Can you believe that Mahar's only has a few weeks left? Its crazy. It has me thinking about the ways that specific places can add to our daily lives. At lunch with a special collections librarian recently, we've had discussions about e-books. She heard that the wave of the future is no books at all, and that the logical next step is no library. I said "What about the library as a social space?"
Deanna Fox of Silly Goose Farm and I recently went out to New World Bistro where I knew so many of the employees it was almost embarrassing. Oh, and this happened:
Delicious ice cream sandwich aside, it is cool to have places in your life where you know half the people who walk by, and where you feel comfortable enough to act that ridiculous These places become the sets where our lives play out.
When we first moved here, one of the very first places that was recommended to us was Bellini's in a strip mall in Slingerlands. It isn't the most mind-blowingly great food ever, sure, but it is good for what it is, especially for the price and for a weeknight. The pizzas straight out of their 650 degree wood-fired oven really hit the spot on a cold, dark winter's night. Sometimes they list on the wine menu suggestions provided by the wine store employees next store (who we've always found friendly and knowledgeable). We really enjoy the house salad with polenta croutons and cranberries. We also enjoy familiar faces, and some of the same waiters we first encountered there three years ago.
So after all this time of writing a food blog, maybe I have to say it isn't all about some combination of specific ingredients you tried somewhere, or some new place, or some trendy thing everyone is talking about. Sometimes it is about a place that means something to you with people in it you just wouldn't have known otherwise. This handful of all your favorite haunts, along with your friends and memories, are what makes a city you didn't grow up in feel like home.
I first went to Mahar's my very first day ever in Albany over four years ago. My husband had already interviewed for his job, and it was just enough colder than NYC to make my clothes entirely impractical. I was wearing all black - ballet flats, a pencil skirt, a newsboy type of hat - no coat, no boots, no mittens. We called a cab and waited outside Mahar's in a ice storm for over an hour to take us to the Hilton Garden Inn on Washington Ave. Mahar's felt like a welcoming and warm living room in a new and foreign city, populated with people we'd one day a couple years later invite to our wedding. Waiting outside on Madison, slush seeping into my ballet flats, hail pellets hitting me on the nose, it felt like it was all going to turn out alright.
Bill wasn't quite Nat from the Peach Pit, but in the vague peripheries of my mind he's something very similar. Mahar's closing feels like a loss.