Sunday, September 27, 2009

Altamont Orchards. First Cider Donut of the Season.

There's nuthin' like the onset of the fall season to make a tried and true Upstate New York boy (Appleknocker) like myself wax poetic about his home region. Fall, and everything that comes along with it around here, makes me love where I am from. The leaves changing, the solemn grayness of the cold weather, the celebration of Autumn foods and traditions all get me excited come late September. I already have a couple heady winter brews fermenting away in my newly chilly kitchen and I can't wait to start indulging myself with heavy fall cooking. Another way I like to herald the coming of the fall season is to go over to Altamont Orchards to gobble up some of their fresh, warm cider donuts. This rainy Sunday I did just that.

We decided that actual apple picking might be a bridge too far today as it rained all night. We did not want young Giblet's first apple picking experience to be soggy and miserable. Arriving at Altamont Orchards we found that there was a haunted house going on. We didn't go in, but we did get a photo of Giblet next to the fierce demon who haunts barrels of cider apples.

We browsed the apples first.

Macs, Cortlands, Macouns, Red Delicious, Fuji, whatever your apple craving heart desires by the bushel, 1/2 bushel, etc... They also have a nice selection of pumpkins, root vegetables, peppers, and a few other orchard fruits. Mrs. Dave got a small bag of Paula Reds and we picked up some cooking apples for my mom.

Altamont Orchards has a country store-esque space that peddles all sorts of local, folksy products. Think jams, pickles, relishes, stuff like that. A lot of it is pretty pricey, but you can still find some deals. I was excited to see a cold case filled with bacon! I think my hand was shaking a little with excitement, so excuse the poor picture.

I picked up a small pack of cinnamon bacon and a somewhat larger package of applewood smoked seasoning bacon chunks. I was very excited for the cinnamon bacon, that sounds like an excellent flavor combination to me.

There is a large bakery section as well with all sorts of homemade pies, danishes, cookies, etc..

The real stars of the bakery at Altamont Orchards are the Cider Donuts. They make them fresh, all day, in an open kitchen you can peek into. A half dozen is 3.99, and to me that is a bargain. They come warm and kissed with just enough unctuous grease. They are small, but not over small, maybe four bites worth. Light, fluffy, pillows of cinnamon/sugar goodness. I ate 2 and a half. Get them early in the season because come October people will be queueing out the doors waiting for donuts.

My wife also likes the apple fritters, you have to be lucky to get these fresh and warm, but I have seen it.

There is also a small snack bar in the back peddling hot chocolate, soup, and stuff like that. Today they had chili. I saw someone walk by with a serving and had to get a bowl to split with the wife.

The chili was served with a sprinkling of orange cheese and fresh, diced, white onion and some saltines on the side. It was thin and mildly spicy, possibly canned, but maybe not. I don't care, sitting with the wee 'un and the wife at one of the little tables amongst the orchard's homey surroundings made it taste very good. We even gave Giblet a small taste of the spicy stuff, she was gleeful. More evidence to me that she is a future fearless wild woman.

Anyways, if you are from the area take a trip out there and buy some apples. Give them to your mom or something, she will appreciate it and you really don't get over to see your mum enough, now do you? I will let you know if the bacon is any good.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Dnipro Market, Cohoes

I read about the Dnipro Market in Cohoes, NY on the wonderful All Over Albany Blog (check out AoA if you are local, it is top notch). One out of my various strange talents is that I speak a pretty good Russian. I am always looking to test out my skills, so I thought it might be fun to check it out and see if I couldn't translate some of the food labels.

Dnipro specializes in both Russian and Polish goods, groceries and meats. The market is immaculately clean in a nice, well lit space. It is not over large, but there is still a decent selection. There was a Russian speaking couple in the market when I arrived who were seriously stocking up, they must have bought a little of everything in the store. I took this as a good sign in regards to the quality/authenticity of the products, it seemed like these people had traveled a ways to get to Dnipro. I tried to eavesdrop to see if they could lead me towards anything good and I ended up buying some kabonosy because of them.

The first thing in the store that will draw your attention is the large meat case running the length of the store. It was filled with exotic meaty delights of all descriptions, they even had salo.

Here is the other half.

I didn't catch a shot of the fish case as Slavic seafood is not something I know a heck of a lot about. But if that is your thing, it was chock full of all sorts of smoked fishes and other odd bits and ends.

Can you guess what immediately drew my eye? Check out this bacon, to me it was beautiful.

It was a Polish brand and had the label of "hunter bacon." A pound was about 6.00$ which I thought very reasonable. It was a massive amount of bacon. I also bought a couple kabanosi (kind of like very long, smokey hotdogs), pelmeni, lutinica, sour cream (сметана), and some rye bread.

In addition I had to pick this up.

This was "Army Brand Chopped Pork Pattie Loaf" in a fetching camo can from a Polish manufacturer.

