Friday, August 24, 2012

Back Row! Who's Next? (Jumpin' Jack's, Scotia)

You know why locally oriented blogs are important? Because posts like Daniel B.'s  concerning the Jackburger (on All Over Albany) make people like me think, "gee, I haven't been to Jumpin' Jack's in quite a while. Maybe I should take the family." Hence, local businesses are frequented and get dollars in their coffers.

Anyhow, the other day I packed up Mrs. Dave, Giblet, and Mr. Dave Jr. into the Toyota and set out for Scotia. If you don't know, Jumpin' Jack's is a drive-in type eatery located adjacent the mighty Mohawk River in Scotia (just outside Schenectady). If you will remember, last summer Jack's was tragically placed under water by Hurricane Irene.

In any event, Jumpin' Jack's is back on its feet and humming along as always. During the height of the summer this establishment tends to get a bit busy. To deal with the crowds Jumpin' Jack's has evolved a system to take orders that sort of reminded me of Pat's or Geno's out in Philly in its brutal efficiency. If there is a line up in the little corral the employees pretty much just yell, "back row, who's next?" You are expected to be prepared to give your order quickly and concisely as not to hold up the flow of the line. The brusque Jumpin' Jack's employee will then translate your request into code ("Twisted Indian," stuff like that).

Afterwards you wait a bit and then shuffle up to the window to retrieve your order. Notice the mechanism in the below picture. That is a bun steamer. I love me some steamed buns. Perhaps Jumpin' Jack's prepares Steamed Hams thusly after hours...

The "Jackburger" is the specialty of the house but I have never been much of a fan. The Jackburger is a double cheeseburger sort of thing topped with coleslaw. I hate coleslaw and I don't think it has any business in a cheeseburger. There, I said it.

The family and I went with a thoroughly standard and unoriginal order. I had a plain cheeseburger (recovering from a minor surgery and my gullet was off), the wife had a shrimp fry, and the wee 'uns split a hot dog and some fries. The burgers at Jumpin' Jack's are only enjoyable in light of the surroundings, being with your family, and a certain nostalgia attached to that sort of burger. That is to say that I would thoroughly expect to not have your socks knocked off. But hey, loosen up. Your kids are having fun and it is a nice day. Stop quibbling over details.

After munching for a bit my wife poked me in the arm and queried, "what did you do with the onion rings?" Failing in my duties as a husband and a father I had completely forgotten to get an order. Mrs. Dave immediately rifled through my pockets for cash and strode right back up to the window and remedied my grievous mistake.

These onion rings are pretty good, not my favorite (I have been ruined by certain onion rings peddled by a walk up stand in Hyannis Port that are absolutely perfect), but pretty good. The wife absolutely loved them.

I closed out the meal with a chocolate malted fromt he adjacent ice cream stand. This was your standard affair of milk, chocolate soft serve, and Carnation malt powder. I am a chocolate malted fiend, so any manner of getting a malted fix pretty much pleases me...

When you have finished slopping yourself and your family do take a walk down to the banks of the mighty Mohawk River. Ignore the weird advertisements on the adjacent bank and gaze at the water. Imagine the tall ships and the river traffic that was the life's blood of our region in the past... It must have been something to see.

Anyhow, go to Jumpin' Jacks with your family/sweetheart/Ma' and Pa'. The food is not the main event but I guarantee that you are going to have a good time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The North Country Michigan (With Glazier's Red Hots)

As you know -- the myriad forms in which us Upstate (as I have state before, for the purposes of this blog I favor an extremely loose version of the term "Upstate." It goes for everything north of Ulster county, south of Messina, and east of Buffalo) New York types take our hot dog sausages has always been a topic of great interest to me. 

On this blog we have discussed our local Capital region dinky dogs (a la Famous Lunch or Hot Dog Charlies), the ubiquitous and widespread Stewart's Deli Dog, Rochester white hots, and more that I am probably forgetting right now. 

Today a fortuitous find that I made at the Delmar Marketplace takes us up to the North Country for their particular style of hot dog -- the Michigan

I was perusing the cold case at the Delmar Market (as random treasures often appear there) when I spied some Glazier's Frankfurters. Glazier's is based in Malone, NY and these red hot dogs are arguably the regional favorite up in that neck of the woods.

Glazier's Frankfurters are a pork and beef mix encased in a natural sheep casing and dyed a vibrant shade of red.

You don't see too many large run hot dogs out there with sheep casings so this in and of itself is something to take note of. In texture these dogs are very firm textured and "snappy." You know how a Stewart's Deli dog has an almost delicate, meat-pudding kind of softness? These are pretty much the opposite of that. As far as flavor they have a mild, salty sort of spice very much in the vein of the standard "frankfurter"style that I am sure you are accustomed to.

