, while our winter menu features a lot of braising.

bc Restaurant is one of the 25 restaurants participating in the 2012 edition of AmeriCU Dining Week(s).  Visit the restaurant at 247 West Fayette Street, call 701-0636 for information or reservations or visit www.bcrestaurant.com.

Parisa: Behind the Scenes

13 Feb
parisa sign

Parisa is located on Montgomery Street next to the Onondaga Historical Association Museum.

Peyman Pourpezeshk, owner of Parisa

Native of Iran

On how Parisa was started

I moved to Syracuse about twenty years ago because I married someone from Syracuse. My wife is Japanese American and we met in a language class in Japan. I was in the automotive business, but I always wanted to do a wine bar.

Parisa interior

Parisa's photo hangs on the wall inside the restaurant.

I met a chef and we decided to do a restaurant and bar. The restaurant is named for my daughter, whose name was Parisa, which means shadow of an angel or like an angel. When Parisa was 16 years old, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and she passed away 18 months later. I quit the automotive industry at that time and saw it as a sign that I should try this restaurant. Parisa opened in March 2011. We remodeled the downstairs into a party and banquet space. We started with only serving lunch, and tried dinner for a bit and now that we have our beer and wine license, will be doing dinner again. We have two cooks here, Donna and Tyler. Donna has been in the restaurant business for over 20 years. Tyler is new, but has a lot of passion for cooking.

On how local history is present at the restaurant

When I saw the space, I immediately loved the exposed brick and architectural details. I also loved that the Onondaga Historical Association museum is right next door. Gregg Tripoli [executive director of the OHA] helped us get a lot of the artifacts you see in here.

parisa stained glass

The stained glass that hangs in Parisa is from the OHA's collection.

Gregg has been our biggest cheerleader since we’ve been here. When we were getting ready to open, we knew we didn’t want to use placemats as advertising, so through talking with Gregg, the idea was created to have historical information on the placements. The OHA created over 10 placements with different local historical information on them that diners can look at each time they come in. The photos hanging on the walls are on loan from the OHA. We have a dine and shop program with the OHA where diners to the restaurant or customers at the OHA gift shop get stamps on a card each time they spend $20 at either the restaurant or the gift shop and if they get 3 stamps from one place, they get a 10% discount at the other place. When we were undergoing renovations to open, Gregg took us on a tour of the OHA’s collection and we were able to look for items to display in the restaurant. The stained glass windows that hang in the dining area are from the collection and are originally from a well-known stained glass studio. The renovations we did in the space were meant to reflect the historic architectural details, so we mimicked the old woodwork with the new pieces that were built. We also restraightened the tin for the ceiling.

On Persian food and the Dining Week menu

peyman pourpezeshk

The Dining Week menu at Parisa will reflect owner Peyman Pourpezeshk's Persian heritage.

I’m Persian and am from Iran.  A lot of the daily specials at Parisa are Persian foods. Persian food includes ingredients such as herb rice, chicken, saffron rice and salmon. Persian food is different than Indian food in that it’s not spicy. The Dining Week menu will contain some Persian dishes and based on the response to those dishes, we will add more Persian food to our regular menu. Right now, we do a lot of sandwiches and all of our sandwiches have a twist. We also make our own potato chips here and hear a lot of feedback from customers about our chips. A lot of people want us to bag our chips and sell them. We had a winter solstice party here in December which in Persian culture is celebrated with a potluck dinner.

Parisa is one of the 25 restaurants participating in the 2012 edition of AmeriCU Dining Week(s).  Visit the restaurant at 317 Montgomery Street, call 565-5118 for information or reservations or visit parisarestaurant.com.

Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub: Behind the Scenes

10 Feb

Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub is located in Armory Square.

David Hoyne, owner of Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub

Native of Thomastown, Kilkenny, Ireland

On Irish food

At Kitty Hoynes, we try to run a mix of Irish and American food. A lot of our business is the food component, as Kitty Hoynes has a good name for food in Armory Square and in Syracuse. Irish food is not fondly thought of as a cuisine, but that’s partly a myth, in the same way that people think Guinness is supposed to be served warm. In the past 20 years, Irish chefs have gone to Europe to learn culinary techniques and have returned to Ireland to incorporate those techniques into Irish cuisine and use what’s around them in Ireland to create Irish dishes.

people eating at KH

Kitty Hoynes offers a mix of traditional Irish specialties and American cuisine.

