Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Gallery of Stewart's Signage: Part 3

Why yes, I do happen to have beer, munchies, and wood.
Thanks for askin'!
Thought it might be time for another installment (Part 1 and Part 2) of my ongoing posts documenting the wonderful world of Stewart's Shops signage (mayhaps for a little levity to take your mind off the Snor-easter-icane-ocaust-ageddon). This time I even have a couple reader submitted offerings.

We already covered the Stewart's Pizza situation in depth, but here is the sign anyhow.

Is there anything that says Upstate New York more than a beer-case door display of Genesee and Mountain Brew? Also, why is the 'S' capitalized in Genesee?...

Nothing says, "I wanna get shitty drunk for under 11 bucks" like a case of Stewart's Mountain Brew Ice. By the way, Part 5 of my Piss Beers of Upstate New York series will be an exploration of this heady brew.

The word loaf is funny. There is no getting around this fact. Second loafs are even funnier.

This was emailed to me by Tom (thanks Tom!). It is a rack of individual hard boiled eggs in plastic bags (same apparatus that served up the individual bread slice samples) with a sign that says, "Why am I hanging here?" Beautiful, just beautiful.

Here is a link to a delightful, hand drawn, "bread sandwich" advert. from Rob-

May ye all fair well in the face of the coming storm. Best wishes to you from the Mr. Dave household. It won't be that bad. It is never really that bad.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Stewart's Shops Pizza: Best Pizza From an Indigenous Upstate NY Chain of Convenience Shops That You Will Get All Day Long

As I reported earlier this week, Stewart's Shops has begun to serve pizza at assorted locations. I first saw the above sign on Monday and after an inquiry learned that the pizza operation would be in full swing on Wednesday.

On Tuesday I popped by the Delaware/Elm Ave. location in Delmar for a cup of tea and witnessed a technician of some sort installing a small, dedicated, pizza oven. A pretty professional looking one at that. This sort of surprised me because I figured the pizza was going to be some sort of microwaved frozen jobber.

Curiosity piqued, I verily did pop by around lunch time on Wednesday to assess this pizza situation. Entering the establishment I observed a flurry of activity and the faces of several unfamiliar Stewart's employees. I assumed that they were suits from Stewart's operations sent to observe the launch of the new product. I felt sort of bad for the regular employees as they looked sort of harried by all the extra activity.

Anyhow, I didn't snap a shot of the two level lexan container that contained the two types of pizza (plain, pepperoni) as it would have been hard to take pictures unnoticed and I didn't want to blow my cover. I sort of poked at the front of the pizza display looking for access, but was informed by the ever-friendly staff that they retrieve your desired amount of pizza themselves.

After requesting my desired one slice of plain and one slice of pepperoni I was asked whether or not I would like it reheated in the pizza oven. This process is pretty standard for dedicated pizza places around the area and I guess it is sort of a step up from some convenience store pizza operations. I know that one of the Hess Express' that I frequent keeps their pizza in a twirly little, rotating, heat lamp display and you just pull your slices out yourself.

You can get a whole pie in a box, but an order of just a couple slices gets handed to you thusly.

Here are my slices after the short (less than 5 minute) drive to my home.

Based on a visual inspection, there was a good bit of browning on the reasonable amount of cheese. I also noticed that the slice was well sauced as there was some liquid sauce squishing through the gaps in the cheese.

I flipped the slice over and observed a nicely browned bottom crust. This is not the pallid, pasty, underdone white crust that you may have seen in some other convenience store pizzas and you can thank the dedicated pizza oven for that.

The Stewart's Pizza is most definitely not of the NY thin crust variety. It is fairly doughy and thick, perhaps 3/4" at the crust.

Here is a slice of the pepperoni.

The pepperoni is your standard, American, thin cut, "pizza pepperoni" that you are probably very used to.

In any event, taken in totality, the Stewart's pizza is just what you would expect. It ain't pizza parlor quality by any stretch of the imagination, but as an example of the "convenience store pizza" form it holds up well.

I sort of liked the sauce, it was pretty savory and no where near as sweet as I expected. Although doughy, the pizza oven imparted a fair amount of criposity to the bottom crust. A distinct memory of ballpark pizza came to my mind. This stuff tastes like the ballpark concession pizza I used to eat as a kid. That is sort of a warm and fuzzy taste memory that added to the pleasant feelings I am beginning to have towards Stewart's pizza.

Also of note, I only had a few probing bites of each slice. My children devoured the rest with gleeful munchings. That is probably the real niche that this pizza will fall into to make it a success for Stewart's. This is perfect "kid pizza" and I already have pictures in my mind of saucy faced 4 year olds munching the stuff at the picnic tables out front.

