Category Archives: food

Burger Bites Man

Every year, local reporters and photographers head to Scotia — a place typically avoided unless there’s a murder or a particularly interesting fire — to cover the opening of Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In, the ad hoc beginning of spring in the Capital Region.

You know what would be news? If Jumpin’ Jacks DIDN’T open — yet every year we get the same damn story. Here’s an example from last year. Sorry in advance for the terrible video player.

I’ll admit, it’s not a bad piece — but for Christ’s sake, what are you going to say about Jumpin’ Jack’s that hasn’t been said a hundred times? By EVERYBODY IN TOWN:

Whatever — it’s not a crime to be lazy. Everyone should have a day a to just Jack off once a year. Sorry, I had to go there,

In that video, one of the people who lined up for the opening day festivities pretty much summed it all up: “We don’t have much going on here.”

The $2 Sandwich Lady

The Subway at State and Pearl is mobbed as usual, so what does one do about a quick lunch?

Around the corner, just off the lobby in the Bank of America at 69 State Street, there’s a little lunch counter run by one of the nicest people you’ll find downtown: the $2 sandwich lady.

She puts out a simple selection of lunch basics, but as you may have gathered, the $2 sandwiches are the highlight.

sandwich

What do you get for $2? Well, don’t expect things like roasted red peppers, pesto aioli and crusty ciabattas. No, these are the sandwiches your mother used to stick in your lunchbox: two pieces of bread a few slices of meat and/or cheese, and a smear of mustard or mayo. Period. They’re waiting for you in a flap-top baggie, not those new fangled ziplock ones, so grab a bag of chips or a little container of salad and you’re good to go.

I swear that the whole thing makes you feel like a kid again when you sit down and open your brown paper bag. This isn’t just downtown’s least expensive lunch, it’s a trip back in time. And if you close your eyes, that simple sandwich tastes a little like love.

I don’t expect you’ll find that at Subway.

How Cold Is It?

It’s so cold that the milk froze before I could get home and bring it into the house.

milk

Eat My Ass

Years ago I wrote a couple of blog posts with references to eating horses.

This was way back in the Albany Eye days, and even though I was just joking, some people responded quite angrily. Maybe they didn’t like the links to horse recipes from a Quebec supermarket chain — or maybe they simply had no sense of humor — but the bottom line is that you don’t have to drive far from here to visit a place where they eat horse meat. Don’t blame me!

I was reminded of all this when Modern Farmer, the agri-hipster magazine based in Hudson, featured donkeys in their winter edition, including a story called Donkey Delicacies. Unlike in Albany Eye, this was not meant to be funny, but a serious overview of donkey eating. As you can imagine, the online version of the story got some colorful responses. Here’s my favorite:

Why would you have all these articles glorifying donkeys talking about how great they are and then feature an article about the different ways you can eat them? It’s fucking disgusting and shows how incohesive the journalism on this site truly is.

So, how do you really feel about that donkey story?

Obviously there’s a lot of cultural bias when it comes to food. I may be fond of cows but don’t think twice about eating them. Who the hell would eat a dog? Lots of people in China, that’s who.

Hey, it’s complicated. We could talk about this all day, but, I gotta go because I’m cooking up some homemade sausage. That’ll do, pig.

In Ireland with a distant cousin

‘Tis the Season

No, that’s not a head in my refrigerator, it’s a standing rib roast that’s been in there dry aging for a week. But it does look sorta like a head, doesn’t it?

head

It’s the main course for our family Christmas celebration on Tuesday 12/30, delayed almost a week because that’s when my son flies in from California. The Marines had important work for him to do that kept him away from us on Xmas.

The result is that the holiday feels like it’s never going to end.

Don’t get me wrong, I freakin’ love Christmas, but I swear to God it’s going to kill me. It seems that ten years ago I was a much more resilient merrymaker, able to eat, drink and party with greater abandon. Now? It takes much longer to recover from holiday indulgences.

But nobody said Christmas would be easy, did they? Consider the Maji, travelling through the desert for the original celebration of Christ’s birth. Their difficult journey — on stinky camels, probably — is thought to have taken six to eight weeks. Next to that, driving to Syracuse is a piece of cake.

So enough of my ungracious Christmas kvetching. Celebrate until it hurts this season and understand that in the pain you will certainly gain.

Eat the Bird

Turkey -- not body parts.
Turkey — not body parts.

Working in the dark of night, the black plastic bags, the cooler — whenever I brine a turkey it reminds me of something out of Dexter. I hope none of my Thanksgiving guests are reading this.

