Thursday, March 24, 2016

This is a Halfmoon; This is a Black and White Cookie.

Sometimes I can be quite a cranky pedant. A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my facebook feed when I spied a link to one of those Buzzfeed quizzes. It was entitled -- "Can You Pass This Upstate New York Food Test?" I'm not one for these sorts of things but I had a minute so I gave it a go.

Scrolling through the quiz I came to the question, "What are these treats called?" There was a picture that was clearly of a Black and White Cookie. So I answered Black and White Cookie... I was told I was wrong and that this was a Halfmoon.

This is where the cranky pedant bit comes in. A black and white cookie is a black and white cookie, a halfmoon is a half-moon (you need only to consult the wiki). There is a difference. So I got angry. I am proud of Upstate/Central/Western/North Country/etc... food traditions (halfmoons are out of Central New York) and I have taken it upon myself to champion them. So I proceeded to harangue the author of the quiz...

Until he (@perpetua) replaced the offending picture of the black and white cookie with one of my own pictures of a proper Hemstrought's halfmoon.

I thought this a grand public service, but I think the matter warrants a little more discussion. I will do that below.

Whenever the halfmoon vs. black and white cookie debate comes up someone will invariably chime in with, "but lots of people use the terms interchangeably." I like to respond to this with a quote from one of my favorite Peep Show characters -- Super Hans.

So here is a side by side comparison of the two treats for clarity's sake.

I obtained my specimens at the Hannafords in Delaware Plaza in Delmar. Note that they sell both Hemstrought's half-moons and generic black and white cookies. Labeled correctly.

Black and White Cookies -

Half-Moons -

First we shall examine a black and white cookie. This is a creature of downstate/NYC/Long Island extraction. It is widely available throughout New York and has a few defining characteristics.

The vanilla/chocolate topping is a solid glaze or fondant sort of stuff. It is often almost crispy to the tooth.

The "cookie" part is a dense white/vanilla substance, often flavored with a bit of citrus.

I am not a fan of this particular cookie.

Now we have a glorious Hemstrought's Halfmoon. The vanilla/chocolate topping is composed of frosting. Note that the vanilla side is often higher than the chocolate at the center line.

The "cookie" part is not vanilla sponge. It is chocolate! A proper halfmoon has a chocolate base.

Take a bite of the halfmoon. It is delicious. Soft, yielding frosting and a cocoa punch from the cookie. No deviant crispy fondant and citrus scented garbage sponge.

This my friend is a halfmoon.

So maybe the terms aren't so "interchangeable," eh? In fact, my children (bless their hearts) reject black and white cookies outright. Halfmoons are one of their beloved treats. The cookies are two separate and distinct animals and I will point this out every single time it comes up.

I hope I have cleared this up for you.

Also, go home Hemstrough'ts. You are drunk. These particular halfmoons are weird.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fish Fry-day. Local Fish-Fry Round-Up: Middle of Lent Edition

As we are smack dab in the middle of Lent I thought it might be fun to show off some of the fish fry that I have eaten over the past month or so. I have been on a big fish fry kick. So here are some examples of our local brand of this Lenten standby. Glorious foot long fried fish. If it gets any better then that I don't want to know about it...

This one is from Hot Dog Charlie's! Pretty good fish fry all things considered. Nice cornmeal crust, but not too cornmeal-y if that makes any sense. A-plus hot dog joint fish fry. Would have again.

Here we have a Ralph's Tavern offering. This was fine. The batter/crust on this one was a little brittle and heavy for my tastes and the fry oil had seen better days I think. B-minus.

This beautiful specimen is from Ted's Fish Fry in Guilderland. If you are going out of your way for some fish fry, this is your best bet. Ted's is quickly becoming my favorite fish fry destination. A-plus-plus. Would eat three or four of the delicious bastards.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Checking in With Ralph's Tavern (Central Ave., Albany)

Last Friday the wife insisted I accompany her on a trip to Target over on Central Avenue. Target makes me twitch so as a conciliation I was allowed to pick our lunch destination. I hadn't been to Ralph's Tavern for a couple of years so I thought it might be nice to check in.

Red pleather, fake plant, patterned mirror. Ralph's encapsulated in a picture.

As a child I believe my parents must have taken me to Ralph's at least once a month. I have very fond memories of those meals. In my mind's eye Ralph's is forever crowded, dark, and smokey in a cozy sort of way.

Oddly enough, I think I used to order steak as a kid... Seems a weird thing to order at a red sauce Italian place. I was a weird kid with a thing for steak.

Ralph's is still well known for their mozzarella sticks. I think this is an echo of past glory. The mozzarella sticks I remember from 20 or 25 years ago were enormous, lightly breaded, triumphant rectangular bastards. Maybe (as usual) I am clouded by nostalgia, but I think they used to be better.

Here is my order from last Friday. Note the odd little nugget pieces. Perhaps this is a new tradition.

Also note the two sauces. My wife is not a Capital Regions native and despite my protestations is revolted by raspberry sauce w/mozzarella sticks.  Without affectation, I love the combination. Always have, always will.

I gave the menu a thorough once over for anything new or of note. This one dish made me laugh.

"Meatballs, Peppers and French Fries." Ha! Seems random at first, but I believe it is probably wonderful. I almost ordered it and then I didn't.

As it was Friday in the middle of lent I thought it fit and proper to order our traditional local solution for the lenten diet -- a fish fry.

The fish fry was fine. Not as good as Ted's (I've been on a fish fry jag lately) or Bob n' Ron's back in the day, but it was fine.

As I sat before this plate I thought to myself -- is there anything more stereotypically City of Albany-esque then eating a fish fry at Ralph's tavern on Friday in the middle of lent?

My kids had the soup du jour (chicken noodle) and split a wee cheese pizza. They seemed happy with their fare. I waxed a bit sad during this lunch. Perhaps it was seeing Ralph's in the unforgiving light of a clear, cold, winter's day, but I don't know... The place seemed worry-worn somehow.

I honestly don't know how my family deals with my frequent bouts of weltschmerz. For the entire ride back to Delmar I regaled my patient wife and bored children with tales of days gone by. Pointing out where Mike's NEBA used to be and proclaiming, "I never cared so much about their roast beef, but darn they made a good slushy." Maybe I told them the one about when I caught a line drive to the manhood during tee-ball at Westland Hills park one fine summer's day....

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