Any avowed pizza connoisseur will immediately turn up their nose at this stuff, but come on folks. This is Stewart's pizza. Taken with the totality of the circumstances the stuff is really pretty good. What were you expecting? Bah, there is no pleasing you people...

Anyhow, go get a slice and form your own opinions. I find the whole situation of Stewart's pizza to be thoroughly amusing and I am hopping onto the bandwagon with unabashed abandon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dallas Hot Wieners. There Is a New Sauced Dog in Albany.

I have been meaning to get over to Dallas Hot Wieners for quite a while and finally got around to it this afternoon. Dallas Hot Wieners is a Kingston/Saugerties institution from way back that has recently opened up shop in one of the store fronts at the Knick (Pepsi, Times Union, bah... whatever.).

Dallas Hot Wieners is sort of like the Hot Dog Charlie's of the Hudson Valley, i.e. a small, Greek-run hot dog chain offering wieners with meat sauce (obligatory top secret recipe), mustard, and onions (among many other things). As I fancy myself as something of a local hot dog-ologist, a close examination of this product could wait no longer.

I found the interior of the restaurant to be spic and span with bonus points for the counter/stool arrangement a la Famous Lunch. I was there at around half past noon and there was a brisk  (but sort of light...) business moving through.

I ordered a bunch of items to go as I had my two savage minions (children) in tow and I thought that unleashing them, sauced hot dogs in hand, on the unsuspecting patrons would not go over too well on the occasion of my first visit.

My order consisted of a couple of the "Dallas Hot Wieners," a couple plain dogs, a chicken patty sandwich (I have a weird penchant for foods that remind me of the grade school cafeteria), some fries, and a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder (for the wife, she is a red chowder fiend).

My order was prepared fairly quickly (maybe 5 minutes) and it came all snug and neatly packed in a box. I found the box of hot dogs to be strangely pleasing, almost zen like. I am pretty sure that my personal conception of heaven involves boxes of neatly wrapped hot dogs.

Each hot dog is skillfully wrapped in a piece of wax paper which is actually a pretty effective way of transporting a to-go wiener with meat sauce. Plus, it looks cool.

Here is a plain wiener that I got for my 3 year, 10 month old blond ball of fury (darling Giblet) who has decided that most condiments consist of radioactive demons blood or some other foul excreta of the whorey netherworld. She will accept a bit of Heinz, but only if she witnesses it leave the original container herself as she doesn't trust me not to slip something else in on her. Bless her heart.

Anyhow, the hot dogs are on the small side. Not nearly as small as my beloved 3" dinky dogs (like those from Famous or Charlie's) but not quite as big as a Stewart's deli dog. These particular wieners were sort of about the same size of the Rhode Island "New York System" wieners that I sampled at the Big E the other week. The bread delivery vehicle is a workaday hot dog bun that they keep in a steamer.

As far as the flavor of the actual sausage (I tasted a bit plain), the Dallas Hot wieners by themselves are very underwhelming. These are dirty water dogs (they are fished out of a big pot of hot water and hot dogs when you order) which is not my preferred cooking method for this sort of hot dog.

I prefer my Stewart's (skinless) deli dogs steamed (definitely not off of a hot dog roller, read all about that here), but for the sort of assertive natural casing frank usually used in this sort of application I prefer a flat top/roller cooked dog. The taste and smell of hot dog water is pretty strong on these bad boys. Aside from that, these wieners are almost bland. This is one of the first times that I have ever had a hot dog that I thought could have used a bit more salt. The casing is a bit flaccid as well, absolutely no snap or pop.

The actual "Dallas Hot Wiener" comes with their secret recipe meat sauce, brown deli mustard, and a bit of chopped onion. I was especially interested in seeing how the meat sauce stands up to our Capital Region style classics (Gus, Famous, Charlie's). I have heard a lot of good things about the stuff.

The sauce is fairly thin and the crumb of the beef is very fine, I bet they hit the stuff with an immersion blender. It is somehow less "meaty" than other meat sauces that I have had, i.e. more sauce and less meat. The spice mix is pretty interesting, I could have sworn that I tasted a bit of curry powder. This wouldn't actually surprise me too much as many North Country Michigan (a style I experimented with the other week) sauce recipes call for curry powder and this could be a related style. I would not bet my hat on the curry powder thing though, it could just be an aggressive amount of cumin, cinnamon, and chili powder. Also of note is the heat level of this stuff, it is pretty aggressively spicy for a hot dog meat sauce. There is definitely a cayenne pepper back.

