Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Rhode Island "New York System Hot Wiener"

So I was out at the Big E today and weren't I tickled pink to come across a Rhode Island specialty that is a kissing cousin to my beloved Capital Region style hot dog. Here we have the "New York System Wiener." The particular example that I enjoyed was from Sam's New York System out of North Providence, RI (located in the Rhode Island state building at the fair).

Much like our beloved mini-dogs from Hot Dog Charlies or Famous Lunch the RI hot wieners were developed by those lovely Greeks who came to America and opened their eateries during the first half of the 20th century. In Rhode Island (a century ago) hot dogs were so heavily associated with New York that the local variation acquired the tag line "New York System."

The sausage is small (not quite as small as our dinky dogs) i.e., a titch thinner/shorter than your workaday frank. It is a pork blend which tastes a bit different than our usual all-beef jobbers but I am always open to pork meat so this is a welcome variation. The toppings are the expected triumvirate of meat sauce/onion/mustard. The meat sauce is less assertively flavored than what you would find at Famous or Gus'. It kind of reminds me of Hot Dog Charlies a little but it is a shade darker and the crumb of the beef is larger. Also, they sprinkle quite a bit of celery salt on top of the finished dog. The bun is nice and steamed, I can't actually remember if it was New England style or not...

I thought the hot wiener was grand. Sam's was selling them for 2 bucks each which is about as cheap a food item as you are going to get at the Big E and they were a great walking around snack. I have always been of the mind that a good hot dog should be something less than a meal but something more than a snack. I think three local dinky dogs is about the right amount to take the edge off the hunger of a big ogre like myself. Maybe two RI hot wieners is about the right dose.

In any event -- if you are ever abroad in the strange land of New England and you find yourself jonesing for a back-home hot dog fix, then the New York system hot wiener will do you just fine. My only regret is that I didn't have a coffee milk to wash down my wieners as I heard afterwards that this is an integral part of the experience. Mayhaps next year...

Anyhow, I consumed a crap-ton more fair food during my Big E visit. I shall probably post more about the rest of my engorgement soon.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Today I Sensed A Great Disturbance in the Hot Dog Force, as if Millions of Deli Dogs Suddenly Cried Out in Terror...

 Hot dog roller? No steamer? What the heck...
So I walked into good ol' Stewart's Shop #176 (9w by the T-Way exit) and I smelled a peculiar (but very familiar) smell on the wind. I immediately knew what it was and to me that smell was about as welcome as that of a fart in church. It was the distinct aroma of hot dogs slowly cooking and turning on a hot dog roller! There was no hot dog steamer box to be seen and for a moment my life was thrown into chaos.

You see, Stewart's Deli Dogs are an item and experience that is very close to my heart. I have been eating them regularly (recently sporadically would be more apt as I have lost my young man's metabolism) since childhood. They are a cheap, comforting, expedient to-go food and I look at them as one of the anchor items of the Stewart's dynasty (if you are an outlander, browse all of these Stewart's labeled posts to get a feel for the establishment). 

Obtaining a pair of dressed Deli Dogs (two, always two) is something of a ritual to me. You walk in, fish the buns out of the steam box, take the buns out of the wrappers, kind of open up the buns to prepare them for the dog, pick up the tongs, try not to scald yourself opening up the hot dog compartment, carefully fish your dogs out (they will break if you don't have a tender hand with the tongs), slap those boys on your bun, apply mustard, apply meat sauce, carefully slide back into the aluminum wrapper, gingerly pick them up with one hand, pay....

All of that is part of my enjoyment of my deli dog experience. To be confronted with the fact that a very important element of my ritual had been removed was a bit jarring. I take things like this seriously, don't ask me why. This is not just an issue of a slightly different apparatus producing a reasonable facsimile of the original. Hot dog roller cooked dogs are a completely different taste and textural experience than a steamed bun/dog. 

Oh you beautiful alter of hot dog-iness. Where would we be without you?
Awash in darkness, that's where.
In a hot dog roller the buns are kept wrapped in a little drawer under the mechanism. I have seen steam drawers/warmers on the things but I don't think this one had that feature. Henceforth we are often confronted with a stale-ish and cold bread vehicle for our hot dog. Unsatisfactory. Steamed buns are superior. The steam box presents us with a delicate, fluffy, slightly moist bun that is perfect for the sausage it will carry.

You see, a steamed Deli Dog is something to behold. It is the exquisite texture that I fell in love with so many years ago. There is none of the traditional New York "snap" that I enjoy in many other sausages. A Stewart's Deli Dog is a soft, creamy, custardy affair of fatty emulsified meat. Couple this sausage with a proper steamed bun, mustard, and meat sauce and you have a sublimely "squishy" affair that reminds us that the gods of hot dogs still love us even in this wretched age.

