Thursday, December 30, 2010

Four Lickles Don't Sleep. They Wait. (Part 3)

Ever wonder what a jar of Four Loko brined pickles look like under the pale, artificial glow of a refrigerator light? Well, wonder no more. With the addition of a little more red food coloring, the Four Lickles have been transferred back to their jar. Next weekend shall be the taste test. Gird your bellies brave friends of Mr. Dave.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Stewart's Has Their Own Pez Dispenser! I Got Two!

I need not explain my love of Stewart's Shops to you (click here to browse some RFS posts on the subject), my loyal readers, as I have blathered on at length. Needless to say, I was somewhat excited when I found out that Stewart's now has its very own Pez Dispenser! It is featured prominently on the Stewart's website (scroll down a little) where the line, "Drive one away for only $1.99!" is proudly emblazoned.

I was at Stewart's picking up some "panic milk" for the wife during the late snow storm when I saw several of the Pez Dispensers strewn near the cash register. I found it necessary to shell out for two dispensers. One for the daughter to enjoy and another to be saved pristinely in its package (for posterity). I like the look of the Pez truck. It maintains the trademark, old timey style of Stewart's advertisements.

Like a kid on Christmas, I was genuinely excited for the Stewart's Pez. My mother has given me a Santa Pez every X-Mas since I was wee, which along with the innumerable comic book/star wars character examples I have hoarded away make up quite the collection. The Stewart's truck will make a worthy addition. Go get your own!


Four Lickles Update: Adding Color (Part 2)

If you remember, last week I started the Four Loko Pickles project. I have decided to call them Four Lickles from now on in homage to the Koolickles that inspired me. The fickle internet has seemed to enjoy this nonsense as my humble driveling got linked by the Huffington Post food section, a couple members on Reddit, and many facebook homepages.

One of my concerns with the Four Lickles concoction was that I didn't think the relatively pale color of the Watermelon Four Loko which I used would give the pickles the vibrant hue of a good koolickle. As I was strolling around my local P-Chops the other day, I came across the following.

Here we have Betty Crocker's Neon Gel Food Colors. To my sensibilities a neon pink Four Lickle would be perfection. I had great expectations for this food coloring, but alas, I was left disappointed. The Betty Crocker product only slightly deepened the shade of the watermelon/pickle brine.

I knew I should have stuck with good ol' fashion food coloring. I am going to give the pickles a couple days and see what kind of color they absorb. If I am not satisfied with their artificial color level, then I just might add some normal red food coloring. We shall see.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Four Loko Pickles. That's Right, I Said it. (Part 1: The Beginning)

So I had a can of Four Loko (watermelon) hidden away in the cabinet. I had bought this can prior to the recent ban with ideas of keeping it around as a cultural artifact. But it turns out that Four Loko is coming right back out sans the caffeine. If I am just going to be able to buy a close facsimile, I didn't really feel the need to keep ahold of the tall boy for posterity. As I certainly wasn't going to drink the nasty shit, the rusty gears of my culinary mind (the mind that previously brought you Bacon Rice Krispies Treats and White Castle Casserole) started to slowly turn as I pondered what to do with the camo can of caffeinated swill.

Divine inspiration was quick in arriving. I recalled a NY Times article about the deep south specialty that is the Kool Aid Pickle (I link to Slashfood because the stupid Times makes you log in now). Kool Aid pickles are your normal kosher dills that have been steeped in sugary Kool Aid brine. Supposedly, the pickles come out with an addictive sweet/sour tang, and the added bonus of having absorbed the garish color of your chosen Kool Aid flavor. It seemed to me that the Four Loko might be a good analogue for the Kool Aid in this recipe, only with more alcohol and caffeine.

I cracked open the watermelon flavored malt beverage and poured a little in a cup to get a look at its hue. Although there was a pungent stink, the Four Loko was not as vibrantly colored as I had hoped for. I think I might have to supplement with a little red food coloring. We shall see.

For the pickle component I had read that Mt. Olive Kosher Dills where a popular choice.

I poured the pickle juice, the whole can of Four Loko, and about a cup of sugar into a sauce pan and brought it up to a simmer. Watermelon Four Loko mixed with pickle brine smells about as good as you may have imagined it would...

