Category Archives: food

Talking Turkey

Ah, Thanksgiving, the most American holiday.

There’s so much to be thankful for this year, that I don’t know where to start. I could only be more thankful if Donald Trump were walking down the street and a safe fell on his head. Anyway, a few holiday observations:

Electric Turkey Fryers
Electric countertop turkey fryers are all the rage this year. No doubt these are considerably safer than the outdoor propane versions, but any time you’re around enough boiling oil to fry a turkey, there may be trouble. Please be careful. It is my sincere wish this Thanksgiving that you don’t burn your damn house down or suffer hideous grease burns.

Turkey Skin
According a story in the Times Union by food writer Deanna Fox, local strip club Night Moves will offer turkey and exotic dancing on Thanksgiving. Club owner Steven Dick Jr. tells the paper, “We offer a chance to get a nice, hot meal and enjoy the show.” Yes, his name is Steven Dick!

Early Black Friday
Are you one of those people who will be starting your Black Friday shopping early by heading out on Thanksgiving? Well, fu*k you, then. Yes, some stores should be open for part of the day, like supermarkets, but c’mon, do you really need to go shopping at Best Buy on Thanksgiving? If you do shop on Thanksgiving, you’re part of the problem. Give it a rest.

Finally, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if I didn’t share one of my favorite holiday recipes, Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. It’s hard to believe it’s been nine years since I first urged you to cook this extraordinary side dish that will guarantee you praise and adoration. Remember, don’t ever use canned sweet potatoes. That would be as bad as shopping on Thanksgiving.

Down on the Farm

It’s hard not to have that Green Acres fantasy when you stroll around the Troy Farmers Market.

“Hmm… I could give it all up and buy a farm! Maybe raise pigs, or something and sell my artisanal pork to fine restaurants and discerning consumers.”

Yes, that’s a fine dream — and it might even be achievable — but you may wake up when you see how much work it is.

We had a look at that over the weekend when we went for lunch at Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville.

Maybe you’ve seen them at the market with their delicious cheeses and Italian cured meats. The farm also hosts dinners and lunches that include a tour of the barn and cheesemaking operation.

So, let me get this straight: you have this big flock of sheep that have to be milked for part of the year, and then you make cheese and cure meat and sell your goods at various farmers markets and to New York restaurants. Oh, and on the weekend you host big meals and give tours of the farm. On top of that you’re fixing machinery, improving buildings, mending fences, chasing coyotes off the property, dealing with all the rules and regulations involved in producing food — it never ends.


I’m not the first one to say this, but think about what it took to put that food on your table, especially the food that comes from independent farms and small producers. Life on the farm seems idyllic when you’re strolling by booths at the market — and it certainly is idyllic in many ways — but a lot of sweat went into those products.

Here are a few pictures from the farm.

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In Vino Veritas

We had dinner at Angelo’s 677 Prime on Friday. We are not high rollers, but thanks to couple of gift certificates to defray the expense, it ended up only costing us what we’d pay to go to a normal nice restaurant.

No, I would not describe 677 as normal. It’s grand in a way that comes very close to being over the top; in my Yelp review, I described it as the “Donald Trump of Albany restaurants.”

Certainly, it’s good, but it wouldn’t be my top Albany dining recommendation, even to someone who wouldn’t think twice about ordering a $62 steak.

But let’s talk about the wine list.

Let’s be clear: I know little about wine, and if you present me with a wine list that has more than seven-hundred items on it, that’s going to be confusing. The 700+ figure is not an exaggeration.

My approach to wine is to never buy the cheapest bottle, buy the second cheapest one. It’s probably reasonable that a place as special as 677 isn’t going to sell crappy wine, right?

Now that I look back on our grand meal, I wish I’d done one thing differently: have them send over the sommelier and ask them, “What’s the best bottle of cheap wine on your list?”

Bring it to me please. With two jelly glasses.

Speed Picking

Yes, it’s oh-so fun to pick apples, isn’t it? Apple picking has become the go-to fall outing around here. And why not? It’s the perfect family activity — and hey, single gentlemen: if you want to impress that lady friend, nothing’s better than a trip to the orchard.

But you know what? Actually picking the apples doesn’t take very long, unless you’re pulling them off the tree with your mouth (which I don’t recommend) or doing it blindfolded.

We stopped at Indian Ladder Farms Saturday for some apples, and because dogs are not permitted, someone had to wait in the car with the Scarlett and Maddy. I volunteered for the picking duty and my objective went from take your damn time to get it done as fast as possible.

It ended up taking me longer to pay for my bag and walk to the trees than to pick the apples; I was done in less than five minutes. Look, I’ve spent plenty of time strolling through the orchards enjoying the beauty and bounty of fall. Sometimes you just want some apples.

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

I’d been thinking go buying a cheap smoker to dip my toe into the dark art of barbecue when my wife Ann called.

