Friday, August 19, 2011

Oatmeal Machine, Part 2

So if you read yesterday's post, you will know that I encountered an Oatmeal Machine and vowed to sample its excreta. This morning I made good on my promise.

I was thoroughly disappointed by the "Oatmeal Station's" process and product. I kind of expected the apparatus to dispense a stream of thick, steamy, and fully formed oatmeal. However, when you press the button the thing starts wheezing out a meager looking putter of dried oatmeal powder parallel to a stream of hot water. So in effect, the only step in the instant oatmeal process that this dispenser removes is the ripping open of the packet and pouring it into the cup. Other than that it is really just a big hot water dispenser. The ratio of hot water to desiccated oatmeal dust was way off as well, I ended up with a very sweet oatmeal soup of sorts. I chose "maple" flavor so the taste was of the expected over-sweet, Aunt Jemima syrup variety.

Slightly amusing was the weird oatmeal "toppings bar." There were canisters of granola, brown sugar, raisins, and cinnamon available for the sprinkling. I kind of want to meet the marketing guy who had the idea of creating some sort of pseudo-ice cream sundae experience out of humble oatmeal. It is just all around strange. I don't even recommend giving this stuff a shot for the novelty factor, it is just plain lame. Oatmeal machine, you are a disappointment.


A gentleman from twitter (iowntheskies) did some gas station covert ops on my behalf and got a picture of the guts of an Oatmeal Station. Huzzah for iowntheskies!

Vote for Kyle Kotary

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Oatmeal Machine: A Thing of Nightmares, or Dreams?

We truly live in the time of machines. I found "The Oatmeal Station" at the Hess Mart at the bottom of the hill in Troy (by Hudson Valley, you know...). Is oatmeal a foodstuff that I want dispensed from a machine? I am perfectly comfortable with a cheese dispenser, even chili dispensers don't phase me much, but oatmeal? I just don't know if I can live at that speed.

Anyhow, I only managed to spy this marvel of gas station cuisine (if you have been reading for a while, then you will know I am a fan of le cuisine du petrol) after I had paid for my soda and was nigh out the door. So I kind of would have felt like a big tool going back to the register with a steaming cup of machine-meal.

But tomorrow, oh yes, tomorrow morning I shall have my prize. I am going to let a torrent of sweet, lumpy magma shoot forth from the "Oatmeal Station's" spigot into the biggest vessel they have available. I will surely let you know if the product is an ambrosia like marvel of modern technology, or a disappointing failure. Is it weird that I hope the stuff is good? Also, would it be rude to ask if the gas station attendant might be troubled to take the cover off so that I can have a looksey at the device's innards?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dispatches from Abroad, Part 3: The Fat of the Land

As you know, I have been typing up my dispatches from strange lands lately (part 1, part 2), this should be the last one for a while. I was down in Georgia for a quick day or two and didn't really get to sample to much of the local flavor (although I did get to do Waffle House). However, I did make it a point to get over to a gas station to pick up some examples of indigenous snacks. I find that you can often scare up a little local flair of the processed kind at the local fill 'er up.

Pictured above we have "Tom's Pork Cracklin Strips: Fried out pork fat with attached skin," some "Old Time Fat Back Skins: Like Mama's pan fried," and a sack of "Deep Fried Peanuts: So good you can eat'em SHELL-N-ALL!" In Georgia, they do not futz about when it comes to snacks. Besides a couple brands of pork rinds, you don't really find too many people in Upstate America snacking on crisp, rendered pork fat and skin, now do you?

To tell you the troof, I was not really a fan of the Tom's brand as they were a bit crisp (you would need metal teeth to consume). On the other hand, the fat back skins were down right heavenly. A deep, porky saltiness with a surprisingly light crispness. Every now and then you would even catch a bit of unctuousness among the crispness where a bit of the fried fat back had become rehydrated with its own grease.

Georgians are also very wise in the way of the peanut. Simply roasting and salting are not sufficient cooking methods for our southern brothers. You can find fried peanuts, and my favorite - boiled peanuts. The fried ones are pretty good, you can either shell them or simply pop the thinner skinned ones in your mouth whole. But the real star of the peanut show is the boiled goobers.

Boiled peanuts are pretty ubiquitous at Georgia gas stations. You find them simmering away in crock pots and you scoop them into little styrofoam cups with a slotted spoon. You usually get a little brown paper bag for the shells, this is one of those details that I like. You crack open a soggy shell and you are greeted by a peanut that has absorbed the salty cooking liquid and has become soft and delicious, like a little pellet of fresh peanut butter. A mess of these with a beer or a coke and it just doesn't get much better.

Anyhow, I regretted not exploring a little more of Georgia than I did. Perhaps next time.

Vote For Kyle Kotary, fellow Bethlehemians!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Taylor Ham Seems To Be Making Inroads Into Our Territory

I have been spying more and more Pork Roll in our local grocers as of late. I even managed to pick up some actual Taylor Ham at the Slingerlands Price Chopper yesterday. It is always interesting to me when the boundary of a regional food product gains territory so I thought that I would note this here.

If you don't know, Taylor Ham is a processed pork item most commonly used in the making of a Jersey Breakfast (pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bread product). While not unheard of this far north in New York, Taylor ham is not a standard here as it is in parts of Jersey and the lower reaches of the Empire State.

The Taylor brand hails from Trenton, NJ and I happened to pass through that troubled city not too long ago. I snapped a picture of their (sort of) famous bridge which proudly proclaims "Trenton Makes The World Takes" in homage to the cities past glory as a manufacturing center.

