Thursday, February 24, 2011
As you may or may not know, I have something of a fascination with Gas Station cuisine. In particular, I am endlessly amused by all of the strange and horrible creations that you may find lurking on top of the ol' hot dog roller. Our travelling tummies can not be satisfied by mere frankfurters anymore! We need to see taquitos, or bratwursts, or weird bastard Cheese Burger Tubes(click for my review), endlessly rolling away waiting to be swaddled in a bun and devoured.
I was at the Hess station on Deleware Ave. the other day when I happened to spy something named "Cheesy Buffalo Ranch Chicken" nestled in front of the Ranchero Steak Taquitos on the roller. I did not try to fight the inevitable, I knew that I would purchase and endure the gut punishing after effects. All for my readers, and for Science! Here it is on the bun.
The odd little chicken tube kind of looked like a giant, hot dog shaped chicken nugget. It emitted a vaguely vinegar stink although the surface was dry, i.e. not slathered with some sort of Buffalo wing sauce. Taking a bite, as usual with this sort of product, I was put off by the oddly spongy texture of the obviously mechanically separated and formed chicken sludge. For some reason I expected some sort of wet filling, either cheese or buffalo sauce. But it was pretty much just spongy breaded chicken loaf.
The name of this thing (Cheesy Buffalo Ranch Chicken) is fairly misleading. I detected no cheese, no ranch, and very little chicken flavor. The overwhelming flavor profile was vaguely spicy vinegar, so I guess I will give them their misguided attempt at "Buffalo" flavor. The thing tasted like a chicken nugget that had been doused with raw white vinegar and then sprinkled with a hint of cayenne pepper. Not my bag, but I am sure there are those out there that may enjoy it.
Anyhow, I am sure there are countless tubular meat forms rolling in a warm metal embrace out there waiting to be consumed by Mr. Dave. Future reviews are surely forthcoming.
...that it is Shamrock Shake season again. I reminded you last year, so I thought I would jog your memory again.
I will say that I am none too happy with this years offering. Just look what they have done! Whipped cream? A cherry!?! What is that shit? For someone who hates and fears change as much as I do this is unforgivable. We stood for it when they monkeyed around with the MrRib (you can read about that here), we stood for it when they took away Uncle O'Grimacey, but no more!
McDonald's, I will thank you to please put my Shamrock Shake back in a wax paper cup, lose the stupid dome top, and for God's sake, lose the whip cream and cherry. I don't like this "McCafe," la di da, fancy pantsy business, you don't see Starbucks trying to sell Filet-o-fishes, do you?
Now get off my lawn! (Shakes fist crankilly).
Friday, February 18, 2011
In case you are wondering, "French Vanilla, Cream, Two Sugars" is definitely not the way I take my coffee. In fact, I am not much of a coffee drinker at all. I am more of a P&G Tips (two bags, milk and sugar) kind of guy.
The above pictured urban tumble weed was blown by the winter winds onto my front step this sunny morn. I smiled at the grease pencil scrawl on the cup, which to the immature mind appears to spell "FUCTS." I was informed some time ago by a friend that "French Vanilla, Cream, Two Sugars" is such a common order at Dunkin Donuts that the cheeky workers have created this unique shorthand. I don't blame them for making the V look a little more like a U, you have to live for life's small comedies.
Anyhow, enjoy this beautiful day. I am sure the weather gods are only allowing us a peek at spring. There are surely a few more bleak, gray, and cold days to come before old man Winter packs his bags.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
When is it righteous to welcome and herald the mysterious appearance of an obscenely large tub of cheese balls on top of your refrigerator? The time when this greasy orange apparition should please you and plaster a smile on your mug is when you know it is due to an unstoppable craving from deep within your beloved wive's belly. A craving stirred by growing life therein.
Mr. Dave, Mrs. Dave, and young Lady Giblet are joyously awaiting the arrival of a new wee 'un to coddle and love. I will be hefting many a flagon of ale to this blessing, should you meet me out you should take advantage of this good fortune. No one shall be buying a round in my presence for quite a while.
So, I was at the Country View Diner across the River in Troy this afternoon for a little lunch with some associates. Whenever I luncheon in an establishment such as this, I make a point to peruse the ads on the obligatory paper diner placemat. Today I found some adolescent humor to share with you all. See below.
