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Emily L Eats Colombian

May 2, 2019

While the blog has been around for ten years, I’ve been here for just about twelve. Still, there are so many places in the Capital Region I have never been. Some of those places are classics which have just never appealed to me for one reason or another. But the food scene in these parts continues to grow and evolve, and the pace of new places opening is faster than my ability to visit them all.

In yesterday’s post I started to list some of the countries that are now represented in the international culinary landscape in and around the Capital Region. It was a partial list, to be sure, and there were many omissions.

Colombian food was conspicuously absent.

As it just so happens, our frequent guest blogger Emily L recently filed a story about her adventure to Moliendo Cafe. And even though I haven’t been, Emily’s write up is giving me the hunger to visit. Not that I’ll order as much food as she did with the professor. Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like I’ll have to twist her arm to make a return trip. But I’ll let her tell you all about it.

Colombian in the Capital Region
By Emily L

Once a month, I go out to eat with my former professor and his wife. Another new transplant to the area, our goal is to try a new restaurant every time. With no driving or dietary restrictions, the world is our oyster. They love trying anything new. The best part? We can get a whole sampling of dishes and try a bit of everything.

This month, we headed to Moliendo Cafe. This Colombian restaurant is tucked away in a strip mall on Madison Avenue. Easy to overlook with a nondescript yellow awning, the restaurant is bright, clean, and welcoming upon entering. Interestingly, the owner Diane Murcia, decided to open her own restaurant after years of supporting her Ecuadorian husband’s Mexican restaurants Los Panchos and Panchos. Murcia was there that day, cooking, waiting tables, and sharing a bit of her culture with Albany.

I have never had Colombian cuisine before. Staunchly different from its neighboring countries in Latin America, Colombian food highlights large, fresh cuts of meat, fresh vegetables and avocados, and slow cooked hearty stews, primarily to feed farmers. We went on a Monday specifically to try their short rib soup. Each day they have a different soup feature, but this soup is one of the most beloved recipes in Colombia. Our waiter was quite helpful, patiently explaining each dish to us and the origins behind it. In addition to the soup, we ordered the lunch special with steak (only $8 featuring rice, beans, soup, and avocado), a large fresh salad with steak, chicken, and shrimp, boiled potatoes with a Colombian cream sauce, empanadas, and a can of Colombiana la nuestra, a popular Colombian soda drink.

The food came out incredibly fast and very hot.

We started with the soup, which was accompanied by rice and avocado. It was outstanding. A thick broth surrounded pieces of tender, slow cooked short ribs; rich with flavor, this simple soup was enough to fill us all up. But we had more dishes to try. The lunch special with steak was massive for just $8. The steak, just seasoned with salt and pepper, was perfectly cooked; the rice and beans accompanying the meat were nice, but standard.

The papas chorreadas (boiled potatoes in a cream sauce) were well worth the lactaid pills I had to consume. The sauce featured a light Colombian cheese, cooked with cream and some sort of unidentifiable spice. This side dish was a meal in itself.

The salad with steak, shrimp, and chicken was absolutely huge for $14. Served with some sort of Colombian dressing (that tasted close to a honey mustard), the meats and shrimp were cooked perfectly and just seasoned with salt and pepper. They didn’t need a heavy sauce to cover them, the flavors stood out on their own.

The empanadas were fresh, but similar to those found at other area restaurants with a bit of meat and a bit of potatoes. But perhaps the most interesting component of the meal was the Colombiana la nuestra. Orange and bubbly, it was like a non-alcoholic mimosa. Interestingly, the beverage was actually canned in upstate New York.

We left stuffed and armed with enough leftovers for several meals. For less than $60 for three people, it was one of the best deals I have had at any restaurant recently. I am so excited to see another woman owned and run restaurant excel in Albany. Murcia takes so much pride in what she cooks and it shows. The quality, the quantity, the service, and the atmosphere make Moliendo Cafe my new go-to for friends and family visiting the Capital Region.

Well, this is certainly promising. My hunch is that it’s always a challenge to introduce an unfamiliar cuisine to the residents of the Capital Region. People always say they want something different, but then when you give it to them, it’s often too far out of their comfort zone.

I’m reminded of the Tibetan place in Albany that was beloved by local food critics, food bloggers, and the Yelp community. Yet all the same, it never took off.

There’s an argument to be made that we have the food culture in the Capital Region that we deserve. If we cannot muster the support of great, small, independent spots, they’ll slip into the night and we’ll get more national sandwich chains to take their place. And the area will be diminished thanks to our lack of action and urgency. Small businesses won’t tell you when they are in trouble, or no longer financially viable. One day they will just be closed.

So get out there, and give this place a try. Emily loves it. I’m looking forward to having her take me there, so I can see it through her eyes.

And should you love it, return with friends who will hopefully return with different friends. Let’s pay it forward. Like Theodor Herzl said, “If you will it, it is no dream; and if you don’t, a dream it is and a dream it will stay.” Make it happen. Will a thriving international food culture into existence for the Capital Region.

It starts with lunch.

By the way, if you couldn’t tell, these days I’m more open to guest bloggers than ever. So if you have something you want to say about the local food scene, or our culinary culture, or even if there’s an issue surrounding food that really has your goat. Drop me a note. Let’s talk. Posting on the FLB isn’t a paid gig, but you might get a coffee or a beer out of the deal.

Think about it. Cheers!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. tom permalink
    May 2, 2019 11:55 am

    there are so many new and interesting places to check out but they get lost in the shuffle. maybe someone can start a listicle of sorts.

  2. May 2, 2019 8:16 pm

    Moliendo’s hearty soups with rice, avocado, and lime are def the highlight. They used to serve grilled blood sausage with the mixed grill, which was the best part of that, but I guess too many people were taken aback by that and it is no longer part of the entree.

    I also think their beef empanadas are very good.

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