A Taste of the Past

To an entire generation in Albany, say chicken teriyaki and they answer you back, “Quintessence.”

It’s two years since Quintessence was demolished, mowed down to make room for the ever-expanding Albany Med. But for years it seemed like an empty imitation of itself; Quintessence wasn’t really Quintessence since the Jimmy Scalzo days. And what days those were.

I’d been to Quintessence many times in the early 8os before I realized that it was not just a place for late night drinking, but a great place to eat — and the chicken teriyaki with spinach noodles were as close to legendary as any dish ever served in this sorry town.

But it’s gone forever — unless you were among those at a class given at Price Chopper’s Market Bistro, where chef Donnie Graham, shared the secrets of the teriyaki. Graham spent many hours in the open kitchen at Quintessence, and served up countless plates of their specialty.

Believe it or not, one of the big revelations was learning how to cut the chicken into a long strip and properly wrap it around a scallion and piece of carrot. It’s then held on with toothpicks until the chicken shrinks and grabs the veggies tightly. Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks. I swear I swallowed one once long ago.

What of the marinade and the dressing for the noodles? Ah, sorry — I’ll post a lot of things online, but I don’t think paying for the class gives me ownership of the recipes and secrets of Quintessence.  You’ll have to rely on your memories of those days, but if you’re like me, many of your Quintessence memories are — a tiny bit hazy.

32 thoughts on “A Taste of the Past

  1. What a tease..
    You remind me of that great dish then don’t follow through with the recipe.
    I’ve been considering some of those PC classes. Sounds like I missed a valuable one.

  2. The Times Union has published the vinaigrette recipe at least a half-dozen times over the years, and with two slightly different lists of ingredients… and neither recipe is 100% correct. Trust me; I’ve made the TU version of the vinaigrette many many times, and have tried tweaking the recipe many ways, and while the TU recipe tastes GOOD, you can’t make it taste Quintessence Awesome. There’s some secret missing from that TU recipe, I’m sure of it. If I must take the class to discover the secret, I will!

  3. I went to college at SUNY Albany back in 91 and was devestated to hear it closed! If I lived in Albany I would definitely take the class. If you have any better “tweaked” recipes I would be in debt to you

    1. Amanda — I’ll send you what I have. It’s not my place to publish those, but there’s nothing wrong with me sharing a recipe with a friend of the blog.

      1. I live in Florida now but grew up in Schenectady! Would someone PLEASE share the Quintessence marinade and dressing recipe! I have tried all the recipes from past articles but they are still missing something. Thank you!

          1. Rob could you share these with me. I’m so tired of making all these recipes and they just don’t taste the same. It’s costing a fortune. My parents went here all the time I want to make them a special dinner for their anniversary

      2. I would love to get Quintessence recipes – Was just talking about this with my 85-year-old mom, which sent me on a Google search where I found this.

        My e-mail is dahall656@icloud.com

        Thank you!

  4. Agree, the TU recipe just doesn’t have the right essence. I even tried having a few gin and tonics late one Friday night to see if the quinine residue in my mouth brought back the taste. Alas, it did not.

  5. Oh man. I grew up going to quintessence with my parents and aunts and uncles in the 80’s (I had a cool family). Lol. The chicken teriyaki was my favorite. I would love the vinaigrette recipe. I have tried the ones posted on TU as well with little luck. I have the honey mustard recipe that used to come with the scallops wrapped in bacon. One of the waitresses gave it to my parents. I would share that if anyone is interested. Thank you

    1. Any chance you’re still sharing the recipe? My son and I were just reminiscing about it. Last time I had Quintessence (a college staple) I was staying with my mom while she was in hospice at St Peter’s. We’re in NC now and it sure would taste good!

        1. Thank you so much. I would take the class but the cooking school closed. I worked at Quintessence for years while I was in college. I can’t wait to try this.
          I don’t live in the area anymore but always make a stop at Ryan’s Wake when I’m home for a taste of nostalgia.
          Thank you

      1. I would love a copy of that honey mustard recipe. I make bacon wrapped scallops all the time. Can’t seem to get the sauce just right.

  6. Hi all!
    I, too, was one of the many regulars at Quintessence in the 80’s and have tried unsuccessfully to replicate their famous Chicken Teriyaki dish so many times. Can someone please share with me whatever recipes you have for this iconic dish? I will be forever in your debt!

  7. It was a joy to stumble on this. I love the spinach fettuccini, but the Chicken Pataki was by far my favorite. Any chance any of you have that recipe? I looked to sign up for the courses even though I’m now quite a distance away from Albany. Due to COVID the courses are cancelled.

    1. Oh, I’m glad you enjoyed it! No Chicken Pataki recipe, however. I know a lot of people enjoyed that one, but I can’t recall what was in it.

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