Bad Chain Restaurants VIII – A Lobster Rolls into McDonald’s

Lobster rolls are a unique thing. They’re the mating of shabby and chic. The melding together of expensive, fancy-schmancy, pinky-in-the-air lobster, with a cheap, blue collar hot dog roll. Who in their right mind would do such a thing? It’s crazy. Crazy good! Frankly, I’d much rather eat a great lobster roll standing up outside a lobster shack, than eat a whole lobster in a fine dining setting, and all the work it takes to de-shell the thing, all while wearing that silly bib.

Moreover, lobster rolls are pure genius in their simplicity. Just three components, lobster, hot dog roll, and mayo. Those three ingredients come together to make culinary magic. And its simplicity belies what an incredibly delicious thing it can be.

Back in March I had the pleasure of attending a preview for Troy Kitchen and came away very impressed with what Troy Lobster, one of the food stalls within, was doing. I finally made it back this past weekend and ordered Troy Lobster’s take on the classic Maine-style lobster roll.

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Pizza Pilgrimage IV – Dinosaur Pizza

Back in March, I stumbled on a Syracuse-based news article that profiled one of the owners of Dinosaur BBQ. The article focused on the new pizza place they were opening directly across the street from the original Dinosaur location; Apizza Regionale.

According to the article, they’re cooking the pizzas in a wood-fired oven imported from Naples. They claim to have cooked one thousand test pizzas before opening. They’re going for Neapolitan style pizza, made with ingredients sourced from New York State producers. The flour for the dough, for example, comes from a mill in Ithica.

Impressive.

I ‘m a sucker for Neapolitan style pizza, and it made for a great excuse to make a day trip out to Syracuse to try the pizza, and visit a couple of other iconic places since I’d be out that way. Wegman’s immediately came to mind as a must stop. And since I’d be passing through Utica, I thought it’d also be cool make a detour there and have chicken riggies and Utica greens for lunch.

Things didn’t quite work out as I had envisioned. It’s a day I won’t soon forget.

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Pizza Pilgrimage III – Volturno

Currently, I’m a fan of Neopolitan style pizza. I’m fascinated with it mainly because I love its bubbly charred crust. When done right the crust is light and airy, with a delightfully soft and tender chew, but it still has crispness due to the super hot wood fired oven in which it’s cooked. Toppings are usually kept to a minimum and applied with a light hand because the crust is the star (though that’s not always the case of course).

It’s important that you call it Neopolitan style. Because to be a true Neopolitan pizza, the restaurant must be VPN certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana [link] which sets strict guidelines on ovens, ingredients, and techniques used for those claiming to serve true Neopolitan pies. Interestingly, there are surprisingly few VPN certified pizzerias in America, only about 75, and only two in NY State, both in NY City.

There’s controversy surrounding the VPN certification because it doesn’t necessarily ensure one makes great pizza, and it’s viewed as a marketing gimmick by some because there are many pizzerias that are not certified but are making fantastic Neopolitan style pizza. Serious Eats has a good piece on the subject if you’re interested in reading more about it.

Volturno is not VPN certified, but they are making top notch Neopolitan style pizza.

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The Shakshuka at Morgan & Company

Recently I’ve fallen in love with poached eggs. When made well, the whites are tender and creamy. The yolk should be runny and slowly ooze its golden goodness into, and onto, whatever it’s paired with when pierced. The combination of delicate albumen and rich vitellus, make for wonderful textural and flavor contrasts, and are but one reason why eggs are a cherished food the world over.

More and more I’m of the mindset that poached is a better way to eat an egg. As such, I’ve been seeking out dishes that incorporate poached eggs. The North African dish of Shakshuka—eggs poached in a spicy tomato based sauce—has become one of my favorites.

I’m also a big fan of the Italian corn porridge better known as polenta, similar to the southern staple grits, it’s hearty, homey, and comforting. When made by expert hands, it’s swoon-worthy.

Morgan & Company has combined shakshuka and polenta into a filling and flavorful dish. It’s an Italian-African mashup if you will, and on a recent trip to Glens Falls, I stopped in to try it.

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Pizza Pilgrimage II – Fried Pizza

Did you know fried pizza is a thing?

Yes, fried pizza. I know it sounds gratuitous, but stick with me. I first discovered it a couple of months ago. I was surprised to learn it’s not new, it’s been around for awhile. And it’s not gimmicky, as though it were something you’d find at a carnival food stand. Trust me, it’s a heck of a lot better than it sounds. I’m even inclined to use the “D” word—delicious—and that wouldn’t be an embellishment for the sake of dramatic effect. In fact, I’d love to see an Albany area establishment create a fried pizza of their own. More about that in a moment.
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Under the Infuence

We are all influenced by those around us. Our personal circle of friends, family, and acquaintances affect how we view the world. In our jobs, professionally, we are constantly being pulled this way or that by our colleagues, superiors, and vendors. The media we consume—TV shows, movies, music, art, the national news, (food blogs!)—they all challenge or reinforce our views.

These forces are all, whether we realize it or not, constantly having an effect on what we like or don’t like, what we believe to be true or false, and what we deem valuable or insignificant.

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Morocco by way of India, via Pakistan, with a stop in NYC

India, Pakistan, NYC, Morocco. That’s quite a journey. But the journey doesn’t end there. It ends in Schenectady.
Humble Schenectady of all places. And how blessed the Electric City is because of it.
I find it interesting that the small North African nation of Morocco (with a population of just 34 million) is ingrained into American culture. After all, one of the greatest films made, arguably, is Casablanca, set in the eponymous Moroccan coastal city.
“Here’s looking at you kid.” What American over the age of 30 doesn’t know that line?
Then there’s the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young hit Marrakesh Express. Love that tune. And according to Wikipedia, the song is based on an actual train ride Graham Nash took to the city of Marrakesh while vacationing in Morocco.
I was surprised to learn that Tara Kitchen is run by a husband and wife team of Indian, and Pakistani descent. She lived for a time in NYC. He, a transplanted Pakistani living in Morocco. When she was vacationing there, they met, fell in love, and married. It’s a fascinating story, and I recommend you read it.

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The Onion Rings at Country Drive-In

At lunch time on Labor Day, we didn’t have anything going on. The weather was beautiful and we decided to grab a bite somewhere that would be quick, and where we could eat outside. My wife mentioned that she’s been wanting to check out Country Drive-In in Clifton Park. I quickly jumped on yelp to see what people were saying about it.

There’s several reviews, all very positive, but Josh K.’s review stood out. At the very end, Josh makes an offhand comment without expounding further, that seems inconsequential:

“And the Onion Rings are the best I have ever had. Seriously.”

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Death by Cheeseburger II – Craving a Juicy Burger from Bun & Bean

In my last post I wrote down my preferences and biases of what I think makes a great burger. If you haven’t read it, you should read it before reading this post, to put this post in better context.

Today, I want to share 3 local burger joints I’ve eaten at recently and share my thoughts about how they stack up against my ideal burger.

In order from what I liked least to what I liked best.
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