Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Von Cupcake Keeper, or A Taste of Binghamton

VTK hit the road last weekend to check out the home turf (current home turf anyways) of fellow blogger, UMass alum, and friend, Dearest Cupcake - none other than the hopping and happening Binghamton, NY. I've been promising a visit for years now and finally got around to making it happen. All it took was a 8.0 Richter scale earthquake in Peru to get me there. Binghamton is a classic post-industrial American city in decline, similar to Pittsfield in that regard but on a much larger scale. The population of the tri-city area, once 500,000, is now only 100,000. But it's the home of SUNY Binghamton and its Anthropology grad school program, which is how DC ended up there. There's not too too much to do there, so we made the obvious scheduling plan and structured our entire weekend around food. And I do mean structure. Here's a brief recap of the weekend as it progressed down the meals checklist:

1. Oneonta Sandwiches - DC picked me up at the bus stop and gave me the bad news that we would have to postpone our trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown because she had to finish a grant proposal. That was not a big deal since I was exhausted from getting up 6 hours earlier than usual to catch the bus. While in the Big O, we grabbed a bite - nothing extraordinary. Oneonta in a word? quaint.

2. Wings and Spiedies at Tasty's - Once the grant proposal was done, we headed down to a classic townie spot to celebrate with some Yeunglings and chicken wings. In addition to that belly bloating action, I got my first taste of a Binghamton original sandwich: the spiedie. My affinity for sandwiches is well known and I was excited to try a famous local treat. Pleasantly surprised I was not. I wanted to love the spiedie; I really did. But it's not a great sandwich. Basically it consists of chunks of pork, marinated in Italian dressing, cooked beyond dryness, and then served on dry bread, without any sauce or anything. The only thing that was missing was a cup of sand to wash it down. It was the driest food experience I've ever had. I just don't understand the concept. Sorry, Bing. Thumbs down. Fun times at Tasty's though. Even though I think we got shut off for not being townies.

3. Oatmeal and Apples - It was over this breakfast that we decided that we needed to sort out our meal plan for the weekend. There were some pretty important food experiences that we had planned and we had to make sure that we fit it all in.

4. Spiediefest 08 (08?) - I know what you're thinking - didn't they sample and reject the spiedie back at meal # 2? Like I said, I wanted to like the spiedie, and DC convinced me that we had to try the original at Sharkey's or Lupo's (the Pat's v Geno's of the Bing). We decided to go to Sharkey's, aka 1952. As soon as you walk into this place you're transported back in time. And you're Polish. And your cholesterol is through the roof. Our waitress told us that the layout and furniture were the same as they were during WW2. In addition to the spiedies, we got the fried clams and perogies, and a side of salt potatoes. The perogies and the salt pots were served in bowls of butter - butter which I would later use in a futile attempt to add some moisture to the spiedie. This was a feast that left us both in cholesterol comas. We tried to walk it off in the neighborhood by popping in some of the local antique shops. We also found a record player repair shop and went in to see if they had any Victrola Talking Machines. I talked to the repair man and explained the machine I have and the small irregular piece that I need. He knew exactly what I was talking about and had it in stock. But then he said that they don't sell the parts, that they're just for repairs. Ummm ... you're an idiot, old man. No wonder your town is economically depressed; you have no concept of commerce. How much would I have paid for that one piece that I can't find anywhere else.

5. Torrid Tempeh Temptation - We figured that somewhere in the middle of the artery clogging madness, we should try to fit in some vegetables. After lounging around for a few hours doing su doku and letting the lard digest, we walked downtown to check out a little Bing culture - the monthly art walk. By the time we got back, our expanded estomagos were ready for more, so we made a thai style dinner of vegetables and tempeh cooked in peanut satay sauce.

6. Dutch Babies - aka Babycakes - To set us up with a nice base for our trip to Cooperstown (Coop, there it is!), DC whipped up a delicious set of breakfast treats that I had never tried before. Unlike my introduction to the spiedie, my introduction to the Dutch Baby was a pleasure for the palette. It's basically eggs and flour baked in butter, topped with lemon and powdered sugar. A good way to start our pilgrimage to the Baseball Mecca that is the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I was sure to wear my Pittsfield 1791 hat, referencing the oldest document in existence that mentions baseball: a 1791 law prohibiting the play of baseball within 80 feet of the Pittsfield Town Hall. What's up now, Coop! Despite the fraudulence of the Abner Doubleday claim to having invented baseball in Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame is pretty cool. It will be even better when the court order comes through to move it to Pittsfield.