Here we have "Doggy Styles (nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Know what I mean?)" dog grooming service. The tagline is priceless- "We'll make your dirty dog feel fresh and frisky." Ha. Ha. Ha. Nothing like a little blatantly sexual double entendre with your french toast and scrambled eggs in the morning. Gets your day started right. Seriously though, the cute little old lady quotient in the joint was high enough to make me blush with the thought of them reading this ad. But I guess it is all in good fun.
Anyhow, I had the obligatory Greek Diner Gyro plate. Pretty good at the Country View, nice lil' Greek salad on the side and they aren't stingy with the meat. Even if it is weird pre-formed Gyro strips (i.e. def. not shaved off a real Gyro meat cone). On the way out I found even more delicious weirdness located in the vestibule.
Don't you want your very own "Bok Choy Boy?" I know I do...
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
If you have any questions as to why the "Fragile" labeled box that my purchase arrived in made me laugh, please consult this video.
Anyhow, contained within the above humorous packing material was a bottle of Tenuta di Capezzana Olio Nuovo that I ordered.
Olio Nuovo (click for a slashfood article on the subject) is oil produced from early harvest olives that have been picked, pressed, and bottled all within a day. The Tenuta di Capezzana oil that I purchased hails from Tuscany and is somewhat pricey, around 40 bucks (shipping too!). But this is a once in a year treat, and we all have our minor indulgences. I have definitely spent 40 dollars on much dumber things, don't ask.
The Capezzana oil is single estate, i.e. not blended from the fruits of far flung olive trees located all over creation. This oil was made from the trees on one estate, in Tuscany, from an operation that has been ongoing for a few hundred years. Needless to say, this stuff is quite a different animal from what may be on the shelves of your local P-Chops. Just look, it is like liquid emeralds (My God its full of stars!). <---Mrs. Dave is making me put nerd references in quotes so she won't ponder on them and get confused, sorry.
The aroma of the Olio Nuovo is deeply vegetal. I can't describe it, it reminds me of the smell released when you break into a branch of young, green wood. The flavor is completely removed from that of a mass market, blended oil. Again, it is fairly indescribable. It is like the essence of a tree. For a comprable experience, go grab a bunch of leafy branches and rip the leaves, inhale deeply, maybe chew on a stick or two. Something like that. You know me, I don't usually waste words waxing poetic about esoteric qualities of food products (just ask the oenophiles that I am constantly mocking), so the stuff must be good.
Optimally, the oil should be consumed within 3 months. Various prescriptions are offered as to how to consume the product, but I choose the most straight forward. Pour a little in a bowl and dip in a torn piece of a good, white loaf. No cracked pepper, balsamic, "dipping" spices, or any other crapola. Just the oil. That is probably how the lion's share of this bottle will be consumed.
Beyond the culinary bliss I shall derive from this purchase, I also look forward to the social aspect. I will probably tote a crusty loaf and the bottle of oil to various friend's abodes like some manner of half mad oil ambassador. Being able to offer such a precious product to curious palates is a pleasure in itself.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
If you have been reading my drivel for a while, then you will know that I have an enduring soft spot for the plucky polis that is the gem of Central NY. I am, of course, speaking of Utica, NY. We have covered Chicken Riggies, the city's eponymous Greens, and even had a few words about ol' Uncle Charlie (Utica Club). Did you know that Utica even has its own favored style of crushed red pepper? That's right folks, if you look around you may find "Crushed Red Pepper (Utica Grind)" or "Utica Style Crushed Red Pepper."
Apparently, as per the Avico Spice company website, around 1926-"Antonia Vitagliano demanded red pepper without the seeds. It became known as "Utica Grind" now an Avico Spice trademark." Should this post give you an especial jones for the stuff, then you can order the original off the Avico website here. Or you can just go over to Cardona's on Deleware as I did. Every time I buy one of Cardona's pre-packed items I admire the penmanship on the label, it has a certain flair.
