It’s really sad news that the Cambridge Hotel closed. I think the last four or so posts echoed this sentiment pretty well; it was a place that I came to know because of the media exposure, and it became the venue for a big event in my personal life.
If the hotel survived until the show aired, I would have begged Brittany (the general manager of the hotel) to arrange some type of public viewing at the hotel for the show (if they weren’t already). I think social events like that are fun, and I wanted to be a part of anything that was going on because I wanted to be on the list of people who were supporters.
When I heard the news that the hotel had closed, my dreams of a public viewing were shattered. It took a few readers asking me if I knew whether there was something like that going on to get me to start reaching out to the community. I took to twitter and had people drum up some ideas for places where a live viewing party would be welcome. Really, the only prerequisites were that the place had TVs and that they’d put up with tuning to Fox at 8PM on a Monday evening.
Sylvia, who coined the Albany neighborhood, Delso, offered to speak with chef Kevin Everleth, owner of the Capital City Gastropub and Wine Bar on Lark. He was open to the possibility of having a viewing there. I’d spoken to chef a handful of times prior, and he and I are facebook buddies, but I wanted to personally speak with him and confirm that he’d be ok with it.
So that Saturday evening, I ate at the Gastropub and had an amazing meal.
After devouring all that, chef and I talked about it, and, not only was he ok with having the viewing party there, he wanted to put together some special dishes for the night. The one thing that rolled off his tongue was “Hotel Hell” wings.
It was set, and I was excited. As soon as I got an air date from Fox and One Potato Two Potato reps, I started spreading the word. About a week before the event, chef Kevin and I corresponded through emails, and he notified me of the exciting specials for that evening. Meanwhile, I was trying to line up a few special guests for the evening. I knew that would be difficult, since I imagined that anyone who was on the TV show probably wanted to watch it at their homes. I invited Brittany and my favorite server in the universe (who was my server for the first trip to the hotel), but I didn’t hear back from either. Like I said, it was a long shot.
So Hotel Hell aired this past Monday, and the public viewing had a pretty good turnout. About 12 people showed up because of my word of mouth, and an additional handful or more from chef’s friends were there. By 8PM, there was one table empty in the whole place, and one or two seats at the bar were unoccupied. Also by 8PM, I enjoyed a beer and had already eaten all three of the themed specials the chef and his team put together.
The beer I ordered was a Porkslap pale ale, and, because it had a cute little asterisk next to it on the beer list, a pint was only $3 [seriously, the happy hour specials are a great part of the gastropub, and the all day happy hour Sunday and Monday is even better!].
As an appetizer, I had their “Hotel Hell” wings.
The wings were delicious. They didn’t look like they would be too spicy, but that was wrong. These had a whole lot of spice but were also very flavorful. The sauce was rich; I even guessed that there was some dijon mustard in the sauce, but the chef debunked that theory and said there was a good amount of butter. The blue cheese dressing was also really good, with non-uniform bits of really good blue cheese.
My entree was Chef’s shepherd’s pie. The description was Kilcoyne farms beef, local sweet corn, mashed potatoes, topped with a chive Mornay sauce. We can get technical about it and talk about how shepherd’s pie should be made with lamb and how Mornay sauce isn’t part of a traditional shepherd’s pie, but we’d be wasting our energy. Fact # 1: Kilcoyne farms beef is amazing. Fact # 2: topping the pie with a cheesy sauce takes the idea of shredding cheese on top to the next level. Fact # 3: it is a similar preparation to chef’s mom’s.
Fact # 4: it tasted absolutely delicious. The pie was baked to allow the top of the mashed potatoes to crisp up a little, and this also helped to trap the moisture into the pie. The beef was flavored perfectly, and the cheesy sauce with the chives just made it even more decadent. The corn was tender and sweet, and it was fun to get some bites of this dispersed in everything. This dish is something I hope comes back to the menu.
But even leading up to the event, I was most excited about chef’s tribute to pie a la mode, which you’ll remember was allegedly conceived at the Cambridge Hotel. Chef promised peach crostadas a la mode. During the weekend, chef let me know he picked up beautiful peaches from Maynard Farms in Ulster County. And earlier in the day, he posted pictures of the crostadas, and I knew it was going to be unforgettable.
The crostada was warmed gently in the oven, just enough for the ice cream to just begin to melt over it. The ice cream was topped with a cute raspberry and a ginger snap. The crust was great, and chef told me it took a few tries to get it where he wanted it. It was light, buttery, and crispy. The peaches were tender but still had some texture, and they tasted awesome. I contemplated ordering a second portion while I was watching the show, but I was really full.
Watching the show was also pretty fun. I hung out at the bar with some friends, old and new. Even Chef Kevin, who is the farthest thing from a Gordon Ramsay fan that you will find, sat at the bar and ate some of his own Shepherd’s pie while watching the show. The TV was just loud enough to be heard throughout the whole place.
It was lots of fun.
I want to thank all of the staff at the gastropub. It made for a Monday evening that was probably just a bit more busy than they are used to, so the extra effort is really appreciated.
I also want to thank Sylvia for planting the bug in Chef Kevin’s ear.
I really want to extend my gratitude to Kevin for not only providing such a great place to have the live viewing, but for also being a great sport about playing along with the event by investing into the themed specials. I know he had fun putting everything together (he told me), and it’s great to have such great chefs who like to interact with the community and entertain the idea of fun stuff like this.
The Cambridge Hotel is a special place to me, and being able to enjoy the episode of Hotel Hell that I had been looking forward to for six months in a place that I love so much (the gastropub) really means a lot to me. It’s something that I’m glad people got to experience with me.