Friday, August 24, 2012
You know why locally oriented blogs are important? Because posts like Daniel B.'s concerning the Jackburger (on All Over Albany) make people like me think, "gee, I haven't been to Jumpin' Jack's in quite a while. Maybe I should take the family." Hence, local businesses are frequented and get dollars in their coffers.
Anyhow, the other day I packed up Mrs. Dave, Giblet, and Mr. Dave Jr. into the Toyota and set out for Scotia. If you don't know, Jumpin' Jack's is a drive-in type eatery located adjacent the mighty Mohawk River in Scotia (just outside Schenectady). If you will remember, last summer Jack's was tragically placed under water by Hurricane Irene.
In any event, Jumpin' Jack's is back on its feet and humming along as always. During the height of the summer this establishment tends to get a bit busy. To deal with the crowds Jumpin' Jack's has evolved a system to take orders that sort of reminded me of Pat's or Geno's out in Philly in its brutal efficiency. If there is a line up in the little corral the employees pretty much just yell, "back row, who's next?" You are expected to be prepared to give your order quickly and concisely as not to hold up the flow of the line. The brusque Jumpin' Jack's employee will then translate your request into code ("Twisted Indian," stuff like that).
Afterwards you wait a bit and then shuffle up to the window to retrieve your order. Notice the mechanism in the below picture. That is a bun steamer. I love me some steamed buns. Perhaps Jumpin' Jack's prepares Steamed Hams thusly after hours...
The "Jackburger" is the specialty of the house but I have never been much of a fan. The Jackburger is a double cheeseburger sort of thing topped with coleslaw. I hate coleslaw and I don't think it has any business in a cheeseburger. There, I said it.
The family and I went with a thoroughly standard and unoriginal order. I had a plain cheeseburger (recovering from a minor surgery and my gullet was off), the wife had a shrimp fry, and the wee 'uns split a hot dog and some fries. The burgers at Jumpin' Jack's are only enjoyable in light of the surroundings, being with your family, and a certain nostalgia attached to that sort of burger. That is to say that I would thoroughly expect to not have your socks knocked off. But hey, loosen up. Your kids are having fun and it is a nice day. Stop quibbling over details.
After munching for a bit my wife poked me in the arm and queried, "what did you do with the onion rings?" Failing in my duties as a husband and a father I had completely forgotten to get an order. Mrs. Dave immediately rifled through my pockets for cash and strode right back up to the window and remedied my grievous mistake.
These onion rings are pretty good, not my favorite (I have been ruined by certain onion rings peddled by a walk up stand in Hyannis Port that are absolutely perfect), but pretty good. The wife absolutely loved them.
I closed out the meal with a chocolate malted fromt he adjacent ice cream stand. This was your standard affair of milk, chocolate soft serve, and Carnation malt powder. I am a chocolate malted fiend, so any manner of getting a malted fix pretty much pleases me...
When you have finished slopping yourself and your family do take a walk down to the banks of the mighty Mohawk River. Ignore the weird advertisements on the adjacent bank and gaze at the water. Imagine the tall ships and the river traffic that was the life's blood of our region in the past... It must have been something to see.
Anyhow, go to Jumpin' Jacks with your family/sweetheart/Ma' and Pa'. The food is not the main event but I guarantee that you are going to have a good time.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
As you know -- the myriad forms in which us Upstate (as I have state before, for the purposes of this blog I favor an extremely loose version of the term "Upstate." It goes for everything north of Ulster county, south of Messina, and east of Buffalo) New York types take our hot dog sausages has always been a topic of great interest to me.
On this blog we have discussed our local Capital region dinky dogs (a la Famous Lunch or Hot Dog Charlies), the ubiquitous and widespread Stewart's Deli Dog, Rochester white hots, and more that I am probably forgetting right now.
Today a fortuitous find that I made at the Delmar Marketplace takes us up to the North Country for their particular style of hot dog -- the Michigan.
I was perusing the cold case at the Delmar Market (as random treasures often appear there) when I spied some Glazier's Frankfurters. Glazier's is based in Malone, NY and these red hot dogs are arguably the regional favorite up in that neck of the woods.
A common thread in New York State regional (outside of the City of course) hot dog toppings is the holy trinity of meat sauce (no beans, often Greek inspired, often without tomato), mustard, and chopped raw onion. The North Country Michigan does not veer from this formula. For the bread vehicle the Michigan is generally served on a New England style bun or a regionally produced variation on the theme.
