Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pustie Vs. Pustie. Can Our Local Pusties Stand Up to Utica Pusties?


As you may know, I have something of a soft spot in my heart for the jewel of Central NY. I am, of course, speaking of the plucky city of Utica. If you will remember during my last trip I partook of the Utican pastry specialty that is the Pustie.  A pustie is a local varient of the Italian pastry pasticciotto (wiki translated from the Italian) and consists of custard encased in crust.

Now, you can get pusties at pretty much any Italian bakery throughout the state but only in the greater Utica/Rome area are they revered as a local treasure. It occurred to me the other day to see how one of our own, local (Capital Region) pasticciotto (they don't even really call them pusties 'round these parts) stacked up against a serious example of a Utica/Rome pustie.

For the Central New York contender let us take the offering from the Franklin Hotel in Rome. The Franklin is a must visit if you are out that way, have the Utica Greens and a plate of fried hot peppers with some crusty bread. You must trust me on this, it will become your favorite lunch and you will crave it daily. They also have have a decent selection of house baked goods and pictured above is a lovely boxful of vanilla and lemon pusties.

Here is a Franklin pustie with its guts exposed.



The vaguely nipple-esque pustie is a piece of art, what with its shiny browness and hearty proportions. Richly sweet custard with a beautiful vanilla flavor encased in a buttery, flaky, tender crust. I am not big into over sweetened fruit pastries or cream filled, powder sugar doused thingies so the understated sweetness of the pustie is a perfect fit for my sensibilities.

Now we have the pasticciotto from Bella Napoli in Latham.


Hrrrm... looks a little pale. Looks a wee bit crumbly and not very shiny. No appealing nipple thing on the top either. I will have to admit that I was a bit suspicious, but I did not pass immediate judgement.

Here we have her cracked open.


With the Bella Napoli offerin you have a sort of grainy, crumbly, sweetened pastry. It is less like a pie crust and more like a sugar cookie. Breaking one of these in half (to devour greedily) while driving home from the bakery results in many crumbs all over your belly and lap. The custard is not rich and creamy like you would expect it to be and you have here only a hint of vanilla.

So there you have it. As I expected the art of the pustie is significantly more refined in the true pustie country of Oneida County. Not that our local ones are bad, but you are sort of ruined for inferior pusties once you have had the real deal in its own terroir.

So there you have it, as expected the heavy weight favorite pummels the local boy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

White Castle Breakfast is Best Breakfast

"Church"
Yesterday I tantalized you with words about White Castle breakfast, today I bring you photo-documentation. Now I don't care what anyone says, White Castle is good. There are no bones about it, I don't want to hear any, "I don't eat fast food" or, "that's grade F beef" business. I call bullshit. You like White Castle and you know it. Perhaps you lie about it to affect a sophisticated air, but you devour wee sliders alone in greasy shame whenever you get the chance. Why? Because they are unctuous, flavorful, satisfying, pillows of happiness, that's why.

So anyhow, what is better than White Castle? White Castle breakfast that is what. As you all know, White Castle has not blessed our Upstate Homeland with a location (fie on the management. Wait.... I can't stay mad at you White Castle). You have to travel south of the stinking Tappen Zee to find a WC 'round these parts. So though I have heard stories and seen menus, I have never actually partaken. Last week, this changed. 

The first thing you need to do is get yourself a Barq's Red Cream soda (to prepare your innards for what is to come). The only exception I make for my strict no soda (except diet) policy is made for Barq's Red Cream. It is the corner stone of any healthy breakfast.


Look at it, LOOK AT IT! Are you attempting to lick up some crimson nectar through your computer screen? Well you can't, it just won't work and that is sad...


Next, you must stand with legs shoulder width, stick your thumbs in your belt, lean back and ponder the breakfast menu. There are many marvels to behold and you should devote some amount of thought to your decision. As for sliders, you must choose from bacon, sausage, bologna (yeah, you heard me), or burger (all with cheese and egg). I don't worry so much about the hash browns, they give me indigestion.


I went with a manly order of 2 slider uns' and 2 bologna uns' (in the manner of a boss). I didn't even make it to my car before I had to break out a burger and egg. Does it get much better than the steam-fried goodness of an all beef White Castle burger patty under a real fried egg and a wee slice of cheese? If it does, I just don't want to know about it.


