In our college days, my then-roommate Lyndsay and I had exactly two things in common: Our mutual love of certain bands, and our penchant for margaritas. Jose Cuervo (when you are a poor liberal arts student, it's the "fancy tequila"), a jug of neon-green sour mix, and a $15 Target blender were on standby to whip up a frothy, icy, puckery-sweet libation.
Those margaritas were about as authentic to Mexico as our palates would get, but this year we both turn 30. We're more worldly now, with more sophisticated tastes, and the cash to spend on food that doesn't make our mothers hang their heads in shame.
To celebrate Lyndsay's recent milestone birthday, I suggested trying our hand at Mexican once more, but this time at Ama Cocina, just off North Pearl Street in Albany, a neighborhood that peppered our college years in questionable ways. If all else failed, at least the tequila would be better, right?
House margaritas ($8 each), made with fresh orange and lime juices and housemade simple syrup, were the perfect sips to start off a new decade. The drink was smooth, with the subtle bite of tequila, and went down easy. The bitter preserved lime used to make our order of signature guacamole ($9) balanced out the sweetness of the margaritas.
But for as good as the cocktails were, they couldn't outshine the Mexican street corn. Ama Cocina follows the theme of "elevated Mexican street food," and that's exactly what we got with a $5 ear of the street corn. (A $12 order is listed as "for the table," but one person could easily make a meal from the corn alone.)
Steamed until just-tender and somehow tasting sun-kissed even in the middle of winter, the corn is slathered in lime aioli, a mayonnaise-like condiment tinged with the pungency of lime, and cotijaa, a fresh, crumbled cheese akin to Greek feta. Housemade "chili dust" speckles the ear of corn and spikes the heat quotient, cutting the creaminess of the cheese and aioli. Even though the corn is impossible to see under the cloak of cheese et. al., the vegetal flavors of the corn still shine through.
In Mexico, one would eat street corn hunched over and gripping the built-in stalk handle. At Ama Cocina, the order of corn comes nestled in a cast iron casserole skillet. Unless you'd like to spend the rest of dinner picking corn kernels out of your canines, do as I did, and cut the corn away from the cob.
We ordered plenty of other food, too: Avocado fries ($7), which were tasty but didn't rival those other avocado fries of local fame; el pescado tacos ($7 for two) with seared fish, beer-battered rings of jalapeno, and pineapple butter; and ceviche, with was fresh and vibrant with more hits of pineapple and diced avocado.
There are certain things from our college days Lyndsay and I won't give up anytime soon, like crowding the stage at a Sam Roberts or Of Montreal concert. But the days of gummy-flavored margaritas and Mexican food to match are happily left as relics of a past life. That's easy to do when options like Ama Cocina are around, and perhaps we'll be able to look back on our thirties with a more respectable nostalgia -- at least in the gastronomic sense -- than we look back at 20 now.
More Eat This:
+ Egg in the Bread at The Breakfast Spot
+ Pancake breakfast at The Sap House at Stone House Farm
+ The Antipasto Salad at Bellini's Counter
+ Pickle-brined chicken sandwich at 677 Prime
4 Sheridan Avenue
Albany, NY 12207
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