Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Enchirito? Do we have Enchirito?


"Enchirito? Do we have Enchirito?" Was the confused response to my order from the poor, young Taco Bell lass at the food court (Crossgates Mall). Apparently this is not a menu item that is ordered too often anymore. You see, I like to stick with the classics. My standard order at Taco Bell is an Enchirito and a side of Pintos with Cheese.

The often ignored Enchirito is one of the only things left on the Bell menu that I think is worthy of being consumed these days. TB, you can keep all of your oddly colored Volcano Sauces and Dorito taco shells, thank you very much. It is one of the classic menu items on which the Taco Bell dynasty was born. I recommend that you give it a try some time. It is your standard liqui-beef, onion, flour tortilla, "red sauce," and cheese combination that you would expect, but you get to eat it with a Spork.

Regretfully, as I push forward into my 30s I have been only rarely eating at Taco Bell. My gullet just does not have the fortitude to digest the stuff any more than a couple of times a year. Frankly, I don't know how I consumed as much of the stuff as I did in my late teens and early twenties. The now forgotten Chili Cheese Burrito was virtually a staple of my diet back in the day, don't know why they took it off the menu. It wasn't any grosser than anything else that the Bell peddles. Luckily I found a recipe to recreate the Chili Cheese of my youth, I will have to try this some time.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grandma Brown's Baked Bean Uber-Can


Oh you know you have seen it at your local grocers... That big, beautiful, brown and yellow can with the white haired dame looking at you from among the other, less impressive examples of canned beans. Here we have a 7 pound, 4 ounce can of Grandma Brown's Home Baked Beans. If you don't know about these endearing beans, you can read all about them in my post on the subject.

Anyhow, I firmly believe that the Grandma Brown's can label should be put into some sort of Advertising museum, it is a true classic.



Not too long ago, and after years of purchasing your work-a-day normal sized cans of Grandma B's products, I decided that my life needed 7 pounds 4 ounces of beans in it. I have had this strange urge to just see how it felt to open a baked bean can of this magnitude. An urge not unlike the urge to pop a big ol' zit I suppose. I ain't gonna lie, it was pretty satisfying to crack open this bad boy. Not sure why...


Just look at that glisten-y bean fluid on the top of the can! Look at that giant mass of tasty beans! Hosanna! I didn't get a picture, but I jiggled the can into my giant pot just right and for a moment there was a giant, free standing bean monolith. Truly something to behold.

Anyways, as I mentioned in my other post, Grandma Brown's baked beans are good in their own right (albeit a little bland), but benefit from the addition of a little something extra. I usually go with some sort of crispy, salted/smoked pork and a crap ton of hot sauce.

The point of this post is for you, lucky reader, to get some sort of weird, vicarious jollies out of the experience of opening the Uber Bean Can. Or maybe the purpose is for you to inform me that this particular fixation is strange and that I should, mayhaps, have kept it to myself.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where to Drink Whilst Your Manly Heir is Being Borned: Part 3, Allen Street Pub



There are only a couple options for raising a glass of good ol' oat soda to your newborn minion within walking distance of St. Peter's Hospital. You have Andy's Sports Bar (across New Scotland) which is not really my cup of chai, and then you have the Allen Street Pub. Ask any of the Albany born about the place and you will hear allusions to Mccaffrey's (which used to occupy the location) and how they used to drink there when they were in high school.

Anyhow, the Allen Street Pub seemed to be a bit more my speed so a couple days after my spawn arrived (my wife was in St. P's for 4 nights) I ambled over with a few old friends to have a couple. The Allen is a smallish bar that possesses that wonderful, unintentional Kitsch so common in many old timey Albany institutions (Miss Albany, Palais Royal, etc...). The first thing I noticed upon bellying up to the bar was an inexplicable, lonely can of spam. You can just make it out in the below picture. A late night snack for a hungry bartender I guess.


There is also this sign which is unspeakably awesome. Where have the days of salty, pungent, fatty, pickled bar snacks gone? Bring them back please. I want a liverwurst sarny with my nooner thank you very much. Last time I was at the Palais (several years ago) they still had pickled eggs and sausage, thank god we still have that.


After quaffing a couple 4 dollar Guinnesses, my friend dared me to drink up a squat little bottle of Mickey's finest (malt likker). I can not turn down any request on the occasion of the birth of my sun, so I obliged.


On my way back to the hospital I spied a lonely afro pick in the middle of the side walk. O' Albany, how I love thee in all of your resplendent glory. What corner of the world would I choose if it were not for you?


