Friday, July 31, 2009
So, I have been reading the varying opinions on our own Capital Q (329 Ontario, Albany) that have been flying around the intertubes lately (see Monsieur Fussy's positive take here, and the Times Union's Celina Ottaway's not so positive take here). Firstly, I am only newly under the sway of Capital Q's smokey charms. I first sampled their porky wares at the Troy Pigout, and I just had a delicious lunch there this rainy afternoon. Secondly, I agree with Mr. Fussy that Capital Q is top notch and most of what Ms. Ottaway had to say is pedantic gobshite.
On the issue of food, the sandwiches are delicious (see here for menu link). The Okie Pig (pulled pork and house made pickles) is probably the best locally available barbecue sandwich. This is the one item that Capital Q hangs its hat on, and it is good. Really good. The Okie Beef and Burnt Ends sandwich, also full of win. Delicious. The ribs are good too, here is the half rack of "Wet" ribs I got this afternoon.
A close up of the rib if your interested. As always, I apologize for the quality of the photos. I am sticking to my "only using iPhone camera" guns.
Were the ribs the best ribs I have ever had? Probably not, they were slightly salty. But hey, we all have problems. The sauce had a delicious, tomato richness that I absolutely loved. The meat was good, and the portion was reasonably priced. This is my problem with Ms. Ottaway's review. She makes a big stink about there being both "really good" and "really bad" food at Capital Q, blah, blah, blah... How about I come to dinner at your house and see if I like every single dish that you cook. That is what I like about Capital Q, it all tastes like it was actually made by the hands of humans. If you want across the board, slick, mediocre "goodness" go to Boston Market and shove some meatloaf in your maw. I like Capital Q, warts and all. Also, the sublimely delicious Okie Pig pulled pork sandwich makes me forgive anything else that they do at the establishment. I think it is that good.
On the issue of service, Ms. Ottaway calls the counter staff "obnoxious." I am sorry to pontificate, but this is one of my pet peeves. Where in the universal social contract does it say that we all have to be nice to each other all of the time? To me it is a peculiarity of the American psyche that many expect zombie-like cheeriness from all food service personnel regardless of situation. I, for one, am a moody bastard. If I ever open a restaurant, and you come in on a day when I am moody, prepare for me to be mean to you. If you don't like it leave and never come back. As long as I walk out of Capital Q with a sack full of pork, I could care less if they were a little brusque. By the way, the young gent working the counter this afternoon was a picture of friendly customer service. So I think that Ms. Ottaway may need to drink a cup of "get over yourself" with her cornflakes in the morning. Or go to McDonald's for a McSmile and a McHave-a-nice-day.
On the issue of authenticity, Ms. Ottaway drops the whole "I lived there, so..." card. I have lived in both Oklahoma, as well as the Carolinas, back during my ramblin' days, and let me tell you, there are some shit barbecue joints down there authentic or not. There are also some very good barbecue joints, but this whole argument is a fallacy. Who cares if something is absolutely true to its roots as long as it is good. I have seen bigger departures between 2 Oklahoma bbq joints on the same street than between either of them and Capital Q.
So, any question where my opinion lies? Needless to say, not a big fan of Celina Ottaway's review.
On to more praises for Capital Q. As you may know, I spent my childhood on the mean streets of downtown Albany. The neighborhood around Capital Q is as familiar to me as my newborn daughter's face. I saw this on the wall and had a nostalgia fit and almost started balling.
Yes, Capital Q is located on hallowed ground. The former location of Emil Meister's Market. You guys know that weird mural across the street? It is firmly ingrained in my childhood psyche. My dad used to take us to Meister's all of the time. Up the road you got the Paladium, and then the Hibernians. That was my neighborhood, it has changed, and it makes me sad. But I think Capital Q is a welcome addition, it has local character and fits right in. Did I mention that the Okie Pig sandwich with those homemade pickles is pretty good?
I went over to the Guilderland Emack & Bolio's location (see here for more) to get Mrs. Dave a lemonade. I spied the above chocolate covered Twinkie and couldn't resist purchasing it. I am not a dessert/sweets kind of guy (more of a savory, fatty/greasy type), so it did not look particularly appetizing to me. But I thought I would give it a whirl anyways. Here she is out of the package.
Meh. Don't get me wrong, it was okay. Way too sweet for my taste, I should have gotten the dark chocolate as opposed to the milk (why am I complaining about the sweetness of something called "chocolate covered Twinkie" as if that should be unexpected? Sorry, interior monologue). I think, had the chocolate coating been a little thinner, this might have been successful. To my sensibilities the chocolate/Twinkie ratio was a little high, but that is just me.
