Friday, July 29, 2011
I went over to the newish DiBella's Submarines on Western Ave. (by Uncommon Grounds) for a sandvich or two. I had heard very good things, but I am always a little skeptical about chain type sandvich pushers. By the way, Dibella's is a homegrown Western New York franchise out of Rochester.
In the vestibule was a big ol' menu with some standard sub shop offerings, albeit with some cutesy monikers.
Upon entering I was struck by the decor. Whoever they have throwing these places together is on the money. Would I ever sit down for a sandwich at Subway, Mr. Subb, Blimpies, etc...? Absolutely not. But at DiBella's I probably might if I had a few minutes. I like the color scheme, the muted lighting, and the classic looking neon in the back. Plus, they do a pseudo-table service kind of deal.
After B.S.ing a bit with the manager, I ordered up one chicken Ceasar on whole wheat and a Godfather on white. The two full sized sandwiches and a large drink cost about 20 bucks. I will explain a bit more, but after consuming them I didn't regret spending a penny of my hard earned smackeroonies. Just look at one of these guys! Enormous!
The first one that I tucked into was the Chicken Ceasar. First of all, the bread is great. Nice and dense with a chewy crust, miles above the marvels of modern chemistry that you are served at Subway. They have griddles at DiBella's and I am pretty sure they actually par cook real chicken and then grill it off on order. You get a generous amount of protein with fresh lettuce, tasty dressing, and a handful of grated parmesan. This was a very tasty sangvich.
On to the Godfather, which is DiBella's version of your classic "Italian mix." I got this for the wife who is something of a connoisseur of Italian mixes. She was more than pleased. I had a couple bites and was impressed with the quality of the cold cuts. They were very real-ish, i.e. of the quality you might expect from an actual independent deli. If this were a game of Submarine shop Battleship (to stick with the naval analogies), DiBella's sinks its competitors (Subway, Mr. Subb, and the rest of the usual suspects) battleships and takes nary a hit. They are heads and shoulders above.
In summary, there are better independent sandwich shops in the area, but DiBella's gives them a run for their money. I was thoroughly satisfied with the price that I paid for the product that I received. DiBella's is a shining example of a chain that has maintained standards despite expansion. Go try it out, its surprisingly good and they haven't even paid me to say that.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
The Meat House has arrived in Stuyvesant Plaza (Guilderland). I was in StuyPlaz on Saturday for random reasons and the proprietors of the Meaty House were doing a pre-opening tour kind of deal. They had a tent set up with some meats grillin' away (I did not partake, I was in a rush).
Anyhow, they are fully operational now and I look forward to a perusing their goods. The Meat House was also kind enough to extend an invitation to myself to come on a tour with the owner (as I am sure some of you other blogger types were too). This gave me a nice warm fuzzy even though I probably won't go. Even tasty meats are not temptation enough to lure me out of the Mr. Dave Cave and into the sunlight. My mystery is only exceded by my power...
But seriously folks, I am excited to have another butcher in the neighborhood. I am still pretty loyal to Rolf's, but I shall give the House of Meats a whirl.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
So the Missus, the Giblet, and I ended up in good ol' Philly-delphia the other day. Ms. Dave is not usually game for my ridiculous food adventures, however, she is currently 8 months pregnant and had recently seen some Food Network special on Philly cheese steaks which inculcated in her a grand craving for cheese steaks. We decided to do the Geno's and Pat's thing, very touristy I know, but we were pressed for time.
If you don't know, Geno's and Pat's are a couple of walk up cheese steak joints that happen to be located kitty corner across an intersection and have something of a rivalry. The below picture is of Pat's taken from just outside Geno's.
If you do research you will find that a lot of Philly locals will poo poo these two places and recommend some joint that is located at the end of a hidden trail and staffed by magical creatures who shit out Plato's ideal of a cheese steak. Locals get very deep with the whole cheese steak thing (kind of like I do with dinky dogs), and Geno's and Pat's are considered touristy and bush league. But the wife had seen these places on TV which sealed the deal for my little family. We started with a Geno's.
Apparently, the owner of Geno's is something of a card. You get a little right wing propaganda to cleanse the palate at Geno's. They are even still doing the whole "freedom fries" thing.
The Missus and I decided to split each joint's offering. At Geno's we got a steak "wit" (onions) and cheese whiz. It was about 9 bucks. Here she is.
