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Echoes of the Past

February 24, 2015

There was a time when I got all hot and bothered about the sad state of The Best of the Capital Region polls. If you’ve been reading for a while, maybe you remember the FUSSYlittleBALLOT?

I’ve moved on.

One thing that I may not have mentioned about the new job is that I’m going to be curating a weekly newsletter. Every week, it’s going to feature three great businesses from Yelp that share something in common. So perhaps it will be three great places to get Buffalo style wings, or three Japanese restaurants that only sell Japanese food, or three places for amazing beer, et cetera.

While it’s not a Best of the Capital Region list, I suspect it will kind of fill the void. And I couldn’t be more excited.

This comes to mind, because we are now at the start of ballot season. Metroland just recently announced their annual poll, but I’m not going to be taking any sides. Still, if you are interested, you can go here and vote.

The other thing that is upon us right now is Schenectady’s restaurant week. At the request of friend, I looked over all the menus, and there’s actually an interesting story to be found there. So, with an eye to the past, I thought I’d share.

We’ve discussed the problems and the potential for restaurant week in the past. We’ve talked it to death. Which is why I had largely planned to let this promotion go by without comment.

You can find all the Schenectady menus here, but I’m going to tell you about a few of them.

Ambition on Jay Street has made a menu that makes my fat tooth sing. What a way to light up the pleasure sensors of your brain in the doldrums of winter. It starts with bone marrow pate, moves on to lobster thermador (sauteed with cognac and cream), and finishes with tiramisu. How they are able to do this for under $21 AND include a complimentary glass of Sangria is beyond me. But it gets me all warm and tingly inside.

Maybe that’s just because thinking of all that delicious cholesterol has stopped the blood from flowing to my extremities, but I don’t think so. It just sounds like the menu of a restaurant that is really out to knock your socks off, so you come back over and over again.

Another way to win Restaurant Week is to stick to the things you do best. And Cornell’s seems to have a menu that reflects that take. I’d love to get in there and have their calamari marinara, followed by homemade cavatelli, and finished with a red sauce and cheese classic of chicken florentine (with soup or salad). The menu may not be imaginative, but it doesn’t have to be.

This promotion could be Mexican Radio’s shot at redemption. There are a lot of people who are all bent out of shape that this newcomer to the area charges for chips and salsa. I suppose everyone has their issues. So, one option for restaurant week is that you can get your free chips, your $20 burrito, and then a free mini flan.

That’s the safe bet, but there is another option. I’ve been advised against the burritos, and I think getting chips is a lost opportunity to sample something different. So I’d want to try their Boca House Wedge which takes two flour tortillas and stuffs them with jalapeno cream cheese, muenster cheese, peppers & onions, and then tops it off a with smoky guajillo pepper sauce and lime crema. Whoa. Fortunately, the tostada is lighter with black beans, homemade grilled seitan, shiitake and oyster mushrooms from Zehr’s & Sons, garlicky sautéed spinach, Coach Farm goat cheese and shredded lettuce mixed with tequila vinaigrette and mango salsa. And dessert would have to be the mini flan which Latina magazine once called the “Best Flan in America”. I mean, how can you not order it.

Finally, More Perreca’s deserves a shout for putting together something truly comforting. All three courses are earthy, creamy and a little bit sweet, but in different ways. I love that. So, I’d start with the roasted oyster mushrooms, farmhouse goat cheese and aged sherry. The Hampshire pork chop with creamy polenta and and apple chutney would be my main course choice. And I’d end with the cannoli.

Surely, I would be a happy man at the end of any of these meals. Although the devil is in the details. So hopefully the execution in the kitchen and the front of the house are able to make these top restaurant week menus shine.

If you happen to try one, please report back. I’d love to hear about it.

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