A common thread in New York State regional (outside of the City of course) hot dog toppings is the holy trinity of meat sauce (no beans, often Greek inspired, often without tomato), mustard, and chopped raw onion. The North Country Michigan does not veer from this formula. For the bread vehicle the Michigan is generally served on a New England style bun or a regionally produced variation on the theme.

I recently got ahold of a copy of "Good Food, Served Right : Traditional Recipes and Food Customs from New York's North Country" and it is a fascinating cookbook that I plan on doing a post about in the future when I get a minute. Included in the "County Fair" chapter is a recipe for Michigans. It mentions Glazier's hot dogs and buns made by the now defunct Bouyea-Fasset bakers who (I have heard) made a somewhat larger than normal version of the New England style hot dog bun.

As for the Michigan sauce recipe this particular one strikes me as a bit odd. The oregano and chili powder are expected components but I would probably replace the curry powder with cumin and a bit of cinnamon. But who knows? Any North Country people please weigh in if curry powder actually is a standard ingredient as I would find that a pretty interesting variation on the theme.

In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed the pair of Michigans that I prepared and devoured. There is something about the combination of flavors/textures in a meat sauce/mustard/raw onion topped hot dog that can't be beat. The soft bun giving way to the natural casing... then your tongue gets coated with fatty spiced meat sauce cut with the astringent mustard and bitter onion. For my money you just can't beat it. It is a legend in its genre.

Also available at the Delmar Market were the Glazier's Jalapeno Dogs and Cheddarwursts. Based on the fact that I am dead set on trying every product offered by every indigenous Upstate New York hot dog producer, I suppose I will have to try those too at some point.

Hooray for Stubby Bottles of Genesee Lager!

If you will remember my recent post praising Genesee Cream Ale's return to its classic label style then you will remember how I was saying that the real icing on the cake would be if they went back to the ol' timey stubby little bottles.

Well weren't I just tickled pick when I was at Hannaford's perusing the selections in the domestic beer cooler and I jostled what I thought was a 12 pack of cans of Genesee lager (read more about this particular brew in the first installment of "The Piss Beers of Upstate New York" series) and I hear the glass jingling!

That's right folks. Inside of this deceptively small case is 12 beautiful stubby little bottles of Genesee's finest.

I don't exactly know what it is about stubby bottles that tickles my fancy so, but they really do. Genesee Lager is certainly not my absolute favorite beer in the world but I think that it will probably make more frequent appearances in the pantheon of brands guzzled due to my Falstaffian appetite for oat soda. It makes drinking beer so much fun, and who doesn't like fun? I like fun and at less then 8 bucks for a 12 pack we have some very affordable fun at that.

Go fourth and guzzle this brew from its stubby vessel and rejoice! May your bowels be ever unaffected by Genesee Screamers!

Monday, August 20, 2012

"The Utica Club Natural Carbonation Beer Drinking Song" -- Shouldn't Someone Have Told Me About This?

Alright folks, if any of you knew about this Utica Club jingle and didn't tell me about it than fie on you. You know of my love for Uncle Charley. Why wouldn't you share this little gem with me? Why? Someone must have known...

In any event, this is the best psychedelic beer jingle that I have heard all day long. Give the "Utica Club Natural Carbonation Beer Drinking Song" a listen if you have a minute. You won't be disappointed. In fact, I intend to demand that this be played every time I crack open a fine, fine, Utica Club Pilsner Lager Beer in the future.

Scenes From This Year's Altamont Fair (Deep Fried Pop-Tart, Mutant Chicken, Etc...)

I don't believe that I have posted about the Altamont Fair in quite some years (at least since 2008). The Missus and I went last year on an awfully hot day (she was weeks away from giving birth to Mr. Dave Jr. at the time) and we only made it to the midway before having to turn back for the car. Luckily this Sunday was mild and breezy and could not have been a nicer day for the fair.

This year the fair (the Altamont Fair is pretty much the "fair" for the Capital Region, we don't have County Fairs) was a flat 15 bucks for parking/rides/entry. Gone are the pay for parking and then buy tickets for rides deal of the past. I was OK with this but I overheard some general griping about the cost among the crowd.

Immediately upon exiting my vehicle I was greeted by a smooshed fried something-on-a-stick. Upon close inspection my verdict was Reeses peanut butter cup but it very well could have been a fried Oreo. In any event I took it as an omen of good things to come.

We entered through one of the back gates over by the ominously clanking farm machinery exhibit. We took a stroll through the Carriage display and spied an old Freihofer's wagon. Delivered thusly were the baked goods of our Capital Region forefathers.

