Friday, July 8, 2011
Fried Cheese and Raspberry Sauce, Could This Be Our Corner of Upstate America's True Indigenous Creation?
The raison d'etre for this little blog has always been to explore the strange and wonderful foods unique to Upstate New York (Central, Western, North Country, and Southern Tier sometimes too). We have discussed Utica Greens, Chicken Riggies, Capital region Mini Dogs, Cold Cheese Pizza, Grandma Brown's Beans, and countless others from the pantheon of our storied homeland's delicacies.
Myself, I hail from Albany County. Born in St. Peter's and bred not far from it. Us Upper Hudson River Valley/Capital Region folk tend to be great lovers of blandness, meat and potatoes and such (not too much salt... or pepper...). This is much to the chagrin of many, but I have never cared. I find the mediocrity of much of our local food to be endearing in a folksy sort of way. I guess some of my lack of dismay stems from the fact that I have lived around here (with several exciting jaunts to the four winds) my whole life and I know where to get the good stuff.
Anyhow, I was thinking the other day about whether there exists any true Capital District food innovations. I know we have the mini-dog and our meat sauce, don't worry, I have belabored that point. But after all, a hot dog is a hot dog. The NEBA you say? Well, roast beef on a roll is common as sand at the beach, even if we did used to do it just a bit better than other folks around these parts. So what do we have to offer that an outlander might really have never had, or have even never heard of?
I propose that it could very well be fried mozzarella sticks with raspberry sauce.
Kind of anticlimactic right? At least for those who grew up around here, mozzarella sticks with raspberry sauce might not seem so strange, you have probably seen the pairing around for most of your life. But it seems to be a true local innovation, I could only even find a few discussions of the topic .
If you have never had it, the prototypical fried mozzarella sticks with raspberry sauce used to be sold at Ralph's on Central. They used to have these great, square, lightly breaded jobbers they would serve. I was there a bit ago and the fried mozzarella was somehow not as good. Also, they were calling the raspberry sauce "coulis" which made me throw up in my mouth a little (I felt betrayed by Ralph's putting on airs). On the subject of the raspberry sauce itself, there really isn't too much magic involved. It is pretty much just thinned out raspberry jam/preserves. It is always viscous and smooth, i.e. no fruit chunks (although, sometimes there will be seeds).
But alas, this seems to be a tradition that is fading from this coil... I have been seeing raspberry sauce offered less and less. Most old timey independent pizza joints still have it if you ask. You know what? It is a pretty good combination, you can't usually loose with salty/sweet combinations and this is no exception. I will say that I miss the bliss that was the handcut fried mozzarella that Ralph's used to peddle. Mayhaps one of our more innovative Albany chefs du cuisine could take a hack at this and throw it on menu at a fancy joint. I think the whimsy would be welcomed.