Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Top Ten #31

1. W.W. Boyce Farmers' Market, Fredericton, NB

2. A.S. Byatt, Possession

3. Mad Men, season 2

fig. a: "Mark Whitacre" + Mark Whitacre

4. The Informant!, dir. Soderbergh + This American Life #168: "The Fix is In"

fig. b: NB tartan

5. The Loomcrofters, Gagetown, NB

6. Oscar's, Warrensburg, NY

7. Hans Fallada, Every Man Dies Alone

8. New Brunswick potatoes

9. diner-style hamburgers + I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, dir. LeRoy

fig. c: Captains Courageous

10. cod cakes + Captains Courageous, dir. Fleming + chow chow


Sunday, September 13, 2009

On and Off the Road 2

smokehouse pastoral fig. a: smokehouse pastoral

We'd gotten tipped off to Oscar's Adirondack Smoke House about 3 or 4 years ago by a fellow traveler here in Montreal, but we didn't follow up on the tip promptly, and within a few months, all thoughts of Oscar's famous smoked hams had wafted away like so much hickory smoke.

Thank god A & J refreshed our memories. They'd spent a few furious days eating their way back and forth across Montreal for their honeymoon (you know, the usual: Au Pied, Joe Beef, Salle à Manger, Cuisine Mas, Dic Ann's, The Main, Laloux, etc.), and on their way back to New York they made a few well-researched stops in the Adirondacks, one of which was Oscar's.

Two weeks later, on our way down to the Catskills, we pulled off the 87 at exit 23, and pulled into Warrensburg, to pay Oscar's a visit. And from the moment we set eyes on it, we knew it was going to be good.

oscar's fig. b: smokehouse gothic

I mean, "Choice MEATS," "HOME SMOKE HAMS BACON," and the name "OSCARS" printed directly on one of their smokehouse chimneys--how can you go wrong? (Especially with all that beautiful blue smoke wafting through the air...)

Now, if you're looking for 100% traditional country hams--the kind of backwoods masterpieces you can still find in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee--you're not going to find them at Oscar's. They're crazy, but they're not that crazy.

What matters is the care Oscar's puts into their product, the way they sugar- and salt-cure their meats, and the way they smoke everything using that lovely, natural hardwood smoke. We loved their "petite" smoked ham (perfect for two!), their double-smoked bacon (now you're talking!), and their super-smoked cheddar cheese (yes!). And they make a mighty fine German-style red potato salad, too. We packed our cooler, and pointed our car back towards the highway.

Oscar's, 22 Raymond Lane, Warrensburg, NY, 1-800-627-3431

And if you're heading down to New York from Montreal, or up to Montreal from New York, Oscar's ain't but 5 minutes from the 87. That's a small price to pay for fine smokehouse fare.


ps--TY A & J, and S, too.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

On and Off the Road 1

pj's 1 fig. a: l-r: Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard

We'd been wanting to go to PJ's BBQ in Saratoga Springs for years. Not because we knew anything about it--hell, we didn't even know the name of the place until we were lined up in PJ's bb-queue--but we had admired its roadside style on numerous occasions, and we just had a good feeling about the place. Problem is, every time we'd tried to go there in the past, it hadn't been "bbq season"--PJ's is only open during the warm weather months (this year's opening day was April 18). This time around we were pretty sure we'd finally get a chance to sample "Saratoga-style" barbecue--we were heading down to the Catskills again and it was the height of summer.

I'm still not sure what the distinguishing features of "Saratoga-style" barbecue, but I do know that PJ's cooks their chicken & ribs over an open pit and that they use real charcoal to do so. I also know that someone at PJ's has got a serious '50s fetish--pick-up windows are named after such rock 'n' roll legends as Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and a parade of '50s hits blares over the P.A. (luckily, the overall effect is more American Graffiti or Gibeau Orange Julep than Johnny Rockets).

pj's 2 fig. b: l-r: ribs, chicken

I can also tell you that while PJ's isn't about to dethrone any of the bbq masters of North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, or Texas anytime soon (for one thing, they offer too many damn sauces) but they have won their fair share of barbecue awards & acclaim, everything is cooked slow & low (as it should be), and visiting PJ's Saratoga-style barbecue at the height of summer, when the ponies are running, is nothing if not a scene. I mean, this joint was jumpin', and the crowds had come ready to eat. PJ's is now over a quarter of a century old, and, by the looks (and taste) of it, they're going strong.

PJ's BBQ, Route 9, South Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY, (518) 583-CHIK & (518) 583-RIBS