The Brocton, NY Edition: And These Are My Grandpa’s Chicken Wings.

In certain circles, my grandpa is known for a lot of things. Of the stories I hear, one of the things he’s most famous for are his chicken wings.

IMG_0993 copy30 pounds of wings … 60 pounds of wings for that … do you remember when we did 100 pounds for such-and-such party? The man has single-handedly cooked tens of thousands of pounds of chicken wings.

To back it up just a bit: Buffalo, N.Y., purports to be the origin of the chicken-wing-as-bar-snack. Somewhere in those murky decades before my existence, my grandpa fine-tuned his own sauce recipe that even now remains a secret. It’s a damn good sauce: lip-smacking spicy in just the way you want it to be, without burning out your throat. Blue cheese dressing cuts the heat, if you need it. No wonder he’s a local legend.

On this visit, the wings were part of that classic American round robin, the pot luck (aka barbecue, or picnic). There is one rule: Bring yourselves, and bring a dish to share.

IMG_0998 copyI just adore these events. You get the most incredible cornucopia of foods you might not ordinarily eat, or even imagine existed. Your plate becomes a veritable petri dish of American food culture.

Consider the specimen that is Plate no. 1, clockwise from the chicken wings: There’s a baked, cheesy, hashbrown dish; baby pickles; half a Johnsonville Beddar Cheddar brat (with spicy mustard); nacho salad made with lettuce, ground beef, Doritos nacho cheese chip crumbles, and more. (bacon?)

No one eats like this, normally, all the time. That’s why it’s such a treat.

IMG_0005 copyTake, for example, my favorite item on Plate no. 2, the dessert plate, which is located at the top. Yes, that fluffy, very orange “7-Up salad” gets its glow from orange Jello, CoolWhip, canned fruit (I think), 7-Up (I’m assuming) and more.

I should know this because I watched my grandma make it this morning, and I pretty much ate a bowl of it for breakfast … Clockwise from the 7-Up salad is a banana creme pudding dish; a strudel bar and chocolate cherry cake. All homemade.

IMG_0006 copy

… And, to wash it all down, your pick of beers. There’s always a fully-stocked beer fridge, which, by definition, is a separate, secondary fridge, usually located in a garage, full of beer.

Oh, to have a beer fridge in New York City…

Where were we partying? There’s an interior shot of the shed, pre-party, after the jump: Continue reading “The Brocton, NY Edition: And These Are My Grandpa’s Chicken Wings.”


The Minnesota Edition: I’ve Had This Meal Countless Times (aka the “Classic Summer Supper” Post)

photo-5Dinner salad.
Corn on the cob.
Twice-baked potatoes.
Steak on the grill.

This is a meal that I’ve had dozens and dozens of times, probably even hundreds of times, over the years — Quite simply, this is Minnesota in the summer.

The cut of meat may change, but it’s always grilled. Tonight it was choice New York strip steaks from Cub Foods, a regional grocery store chain.

photo-1photo-2The style of potatoes may change — potato salad, baked potatoes, boiled baby potatoes tossed in fresh herbs and butter are other regular options — but the potatoes are always there. Twice-baked potatoes — potatoes baked in the oven, innards scooped and blended with such goodies as bacon bits, sour cream, green onion and shredded cheese, and then finished off in the oven again — are a personal favorite and a Grandma specialty.

photophoto-6Every Minnesotan will tell you there’s nothing better than sweet corn bought off the back of a farmer’s truck, although methods of buttering the corn do vary. This household uses a corn dipper, a tall, cylinder-typed glass beaker that is filled with hot water to a certain line and topped off with butter, which melts and floats on the top — ensuring a perfectly evenly-coated cob of corn every time.

photo-3The salad, too, is always there, although sometimes it can be an afterthought. Not when I make it: chopped romaine lettuce garnished with julienned carrots (from a bag), sliced red bell pepper, a tomato wedge, bacon bits, green onion, sunflower seeds, prepared tableside; add dressing of choice.

The timing of it all — so that dinner begins with the sun still well above the horizon, and isn’t over until the sun sets over the far lake shore — well, that’s intentional every time.

Dinner: Wine, Cheese, a Little NY Phil, and About 100 Thousand New Friends

By far, the largest communal picnic I’ve ever been at.

photo-2I’ve seen a lot of crowds, but this was a first. Nearly 100,000 New Yorkers and friends, all eating, drinking, laughing, managing to carve out a tiny plot of grass in which to hold court.

Our really impromptu picnic — well, my attendance was impromptu — consisted of a pair of cheeses and salumi from Murray’s Cheese Shop, some other crudities, a bottle of wine, and nearly 100,000 of our new, closest friends. (I keep repeating that number because really, it was amazing!)

photophoto-1My favorite of the night was the Asher Blue (right), a cow’s milk blue cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy of Georgia. As the story goes, the cheesemongers at Murray’s were so impressed by the prototype that they bought the entire inaugural batch.

I don’t blame them — this is a really, really interesting cheese. This blue is so young that it’s almost not blue. (Well, that’s not true, but it is such a baby!) You can see the mold is still mostly contained to pockets, and spreading outward, but that large sections of cheese remain a strightforward cow’s milk cheese, more or less. Check out this picture of a much more mature Asher Blue. What a difference! I, for one, was really enjoying the contrasts of the cheese. I’m going to be checking in on it at Murray’s while their supplies last, and see how perceptably it changes.

Editor’s Note, aka the “What a Week!” Post

What a week! In hindsight, I should have realized this week’s great potentials, all of which were realized, and which caused the BLD project’s 3x daily endeavor to be put on hold, only temporarily:

Über freelancing/article productivity. Between Monday and Thursday (short work week due to Fourth of July federal holiday), I visited five food establishments as “official” article research (I put the quotes around “official” because generally I consider all my wandering and eating to be research); listened to several hours of previously-recorded interviews (and transcribed quotes); conducted two new interviews; wrote three articles (600 – 1,200 word count); and had this Market Research column on sorbet published in amNY. On average, I was writing/typing 2,000-2,500 words a day.

photo(5)Über cause for celebration. I’m not sure how often it happens that the culmination of NYC’s Gay Pride Week, which is the parade on Sunday, falls within a week of the Fourth of July, which might be my favorite national holiday, but this year it did, which means this city absolutely errupted with passion, pride and energy twice within a week’s span. Plus, out-of-town visitors.

Über-ly gorgeous early summer weather. Have I mentioned that I absolutely love the summer season? Other than being caught in a 10-minute downpour that gave entirely new meaning to the weather advisory of “rain may be heavy at times,” this week has been absolutely gorgeous. High temps low 80s, relatively low humidity, evening temps dropping into the 60s, which is warm enough to not need any kind of jacket/sweater/shrug, but still comfortable for sleeping — that is, when I got around to it.

So now, I’m going to see if I can post seven posts, each representing the highlight of the day, and get this next week started fresh. As they say, let’s keep on treking …