When the pickle brine/malt likker/shoogar mixture had cooled somewhat I dumped it over the reserved pickles in a larger container. I also threw in a good healthy squirt of vodka, just for good measure. I washed and saved the actual pickle jar for presentation sake when the Four Loko pickles are ready.

As you can see, the Four Loko brine doesn't appear to contain the requisite food dye to give the pickle that nice, freaky, artificial color that you are looking for in this genre of pickle. I think I am going to add a little red food dye tomorrow to add to the final visual effect of the pickles. They are supposed to swim in the brine, refrigerated, for about a week.

I shall warily state that I have my suspicions that the Four Loko pickles might come out OK. It just may be one of those bizarre combinations that works for no particular reason at all. However, I will say that the phrase "watermelon-y, salty, sour, caffeinated, boozy pickle" starts my stomach a-churnin' just a little bit.

All there is to do now is wait. I shall definitely issue updates on this project as necessary.

If you are looking for another of pickle innovations whilst you wait, have a looksy at Sriracha Pickles.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Annual Bread Friend (Bread Lobster)

Sorry about the bad picture quality in this post. My Droid's camera has been on the fritz and is making everything all yellow. Anyhow, above we have a Bread Lobster from P-Chops. Around the holidays the 'Chops starts peddling these weird rye bread monstrosities. Don't ask me why, but these bread fellows take various unusual forms. I have seen bread bears, bread lobsters, bread snowmen, and also a big obscene looking lump that I took to be a bread mushroom.

If you will remember, I bought a Bread Friend last year. I don't know what the Price Chopper bread artist meant him to be, so I just dubbed him Bread Friend.

There is nothing special about the actual bread. It is actually a rather insipid, fake tasting, flaccid example of deli style rye. But as you all know, Mr. Dave is a fan of humor and whimsy. Bread Lobsters definitely count as humorously whimsical, so I have decided to make the purchase of an annual bread creature a Mr. Dave family holiday tradition. If Price Chopper keeps putting these guys out for the holidays, I will keep buying them.

I incorporated bread lobster into the refreshment I provided at the Lovely Mrs. Dave b-day celebration. Mrs. Dave is a great fan of creamy dips and spreads and I aimed to cater to her whims. I removed the lobsters cranial and tail areas and replaced them with dip.

Bread Crustacean lurked at the top of the the meat and cheese table and kept guard (click for my recent Meat Tray post). We also had a bunch of hot food, but I forgot to take a picture.

Afterwards, me and the Misses had a little local vacation at a certain downtown hotel. The view of our fair city of Albany in the misty morn was very moving. You can even see a little of the mighty Hudson.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Griswold and Rolf's Are the Only Two Names in Serious Bacon Cookery 'Round These Parts (Another Blog Post about Cast Iron)

Cast Iron cookware is big fad on the internet right now. A simple google query will result in an untold amount of articles concerning the topic, and in my opinion, people get a little precious (read pretentious) with their theories and opinions. There exist myriad strategies for seasoning and cleaning, people argue about what and what not to cook in them, etc... ad infinitum. However, there is one thing that most cast iron enthusiasts, including myself, do agree about. This is that Griswold (link is to an association of knowledgeable collectors and enthusiasts) products are the undisputed Rolls Royces of the cast iron universe.

You can read all about Griswold on the internets if you are so inclined, but basically it was a company that operated in Erie, PA from the end of the 19th century through the 20th. Sometime in the 50s or 60s they were bought out, or changed hands, or the owners were abducted by Canadians and forced over the border. I am not an expert in the history. Long story short, if you want a quality Griswold skillet, then you are buying it used and it is probably going to be in excess of 50 years old. I own two examples.

The first is a #7, bottom with trademark pictured above. Griswold's are numbered according to size, a #7 is 8 1/4". This is the first Griswold I bought, and is the one that made me fall in love with this brand of cast iron. You see, Griswolds are machined flat on the cooking surface, not dimpled and rough like lower quality pans. After careful seasoning they become oil slick and smooth as glass. This pan was probably manufactured sometime around the second Great War.