Some dishes that are thought of to be traditional Irish dishes, like corned beef, are really more of an Irish American tradition. When Irish people moved here to America, they could only afford beef that they could corn themselves and so the tradition began. Ireland is a small island about the size of Maine and has a lot of coastline. It’s easy to get fresh seafood and there are a lot of rivers, so trout and salmon are popular. Ireland is very agricultural and organic foods are huge, as is keeping things local. They used to be one of the worst abusers of the environment, but now are one of the most environmentally-friendly countries. Some Irish ingredients we get directly from Ireland, such as smoked salmon, Irish sausages, Bewley’s teas, club orange soft drink, Irish beers, whiskeys, Irish creams, mustards and rashers. We also try to use as many local products as possible, such as Lively Run Cheese products, Keeley’s Cheese Company from Cayuga Lake, which is a semi soft cheese from ” across the pond” and vegetables from local farms when in season. To stay updated on Irish culinary trends, we read the newspaper daily from Ireland and also have a cookbook library that we pull ideas from. My mother, Catherine (Kitty); my wife, Cindy and her Mom, Marylou are all great cooks and serve as inspiration for our cuisine. Damien Brownlow is the chef here and has been with us since about eight or nine months after we opened in 1999. He had cooked in Boston for a while and once he came to Kitty Hoynes, we got him into the swing of things around here, where he cooks almost everything from scratch and has being a huge help and asset in developing our menus.

On hospitality at Kitty Hoynes

We like to make connections with our guests and might make an adjustment based on what feedback we get. We try to put as many items on Facebook as possible to get feedback that way and also have an online survey people can take on our website. Customer input helps whether its selecting a cocktail or a menu item. We also have a few closed-door events a year that require tickets and we get a lot of feedback from the menus we offer at those events. We were the first restaurant in the country to receive a certificate identifying us as a ‘Place of Hospitality.’ I happened to attend a seminar a few years ago that Bill Marvin, the person who started the program, was at and I listened to what he said at the conference and studied it later.

kitty hoynes interior

The staff at Kitty Hoynes make hospitality their priority.

Making Kitty Hoynes a place of hospitality is a program we try and live by at every shift here. Lots of opportunities are given to us by guests coming in and we need to make a better connection between the server and guest. We can’t just look at customers as being another table and every day have to be striving bring our service to the next level. Once, we had someone come in and order an espresso. We actually don’t serve espresso at Kitty Hoynes, but we wanted to fulfill that customer’s request, so we sent one of our servers out to get espresso for that person. Making our restaurant a hospitable place is always a work in progress. You can’t just be hospitable when you’re working in the restaurant, it has to be something that carries over that you do in your everyday life. We all say we’re in the hospitality business, but what does that really mean? We want people to smile while they’re at Kitty Hoynes and return again. We don’t always succeed every single time, however we will correct where we fall down, get ourselves back up and try harder the next time.

On how Kitty Hoynes prepares for Dining Week

We are heading to Ireland tomorrow on a fact-finding mission to get ideas for our Dining Week menu. The visit will be a refresher.

Owner David Hoyne traveled with other Kitty Hoynes staff to Ireland on a fact-finding mission for the menu.

We like to offer something for everyone and we do that with our Dining Week menu. We like to provide value to diners who come in for Dining Week and show them what Kitty Hoynes is about. Based on customer feedback, last year’s Dining Week menu was successful, so we will take that feedback into consideration for this year. We change our menu two to three times a year based on what seasonal products are available. We have almost a year to work on seasonal items so we spend a lot of time thinking up new menu items based on what the trends are, what is being produced that year. This year’s menu will certainly have an Irish influence to it and all of our staff are looking forward to Dining Week 2012, greeting and serving our great guests in the best Irish hospitable way we know.

Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub is one of the 25 restaurants participating in the 2012 edition of AmeriCU Dining Week(s).  Visit the restaurant at 301 West Fayette Street, call 424-1974 for information or reservations or visit www.kittyhoynes.com.

Empire Brewing Company: Behind the Scenes

9 Feb
empire taps

Empire Brewing Company offers a variety of beers brewed on-site.

