Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hoffman's Playland, Dairy Freeze Mini Dogs, The Hate Coaster of Pain, and Other Things

This post is mostly intended as a nostalgia fest for those lucky 'uns who have been reared in the greater Capial Region environs. I don't believe outlanders will ever truly be able to comprehend to what depths memories of Hoffman's Playland have sunk into our murky souls. Hoffman's was the local destination for fun when your parents really didn't feel like putting in the drive time or plunking down the entrance fee for Great Escape (Storyland, double nostalgia booyah for your face! Suck it Six Flags, you ruin everything.)

If you don't know, Hoffman's is a small (2 acres prob.) "amusement park" of sorts located in Latham. There is no entrance fee, you just buy yourself a fist full of tickets and you are good to go.

The wife and I were out in that direction, so we decided to bring the ever growing Giblet to the Playland to stroll about a bit. Hoffman's has a standard smattering of small, county fair type rides mostly oriented towards your 3 to 6 crowd so the Gibble-meister is a little young. But I think I mostly wanted to go to revel in the past a little anyhow. So, here are some observations (of both the park and some nearby hotdogs).

Being adventurous from a young age, I was always a Scrambler man.

Now I will give it to Hoffman's, I have there many good memories of time shared with me sister and Ma'. The place might as well have been Disney World for all I knew at the time. But there was one attraction that left me shivering in fear. Of course, if you ever visited as a child you will know of what I am speaking.

I speak of the "Roller Coaster," it doesn't even have a name! Its fearsome reputation precedes it making flashy names unnecessary. I prefer to refer to this instrument of torture as the Pain Coaster, Hate Coaster, or the Multiple Blows to your Developing Kidneys Coaster. This "ride" was a minute or two of pure, bowel jarring pain accompanied by horrifying sounds of the the creaky construction and screams of other children. I probably haven't been to Hoffman's in 20 years and I didn't ask anybody, but the coaster looked the same as always to me. It was like meeting an old nemesis, I nodded with respect but pulled by daughter close while walking by (she will never ride the old bastard while my blood is warm).

Anyhow, *shudder*, moving on. They opened a Bettie's Cakes next to the Subway at Hoffman's.

It looks like very much like the Saratoga Location, but I fear that the precious cakes might not fair well with the Hoffman's set. We shall see.

Aside from Giblet momentarily fearing being eaten by Humpty Dumpty (with his big creepy upper lip),

we really had a very good bit of family fun. I keep getting all philosophical about young Giblet occupying the same places in space as I did as a child, but that is a discussion for some future rainy day. Anyhow, on to the hot dog oriented blathering. We worked up quite the appetite and decided to mosey over to the adjacent Dairy Freeze for some hot dogs.

Dairy Freeze is your fairly standard (for the area) hot dog/burgers/ice cream/shakes type joint a la Tastee Freeze or Kurver Kreme.

I saw that they had our famous Capital Region mini-dogs and, of course, was honor bound to partake. I got 3 mini dogs with meat sauce and the Missus got 1 "regular" dog. I put regular in quotes as we came to find out that the hot dog meter at Dairy Freeze has two settings, mini and jumbo.

I couldn't figure out the provenance of the mini dogs utilized by Dairy Freeze, they could be Helmbold's, I am not sure.

The little guys came in cut in half normal sized hot dog buns which made me laugh because I just wrote my last post on the availability of mini hot dog buns.

I was not a fan of the meat sauce, it needed a little zip or zest or some other nonsensical food adjective. The Dairy Freeze sauce is a fairly nondescript affair of ground beef and onions simmered in a thin broth. No tomatos which is good, but not enough spice for my tastes. As you know, I am a bonafide Hot Dog Charlie's sauce man myself. But after a few hours at Hoffman's with my beloved little maniac three of these guys more than hit the spot.

As for the wife's selection, I had to make a couple crude and obvious jokes about her wurst before taking pity on her little pregnant heart. I chopped the thing in half lengthwise so that it was a little easier for her to handle. I ate the other half like a boss.

I will say that they Dairy Freeze does a mighty fine chocolate milk shake and the small size is nigh large enough to choke a donkey.

All in all I heartily recommend that everyone who as never been (young 'uns or not) should make a pilgrimage to Latham and visit old Hoffman's, it is a veritable institution in this nook of Upstate America.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Capital Region Style Hot Dog Sized Buns!

I picked these up over at the Hannaford's on Deleware this afternoon. Rejoice local hot dog consumers! No longer shall you have to cut Freihofer's buns in half when you partake in a diminutive dog (here is one of many posts I have penned on the subject).