A word on "seasoning" cast iron. I have seen all sorts of prescriptions for rubbing the things with Crisco and baking in the oven, blah, blah, blah. I don't think all of this is necessary. Careful cooking of many high fat items, and liberal use of lipids at the outset of use will do you just fine. Just devote your cast iron pan to bacon duty for a couple months, and then move on to more varied use. The above pan has a very nice seasoning going on resulting only from regular use. I will say that my cast iron is mostly devoted to frying, browning, sauteing, and other cooking processes resulting in the caramelization of food. I tend not to cook highly acidic stews or sauces in the cast iron, or for that matter, do any sort of braising or stewing. I leave those methods to the much less fragile surface of my Le Creuset (which is really just enameled cast iron).

Now, the #7 is a great bachelor pan, just big enough to put a sear on a single steak or to fry up a couple sausages. But for family style applications it is a little lacking. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the #7 is a just a little too wee to fry up a goodly amount of full length bacon. Recently, this led to my purchase of a second Griswold. This time I found a #10 (10"). This bad girl does righteous bacon. As I obtained this skillet completely stripped of any seasoning, I have been making regular trips to the undisputed king of locally made bacon, Rolf's Pork Store (an establishment about which I have sung the praises on this blog several hundred times) to get supplies to break her in.

Rolf's bacon, like all of their other house made products, is superb. Nitrate free, nicely meaty, with just the right amount of cure and smoke. It might not be an entry level bacon if you are used to grocery store bacon or the insipid crap that passes as "gourmet" bacon in the City, but trust me, Rolf's product is superior by every metric. Even my wife likes it and she is a tough customer. I figure that once about 10 pounds of this salty pig gets fried up in my new #10, we should be good to go.

There you have it, now you might be thinking that this is all bullshit and how much of a difference will a Griswold really make? Trust me. Obtain one, fry up something simple, chicken cutlets or even a burger. You will look at the delicious brown crust that the heat conducting properties of that thick hunk of iron can create and you will be sold. It really does make that much of a difference. They just take a little more maintenance and care, but it is my opinion that most everything worth having should take a fair amount of maintenance and care. From kitchen utensils to significant others, I don't trust anything you can just put in a cabinet and not worry about.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Release Your Meats Fromt Their Bready Tombs! Enjoy the Open Face

Let us talk quickly about the open faced sandwich, and I am not talking about your local diner's hot roast beef with gravy. I am talking along the lines of the Scandinavian Smørrebrød, i.e. a small amount of topping (meat, eggs, fish, etc...) on a single, that's right, single slice of bread.

I don't know what it is, but I find that certain meats just taste better when delivered to your gullet in this manner. I think it is a matter of the increased surface area of the meat, making it more accessible to your palate during the whole mastication process. I find that Bauernschinken from Rolf's Pork Store is especially enjoyable in open face form. Bauernschinken is a form of German ham that, for reference, is something like a smokey prosciutto. Rolf's makes a very, very worthy version of this particular schinken.

A couple paper thin slices of meat and a piece of sturdy bread are all that is needed.

I have said it before on this blog, but I will say it again. I am no fan of the very American trend towards veritable meat piles on sandwiches a la Carnegie Deli or assorted others. If it you are enjoying a good quality cold cut, whatever it may be, a scant couple slices a sandwich should make. I had some sort of "Caprese" sub not too long ago from Cardona's on Deleware. It must have had 3/4" of straight prosciutto on it. In my opinion this is not very appetizing, prosciutto should be used sparingly. I find that no more than two slices of the Bauernschinken will do nicely for about a 1/2" slice of bread.

Now don't be afraid, throw that thumb right on top of the meat to hold it in place. A little meat grease never hurt anyone's thumb. I think you will find the flavor of the meat much more detectable than had you entombed it with another slice of bread. Seems simple, but often with food the simplest answers work. Meat sandwich - 1 slice bread = More delicious (for unknown and probably very scientific reasons).

Anyhow, go try some of the in-house made cold cuts at Rolf's, they are really very good. Here is their website-

Rolf's Pork Store


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Deep Fried Burger (Swifty's in Delmar)

So, I was down at Swifty's in Delmar the other day. I don't care what anyone says, I still miss Beff's. I am suspicious of the new decor and I have found that Swifty's hasn't quite matched the execution of the guilty pleasure type of food that Beff's (Swifty's used to be a Beff's location, if you didn't know) does so well. But Swifty's happens to be the only place that has outside seating and is within walking distance of my dwelling. So I must give credit where credit is due. It ain't a bad place to suck down a glass of beer.