I recently got ahold of a copy of "Good Food, Served Right : Traditional Recipes and Food Customs from New York's North Country" and it is a fascinating cookbook that I plan on doing a post about in the future when I get a minute. Included in the "County Fair" chapter is a recipe for Michigans. It mentions Glazier's hot dogs and buns made by the now defunct Bouyea-Fasset bakers who (I have heard) made a somewhat larger than normal version of the New England style hot dog bun.
As for the Michigan sauce recipe this particular one strikes me as a bit odd. The oregano and chili powder are expected components but I would probably replace the curry powder with cumin and a bit of cinnamon. But who knows? Any North Country people please weigh in if curry powder actually is a standard ingredient as I would find that a pretty interesting variation on the theme.
In any event, I throughly enjoyed the pair of Michigans that I prepared and devoured. There is something about the combination of flavors/textures in a meat sauce/mustard/raw onion topped hot dog that can't be beat. The soft bun giving way to the natural casing... then your tongue gets coated with fatty spiced meat sauce cut with the astringent mustard and bitter onion. For my money you just can't beat it. It is a legend in its genre.
Also available at the Delmar Market were the Glazier's Jalapeno Dogs and Cheddarwursts. Based on the fact that I am dead set on trying every product offered by every indigenous Upstate New York hot dog producer, I suppose I will have to try those too at some point.
If you will remember my recent post praising Genesee Cream Ale's return to its classic label style then you will remember how I was saying that the real icing on the cake would be if they went back to the ol' timey stubby little bottles.
Well weren't I just tickled pick when I was at Hannaford's perusing the selections in the domestic beer cooler and I jostled what I thought was a 12 pack of cans of Genesee lager (read more about this particular brew in the first installment of "The Piss Beers of Upstate New York" series) and I hear the glass jingling!
That's right folks. Inside of this deceptively small case is 12 beautiful stubby little bottles of Genesee's finest.
I don't exactly know what it is about stubby bottles that tickles my fancy so, but they really do. Genesee Lager is certainly not my absolute favorite beer in the world but I think that it will probably make more frequent appearances in the pantheon of brands guzzled due to my Falstaffian appetite for oat soda. It makes drinking beer so much fun, and who doesn't like fun? I like fun and at less then 8 bucks for a 12 pack we have some very affordable fun at that.
Go fourth and guzzle this brew from its stubby vessel and rejoice! May your bowels be ever unaffected by Genesee Screamers!
Monday, August 20, 2012
"The Utica Club Natural Carbonation Beer Drinking Song" -- Shouldn't Someone Have Told Me About This?
Alright folks, if any of you knew about this Utica Club jingle and didn't tell me about it than fie on you. You know of my love for Uncle Charley. Why wouldn't you share this little gem with me? Why? Someone must have known...
In any event, this is the best psychedelic beer jingle that I have heard all day long. Give the "Utica Club Natural Carbonation Beer Drinking Song" a listen if you have a minute. You won't be disappointed. In fact, I intend to demand that this be played every time I crack open a fine, fine, Utica Club Pilsner Lager Beer in the future.
I don't believe that I have posted about the Altamont Fair in quite some years (at least since 2008). The Missus and I went last year on an awfully hot day (she was weeks away from giving birth to Mr. Dave Jr. at the time) and we only made it to the midway before having to turn back for the car. Luckily this Sunday was mild and breezy and could not have been a nicer day for the fair.
This year the fair (the Altamont Fair is pretty much the "fair" for the Capital Region, we don't have County Fairs) was a flat 15 bucks for parking/rides/entry. Gone are the pay for parking and then buy tickets for rides deal of the past. I was OK with this but I overheard some general griping about the cost among the crowd.
Immediately upon exiting my vehicle I was greeted by a smooshed fried something-on-a-stick. Upon close inspection my verdict was Reeses peanut butter cup but it very well could have been a fried Oreo. In any event I took it as an omen of good things to come.
We entered through one of the back gates over by the ominously clanking farm machinery exhibit. We took a stroll through the Carriage display and spied an old Freihofer's wagon. Delivered thusly were the baked goods of our Capital Region forefathers.
They had a new "Circus" area this time wherein the main attraction seemed to be a giraffe named Twiggy. I tried to feed him a carrot but I think he was already stuffed with carrots so I contributed to some tasty future-bacon by giving it to this guy.