David Katleski, owner of Empire Brewing Company, Native of Syracuse

Matt Riddett, kitchen manager at Empire Brewing Company, Native of Camillus

Kevin Griffin, kitchen manager at Empire Brewing Company, Native of ‘All Over’

The brewing part of Empire Brewing Company

empire beer list

Beers offered on tap are rotated regularly at Empire.

Empire Brewing Company was opened in 1994. Brewing was a part of the concept since the restaurant’s inception after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about an up and coming concept called a brewpub.  Seventeen years later, and after multiple national and international awards, we have expanded our brewing efforts to Brooklyn and now brew Cream Ale, Amber Ale and IPA directly in Brooklyn. We are interested in expanding to a microbrewery and wanted to test the demand for the concept in other markets. We began brewing in Brooklyn about a year ago by partnering with my friend who owns Heartland Brewery. We distribute from as far east as Montauk on Long Island, throughout the five New York boroughs including Brooklyn, as far north as the Catskill Mountains. We rotate our beers at the restaurant regularly and have about fifteen styles at any given time. Some of our foods even have beer in them.

How Empire Brewing Company keeps it local

The Empire State Pale Ale contains 100% Madison County hops. Our barley wine contains all New York State-produced ingredients and grains from New York State. We received the Snail of Approval from Slow Food based on our use of local ingredients. The more restaurants like us that use local ingredients, the more local farmers will be encouraged to increase their production. Sourcing food can be difficult as we have an ongoing concern that we will have enough volume of a certain product through local vendors. We are constantly looking for new opportunities for sourcing locally. We are involved in farmers’ markets and the local community and get a lot of contacts that way.

empire staff

Matt Riddett, Kevin Griffin and David Katleski at Empire.

We get a lot of feedback from our customers about how important it is to them that our food is made from local ingredients. People are definitely more conscious these days of reducing their carbon footprint. Most restaurants’ food costs are around 28%, while ours are around 36% because of our priority on using local ingredients. We put an emphasis on quality and try not to pass the cost of high-quality ingredients onto our customers. For four years, we have had a garden in Cazenovia that a lot of our ingredients come from, including some of the ingredients for our beers. The garden is located on land that used to be Polo Farms and is owned by Eric and Leanne Burrell. Everything we grow in the garden is organic. We try to be creative with what we grow there and grow some things that would cost a lot to buy. We’ve grown heirloom tomatoes, multicolored carrots, herbs, purple basil and hops plants, just to name a few.

empire sign

Empire Brewing Company opened in 1994 in downtown Syracuse.

The garden is tended daily by Empire employees. Cynthia Mench, a bartender at Empire, has a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from SUNY Morrisville and oversees the garden along with the Burrell family.

What happens at Empire Brewing Company for Dining Week

We try to make the Dining Week menu a mix of what’s most popular, as well as give new customers a broad idea of what our food is like. We are offering 3 select menu items (one may be swapped out for a dessert) for $25.  New Orleans cuisine heavily influences our food. We’ve found that spicy food goes good with beer.

Empire Brewing Company is one of the 25 restaurants participating in the 2012 edition of AmeriCU Dining Week(s).  Visit the restaurant at 120 Walton Street, call 475-2337 for information or reservations or visit www.empirebrew.com.

Anthony’s Pasta Bar & Elbow Room Tavern: Behind the Scenes

8 Feb
Anthony's Pasta Bar

Anthony's Pasta Bar and Elbow Room Tavern are located in Hanover Square.

Anthony Manicone, chef and owner of Anthony’s Pasta Bar and the Elbow Room Tavern

Native of Rome, Italy

On how Anthony’s Pasta Bar and the Elbow Room Tavern came to be

I’ve been in the restaurant business my whole career and have run nightclubs and restaurants around Syracuse. When I opened Anthony’s Pasta Bar three and a half years ago I had decided to downsize to a smaller spot where I could be more hands on. I’d had other restaurants where there were a lot of chefs and line cooks, but I felt the quality control would be better in a smaller place. When the restaurant started, it was more casual, but slowly I began to add to the menu. I didn’t want the restaurant to be cookie-cutter. I didn’t believe in the concept of food sitting in trays and felt quality was more important than how fast the food could come out.