If you don't know, here in the Capital Region of NY we take our dogs about 3" long with meat sauce, mustard, and onions. Famous Lunch and Charlie's are two local institutions who are pioneers on this front, I won't get too much into the lore of the dinky dog right now. For home consumption the requisite small dogs have been available at Rolf's Pork Store and are distributed by Helmbold's to many local grocers. They look like this.

Or from Rolf's, like this.

So anyhow, finding the dogs, no problem. Finding the proper buns was always sort of a hassel. Until now!

These buns are "distributed" by Helmbold's, I am assuming they are actually produced by one local baker or another. My hypothesis is that they are the same buns utilized by Famous Lunch, but I could be wrong. They are of the denser crumbed, more substantial type of hot dog bun that Famous lunch favors as opposed to the pillowy softness of a Charlie's bun (or a Freihofer's for that matter). They kind of remind me of a miniature hoagie roll to tell you the truth.

As with Famous', these guys have cornmeal on the bottom.

Kudos to Helmbold's (Old World Provision) for filling this gaping hole in my life. I bought two giant sacks and froze a bunch. I think the price was 3.88$ for about 20 rolls. As of now I have only seen them at Hannaford's which I generally never go to. I haven't been to P-Chopistan in a week, I will let you know if I see them there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Gallery of Stewart's Signage

If there ever has ever been an institution that more thoroughly exemplifies all that is good and weird about Upstate America (I have stolen this term from CapCon, I think), then it is Stewart's Shops. I just threw together a few pictures of signs that I have spied in the past couple of years. Why? Because they make me laugh because they are so humorous in that earnest, honest and unintended way that only Stewart's can pull off.

I had to resist the urge to ask a maroon clad Sultan of Shakes or Duke of Deli dogs to moo for me. That might have been a bit rude.

So stop your bitchin'!

Fresh and ready! With the freshest, weird, circle bacon that money can buy!

Notice that you can store your milk card right next to the condoms.

"75% larger than McDonald's." They called in fish sandwich experts from NASA to do the calculations. By the way, I was once contacted by Stewart's in regards to testing their new fishy delight. I politely declined, and by politely declined I mean that I didn't answer the emails.

"Fixin's"? There should be no apostrophe, but I forgive them their grammar. I picture eating hot dogs with a guy named Fixin.

Booyah other brands of milk! You can suck it.

Every shopette should have a magical, ever-growing water snake named Kyle.

I was actually impressed with this coup. Other ice cream brands, you can suck it too!

Anyhow, go to Stewart's and basque in all of the maroon glory and buy some deli dogs. It is good for the soul.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

3 Chlli Peppers? That Don't Scare Me None.

After a fairly long interlude between visits, I finally got over to Ala Shanghai in Latham this afternoon for lunch. I noticed that the menu looked different and seemed to have a few new items, so I decided to veer from my usual favorites (MaPo Tofu and a couple others) and try something new.

If I remember correctly the old menu had a simple "spicy or not spicy" system, but now we have a more in depth 3 chili pepper scale. Can you guess how I made my decision as to what to order? That is right folks, I flipped through the menu until I found one of the (very few) 3 chili pepper items and ordered that.

The dish in question was "Sliced Beef in Spicy Broth" (the description goes- sliced beef with chinese cabbage and vermicelli in Szechuan style chili broth). When I ordered this the thoughtful waiter informed me that this dish, was in fact, quite spicy. I read between the lines and got the "too spicy for your American taste buds" message, but decided to persevere. I have come to expect and enjoy these little warnings. Other warnings have included: a reminder that the spicy jumbo shrimp still have their heads on, that I should not order a noodle and a rice dish at once, and on one occasion the waiter even flat out told a few friends and I that we had ordered too much food. All very endearing.

Anyhow, what arrived was the above pictured steaming bowl of fiery red goodness. Just look at the angry color of the thing, all glisten-y with fiery oil and be-speckled with chilis. The dish was composed of a hearty pile of rice vermicelli with Napa cabbage and a generous heap of sliced beef, all floating in a delicious, spicy broth. Very spicy, but not painfully so (I have a pretty high tolerance for spicy pain). This dish will definitely go into my Ala Shanghai rotation and was thoroughly enjoyable.

Eating the lion's share of the giant bowl of fiery meat and noodles, along with consuming an entire order of bok choy and mushrooms all by myself threw me into a rare 2 hour food nap when I got home. You know, everyone makes much of Ala Shanghai, and I think the reputation is deserved. I have never been disappointed after a meal there and the place is quickly becoming one of my favorite casual restaurants. Go to Ala Shanghai so they may prosper (and so I can continue to gorge myself for years to come).
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