Anyhow, it would not be Thanksgiving if I didn’t post a link to my recipe for sweet potato crunch. People remember two things about Albany Eye: the wiseass commentary and the sweet potato crunch recipe I first shared in 2006.

It’s getting sort of like NPR’s tradition of running Susan Stamberg’s horrible relish recipe with one important difference: the sweet potato crunch is something people will actually love to eat. Stamberg is fond of saying “It sounds terrible but tastes terrific.” Susan, let’s be honest: most people hate it.

Take my word for it, this will be one of the most popular things on the table — but I’ll share one tip about the recipe that I wrote when I first shared it:

Cook’s note: DO NOT DARE used canned sweet potatoes; you’re making dinner for your loved ones, not the inmates down at Coxsackie.

Maybe they could punish unruly prisoners by giving them nothing but the Susan Stamberg relish? Nah… that would be cruel and unusual.

Turkey Flambé: 2014 Edition

Yay, Americans are getting smarter!

You’re probably saying, “Rob, that’s not very likely. What proof do you have?”

Easy. Every Thanksgiving, I scour the internet for videos of people having horrible mishaps when frying turkeys — and these videos are getting very hard to find. The most recent fryer fire I could locate was uploaded to YouTube more than a year ago, on December 10, 2013.

Combine the lack of videos with the proliferation of phones that shoot video and it can only mean fewer fires.

What you will find on YouTube are many videos of fire departments staging turkey fires to demonstrate the dangers of hot oil, open flames, turkeys and (presumably) alcohol. Having served as a firefighter, I can tell you that they pass up few opportunities to light things on fire for training. Here’s a good one:

So, if we connect the dots we can surmise that all these demonstration videos have made a difference and yielded smarter Americans. Now, all we need are some videos about how local talk radio can rot your brain…

Attack of the Sample Zombies

Since I first attended the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, the event has grown to monstrous proportions.

What was once a quaint celebration with a small town feel has grown into a behemoth and the two-day affair seems at risk of becoming a victim of its own success. The vast remote parking lots, shuttle busses and hordes of garlic hungry sample zombies were almost too much to bear.

Yes, sample zombies.

You’ve seen them. They’re the folks who shuffle mindlessly past every booth at farmers markets and food events, not in search of brains to eat, but cheese, relishes, exotic olive oils and dipping sauces — and in this case, many different varieties of raw garlic. They lurch from table to table stabbing at tidbits of food with toothpicks, elbowing past other sample zombies for their share of the bounty.  Mmmmmm… foooooood… gooooooood…

The most patient and persistent sample zombies can make a meal of the tiny morsels, one small nip at a time. Me? I prefer to feed in large hearty bites and find sampling to be exquisitely annoying.

The sample zombies do not drink blood, they drink free shots of vinegar.

Sample zombies are attracted to free shots of vinegar.

And how about that garlic? Some varieties were noticeably sharper than others and a few had a taste that snuck up on you, the way hot sauce sometimes takes a minute to really hit home — but overall, the different types of garlic all tasted very much the same.

I couldn’t begin to guess how much raw garlic I ate, but I will say this: I stunk of garlic the next day. The fragrance oozed from my pores and orifices like nobody’s business; while sample zombies may have been a problem over the weekend, vampires were not an issue.

Baked: Adventures in Soda Bread

Last year I was put squarely in my place when the soda bread I keep bragging about failed to place in the Irish American Heritage Museum’s baking contest.

Undeterred, I plunged back in this year armed not only with my family recipe, but with an entry in their traditional brown category.

Traditional? Yes.

You see, what passes for soda bread in America is a sweet, cakey bread that’s often filled with raisins, caraway seeds, and other fancy things. But real soda bread, the type served at every meal if you visit Ireland, has just four ingredients: flour, buttermilk, salt, and baking soda. It’s rustic and simple, but spread with a little butter there are few things more delicious.

So, Saturday March 8 was a grand day down on Broadway at the the storefront museum; the whole place was fragrant with soda bread, and as the judges ploughed through their tasting, the contestants and others were digging into huge piles of soda bread, from the diverse assortment of American style recipes to the rough loaves of traditional bread made with either wheat or white flour.

To my surprise and amazement, my brown soda bread caught the fancy of the judges and was awarded first prize. Dumbstruck, when asked for my secret, I blurted out that my grandparents came from County Cork and that I’d been working hard for years on my bread recipe. The first part was true, but the second? That might have been a bit of blarney.

Oh… the winning recipe: Continue reading