Thursday, January 31, 2008
In 2004, possibly the most alcoholic year of my life to date, a year before my 21st birthday, I moved into a house in what is known as the 'student ghetto.' It's not that bad of a neighborhood but it is filled with college students and poor families. The streets are covered in trash, on any given night there is a raging party on every block, and there is a pizza place and a bodega on every corner. My block was no different, and my house most certainly accounted for its share of garbage and parties. On the corner was Pine Hills Market, run by Joe and his wife.
Joe and his wife were a lovely couple. Joe would sell me beer underage because he either liked me or liked my regular business, but whatever the case he helped fuel a house which was constantly drinking and eating. We were eating breakfast sandwiches. All the time. Almost every day. My roommates, my friends who were constantly crashing on my couch, and of course my own self.
Sausage, egg and cheese, with hashbrown (think hashbrown patty), salt, pepper, and ketchup on a hard roll. That was the perfect sandwich for the time. It had almost all the ingredients for a good breakfast, it was freshly prepared on the griddle, it was always made with love, it was always handed off with a smile, and it was always heaven on the first bite. Some people may be thinking to themselves, where's the bacon? Well that stayed in the store because I don't like microwaved bacon. You wouldn't microwave a steak would you? No. You wouldn't. And I won't eat microwaved bacon.
All good things must come to an end however, Joe moved to Virginia, I moved uptown into a bigger house with bigger scumbags, and the tradition of hung over breakfast sandwiches was over, but the memory lives on in all our hearts.
In the war between fast food breakfast sandwiches there is one clear winner, McDonald's very own McGriddle. The syrup infused pancake-esque patties on the outside of the sandwich seal the deal and push the sandwich far ahead of the competition. If the McGriddle was a movie character I would compare it with Keyser Soze from the Usual Suspects. Other breakfast sandwiches know of its existence, and fear it. I heard a about a commercial planned for Burger King that involved their very own breakfast sandwich. Unfortunately the commercial had to be canned because of 'complications.'
The plot for the advertisement had the Wopper man, Wopper Jr. boy, and Spicy Chicken Sandwich kid, all on a cross-country trip. Wopper man was to be driving a minivan down a highway with the kids sleeping in back. Wopper man is showing signs of fatigue as the early morning comes and the sun rises. He needs a rest so he pulls over on the side of the road, splashes some water in his face and tries to get himself together. As he goes to pull back onto the road the Burger King breakfast sandwich man is supposed to come out with a cup of coffee to wake him up. It was a cute idea but someone kept killing the actors that were to play breakfast sandwich man. No one knows who committed the murders but I think we all have a good idea a certain competition breakfast sandwich was involved.
Although it is not technically a sandwich and more of a wrap, I still think the Pepperjack's breakfast burrito deserves some mention. Pepperjack's is a sandwich shop a few blocks down from my house in Albany. The breakfast burrito comes with ham, bacon, eggs, cheese, and hash browns in a wrap. I always substitute sausage for ham because canadian bacon just isn't that great. I'm declaring right now that canadian bacon is false breakfast meat and those who claim otherwise shall be tossed into the fire. The breakfast burrito is one of Pepperjack's most popular items and for some reason they will not deliver it, you can only pick it up or eat it there. It's worth the trip for sure.
My new favorite place to get a breakfast sandwich is Cafe 217. I wrote about this lovely place in an earlier entry. I'd like to state again, for the record, that Cafe 217 has perfectly cooked bacon. That is what makes this breakfast sandwich so good. The consistency in the crispiness borderlines OCD, and you have to admire a place that compulsively loves bacon that much. Some nights I wake up in a cold sweat, after a horrible nightmare; the cafe closed and was replaced with a Starbucks. I don't know what I would do if a tragedy like this occurred. Though if asked I would have no qualm with becoming a martyr for the cause and taking out the building in that case, because bacon is my god.
Friday, January 25, 2008
One of my favorite food styles is sushi. Some say sushi is art, and much like bad art, bad sushi can leave you feeling queasy and confused. GOOD sushi however will warm your heart and cleanse your soul, much like the embrace of an 18 year old co-ed. The quality of the sushi is probably 75% freshness of fish and 25% competence of the sushi chef preparing your meal. Do not go to a Chinese food takeout shithole and expect to get any good sushi. Treat yourself right, go to a sushi house run by Japanese people and give them all your money, because it's worth it.
My favorite kind of sushi is salmon, which also happens to be my favorite fish. Almost nothing beats the taste of fresh salmon. Sometimes I lay awake at night staring at my ceiling, and pondering to myself, how much better would this world be if every man woman and child were able to have fresh salmon regularly. I dream about rivers filled with the beautiful fish, rivers that almost seem to be more salmon than water.
