Monday, March 22, 2010

Aquilonia Comics and Cards

What I have found since I became so interested in local businesses, is that some types of specialty businesses cannot be franchised, because of the special knowledge necessary to run them. An example of this is a card/comic store. The products can be sold elsewhere, but the expertise required to maintain loyal customers is more necessary for these types of establishments. This brings me to my review of Aquilonia Comics in Troy NY.

Review: Aquilonia Comics and Cards
Location: 412 Fulton St, Troy NY, 12180
Business Type: Comic/Card Store

I have been a regular at this comic store since my freshman year at RPI when I became more interested in the card game, Magic the Gathering (which is brilliant by the way). This store is owned and operated by a local named Bob, who offers great service to his patrons on a daily basis. This man knows his business.

Aquilonia offers many unique items that you usually can't find at other big stores, such as Magic cards, comic books, accessories, and other collectibles. Even if another store offers these items, you will be hard-pressed to find an employee that knows anything about them. This is not the case at Aquilonia; Bob knows all about the most recent comics and their release dates, Magic cards and everything associated with them, and is always ready to serve your needs when you enter his store.

Upon entering the store, you are slapped in the face with the colors of fantasy, myths, and legends. You step off the streets of Troy into any fantasy reader's dream world. If you are a Magic card collector, then you will by happy with the selection of rares, uncommons and commons all at very reasonable prices. If you buy in quantity, you may be able to receive a discount for spending more money; do big box stores give you discounts for buying more items? Nope.

Although I have never attended any events at this store, they host such things as Magic the Gathering drafts and other types of tournaments weekly or monthly depending on the event. If you are bored on weekends, this may be a great way to spend your night.

It seems there is one store that sells these types of items in every town. In most cases, it is locally owned and operated, and the owner has a passion for the games that he offers, and the knowledge necessary to serve his customers. This is exactly how I would describe Aquilonia. I have no complaints of this store, because Bob does a great job of keeping his customers happy.

If you are interested in these types of hobbies, then make sure you check out this gem in downtown Troy. Bob is happy to help you find whatever it is you are looking for!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saratoga Peanut Butter Company

Peanut Butter. Over the past few years, I have increasingly used peanut butter for the regular things: peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter with apples, or bananas, peanut butter in shakes, in ice cream, and pretty much everywhere else peanut butter can go. It has become one of my favorite foods. Over the years, I have also strayed from the typical brands that generally use hydrogenated oils to make their peanut butter fluffy and smooth. Currently though, there is one brand of peanut butter that stands out in my mind, and it is made locally in our very own Saratoga Springs. The name of the company that makes this wonderful product is Saratoga Peanut Butter Company.

Review: Saratoga Peanut Butter Company
Location: Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Business Type: Peanut Butter Creator

Before I go into the review of the peanut butter, I want to give some background information on this company. Saratoga Peanut Butter Company (SPBC) was started in historic Saratoga Springs in 2005. Since then, the company has grown to distribute its peanut butter to retailers all over the Capital Region and beyond. Now, it makes 9 different flavors of peanut butter (Yes! 9!), including: Plain Jane Chunky, Creamy, or Organic, Chillin Chocolate (dark chocolate), Blizzard Butter (white chocolate), New York Maple (infused with maple syrup), Monkey Boy (bananas), Adirondack Jack (almond, peanuts, cranberries, and a few other ingredients), and Almond Butter. All these spreads are made with the highest quality ingredients, which you can view on their website.

I first found SPBC at the Troy Farmer's Market where they consistently deliver peanut butter to the masses. Usually they have a very friendly person working the booth, handing out free samples of this delicious spread with pretzel sticks. What a perfect way to start your Saturday! I immediately fell in love with this peanut butter, specifically the Blizzard Butter which is infused with white chocolate. Through my discussion with one of the business owners at the Market, I was told that this particular butter was most favored by males, and the Chillin Chocolate most preferred by females (just a fun random piece of info).

