Thursday, January 28, 2010
Look at me with an uncharacteristically brief post (pseudo-tweet?...gag. Sorry, won't mention that ever again. I will go wash my mouth out with whiskey in penance).
Read the following post from a Hungarian Gent's blog entitled "The Fine Cuisine of Upstate New York." It made me laugh, it as if someone from the moon is trying to describe very exotic sorts of things like hot wings and beef on weck. Aw Juice! Rockchester! Ha...
This is why I need another, non-food oriented blog. There is so much weirdness that I come across that I feel must be shared. Here we have a ginger (red-haired) boy-doll, in camouflaged pants, riding a plastic, 8 point buck. Seen at one of those Asian tchocky shops by the movie theater at Crossgates Mall. So, for all of your boy-doll riding deer shopping needs, head over to the mall!
Oh yeah, his sister rides a white tiger... side saddle. Bad. Ass.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I admire specialization. I wish there was one thing that I could do better than anyone else around. Prinzo's Bakery on Delaware Ave. in Albany seems to share this philosophy. They pretty much just make hard rolls and Italian bread, but damn it all, they do it good.
Prinzo's is located at the corner of Delaware and Bertha in the above pictured storefront (right down from Hurlbut which is up there with McNutt Ave. as one of my favorite local street names). Needless to say, they are a no frills operation. Don't let the looks deceive you, they do good product. You can stop by the actual location to pick up your rolls and loaves fresh, or you can find them packaged or loose at several local markets. I get the 6 packs over at the Delmar Market on occasion. Fresh is better, but sometimes convenience is king.
I will limit my discussion to the hard rolls here. The Italian bread is really very good but not remarkably so. I believe, however, that the rolls are pretty much the Platonic ideal of what a hard roll of this style should be. Pick one up, they are almost shockingly weightless. That is the magic, they have a seriously chewy crust which is paper thin surrounding a pillow light center. The roll manages to be chewy without possessing a thick and annoying crispy natured crust. I love them. But I do have some rules for their use.
There exist two purposes at which the Prinzo's hard roll excels. The first is as a delivery vehicle for a fried egg and cheese (perhaps with bacon). The second is for cured meats such as salami, sopresatta, capicola, etc... My rule is that no combination of sandwich filling should exceed about a 1/4 of an inch. This roll is not built for your Carnegie Deli style, 3 inches of meat monstrosity. A bare two or three rounds of hot sopressata (maybe a slice of provolone and some vinegar peppers, purely optional) will result in the perfect bread to meat ratio. Anything more and the toothsome quality of the rolls will have sandwich filling squishing out the sides and into your lap.
Anyhow, even if you are not willing to venture out to the wilds of Delaware Ave., pick them up if you see them at the market. They are good and cheap to boot.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I apologize for the somewhat urine tinged hue of the photos in this post, something odd was going on with the camera.
Not too long ago me and the wife ordered some delivery from Murray's Pizza on Delaware Ave. in Delmar (menu here). Driving by Murray's, I had often noticed the seemingly incongruous (for a pizza place) Celtic theme of the signage. To my remembrances "Irish Pizza" was what I humorously entitled a class of food foisted upon my childish palate by Mom. It was any of several toaster oven concoctions involving American cheese, English muffins, Ragu, etc... Needless to say, my ol' Irish-American mom was not a student of Neapolitan pizza making techniques. I was hoping that the Murray's would offer a better product.
I ordered the above pie, half plain/half meatballs and "hot peppers." When I see hot peppers on a pizza topping menu, I think normal sandwich type vinegar peppers, not cherry peppers. Look at the amount of cherry peppers they slapped on that half of the pizza! I am no wilting lily when it comes to spicy foods, but this is a bit much. Those bad boys are hot. I had to pull most of them off and even the residual pepper juice was still pretty spicy. Aside from that, the pizza was a tad thick, soggy, and over cheesed for my tastes. The wife (the true pizza connoisseur of the household) was, likewise, not a fan.
Aside from the pizza, I spied something on the appetizer section of the menu called a "Shillelagh." I said to my wife, "Order that." She said, "What is it?" I said, "Don't care, it is called a Shillelagh, we are getting it." Here is what we got.
