Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Movies

In 1980, Dire Straits release the album Making Movies. I love the music on this album. It just speaks to me. I'm not sure why. I remember listening to it for the first time. I was pushing 10. I was in my brother Mike's dorm room with my other brother David. Just the 3 of us. Mike played the album for us (yes, album-round vinyl thing that spun on a fancy lazy Susan while being read by a needle at the end of a floating arm).

I'm not sure what took my so long, but on Sunday night I put the CD into the computer and transferred the songs onto an MP3 player. Since then, I've listen to it 3 times. Once I post this, I'm going to listen to it again.

Album side note: all my praise for this collection of music does not include the last track. It's just not as good as the rest of the album.

Bad Chicken

Have you ever gone somewhere with really high hopes for great food only to have those hopes crushed? I don't want to name names because the place is brand new, the people working there were very friendly and I do hope they can turn it around.

The place just opened and was offering Friday night apple wood smoked dinners. I had planned to order two brisket plates and one chicken plate for the four of us to eat for dinner. The brisket was sold out when I called. Good sign. I ordered 3 chicken plates to be picked up at 5.

The food was terrible. The chicken skin was black with soot, rubbery, and inedible. I couldn't tell you if there was a rub or not. The fat in the leg quarter had not been completely rendered.The kids wouldn't eat it. The macaroni and cheese side looked more like a pasta salad. Just elbows tossed with oil. There was some cheese in there but sadly, I think you could do better out of a box. The slaw was also bad. A bunch of poorly seasoned cabbage and carrot grated to a pulp. The cans of soda that came with the meal were good. I hadn't had a root beer in awhile.

So after a hectic Friday rush hour drive to the restaurant and spending about $22 on three plates of food...I made hot dogs for the kids. If I ever make it back (probably not too soon), I think I'll go with a breakfast. The place looked more like a greasy spoon than a BBQ joint.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Spoons & New Store

Every so often, Michael Ruhlman talks about a web site called Open Sky. Basically it is a place where people of varying degrees of fame can list things they like to buy. Then you can buy them directly from Open Sky. I guess it is kind of like Amazon but only with products that are recommended by someone. I follow a handful of well known chefs there and I receive a lot of email from them - usually a few a day. Most of it goes directly into the virtual trash. Every now and then they give you a credit to use. I've had my eye on a few things...but I'm cheap so I don't buy them.

Earlier in the week they gave me a $20 credit. The most they had ever offered me before was $15. The catch was that to use it, the order had to total $40 before the credit. So I bought Ruhlman's recommended "Paddles 3 Ways." They are hefty stirring paddles with a flat edge for getting in corners. Three sizes of paddles being offered for $34. Shipping put me over the $40 and the set cost $26 (The Man added some tax). Just under $9 a paddle. Probably still a little steep, but screw it, I've wanted them for awhile.

Here they are next to a knife. For size comparison, the blade on that knife is 8 inches.

The handle has some nice lettering.

Also, U Mundu E Ca is open at the Hannaford Plaza on Wolf Road. The shelves are still pretty bare but you can take a look around. They are planning a grand opening in mid to late May. Looked nice. I hope the store does well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Edible Packaging

Every so often I get an email about a bunch of different sensors that can do all kinds of things. In today's email, there was one heading that read "Bottle Tastes As Good As Beverage." Huh?

I followed the link here. Edible bottles based on grapes.  To quote the write up:

WikiCells use special membrane technology that permits the fabrication of thin delicious membranes with significant water diffusional resistance and adjoined shells that allow for stability of the WikiCells over long periods of time.

Will there be a 5 cent deposit on thin, delicious membranes?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Look At The New Shop Rite

Earlier in the week I was invited to a media preview of the new Shop Rite opening up on Central Avenue. I went expecting it to be a large event - mainstream media and a bunch of local bloggers. Seriously, without a lot of local bloggers there, how would I make the guest list? This manifesto of mine carries the marketing power of 9 followers (and I love each and every one of you by the way) plus my mother stops by the site regularly. If I'm on the guest list, this place is going to be packed, right?

I'd say there were 6 of us. A few came and went. We were very outnumbered by the store's management. For the last portion of the tour, there were three of us. I was greeted at the door by name. The only other male guest was Steve Barnes who is slightly out of my blogging league with Table Hopping and his food columns at the Times Union. Steve (I didn't introduce myself to him but I did sit next to him for a few minutes so obviously we use first names when we name drop each other) wrote about the visit here. One thing I will say about my new bestie is that he takes copious notes. I looked at his pad and couldn't decipher the short hand/chicken scratch, but he wrote down a lot. When I first saw him writing, I was kicking myself for not even thinking about bringing a pen a paper. I took a lot of engineering classes, never took a journalism one.

