Posh at the State Fair – 4/28/24

Scarlet Knife, Latham, NY

Article by Ilona Weisman, Vice Chargée de Presse

Photos by William Harris, Bailli and Holly Katz, Vice Chancelier Argentier

Despite the absence of livestock and a tractor pull, the Albany Chaîne’s Induction Dinner on April 28th was a black-tie jaunt down the midway.  It was the bailliage’s second trip to Scarlet Knife, this time with whimsy by Executive Chef Paul Dimm who framed haut cuisine in that enduring American pageant, the State Fair.

As the crowd arrived for the reception in the spacious bar area, stetsons topped tuxedos, though the ladies eschewed gingham.  Wait staff circled with small bites—crunchy street corn hush puppies, also Pollenbert grilled cheese with bourbon onion jam.  Pollenbert is a local goat milk cheese infused with fennel pollen, its floral notes and creamy finish chased with the barkeep’s ‘Spring Spritz,’ a mix of pomegranate, club soda and mint splashed with St. Germaine, Chambord and Tito’s vodka.

Scarlet Knife occupies a former K-Mart in Latham, New York, turned lavish fine dining venue by Chef Dimm and brother-in-law James Warren, both among the day’s inductees.  The ceremony took place in the Gallery, an adjacent function room where a rotating collection of contemporary art from Albany Center Gallery hangs on copper suede walls. On one side a glassed-in wine cellar spans the length of the room. Chambellan Provincial Nord-Est and Boston Bailli Marshal Berenson led the proceedings with characteristic wit, entertaining the crowd of 52 with a pithy history of the Chaîne, its mission, and the joys of membership.  Albany Bailli William Harris awarded ribbons to 10 inductees and three elevated members.

Dinner at the fair opened with seared scallop, cranberry BBQ on grilled endive, black garlic and celeriac puree. Not quite fair fare, but hold on—it was followed by ‘Duck Corn Dog’ on a stick served in a paper boat for State Fair verisimilitude.  And this dog had a tantalizing side of mustard slaw which matched zest-for-zest with Chandon Brut Rosé.  Next appeared that popular State Fair indignity ‘Dunk Tank.’ Happily no attendees submerged, though delectable lobster tail medallions floated in aromatic lobster consommé with a soupçon of tarragon, paired amiably with Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg AVA, California 2021, the wine soft and inviting in classic Loire style.

Another State Fair staple termed ‘Smoked Turkey Leg’ by Chef Dimm was fair-speak for plump frog’s legs subtly smoked and wading in an extravagant sauce of brown butter Hollandaise with fried capers.  Two wines tagged along: the much admired 2015 vintage of Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage “Domaine de Thalabert,” and Domaine Joseph Faiveley Nuits St. Georges, Côte de Nuits Burgundy 2007, a medium-bodied wine with layers of interest.  Yet one more course where flatware was optional, ‘Intermezzo’ featured a paper cone filled with shaved ice doused in plum ginger jalapeño syrup.  And last came the steer that won blue ribbons—Kilcoyne Farms in-house dry aged NY sirloin with roasted shallot herb crust in port wine demi-glace, paired with Clos du Mont Olivet Châteauneuf du Pape 2017. Throughout the dinner we were entertained by Lake Isachsen’s talented string band trio, “The Croaks.”

The crowd moved to Scarlet Knife’s Dessert Room, dimly lit with semi-circular booths, each enclosed in part by velvet drapes.  And there behold!  A procession of toque-topped kitchen staff strode into the room. Harbingers of dessert, each one held a bright steel saucepan teeming with dry ice and apple-scent.  In the flourish they presented caramel apple made of cream cheese mousse, a scoop of popcorn ice cream, and churro, paired with Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes 2016 and Petalo “Il Vino dell’ Amore” Moscato Spumante NV.

A note from this writer: if anyone wants me to go to the New York State Fair near Syracuse in August, I must decline.  My expectations may now be a bit lofty.

Notes on the Cast

Dames de la Chaîne Mary Gaillard and Amber Hurt were inducted along with Chevaliers Robin Heagan, Richard Miller, and Dale Thuillez. 

Four professional members also joined the chapter’s ranks as Maître Rôtisseur: Executive Chefs Lou Agostinello of The Fort Orange Club, Paul Dimm of the Scarlet Knife, Noah Frese of The Roosevelt Room, and Cody Nguyen of Sea Smoke Waterfront Grill. Owner James Warren of the Scarlet Knife was inducted as Maître Restaurateur.

Vice Echanson Dr. Robert Brass, Vice Conseiller Scott Spiro, and Vice Chargée de Presse Ilona Weisman were elevated.  In addition, during the dinner Bailli William Harris presented Ms. Weisman with the Bronze Star of Excellence for her service as Chargée de Presse.