It was some sort of dough, bread stick, garlic thingy with marinara dipping sauce. It did kind of look like a Celtic knot of some sort, but I wanted something more Shillelagh like. Perhaps a smoked turkey leg, something I could club a burglar with.
I will probably give Murray's another try, I never judge on one experience. Maybe they make good sandwiches or something...
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
So after hearing much about Bellini's new Dinner Table Tuesdays deal, I decided to purchase and review (Fussy Blog Daniel beat me to it, read his thoughts here). If you haven't heard, Bellini's is offering a bread/salad/pasta dinner for 4 for around 20 clams. I was a little skeptical about what I was going to get at this price, but I kept an open mind. The following is the description and instructions from the website-
"Here are tomorrow's Dinner Table Tuesday choices a day ahead of time if you wanted to place your order today and avoid the rush! 1/2 Platter of Penne ala Vodka, 1/2 Platter of Caserta Insalata and a Fresh Baked Italian Loaf - $19.95. Don't let the name fool you, the Penne ala Vodka is very "kid-friendly" - penne pasta with fresh tomatoes, oil, garlic, basil, vodka sauce, broccoli, cream and Romano (If ordering tomorrow please place your order at least 2 hours in advance)"
I called around 2:30 and arranged to pick up my order at 6:00 (at the Slingerlands location). Upon arriving at Bellini's there was a queue of 3 others waiting to pick up their own food. It seems the restaurant is doing a brisk traffic with this promotion, I thought this might speak well for the product. But then again, people could just be curious like me. Here is my prize in the bag. My wife liked the bag, funny the things she notices.
First we have the bread. I found the bread to be tasty and fresh, no problems here.
Next comes the "Caserta Insalata."
Again, I had no problems with the salad. The greens and tomatoes seemed fresh, there was what I deemed a generous amount of pancetta (bacon) bits, and 6 or 7 wee balls of mozzarella. I liked it in its own right, Mrs. Dave tried it with the dressing.
The wife was not a fan of the dressing, I tasted it and thought it was fine. I don't even really know what type of dressing it was supposed to be. It was creamy, vaguely tangy, with a good amount of garlic.
Now we have the "Penne ala Vodka."
Penne ala Vodka is not something that I would ever order in its own right. Almost universally offered at "Italian" eateries it is usually an insipid, bland, gunky mess. This said, I did not have high hopes for Bellini's version. However, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The sauce had some nice cheese/garlic flavor, the pasta was not cooked to gum, and the broccoli was plentiful and still had a bite to it.
I would have to say that I was pleased with the purchase. For 20 dollars (less than what I would spend on Chinese delivery for instance), I got a good and filling meal made with seemingly fresh ingredients. For my wife, who is much less adventurous in the culinary realm than I, this is just the kind of meal she loves. Did I mention it was only 20 dollars? I am a little perplexed by the promotion, either they are somehow actually turning a tidy profit or it is some genius plan to get the word out about Bellini's and build up some customer loyalty. Perhaps also to garner warm fuzzies from harried housewives. For the price and purpose, I heartily recommend this for the busy family.
Strolling by the meat case at the Slingerlands-Chops I spied the above jowl bacon. For people who don't speak bacon, this product is made from the jowl area as opposed to our usual side or belly bacon. I haven't done a good ol' bacon post in quite a while, so I thought I would brighten your Tuesday with some greasy goodness.
The jowl bacon was pretty affordable, I forget, but about 3 and change per pound. In appearance it is similar to normal bacons, maybe a bit fattier. Being from the jowl area it is sort of half moon shaped. I figured the only way to do the meat justice was to break out the old cast iron skillet.
The extra fat content in this stuff makes the cooking process a little delicate, if you agitate the bacon too much you are left with little scraps of meat as the fat melts. I would go low and slow with the stuff, or bake it which is actually my preferred way of achieving maximum bacon crisposity. Here we have some cooked jowl.
We have here a taste very similar to run of the mill smoked bacon. The jowl does have a sweeter, "porkier" flavor to the meat. It gives a lot of grease, which makes this stuff excellently suited for use as a "seasoning" bacon as opposed to an eat it by itself bacon. A bunch of the stuff in some bean/lentil/pea soup would be delicious. In this case, I made a sandwich.
