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Emily L and the Monkfish

June 18, 2019

Once again, the day has gotten away from me. Packing up one’s worldly possessions, and trying to sell a house, while finishing up a job, looking for a new one, and preparing the kids for summer camp, can really take a bite out of the schedule.

Thankfully Emily L sent me a guest post about eating a little outside her comfort zone. And that’s something I can really get behind. People need to be doing more of that. Seriously. But for now, let’s hear Emily’s story.

Monkfish: The Poor Man’s Lobster
By Emily L.

Weather affects my food mood. This past winter, I ate the same dishes at the same three or four restaurants every week. I didn’t want to think, I just wanted to order and eat. Now that it is nicer out, I somehow feel more adventurous, wanting to try new places and new dishes.

This past week, I got to go to Malcolm’s in Schenectady. Highlighting locally produced meats and produce, the menu changes almost every night based on what is available. The kitchen is open, inviting diners to watch as the chefs cook their dinner. This is exactly the kind of dining experience that invites you to try something new, but in a comfortable setting.

I went with three other diners and we decided to try a bit of everything. From pork belly to Thai meatballs to duck, everything was perfectly cooked. But what intrigued me most what the monkfish. As our waitress explained, this fish is known as the ‘poor man’s lobster.’ Looking up photos of this fish, I would never think to try it, as its large flat head with a huge jaw is vastly unappealing. But with a group of daring fellow diners, I decided to go for it.

At $14, I would argue this is a hardly a poor man’s lobster. But this appetizer was utterly delicious. A small piece of monkfish with placed in a warm seafood broth featuring fregola, cauliflower, and pomegranate seeds. Indeed, it tasted almost identical to lobster but without the chewy texture associated with the shellfish. The combination with the pomegranate seeds gave the dish a lighter profile. It was like nothing I have ever had before.

The evening was wonderful, shared with great company. While Macolm’s is on the pricer side, the quality is unmatched in the area. Now that I have had my first taste of monkfish, I look forward to going to the Asian Superstore, picking up one for myself, and figuring out what I can do with it.

Eating outside your comfort zone can be tremendously rewarding, and even when you encounter something you don’t love, you’ll have learned something valuable. Just last night, I took two people to Cocina Vasquez in Albany, and it wasn’t even on their radar. We tried the enfrijoladas, and they were hooked. Not too long ago I went out to lunch with Albany Jane at Fairy Sichuan and I was reluctant to split a full sized plate of beef tendon, but it was amazing.

Although, I won’t soon forget the shrimp with gingko nuts at Ala Shanghai from several years ago, that were mushy, starchy, and assertively bitter. While I could understand what the dish was trying to achieve, the flavor profile just wasn’t for me… or anyone else at our table. But so it goes. One doesn’t come across gingko nuts all that often, so it was a good idea to try them when available. Even if you only try them once.

But things like cold jellyfish salad and deep fried shrimp heads are much more delicious than their names might lead you to believe.

Still, being adventurous doesn’t have to be a big deal. You can make small steps forward, like simply trying a new kind of fish, or even exploring a different cut of beef. What helps is finding a restaurant with a talented chef, and trusting them to only put delicious food on your plate. Thanks to restaurants like Malcolm’s, Peck’s Arcade, Lost & Found, Nighthawks, and others, we’ve got more to explore in the Capital Region than ever before.

So get out there and eat.

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