A few weeks ago I ventured to the classic downtown section of Troy New York. I was there to sample the cuisine of Chef Nick Ruscitto and eat at the highly acclaimed Peck’s Arcade. Nick used to be a chef at one of my all time Albany favorites, Wine Bar and Bistro, but we all know in order to grow you need to spread your wings, be the beautiful peacock you know to be and do your own fucking thing. I’m not even sure peacocks can fly, or if they can fly far, but I know they are beautiful and that’s all I need to know. I was joined by a few of my favorite Albany label-mates, food industry workers and beautiful lady friends. It was one of those nights where we sat down, the food started flying and motherfuckers were balling out on wine like they should. Tonight there was a DJ and he was playing some of my favorite early 90’s Hip Hop, I was in the zone to say the least. Lets break it down shall we? Disclaimer – As the night went on, the lighting in Peck’s got dimmer, dim to the point that the actual head Chef, Nick himself, took my camera and was taking shots from the service area for me. Lets break it down shall we? But first a little blurb about Pecks.
We started off with the beans and a nice little 6 minute egg in the corner. This was a nice dish to start off with. Not too heavy and meatless. The mushrooms were good but I cannot remember what kind they were. They were thick and meaty, possibly a hen of the woods but WTF do I know. The beets were rich and tasty, the kind that would stain your shirt LOL. The squash came out and I had one bite of this. Perfect as expected but I was growing cranky. At this point I needed some meat, the vegetarians at the table were pleased but I needed something that had been killed, out came the pork belly. I love pork belly but never in my life have I had it served with sweet potato puree or peanuts. I hate fucking peanuts, they’re so boring! I like a more decadent nut like macadamia, pistachio or Brazil. There is something about peanuts though, when paired with a few ingredients in the right dish, they shine out correctly. This is a perfect example of that.
At this point some mains started coming out. First, the cauliflower, I liked this dish because there was more polenta than cauliflower. I love polenta and Nick cooked this perfectly. The scallops were in a tie for my favorite dish of the night with one that makes an appearance later. This was one of the best cooked scallops I have every had and was definitely the best picture of a scallop I have ever taken. Correction, that Nick has ever taken. This trout was excellent. I think two came to the table actually. Classically prepared with lentils and a few leeks, I’m glad it was not served with mirepoix.
The cavatelli was my second favorite dish of the night, next to the scallops. Cavatelli has grown to be my favorite pasta. Thick, textured pastas are my favorite today. I do not like spaghetti, angel hair, ziti or shells anymore. The sausage that was in this dish was so awesome that I wanted to eat the whole bowl, but I felt bad because my friend Daniel had ordered it. Every time he looked away or took a sip of wine I had my fork in his dish. The gnocchi was just as good and I ate a good portion of this dish. I believe two of these came to the table as well. So, the pâté… I could have done without the shitake but the pâté itself was excellent. Now tell me if I’m wrong, if anyone knows for sure contact me, but were these apples marinated in champagne beforehand?! Can someone authenticate this information? We argued about this for a good ten minutes at the table. Champagne or not this dish was delicious.
Next were a few more dishes to round out the night before it was time for dessert. The brussel sprouts were perfectly cooked and crispy. Paired with an egg and parmesan aioli, this was a different approach to a common dish on most menus as of late. The 23 layer potato tasted as if you took your mother’s au-gratin potatoes and made them good. I fucking hate au-gratin potatoes and they are burned into my memory because my lower middle class family recycled this dish every other week while I was growing up. Served with crisp frying cheese atop and a dollop of merlot jam on the side, THIS WAS EXCELLENT. On to dessert!!
Each dessert course was amazing, even something as basic as the brownie. My favorite without question was the chèvre cheesecake. I have had goat cheese cheesecake before. This was by far the best. The pastry chef at Peck’s really knew what they were doing and I can’t wait to return to see what else they have in store.
Everything about Peck's was desirable. The ambiance, the dining room, the kitchen, the upstairs bar, and most importantly the food. Nick really has a gem here and I hope this lasts a long time for him. I don't know much about Troy, but it's safe to say that this is probably the best restaurant within the city limits. I hereby give Peck's Arcade....
Join me next week when I switch gears to do a full, four restaurant review.... Best of Portland, Maine!!!