Anthony's interior

Anthony's Pasta Bar recently underwent a renovation.

The food here is made to order, it’s not pre-prepared. We have to be fast in getting it out to the customers, so we need to know the dishes inside and out to prepare them. As I began to change the food in the restaurant, I felt I had to modernize the décor in the restaurant, too. Previously, the restaurant had more of a takeout feel.  The restaurant now has two dining rooms and we went from being able to seat around 40 to being able to seat over 90, as well as host private events. With the Elbow Room Tavern, I wanted to add to the Hanover Square area. The Elbow Room Tavern is a fun bar that you can feel comfortable in. We have 25 beers on tap, as well as a full menu.

On how Anthony’s Pasta Bar does Italian food

Our menu went from being more mainstream to having more of a mix of classic and contemporary Italian dishes on it. I would get bored making the same thing. Sometimes if people ask for a specific dish that isn’t on the menu I’ll make it for them. My die-hard clientele feel comfortable asking me to make them something on the spot. I put some mainstream dishes on my menu with the hope that once someone comes in to try something they’re used to, the next time they might try something more contemporary. Dishes like eggplant parmesan or chicken parmesan are more touristy dishes and aren’t really what’s served in Italy. Those dishes are really Italian American rather than Italian. Authentic Roman food contains a lot of ingredients that are indigenous to the region, like meats and artichokes. So while my menu might have some Italian American dishes to get people in the door, it also contains more authentic Italian dishes that people can branch out to. I change the menu about four to five times a year to give people variety. It’s taken me years of trial and error and tweaking to create dishes.

Anthony's parents

A wedding photo of Anthony's parents hangs on the wall at Anthony's Pasta Bar.

My family cooks a lot so I get a lot of my ideas from them. My mom gets this Italian cooking magazine called Sale e Pepe, which means Salt and Pepper in Italian, and I’ll look at that to get ideas.  I’ve taken some of my mom’s dishes and put a twist on them. My mom is a traditionalist, but she’ll tell me she likes my changes. I get a lot of my ingredients from Samir’s Imports and Lombardi’s on the Northside. A dish tastes different based on where the ingredients come from. A lot of my family still lives in Italy, so when my mom visits them, she brings this one type of mushroom back in her suitcase because the dishes have a different flavor when they’re prepared with ones right from Italy. I was seven when we moved to Syracuse from Italy and when I was little, I wanted to eat American food like everyone else, instead of the authentic Italian meals we used to eat. But now I realize how lucky I was to be eating fresh mozzarella and prosciutto and things like that.

On Dining Week at Anthony’s Pasta Bar

I like to give a lot of options on our Dining Week menu because I feel people are more apt to come in here if they see all the things we can do.

Anthony Manicone

Anthony Manicone is the chef and owner at Anthony's Pasta Bar and Elbow Room Tavern.

I use it as a marketing tool. Dining Week is always a big draw for suburban visitors. We see a lot of couples coming in from the suburbs that could potentially become regular customers from Dining Week. These types of events make my business grow because people might not have had another chance to try my food, but when they do they could come back. People over time can become more than customers and can actually become friends which is why I think the restaurant industry is a great one to be in if you enjoy interacting with people.

Anthony’s Pasta Bar and Elbow Room Tavern are two of the 25 restaurants participating in the 2012 edition of AmeriCU Dining Week(s).  Visit the restaurants at 122 & 126 East Genesee Streets, call 422-4669 for information or reservations or visit www.anthonyspastabar.com.

L’Adour: Behind the Scenes

14 Feb

L'Adour is located across the street from City Hall.

Yann Guigné, Chef and Co-owner of L’Adour Restaurant Francais

Native of the Pyrenees Mountains region of France

On his daily routine at L’Adour

There is no normal routine at L’Adour.  Myself and Alexia [Alexia Guigné, chef and co-owner of L’Adour] usually arrive between 8:30 and 9:30 in the morning.  We begin doing prep work and cooking for the day.  We prep for lunch in the morning and also begin prepping for dinner.

L'Adour serves breakfast Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

We do more prep for dinner in the afternoon after the lunch is over.  Lunch is 11am to 2pm Monday through Friday.  We reopen at 5pm for dinner.  On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we serve breakfast beginning at 8am.  In between doing prep, we also do some administrative work, which is another necessary part of running a restaurant.