Friday, July 24, 2009
A black mark on the storied history of the Sausage Race. The Italian sausage is cruelly assaulted in what became known as the "Randall Simon Incident" or "Sausagegate."
Thursday, July 23, 2009
After hearing much buzz about the place (and a couple enthusiastic emails from my loyal readership), I had to make a trip to the brand new Asian Super Market located at 1245 Central Ave. It is on the corner of Central and McNutt (heheh, I have been laughing at McNutt Ave. since childhood). I am an Asian Market fanatic so I was very excited (see here for a trip to the Market on Central and Colvin). I drove over with Mrs. Dave to see if the place lived up to all of the hype.
Upon walking in I was struck by the fact that it looked like a very polished operation, it did not have the sense of ordered chaos that you find in other area Asian Markets. This place was brightly lit and sparkly clean.
I headed right over to the meat case as this is usually my main point of interest. My photo only captured a portion, but there was an impressive selection. Both Normal everyday cuts that you would find at your standard (American style) market, as well as Asian specialties. Everything was attractively displayed, apparently fresh, and might I add, reasonably priced. Here is the pork end of the case-
You know that Mr. Dave loves pork belly. Over in the shrink wrapped meats section there was a hearty abundance of the stuff, huzzah! A nice sized fresh duck will run you about 9.00$ here (they even have wild duck).
There is also a very nice produce selection, almost a quarter of the store with pretty much everything you can think of. Over by the fish counter you can find these poor little green guys. Fresh, living, jumping, big ass frogs! I named the one on top Herman the German (he had a Prussian way about him), I wanted to take him home but Mrs. Dave would not have had it. There were eels and turtles too.
We walked up and down the aisles, not really doing a full on shop, but grabbing things that looked especially tasty or interesting. My wife spotted this incident of Engrish which we found amusing.
I was stopped dead in my tracks by the below display. By the packaging you might think that it was some form of Chinese medicine, or maybe gift wrapped confections of some sort. But no, no. That be jerky homes.
Check out the prices! Some of the stuff was 17$ and change for 1 box. This is some serious jerky. As much as I wanted to I could not justify shelling out that much for a box of jerky of unknown pedigree, so I picked up a box of more reasonable product (more on this later).
Here is the haul we brought home-
We got some good stuff, I thought I would point out a couple things that I found interesting/amusing.
First, here is some Congee (Korean rice porridge) in a single serving microwaveable tin just like those little Chef Boyardee deals. I have been wanting to try congee for a while. In my favorite, sappy, Korean teen soap opera (doesn't everyone have a favorite?) Boys Before Flowers, the heroine, Geum Jan Di, works in a congee restaurant. Now stop giggling at me, I got stuck in a situation due to work where there was very limited options for television viewing. I got sucked in.
Here is the Jerky I picked up. I am actually snacking on some as I type this. It is pork jerky, but it ain't that good. I wish I had picked up some of the fancy box stuff.
Lastly, here are "Instant Spring Rolls." I thought this was funny, it made it seem like maybe you added water, waited a couple minutes, and magically a hot and crispy spring roll appeared. But no, these were apparently a Vietnamese snack food. I am going to go ahead and say that I was surprised by these. They actually kind of tasted like real spring rolls and the texture of the wrapping kind of fooled you for a second into thinking you were eating the real thing. I like them, my wife thinks they are meant to be doggie treats.
Overall, I was impressed by the Asian Super Market. I could probably get away with doing all my shopping here if I wanted to. The prices are good and the selection is almost overwhelming. I especially liked the large amount of Indian goods that were present, I am an Indian food fanatic. The real standout to me was the selection of fresh meat, poultry, and fish. This is what will keep me coming back to the place, it out shines the offerings at the other area Asian goods establishments (as much as I hate to say it because I love the Colvin Market, Lee's, and Kim's). When judging an ethnic market I use something I call the "Wander Factor." This place scores well, there is a great potential for just wandering around poking and sniffing things for hours at a time. This is the sign of a truly great market.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Remember I mentioned that Emack & Bolio's "Albany Egg Cream" that I wanted to sample (see here for the Guilderland location review)? Well, I tried it at the Deleware Ave. establishment in Albany.
A solid egg cream if I don't say so myself. Only problem is that I ordered it "for here" and it came in a paper cup. Don't get me wrong, I love those waxy, old timey cups they are usin'. but something about a "for here" egg cream begs a nice, tall, made of glass, glass. Know what I mean? Anyhow, the space they have over there on Delaware is to be envied. Nice couches and a chess set makes me glad.
