We’ve been away from Albany-Schenectady-Troy for three years now (or four, depends on how you count). Family and other things bring us back often, but not often enough. As much as we love living in a town that’s as close to Stars Hollow as may be possible, as much as living in the far western shadow of the City of Brotherly Love opens up tremendous opportunities, and as much as we’ve made a lot of new friends and had great new experiences, there are some things about the Capital District that I miss. I was reminded of a number of them on a quick trip back a couple of weeks ago.
- Fish fry. What the hell, Pennsylvania? Is a little deep fried haddock so hard to do? It’s not that there are no restaurants that will fry up a slab of fish, but there are no seasonal stands devoted exclusively to the art of deep frying fish and dispensing Sysco tartar sauce in tiny paper cups. I miss it terribly, even if I only partook three or four times a year.
- Bagels. I know, Albany bagels are nothing like New York City bagels. I get it. But here I am, ostensibly closer to The City That’s Afraid to Sleep, and believe me, what they call a bagel here you wouldn’t give to a tot as a teething ring. When I’m back in the Collar City, I snag a frozen dozen (begging not to get a bag half-full of the abomination that is a chocolate chip bagel) from Psychedelicatessen and they have to last me a while.
- Pulled pork. Barbecue’s a southern thing, right? And I’m like 25 miles from the Mason-Dixon line, right? Damned if I can find pulled pork that even approximates the worst barbecue in the Capital District. Forget the Dinosaur, even; the Pig Pit in Cohoes spoiled me. What we get down here is flavorless.
- Mopco. If you have never been to the Mop and Bucket Company, you are missing really excellent improv. They’ve moved out of the basement of Proctor’s and opened their own theater in an old fire station on North Jay Street in Schenectady, pretty much across from Perreca’s. Since doing that, they have expanded their offerings, so there are different kinds of shows, and not just improv. We got to see storytelling one night and great improv the next. It costs less than a movie for people to entertain you live. It’s human and funny and you should just go. Just go. We have nothing like it here.
- Lakes. You have so many lakes up there. Did you know that the Keystone State was pretty much neglected by the glaciers? I’m serious. The few lakes we have are manmade, and the rivers we have are not only mostly tide-free, but are either completely empty or at flood stage. Not big on the middle ground. As a dedicated canoe/kayak person, this is vexing.
- The Troy Farmer’s Market. Oh, sure, we have a lovely little farmer’s market down here. It even goes year-round, outside. It’s small and efficient, has a wonderful little children’s play area and local entertainers. But if you haven’t been to the one in Troy – again, just go. To have that in your midst and not appreciate it is just unconscionable. And when you’re there, get some Flour City Pasta, which is from way out by Rochester and, again, exceeds anything of the kind we’ve been able to find around here.
- Mac’s Drive-in in Watervliet. It’s a lovely little neighborhood gathering spot, with homemade ice cream. It is wonderful.