I will probably have a little more to say about the momentous birth of my manly heir in the coming days, but the whole thing is still sinking in. I was born in St. Peter's for god's sake! My son, who shares my name, was probably born within a couple hundred feet of where I was born too (not to mention my Dad and his Dad who were born in Albany hospitals as well). Now I am drinking Guinness up the way while he wriggles in his crib at the hospital...

Such is life I guess, hopefully I am up to the momentous task of turning a wriggling, pink, munchkin into a right and proper Upstate American gent. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where to Eat Whilst Your Manly Heir is Being Borned: Part 2, Just Eat Your Wife's Hospital Food



I have a thing for institutional food, don't know why. I always got a kick out of AirlineMeals.Net and I once actually tracked down the USDA recipe for school lunch Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (you can browse this and others here) as it was always one of my favorites. So I felt a little guilty that I was kind of looking forward to arrival of those paper doily-ed, plastic tray-ed, meals that would be arriving during my wife's stay at St. Peters.

You might have read my "Meals that Define a Life Post" concerning the first bread broken by my wife, Giblet (my darling daughter), and I. That time the hospital meal showed up about an hour after we had left the recovery room. It made us laugh as food was the last thing on my wife's mind at that moment, I took it as an omen and made a point of eating the lion's share of it. This time meals began arriving a sensible time after the coming of Mr. Dave Jr.

This is more of a pictorial review as I find some sort of strange beauty in your work-a-day institutional meal. There is an od zen, everything in its own place and portion. Most of the food is fairly straight forward anyhow, nothing really surprising. I feel that looking at the pictures you can probably imagine what they would have tasted like.

As an aside, much cajoling would not induce my wife to eat much of anything. She is notoriously picky anyways, and she was afflicted by a bit of post-partum nausea. I got her tea and soup from various provisioners over the course of her stay at St. Peter's.

I will hit the high notes (there weren't that many) but will primarily be rating the meals on how bad they made the room stink (on a scale of one to five) as this was what my wife squalled about the most. It was pretty funny watching her nose purse up by varying degrees according to the contents of the tray.

1) (at the top) Ham with scalloped tatties, mixed veg, pound cake wit' berries, tea, chicky soup. Scalloped tatties unbearably bland, drank the tea, Giblet really liked the berries. Room Stinky-ness Factor: 2.5


2) (above) Baked chicken, pasta "primavera" (I guess), broccoli, wee salad, ginger beer, vanilla ice cream cup. Yum, ice cream cup.... Liked the Italian dressing in the ketchup packet thingy, pasta primavera gook had that weird canned vegetable water taste. Room Reek Factor: 5+ (broccoli tips the scale)


3) Hot cakes, scrambly eggs, grits, fruit cup, coffee/milk/juice (3 bevies? I can't live at that spead). The hot cakes had a surprising bit of crusty goodness to them but the grits were an insult to the word grits (I love grits). Room Stench: 1.5 (eggs had a bit of stink, not bad all together)



4) Grilled cheese, mashed tatties, fruit cup, tomato soup, ginger beer. How can you go wrong with grilled cheese and tomato soup? By adding mashed potatoes with gravy, that's how (unnecessary).  Room Odor: 0 (pleased the Missus)


5) Baked chick., corms, mashed taters (chicken gravy), vanilla pudding (!), chicken soup, ginger beer. Three forms of chicken (meat, gravy, soup)... However, vanilla pudding!!! Weee!!! Room Stink: 2 (strange canned soup smell)


6) Chicken Ceasar salad, appy sauce, chicken soup, ginger beer. Passable salad, dressing was pretty good but chicken was a lil' bit slimy. Chicken soup same as previous incarnations, starting to think that the hospital has an alliance with the chicken rackets. El Stencho: 2 (as previous, soup stank)



7) Beef stew, biscuit, wee salad, fruit cocktail, tea. Beef stew not bad in a comforting sort of way. Tea, as always, lifts the soul in any form. Reek Rating: 5++ (beef stew? I checked my daughters dappy)



8) Pain perdu, orange slice, oatmeal, fruit, beverage trio. French toast not bad actually. Oatmeal strangely thin, as if put through a blender. Room Stink: Nil (neutral)


So that is that, I think I missed a couple of meals but you get the gist. Overall, I have had much worse when it comes to this genre of food. The commissary staff at St. Peter's are unimpeachably attentive and friendly and will pretty much prepare anything you want within their understandable limitations. We did not make any special requests as the wife and I knew that she would not be consuming much of the offerings. We abhor wasting food, but the hospital (by policy) insisted on bringing us the meals. This is said lest you think that I was stealing food out of the mouth of a lady who recently gave birth...