Anyhow, as Avico states, the "Utica Grind" is dried/crushed red pepper without the seeds. The texture is a little finer then most commercial crushed red pepper brands, it reminds me of the skin from peanuts. It is all flaky, light and fluffy in a very pleasing sort of way. In terms of flavor, it adds a somewhat slower burn and a less aggressive heat with just a hint of red chili flavor to a dish. I have tried it cooked in pasta sauces and also dabbled in sprinkling it on various things and am becoming some what of Utica Style Red Pepper addict. I even mix the stuff with olive oil for bread dipping purposes, can you live at that speed?
It is one of those strange cases where a slightly different then usual preparation greatly alters the properties of an ingredient. Kind of like how the manner in which you choose chop, crush, or dice your garlic will impart different sorts of flavors to your finished product. It doesn't seem like the Utica grind should be all that different then what you probably have in your spice cabinate, but it is. All part of the myth, magic, and mystery of cuisine. Go get some and see if I am right.
I am scheduled to spend a couple weeks out in the Utica/Rome area come late March, so I am sure more discoveries are to be had. We shall see.
Friday, February 4, 2011
I don't know what I have been doing with all my time as of late, but I haven't really been making any interesting forays into the culinary universe on which to train my rapier wit. However, I did manage to find the time to get a quick batch of home brew going. Maybe I will crystalize my whole brewing philosophy into some sort of treatise in the future, but I am feeling crushingly lazy right now. Simply stated, I take a very primitive approach to the brewing of fermented beverages. I think a lot of home brewers make a chemical experiment out of the whole process and make brewing thoroughly unenjoyable.
For thousands of years, brewing was a household project much like baking bread or any other kitchen task. You didn't need a laboratory-esque level of cleanliness, hundreds of dollars of equipment, or exotic ingredients/chemicals. I always encourage people to do a little research into the topic, as the brewing arts are much less intimidating then they might seem after a glance around the internets. Internet brew-guys tend to get a little precious and snobbish about their chosen hobby (as hobbyests of all types tend to do). A resource I find useful is Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner. The book is full of recipes and has a great chapter about demystifying the process of brewing. Also, it pushes home the point that you can make beer out of just about anything that contains sugar. You don't have to limit your self to hops and barley/wheat malts.
Don't worry too much about the cost either, I am an advocate of small batch brewing to start. Just go buy a gallon jug and an airlock, you don't need to churn out 5 gallons your first time. Hammersmith in Latham will have everything you need.
Anyhow, for my current brew project I am making a medium size batch (3 gallons) of a honey ale. I mashed 5 pounds of pale malt (2 row malted barley) at 150 deg. for 90 minutes. I use one of those big insulated coolers with the spigot, Rubbermaid I think, just make sure it is rated for hot beverages. I jury rigged a mash tun by jamming one of those splatter screen/sieve looking things down into the cooler until it is about 2 inches from the bottom. This keeps the grain from plugging up the spigot.
I boiled the wort with a pound of local wild flower honey for another 90 minutes using Kent Golden hop pellets for both boiling and finishing. I throw in a little Irish Moss at the end for clarity. I don't have a wort chiller, so I just put the covered brew kettle outside (if its cold enough) until the wort is about 60-65 deg. Then the lot goes into my sweet, antique 5 gallon carboy (I scored it for 20 bucks at a garage sale) and I pitched in some Nottingham ale yeast. I am going for a long ferment as in my experience, honey takes a bit longer to ferment completely, maybe 2-3 weeks. I usually skip secondary fermentation, as I don't think it makes a heck of a lot of difference.
I am planning on bottle conditioning and priming with honey too, about 4 ounces of honey should do nicely for 3 gallons. A week or so at room temperature should do for carbonating. I am going to put the bottles in my wine fridge and cellar them at about 40 degrees for a month or two. This will allow the honeyed ale to develop a little more character.
I am pretty confident that this batch is going to turn out well, and I should be full to the gills with delicious honey ale to hale the coming of spring.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
After living in my apartment for over a year, I just noticed this week that my sink had one of those little spraying/squirting apparati. Not really sure how I missed it, or why the fact that I just discovered the thing amuses me so. Anyhow, I will probably not use the squrity deal for any legitimate purpose. Ms. Dave, Giblet, and my cats should, however, live in feel of random squirtings.