Anyhow, read the wiki as it is pretty interesting. A form of pork roll (i.e. chopped ham formed and sliced) seems to have existed as far back as the Battle of Trenton (Revolutionary War), and in its present state for over a hundred years. That is some history for a fairly unassuming pork product. I think pork roll will be a welcome addition as a meat selection in the pantheon of egg n' cheese sandwiches available in the Capital Region.

I will probably whip up a couple of Taylor Ham sarnies for breakfast tomorrow, they are kind of fun to make. You have to put snips in the edges of the pork roll slices so they dont get all curly. Some people call the resulting shape "Pac-Man Bacon" which is unspeakably awesome.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Waffle House

I was down south of the Mason Dixon this morning (more on that later) and I was happy to find that there was a Waffle House next to my hotel. I know that this blog has kind of been "The Ridiculous Food Society of Anywhere Except Upstate New York" lately, but my travel schedule should ease after the summer and I can get back on topic. But anyway, I made an early morning (very early morning) trip to the "WH" prior to the my flight back to Albany. I am not a huge "breakfast" food fan except for poached/soft boiled/otherwise runny eggs, but I always make a point to go to Waffle House when it is in my vicinity because I find the place very amusing.

I was a little surprised that at just a tic past 5 AM the place was fairly packed, but people do love Waffle House I guess... Having a slight case of early morning indigestion I decided to go fairly light and bland with my order. I got two eggs over easy, one of the house's eponymous waffles, and some hash browns.

The hashbrowns are kind of one of Waffle House's things and usually my favorite part of the experience. I like "all the way" except for mushrooms as I find the texture of mushrooms odd with hashbrowns. Today, my gullet was not up to chili and jalapenos and I did not think it particularly fair to inflict the resulting rumbling of my GI tract on my fellow air travelers. I went with covered and smothered (onions and cheese) instead.

I really don't like waffles much, but since I was in their "House," I went ahead and got one.

Say what you want, the waffles have a certain appeal with their strange ultra-buttery flavor. That being said, one serving every couple years is enough for me. I almost stole the "Case De Waffles" picante sauce as a relic from my adventure, but then I thought that might be a very stupid thing to get arrested for in Georgia.

I found evidence of vegetable matter being offered by Waffle House and it made me laugh. You could have covered this picture of a salad with a dime. It is as if they don't want you to be distracted from the meat, fat, and starch that prevails on the rest of the menu.

I was amused by the "Meat Lovers" versions of some protein/egg combos.

3 grilled chicken breasts and eggs for breakfast? Unless you are a weight lifter that is enough protein to throw you into ketosis. Plus it is kind of sick to eat two life stages of poultry at the same time. I kind of regret not ordering the "Uncle Joe's" pork chop offering, because I was curious as to the portion size of the meat. Perhaps next time.

I have a few more musings on my Georgia trip, but I am too lazy to type them right now. Perhaps tomorrow, don't know. Don't know if I will have enough time. It is going to be a nice little Saturday (see what I did there, I am being Will Ferrell).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shake Shack at the Track

I finally got to the Shake Shack up at the Track (Saratoga) the other day. I avoid NYC like the plague, so I have never actually had a Shack Burger before. People make much of the place (it has a Shack Cam to monitor the line at one of the NYC locations) and it supposedly has a burger mystique a la In and Out burger or any of the other usual suspects from the line up of storied burger chains. I am always a little suspicious of people's claims about the ethereal quality of some joint's burgers (except White Castle because those claims are actually true), so I didn't build up too much anticipation.

My compatriots and I ordered up a bunch of "Shack Burgers" and some fries. It was very, very hot on that day so I decided to not dump a milk based beverage down my already alcohol soaked gullet. Trying one of their shakes will have to wait for another occasion. The burgers are about 5 bucks, I can't remember (reference previous comment regarding alcohol consumption). They come in wax paper which I like. I have a thing for wax paper, ask the wife. If I am making her a sandwich for work or something, then it is getting wrapped in wax paper (Saran Wrap be damned, I hate you).

The Shack burgers are comprised of a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, and "Shack Sauce."

Not bad, not bad. The bun was OK I think, nothing stands out in my booze addled memory so it couldn't have been especially spectacular. The lettuce was fresh and the thick sliced tomato was nice. I kind of liked the Shack Sauce too. It was a fairly thin, Mayo based concoction with a hint of sour and a bit of a spicy kick. It definitely wasn't just lame Thousand Island dressing. I am thinking mayo with vinegar (maybe lemon juice) and some cayenne, would have to research it more.

The burger patty itself stood out the most, as well it should I guess. The thing had an absolutely wonderful crusty sort of texture. The patty was almost crispy, a perfect example of a griddle burger. Burgers are a textural experience in my mind, and this one was fairly harmonious. Thoroughly enjoyable. I would not wait in line for hours for one, but there isn't really much in this world that I would wait in line for (except maybe if I was asked to by Giblet or Mrs. Dave) so I wouldn't view this as disparaging towards the Shack product. These are very good burgers, on par or maybe a bit better then a Five Guys.

Also of note is that Shake Shack serves crinkle cut french fries. I am somewhat of a crinkle cut french fry maniac so I was pleased to discover this. Here is a specimen.

I was not overly impressed with the fries. My Platonic ideal of an order of crinkle cut french fries comes from Jack's Diner on Central, in a grease speckled paper bag (to go), circa 1988, with my Dad. Those bad boys used to be something to behold, a miracle of crispness mixed with a pleasing, greasy sogginess. Shake Shack's fries cannot compare. They were almost too crispy if that makes any sense, a little fake-y if you will. I heard no complaints from the rest of rowdy crew, so they weren't necessarily bad. I am just being picky.

So yeah, verdict is that Shake Shack is pretty good. Not really destination food in my book, but if I am in the neighborhood and the line is short, then I am probably going to get a Shack Burger. Mrs. Dave really liked them too and she is a pretty tough customer.

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