At Geno's the beef is left in slices, not chopped up as per usual with cheese steaks. The cheese whiz is placed under the meat and the onions are on top. The onions are diced and cooked through but still toothsome, not much caramelization. It should be noted that the onions seem to be cooked independently from the beef and placed on top during sandwich assembly. The bread is an Italian style hoagie roll with a chewy crust and airy crumb. The grease is copious and free flowing, but not in a badway. Mrs. Dave immediately voiced her approval of this form of sandwich.
We had been lucky enough to score a table at Geno's (perpetually crowded) so I left the wife and daughter munching on the remaining heel of the sandwich and ambled over to Pat's to see how the other half lives. Pat's is a little more subdued in decor than Geno's, none of the flash and a little bit more of a nuts and bolts operation. They give you some instructions on how to order a sammitch so you don't get yelled at.
Pat's is not shy about being the "originator" of the cheese steak. I picture Pat nightly shaking his fist across the intersection at the upstart operation that is Geno's.
I decided to get provolone on the Pat's for a little change of pace. Here is the Pat's steak. Notice the ketchup on half. Mrs. Dave is a hardcore ketchup fiend from way back and would not think to eat anything served betwixt bread without a dollop of the crimson goo. It should be said that the fact that Geno's offers Heinz and Pat's Huntz could have tilted her preference towards Geno's. She is a bonafide Heinz lady.
On my return trip it was pretty clear that it would not be the best idea to sit at the Geno's table and eat a Pat's sub, so we took this one to the car for consumption.
The meat on Pat's steak is chopped up and the onions seem to be cooked a bit more and mixed into the beef during cooking. A couple half rounds of fairly sharp provolone are placed on the bread before the beef. The only melting that occurs is through contact with the hot meat so the cheese maintains its form. I found the bread to be similar to Geno's but a little (dare I say it?) less fresh. It didn't have the same pleasant chewiness. Also, Pat's hands you your cheese steak on a square of wax paper as opposed to wrapped up like Geno's. If you are not careful, you will spill a torrent of beef grease onto your pants whilst holding the thing and walking. Trust me, I have a ruined pair of pants that serve as a testament to this fact.
Before my final thoughts, a note on condiments. Both locations have a stainless steel cart with serve yourself accoutrement for the cheese steak. The one pictured here is Pat's.
Both places have ketchup, mustard, and all you can eat cherry peppers. Unique to each is that Geno's offers a signature hot sauce (pretty spicy) and Pat's has these chiles.
I found this to be an interesting and pleasant surprise at Pat's. These are dried chiles in oil, not something I would have thought to throw on a sandwich but it is pretty ingenious. Should I ever open a sandwich shop this will be offered.
So which one did I like best you ask? The sandwiches weren't really that different in terms of quality but I would have to say I like Geno's better. Pat's was pretty good, but not leaps and bounds above your work-a-day cheese steak that you could find right here in the Capital Region. The Geno's cheese steak seemed to me a little more unique. I liked the pleasing greasiness of the intact slices of thin beef and the hearty chew of the bread. If you are ever in that neck of the woods I recommend that you do what we did and try both.
Anyhow, we did a little sight seeing in Philadelphia prior to the sandwiches and happened upon the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile at a red light. As we were stopped next to the blessed vehicle, Mrs. Dave (bless her heart) managed only to capture this image as proof.
Anyhow, Philadelphia seemed to be my kind of city. It was dirty, gritty (in parts), and working class but with a visceral since of history (not to mention a fiercely proud populous). Philly seems to operate within the same plane of America that I do (it is not quite Upstate America, but it is close).
Friday, July 22, 2011
So I was removed from my native habitat and compelled to venture fourth to Indianapolis, Indiana for some work stuff. I have actually been flitting about the country quite a bit the past couple of weeks, that is why you haven't heard much from me. Even though I usually keep the subject matter limited to my ramblings throughout Upstate America, I thought I might widen my horizons for a couple of posts.
Upon arriving in Indianapolis I inquired of several folks where they thought I should eat. I got pretty much the same response from several people, i.e. "Go to St. Elmo's, have the shrimp cocktail." From what I gathered St. Elmo Steak House is kind of an Indianapolis institution. Most natives describe the restaurant as hanging in limbo somewhere between tourist trap and legit steak house. I decided to give it a whirl.
The place has your standard "wood walls with pictures of famous people and other tchotckes to show you that we are a real, ol' timey steak house" vibe. Having been very emphatically urged to "try the shrimp cocktail" I decided to make it so. The "fiery cocktail sauce" is apparently one of St Elmo's main claims to fame.