Anyhow, I have eaten at Swifty's several times and kind of glanced over an item on the menu called the "Buffalo Burger" or something like that. I figured that it was your standard burger, maybe with some blue cheese and Frank's Red Hot. This particular time I read the description. Folks, this here is a 1/2 pound burger patty that has been battered, deep fried, and slathered in wing sauce. No joke.

Do you think even my wifes warnings that I would surely get heartburn from the thing would stop me from ordering? No, certainly not. I was a little shocked when the waitress asked me what temp. would I like my burger. For some reason I thought a deep fried burger would have to be fairly well done, but I threw caution to the wind and requested medium rare.

Here she is, a closeup.

Are you scared? I was a little. That sucker was like an inch and a half high! I poked the strange creature a little with my finger until my wife snapped that I was being weird. My initial thoughts were that I simply could not live at this speed, I was scared to bite into the thing. I decided for a cutting in half approach.

The actual burger was on the thick, juicy, and rare side. You all know that I am generally a fan of the thin, diner style burger a la Five Guys, as opposed to thick Juicy Burger type deals.

This creation was not necessarily bad, but I would have liked to see a little more spice (I ordered it hot) and maybe a little more "wing" sauce. I actually think this idea would benefit from a thinner burger, it would become kind of chicken fried steak-esque... only in burger form.

In any event, I admire Swifty's pluck. It takes some serious juevos to throw a deep fried burger on your menu.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meals That Define a Life

Really, when you get down to it, what is life? To me the main rub has always been; gather nourishment for yourself, have wee uns', nourish the wee uns'. Everything else, (culture, self enlightenment, blah, blah...) is all ancillary, a "side dish" if you will (I have been making bad puns all morning, you will have to excuse me). Food and eating is about as basic to life as you can get. So it seems to me that there will be meals in your life that obtain, through their placement during your stumbling journey down life's path, a certain significance.

Many, when asked, "what meal will you really always (and truly) remember?" will spout gobshite at you about some precious dish at The French Laundry in 2007, or maybe even a delicious papusa that they had to battle Salvadoran drug lords to obtain. They are probably lying, I bet you down in their hearts there is some remembered PB&J served just right my their mammies that means way more. Below I will list a couple of my own special meals in order.

3. The "Jimmy Dean" meal I was served as a scared and young (oh how young) Army private upon arriving at reception battalion in the middle of the night in a strange Southern state (Halloween eve no less!). If you don't know, a "Jimmy Dean" is a particular meal served by the Army in those times that don't quite require an MRE, but hot chow is not practical. Weirdly enough, they don't involve any sort of sausage product. I haven't reviewed one on this blog but you can go look at my MRE and Heater Meal reviews to get kind of an idea. I had no idea at the time how truly life changing that decision (joining the Army, not eating the Jimmy Dean) would be, I am still trying to sort out in my mind how deeply it has affected me...

2. A simple salad of herbs, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella that was served at my wedding after the absolutely ridiculous couple of hours of food preceding it. I remember thinking about how on this day of extreme emotions, chaos, and joy how comforting it was to have such a simple and delicious dish in front of me. As I am prone to assigning metaphors to almost anything I decided that this salad kind of represented my life's philosophy. My only real goal in life is to be a simple, and good man. I want no one to say, around the campfire, that Mr. Dave would not have ventured out to into the darkness to do battle with those things that go bump in the night to protect his kith and kin. This meal also makes me remember how lovely my wife looked in her dress.

1. The undisputed, most memorable food event in my life is pictured above. I must have known it was going to me forever etched in my brain, as I had the presence of mind to snap a photo. That right there is the first meal served to my wife after giving birth to my daughter. This was the first true family meal of our lives together. A simple affair of chicken, sweet potatoes, green beans, tea, soup, and milk, my still weak wife could not bear a bite. Always game for a meal, I happily munched through it whilst gazing at my wife and the wriggling munchkin who would become the mighty Giblet (now 16 months!).

