Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Gallery of Stewart's Signage: Part 4

Sounds philosophical...
I seem to be in the midst of a lazy period so here is another pictorial post. Happy Easter!

Today is not Sunday! It is Chicken Tender-day. Tomorrow
is Mac & Beef-day. 
Bread... Donuts... Mix & Match them! Both equally
valid for making sandwichs. Also, what the
frick is "malt-o-meal?"
Fritter Friday. Those red lines symbolize post-fritter
farts. From your butt.
Graze with Flavor the Cow on processed meat and cheese.
All. Day. Long!
For your Easter viewing pleasure, a crappy
photo of dear children's Stewarts-art!

Happy Annual Ham Festival (Easter)!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Plan for "Guerilla Poutine" Is Taking Shape...

A while ago a Montreal Poutine location opened up over in the Crossgates Mall food court. Most people were of the general agreement that the poutine was a bit subpar. I tried their stuff a couple of times as takeout (the wife goes to the mall occasionally, I seldom do). I will say that poutine is probably at its worst after steaming in a to-go box for 30 minutes, but even so...

...based on what I received I can easily see why those persons uninitiated into the wonders of poutine might not have been over enthused with the Montreal Poutine product. **Edit** Forgot to add that the place has since closed, thanks for reminding me Anonymous commentator.

The whole Montreal Poutine thing got the dish on my mind... As I have also been on a mad cheese making tear lately a concept that I am calling "Guerilla Poutine" has begun to take shape in my addled brain...

What is Guerilla Poutine you ask? Well basically, I am going to make my own fresh cheese curds, whip up a nice veloute, put it in a thermos, and then drive the short distance from my house to the Glenmont Five Guys Burgers and Fries location. I am going to obtain a large order of fries, find a secret corner, dump the fries out on the bag, sprinkle them with delightful curds, slather on the veloute, and then feast like a poutine mad dog! I am going to go out on a limb and predict that this will be absolutely glorious! (you can tell I am enthused because of all the exclamation points!).

We must start somewhere so here we are starting with the curd. I purchased a gallon of Ronnybrook Creamline Milk over at the Slingerlands Shop Rite. The Ronnybrook milk is pretty much the only easily available non-homogenized milk you can track down around these parts. It is a bit dear, but I have found that it is excellent for cheese making.

I made some cheddared cheese curds out of this fine milk. If you are interested in how to make cheese curds, click here.

I am always amazed at the texture of the curds after the cheddaring process. You hear the analogy - "about the texture of chicken breast" as a reference for the final product of cheddaring.

I like to dry the little bastards out a bit after salting. This right here is probably the finest time to eat a cheese curd. The trademark squeaking when you chew thing is at its apex when the curds are still this fresh. Although I enjoy a lot of the mass market curds (and even some of the smaller production brands) out there, many of these products are really more "small bits of cheddar" then the actual cheese curd experience. Until you have had curds that are truly fresh made you are missing out on something very good.

I now have this many delicious curds made from nothing but delicious milk, rennet, cheese culture, and salt!

Stage one of Operation Guerilla Poutine is now complete. Next phase of the operation is the veloute... Until then, Mr. Dave out.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"The Longest Hot Dog in New England!": A Pictorial Review.

Wasn't I waltzing through Niantic, CT when I spied
this sign on the unassuming Family Pizza establishment...
(Note the use of "home to the..." in the stead of
"home of the..." Interesting grammar....)

This hot dog made the front page of "The Day!"
Where does the line start!?!

Reasonable prices for a "Mega" version of the
hot dog sausage.

There she is folks! With bacon/onion/cheese.
I shy away from hot dog "chili" outside of
Upstate NY. I am ever loyal to our particular sauce.

A top view, that sucker is nigh 2' long.

The view from my mouth.

The remains of the day.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

You Think You Are Better Than Me? (Table Hopping Post Got Me Thinking About All Good Bakers and The Cheese Traveler)

So a while ago ol' Steve Barnes at the Times Union Table Hopping blog put up a post entitled "Quality Restaurants where you don't fit in." This opened a flood gate of comments as locals -- seemingly delighted with the opportunity -- let fourth a stream of vitriol. Two establishments that caught a bit of (to me, unexpected) flack were All Good Bakers and The Cheese Traveller (adjacent each other, Delaware Ave, Albany). As over-positive as I usually am about our great Upstate NY homeland (and the Capital Region in particular), this whole kerfluffle gave me cause to examine a sort of unsavory aspect of the local culture. 

