Albany sports fans served local food

Sharon Tomaselli and Bob Sweitzer, owners and operators of Cooperstown Cheese Company, made 750 poun
Albany Devils fans line up at a concession stand where Taste of NY continues at the Times Union Center Wednesday, March 18, 2015.
Albany Devils fans line up at a concession stand where Taste of NY continues at the Times Union Center Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

Sharon Tomaselli and Bob Sweitzer, owners and operators of Cooperstown Cheese Company, made 750 pounds of cheese Wednesday morning.

That’s the daily maximum for their cheese shop in Milford, just a few miles south of the baseball Mecca.

“Making it is one thing,” Tomaselli said. “Selling it is the other half of the equation.”

For small business owners, that half doesn’t always come easy. That’s part of the reason for the Taste NY program, to promote local food and beverage products.

On March 4, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the “farm to fan” partnership between the Times Union Center and the “Taste NY” program, bringing state-sourced food and drink options to a large year-round venue. The Times Union Center averages 500,000 to 550,000 visitors a year.

At many concession stands throughout the concourse, fans can find a chalkboard with the Taste NY logo at the top and an alternative menu of state-made products.

Cooperstown Cheese Company is one of four companies listed as contributing to the “N.Y. cheese and crackers” item, the other companies being Harpersfield Cheese Company in Jefferson, Adirondack Cheese Company in Barneveld and Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman. Having another point of sale and increasing consumer awareness is a help to the artisan cheesemakers.

“It really is very important for us, for people to want to buy local products rather than get things from Europe or Wisconsin or wherever,” Tomaselli said.

“We sell a lot, locally, within 50 miles I’d say. But there’s so few people that live here, that it’s hard for us to make a living based on selling within 50 miles or even 100 miles.”

As people have been urged in recent years to buy local, Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy has seen its business take off.

“We have, since 2006, we’ve tripled our volume,” said owner and founder Garry Brown. “That gives you an indication. In 10 years, we’ve done a lot more business.”

Brown’s Oatmeal Stout is one of four New York brews offered at a stand at the east end of the arena.

“The awareness of ‘local’ in the past five years alone has become so much more apparent,” Brown said. “Our business has been growing, I think, largely as a result of the trend of people buying local.”

Brown’s is one of two Troy businesses supplying the Times Union Center now. Old World Provisions provides meat for a ham and American cheese wrap, as well as a turkey club wrap, while Rockland Bakery in Nanuet provides the bread. One of the two wraps is available at each game at the arena.

Albany Devils season-ticket holder Lisa Romesser, from Ulster Park, said she is glad to see more alternatives to the standard fried arena fare.

“We tried the turkey club wraps twice,” she said. “It was nice to have something that wasn’t fried in oil that seemed like it had been sitting around since the Devils returned to Albany [in 2010].”

Other items available through the Taste NY partnership include apples (and apples with caramel topping) from Yonder Farms in Valatie, a harvest salad made of local and seasonal produce, and three wines from Salmon Run Winery in Hammondsport. The other beers offered are Brooklyn Lager from Brooklyn, Saranac Pale Ale from Utica and Capt. Lawrence IPA from Elmsford.

The Ice Cream Man, based in Greenwich, moved into the arena in December 2013 when Eddy’s moved out, and owner/operator Julia Reynolds said the location offers her the advantage of having a point of sale where there are going to be thousands of people milling around at a time.

“One of the advantages of selling at the Times Union Center is it’s busier in the winter, which is our off-season,” she said. “To me, it’s just a great fit for the two of us. They get a local product, and it’s easier for me to focus on them in the winter.”

These local business owners who hope for support from in-state consumers also practice what they preach. Reynolds, Brown and Tomaselli each seek out local ingredients when making their products.

Reynolds said she gets the dairy mixes for her ice creams from New York farmers, uses melons from across the road at Hand Melon Farm, has used local grapes and even made a flavor with the Saratoga Potato Chip Company.

Cooperstown Cheese Company buys the raw milk for most of its cheeses from local farms.

Brown’s Brewing Company uses New York hops and barley only for a couple batches each August, but that’s because there are so few farms in the state planting those crops.

“We’re able to make something like two batches of beer from what we can source locally,” Brown said. “That’s not bad, and we’ll probably double that this year, because there’s another maltster that’s come on line out in western New York.

“I think it’s the future of the local breweries. That’s how you can truly be a local brewery, isn’t it? To have your raw materials sourced from the surrounding fields.”

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