They had a new "Circus" area this time wherein the main attraction seemed to be a giraffe named Twiggy. I tried to feed him a carrot but I think he was already stuffed with carrots so I contributed to some tasty future-bacon by giving it to this guy.

The knife toss is still present at the fair. I actually won a knife one year and it is one of the highlights of my life as it is nearly impossible to get those little rings around the blades. I always found this game a little funny... What says family fun like trying to win a nice little weapon? Perfect for a post fair parking lot shanking...

After taking the intrepid young (now 40" tall, I know that because they measured her at the gate) Giblet on a bunch of rides, getting hustled out of some loot by a carny or two, and shooting 6 arrows for a buck at some balloons, I started to think about a bit of fair food. Lo and behold I spied this sign.

Usually I think a lot of fried stuff-on-a-stick type items are sort of gimmicky and usually not that tasty. For some reason a deep fried pop tart sounded like it might actually work. I plunked down my 5 dollars and observed as the lovely proprietor attended to my sizzling tart in the oil. In case you are wondering -that garish red stuff in the foreground is "fried kool-aid."

Here she is folks. A strawberry pop-tart all battered up, fried, and dusted with powdered sugar. I shared this among a quartet of people and the verdict was unanimously positive. The strawberry filling starts to flow a little bit and the whole thing assumes a fried pie kind of feel. It is cloyingly sweet as you may have guessed but not in a very disgusting sort of way. Also, I purchased this fried tart fairly early in the day so the oil didn't yet taste like someone had fried a plateful of assholes in it. I would have this again next year.

Something that made me chuckle heartily was when I thought I spied a "Kentucky Fresh Chicken" sign. I got excited for some sort of fried chicken stand but my hopes were crushed when I got closer. Turns out it was a sideshow entitled "Kentucky Freak Chicken" wherein the attraction was a 4 legged/4 winged bird. The tagline "one chicken makes a whole bucket" made me laugh like a child. I didn't pay to go in as some years ago at the fair I paid 75 cents to look at the "world's smallest women" and something about gawking at that wee lady depressed me for several days. I have foresworn sideshow attractions ever since.

I saw an attractive (also thoroughly unsanitary) pile of beef at the "London Broil" sandwich stand. So I thought I would punish my gastrointestinal tract and give one a whirl.

This was a throughly disappointing sandwich. Sad, dry, gray slices of "London broil" in a hoagie bun with some insipid peppers and onions. I had to hose the thing down with the sugary BBQ sauce they offered to even choke down a half of the thing before giving up. A very poor investment of 8.50$ worth of fair eating funds. I should have stayed away from items that approximated actual food and gone with the red velvet funnel cake for my second purchase. No matter. There is always next year.

I find comfort in the perpetually classy signs in the bathrooms.

The Altamont Fair is pretty much the same as it has always been. That is to say a weird mishmash of the rural/farm history of the area with the current suburban invasion. I love seeing the farming set in their jeans, buckles, and plaid short sleeve shirts rubbing elbos with Clifton Park shitheels.

The only thing I bemoan is that most of the concessions are either travelling carny types peddling what has become a very standard list of "fair foods," or locally run stands of the burger/fries/lemonade sort. You see some local flavor in the out of season cider donuts and apple fritters but that is about it. I would like to see deep fried cheese curds from a NY dairy or Hot Dog Charlies selling dinky dogs... You know, stuff like that.

On a final note -- there seems to be a lot less drunk people then I remember from my teen years. I did notice precious few vendors peddling oat sodas. I don't know if this is a good thing or not. It ain't a fair without seeing someone make a drunken idiot out of themselves in my humble opinion.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Genny Cream Goes Retro... Could Upstate New York Spawn Its Own Hipster Beer a la PBR?

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time then you will know that I have something of an obsession with our indigenous Upstate New York macro brews. Read all about this in my 3 part series "The Piss Beers of Upstate New York" linked here (also a bit about "Genny Screamers" which are the unique gastrointestinal events that occur after imbibing a Genny product).

Genesee Cream Ale is an old classic in the affordable American lager genre (I think they might actually use ale yeast but it is really more of a "lager" in style). When I was in college Genny Cream was 9.99 for a 30 pack... Needless to say, ahem ahem, I have some experience with this beverage. And you know what? At the current 6.99 for a 12 pack GCA is still a bargain in my opinion.