The waiter gave me a little "have you ever been here before? you better be careful..." schpiel, but I shrugged it off as I have found that more often than not these warnings are warrantless and I am left disappointed. I got a goodly looking pile of shrimp with a dollop of fresh looking cocktail sauce served up in a cunning little ice bowl thing.
I forked up the top shrimp along with a hearty amount of sauce and popped it in my mouth. OK St Elmo, I like the cut of your jib. I apologize for questioning your fortitude. This particular cocktail sauce is absolutely laden with freshly grated horseradish. The sensation of each bite is something like snorting wasabi. I don't know that I have ever ingested that much horseradish in one sitting. It was nostril clearing and painful in a pleasantly refreshing sort of way. Thoroughly enjoyable. Here is my empty bowl to affirm my manliness, I left nary a drop of the fiery sauce behind.
Another recommendation for good eatin' that I had received was for Shapiro's Deli. Shapiro's started off in Indianapolis about a hundred years ago and now has a couple different locations in the area. Food is served cafeteria style, lunchroom trays and all. They are famous for their desserts (which actually looked very, very good) and their Reubens. I took their word for it and got a Reuben and a deviled egg.
I had no complaints about the Reuben, it was fairly standard issue. The deviled egg was a little weird, extremely sweet flavor most likely from a hearty douse of relish. Much more enjoyable was the experience of being served things like kosher dills and matzo balls by people with broad midwestern accents.
To wrap up my culinary tour of Indianapolis, I went to the temple of all which is good and holy.
Don't care if it is cliche, I actually really like White Castle. Anytime that I am in the vicinity of a location I make a point to visit. This time I veered from my standard order of good ol' cheeseburgers and got a couple with bacon and a couple jalapeño (also 20 chicken rings for 4.99!)
I was pleasantly surprised by the jalapeño sliders, they actually had a little spiciness to them.
Anyhow, I kind of liked Indianapolis. It had a certain charm that I can't quite explain and I appreciated the city planning. All of the roads seem to be 4 lanes and make sense. Not like our ancient New York cities (Albany I am looking at you) with their maniacal jumble of streets. If you ever make it out there I can now recommend that you go to St Elmo and try the shrimp cocktail...
Monday, July 11, 2011
So Mrs. Dave, the little one, and I went over to Golden Corral for Brunch on Sunday. You see, Mrs. Dave is nigh 8 months preggers and has adopted "breakfast food" as her one true pregnant lady craving. This has been our third trip to Golden Corral brunch over the course of 2 pregnancies. Once for my female spawn and twice during this particular gestational period. I attribute this to my wife carrying a male. He cries for breakfast meat from the womb! A fitting heir to the Mr. Dave dynasty.
Have you ever been to Golden Corral for Sunday brunch? If not, it is definitely something to see. Any food establishment that has its own CDTA bus stop is going to attract an interesting cross section of humanity. The food is predictably bland and filling, I won't really get into a critique as the mental picture you have in your head is most likely dead on. Much more interesting is the people Golden Corral attracts and their behavior inside the restaurant.
You would think that you would have to watch out for the 300 pound gentlemen in the Harley Davidson leathers, but no, he is cheerful and in his element. It is the 60 year old ladies that will cut you in line, jostle you out of the way, or sneer at you if you take the last bit of pork steak. The concept of "all you can eat" buffet does not penetrate their blue coifs and they are ready to throw down over the choicest buffet bits. They are sharks among fishes.
Also of note is the amount of people to be seen eating their Sunday breakfast alone. Both Mrs. Dave and I are troubled greatly by people eating alone and it causes us to feel very sad (you can read more about my random empathy here). Alas, neither of us have the stones to go up and keep a lonely stranger company, and they very well may enjoy eating alone anyhow. Sigh.
Mrs. Dave did quite good work on the nourishing the fetus front.
I used the oportunity to indulge in a hankering acquired during my days as young soldier (even at 31 I like to adopt the airs of a crusty old salt). You take a big bowl of grits and throw in a bunch of orange cheese to make cheesy grits. A belly full of grits will put you up to most challenges you will face throughout the day. I remember days in foreign lands when we had the grits but no cheese. Those were bad days.
The only thing of note (besides cheesy grits) that I saw at the G-Corrizzel was these cunning wee quiches.