You get a thin slather of brown deli mustard and a relatively small amount of chopped onion (much less than at Famous or Charlie's) under the sauce. Taken together you get a good mix of spice and heat from the sauce and a vinegar punch from the mustard. The onion is almost a non-factor in the overall flavor.

My verdict is that the Dallas Hot Wiener is definitely an interesting change of pace. I think that if they went native and started using some of the Helmbold's medium franks (or even contracted with Rolf's for a tailor made sausage) then the product would be improved exponentially.

While eating these wieners I kind of felt like I was cheating on Hot Dog Charlie's (my local hot dog vendor of choice since birth). Let us just say that I will not be changing my avowed hot dog loyalty based on the Dallas Hot Wiener experience. It was an interesting change in pace (and my family actually really enjoyed the other non-hot dog offerings) but we are blessed locally with our own superlative vendors of the hot dog/meat sauce/onion/mustard combination.

All this said, I wish Dallas Hot Wieners nothing but success. The staff was friendly, the dining area was immaculately clean, the service was quick, the menu is expansive for a hot dog joint, and the prices are pretty dirt cheap. I would recommend giving the place a whirl if you are so inclined, I don't think you will be disappointed. Also, it is always good to see how other regions take their meat sauce dogs.

My opinion is still that the small hot dogs served at Hot Dog Charlie's and Famous Lunch are the finest examples of this form in the entire world. It will be very hard to convince me otherwise.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Stewart's Pizza By the Slice. I Am Both Intrigued and Terrified.

So an interesting sign caught my eye (I am always on the lookout for new Stewart's signage for my gallerys) as I was driving by the Delaware/Elm Ave. Stewart's this afternoon.. Pizza by the slice? At Stewart's? I just don't know if I can live at that speed...

My last experience with Stewart's pizza (frozen, re-branded shite) has kind of shook my confidence regarding pizza from this particular establishment (as much as I love the shop otherwise). But my curiosity was piqued to such a degree that I had to stop by and examine this pizza situation.

As it turns out, the signs as well as the stacks of pizza boxes are only present to stir Mr. Dave into a curious tizzy. The actual release of the Stewart's pies does not occur until Wednesday...

I betcha the pizza is just going to be a frozen affair, reheated on site. But I have been wrong before. Wouldn't it be too funny for words if Stewart's actually started peddling decent pizza? At that point I believe there would be individuals who would obtain 100% of their daily sustenance at Stewart's shops.

In any event, I am waiting for Wednesday with bated breath...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stewart's Enabled Daddy Magic

Ah, 'tis the small moments in life that make being a daddy so grand...

I took me darling daughter Giblet (ach, gettin' on towards 4 years now!) over to our favorite Stewart's Shop (#107) in Delmar for a dish of ice cream. Like her father, Giblet tends towards the vanilla spectrum in her choice of frozen confections. She does, however, pepper her repertoire with a bit of chocolate on occasion. Also, once I recall that she was plum tickled by a pink-bismuth hued cone of strawberry soft-serve. That is all to say, presently my daughter's ice cream flavor universe is pretty much limited to the vanilla/chocolate/strawberry triumvirate.

Anyhow, on this specific occasion young Giblet requested a vanilla scoop in a dish with chocolate jimmies and -- "just ONE cherry." I happily obliged her wishes with the assistance of an ever ready maroon clad hero of Stewart's ice cream scoopery.

After happily watching her consume a few bites whilst seated at the booth by the winder she says to me -- "Daddy, I wish there was an ice cream kind that has vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry... AT THA SAME TIME."

You will forgive me a small mistruth, but I told young Giblet that I was going to use my daddy-magic to make her request appear out of thin air in the magical "cold box" located in the center of the shop. I whisked her up, plopped her down, and with a grandiose flourish I thrust my grubby mitt down into the frosty bowels of the Stewart's ice cream case and pulled out the above pictured half gallon. You should have seen that smile. You just should have seen her smile...

You also might have stayed a minute to watch her daddy standing there gibbering like an idiot with a goofy grin on his face. Yes, yes, gentlemen. Daughters are the rub...

I will leave you with a quote from ol' Garrison Keillor. --

"The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage. A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, 'Daddy, I need to ask you something,' he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Cider Donut Burger (Cider Slider? Donut n 'Curd Burger? Bah, Can't Think of a Catchy Title...)

So I was over at Indian Ladder Farms (Altamont, NY) this afternoon enjoying some goat-watching and donut eating when a semi-original idea occurred to me. I am sure the Luther Burger is familiar to you. It is a stock item of the"outrageous" or "ridiculous" food genre that has swept across the world and has been beaten in the manner of a dead horse over the past few years (I was a willing an enthusiastic participant early in this blogs history. I regret nothing). 