People tend to write the stuff off as awful based on a reputation that I am really not sure how Genny Cream acquired. I think the fact that it is a bit more aggressively hoppy/bitter than your average macro American lager (Bud, Miller, Coors, etc...) turns off a lot of the inexperienced beer drinkers who are used to a certain level of blandness. Go drink a can of GCA and then drink a can of Heineken. The stuff fairs shockingly well in a side by side comparison. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Genny Cream. It is a solid affordable brew.

Anyhow, I was over at the Hannafords on Delaware Ave. when I noticed that the Cream Ale has gone back to its ol' timey' packaging. Gone is the below can design which I always found a bit gaudy and lame.

Now we have the classic green and white label back -- simple, elegant, and thoroughly visually appealing. The Genny Lager went back to the old style red and white labels a while ago (I think) but this is the first time that I have seen the change in the Cream Ale. The only thing that could gild the lily would be if I could find the stuff in the old stubby necked bottles....

You know how Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) became sort of the thing recently among your younger skinny jeans types? I think this may be happening with a lot of Upstate New York brews. Utica Club and Genny seem to be acquiring some hipster cache and people are drinking it all ironically. I find this fact endlessly amusing. 

Look at little old us... People drinking our dowdy Western/Central NY beers that we never even notice at the store. Drinking it as if this was just the thing to do no less! Well good -- all of these beers are really very decent (and certainly better than most national American lagers). The only thing that would make this situation funnier would be if some bar in Williamsburg started peddling 8 dollar cans of Utica Club. That would pretty much make my life.

In any event, I thoroughly approve of both the beer and the return to the old label style. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mr. Dave Gets Soggy at the Track (Shake Shack and Box Frites Consumed Despite the Weather)

Wouldn't you know it? The first time the family and I get up to the track this season and the weather could not been more disgusting. A fairly steady downpour gave way to a bit of sun and high temperatures. The ensuing humidity left us feeling as if we were attempting to drink, eat, and gamble in a giant bowl of pea soup.

Little Miss Giblet remained unfazed as always. God bless her.

Luckily we were at a fundraiser in one of the festival tents so we had some refuge from the rain, otherwise even my even temperament might have been tested by the heat and the weather. However, I was determined to ingest as much meat and dairy as possible despite the elements.

I began with a little Shake Shack. I first experienced Shake Shack at the Track last season and was duly impressed with the burger. This year I decided to try one of their frozen custard shakes (concretes) along with the standard ShackBurger. I noticed that there was an exclusive Saratoga shake called the "Sloppy Track" and with some hesitation I decided upon that. You see, I live in a pretty conservative world of vanilla and chocolate shakes/malts with a decided leaning towards vanilla. Deviating from my norms was difficult, but I did it for science.

The "Sloppy Track" contains frozen vanilla custard, salted caramel, and is topped with Valrhona chocolate. I thought it was great, maybe it would have benefited from just a titch less salt. Little Giblet said it tickled her throat and I agreed that it was more of an adult sort of shake.  The ShackBurger was predictably good as I tend to think that they usually are.

If you will remember I stated in my last post that the Shake Shack fries left my socks in a state of unblown-offness (which is strange because I am a krinkle cut french fry fiend). I decided to forgo ordering them from the 'Shack and instead gave the Box Frites joint a whirl.

Box Frites offers sweet potato and normal potato fries in several permutations with several dippin' sauces.  Also available are a few hot dog options.

I went with a small order of the normal potato frites w/Buffalo blue cheese dip and a "BLT Dog."
Lest you think I was acting over piggish today, I should caveat this by stating that all of this food was shared among my family and a few friends. Even Mr. Dave's Bacchanalian appetites could not have withstood the intestinal assault of all of this food considering the hot weather.

I found the fries to be a bit mediocre. Think Five Guys fries but a little crispier and somehow not as good. I thought the buffalo blue sauce was well flavored (aggressively spicy) but a bit thin. I am looking for an almost mayonaise like thickness in a frites dippin' sauce and this stuff was nowhere near that.

Mrs. Dave (somewhat uncharacteristically, she is fairly averse to most of the tube steak genre) seemed to really enjoy her bites of the BLT dog. I thought it was fair to middlin' as well, I would have put the bacon strip adjacent the dog. Also, something about lettuce on a hot dog is about as weird as a fart in church. Looking back, I probably could have done without the Box Frites experience.

Anyhow, I don't even know if I won any money today. I let wee Giblet pick all of the horses (by jockey shirt color preference) and I never even cashed out my tickets before we left. I got a bit overwhelmed with food and family and my gambling fell by the wayside. This is a major step in the ever rapidly accelerating evolution of Mr. Dave from a wild eyed, beer swilling, meat gobbling, hard gambling, tobacco spitting savage into a buckled down family man. Sigh, such is life. I regret nothing.  
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