But enough about Steve. I took a VIP tour of a store that hasn't opened yet.

When you come in the main door, you are in the produce department. But it isn't set up yet. Well all the tables and displays are there, but no produce yet. Which makes sense. Who wants to open a store with week old lettuce? It was weird looking at the shell of the produce department.

Also next to the entrance is a pharmacy and wellness center. The pharmacy has a lot of generic medications that are $3.99 for a 30 day supply. And if I am understanding the presentation and the flyer I am looking at, there are several generic prescriptions that can be filled for free. I can't speak for you, but free is less than my current copay. The wellness center sounds like a good idea too. You can meet with a nutritionist that will help you meet a dietary goal or restriction. They also sound to be very open to suggestions. This was the beginning of the "if we don't have it, we'll get it for you" theme of the day began. 

Next up was the prepared food. There are several Culinary Institute Graduates working for the store and we met some here. As reported by Steve, the chef in charge of the prepared foods section said, "If you don't see something ask. If you can find it in the store, we'll make it for you."

They had a grill going and a flat top too. They are going to have breakfast sandwiches in the morning.  They had a lot of food lined up for us to try. I had some grilled vegetables, mashed potatoes, some braised brisket and sliced London broil. The potatoes, brisket and vegetables were very good. I had the first slices of the London broil. Maybe it's because it was near the edge or maybe it's because it is a London was well seasoned, but a little dry and tough.


The also had an Asian section and sushi. I had a few pieces of sushi. They were alright. You're not going to close your eyes and think you are in a high end sushi restaurant, but it was certainly passable.  I didn't eat in the Asian section.  It was getting a little difficult to eat, take pictures and pay attention at the same time. We were encouraged to return to eat more after the tour, but I had a meeting to attend at work.

If you like cold cuts, you'll like shopping here. Lots of Boars Head products and they have that little digital ordering kiosk so you can shop while you order is prepared. There will also be prepared sandwiches, sandwiches to order and panini.  As someone that is always on the lookout for gluten free things (my mother-in-law has Celiac's), this deli counter has something I have never seen before. They have a dedicated gluten free slicer.

A lot of cheeses to try here. The sample plate they had out was really good. I regret not writing down what was being served. I remember the blue cheese was Salemville. The brie was excellent too.

Another CIA grad is heading up the cheese department.  They will be making fresh mozzarella there regularly. But what's this? Bufala mozzarella in the case. I have always wanted to try it.

There is also going to be a pretty extensive olive bar next to the cheeses. I also noticed this walking by a cooler - pickles from Guss'

One of the managers excitedly went and got these opened for us to try. They are like hummus, just not made with chickpeas. I tried the black bean and the wasabi/edamame versions. Both were very tasty.

The bakery looked ready to get cooking. There will be in-house products as well as some from local places. There will also be a bunch or organic breads.

One of the local products featured in the bakery is halal baked goods from Neighborhood Bakery.

I tried the carrot cake. It was pretty good. Not the best you've ever had, but certainly better than average. And a loaf of it was priced at $2.19. I didn't pick up everything on the table to look, but I think everything was priced below $3.

This whole cooler is gluten free bakery products.

The fresh meat and seafood areas were also bare bones, but again it would be crazy to have them stocked now. ShopRite has US Department of Commerce fish inspector. Who knew? They are also willing to order anything. More of that "please ask and we'll get it to you" attitude. Apparently the Niskyuna store has already supplied eel and sea urchin among other things to customers.

This was an impressive aisle. Organic on one side, mostly gluten free on the other. Things with nuts were clearly labeled.  And if you have issues, I would encourage you to talk to the dietician. She was very familiar with the products here. My guess is that she picked most of them. Gluten free products run from here to the end of the aisle.

The store will also have a delivery service. Free delivery within a certain radius if your order is over $100. They said if you are between the two stores, you can get delivery. They will also shop for you and have it ready to be picked up. That service is free if you are buying $50 worth of stuff.

This looks like a very promising store. I'm looking forward to filling a shopping cart while wandering around it.

Call me, Steve. We'll hang out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Summer Sausage - Eating

I cut up one of the sausages, put it on a plate with some cheese and crackers. When the kids came home they were very excited and asked, "Is this snack for us?" I told them it was and the plate of food was gone before I got to snap a picture. Success. I brought one over to my neighbor. I hope to get a review tomorrow morning at the bus stop.

I'm pretty happy with the sausage. I might go a little heavier with the seasonings and possibly a tick heavier with the smoke. All in all, a good batch of sausage. Good thing because there are still 4 pounds of it to eat. If I make another plate up tomorrow I'll try to get a picture before the kids get to it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Summer Sausage still continues

Fired up the offset smoker tonight. I put the skewers of summer sausage on some positioned fire bricks and used the thermometer from my turkey fryer to monitor air temperature. The sausage went in around 5 and came out at 9. I didn't use any wood chips, just a hardwood charcoal heat.

