Category Archives: food

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:

sandwich

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?”

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. Continue reading

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.