On Dining Week at L’Adour

We don’t change how we do prep during Dining Week.  We also don’t change what we order from suppliers for our Dining Week menu.  We keep our Dining Week menu ingredients at the same high quality as what we normally use.  Dining Week is a chance where we can show people what we do.

L'Adour's Dining Week menu is geared towards new diners, as well as repeat visitors.

We get a lot of repeat diners during Dining Week, but we also get a lot of people who are new to L’Adour.  We try to give diners choices on our Dining Week menu, so we try to have meat, fish and poultry entrees on there.  During Dining Week, we might switch out one fish for another or make another change to the menu based on what we have stocked.  We try to put a flashy dessert on our menu – something that we have to set on fire – so that the diners get a show.

On what makes L’Adour unique

The way food is prepared at L'Adour makes the food served there unique.

People will have a meal at L’Adour, a pork dish for example, and tell us it tastes unlike any pork they have ever had before. We get our ingredients from the same suppliers as other restaurants, so the difference comes from how we prepare it.  The techniques we use – the way we cook it, the way we make a sauce – are the taste of L’Adour.  We serve a personal type of food here that you won’t find anywhere else.

L’Adour Restaurant Francais is one of the 22 restaurants participating in AmeriCU Dining Week.  Visit the restaurant at 110 Montgomery Street, call 475-7653 for information or reservations or visit www.ladour.com for more information.

Lemon Grass & Bistro Èlèphant: Behind the Scenes

11 Feb

The paneling in Bistro Èlèphant is made from antique doors from a military building in Southeast Asia.

Max Chutinthranond, Chef and Owner of Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant

Native of Thailand

On how supplier prices and selection affect the menu at Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant

Restaurants involve a lot of shopping.  In a big city, I would go to the market daily to select the ingredients for my meals, but in Upstate New York, you have to trust other people [suppliers] to pick for you.

Sushi will be featured on Lemon Grass' and Bistro Èlèphant's Dining Week menus for the first time this year.

Sometimes world events, like global warming, can make some of your ingredients unavailable or more expensive.  I prefer to always get red Alaskan King Crab since it is the best quality.  In mid-November, the U.S. military bought 2-3 million pounds of red Alaskan King Crab for the troops in the Middle East.  The next day, the price of red King Crab went up 22-25%.  I have a few cases of crab left that I had bought at the old price, but I may have to discontinue that menu item once I run out.

On how Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant prepare for Dining Week

We begin our ordering way in advance to prepare for Dining Week.  We serve between 3,300 and 3,500 meals during Dining Week, so we have to be ready.  We will be offering sushi on our Dining Week menu this year to let people know we have it.  The ultimate veggie sushi is a good vegetarian option.

Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant offer a wide array of desserts hand-made daily (including handmade ice cream.)

We have to experiment before a dish is complete – the recipe has to be nailed down, the taste and smell have to good, the price has to be right.  Some dishes take 10 weeks to finalize.  2 weeks would be quick to complete a dish.  We always have 2 menus for Dining Week, a week 1 and a week 2 menu.  During Dining Week, we also offer a small selection of wines at a discounted price.  Dining Week gives us a chance to reduce our inventory of red wines and make room for the white wines we will purchase for spring.

On other aspects of running Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant

We have been open in Syracuse for 21 years.  Some of our staff have worked with us for a very long time, some have even worked here for 20 years.  It’s hard to have a lot of fluctuating staff at a restaurant.  We try to cook things that the public will enjoy.

The artwork and decor in Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant comes from Max and Pook's travels.

We might have someone come in and have steak their first time here, but maybe they might get more adventurous with the menu the next time they’re here.  Our food is a blend of different cuisines – Pacific Rim, Euro-Asian, French-Asian.  My wife, Pook [co-owner and pastry chef at Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant,] and I traveled around the word last year and saw what kinds of food everyone’s doing right now.  This year we plan to visit several more countries.

Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant are two of the 22 restaurants participating in AmeriCU Dining Week.  Visit the restaurants at 238 West Jefferson Street, call 475-1111 for information or reservations or visit www.lemongrasscny.com or www.bistroelephant.com for more information.