Anyway, this peanut butter is of the highest quality. Because it is made so fresh, there are extremely small pieces of peanuts in the butter, which makes it less than smooth. Under normal circumstances this may seem like a not-so-good thing, but don't judge before you try it! It makes the peanut butter have character. Most peanut butters strive to be smooth, this one stands above the rest and dares to be different. I like that. I usually eat this spread on bread, or in any of the ways stated in the first sentence, but with a spoon is definitely the best. The white chocolate flavor makes it so unique, and terminates any competition.

The only complaint I have about this peanut butter is the price. For seven dollars at the market, it's a bit pricey, but the quality, the texture, the flavor, makes it well worth it. Of course, that is relative to the mass-produced brands such as Jiffy and Peter Pan which go for 2-4 dollars depending; when compared to other organic peanut butters, it competes with their prices.

I am not a regular consumer of the other flavors, although I have tried each and every one of them at some point in time. The unique flavors of each make trying them all a must. You will not regret making the trip to the Farmer's Market (or any of the regular retailers, Price Chopper for example), to get to try this wonderful spread. Of course, you do not get the awesome experience of "shaking the hand that feeds you" when you visit the supermarket, so I do prefer the Farmer's Market.

Visit one of their retailers and try this. It is a must for your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Please comment if you agree or disagree, because I would love to hear everybody's opinion on all of our reviews. Thanks for reading!

-Joe Balestriere

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cardona's Market

Yesterday was my first actual experience using AllForLocal to find something that I wanted/needed locally. In this case, I was looking for lunch on a Sunday somewhere near Troy (lunch, food, deli). If you know Troy well, finding anything on a Sunday downtown is a difficult experience, so I knew I would need to go further than Troy for my meal. Since I was on my way back from Stuyvesant NY, this would be a perfect opportunity to find something in Albany. After narrowing down my choices online, I called a few local delis and restaurants to get more information if AllForLocal did not yet have it, such as hours of operation and menu items. Eventually, I was pleased to find Cardona's Market in Albany NY.

Review: Cardona's Market
Location: 340 Delaware Ave, Albany NY, 12209
Store Type: Specialty Italian Food Store and Deli

I ordered my food ahead of time to avoid the lunch rush. Just a simple chicken parmigiana grinder, a classic favorite of mine, can't mess that up! I arrived at the store, conveniently located a minute from the entrance to I-787 (easy to get to). Even though parking around this establishment was horrid, I managed to find a parking space right in front of the shop.

Upon entering, I was immediately taken into a different country, to Italy that is. This market reminded me of the same type of grocery store you would find in my parent's hometown in Italy, very similar to one that our family owns. It had all the items you could possibly need from your home, and specialized in Italian imported items such as Nutella, Italian coffees, Italian sweets, and pretty much everything you would find at a regular supermarket. It also had a full-service meat market, with deli meats, the most fresh meat you will ever find, and sausages and sopresata for great home cooking. The atmosphere was very homey, and it made me feel like I was in the family.

This kind of market is not too common with the growth of big supermarket chains, but Cardona's maintained a great atmosphere, a very up-to-date store, and was extremely clean. What surprised me the most was with how busy it was at lunchtime on a Sunday. I assume all the local college students make this store one of their regulars after a long Saturday night. This was the biggest problem I had - long lines 15 minutes before closing (but hey, if being busy is their biggest problem, then they don't have much to worry about).

Anyway, back to my food. Since I was splitting the grinder I purchased (which was a total of 8 bucks with potato chips), I only had the pleasure to eat half. It was excellent and surprisingly satiating (for half a sandwich...usually I eat a whole grinder with ease). Since chicken parm grinders are the most common sandwich I purchase, this was no easy feat. I have to put this sandwich on the top 5 grinders I have ever had! Now I am motivated to go back and shop around more, once I have the time to do so. I will definitely visit this deli/market again maybe for some food, maybe to shop instead of the less local alternatives. This way, I can give a more thorough rating of this shop and tell you more about it.

Take my advice and try this place out! The prices are very reasonable, and even if it is not within your budget, the food and atmosphere make the trip worth it!

-Joe Balestriere

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Local Business Reviews

Our team at AllForLocal loves shopping at small businesses. If we can find what we need locally, we shop there. In order to supplement our work with this website, I have started this blog in order to rate local businesses in the area. We will try and rate at least 5-10 businesses per month, no promises though! Stay tuned for updates!