With its honest rehab and industrial chic decor, the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery in Troy is drenched in ambiance, with the amber-orange glow of dangling filament light bulbs, exposed brick walls, subway tile, gas fireplaces, repurposed tin ceiling, warm wood rafters and pine plank floors. And the food is outstanding.
Walk a block down historic and charming Second Street to see the elaborate, fairy-tale confectioner’s sugar castle turned out by the F. Lucas Confectionery on display at the Rensselaer County Historical Society.
Lucas provided candies and sweets to Troy’s citizens for 88 years, closing in 1951. Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine, Troy boosters and entrepreneurs, gutted the building and transformed it into a wine bar and restaurant, putting Troy on the map and into the New York Daily News Real Estate section (“Sellin’ of Troy,” Oct. 4, 2013). You have to give these people credit for their vision: They’ve just resurrected a nearby building and installed a smart grocery.
Inside looking out
It was Saturday night, and a snow squall was dusting the city like powdered sugar, glazing the sidewalks and whirling in the streetlights. Husband Eric and I had a front-row seat in the window at Lucas, looking out at street trees with tiny white lights, and Monument Square. The lights were reflected in windows and the snow-coated cars, and brought wrought-iron into relief.
Charles F. Lucas Confectionery
WHERE: 12 Second St., Troy, 326-3450, lucasconfectionery.wordpress.com
WHEN: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $63.50 for dinner, with tax and tip
MORE INFO: Wheelchair accessible. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. On-street parking.
The Confectionery serves wine and beer, and although there is a chef, the food consists mostly of locally sourced cheeses and other provisions that are assembled, not prepared. They’ve chosen the best examples of meat, cheeses, and baked goods produced in the Capital Region and surrounding area for their abbreviated menu. It’s brilliantly done.
Our server delivered a carafe of cucumber-flavored water and small drinking glasses, then removed the thick creamy pages of the menu from the clipboard, making them easier to read.
Buried among the pages of wine and beer is the food, which seems reduced to snacks, almost, but elevated to the sublime. There are tastes of almonds or olives, and small plates like tapenade, tzatziki and hummus, served with slim slices of baguette. There is cheese and charcuterie available by the piece or by the plate.
We settled in for excellent people-watching, Eric content with a refreshingly unoaked Chardonnay ($9), and I with a grassy Sauvignon Blanc ($8) served in graceful capacious glasses. The restaurant was cozy, romantic and so very hip. Also, Eric was loving the free Wi-Fi.
Starting with salmon
Eric started with smoked wild salmon ($9) with chopped onion, hard-boiled egg, capers and cherry tomatoes, artfully arranged on a slab of slate. He assembled Swedish-style open-faced sandwiches on slices of baguette from the nearby Placid Baker.
The fire-roasted tomato salad ($5) suited me perfectly. I piled the thinly sliced zucchini, onion and slices of tomato onto small toasted baguette slices and could have called it supper. But then the main event arrived, the Monger’s choice ($25), so called because it’s up to the chef to ultimately decide the composition. Our server said it was perfect for two, and it was.
There were four cheeses and four kinds of meat, their names scribbled in chalk on the slate serving board, neatly arranged along with dabs of extras like coarse ground mustard and sticky sweet fig jam. An accompanying platter held more baguette slices, gherkins, peanuts, olives and dried fruit.
The cheeses ranged from soft, to semisoft, to hard to blue. There were slices of pate, rich with fat that melted in our mouths, then the thinly sliced meats: fine-ground fennel-scented salami, coarse, smoky Basque sausage and the coarser-grained chorizo.
The meats were served cool, not cold, a fact I appreciated once I put a bit of salami into my mouth. It was already softened, and the taste was immediate. That’s different from eating a cold slice, when you have that moment before you get to the flavor.
Eric favored the earthy blue cheese, smearing it on the bread and finishing it first; I liked the hard Parmesan. The semisoft cheese was a pleasant surprise, like the inside of a grilled cheese sandwich, but so much better. Thank you, Lucas Confectionery, for finding me new things to love. Though the amount of food was not overwhelming, it was more than satisfying.
“This is so pleasant,” said Eric sipping his second, chilled glass of wine. We wiped up the last of the hyper-sweet jam, only a bit of chorizo left on the slate platter.
And there’s dessert. So many choices: chocolates, cupcakes and, from the pastry chef, cookies, a pastry tart with spicy apple filling, and, of all things, real macarons.
Not to be confused with haystack-like coconut macaroons, these are the notoriously difficult-to-make, elegant French meringue sandwiches filled with jam or buttercream or ganache. Lucas Confectionery serves four for $6. Macaron flavors mirror the seasons, and I especially enjoyed the one filled with mint chocolate ganache, a wintry treat.
Eric chose the filled pastry ($4). It’s oblong, flat, layers of sugar cookie dough filled with apples and cinnamon and covered in confectioner’s sugar icing. “It’s a Pop-Tart!” I said. Eric finished it in a few bites, although you could probably share it; it’s about half again as big as the toaster pastry. And way better.
Diners on parade
A parade of people bustled in and out right past our window seat: well-dressed couples on dates, knots of perfumed 30-something women, groups of folks who gathered at tables pushed together. Some stayed a short while, perhaps for a glass of wine or an espresso, and others camped out.
Our server brought the check, $63.50 for dinner with tax and tip, before the wine. “That was worth every penny,” said Eric.
And we’ll be back in warmer weather to enjoy the patio that connects to the adjacent grocery.