At The Chocolate Gecko, award-winning chocolatiers swirl together fresh fruit, spicy cayenne pepper, and a splash of rich liqueurs to form decadent treats comprising all-natural ingredients. The shop’s multi-tiered shelves sprout batches of chocolate-dipped fruit and classic sweets, such as peanut-butter cups, turtles, and rich, butter toffee komodo crunches. Molded truffles burst with creamy liqueur-infused fillings and take on a variety of shapes, including Aztec pyramids, tiny Buddhas, and the heads of former Supreme Court justices.
The Chocolate Gecko’s sweet-tooth-appeasing staff shares its confectionary wisdom during one-hour chocolate-making classes, which have covered such sweet-concocting skills as tempering basics, concocting both molded and hand-rolled truffles, and reverse engineering the Cadbury Bunny. The Chocolate Gecko encourages guests to bring along alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverages to complement the velvety morsels of each class.
Simplicity. That's the most important ingredient in all food according to Honest Weight Food Co-op. So to understand what makes their products stand out, it's better to look at what's not on the nutrition label. No artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. No antibiotics, hormones, or other non-food ingredients. The team at Honest Weight Food Co-op works with local farmers and producers to make sure their standards are met in every product.
That's been Honest Weight Food Co-op's modus operandi since its founding in 1976, and the efforts of the members-owned organization have proved successful. The co-op has expanded into bigger and bigger spaces over the years, until they finally arrived at their current Watervliet Avenue location in 2013. The building brims with fresh meats and fish, in-season produce, natural groceries, and household items such as light bulbs and laundry soap (which also come from eco-friendly, responsible suppliers, naturally).
In addition to storing vast amounts of grocery items and prepared meals, this expansive space also makes it possible to host events ranging from juicing classes to reiki sessions. Honest Weight's outreach programs send educators to local schools to teach about healthy living, and the co-op partners with WAMC public radio to host Food For Thought evenings of food, film, and discussion, at least when attendees are done chewing.
Lee and Barrye Cohen have been roasting and brewing fresh beans into caffeinated elixirs since 1976, when they first began expanding horizons with then-unheard-of espresso and cappuccinos. Using the same trusty vintage coffee roaster they used back then, they continue to roast aromatic gourmet beans. They brighten mornings and afternoon slumps with traditional coffee or energize lattes, mochas, and chai with rich espresso. Chefs cook up a menu of updated classics daily with local farm-fresh eggs and housemade sauces, stacking egg sandwiches with andouille sausage and deli sandwiches with pit-baked ham.
On select evenings, melodies and spoken words can be heard emanating from the Troy location, which hosts an open-mic night where local artists play music or slam poetry books onto the floor as guests sip cocktails and wine. The Cohens are proud of their local roots, and give back the loyalty they've received by frequently donating to local charitable causes. Daily Grind also has an online store, which outfits kitchens with loose-leaf teas, cappuccino machines, and gelato machines from brands such as Baratza, Gaggia, and Nemox.
Oliva! Gourmet Olive Oils & Vinegars' staff has carefully curated a selection of olive oils and vinegars from award-winning estates around the globe. Just like fine wines, quality olive oils have complex bouquets, and the staffers at Oliva! help guide visitors to find the perfect one. Similarly, balsamic vinegars are available in a wide variety of styles, made with more unusual ingredients such as coconuts, grapefruit, and oregano, all of which line the aisles of the two shops.
Frozen mounds of kosher-certified yogurt spill from self-serve stations at Lemondrop Frozen Yogurt, awaiting more than 50 toppings. Armed with an empty cup or an umbrella turned upside down, guests capture the frozen rivulets of tahitian vanilla, espresso, cookies 'n' cream, and greek honey. They then sprinkle on fresh fruit and candy toppings such as blackberries, strawberries, chocolate-covered pretzels, and peanut-butter cups.
In the mid-18th century, distillers at Albany's first distillery, the Quackenbush Still House, crafted rum from Caribbean molasses, Hudson River water, and wild yeast. Instead of Quackenbush's large wooden fermenting vessels, The Albany Distilling Company's distilling duo, Matt Jager and John Curtin, rely on sleek, modern equipment to create their Quackenbush Still House rum. Updated gear, yeast, and water aside, Matt and John stick to Quackenbush's original recipe to yield the rum's smooth, butterscotch-flavored finish.
Their other small-batch spirits likewise pay homage to recipes of old, from the slowly processed Coal Yard New Make whiskey to Ironweed, a Prohibition-style whiskey aged in oak. Available throughout New York state, The Albany Distilling Company's libations are also served twice weekly at the distillery's very own tasting room.