Some other kinds of sushi that I enjoy are eel, tuna, and shrimp. I have had many other pieces but rarely get them. I also like rolls a lot. Salmon roll, tuna roll, shrimp tempura roll, dragon roll, tiger roll, salmon lover's roll, spicy salmon roll, spicy tuna roll, california roll, and even a cucumber roll from time to time. Any rolls that have cream cheese in them can fuck off. I don't know if they ever did this in Japan, or if this is something new that americanized sushi chefs decided to implement for a more 'local' flavor, but it's disgusting. When I see one of these rolls on the menu I think about the middle aged man who lives in his moms basement who gets turkey and cream cheese sandwiches brought down to his lair while watching old episodes of Battlestar Gallactica.
One the negative aspects of sushi is that poor people (or fat people) can't get full off of a sushi meal without spending ridiculous amounts of money or filling up on rice instead of fish. This problem has been solved in many areas, including my hometown of Long Beach. When I go to Long Beach to visit my parents there is a mandatory trip to all you can eat sushi at Yummy Yummy. For $25 and a smile you can choose from many varieties of sushi pieces, rolls, and a specialty roll (which usually goes for about $10 alone). One year we had an contest to see who could eat the most sushi. My current roommate Jesse won, and if you count each section of your roll as an individual piece, his total was 67. I only totaled 48 but I think I could have gotten 60. I knew I had been beaten and decided to bow out of the race at that point. What was most impressive about Jesse's feat was not the amount of sushi per say, but the fact that he had done it all, the night after Thanksgiving, and he still had not taken his Thanksgiving dinner shit yet. Incredible.
The idea of all you can eat sushi is groundbreaking, but it lacks something. There is a certain air of gluttony in this nation that seems to be left unaddressed. While you are getting all you can eat, you must make several orders to the waitress and sometimes wait for your next round of sushi to be made. If a restaurant is busy this could take a while. Some say that its good to digest your food and have some space in between but thats not how I, and a multitude of others feel; especially the people at Minado.
It's hard to explain the feeling you get when you walk into this place. It's kind of like a combination of your first blowjob and the scene in Jurrasic Park when they see the dinosaurs for the first time and Dr. Hammond exclaims, "Welcome to Jurrasic Park." The amount of sushi laid out is almost unfathomable. The one that I have been to on a few occasions is in Carle Place. There are a few others in the Northeast, including one in New York City but I have not been to any of them. All their fish is really fresh and it is all prepared with expertise. The seafood and other things that have there are really good too but that's not very important at this moment. I'd say the one thing that really brought a tear to my eye is the huge plate of salmon sashimi they have next to the wasabi and ginger. Seeing that much fresh salmon piled high for anyone to sample or pig out on is heavenly.
My favorite place (and now only place) to get sushi in the Capital District is Sushi-Tei. It is located in Guilderland, next door to a guns and ammo store. The freshest sushi in the area and definitely the best deals. Their wait staff is excellent. My usual waitress Jacki is one of the nicest people I have ever encountered working in food service. If you dine in you can get each piece for a dollar. They have a lunch special called the special rolls box that includes two rolls of your choice, 4 dumplings, miso soup, ginger salad and some fruit and only for $9. At many places you would spend that much on the two rolls themselves. They also have my current favorite specialty roll, the tiger roll. The tiger roll is a tuna roll with a fresh piece of salmon laid over the top. It seems so simple but the two flavors combined are enough to give your tongue an erection.
Some people love to preach about sushi etiquette and claim that if you eat improperly or ignore certain customs it is insulting to your sushi chef. I find this ridiculous. In every sushi place that I have eaten in etiquette is highly ignored and the thing that will gain you respect is being polite and friendly. It might help your case to have some knowledge of sushi but I doubt anyone will look down their nose at you if you are mostly ignorant. Just be willing to try new things without making faces like an 8-year-old.
Sushi gets you high. Eating food that looks that good, that tastes that good, will make you feel good. I wholeheartedly believe that eating sushi can release endorphins in your brain. I have had other people tell me they have gotten high after eating a sushi meal. Maybe its the fish, or maybe its the atmosphere, or maybe its the sake-bombs. Whatever it is, its a great feeling.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Last night I did the greatest thing that a man can do. I wove bacon, and then I ate it. The process of weaving bacon is a very simple one. You get a package of bacon, and then you lay the strips down in an interconnecting pattern. If you can't figure it out then you're probably too simple to enjoy the finer things in life, like running your toes through the sand, the smell of fresh mountain air, or a perfectly woven mat of bacon.
I have never cooked bacon in the oven before and this scared me because I did not want to burn the bacon. I was also fearful that the bacon would not cook similarly throughout. Some of these fears came to fruition in the form of one side that was partially burned (but not ruined) and the middle being a little bit more on the tender side. Mostly the bacon was crispy and delicious though.
Fresh out the oven.
After the bacon was cooled off and some of the grease dripped off I cut the mat into four triangles so that I could share with my friends.
I made myself a bacon sandwich. It was the other two triangles (A LOT OF BACON) on two slices of bread. No vegetables. No condiments. Just bacon. Sweet beautiful bacon.
Happiness is a warm...