Mayan Harvest Bake? You know that I had to pick this up based solely on the weirdness of the concept. This is perhaps the most convoluted assortment of flavors and ingredients ever to be slopped in black plastic, shrinkwrapped, and thrown in a deep freeze. Description on the box reads, "Plaintains, Black Beans, Sweet Potato, and Kale. Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf, Amaranth, and Polenta. Spicy Ancho Sauce." Is that all? Anything else you want to throw in there Kashi? Maybe 7 or 8 different starches in one meal is not enough, throw some hominy in there or something. Here it is un-boxed-
I was not surprised by this but, not much resemblance to the photo on the cover of the box. This point has been belabored, but come on Kashi. They actually depict fresh, leafy kale in the picture. As if kale could be frozen and microwaved and come out looking garden fresh. The dish needs to be microwaved on half power, then high power, then left to sit, blah, blah, blah,... I am annoyed by any directions other than push start after entering a certain time, but that is just me. Here is the Mayan delight warmed-
This looked like Star Trek food, an unpronounceable Vulcan delicacy perhaps. Now, I don't think I have to go dig up a Mayan to tell me that this is about as Mayan as Spam and eggs. But I get it, the amaranth and the plantains give a vaguely "Mayan" theme to the "Harvest Bake."
I tried to keep an open mind as I dug in. Let me start by saying, much to my surprise, this did not taste as awful as I expected. It was just such a weird assortment of textures and flavors. You get a black bean, a sweet potato, a pumpkin seed, and what tasted to me like grits, all on one fork full. But hey, I love plantains and the spicy "ancho" sauce was pretty good in a mildly spicy kind of way. Looking at the nutrition facts, the meal is actually pretty good for you to boot.
While eating I recalled this shtick I heard some stand-up comedian doing about chain restaurant appetizers. He was going on about all the weird "South Western" and "Extreme" dishes that were becoming popular at places like TGIFriday's and Chili's saying (paraphrasing here), "What's next? A deep fried pumpkin, stuffed with jalapeno poppers and fried dough, covered with cheese?" This particular offering by Kashi is just too many ingredients for me to wrap my mind around.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Ah, a day in the shadow of the Green Island Bridge! How Glorious! Me, Mrs. Dave, Giblet, and our dynamic duo of Delmar-tion friends attended the Troy Pig Out for a wee spell on Sunday. I thought I would bring to you some pictures with minimal commentary. I am kind of a twitter version of myself lately, but perhaps that is a good blog model. Less elaborate recipe formulations and more of our life. Doesn't everyone want a window into Mr. Dave's fickle psyche?
Here is Victor the Golden Pig who greeted us at the entrance.
The Capital Q Concession, can you believe I have never before sampled their Q until now?
Capital Q's Burnt Ends sandwich (with awesome house made pickles) and a couple "wet" ribs. Needless to say I was impressed, even the wife (an arch anti-meat-ster) liked the sarnie.
Here are some St. Louis style ribs from Big Moes (with our friend munching one), really good as well. Pork Ribs done well are a beautiful thing, the meat doesn't need to be falling off the bone. These guys had some tooth to them which I really liked.
Here is some dude's butt.
A random chicken concession had this sign-
As if chicken fingers were some sort of obligatory condiment to French fries, to me this was equally as arbitrary as saying, "Mashed Potatoes! With or Without the Ham Sandwich!"
I finally got to see the Crazy Herb's Texas Barbecue truck in action. It is usually just parked at that creepy gas station on Western in Guilderland near where the old "other" P-chops used to be (I know you like the salty, long time Guilderland resident land mark references).
And Finally, the crowning glory of any self respecting Pig Out. A roasted pig. 1 dollar a sample for the people.
I will have to say, we had a good time. Troy is really coming into its own lately. I have been having nothing but good experiences over the river lately. I wait expectantly for TPOIII (Troy Pig Out Number 3).
Monday, July 20, 2009
I made chubby little sausages. They actually turned out pretty good. This time I used a pound of beef short ribs, a pound each of salt pork belly/back fat (soaked overnight), and a couple pounds of chicken trimmings. These are somewhere between an emulsified frankfurter-esque sausage and a chunkier bratwurst type thing. Kind of like hot dogs but with chunky bits. Very mellow flavor to these guys as I used only salt, pepper, garlic, and a dash of red pepper. I am planning on carefully poaching them and then onto the grill.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I know that I am supposed to be on vacation, but this motivates me to post. Pictured above is some Kiszka (alternate spellings abound depending on your nationality- kishka, kasanska, etc...) care of the White Eagle Packing Co. (locals will know this Schenectady area brand). Apparently there is a song devoted to this stuff. Here are some lyrics from Who Stole the Kishka? by Walter Dana-
"You can have my shinka
Take my sweet koscheeke
Take my plump perogi
You can even have my chernika
Take my long kielbasa"
The verse ends with the pleading refrain "but please bring back my kishka." Shinka is ham, while chernika refers to blueberries or bilberries.