I look forward to trying all of this stuff, I have already consumed some of the bacon. Let me tell you folks, that is some serious bacon. Good enough to warrant its own post when I get to it. The bread was also outstanding. All in all, I was very impressed with the place and will definitely take another trip out. It is a nice change of pace if anything. I recommend checking it out if you are in Cohoes.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nun Cake, Sweet Tasty Nun Cake.

I was over in Delmar on Labor Day for a cookout with some Delmartian friends of ours. I had planned on swinging by Rolf's Pork Store for some assorted tube steaks, but wouldn't you know? They were closed. I kind of forgot it was a holiday. Not wanting to arrive all empty handed and meatless, I decided to stop in at the Delmar Marketplace. I have been there a couple of times and they usually have some good stuff.

Upon arriving I immediately noticed the above pictured sign. "Nuns of New Skete Cheesecake?" Having never heard of the Nuns of New Skete (or the Nun's of Old Skete for that matter) surely it was imperative that I sample their cake. A little research led me to the fact that the Nuns of New Skete are located up by Cambridge, NY and run quite the little cheesecake pushing operation there. I purchased a pack of 2 slices.

The cheesecake got a little smooshed by a foursey of Guinness. 5.98$ for 2 small slices seemed a little pricey, but what do I know? I generally avoid desserts so I am not to0 versed in cake prices. We decided to have the cheesecake as an hours d'oeuvre as I was extremely curious about the nun cake. Biting into it I definitely made my ick face and my wife laughed at me. Let me preface this all by saying that I am not a big cheesecake fan in the first place, but this stuff was too much for me. My friend's comment was that it was like biting into a sweet, rindless, wedge of brie. It had a dense, very soft cheese-esque texture. You kind of wanted to spread it on crackers. The Nuns of New Skete cheesecake is probably made according to some hallowed old recipe, and to die hard cheesecake fans it is probably a revelation. I kind of wanted my 6 bucks back, but I welcomed the experience to try something new.

By the way, the Delmar Marketplace has a butcher and offers a range of prepared foods that are pretty tasty in a homey sort of way (a little pricey, but Delmar is moneyed). Up until recently they carried Oscar's Smoke House products which are awesome (see here for a Scientific Bacon Butty I made using their bacon). Tragically, Oscar's suffered a devastating fire and their operations have temporarily ceased. I wish them the best.

While I was there I also picked up some wee Swedish Meatballs with a subscript that read, "by Inga!!!!!!!!!!" I feel that maybe I should have heard of Inga. Anyhow, she makes tasty looking meatballs.

They also carry a bunch of simple, prepared foods. I was hungover on another trip to the Delmar Marketplace and in need of starch, cheese, grease and meat. I bought a couple stuffed potatoes and some stuffed bread. They served their purpose well, but ordinarily would have been a little heavy for my tastes.

Anyways, stop in if you are in that neck of the woods. The place definitely has some "quaintness" factor and they carry some interesting stuff. If you are an Utz chip fan they carry the brand (even the crab flavored ones).


I just noticed that this is the 200th post that I have written. The archive has a few less due to a couple deletions for various reasons, but hooray for me anyhow. I am magnificently prolific.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Heater Meals: Chicken Pasta Italiano

As you know, I have served in the military and have always been fascinated by shelf stable military cuisine (see here for an MRE review). I don't know why, but I get delighted opening up an MRE bag and seeing all of the little packages and containers of stuff.

In my experience, the above Heater Meal is used by the military in situations where MREs aren't necessary (they are actually fairly expensive), but it still isn't feasible to dole out fresh food. The heater meals seem to be replacing "Jimmy Deans" for these situations. By the way, if any military guys out there can explain why Jimmy Deans are called Jimmy Deans let me know, as they don't contain sausage of any kind. If you are not familiar, the Jimmy Dean was a shrink wrapped meal that contained a drink, a bun, cookies, some sort of dessert, and a can of either bbq beef, Vienna sausages, or chicken salad. No heating element was included and I always found them to be nasty. The bbq beef tasted like cigarette butts.

Opening up the heater meal we find an abundance of crap.

We have some bread sticks with chocolate peanut butter spread, apple sauce, snickerdoodle cookies, a can of iced tea, raisins, the main meal, the heating unit and a cunning little bag of water (to activate the heater). All in all, 1290 calories worth of processed delights to fill your rumbling belly.

Included in the cutlery package is "Papa's Perfect Salt Free Seasoning," which made me laugh for some unknown reason.

Here is the main meal, Chicken Pasta Italiano. I heated it with the heater as per the instructions. Pretty much same SOP as for an MRE. The heater worked well and brought the meal up to a decent temp.

I was not much of a fan of this one. To me it was as if you took Campbell's Minnestrone soup and strained out all of the chunky bits. There were beans, pasta, and other unidentifiable scraps of vegetable matter along with a few grey pieces of chicken. Unbearably bland as well, really needed the included seasoning packets. I would take almost any MRE over this bad boy any time. But I guess as a way to get some calories into your system with out too much fuss, the heater meals serve their purpose.

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