Rolled hot dogs are not necessarily always a bad thing. They are just different. You get a browned wrinkly "skin" (not the good kind of hot dog skin...) and a stronger "hot dog" taste. The process tends to dehydrate the sausage and lends an altogether less pleasant character (in my opinion) to a workaday skinless frank. More assertive flavored, natural casing dogs do much better on rollers/griddles (heck, I even prefer this method in certain applications). That is all to say, when I want a Deli Dog I want steam.

I posted about this on the twitters and the Fuss-Meister-General instigated a conversation with @GaryDake (Stewart's Shops President) regarding the steamer vs. roller issue. As expected, Mr. Dake agrees with me and prefers a steamed dog. He further stated that this is not a company wide sea change, but that individual stores base the decision on sales. Apparently sales are higher with the rollers... As usual I am left shaking my fist at the masses for their inexplicable preference. Sigh. Also, Mr. Dake mentioned that there is the added opportunity (with the roller) to sell other items from the genre of strange and wonderful hot dog roller cuisine (another of my strange obsessions, see here).

This is all well and good -- I thank Mr. Dake for addressing the issue, and I understand the issues at hand... But I need you to help me out folks. My personal Stewart's is store #105 on Elm Ave. in Delmar (T/Bethlehem). They still have the steam box (I know because I checked) and I want it to stay that way. Mr. Dake mentioned that Stewart's really does pay attention to customer input. Let us test this. Next time you are in there how about you drop some comments with in hearing range of the employees to the tune of -- "Golly geez, these steamed deli dogs taste so good right out of the steam box!" or "Sure would hate having to eat a sad wrinkly hot dog off of a hot dog roller," you know, stuff like that.

I am sensing a theme to my musings lately. I am getting older, it scares me, and rapidly accelerating change in the world is accentuating the feeling (even little things like hot dog apparati). I just want to share all the good things (or at least some of the good things) from the world of my childhood with my own wee 'uns... I keep seeing things getting lost behind the horizon and I am worried that soon there will be nothing left.

I don't know what to do so I will just keep documenting things here on this crappy blog so that at least I will be able to remember.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Piss Beers of Upstate New York: Part 4, 12 Horse Ale

Piss Beers, Part 1 - Genny Lager
Piss Beers, Part 2 - Uncle Charley (Utica Club)
Piss Beers, Part 3 - Genny Bock

I won't waste your time with a bunch of links to me evangelizing about the return of several Genesee Brewing Co.'s products to their retro packaging. Simply go to my main page and use that lil' wheely nubbin' in the centre of your mouse to scroll down some (or if you have a Mac, do your patented swipey motions).

This will be a fairly concise review as I am in the middle of a riveting television program. Sorry.

12 Horse Ale - Sweet and malty at the onset, finishes a bit bitter. A little more gumption then a workaday American lager but really an "ale" in name only. Thoroughly enjoyable at the price. Buy a 12 pack at around 6.99$ and you will regret nothing. Revel in the fact you can un-ironically enjoy a macro-brew produced in your very own Upstate homeland.

I am still a Genny Lager or Cream man myself, but this is a welcomed change in pace. It is available over at Oliver's on Colvin near Central.

By the way -- THE GENESEE BREW HOUSE IS OPEN!!! I am frazzling my nerves trying to work a pilgrimage into my schedule. I will advise when successful. A Genny fueled engorgement on garbage plates and white hots seems just the thing to gird my loins for the coming winter. Don't know if I will have the time. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Toll Gate (Slingerlands, NY)

Looking back at almost 4 years of posting I cannot believe that I haven't gotten around to posting about the Toll Gate. The Toll Gate seems as permanent a fixture in my mind as the Hudson River or the Heldebergs. It is an eternal part of the landscape familiar to all those who dwell around these parts. I think I thought that there was no need to do a post because what could I really say about the place that everyone doesn't already know? But heck, as usual some compulsion has led me to jot down some thoughts on the establishment.

I have always admired the green/orange pineapple themed wall paper. You can't beat the wallpaper at ol' timey eateries around here (here is some beautiful blue floral stuff from The Bears in Duanesburg). You see, not much has changed at the Toll Gate since it opened in the 40s. Not much at all.

Where do you see the below pictured setup anymore? This is about as close as you are going to get around here to seeing an original, period soda fountain-counter set up. Just look at those stools. It just doesn't get much better than that. I could poke around the interior of this place for hours. There are just so many delightful details to be taken in.

The Toll Gate even still serves their soda in reasonably sized glasses.

Although ice cream is really the main event at the Toll Gate, they do serve some unabashedly straight forward food. Burgers (including the famous "egg burger," which is scrambled eggs on a hamburger), hot dogs, clubs, etc... I was in a bit of a piggish mood so I ordered the "Toll Gate Burger" which is three thin patties on a bun (cheese is extra). The platter comes with crinkle cut fries (I am a crinkle cut fry fiend), some pickles, and a side salad.

I just happened to be in the mood to over indulge humorously, i.e., I actually don't really tend to like piles of beef on a burger. But I do like the Toll Gates burger patties. When you get a single patty burger the meat is good and thin and combines with the squishy, steamy bun to create a pleasant sort of flatness to the sandwich (almost slider like). All that you need is a slice of melty white American, a squirt of ketchup, and a couple pickle discs and you have the sort of 1950s "diner style" hamburger that McDonald's has since made a parody of. 