As I said the jowl is very fatty so you are left with some definitively chewy bits. As I age I find myself less likely to reject something that is "chewy" or "fatty." I go ahead and chew the fat with relish. I have spoken on the issue before, but I find it interesting that there are cultural differences in the enjoyment of not only flavor, but texture. Western cuisine often turns up its nose at chewy/fatty meat whereas many Asian cuisines embrace it. Our loss.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Mrs. Dave was just futzing around with the condiments on the door of our fridge. Apparently, I left the lid on my Sriracha unfastened and she managed to squirt some on her hand by accident. Thinking it was ketchup she licked it off, hilarity ensued. She is not accustomed to spiciness of that level and she hooted and howled for a little bit. Very amusing to myself. I told her the lesson of the day is to not lick random red stuff off of your hand unless you are sure of its origin. Just thought I shared.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I was on one of my semi-regular trips to the new-ish Asian Market on Central Ave. when I spied a giant stack of the above noodles. I picked up a package and was intrigued by the pliable texture. The "Kyoto Noodle (brand I think) Shanghai Yangchun Noodles (noodle type I think)" are somewhere between dried and fresh. I bought them on that first trip and boiled them up in a little stock with some roast pork, I was duly impressed. Since then I have bought them a couple of more times, these are some badass noodles. They only take 3 minutes and have a lovely texture, toothsome but tender with a nice noodly body. I did a little research but couldn't find out much about this particular variety. I was hoping that a reader who is an expert in Asian cuisine might be able to drop some knowledge on me as to how these noodles are utilized.
Somewhat surprisingly, I came across some French canned butter.
I am into shelf stable products, see my earlier discussion of Red Feather canned butter and cheese, and thought that canned butter was a funny thing to come across in an Asian market. So, as I am prone to do, I purchased out of curiosity (I was, coincidentally, out of butter too). A little research led me to the fact that the Frentel brand butter is very popular among the Vietnamese, a legacy of French colonization there. This made its presence in the market less enigmatic. I popped the little red can open.
As with last time I had canned butter, I was very surprised by the high quality. This is very good butter. For some reason I just don't expect good butter to come from a can, but perhaps this is a superior method of storage. I guess if you thing about it maybe the wax paper and cardboard packaging common at the grocery store isn't the most effective. As we know, oxidation is the enemy of butter (why my beloved butter bell works so well), so maybe a can is a good solution.
I finally got around to purchasing a container of Pork Fu which I always forget to do.
Pork fu is cooked, dried, and shredded pork. It is used as a condiment in dishes such as congee, but I decided to try another common application that I have read about which is on buttered bread. Luckily I had the can of Frentel described above. The result was pretty much what you would expect, a salty pork jerky sandwich. Pretty good, but not something that will become a regular part of my diet. However, I think the pork fu might add a little zip to a bowl of noodles.
Another random thing that I picked up was some Filipino peanut butter.
Three ingredients in the jar: peanuts, cane sugar, salt. I admire simplicity. Spreading this stuff on some toast I found, as I have found with many Filipino products, there is a very heavy handed use of sugar. This stuff is thin and candy sweet, but not in a bad way. I like the flavor of the cane sugar that came through, it is something different.
I got a couple other things, but I thought I would share some of the highlights. I have had a lack of time to cook lately, so I have been eating lots of quick Asian noodle dishes. I try to make additions to make these a little more palatable/healthful so look for a noodle post coming soon.
On a side note, Daniel B. over at the Fussy Blog will be posting on the Times Union's Guilderland Blog. Check it out.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Mr. Peanut, I should slap that monocle off of your face for getting me all excited when I saw these Planter's Brand "Smokey Bacon Peanuts" at the Hess mart. I imagined a bacon/peanut experience not unlike a bacon and peanut butter sandwich and that is why I hurriedly purchased and ripped open the bag. However, upon these little guys hitting my taste buds, I don't think that this product could taste any less like bacon. In fact, the taste was oddly familiar to me. It sort of reminded me of Marmite. You know, that vaguely meaty, umami, salty soup flavor. I was not surprised when I flipped over the package and spied various yeast extracts (ingredients in Marmite).
