Saratoga Springs

At the Table: Saratoga Springs’ Putnam Market lunch pleasant, if not quite up with the Times

Putnam Market’s interior features plenty of specialty groceries and eating area for those dining in.

Putnam Market’s interior features plenty of specialty groceries and eating area for those dining in.

Putnam Market on Broadway just got some serious ink in the Financial Times newspaper, a broadsheet based in London with editorial offices across Britain, the United States and continental Europe.

The Financial Times started out in 1888 using unbleached, pink paper that was marginally cheaper to print on, and the newspaper still uses it today. The FT goes head-to-head with the Wall Street Journal, and while the Journal is the preferred coverage of U.S. companies, in the crucial weekend editions where both provide good coverage of the arts, books, wine, travel, fashion and food, the FT’s more global perspective gives it a cosmopolitan edge.

That makes it all the more remarkable that Putnam Market was named one of the 50 best food stores in the world by the Financial Times’ How To Spend It magazine.

We in the Capital Region recognize the excellence of Putnam Market, which opened in a converted warehouse on Putnam Street in 1995. Since that time it’s expanded its offerings, become an authoritative purveyor of wines and added a cheese room. But that it rates alongside a “temple of Italian gastronomy” in Milan (Peck) and “utter nirvana for jet-set expat gastronomes” in Singapore (Culina) is impressive indeed. You go, Putnam Market.

So Sheryl and I went to check it out. We met for lunch on a weekday outside the busy track season.

The brick storefront on Broadway is modern and bright, divided into departments: wine, cheese, groceries, bakery, meats, takeout counter. You’ll find Hudson Valley Truffle Falls cheese and rose-lychee macarons alongside cheeky cocktail napkins and upscale groceries.

It doesn’t feel snooty — in fact, the staff was quite friendly and the lunch menu is comprehensive but not overwhelming.

We wended our way through the baked-goods area — ogling macarons, petit fours and sprinkle cakes (you slice the cake and sprinkles spill out; get your camera ready) — to the takeout counter. Grab a paper menu or glance at the electronic, easy-to-read menu board. Mostly it’s sandwiches and salads, with daily specials and a few small plates. There are packed lunches to go in a refrigerated case. Prices are not snooty, either.

Among the stalwart sandwiches are the Putnam (smoked turkey, brie, honey mustard), Hathorn (roast beef and horseradish cheddar spread) and Leland (smoked ham, cheddar and honey mustard). Sandwiches come in large ($11.21) and small ($6).

We placed our orders, grabbed interesting sodas and snagged a table for two. In a few moments my name was called and our neatly packed food was on the counter, ready to pick up.
Sheryl ordered the Catharine ($6, small), named for one of the founders, Catharine Hamilton. Her sister, Gloria Griskowitz, is the other.

The Catharine, served on a fresh baguette, has free-range turkey, cheddar, bacon, avocado spread, sprouts and Russian dressing. It is colorful and quite appealing.

“The turkey has a nice flavor and is not dry,” observed Sheryl, examining the thinly sliced meat. She liked the baguette, too, but expected more flavor from the bacon and cheddar. The avocado spread didn’t stand out much, either, she thought. All in all, though, she gobbled it up.

I had a half salad and soup ($11.21), the soup being the week’s special, lemon chicken orzo. The lemon flavor was refreshing but a bit strong, and the elements had a very assembled feel, as opposed to being long-cooked together. The white meat chicken was cooked separately and sliced into small chunks, without giving much of its flavor to the broth; the celery and onion were sliced neatly but still a bit crunchy. Leafy kale and shaved carrot added color. It was an attractive presentation, but more a bowl of ingredients than soup.

The chicken and mandarin salad was outstanding, despite its lack of oranges. Chicken, sliced toasted almonds, carrots, red cabbage and flavorful sesame ginger dressing added up to a salad I wanted to spend some time with. The vegetables were crunchy and the white meat chicken was tender. I really enjoyed it and would get it again — hopefully, with the oranges next time.

Putnam Market gets points for neat packaging that doesn’t use Styrofoam. The paper salad box was sturdy and the compact size made eating a to-go salad easy. It helped that the components were all bite-sized.

Having said that, Sheryl was pleased to get plastic bags for the groceries she bought. We’ve been long accustomed to reusing plastic market bags, and now that they’re thin on the ground it’s a treat to have a few again for reusing. Who thought we’d miss them?

Putnam Market does catering and offers prepared meals to cook at home such as jambalaya and mac and cheese ($16) that looked good enough that I wish I’d brought one home when it was time to make dinner.

The tab for our lunch with a diet Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda for me and a bottle of Lorina blood orange sparkling soda for Sheryl came to $23.61, with a few bucks in the tip jar. Service was prompt and the staff was friendly.

Their mask policy is the same as the state’s: If you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask. If you are not, you need to wear a mask. The staff at Putnam Market wear masks. Some of the patrons were masked, some not. We are vaccinated and felt comfortable there.

We liked Putnam Market a lot, and our lunch was pleasant if not outstanding. Its provisions are, though, at least according to the Financial Times.

Putnam Market

WHERE: 431 Broadway, Saratoga Springs; (518) 587-3663;
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $23.71, with a few bucks in the tip jar
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express. ADA compliant. Catering available. Parking on street.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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