Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Going Local: Sampling the Fare at Ted's Fish Fry and Gus's Hot Dogs

I've mentioned before that we've lived in a lot of places over the past decade.  There are a lot of drawbacks to doing all that moving, but one of the fun aspects is getting a sense of local cuisine in several cities and towns.

Some of these are obvious: Pittsburgh's known for a number of local specialties, with the loaded sandwiches of Primanti Brothers being at the top of that list.  Of course we tried their sandwiches loaded with fries and coleslaw--and yeah, they were good, though I'd still prefer my fries on the side (and no coleslaw at all, sorry).  But some local traditions, like chipped ham, I don't think we ever sampled.  Probably not the biggest loss. 

In Ohio, we sought out some slightly interesting and disgusting nearby food institutions, and in Boone, NC, probably the most interesting regional "food" we found was the very popular "shrimp sauce" served and bottled at local hibachi restaurants.  Mayo-based and not at all shrimpy, I think it might have been an annoying import from Florida, not unlike the terrible-driving summer tourists heading to the mountains.

So after spending several months here in New York's Capital Region, I was pleased to find that there were some local delights we could try--specifically the area's unique take on fish fry and the Watervliet/Troy mini hot dogs.  We headed to these two places not only to sample some unique area specialties, but to get a brief glimpse into a city's or neighborhood's past, a look into restaurants that, for whatever reason, have been able to persist and succeed over the course of several generations when most of their peers fell off the landscape.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ala Shanghai, Latham's Gem; Red & Blue, Still a Ways to Go

I've had this post in the hopper for a while, but seeing the results of the Times Union's Best of 2013 poll, I was inspired to come back to it from a different angle.

You see, I was initially just going to write about how we tried out Red & Blue, the new Asian restaurant in Troy, and, like so many of our dining experiences in the area, were left underwhelmed.  But then I saw the Times Union poll results and realized that despite the good things people have written about Ala Shanghai, the excellent Chinese restaurant in Latham and my write-in vote for best restaurant, it clearly is still under the radar of many folks in the Capital Region.

It's not like Ala Shanghai really needs my praise or any poll victories; the place is consistently packed, and with the wasteland of restaurants that I'm surrounded by in the Latham/Watervliet area, we don't really need to be increase the fight for seats at one of the few decent-or-better restaurants in the area.

But before I get to that, and look at how Red & Blue stacked up to Ala Shanghai on our first visit, a few thoughts on the ridiculous Chinese/Japanese/Korean category in the Times Union's poll.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bad Role Models

One of the hazards of doing a food and beer blog is that, through eating and thinking about food and beer all the time, it's kind of easy to develop a bit of pooch around the waist.  I know it's not good for me, and it's something I need to work on eradicating, but it sort of comes with the territory.

On the flip side, I also like to spend some of my free time watching sports.  Now, sitting to watch isn't exactly good for my waistline, but you'd think that watching athletes in prime physical condition run and skate across my TV screen would serve as visible motivation for me to get in better shape.  These guys could be considered role models, in a way.

I was a 13-year-old sports obsessed kid who read Sports Illustrated but didn't have cable TV when Charles Barkley made his famous role models remarks: "I'm not paid to be a role model.  I'm paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court."  I might have been naive or uninformed about a lot of things in my middle school days, but I'd heard the stories about Barkley--the bar fights, the spitting incident, the on-court fights (those were the best; I was really just a future hockey fan, as it turns out).   So his comments gave me something to think about.

Now, as an appropriately-jaded adult, I don't really have any delusions about athletes being role models--not for their off-the-playing-surface behavior.  But on-field, it's hard not to be impressed.  The current athlete is in better shape than ever before in sporting history: lean and muscular, ripped and toned, fast and strong.  But then I look at my baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, winners of two of the last three World Series, and what do I see?

Bellies.  Big, round, bouncy bellies.