Anyhow, a couple more posts in this series I think. I found an interesting watering hole, and I have a few other thoughts...

By the way, did anyone notice that the weather was near perfect around 4:00 PM today (in Bethlehem)? I was pushing Giblet in her stroller and it could not have been more beautiful of a day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Where to Eat Whilst Your Manly Heir is Being Borned: Part 1, Anton's


So, you are at St. Peter's Hospital on New Scotland in Albany awaiting the birth of your first masculine child and you don't want to eat at the weird pseudo-chain restaurants (one of the places folds lil' pizzas in half like pitas and is called "Pandini's" which reminded me of "pandemic") in the "food court." What do you do? Well, wonder a little less as your friendly neighborhood Mr. Dave has answers in this new series of posts (who doesn't love when I do series of posts?).


The first place I tried (the very night that Mr. Dave Jr. got borned) was Anton's "The Upstate Gyro King" which I had never even heard, this is strange because I drive down New Scotland fairly often. That and you figure that the Kind of Upstate Gyro's would have sent an emissary or ambassador to the Court of Mr. Dave seeing as he is setting up in my dominions.

Anyhow, Anton's is directly in front of St. Peter's. If you don't know, getting to your car and getting off the hospital grounds takes about 20 minutes so walking is key if you want a hasty bite to eat. Conveniently, there is a row of your usual suspects of the takeout genre right there on New Scotland. We have pizza, Chinese, booze, and Greek right in a neat row.

I decided to give Anton's a whirl, and lo was I excited when I spotted mini-hot dogs on the menu! Anton's calls them "Pop's Pups" and they are a buck each with the works (11.99$ for a bakers dozen). I was a little skeptical at first, as non-hot dog purposed restaurants (i.e. places not like Famous Lunch of Charlie's) tend to throw mini dogs on the menu as an afterthought and they often suck pretty hard. But I threw caution to the wind and ordered three.



I was a little perplexed by the cut of the onion at first, I thought it was sauerkraut but quickly discovered that Anton's makes a slight break with Capital Region Style hot dog tradition and puts the onions on top of the mustard/meat sauce. Taking a bite I was immediately impressed (and in the hot dog category, it is not easy to move me to praise). At Anton's we have a warm, soft, and extremely fresh bun transporting a thin, natural casing mini-dog (Helmbold's would be my guess, not sure). Your nasal cavity is immediately filled with the cinnamon scented hallmark of the Greek influenced hot dog sauce that we have been blessed with around these parts. There is an aggressive amount of brown mustard (another slight break with tradition, yellow is the norm.) in the Pop's Pups, but it worked for me.



In the above picture note the fairly large cut of the raw onion, the brown mustard, and the thick-ish meat sauce. I am going to go ahead and say it, Anton's is a dark horse contender for being some of my favorite mini-dogs in the area. Did you hear that right? I feel all revolutionary even talking about someone besides Charlie's, Famous, and Gus' in this conversation but I have to give credit where credit is due. These are some solid and harmonious dinky dogs with the works. If you share my passion for this local delicacy, you should probably give these a try (whether you are spawning in the hospital or not). There I said it.

Needing a little roughage after the hot dogs, I also got a Greek salad (but with gyro meat on top, lest you think I have lost my meat lust). The Greek salad was very good as well. Greens were fresh, plentiful feta, pepperoncini, lil' tomaters, cucumbers, all the other necessary components. The gyro meat is shaved off of one of those big formed gyro slabs that you may have seen. I could take or leave this stuff but as they are the "Upstate Gyro King" I felt obliged to try it. At least it wasn't those weird, pre-formed and frozen, "gyro strips" that I have been seeing around. I got the grilled chicken on it the next night, and that was fairly bad ass.


Anyhow, like I said I was very pleasantly surprised by the mini-dogs at Anton's and I heartily recommend sampling them should you be in that particular neck of the woods. It seemed a fitting way to welcome wee Mr. Dave Jr. into the world by eating hot dogs in honor of him. In my head were visions of futuretoddler Mr. Dave Jr. happily bouncing on my knee, pretty Giblet across the table (read the food musings I wrote about her birth here), Mrs. Dave fretting about dripping mustard and meat sauce while we all munch away on little hot dogs. The circle of hot dog life continues.