Meat flavoring in non-meat products is always a slippery slope (consult my Meat Chips review for more on this), but I think they could have done a little better here. For shame, I am shunning this product. Shun!
Friday, January 8, 2010
So me and the family were down by the Slingerlands-Chops today. That location has a Ben and Bill's Deli (deli case pictured above). We ambled by the counter to get a little salami and cheesecake and the deli gentlemen spied young Lady Giblet (the darling daughter). The friendly gents inquired as to whether the young lady might like a snack and graciously offered her a slice of seedless rye. She accepted with a huzzah!
Giblet happily munched away for the rest of the shopping excursion. Now that is customer service. By the by, Ben and Bill's has some very good Kosher Deli type products, knishes, kugels, fresh pickles, white fish, sandwiches, etc... Don't be afraid to check it out, it is way beyond your standard grocery store sandwich counter.
I did a couple posts about locally available snacks that cost less than a dollar. But perhaps this is a bit low of a price range, I have been having a little difficulty finding items that fit this category. So I decided to broaden the scope of my search a little to include what I would deem "cheap" snacks. I almost immediately stumbled on a couple good candidates at Albany's own beloved pork store, Rolf's (read my homage here).
I have been noticing, whilst on my regular jaunt to Ralph's for some of their excellent bacon, the little hot-box above the cold case right when you walk in. A couple aromatic meaty delights are encased within and today I decided to sample them. First we have the above pictured frikadellen for 1.50$ each. Frikadellen are a sort of flat, German/Scandanavian meatball made of pork, beef, maybe some onions, and other seasonings. Upon getting my prize home, I took a hearty bite.
These were tender with a good meaty/onion-y flavor and a crispy browned crust. I decided to eat the little guy on one of the pretzel rolls that Rolph's also sells (2 for 3.00$).
I made a sort of frikadellen-wich with a little good mustard and that was that.
Next to the frikadellen loomed some glistening and ominous pink loaves of meat. I was a little ashamed of my lack of meat knowledge and had to ask what they were. Leberkäse was the answer from the always helpful counter person. She told me that it was like a loaf of warm bologna. As you remember, I became a bologna-phage for the first time the other day (Mr. Dave is No Longer a Bologna Virgin). I wasn't too impressed by Oscar Meyer bologna, I figured Rolph's would be exponentially better. Not wanting to over order in case I didn't like the stuff, I asked for a 1 inch slice. It cost slightly over 2 dollars.
I consumed this in the same manner as the frikadellen, i.e. on one of the pretzel rolls with a little mustard. I get the stuff in the toothpaste tube (Thomy brand), it is pretty good. The scharfer senf has a little more bite, but sometimes you want a mellow mustard that won't overpower your meat.
I enjoyed the leberkase, it had the same hot dog-esque flavor as the last bologna I tried, but with a much more pleasant texture and a more savory (less sweet) taste. The lady at Rolf's mentioned that the stuff is often fried like pork roll and eaten on a fried egg sandwich, this sounds very tasty to me.
I have yet to be disappointed by something purchased from Rolph's, and this occasion was no exception. I will probably buy both of these products again. I recommend that you give both meaty treats a whirl.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Recently I did a post about consuming my first Big Mac. This made me think that there are many shockingly common foods that I have managed to avoid consuming for nigh 30 years, one of them being bologna. My parents really never bought it. I decided to take the plunge by whipping up an Oscar Meyer beef bologna sandwich. Frankly, the stuff skeeves me and I don't think that I could stomach it cold, so I am going with a fried bologna sarnie.
Upon opening the package I smelled a definitive hot dog-esque stench. This made sense as the pinkish slices kind of look like they were carved off of a giant hot dog.
I threw the slices in a pan and began to fry.
Notice how the slices domed up a little, they looked kind of like little bologna boobs. I attribute this to the high water content of the bologna creating a large amount of steam. Adding water is a good way to up the weight without actually using meat. Eventually the slices deflated and began to fry a little.
I was a little unsettled by the appearance of the cooking bologna, it somehow sort of looked like cooking pieces of human flesh. Shudder. But I persevered. Onto a hard roll went the slices.
