Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Fascination With Gas Station Hot Dog Roller Cuisine Continues

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.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Rare Occasion to Celebrate Cheese Balls.

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.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Utica Grind

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.
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