Isn't it a beautiful world we all get to live in? Isn't it?

Next up in the series: Actual Hospital food, Local Watering Hole, and who knows what else...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Usinger's PBR Salami. Hipsters Would Be All Over This, But They Probably Never Heard Of it...


I rambled across a post about beer bottle shaped, Pabst Blue Ribbon labeled salami on the internets the other week. Well, internets why don't you just take my money? Within 15 minutes I had researched the origin of the PBR salami and had one on its merry way to my home. As it turns out this particular fortuitously shaped sausage is produced by Usinger's out of Milwaukee, WI. Usinger's is a venerable house of sausage that has been on my radar for a while, so I took the PBR salami thing as a good excuse to sample some of their wares. Tickled pink I was when today this showed up on my doorstep.


I ended up ordering the "Brewmaster's Dream" off of the Usinger's online store, it was about 35 bucks shipped. Emblazoned on the box were two of my favorite words of the English language, "Perishable Meats."


Usinger's also happens to have one of the best company mascots of all time. Here we have "Fritzie" lord of the sausage making elves.


The package that I purchased included a couple of packs of hickory sticks, 2 blocks of your run of the mill processed cheese, some crackers, some Beer Nuts, a cunning little sausage knife, and the pièce de résistance, 1 PBR bottle shaped beef salami.


Now before people (hipsters) started ironically drinking PBR, PBR was a very un-ironic member of the American Lagar (like our own Upstate Utica Club, and Genesee about which I have wasted much breath) family produced (like Usinger's products) in Milwaukee. The PBR salami is most definitely not trying to capitalize on the current fad, and that is why I find it endearing. What better center/conversation piece for your savory cracker platter? I unabashedly crave cheapish summer sausage, Hickory Farms-ish fake cheese, and crackers washed down with thin Lager right about the time the air crisps and football starts. Don't know why. So I can't wait to crack into this a little farther into the season. Usinger's also makes a football shaped summer sausage which very well may have to be in my next shipment of meats. I will update when I have sliced into this lovely creation with a detailed report.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We Are Upstate Americans (A T-Shirt, then My 2 Cents on the Storm)



Recently, you may have noticed that I have been using the term "Upstate American" to describe the inhabitants of our wonderful homeland. I can't claim responsibility for coining this term, I originally came across it on the Times Union's CapCon blog and promptly co-opted it for my own uses. Anyhow, some friends of mine have taken the concept of Upstate America and ran with it and created a downright schnazzy logo (above). Should you want to broadcast your (very deserving) Upstate pride, you can purchase a shirt at this link. **Edit** I originally forgot to mention that the proceeds from this T-Shirt venture will go to aid in the recovery effort here in the affected counties, probably should have mentioned that. Ahem, ahem...**Edit**

In any event, this concept is much wittier than my "Capital Region: We Have 3" Wieners" t-shirt idea that I floated down the river a few months ago.

On a more serious note, I won't get into too many details here, (maybe I will post about it some other time) but I think it is a great time to inculcate some regional pride in Upstate New York. For reasons related to my professional life over the course of the last week or two, I have had cause to be present in some areas that were affected by Hurricane Irene.

From Sunday night during the height of the storm, through the following days of reckoning and recovery I was present to observe everything I admire about my fellow Upstate Americans- from the stiff-upper-lippedness and grim self reliance, to the genuine compassion and caring for one's neighbor in the face of devastation (I use the word without hyperbole).

To bring everything around to food (as I am wont to do), it would have warmed your heart last Monday afternoon, to view in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the parade of fine country ladies heading to the local firehouses with potholders and Corningware in hand to feed the fire folks, police, soldiers, and volunteers helping with the recovery. Simple dishes (stews, hot dogs on white bread, egg noodles) meant to fill bellies... To me this scene was a living picture that captured the soul of Upstate New York. In any event, I thought it was something to see.

I viewed the destruction wrought on our local farming communities and it left me with a heavy heart. Homes, farms, dairies, schools, businesses destroyed. My only solace was the relatively low (with tragic exceptions) loss of life. Arriving where I did, in the middle of a major State Route and seeing raging water as far as the eye could see with silos and barn roofs peeking out, I feared the worst. So my point is that we need to support our local farms and businesses now more than ever. Remove all the hipster cliche from the concept of buying local and see if you can work a way to keep your money in our communities to help with all of the recovery to come.

I know this is a large block of text to sift through, and many of you prob. would like a TLDR. But I have said my piece.

Signed,
A Proud Upstate American
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