Here is the proof that I actually consumed the sarnie. Notice the bologna grease on the plate.
Lets just say this was probably my first, and final bologna sandwich. It tastes like cheap hot dog, and if I want cheap hot dog I will eat a cheap hot dog. Something about the mushy texture grossed me out a little too. Also, it was over sweet. Corn syrup is the second or third ingredient and there was a lot of blackened sugar left in the pan after frying. I can't imagine eating these daily for lunch as many of my compatriots seem to have done. I will take peanut butter any day.
Well that was that. Next I am contemplating eating a banana. That's right folks, I have never eaten a banana. The smell grosses me out. My sister used to chase me around with a banana peel because she knew I hated them so much.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Cheese Curds. Mmmm..... Consult the wiki, according to it they are especially known and available in "USA's Upstate New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, and Canada's provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick where they can be found in many grocery stores." I always just used to buy them at Stewart's. I guess I always took it for granted that cheese curds might be a pseudo-regional food, they have always been a kind of staple snack in my world.
In Albany, I would say that we are at the extreme southern extent of the poutine belt, which is probably the ultimate expression of the cooked/melted curd (see here for some New York curd poutine). But I always fancied them raw, out of the bag, maybe with a little saltine or white bread. The brand that is most common around our parts is Heluva Good formerly out of Sodus, NY, but now owned by Crowley. Funny thing, for the longest time I never got the pun. I thought "Heluva Good" was Scandinavian or something, I never got the "Hell of a Good" thing. I am a simple man.
As I stated before, these are widely available in the dairy case at most Stewart's. I pick them up sometimes when I am on the move and need a quick and nutritious bag of goodness to carry me through the day. The mellow sharpness of un-aged cheddar coupled with the toothsome texture of the un-pressed curd is delicious to my sensibilities. Only a couple bucks to boot! Try them out should you be in the mood.
As I have mentioned before, I spent a good amount of time living down near our scenic southern border region, Arizona mostly. It is an exceedingly interesting corner of the world for all sorts of reasons not the least being its cuisine. Every so often my heart aches for certain remembered food items such as a fresh tortilla dipped in red chile, a chile rellenos burrito, carnitas tacos, etc... Recently we discussed an interesting family of Mexican beverages called atoles (Champurrado specifically). Lately I have been getting a wicked horchata jones. Horchata is rice/cinnamon/vanilla drink (before I get comments, I know there are more traditional versions) and a member of the ubiquitous family of beverages known as aguas frescas. There is nary a taco shack in southern Arizona that doesn't have a bubbler of horchata, Jamaica, or tamarindo. Usually I satiate my cravings with a glass of the milky nectar made from the Klass brand horchata mix, a powder you can add to water or milk.
The other day I decided to give a go at making it myself from actual ingredients. I found a simple recipe and used this as a framework. You take a cup of rice, 1/2 cup sugar, a cinnamon stick, a vanilla bean (split and seeded), and a couple quarts of water.
I thought a little nut flavor (minds out of the gutter) might be nice, so I decided to add a wee bit of the almond drink mix stuff that I picked up at the Asian Market.
Thinking about nut flavorings, I remembered that I had some raw peanuts left over from my Ultimate Peanut Butter Bacon Sandwich recipe.
I made up a second horchata batch and added a cup of the raw peanuts. You let the ingredients soak for a few hours and then bring to a boil for about a half hour. Here is the peanut horchata getting ready to boil.
After the rice becomes tender, remove from heat and blend until smooth (remove vanilla pod and cinnamon stick). Run through some cheese cloth to remove any residual chunky bits and chill. I found that this recipe resulted in horchata that was a little thick for my liking so I treated it as a concentrate. I cut it with additional water (and a little sugar) to achieve the refreshing beverage that I was looking for.
I found the standard horchata to be very palatable, although the texture/viscosity was a little different from what I am used to. The peanut batch was also very interesting. Fresh peanuts have a more vegetable-esque quality than what you may be used to from roasted peanuts. The peanuts added an earthy, almost floral note to the beverage. I don't know why but it almost tasted like there was coconut involved. Definitely a unique flavor, I think it might work in a pina colada type cocktail. I would not turn down a little rum and peanut horchata over ice on summer day.