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Emily L Eats Dessert

May 14, 2019

Yesterday I was in Syracuse on a tasting panel to find New York’s Best Burger. And I can’t wait to tell you about it. But when I came home I was still in a little bit of a burger haze. Anyway, it was far too late to try and write any kind of proper blog post.

Miracle of miracles, I got an email from Emily L with her latest blog post. No, it’s not about eggs benedict. It’s not even about brunch. This time she notes a service feature from a bygone era at a place her boyfriend had driven by a lot and never visited. Now it sounds like they are are regulars there, and Emily recently discovered a cake that was entirely off my radar.

I’ll let Emily take it from here.

Classic Capital Region
by Emily L

Since I have moved to the Capital Region, I have really enjoyed trying some of the area’s classic, long standing institutions. From my experience at LaSerre chowing down on their traditional December Goose to brunching at New World Bistro, my boyfriend (and lifelong Capital Region resident) has not (generally) steered me wrong.

But I had the pleasure of introducing him to a long standing restaurant in Scotia. Located in the heart of downtown, he mentioned how many times he had driven past a brick building with a sign proclaiming “Turf Tavern”. Assuming it was a bar, he never thought to stop in.

Turf Tavern originally opened in 1940. Named after the grass on horse racing tracks, it became a popular stop for visitors on their way to the Saratoga racetrack. Current owners Maria and Tom Gallant purchased the restaurant in 1996, only the third owners in the restaurant’s almost 80 year history.

With its classic wood paneled atmosphere, Turf Tavern (or “Turf” for short) pays homage to its past without giving up quality. Tom has kept some of the original recipes on the menu, like crab cakes, cheddar cheese dressing, and shrimp genovese, but uses real crab and locally sourced ingredients now. The menu offers a nice variety of American cuisine, but Tom also is happy to invent something on the spot if nothing strikes your fancy. Classic cocktails like the bourbon smash are intermixed with new creations. The portions are large and the prices are much more reasonable than many of their Albany counterparts.

But for me, the real throwback is the dessert plate. At the end of the meal, servers come out to the table with a presentation platter of their homemade dessert offerings of the night. It’s something I haven’t seen in years. Also, pro-tip, Turf is one of the few places around that still offers a hummingbird cake on it’s menu. And it’s one of the best I have ever had in my life.

But what I love the most about Turf Tavern are the people. I know I can stop in after a long day of work, get a fantastic drink and a funny story from Jeff the bartender, have a wonderful hot meal, fresh and made to order, and relax with Tom and Maria long after the restaurant is formally closed. Tom usually comes out at the end of the night and just chats with customers about anything from his beloved Red Sox to what is currently happening in Scotia to his latest recipe.

So if you, like my boyfriend, have driven by Turf time and time again, stop in for dinner. You won’t regret it. Now I want to know, what other area institutions are often seen but forgotten?

Before we start to answer Emily’s question, I want to know who else had ever heard of hummingbird cake before. It’s new to me. Apparently it’s a southern thing. And maybe I shouldn’t feel too badly because even the folks at Southern Living hadn’t heard about it until a reader submitted the recipe for this spiced pineapple and banana cake with cream cheese frosting over 40 years ago.

Now I want a slice, but I’m still full of burgers from yesterday.

As far as classic places that people pass and never visit go, I’m throwing my weight behind Joe’s Grill in Albany. I went there for the first time on the most recent Tour de Wings, and it was remarkably good. Hopefully I’ll get another chance to return before I leave. But the sad reality is I won’t be able to do everything I want before heading off to the midwest. However, that’s been the story of my life. Wanting to eat all the things, and never being able to eat all the things.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. AddiesDad permalink
    May 14, 2019 1:42 pm

    I think the Wishing Well in Saratoga fits this general bill (classics updated, using local ingredients where possible, friendly atmosphere and staff, classic desserts, etc.), but I’m sure the price point, at least for dinner, is higher. They do have a nice, and affordable, tavern menu.

  2. albanylandlord permalink
    May 14, 2019 8:37 pm

    Nice Post – adding it to my mental list!

  3. enough already! permalink
    May 15, 2019 5:17 pm

    Yes I have heard of hummingbird cake, but have not made it. So has anyone heard of “Italian cream cake”? Otis? No it’s not Italian, but southern, with buttermilk, pecans, coconut, cream cheese frosting. Came across it in Texas years ago. Yum…google it!

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