My friend Nell and I went to see Spamalot at Proctors on Wednesday night, and we ventured out for dinner in Schenectady beforehand. We had originally intended to re-visit Aperitivo Bistro on State Street in Schenectady prior to the theatre, but they had absolutely no tables the entire week! Good for them. I’m always happy to see that Schenectady businesses are doing well, and I love to support them whenever possible.
So,with that in mind, we decided to head over to my old neighborhood (Goose Hill), and visit a place I’d been meaning to try since they opened more than 2 years ago – Cella Bistro. They serve tapas, the traditional “small plates” of Spanish cuisine (similarly to Aperitivo, although they did it first).
Aperitivo offers what they call “piattini”, which are small appetizers with a distinctly Italian spin. Another restaurant in Schenectady, the Night Sky Cafe, offers their own version of small appetizers, which they have dubbed “metzas”. I think they meant to spell it “mezzas”, which is the Arabic word for appetizers. But, whatever. I’ve eaten there, and their food is good, too. Anyway, enough semantics about serving dishes! What did we eat at Cella Bistro?
Spiced almonds – very disappointing. They were greasy, raw (they should have been toasted), and only faintly tasted like the minute amount of rosemary they were seasoned with. Bleh.
House Marinated Olives – eh. Green olives. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Duck Confit Bruschetta with Red Onion Pomegranate Marmalade – absolutely incredible. Creamy, slightly gamey duck confit (which is duck meat preserved in its own fat), with a tart and sweet topping that was its perfect complement. Heaven on toast.
Long-stem Baby Artichokes with Caper Aioli – easily the most delicious (and plentiful) item we ordered. Outstanding. I understand completely why Nell insisted that we order them!
Spanish Tortilla – not at all what I expected. Being almost completely unfamiliar with Spanish cuisine, I had never heard of a “Spanish tortilla” before, and was expecting something akin to a quesadilla. The tortilla seemed to me to be more like a potato frittata. Not a whole lot of flavor. This was also served with the caper aioli. Enough with the caper aioli already. I think it was on everything.
Mixed Grill: portabello, squash, shrimp – the smallest thing I’ve ever seen… seriously, a half-bite’s worth of food that cost $5. Nell remarked that she’s never seen such a small portabello mushroom before. It was actually half of a portabello, but it was still the size of a button mushroom. I am not kidding. This dish was so insulting that I actually complained about it to the waitress. I have no idea if she actually cared or not.
We drank a Spanish cava (sparkling wine) – they were very generous with the pouring of the wine – which is an attribute that receives no complaints from me.
Dinner was good, if inconsistent, and relatively reasonable – bread, 6 appetizers, and two glasses of champagne each came to about $45 before tax and tip.
I adore eating tapas (or piattini, or mezzas, or metzas, or whatever you’d like to call them) because I love being able to sample a wide variety of flavors and textures, and experience the creative talent of the chef. I am looking forward to the day when I can afford to do a tasting menu at an upscale restaurant. If you’re reading this, Bob, my birthday’s coming up very soon.
And now for something completely different…my brief review of Spamalot. It was good. Very very funny, but I’ve seen better shows. I’m a raving mad Monty Python fan, so I laughed uproariously at all of the old familiar Holy Grail moments, some fleeting Life of Brian moments, and sang along to the familiar songs (including “Finland”). I loved the scathing references to other Broadway shows (including Fiddler on the Roof, Les Mis, and Phantom of the Opera), and my absolute favorite part was “The French Taunting”. Brilliant. I (and the show) could have done completely without the Lady of the Lake (stupid, and forced). The acting, singing, and dancing were superb (my only complaint was the guy who played King Arthur, who portrayed him with a mumbling whine and a slouch, instead of with the haughty cluelessness of Graham Chapman in the film), and the set and costume design were terrific. All in all, I’d recommend it, whether you’re a Monty Python fan or not.
Looking back, I think I may regret not purchasing the t-shirt that reads Fetchez la Vache.
We loved Spamalot. And as much as I love my husband, I do wish that you had been sitting next to me for the excerpt from Fiddler on the Roof. I can still remember us sneaking into the theater for the bottle dancing scene.
I thought that entire scene was utterly and irreverently HIL-AR-IOUS. I bought the soundtrack and I listen to that song the most.
The French Taunting was so well done. Even though I had seen it countless times in the movie, it was so funny onstage.
I had a different take on the Lady….she was supposed to be forced, stupid and overacted. Spoofed. Therefore, I was more accepting I guess.
The King was a bit mumbling…I think he was trying to hard to sound like Tim Curry….good luck with that. Otherwise, I thought he was okay. Dad agrees that he was too schlumpy.
From a technical standpoint, I thought the staging and production was absolutely BRILLIANT. Again, I love my husband dearly, but I was positively bursting to have a theater-type with me that I could go into in-depth theatrical analysis with. My poor husband had to endure my theatrical-ese prattle for hours.
Heh – Mom had never seen any Monty Python stuff before seeing Spamalot (but she still loved it) and I had to explain to her where “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” came from. An oh-so-brief look of horror flashed across her face before she started laughing. You know, it’s the guilty Catholic school girl thing. I gave them my copy of the Holy Grail to watch….Mom is in for a shock since she had never seen it before. Dad has, so I think he’ll get a kick out of my mother’s reaction to it.
You’re right! He was trying to sound like Tim Curry – I couldn’t place it.
I know you’re right about the Lady in the Lake, but I still didn’t like her. It’s probably a “I-could-have-done-it-better” thing…you know me, once a jafa, always a jafa. 😉
Ha! You’re so right. Ms. Diva could-do-it-better. LOL!
You should check out Sara Ramirez’s Lady of the Lake on YouTube or on the soundtrack. She did a stellar job (hence her Tony award) and maybe that would appeal to you more. And if you watch Grey’s Anatomy, she is Dr. Torrez.
She took a Opera Diva spoof take on the role and I think it worked better. It worked physically with her as well because she is a…solid woman. The traveling company’s Lady is too petite to be an opera diva.
I hear from a co-worker that Saturday’s performance tripped the fire alarm system at Proctor’s towards the end of the show. They covered so well that she thought it was actually part of the show! Haha.