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!

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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.

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