Look below, as I said that is an actual griddle fried egg. As in, you can watch them crack the eggs and fry them up to order (if it is slow and they aren't holding them in a wee hotel pan, but we can forgive small transgressions as they have a lot of turnover).


Now if you don't have yourself a hairy pair, you need not read any further. Bologna, egg, and cheese White Castle sliders are not for those in possession of a weak constitution.


You get a thickish slice of fried bologna that endearingly flops over the side of the slider bun.


I really don't know if it is the burger/egg or bologna/egg combination that I enjoyed more. It has been a sort of internal war my mind has been waging against itself since I consumed these bits of ambrosia. I think it might be the burger ones, there is something very perfect about this White Castle offering.

In any event, I whole heartedly endorse White Castle as a breakfast destination. I only recommend that you eat heartily. 4 or 5 is the right number of breakfast sliders, any less and you are a wilting lilly. Too many more would be rather piggish I think.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Indianapolis Jones: Part 2 (Peanut Butter Burger, Tamales, White Castle)

Lucas Oil Stadium, Home of the Peyton.
I was out in Indianapolis for a week recently (again, see Indianapolis Jones: Part 1). I have found Indianapolis to be a pretty interesting city and have, for the most part, enjoyed the food as well. So I just thought I would share some highlights of my trip. This is just in case any of the (increasingly) small number of readers of this hack blog decides to venture out there.  

                                                  

Some of the locals took us to Boogie Burger in Broad Ripple Village for lunch early in the trip. The place seemed to be a local burger institution and came highly recommended.


The first thing my eye was drawn to on the menu was the fact that the Chili Burger had Peanut Butter listed as an option. I had heard of this practice before, and after inquiring of one my accompanying native Indianans I learned that is a fairly common regional burger topping. You can see the healthy smear of creamy peanut butter on the top bun in the above picture. It was a pretty good burger to tell you the truth, nice dark chili with some spice. Went pretty well with the PB in my opinion. I learned that it was also a fairly common practice in Indiana to accompany a bowl of chili with a peanut butter sandwich. It takes all kinds, takes all kinds....


If you have read my gibbering musings for long, then you will know that I have something of a thing for tamales (frozen, canned, rolled, or otherwise). So I was pretty excited when the next day we were directed to The Tamale Place. Entering, I was greeted by a giant picture of Guy Fieri. Apparently he had made a visit for one of his Food Network programs... Anyhow, I was undeterred and ordered a couple of tamales.


I sampled a Poblano and Cheese and a Spicy Pork. Both were sort of OK. The spicy pork bordered on good but was nothing outstanding. I have had better tamales locally (Magdalena's at the Troy Farmers Market for one). I found The Tamale Place's tamales to be a bit dry, especially the poblano cheese. I will say that the porky one had an agressive spice and good flavor.

Of course, I also managed to eat a crap-ton of White Castle as is my general practice whenever I am near one. Ol' Mr. Dave is a published recipe author due to my obsession with those unctuous little bastard sliders (in the This is Why You're Fat book). I happened to spy this location right across from the Colts' stadium. 



Heck, I grabbed a ten sack and ate it in my rented Hyundai Sonata on the way to the hotel. Did I feel shame? Yes, but it was delicious, greasy shame.



Just look at that little bastard. I am usually a traditional, slider w/cheese kind of guy, but I have been kind of enamored with the jalapeƱo cheese ones lately. 



Needless to say, I was more than a little excited to see that the White Castle had squirty bottles of their mustard for sale. I purchased one and plan on savoring every last drop, mayhaps it will bring sweet remembrances of fresh sliders to my taste buds (even though I don't generally take mustard on my sliders). In any event, I will probably treat it like that little bottle of magic juice that Lucy had in the Chronicles of Narnia and use it sparingly by the drop. 



I even managed to indulge in a longtime dream and got to order off of the White Castle breakfast menu. But this warrants a post of its own as it was fairly glorious.