The knife toss is still present at the fair. I actually won a knife one year and it is one of the highlights of my life as it is nearly impossible to get those little rings around the blades. I always found this game a little funny... What says family fun like trying to win a nice little weapon? Perfect for a post fair parking lot shanking...
After taking the intrepid young (now 40" tall, I know that because they measured her at the gate) Giblet on a bunch of rides, getting hustled out of some loot by a carny or two, and shooting 6 arrows for a buck at some balloons, I started to think about a bit of fair food. Lo and behold I spied this sign.
Usually I think a lot of fried stuff-on-a-stick type items are sort of gimmicky and usually not that tasty. For some reason a deep fried pop tart sounded like it might actually work. I plunked down my 5 dollars and observed as the lovely proprietor attended to my sizzling tart in the oil. In case you are wondering -that garish red stuff in the foreground is "fried kool-aid."
Here she is folks. A strawberry pop-tart all battered up, fried, and dusted with powdered sugar. I shared this among a quartet of people and the verdict was unanimously positive. The strawberry filling starts to flow a little bit and the whole thing assumes a fried pie kind of feel. It is cloyingly sweet as you may have guessed but not in a very disgusting sort of way. Also, I purchased this fried tart fairly early in the day so the oil didn't yet taste like someone had fried a plateful of assholes in it. I would have this again next year.
Something that made me chuckle heartily was when I thought I spied a "Kentucky Fresh Chicken" sign. I got excited for some sort of fried chicken stand but my hopes were crushed when I got closer. Turns out it was a sideshow entitled "Kentucky Freak Chicken" wherein the attraction was a 4 legged/4 winged bird. The tagline "one chicken makes a whole bucket" made me laugh like a child. I didn't pay to go in as some years ago at the fair I paid 75 cents to look at the "world's smallest women" and something about gawking at that wee lady depressed me for several days. I have foresworn sideshow attractions ever since.
I saw an attractive (also thoroughly unsanitary) pile of beef at the "London Broil" sandwich stand. So I thought I would punish my gastrointestinal tract and give one a whirl.
This was a throughly disappointing sandwich. Sad, dry, gray slices of "London broil" in a hoagie bun with some insipid peppers and onions. I had to hose the thing down with the sugary BBQ sauce they offered to even choke down a half of the thing before giving up. A very poor investment of 8.50$ worth of fair eating funds. I should have stayed away from items that approximated actual food and gone with the red velvet funnel cake for my second purchase. No matter. There is always next year.
I find comfort in the perpetually classy signs in the bathrooms.
The Altamont Fair is pretty much the same as it has always been. That is to say a weird mishmash of the rural/farm history of the area with the current suburban invasion. I love seeing the farming set in their jeans, buckles, and plaid short sleeve shirts rubbing elbos with Clifton Park shitheels.
The only thing I bemoan is that most of the concessions are either travelling carny types peddling what has become a very standard list of "fair foods," or locally run stands of the burger/fries/lemonade sort. You see some local flavor in the out of season cider donuts and apple fritters but that is about it. I would like to see deep fried cheese curds from a NY dairy or Hot Dog Charlies selling dinky dogs... You know, stuff like that.
On a final note -- there seems to be a lot less drunk people then I remember from my teen years. I did notice precious few vendors peddling oat sodas. I don't know if this is a good thing or not. It ain't a fair without seeing someone make a drunken idiot out of themselves in my humble opinion.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
I still don't think Trader Joe's brings anything spectacularly great to the Capital Region food party... But before I do a whole post on the subject (I went and bought a bunch of stuff last week) I am going to grudgingly admit to liking an item.
Here we have some "uncured" bacon "ends & pieces." This one pound pack was about 3 bucks. I am not so much of a bacon strip/rasher consumer any more. However, these days I tend to crave a bit of cured pork meat/fat in soups, stews, etc... It is not uncommon to see packs of "bits and ends" or "seasoning bacon" at any given grocery store... But often it is fairly dubious in quality to say the least.
On a cursory visual inspection of the Trader Joe's offering I saw some thick chunks of decent looking bacon.
Opening the pack I was a bit surprised to pull out 1/4 inch thick full-on rashers of bacon, not the odd scraps and chunks that you usually get. I think the Trader Joe's "bits & ends"is more too fat/skinny slices that don't fit the uniform appearance of a pack of bacon then just scraps.
I haven't actually consumed any of the stuff yet (I have a bacon-bean soup simmering right now) so I can't gauge the flavor/smoke. But it appears to be tasty. I will say that I hate when products bill themselves as "uncured." Nitrite/Nitrate free maybe -- but if it is pork and it is pink than it is "cured."
