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On Second Chances

April 19, 2018

Yesterday I did something stupid. Twice.

There’s this Cuban restaurant that popped up on my radar a while ago—all the way out in Amsterdam, NY—and I really really wanted to try it. My eating schedule is fairly packed these days, so I pencilled in an outing on the calendar for last Saturday.

However, I needed to change my plans to tackle the project of taxes with Mrs. Fussy. Yay taxes! The less we talk about that the better. I’m just glad we’re done.

Well, last night I found myself alone in Schenectady around dinner time with a couple hours to kill, so I decided to make the trek out west and see what the fuss was about.

Exploring a restaurant for the first time on your own is a terrible idea. There is only so much food you can eat, and you’ll be tempted to try a lot more things than any reasonable person should consume in a sitting.

I actually did fairly well in this regard. Part of me wanted to order three different sandwiches, and I somehow avoided that impulse. What helped was that the owner was willing to make a requested accommodation.

One of the restaurant’s features are hot plates from the steam table. What I wanted to try was the lechon and the ropa vieja, but the plate only comes with one meat. That didn’t stop me from asking, and the chef/owner generously broke the rules for me, and went halfsies on both the roast pork and braised beef. The plate comes with rice, red beans, and maduros. Maduros are the sweet version of fried plantains, not to be confused with tostones which are the salty version of fried plantains.

I love ham croquetas so I got a couple of those too, only later to find they aren’t made in house. At least mine were freshly prepared, so they were crispy on the outside.

It was a lot of food, and I’ve been trying to eat less when I’m not attending food events. The blood work for my upcoming physical is being done next week. I should not have been eating like this.

My bar for Cuban food is high. Mostly because I can make some banging dishes, thanks to my friend Raf who has shared a bunch of delicious family recipes from growing up in Miami too. The red beans, I was told, are a nod to the region’s Puerto Rican community and not some other Cuban bean dish that had somehow not made it onto my radar after all those years living in Miami.

Looking objectively at the food, the amenities, and the service, it would be easy to say a bunch of negative things. While I took half of the food to go, I threw what was left away as soon as I could. Mostly because what remained was most of the roast pork and some white rice which were swimming in oil from the ropa vieja.

Here’s the thing.

Despite its oiliness, the flavors of the ropa vieja were great. And there was something about this spot that I really enjoyed, even if they didn’t have Cuban coffee or a lechon that rose to the level of what I could find in a casual corner cafeteria anywhere in Miami.

I’m going back for the sandwiches, and to try the tostones. The good thing about sandwiches is that they travel well. So maybe the answer is bringing a selection of Cuban sandwiches back to people in Schenectady.

The other stupid thing was driving back into Schenectady I stopped at Villa Italia.

I had a hankering for one of their lobster tails, which are different than sfogliatelle. We can get into that later. However, they were out of lobster tails and only had sfogliatelle. I wasn’t hungry. I just wanted something sweet to brighten my mood after tossing all that food. So I ate the thing I didn’t want.

Throwing away food makes me feel awful. But so does eating food that’s swimming in oil, and still not super delicious.

You know what else makes me feel awful? Eating a fried pastry, filled with a baked custard, after I’m already over full from too much oily meat, rice, and beans.

Fortunately, when I got home, there was some rum left over from doing our taxes, and that helped to settle the stomach a bit. I still required a bit of absinthe in seltzer water. But it’s good to have a liquor cabinet that doubles as a medicine chest. The drinks were actually the smartest things I did all night.

Hopefully the good decisions of the past many months will outweigh the recent bad ones. The proof will be in the results of the lab work, which I should be seeing on May 1. Probably, just to be safe, I should plan to get the Cuban sandwiches in between when the blood work is drawn, and my results are shared.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2018 3:04 pm

    We’ll try to go easy on you tonight.

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