Many of the comments concerning The Cheese Traveller were geared towards the staff being rude, condescending, or otherwise making people feel unwelcome in the shop. Before going further I should state that I have only had two direct experiences with the establishment. I bought a couple things from their stand at the Delmar Farmer's Market over the summer, and I swung into the actual shop a couple of weeks ago. 

I got some salami,

and a bit of Limburger cheese. 

I found both experiences to be pretty standard customer/proprietor interactions. During my in-shop visit the proprietor engaged me, offered me samples, and answered a question in quite an expected fashion. I am a bit shy and reticent, so if anything he probably found me rude and unwelcoming! 

As for All good bakers, I have only been once (a week or two ago). I got a wonderful (and cheap) half-dozen bialy (that is plural right?) -

 and a baguette.

This time I was being a little cheeky. I had already read all of the Table Hopping comments (they got a bit of flack too) and had had a twitter conversation with someone who had a bad "customer service" experience on several occasions at the bakery. So I came out of my shell a bit (I can be frightfully charming when motivated) and purposefully engaged the female staff member who took my order (seeing if I could illicit any sort of negative interaction). I asked a question that would be annoying to any tried and true baker (regarding gluten) and it was handled with nothing but grace and friendliness.

So here is where I am going to get kind of controversial. Luckily no one really comments on my hack blog or I expect there would be a torrent of self-righteous indignation and dander up-edness in response to this...

OK, so in the above I have highlighted the fact that at both AGB and CT I was treated with nothing but kindness. But guess what folks? I do not expect kindness. During my evaluation of a shop offering a commodity, the "customer service experience" does not enter into the equation in the slightest. I find the expectation of "friendly customer service" to be the most annoying aspect of American consumer culture. I think it reeks of self entitlement and I hate it. And you know what? I think we have an especially strong propensity towards over-expecting anyone in the service industry to fawn over us locally.

Why would you care if you felt "welcome" or not in a bakery or a cheese shop? Unless the staff were outright rude (threw things, insulted you outright, made fun of your shoes) why would you expect anything besides perhaps a hello? Maybe after you have frequented the establishment and cultivated some sort of personal relationship with the store workers you could come to expect a few extra social graces, but off the bat I don't think this is an entitlement...

I expect that the staff at any given shop to answer my basic questions concerning the products and to not make me wait unnecessarily to be served or to check out. Other than that, if their product is quality and their prices are sound, I expect nothing else. Heck, the staff at Rolf's could lambaste me with insults upon entry (they don't, they are likewise extremely courteous) and I would still go and spend money because I love their products.

If I walked into the Cheese Traveler and asked "What's good?" or "I am looking for something that my 2 year old will like, do you have anything purple?" or "I like cream cheese and Stilton, what would you recommend?" I would expect that the proprietor might be hard pressed to answer and perhaps give me a quizzical gaze as these are all very silly and hard to answer questions. It seems that a lot of the Table Hopping comments stemmed from situations like this.

But the issue here goes deeper into our character. We are, and have always been, a hardscrabble and working class folk around here. Many of us have made good, prospered, and moved to the suburbs but we all share the same roots. I think we tend to have a bit of a fragile sense of pride and any real or imagined slight to our ego, self-image, or intelligence gets taken hard. We seem to have a larger than average, "you think you are better than me?" bone.

I find it strange that many people seem to find the fact that the owner of a specialty cheese store might be in possession of more and preciser information concerning cheese threatening to their self image... I want to know that my cheese monger is "better than me" in terms of cheese and cheese knowledge. I don't even mind a little condescension, I grew up buying comic books and maybe I got acclimated to a bit of "area of expertise condescension" from various comic book store staffers. Reasonable condescension is the right and privilege of the true expert! I did not see any of this at either the Cheese Traveler or AGB, but I would not have gotten all bent out of shape if I had.

In short, one of the only things that make me bashful (and a bit ashamed) of my majestic homeland is this sentiment towards demanding slavish, fawning, "customer service." Be rude to me, scoff at my stupid questions, hurry me out the door to serve the rest of the line. But stay open. Keep offering your wonderful products. The cheese (and all other sorts of things) must flow. I implore others around me to not attempt to verify your self worth based on the treatment you illicit at establishments offering artisan food stuffs.