Anyhow, 3 bucks for a pound of decent seasoning bacon aint that bad. Hopefully it tastes good (not like the TJ's hummus which I thought tasted weird)...
More on Trader Joe's to come soon.
Friday, August 17, 2012
If you have been reading my blog for any length of time then you will know that I have something of an obsession with our indigenous Upstate New York macro brews. Read all about this in my 3 part series "The Piss Beers of Upstate New York" linked here (also a bit about "Genny Screamers" which are the unique gastrointestinal events that occur after imbibing a Genny product).
Genesee Cream Ale is an old classic in the affordable American lager genre (I think they might actually use ale yeast but it is really more of a "lager" in style). When I was in college Genny Cream was 9.99 for a 30 pack... Needless to say, ahem ahem, I have some experience with this beverage. And you know what? At the current 6.99 for a 12 pack GCA is still a bargain in my opinion.
People tend to write the stuff off as awful based on a reputation that I am really not sure how Genny Cream acquired. I think the fact that it is a bit more aggressively hoppy/bitter than your average macro American lager (Bud, Miller, Coors, etc...) turns off a lot of the inexperienced beer drinkers who are used to a certain level of blandness. Go drink a can of GCA and then drink a can of Heineken. The stuff fairs shockingly well in a side by side comparison. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Genny Cream. It is a solid affordable brew.
Now we have the classic green and white label back -- simple, elegant, and thoroughly visually appealing. The Genny Lager went back to the old style red and white labels a while ago (I think) but this is the first time that I have seen the change in the Cream Ale. The only thing that could gild the lily would be if I could find the stuff in the old stubby necked bottles....
You know how Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) became sort of the thing recently among your younger skinny jeans types? I think this may be happening with a lot of Upstate New York brews. Utica Club and Genny seem to be acquiring some hipster cache and people are drinking it all ironically. I find this fact endlessly amusing.
Look at little old us... People drinking our dowdy Western/Central NY beers that we never even notice at the store. Drinking it as if this was just the thing to do no less! Well good -- all of these beers are really very decent (and certainly better than most national American lagers). The only thing that would make this situation funnier would be if some bar in Williamsburg started peddling 8 dollar cans of Utica Club. That would pretty much make my life.
In any event, I thoroughly approve of both the beer and the return to the old label style.
Monday, August 13, 2012
So after all of the sandwich spread futzing I have been doing lately (I made my own lardy-cookie-butter the other day) I was suddenly struck by a wondrous idea. Why not make one sandwich that unites all of the titans of the sandwich spread universe? Why not call it the "Fluffer-nutter-ella-coff Sandwich" and make it a triumphant tripple decker bastard? No reason at all why not...
So here are we have all of the spreads in question -- Fluff, Jif peanut butter, Nutella, and some Biscoff (speculoos/cookie-butter). I am using three slices of Freihofer's whole wheat as the bread-y vehicle.
I began by making a standard fluffernutter.
On top of the assembled fluffernutter I carefully spread on the Nutella and on a third slice of bread I schmeared the Biscoff.
There she is folks. A behemoth stack of sugary, nut-buttery, cookie-spread-y goodness. The thing had a bit of weight to it and I was a little worried about smooshing it while cutting it in half. Plus, I was trembling a bit in anticipation of a bite and this unsteadied my hand a bit.
I carefully sliced the thing with a very sharp knife and behold! Have you ever seen a prettier picture than this?
How did it taste you ask? Frickin' delicious obviously. Toothache-ingly sweet with a salty/savory peanut butter back, all gooey and unctuous like in texture. There are easily 10-15 little mouthfuls of heaven in each one of these sandwiches.
I could only eat half of the Fluffer-nutter-ella-coff and it is currently sitting in my stomach like a tasty little ball of lead. I wrapped the other half in wax paper and it is in my fridge for young Giblet's breakfast tomorrow. I am going to have to smuggle it to her behind Mrs. Dave's back because I don't know if she (Mrs. Dave, not Giblet) would be too thrilled with this veritable bonanza of sugar and fat going into our darling daughter's belly...
In any event, go fourth good readers and propagate this sandwich upon the land.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
So, if somehow you don't already know the Capital Region just got its first Trader Joe's location over on Wolf Road in Colonie. I seem to be significantly less excited about this fact then many people. Then again I am a fairly unexcitable type of guy (read -- grouchy and boring).
