4 Sheridan Avenue, Albany, NY,
If there is a single delicacy that can get me to repeatedly visit a restaurant it’s plantains. And what better time to gorge on plantains than the summer? You could serve them to me in a dog dish and I’d smile and hand you my credit card.
Ama Cocina does much better than that. Their plantains are fried and doused in guava sauce. The taste lands somewhere between brown sugar and butter and the most decadent cake. By all rights they should be served for dessert but its been my habit to order them for the table before a meal; something I was initially chided for by my family but that has now become accepted standard operating procedure.
Branded “Modern Mexican Street Food” Ama Cocina has been a welcome addition to my family’s dining routine. The atmosphere somewhere between hip indie bar and flair-centric chain joint isn’t alienating but instead inviting for various occasions. While not in love with the menu my 4-year old daughter is always happy to order a quesadilla and chow down in the lively environment. My wife and I who are loathe to spend much time in noisy, crowded bar scenes, enjoy the layout of the restaurant only a little less than we do the menu that does fun things with lime, cream and chipotle. There is ceviche, Mexican pizzas, oysters, sopas, flautas, empanadas, burritos and more of the usual fare but all done with an adventurous flare. Sitting at a sidewalk table with a Caipirinha, a basket of oversized, housemade tortillas and salsa, and a group of friends sounds like an excellent way to spend a long summer day.
2082 Delaware Turnpike, Clarksville
Facebook might be an evil tool designed to manipulate and pacify us all but around this time each year the social media site unfailingly shares a memory with me–a picture of my daughter smiling wide, the sun shining in behind her curly locks as she shoves eggs into her mouth. It’s not always the same picture, and she’s not always the same age. For four years now my wife, daughter, myself and my mother have met up on weekends for brunch at the out-of-the way cafe where chef Dan Smith whips up some of the tastiest, heartiest, locally-sourced meals you can get in the region. My particular favorite is his variation on eggs benedict–sometimes served with a slab of pork belly, sometimes Canadian bacon or corned beef. His hollandaise sauce is best devoured on a piece of their freshly baked sourdough bread. But breakfast isn’t the only reason to make the drive into the woods on a gorgeous summer day. Smith regular cooks up lobsters and prime rib during the summer months. His menu shifts depending on what local ingredients he discovers. The other night I was pleasantly surprised to discover Smith had made use of foraged ramps in an alfredo pasta dish. It was unexpected but delicious.
366 Delaware Ave. Albany
Looking for hard ice cream with a side of live music, chocolates, coffee, egg creams and even doggie treats? Emack and Bolio’s in Albany is perfection made real. My connection with the sundae shop might be a little EXTRA. I spent a significant part of my summers at my grandparents’ house in Cape Cod. Each weekend we’d drive to the Emack and Bolio’s in Orleans, MA. My grandmother would get an egg cream–a reminder of her youth, I’d get a cone of Chocolate Moose and then my grandfather would drive us to watch the sunset at Rock Harbor. We’d sit at the beach as the red evening sun framed an old half-sunken boat that the Navy had used for target practice. My grandmother and I would dip our toes in the water as my grandfather took shots of the boat. He’d tell me that one day the boat wouldn’t be there. That eventually it would sink completely. It took years of this trips but one day he was right and the boat was gone. I don’t take my daughter to Emack and Bolio’s in Albany every weekend but when we do, she knows it’s something special. She can’t quite pronounce the name of the place she wants to go but when we get there she tells me “You did it! You knew!”