SCHENECTADY — Nate Germain spent eight years in Manhattan, working at restaurants and learning the ins and outs of the dining industry.
But when it came time to open his restaurant, the Scotia native decided to return to the Capital Region.
"The city wasn't really for me," Germain said. "I wanted to take what I'd learned and bring it home."
Germain, 33, is now the owner of Malcolm's, a farm-to-table restaurant on lower Union Street in Schenectady that boasts a creative and frequently-changing menu.
Over the past decade, the farm-to-table concept has become increasingly mainstream, with more restaurants offering farm-to-table fare. But because the term lacks a strict definition, it means different things to different people.
At Malcolm's, farm-to-table means sourcing as much of the menu as possible from local farmers—buying meat and eggs that are locally raised, produce that's locally grown and dairy that comes from local mammals.
It means rushing to Schenectady's downtown farmer's market, the Greenmarket, on Sunday mornings to purchase food to serve at brunch at 11 a.m., stocking beer from local brewers and texting farmers to order food to serve fresh for diners.
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The kitchen and dining area at Malcolm's Thursday, April 18, 2019.
It means developing the menu with an eye for what's in season and available in upstate New York, rather than offering patrons a menu that requires ordering ingredients from all over the world.
"(Farm-to-table) is good for the farmers," Germain said. "It's good for the environment. ... We really want to support local farmers. The food tastes better when it's right in season."
Doing farm-to-table is more challenging during the winter.
Germain estimates that about half of the food served at Malcolm's comes from locally sourced ingredients during the winter; during the summer, that figure rises to about 80 percent.
Right now, the dinner menu includes flank steak from Highland Hollow, beef and mushroom risotto, Faroe Islands salmon and pork chop from Lovers Leap.
Fried salmon dumplings, parsnip soup and rosemary sweet potato fries made with sweet potatoes from Cornell Farm in Hoosick Falls are among the snacks, and dessert options are sticky toffee pudding and lemon pound cake.
PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
One of Malcolm's signature dishes Thursday, April 18, 2019.
Malcolm's occupies the building that previously housed the New Orleans-themed eatery Cafe Nola. That restaurant's bright aesthetic has been replaced by a darker look, with an emphasis on wood, much of which came from an Amish farmer outside of Fultonville.
Germain graduated from Scotia-Glenville High School in 2004.
He studied at Syracuse University, where he earned a degree in entrepreneurship, and at the Culinary Institute of America.
The restaurant that taught Germain much of what he knows about the farm-to-table is Mas Farmhouse in New York City's West Village, which buys meat, produce and other ingredients from the farmers market in Union Square and upstate farms.
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The farms Germain buys from include Barber's Farm in Middleburgh, Lansing Farm in Colonie and Bella Terra Farm in Sprakers. Beef comes from Highland Hollow in Schoharie. Chicken comes from the Wm. H. Buckley Farm in Ballston Lake. Pork comes from Lovers Leap Farm in Kinderhook.
Malcolm's is named after Germain's grandfather.
"He loved food and he loved going out to eat," Germain said.
Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]