Anyhow, it seems that the Trader Joe's brand "cookie butter" is one of the hot items that everyone spins themselves into a manic tizzy for. This is sort of strange to me as I generally have a jar of Biscoff spread in my cabinet (a brand of speculoos paste) and I kind of always found the stuff to be pretty unremarkable. Every now and again I get a craving for a bit of the goo spread on some toast taken with my tea (generally in the winter) but that's about it. Also, if I want a fresh jar I just order it off Amazon. I wouldn't even give a portion of a crap if a store opened up around here and suddenly carried the stuff. People always puzzle me.
In any event all of the cookie butter mania inspired a discussion on the tweeters about homemade cookie butter and what would be a good fat to utilize. When the Fuss-Meister-General suggested leaf lard my interest piqued and I decided that I would have to make a project of it.
I had a surfeit of ginger in my refrigerator as I had recently made some ol' timey' ginger ale for a friend's party and bought way too much (ginger). I decided to go for a ginger snap base (as opposed to speculoos cookies) for my cookie butter both because I like ginger snaps but also to use up the buttload of available ginger.
I began by peeling the approximately 1/2 pound of ginger with an absurdly large Dexter-Russel knife. You see, I was a bit -- ahem, ahem -- "tipsy" at the onset of this project and my wife had recently melted my awesome peeler in the dishwasher in a bizarre accident. Using the giant blade led to a huge pile of large clippings and I am surprised I didn't manage to peel a finger.
I started by doing my ginger in syrup recipe. You see, I am prone to stomach aches and I have found that a bit of candied ginger is just the thing to settle a tummy ache. I have made a habit of keeping osme of the stuff around.
You begin by boiling thinly 1/2 pound of thinly sliced ginger for 10 minutes twice, changing the water each time. Then you add 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water, bring to 225 deg, remove from heat and let it sit out overnight. At this point you have ginger in syrup which is useful for all sorts of things (both the ginger and the syrup). To make candied ginger you simply drain a bit of the ginger, toss it with sugar, and put it out to dry a bit overnight.
I use a pretty standard ginger snap recipe. My only tweeks are that I use candied ginger, ginger in syrup, in addition to powdered ginger. For spice -- I use allspice and cinnamon. I am not a fan of the cardamom/clove combination that you see in a lot of recipes. This is just my preference.
Ginger snap butter kind of already looks like cookie butter, don't it? I sort of wondered why people don't just eat this with a spoon instead of going through the trouble of cooking it...
In any event, I made a big ol' batch of ginger snaps.
For the actual cookie butter I used a handful of the snaps (about 10 cookies).
For my main fat I am going with lard. I initially wanted to track down some quality leaf lard but then I remembered that my experiments turn out fairly horrendous a good amount of time. I went with standard grocery store lard for this initial test run of the concept.
I ground the cookies pretty well in a food processor and then added a hearty dollop of the lard (perhaps 1/3 of a cup). I also added a bit of vanilla and a small handful of sugar.
As I ran the food processor I drizzled in about 2-3 tablespoons of Canola oil and just a titch of ginger syrup.
A tip here -- keep everything very cold as this is pretty much an emulsion. I let the food processor go for about 5 minutes initially and my cookie butter "broke," i.e. the fat separated from the cookie matter due to the heat created by the mechanical motion of the food processor. I just put the whole bowl into the freezer for 20 minutes and pulsed it again briefly and it assumed a perfectly creamy texture.
I thought the stuff looked very much like Biscoff and the texture was very similar. I was thoroughly impressed with myself because based on a visual inspection alone my experiment appeared successful. I gave her a taste and was surprised by how good the gunk was. It had a sort of gingery, salted caramel thing going on. The lard (as lard is wont to do) gave the cookie paste a sublimely creamy richness. Slap a label on this and I would buy it over Biscoff hands down.
I got about 2 little jam jars full of the stuff out of my recipe. I intend to inflict a spoonful on anyone who crosses my threshold as I really think the stuff is a success. I am currently brainstorming applications for Mr. Dave's Lardy-Cookie-Butter (that is a working title...). One of my notions involves ham and more crumbled ginger snaps. Also, a ham sandwich on hearty bread with just a schmear of the ginger cookie butter might or mightn't be sublime... Maybe just a hint of Coleman's English on the other side of the ham slice? Can you live at that speed?
I declare a successful experiment! Huzzah for lard and cookies!