Yes the bacon mat was a successful endeavor. It tasted great and the smell lingered throughout the house even until the early morning when I left for work. I had a feeling my vegan roommate was going to complain about the wonderful meat smell and I prepared accordingly. I saved a small vial of bacon grease and awaited his arrival. As soon as he walked in the door his head turned green and spun all the way around. He began to speak in vegan tongues that only other homos might understand. Luckily I was ready for such an occasion and showered him with grease exclaiming, "THE POWER OF BACON COMPELS YOU." The vegan was thus banished to his room to eat spinach and brown shit that vaguely resembles sausage.
"The power of bacon compels you."
While the weaving of the bacon mat was perfect the cooking process still needs to be improved to get that perfect crispy texture throughout. Also it is important to figure out a way to cook the bacon without burning a single millimeter of the sacred strips. All in all I would have to say it was a great idea. Not my idea but a great one. As far as I know the original idea is from instructables.com. If you try this at home please be mindful of your bacon and always remember to share with friends.
A few more photos:
A little rough around the edges.
Taste the future.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
There are some places that claim to make and deliver pizza to your homes. Please be advised that these places do not sell actual pizza and instead manufacture some processed factory meals that somewhat resemble pizza, this is franchise pizzugh (pronounced peet-sugh). Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's, and Little Ceaser's are the main culprits in this giant scam. These places don't make pizza, they reheat frozen trash and put it in a cardboard box and charge you extra it.
Pizza Hut might be the worst of all. Number one they are owned by Pepsi, which means they are under the same umbrella as Taco Bell*, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Long John Silver's. The only redeeming quality Pizza Hut has is the breadsticks, which are decent at best. In the Albany area there are Pizza Hut buffets that serve unlimited pizza during lunch time. I've been to two different Pizza Hut buffets and both restaurants smell like feet, much like the pizza they serve. Every time I leave one of these places I feel sick, like I just ate a block of limestone and washed it down with a cup of grease. Please steer clear of these places unless you are a glutton who is missing their tongue. Even worse is the Pizza Hut express where I believe they use a microwave to reheat the crap instead of a real oven. Pathetic.
Domino's is slightly better than Pizza Hut but only based on the fact that they have cheesy bread. Their pizza also smells like feet. The thin crust pizza is closer to cardboard than it is to food. This is the kind of place that I make the mistake of ordering from because there is either nothing else open or because my good judgment has been impaired by mass amounts of alcohol. Their 555 deal seems like a good idea before you order it but soon you will be laying on your couch crying about your guts being ripped apart like your mother's panties after she meets your new daddy off J-Date.
I haven't eaten Little Ceaser's since I was about 6 or 7 years old and I have never had the displeasure of eating Papa John's but I can only assume that they are as bad if not worse than Pizza Hut and Domino's. Franchise pizza is the bottom of the barrel in the fast food chain. The only thing lower is fast food seafood which should not be eaten by any humans. Franchise pizza is a fucking disgrace. Franchise pizza is a fucking waste. Franchise pizza get out of my face.
*Please do not try to bring up the argument of Taco Bell vs. Mexican food. That is a totally different discussion and has nothing to do with pizza.
Friday, January 4, 2008
GOOD VS. EVIL
The best pizza ever comes from New York City. Down there you can walk into almost any random pizza shop and get one of the best slices you've ever had. The farther away from NYC you get the worse the pizza is. Pizza is pretty good on Long Island, in Westchester county, and in parts of New Jersey, but beyond that a major decline in the quality of pizza, and pizza culture in general.
Up here in Albany, NY the pizza is fucking awful. Some of these places try to pass off the most disgusting slop as pizza. The number one offender is Mild Wally's. This place used to have a great deal where after 11pm a slice of cheese pizza (if you can call it that) was 50 cents and you could get two for a dollar. I would get drunk off 40s of Old E and walk down from my dorm (my second year of college) or my friends apartment which was around the street, and buy a slice or two because I had no job and it was cheap food.
Mild Wally's, where the sidewalk is strewn with half eaten slices and paper plates. Mild Wally's, where anyone who has actually lived in the capital district region for more than a few years refuses to eat. Mild Wally's where the delivery men spend more time standing outside smoking cigarettes than delivering food. Mild Wally's where on any given night your pizza will be a slimy, sloppy, soupy, running, tasteless glob of shitty ingredients not cooked long enough for any normal human to enjoy. Mild Wally's: the home of shitty pizza.
This is the first cardinal sin of pizza: a crust that is not crispy.
A crust without crisp is like a bike without wheels. It's useless and it makes small children cry. How is one supposed to enjoy their pizza when it is flopping downwards and dripping the cheesy contents onto your plate/floor/pants? Sometimes I dream about a pizza vigilante that goes around murdering the owners of these establishments and starting grease fires in the kitchens of pizza offenders. If this combination of the Punisher and the food snob inside me were to exist it would probably start at Mild Wally's.
(This is part one of a multi-part series about crimes against pizza and human taste buds in general. It's time we all did our part to improve pizza culture and stop supporting these shithole pizzerias.)