In any event, I had a pretty good time. I actually stayed fairly close to the hotel and unfortunately didn't get to go anywhere too interesting for dinner. I had to console myself by eating horribly unhealthy food for lunch (and breakfast).  I managed to sample a couple local delicacies so the trip wasn't a total bust. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pac-man Bacon


If you will remember, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the seemingly increasing availability of Taylor Ham in the Capital Region. Well, the package of pork roll had been sort of languishing in my cheese drawer for a couple of weeks. The other day I decided to fry it up.

I know by the content of my blog many of you picture me as a wild, beer swilling, pork meat gnashing, beast-man type of gent, but this is actually pretty far from the truth. Sometimes I even find it hard to squeeze fatty breakfast meat into my culinary regiment. But eventually I stopped mincing about like a ninny, steeled my gut, and girded my loins for some salty, processed pig meat

As you can see, people call pork roll "Pac-man Bacon" for a reason. If you don't want the stuff to steam up in the middle and dome up like a bunch of weird, nipple-less boobies than you have to take action. Some make a few short incisions around the circumference.  I prefer the classic, longer, Pac-man shape producing, single cut. I fry it until crisp, but still a bit flaccid in parts. Onto an english muffin, no egg or cheese because I am a bad ass.

By the way, I fried the stuff up in my deliciously seasoned, vintage, Griswold #10.  If you are unsure of what I mean by this, you should read my post on classic cast iron here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Genny Screamers



You can check out my ongoing "Piss Beers of Upstate New York" series (I mean "piss beer" in the most endearing possible sense of the term) above. As I have already covered a few Genesee products, I didn't feel it necessary to do a whole review of good ol' Genny Cream. 

To tell you the truth, this was one of the most ubiquitous low price beers consumed in my late teens/early twenties. I remember sub 10 dollar 30 packs! As I had limited doubloons back then, Cream Ale and I were a match made in heaven.

What I would like to bring to your attention is a rare, unique term out of the lexicon of Upstate New York related to Genny Cream Ale (and Genesee products in general). We don't have too many of our very own colloquialisms around these parts (which is sort of a shame). The particular one that I refer to here is sort of, ahem ahem, the bathroom humor variety. But heck, it is our own (and related to beer) so here it is.

Ever heard of "Genny Screamers?" The Urban Dictionary defines these as -
"Hideous units of flatulence prevalent after drinking Genesee beer.
ex. A good policy if one is suffering from the "genny screamers" is to simply avoid the public altogether."

I have also heard of this particular phenomena referred to as "Genesee Lighting" but I could not find reference to this on the internet. Either term is acceptable.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

PBR Salami with an Edam Cheese Beer Cozy



Cheese beer cozy... Has ever a sweeter phrase been uttered by mortal lips? I don't think so. If you will remember, a couple weeks ago I learned of (and ordered forthwith) the Usinger's Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle shaped salami. As fate would have it an impulse buy at BJ's also left me in possession of a largish ball of Edam cheese. Here she is pictured below.


Instantly the rusty, squeaky gears inside by fairly large head began to think of a creative way of utilizing the rosy red, waxed, cheese behemoth lurking in the crisper of my fridge. I didn't want to sit down with a cheese knife and a box of crackers and have at it, that didn't seem very sporting. As usual with matters of meat and cheese inspiration came to me fairly quickly.

I decided to fashion a beer cozy out of the cheese sphere for the afore mentioned PBR salami. This concept tickled me pink for some reason, and I could not stop chuckling to myself a little when I thought about it. I began by lopping off the top of the Edam, the bottom was already sort of flattish.


After that, I traced around the circumference of the beer salami so I had some guidelines for my cheese carving.


I whittled around the outside of the ball until I had a roughly conical, beer cozy-esque shape. Most of the smaller shavings of cheese went into my maw, I reserved the bigger chunks for other cheesy purposes.


Utilizing a fork and a paring knife I began to carefully excavate cheese from the beer cozy cavity. This was the most delicate part of the operation, I feared breaking one of the cheese walls of the cozy.


Below you can see the large amount of cheese hunks resulting from my cheese craft.


In the end, I thought it was worth it. The resulting cheese cozy was a little short for the long neck salami, but I was thoroughly satisfied with the results.


There you have it, a tall, frosty bottle of salami kept nice and cool in its Edam cozy. What more could you ask for (besides crackers)? I plan on inflicting this on some friends tomorrow at brunch, I figure the whimsical nature of the creation will carry the day.
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