Here are the coals firing up and the sausages waiting for some heat.

The stacked bricks maximized the length of the sausage (less string to tangle myself in) plus the ones of the left shield the sausage from the radiant heat coming of the coals in the firebox. I also had a thermometer in one of the links. I pulled them when the got to 150 degrees F.

I did my best to keep the air temperature around the sausage at 200 degrees F. Worked for most of the time. I did have some spikes and one pretty good dip.

Ta da!

Pretty good. I think they will be better tomorrow after some time in the fridge.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Summer Sausage continues

Last night I ran the seasoned beef/pork mixture through the grinder again. This time with the fine plate. Earlier tonight I stuffed the re-ground mixture into some hog casings and tied them into 9 inch (or less) links. I have the links tied to old metal kebob skewers that used to go with an indoor charcoal grill (yes indoor) that used to be at my parents house. No wonder I'm a grill nut. Anyhow, the skewers are hung from S hooks in the little basement fridge. Tomorrow night I will transfer the skewers to the smoker for a few hours. I already have the the weird combination of bricks I am going to use to hold up the skewers set up. Anything much longer than a 9 inch link was going to hit the bottom of the smoker. I am clearly getting older and/or wiser. There is no way I would have measured that a few years ago.

New Shop Rite Coming

The new store is opening soon and I just got invited to a preview. Surprisingly cool. Plus I'm writing this on my new phone. So far this is looking like a good week. Hopefully I'll get to the summer sausage tonight.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Summer Sausage

I made this once before and remember it being pretty good. The only modification that I made to the recipe was to actually use Fermento since I have some now instead of dried milk. I also forgot to dissolve the Fermento in water and just added dried with the spices. So much for reading the recipe a few times a day this week.

I started by cutting up a rump roast. This beef is from steers raised in my in-law's back yard (it's a pretty big yard)

To the beef, I added a pork butt that I had picked up earlier in the week. The recipe calls for half as much pork as beef. I went a little over that ratio because there wasn't enough pork but left over to make sausage.  It would have make just under 100 grams (little less than a quarter pound) so I just kept in in the summer sausage.

All the meat went through the coarse plate of the Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. Et voila - ground meat.

I put the meat in the fridge and put weighed out all the spices. It's nerdy, but I use a spreadsheet to adjust the original recipe spice weights to the weight of meat I am currently using. Here are the spices getting weighed out - salt, pink cure#1, dextrose, Fermento, Coleman's, granulated garlic and ground coriander.

Got the spice combination and some diced fat back here.

I didn't add any water to the spice mixture turning it into a paste before adding it to the meat. Forgot that step. I just mixed everything together and it smelled good.

The seasoned meat goes into the fridge for 2 days. On Sunday, I'll run it though the grinder again and then stuff it into casings. Maybe I can smoke it on Monday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I've been lazy

Been reading more instead of posting. Plus I've been listing to a few books on an MP3 player. It is strange because the guy reading the book is doing more of a performance than just a read. I'm almost through listening to my second Jonathan Kellerman novel. The novel in the background helps pass the time making spreadsheet charts. There have been a lot of charts lately. I can't read and listen to the story. No problem mindlessly formatting charts and listening though. I'm not sure how you return an audio download to the library. I guess I'll find out when one of them is due next week.

But hopefully the laziness will slowly pass. I took out some beef to thaw, picked up some pork butt and I think I'm going to have another go at Summer Sausage. That's one that takes a few nights to put together. And at some point, I have to tile the kitchen. That is getting to be embarrassingly delayed.

And my oldest has just started playing softball. She might even be a pitcher. It sure would be nice if I could live my failed gold medal Olympic dreams vicariously through pressure though.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ballot Stuffing

Every year the Times Union does a "Best Of" poll. And just about every year the results are offensive. Subway does not make the best sandwiches. People seem to like 5 Guys burgers, I ate there once a few years ago and never went back. A long time ago, I specifically made a trip to Smith's Tavern because their pizza was voted to be the best around. It's not good.

Daniel B. over at the Fussylittleblog has been trying to change this. Over the past few weeks, he has been seeking input some up with a consensus of places to select in food related categories. I don't agree with every selection on the list (such as preferring Empire to All Star) and there are others that I am without an informed opinion (like Cafe Vero). But I agree with the premise that the places populating the list are better than the places that typically end up winning the title "Best Of."

So go out there and rock the vote. Here's the list of places to enter on the ballot and here is a link to the ballot itself.