These quiche was strange. There was not detectable textural bacon, but there was a very strong (bad) bacon flavor. Bacon essence perhaps?
Anyhow, although my TV soulmate Ron Swanson would think the less of me, Golden Corral's Sunday Brunch just does not prime my engine. In closing, you really owe it to yourself to watch the following video. Trust Mr. Dave, he wouldn't lie to you.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
I will just leave this here. I bought these "Baby Wieners" at the Euro Deli over in Latham (will post about the place when I get to it, I like the place) and thought they warranted their own quick little post. If you are going to call your product Baby Wieners, maybe putting a picture of two lil' children on the label who are engaging in some ambiguous smooching type behavior is not the best idea.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
October Country (Netflix Instant Link)
Not even going to speak to this recommendation much, but you should trust me. If you want to grasp Upstate America (Upstate New York), then even if the narrative of the piece doesn't grab you, the visuals should (snow, mountains). This documentary is a beautiful representation of the pathos that I have labored to represent through silly posts over the years. This is our homeland, warts and all.
Just listen to the beautiful pronunciation of the letter "a" in all of its beautiful Upstate forms! Apple knockers FTW!
Best line from the movie-
"I guess this is where we are going to be, and this is where we are going to die."
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.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
If you will remember, a short while ago I got all excited about obtaining a couple of Stewart's themed Pez dispensers. Well weren't I just tickled to find out that P-Chopistan (Price Chopper, click for way more posts on the subject then you may have ever dreamed to exist) has their very own Pez dispenser as well! I kind of like this gimmick, I was always a fan of Pez. I hope to accumulate a fleet of locally themed Pez dispensers, I think Hot Dog Charlie's should be next.
I will have to give the beauty in design award to the Stewart's truck. I find the P-Chopistani one to be a bit garish.
Anyhow, I was thinking that I wanted my very own Mr. Dave themed Pez dispenser. Only, I don't simply want my name on a truck. I want it to be the real deal head with the pez shootin' out of my neck. Well wouldn't you know? There is someone out there providing this very service (oh internets, how I love thee). So Mrs. Dave, if you are reading I am in the mood for a present.
Monday, July 4, 2011
I have only been over to the semi-recently opened Fresh Market in Latham a couple of times. I went about a week after it opened and got jostled and elbowed by numerous aggressive Latham Haus Fraus, so I guess that visit left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth. That and the fact that the aisles are too small. This is a common theme in "gourmet" type groceries. Any store that attracts shoppers who want to stand behind their carts for 10 minutes ogling some 15 dollar bottle of preserved lemons they don't need (and will never use) should by law be required to have enormously wide aisles so that I may pass in peace.
Anyhow, if you go there at a less trafficked time of day (10:00 AM on a Tuesday or such) it is actually a rather pleasant place to shop. I stay away from all of the prepared/bottled/fancy for fancy's sake snacks and other crap and peruse the meat, veg., and baked goods which are really pretty good.
As I was looking at the meat case, I noticed that they had a couple different kinds of prepared wurst. I am usual a little suspicious of any chain grocer's "house" brands of sausages so I only picked up one of each for a little taste test. Fresh Market was marketing these particular sausages under the names Knockwurst and Mettwurst. I started by cutting them in half to get a look at the guts. The knock is the homogenous looking emulsified jobber on the bottom and the mett is the chunkier little bastard.
I heated these through and gave them a shot sans mustard or any other adulteration. I will have to say these were both pretty good. The "mettwurst" was a pretty standard chunky garlic sausage with a nice amount of smoke. I think some Fresh Market marketing folks through a dart at a board covered in German-y sounding sausage titles to pick the name as it doesn't seem to jibe with what I have read about traditional mettwurst, I could be wrong. The knockwurst was likewise of fairly good quality, nice garlic flavor, juicy texture, and a thick and snappy natural casing.
All in all, some of the best mass market prepared sausages that I have had. I also enjoyed that these were chubby little short numbers, i.e. Fresh Market is not catering to the very American urge to shuffle all tubular meat items directly into a slitted bun. It takes moxy to not craft your sausages to the exact length of the standard hot dog bun. Sometimes one should take their sausage by itself with a little mustard, or on a hard roll, or on top of corn flakes.
If you can't get over to Rolf's for sausages, the Fresh Market product is a decent alternative (in my humble opinion). In any event they are leaps and bounds ahead of Johnsonville Brats or things of that ilk.
Anyhow, happy 4th.