“I have a surprise for you!”

Oh, Christ, what now — another cat? But this time she’d really outdone herself: standing in the garage was a ceramic Big Green Egg, one of the fancier — meaning more expensive — smokers out there.

This was certainly not something I would have ever bought for myself, but she discovered it on Craigslist, for sale by a man who bought it several years ago and never used it. He finally decided he couldn’t stand looking at it anymore, and it came to us at a fraction of the price of buying a new one.

So, since then, every weekend has been a festival of meat.

It turns out that when it comes to barbecue, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. You can find a recipes for anything you want  — but ten-thousand of them — and every person who smokes meat has a different opinion on how to do it. It makes your head spin.

pulled pork1

Pork shoulder which went on the smoker at 4:50am on Sunday.

But for all the confusion, one thing has been constant: everything I’ve cooked in the Egg has been spectacular. Can you remember the best chicken you’ve ever eaten? I can — it was last week.

So, what about health considerations? Some would say that at 54-years-old, eating more meat might not be the best game plan — but I’m not really eating more meat, just better meat. The jury is out on the health effects of breathing too much smoke, but hey, what are you gonna do?

Enjoy Every Sandwich

If you were a kid like me, the highlight of your grade school day was lunch. Now, nearly fifty years later, there are still days like that.

For the most part, I’ve always been a brown bagger, and making my sandwich is a morning ritual. Some days are better than others, but — and not to brag — as a sandwich artist, mine is probably better than yours.

One this week was especially colorful:


This sandwich had an especially local flavor: the beets and greens came from the Great Barrington farmer’s market. I cured and smoked the bacon from a pork belly I bought at Rolf’s Pork Store. The bread? One of the great products that comes from Herkimer’s Heidelberg Baking Company, and the onions — well, I bought them at Price Chopper, but pickled them at home.

When Warren Zevon was dying of lung cancer, he told David Letterman how he’s approaching the great beyond.

“You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute of playing with the guys and being with the kids, and everything.”

Yes. Enjoy every sandwich.

Under the Table and Dreaming

Scarlett looked up from her iPad.

“Rob, you see how New York passed a law that allows dogs in restaurants.”

“Yes — but only in outside dining areas. And only at restaurants that allow it.”

That’s when Maddy trotted in.

“Hey, Scarlett said we’re going to a restaurant!”

“No, not yet,” I said. “The governor has to sign the bill first.”

“What are you going to order Scarlett? I want pork belly. Doesn’t that sound fancy? What’s a governor?”

Scarlett handled this one.

“He runs New York, so he’s in charge of a lot of things. Like Thacher Park.”

“Oh my god, I love Thacher Park. The same guy who runs Thacher Park is going to let us eat at restaurants! He’s the best governor ever!”

Scarlett jumped down off her chair to get a drink of water.

“Maddy, I think this whole thing is just so they can bring us to restaurants — not so we can eat at them. And it treats us like second class citizens. The law says we need a separate entrance and we won’t be allowed to sit on chairs. No offense, Rob, but this is more about vain dog owners than about dogs.”

She curled up in the corner.

“You two can go, have fun. The whole thing just sounds like it will be disappointing. But bring me a doggy bag.”

Basket Case

So, here’s the thing: lately when I go into my supermarket — I won’t mention which one, but let’s just say they are committed to chopping prices — the cashier sometimes asks this question:

“May I help you with anything on the bottom of your cart today?”

To me, that sounds a little like:

“Are you planning to steal something by ‘forgetting’ it in bottom of your cart today?”

Hey, just because I haven’t shaved in three days and didn’t take a shower doesn’t mean I’m going to steal sh*t from your store.

It could be that they’re just being helpful, you know, for customers who can’t reach into the bottom of their cart. Except I’ve also noticed that there are discreet little signs posted near the cashiers that read What about BOB? BOB stands for bottom of basket.

There’s no question that theft is a problem for supermarkets. That’s why chains, like the one that chops prices, have a serious commitment to security; little things count in an operation that operates on a narrow margin. I once heard some crazy stories from one of their security workers about nabbing brazen grocery thieves.

It’s worth noting that they also now ask customers if they need help to their car. Could this be to have a look at what we’re hiding in the trunk? Perhaps, perhaps.

Wash Your Melon

In the kitchen one recent morning, I set about to slice up a watermelon.

My wife was reading the obituaries — as she often does over coffee — pointing out the men my age who’d died, some of them quite suddenly.

“You wash these before slicing them, right?”

“Why would I wash a watermelon?”

“The same reason you wash anything — except melons are worse. They grow on the ground and the soil could be contaminated with E. coli. I read somewhere that the farm workers don’t have proper toilet facilities and they poop in the fields. The E. coli gets in the soil, the soil touches the melons… next thing you know, you’re in the hospital.”

I paused.

“Would you like some to bring to work?”