My wife had the turkey club (w/chips). Mrs. Dave is a no nonsense individual and this turkey club suited her just fine. White bread, white mayo, and white turkey stacked high. There is comfort to be found in the warm, unctuous blandness of a turkey club. They are the sandwich equivalent of a reassuring hug from an elderly Aunt.

Above the entrance there is hung a painting that depicts ol' timey' times when there actually was a toll gate in the vicinity.

Here is a view from in front of the ice cream counter. My minds eye conjures a jaunty soda jerk in a gleaming white apron and a paper hat, speaking jauntily with his broad Albany County a's, and slinging egg creams to ruddy cheeked young locals while old men in plaid shirts smoke cigarettes at the front tables. Sigh. There will be a day when monuments to our cultural past such as the Toll Gate no longer exist. This makes me sad.

In any event, the Toll Gate is over on New Scotland Road in Slingerlands (on the outskirts of both Albany and Delmar). They make their own ice cream and it is damned good. If you have been reading my blog for long then you know that I have an unholy lust for egg nog and Toll Gate puts out some delicious egg nog ice cream come fall. They are also renowned for a certain peanut butter and jelly ice cream but this is not a flavor that I have sampled. Darling Giblet enjoys a regular dish (not kiddy, she is much too mature at 3 years 8 months for any of that nonsense) of vanilla with extra chocolate sprinkles.

If you live in Albany County and you have never been to the Toll Gate (this does not seem likely to me), my humble advice would be to pack up your family/sweetheart/parents and make the pilgrimage at your first convenience. If you are a transplant to the area then a visit the Toll Gate might just give you some insight into the psyches of your adopted countrymen. This is where many of our Ma's and Da's bounced us on their knees while we dribbled Tutti Frutti onto their pants. Heck, this may very well have been where our grandparents bounced our parents on their knees and spoon fed them rum-raisin or   some other old fashioned flavor.

In short, I like the Toll Gate and I think you should too.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Stubby Bottles, Stubby Bottles, Oi Oi Oi.

Surely the angels must be smiling on the household of Mr. Dave to allow such a bounty of delicious brew to bless his kitchen! I have hit the stubby bottle bonanza at Olivers Brew Crew on Colvin Ave.

I apologize that this blog has sort of become the Genesee Brewing Co. Society of Upstate New York lately, but whatever. Don't judge me. I happen to be excited about the resurgence of an old and noble name in New York brewing. So you are just going to have to sit there and listen to me blather for about a month.

If you will remember I was super excited to see that Genny Cream Ale had returned to its ol' timey green and white package. In that post I was bemoaning the fact that Genny Cream hadn't returned to its classic stubby bottle. Well, weren't I just tickled after I discovered that the lager could be bough thusly at Hannaford's.

As if to over-gild the lily -- just yesterday a treasured associate shot me an email with a picture of himself consuming a Cream Ale out of the storied stubby vessel! He informed me that the object of my desire could now be obtained at Oliver's over on Colvin. I saddled the horse and headed over post haste.

As if stubby bottled Cream Ale and lager weren't enough, I nearly fainted when a stack of Genny 12 Horse twelvers appeared before me like a vision from beyond. I am not embarrassed to admit that I was  very nearly gibbering with glee. I really have no idea why things like this make me so happy, it may be a pleasant side effect of one mental illness or another... Who knows? You take merriment where ever you may happen to find it as this life is as long as it is cruel... I like to think of myself as a collector of all the small joys to be found in this world.

From this tower my power is derived. 
There she be folks. Nigh 2 feet of beautiful Western New York brew. All ensconced in delightful retro packaging and brown stubby chalices. 6.99$ (give or take) for a case of twelve? That is a freaking bargain in my humble estimation.

In any event, I guess I could have done a google search or two and discovered all of this momentous shit a bit more quickly. But heck, that would have sucked the fun out of it. It turns out that Genesee is offering a Heritage Collection which is comprised of the 12 Horse, Fife & Drum, and Summer Brew. I have to track down one of these now to complete my collection.

I thoroughly intend to alternate through all three of these Genesee products this evening. I am planning to do a fourth installment of my ongoing "Piss Beers of Upstate New York" series concerning the 12 Horse Ale. That will prob. go down in the next couple days if my bird like attention span holds out.

Anyhow, who else thinks that drinking all three of these brews in succession will cause a case of Genny Screamers the likes of which the world has never known? If you see lightning in the skys of Delmar tonight then that is Genesee lightning and it is emanating from my backside. Huzzah!

Well, as always I have managed to wedge in some juvenile potty humor into my otherwise somewhat informative post. That is the Attic salt that seasons my words and I declare it part of my charm.

Anyways, good for you Genesee! You are throwing strikes all day long with this new marketing scheme. I support it with the whole of my being.

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