I am definitely going to add "take my plump perogi" to my pillow talk repertoire. By the way, the first ingredient listed on the ingredients is pig snout. Anything made with a lion's share of pig snout can't be bad, no? If you have not noticed, this post had been made possible by beer.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I am sure I am being megliomaniacal in believing that anyone cares, but I have grown suddenly bored with blogging. Don't exactly know why, it just kind of happened. So, maybe I will be back some day when I do something that warrants sharing. I do have another project in mind, but I have creeping suspicions that others will find it a crushingly mundane topic. We shall see. I will post a link if I get it together to begin. Thanks to all readers for your comments and insights. Mr. Dave out.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I find that anytime a recipe begins with garlic and lemon it is probably going to be good, don't you? Ever heard of Skordalia? It is a pungent Greek garlic sauce that is usually composed of garlic, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil thickened into almost a mashed potato like consistency with either stale bread or potatoes. I got the tip to omit the stale bread/potato for a much thinner type of deal from one of my favorite cookbooks (The Old World Kitchen by Elisabeth Luard). Apparently, this is delicious with fried fish and the like.
I begin with a whole head's worth of peeled garlic. Make sure all of the garlic is true, remove any spots or hints of decay. Throw it into your handy mortar.
I love when I have an excuse to use my mortar. I will be using extra virgin olive oil in this recipe and have lately been hearing all sorts of wives tales about food processors ruining the quality of good virgin oils. Maybe the mortar and pestle will prevent this, although I kind of think that this theory is gobshite. Make sure you toss a pinch of coarse salt in with the garlic before going at it with your pestle, it acts as a helpful abrasive. Once the garlic is pretty much a paste, squeeze in half of a lemon and begin to add about a cup of good olive oil a little at a time. With some vigorous pestle work you will eventually end up with a delicious looking, smooth emulsion.
Now, I was planning on using this as a condiment of sorts. I was going to keep it in the fridge to add dabs to homemade hummus, or maybe mix with some horseradish to approximate that nice and spicy garlic sauce that Al Baraki puts in their wraps. But I had a block of feta in the fridge and I decided to use some of it to make a pizza of sorts. I simply spread some pizza dough with the pseudo-Skordalia and topped with crumbled feta. Into the oven at 450 for 13 minutes.
If I had to do this again, I would watch the salt in the garlic sauce. Combined with the inherent saltiness of the feta the salinity of the pizza was a little much. However, I do think sheer dough spread with the sauce has possibilities of its own. Something about the crisp dough with the pungency of the garlic/lemon emulsion appeals to me. I will probably try this out on my friends as a starter some time.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
As you know from reading my blog, I am fascinated with canned food products of all sorts. From canned Haggis to canned butter and cheese I will try it all. I also have a great love for the tamale (see Pancho's Tamales and Mississippi Delta Hot Tamales). So when I found some canned tamales, care of the Castleberry brand, I had to give you all a review.
I was a little shocked by the nutritional facts on the back of the can. This can of tamales has 3 servings for a whopping total of 840 calories and 120% of your daily fat intake. Not that traditional tamales are exactly health food, what with the lard and all, but this seemed a little steep of a caloric price for the relatively small amount of food. I cracked the can open and was confronted with 6 corn roll style tamales.
The directions for stove top heating suggested simmering covered for 10 minutes over low heat. Pursuant to this I dumped them into a small sauce pan. I was a little surprised when the tamales held their can shape.
The tamales were covered in a viscous covering of grease and a thin tomato sauce flecked with chili powder. I knocked them apart with a fork and let them warm through.
The aroma of the cooking tamales suggested your run of the mill, processed meat product. Almost a corned beef-y smell with hints of spice. The sauce increased in volume during the cooking process which I chalked up to melting fat from within the beef center of the tamales.
When they were piping hot, I fished one out, put on a plate, removed the wax paper wrapper, cut in half, and dug in.
I was a little surprised by the ultra-thin layer of corn meal surrounding the beef filling. I figured a .99 cent can would be heavy on the starch as opposed to meat, but the beef filling made up the lion's share of these bad boys. I was struck by the fact that these, in fact, tasted very much like vaguely spicy Chef Boyardee canned raviolis or beefaroni. The meat had that familiar loose and unctuous quality to it. There was also a decidedly greasy mouth feel to the tamales, almost unsettling in its mouth coating fattiness. These are tamales only in the very loosest sense of the word. I can usually appreciate the down home decadence and cheesiness of some canned dishes that are otherwise of a more nuanced nature, but I could not find much to redeem these guys. Sorry all, I wanted to like these but they sucked.