Ahhhh, memories... What are yours? Tell me about your Madelines.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Four Corners Luncheonette (Delmar)

Went over to the Four Corners Luncheonette for a little breaky the other morn. This place is pretty much an institution among Delmar/Bethlehem folk (they celebrated their 30th anniversary with "Lunchapalooza" the other day), so as a recent immigrant to Delmar (from Guilderland), I felt the need to pay a visit. Going down for a meal has been on the back burner for several months because I am slightly agoraphobic, and this place gets packed during prime breakfast times. I ended up going on a Monday at about 10:30 and this seems to be about the perfect time to go if you don't want to be jostled or wait for a table.

The inside of the restaurant is homey and pleasant.

Me and the wife ordered fairly standard breakfasts. She had scrambled and bacon, and I had 4 poached with bacon. I attempted to get a picture of the poached eggs (if you have been reading you will know that egg poaching ability is my litmus test for a breakfast joint), but the glistening bastards reflected all of the light. You will just have to trust me on the fact that they were adequately poached.

The bacon and has hash browns were fairly run of the mill, but thoroughly satisfying.

I happened to notice that the wive's scrambled eggs were a shockingly vibrant shade of yellow. Didn't want to be all weird and ask the waitress where Four Corners gets their eggs, but I have a feeling they are of quality production.

I was inducted into the clean plate club at this breakfast and the usually peckish wife made a fair dent in her meal. I would definitely make a return visit, as there was some crazy breakfast club sandwich thing on the menu that I would like to try. It also looks like the place does a decent lunch/dinner besides breakfast. They even advertise some New York wines.

I really enjoyed the Four Corners Luncheonette, the food was solid and it was just an overall pleasant experience. I get a kick out of homey touches and personal kindness and you get plenty of this here. I especially liked the bean can flowers I spotted on the way out.

That is all, just another review of a quality and independent local business. Bless them with your patronage yon readers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grandma Brown's Baked Beans

Ever seen these old timey' yellow cans of Grandma Brown's Home Baked Beans at the store? They come in a couple of sizes, one of them being a gigantic, triumphant, "family size" can. I always pass by them and chuckle at the attractive ugliness of the label design.

Did you know that these bad boys are an Upstate New York product, straight out of scenic Mexico, New York (kind of by Oswego)? I have actually been to Mexico, it's god's country there.

I am a big bean fan (read my recent porky recipe here), but I find it fairly simple to make my own. I rarely find the need to buy a canned product, but when convenience calls I go for Grandma Brown's. Reading the list of ingredients you will find no chemicals/additives/preservatives. As you know, simplicity is my watchword and water, navy beans, brown sugar, salt, bacon and baking soda are all that's in the can.

These are wonderful baked beans, simple and tasty. On their own the beans are great as a side dish, but many people also use them as a starting point for whatever strange and wonderful bean recipes that have been passed down through the generations. I don't like to futz with them too much. My favorite is to thinly slice in some regular ol' hot dogs (Stewart's Deli Dogs in this case) to make a mess of what I have always referred to as Beanies and Weenies.

Into the oven for a few and you are all set. This kind of goes into the what do you eat that is kind of gross and you are a little ashamed of category of foods that I like. I also have been know to get a can of the bean soup with bacon-

and eat it cold with tortilla chips as a bean dip of sorts.

Anyhow, Grandma Brown's products are good, wholesome, and from small town New York. So eschew the Bush's and Campbell's and pick up that ugly yellow and brown can of Grandma's beans for your memorial day cookout (Price Chopper and the Delmar Marketplace have them). If you are an outlander than you can get them off of the wonderful Taste of CNY (Central New York) website that I discovered.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tastee Freez Chili Dog

I was down at Jim's Tastee Freez in Delmar getting my young one a junior cone (twist, rainbow jimmes) the other evening. As promised in my last Tastee Freez post, I decided to sample one of their Chili Dogs (I heard they were good). Here it is, a plain dog with chili-

The chili appeared a little thicker/pastier than I am accustomed to, kind of like if you get the tail end of the chili from the Chili Cauldron at Stewart's and most of the moisture has evaporated. I was undeterred and took a hearty bite.

This is a decent dog, the chili was a little over salted and under spiced, but not bad. One major departure from the tenants of my hot dog philosophy by Tastee Freez is that they toasted the bun, as opposed to my preference for a steamed bun. No matter, different strokes for different folks. It takes all kinds, it takes all kinds.

(For unending posts that involve me blathering about hot dogs, click here)

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