The Cider Donut (link is to the Herr Fussenstein, who has much to say about the subject as it applies locally) is one of the few regional foods that us Upstate Americans can claim and truly be proud of. So why not slap some beef and cheese on one of those sugary little bad boys and claim a donut burger of our very own? No reason at all why not... Hence, the "Upstate NY Cider Donut Burger" was born. 

I started with a workaday Indian Ladder sugared cider donut. Indian ladder donuts are a bit on the small side which is perfect for a donut burger. If you are going to be eating a donut burger than it doesn't really need to be that over large, now does it? We don't meen to be piggish here...

I am a cheeseburger fan. I know that hamburger/donut burger purists may scoff at this, and frankly cheese on a donut is a bit of a difficult concept to wrap the mind around, but I decided to go with some cheese in the form of my patented fried cheese curd disc.

I took some Palatine Valley Dairy (Nelliston, NY) cheese curds and threw them into a hot and greasy skillet. Right as the curds are about to pool into a melty curd pile you gingerly remove them with a thin spatula.

Done correctly you end up with a delicious crispy/gooey disc of browned cheese curd.

For the meaty filling I used some Buckley Beef ground sirloin (Valley Falls, NY) and prepared a fairly crusty and thin patty. Finally I topped my creation with a generous spoon full of butter browned onions.

Finally done I realized that I had created a beautiful masterpiece. I stood staring at the unctuous n'greasy little bastard pinched between my sugary fingers and giggled like a kid. It just looked so good. I was a bit worried that appearances aside the Cider Donut Burger would taste a bit off.

 So I took a bit ol' bite and ruminated a bit...

Nope, not weird. Definitely good. Delicious in fact, I was wrong to ever have doubted my own unending power, genius, or majesty. I will say that my creation requires some manner of sauce/condiment with a bit of acid/tang/sour to set off the sweetness of the whole affair. Maybe a cider based chutney of some sort... I will have to think about that. Overall I deem the Cider Donut Burger a resounding success.

In fact, I nominate the Cider Donut Burger as the official Donut Burger choice of Upstate New York! Who is with me? Huzzah!

Also, I need a catchier title for the thing. "The Cider Slider" was the only witty sort of title that came to mind, but what I made isn't really a "slider." I don't really even think you could use a donut (or a munchkin...) in a slider because the steamy bun seems to me to be one of the defining characteristics (of a slider). The "Cider Donut Burger" is sort of an apt and minimalist description in any event so maybe it is for the best.

Anyhow, I encourage everyone out there to experiment with this concept. I could easily see this as being a seasonal/niche/whimsical item on the menu of any number of local restaurants. Heck, I would buy one if I saw it somewhere...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dispatches From Abroad, Part 3: The Big E (A Pictorial...)

This post begins with a giant, extra-phallic, corn dog. Just as it should.

So I went to the New England extravaganza that is the Big E on its closing day last weekend. I will have to admit that those crazy New Englanders know how do put on a fair. I had a splendid time and consumed a piggish amount of fair-cuisine. So much so that I had to run a half-marathon the next day (1:55:04, not bad as I haven't really been training all too much) in order to write off the smorgasbord as "carbo-loading."

In any event, I won't belabor you with an extensive post on the subject (read -- I am too lazy to write one) so here is a pictorial documenting my shame. Complete with captions! See I am not completely remiss in my blogging duties, I did captions...

Also, my iPhone camera was on the fritz so I had to use my wife's normal people camera. That explains the weird nature of the pictures.

Ham and cheese "Connecticut Pizza."
Sorry Connecticut, I tweren't impressed. 
Chocolate covered Slim-Jim. Not bad, not bad....

Apple pie without the cheese is like a hug without the squeeze!
My friend enjoyed this, I did not have a slice.

Apple Cider Slush! Come on New York, why don't
we have this piece of genius?!? Are we Appleknockers or
aren't we?

The corral for the queue at the "Maine Potato" concession.
Apparently the Maine potato is a big deal, I was

Main Potato assembly. This lady yelled at me, I got scared...

Here she is folks, the Maine Potato with everything.
Hell, soak anything in butter, cheese, and bacon and I
am in!

The RI "New York System Hot Weiner." Check
my last post for more details. 

Meat wheel in the sky keep on turning... Don't know when
I will eat meat to-morr-ow-ow-ow! (This was a spinning meat wheel).

Arepas and some deep fried pork belly strips. I did not partake.

Butter sculpture.

Fried cheese curds with ranch dressing. I don't think you
really need the ranch dressing...

That's about it. I will go back to the Big E next year, it really isn't that far away even (about an hour and a half).

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