That is my two cents.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where Have You Gone Uncle O'Grimacey? (Yearly Shamrock Shake Documenting)

Annum 2013
So I obtained my yearly dose of the minty green chemical brew that is McDonald's Shamrock Shake. I like to fancy that the shake changes from year to year, but I have a feeling that it is actually I who is changing... 

In any event, I hold to the opinion that there is a general trend towards more assertive minty-ness in recent years. Way back when I remember the things just being sort of green with a pretty vanilla flavor profile. This year the Shamrock shake is of Creme de Menthe parfait like proportions. For the second year running there is no cherry included which pleases me (I hate cherries). I guess the only other thing of note this year was that there was a sort of pleasant green strata effect when viewing the shake from the side... You can kind of see it in the above pictures.

I have now documented 4 years of Shamrock Shakes... This sort of makes me examine what my life has become that I have wasted so many years documenting shitty novelty milk shakes on the internet. No matter, I regret nothing. 

Below are the past 3 years worth of shakes.

Annum 2012

Annum 2011

Annum 2010

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Meatloafy Puss

So a friend of mine was having a small birthday soiree this afternoon and said friend had requested that I produce a meatloaf for the occasion. Never being one to turn down the birthday wish of a lady, I decided to oblige. This will be my fourth foray into what I called Meatloafistry (I fancy myself a "Meatloafartist"). If you will remember I have previously created Meatloafy the Whale, Meat Romney, and the Grumpy Loaf. It seems that people tend to become quite tickled by these meaty sculptures and I am generally happy to put them together.

As Meatloafy the Whale was perhaps my favorite loaf so far I decided to continue with the Carvel theme.  The Cookie Puss cake seemed a pretty complex endeavor to recreate in meat... but I always welcome a challenge and "Meatloafy Puss" was born.

It was a daunting journey from conception through execution so I thought I might share the process below. I hope you enjoy.

Anatomy of a Loafy Puss

I started with the same general process as I did with MLtW (Meatloafy the Whale). I baked a big ol' meatloaf and used a stencil to cut it into a rough "Puss" shape. To imitate frosting I used some instant mashed taters.

An ice cream Puss uses cookie ice cream sandwiches for the eyes. I decided to utilize the meat equivalent of an ice cream sandwich - the McDonald's cheeseburger. 

At this point I thought the loaf looked like some sort prehistoric Venus figurine. A "Meatloafus of Willendorf" if you will...

The next problem I had was figuring out how to make a cone shaped object for the nose. I remembered a recipe for 0 carb taco shells from the low-carb diet I was on a while back. You basically just microwave shredded cheddar and then shape it once it has cooled slightly. I thought the cheese cone came out famously.

Meatloafy Puss was beginning to take shape.

Naturally I used Easy Cheese for MLP's (Meatloafy Puss) arms and mouth.

Check out MLP's cheesy pythons (arms)!

I shaped some salami into wee hands and eyeballs. For the hat I used another McDonald's hamburger patty covered in BBQ sauce.

I pondered for quite a while as to what to use for MLP's nose-ball. I first thought about a giant meatball and then I considered a rice ball... But I wasn't too thrilled with either of those options. Suddenly I was overcome with divine inspiration and I thunked of what I consider to be the pièce de résistance of the whole project. Wouldn't one of my beloved Herkimer cheese-balls be just the thing? It ended up making MLP's proboscis a little too large, but what the heck, meatloaf sculpting is an art not a science. 

Behold! The completed Meatloafy Puss! His Loafy Puss-iness! The Puss of Meatloaf! All joking aside, I am only chalking this up as a marginal success. I thought it came out pretty good and captured the essential feeling of an ice cream Cookie Puss, but it was just a bit busy. I think a true piece of meatloaf art needs to be a little simpler and more minimalist in nature.

"Gaze into my cheeseburger eyes! Muhahah!"
In any event, despite my feelings about Meatloafy Puss, I think the B-day girl was pleased that I had fulfilled her request for a loaf.

So that was the process. Now we should look at Mr. M. Puss in action at the party --

I feasted on Meatloafy schnozz! With crackers!

I offered Mr. Puss a sip of my Uncle Charley.

Oh God! MY EYE! My cheeseburger eye!

We feasted on face. We plundered the Puss. 

That is all all folks. Who knows what further meatloaf creations lurk in the heart of me...

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