We've lived here almost three years, and up until last Saturday I had only been to Schenectady three times. Once when we first moved here, we missed the turn off for Crossgates and accidentally got on I-90 the same day someone had recommended the Appian Way to us so we ended up there mostly by accident. I checked out Erin Harkes at the Moon and River Cafe once while planning our wedding and looking for a singer for our first dance. A couple weeks ago we saw the RPI/Union hockey game and because none of us knew any restaurants in Schenectady worth going to (including our friend who lives there) we went to Garden Bistro 24 in Colonie. Well, I threw off my annual schedule of visiting the fair city by going again this past weekend because my friend, Jessica, was working back stage at Fiddler on the Roof at the Schenectady Light Opera Company.
My husband was out of town, and past times when he has been out of town I've made lavender sorbet for dinner, watched every movie on the On Demand with the word "wedding" in the title, you know that sort of thing. Without anyone around to witness my activities, I'd slip right into a state of complete and udder laziness. I think that in some way reading the book MWF seeks BFF changed my life. And not just in regards to friendship, which is of course the focus and is of course important, but in terms of adventure. Reading that book really inspired me to get out and do things - you never know who you are going to meet, and you may look back one day and think they knew you when, that you bonded over some activity you could have just as easily turned down to watch old episodes of Daria and talk on the phone with your friend from high school about "Real Housewives of Any City".
So anyway, apparently the people who run Tara Kitchen, where we went for dinner, used to operate only at the Schenectady Greenmarket. I totally loved this place. The menu had all kinds of dishes that sounded like recipes I've been meaning to make - preserved lemons, lentils, tangy tomatoes - it all sounded delicious. We started out with the harissa marinated olives. They also gave us some mint and honey tea, which everyone enjoyed. These olives were amazing. Since they cook everything to order and it will take a while, I think you want to start out with a little snack. Since it is a very small space, you probably also want to make a reservation. It has a very warm ambiance with the copper tables and the intimate scale. It is really a family run place too ( which I like - see Muza, Bongiorno's, and Beirut).
The entrees were all great. I got the lamb with prunes and apricots. After you have waited all this time, they come out with these heavy, steaming clay tagine dishes, lift them off with impressive strength and flourish and a cloud of deliciously spiced fog envelopes your face. You want to wait a while before you dig in, because it is incredibly hot. They give you some great flat bread and rice to go with the tagines. My friend's boyfriend was going through all kinds of different methods to cool down his food faster, including taking off the basket between the clay pot and the copper table. He seemed to think the heat would transfer to the table, to which my friend said that would make the table too hot. I don't think that worked for him, but one thing that worked for me was waiting a few minutes and mixing in the rice. He had the eggplant with prunes, honey and chickpeas which tasted very different from mine even though we both had prunes. I think the bitterness of the eggplant balanced out a bit more with the sweetness of the other ingredients, whereas mine started to seem really sweet towards the end of eating it. I really liked his. My friend got lamb meatballs in fresh tomato sauce with eggs. I honestly may have liked her's the best. I really liked the way that it seemed like the egg was just broken on at the last minute and cooked in the steam. I loved the tangy flavor of the tomatoes. This was a great place, and it totally disproves the notion of our friend who lives there that there aren't any good restaurants in Schenectady. It also makes me think I should get out that way more.
Then my friend went to get ready for the show. I'm just going to say this because I'm the type of girl who wishes every day was Valentine's Day. After my friend left, I tried to come up with interesting topics of conversation with her boyfriend. We talked about Werner Herzog and the bears, high school extracurriculars we did, moving to a new city, but I think to him the most interesting topic of conversation is Jessica. The way he lights up when she walks in the room is really the most adorable thing ever. I am told by my coworkers that my husband does this for me (they go on and on about it), but I never notice (not sure what I am busy doing). Let's hear it for totally adorable couples and guys who seem to never get tired of talking about their girlfriends. Let's also hear it for delicious Morrocan food, the city of Schenectady, and actually getting out of the house when your spouse goes out of town!