7. Coop (There it is!) - After a couple hours in the BHoF, we found ourselves a bit peckish. A visit to the Doubleday Cafe took care of that with chowdah, and some quality deli food (salad with bacon for DC, corned beef and swiss on rye for VTK). Not gut-splitting, but filling enough to hold us over until dinner, which promised to be a doozy.

8. The Spot - after some deliberation, we settled on a Greek ... restaurant for dinner. What put it over the top was the fact that they served Harvey Wallbangers. I didn't know what was in a H-Wall but I knew that this was the perfect place to find out. DC went for another cocktail that we were unfamiliar with - the Stinger. We were both surprised and disgusted by what we had ordered. The Harvey Wallbanger is basically a screwdriver with a splash of a nasty herbal liquor named Galliano. The Stinger is brandy with creme de menthe (creme de sgusting). And if you're thinking maybe it would taste ok if you mixed them together, you're wrong.

oh, and the food. soup, bread, salad, and two mammoth fried chicken parmigiana dishes. holy bloated belly, batman. All we could muster after that was to play a quick 20 games of UNO with the Derek Jeter UNO cards that I picked up at the BHoF. Yeah. Saturday night. We're old.

9. Breakfast at the Skylark - At this stage of the game, our stomachs have expanded to about the size of hippo stomachs, so we had to just keep feeding the monster. We met DC's friends for brunch at the Skylark diner. DC went for the club sandwich and french fries. I thought the flapjacks, egg, and bacon would sit in my stomach better. Both were sufficient to tide us over until after the Pats - Colts game. DC got some knitting done while I explained the rules of pass interference and how the refs in this particular game were total asshats.

10. Taco Town!! - If you don't know what Taco Town is, please see the video on the previous post. They don't have crepes or gruyere in Binghamton, so we decided to go for Pizza Tacos, tacos wrapped in pizzas. As you can see, we put a lot of planning into the design of Taco Town:

We decided to go with model 4 - 2 home made personal dough pizzas and 2 tortilla pizzas, each wrapped around a taco. During the Pats game, we worked up the order of operations.

And the rest was Taco Town magic:

Pizza? Now that's what I call a taco!


KB said...

Oh my god. I love you both.

This post reminds me of an old joke...

What's grosser than 2 dead babies in a blender?

2 dead babies in a blender with pizza tacos.

I think it went something like that anyway.

blythe said...

this is weird. s-bhan and i have had taco night inspired by DC and s-bahn taco night. i've also had dutch babies! mmm. so good.

blythe said...

ok, in my excitement i overlooked the pizza. damn. if blove were still happening, you'd win for sure.

Dan said...

love you too, KB. We have to hit the track soon so I can find you some new employees. I think $200 per person that works out is a fair headhunting fee. We can make that a sliding scale based on productivity though if you think that would be more appropriate.

Blythe - wow. you must really like Tacos to have read that entire post, looked at all the pictures, and missed the pizza part. kudos to you. tacos are tasty. even tastier with a pizza wrapped around them.

Dearest Cupcake said...

What, no mention of Monday's breakfast?! I guess Pizza Tacos are a hard act to follow. The cupcake post is up - surprisingly I spent more time on the baseball than you... but I suppose for all the wrong reasons. Looking forward to the gravy dumpling/pizza taco empire we're about to build.

Dan said...

For dramatic purposes, I felt I had to close with Taco Town, but the scrambled eggs and rosemary sourdough toast were delicious on Monday AM. As were the contents of the Snax bag you made for my bus ride home. thanx!

I'm on my way over to the Cupcake to check it out. Suffice it to say that this post took way too long to write and organize with all the photos (I'm sure you understand), so I had to skimp on some of the coverage. (Non-bloggers - this stuff takes time and I have to do work sometimes (despite popular opinions regarding my employment status))

The Pizza Taco Gravy Dumpling Empire is going to shock the world. We're going to be wicked rich. And fat. Yeah!

Claire said...

Kevin says the spiedies are better at the Spiedie and Rib Pit, that they actually have moisture in them there. And there are various kinds of sauce. And there's a buffalo chicken spiedie. So maybe you'll have to come back sometime, with your Victrola.

Lauren 02143! said...


I am missing upstate right about now....

Dan said...

You know, I'm sure that's all it really takes - a little sauce. any kind of sauce. It just makes no sense dry on bread without sauce. Next time I'm out there, I'll have to check out the Spiedie and Rib Pit. I like me some ribs too.

Lauren, I stopped at UAlbany while I was out there too. (well, the bus did to drop some people off).

Bashirs Momma said...

I bet he would have sold you that friggin needle if you were a TOWNIE!

That's what it is.

Binghamtonians aren't stupid. They are like a little right-wing militia compound, suspicious of anyone and anything that comes into town. Makes for great interactions between the locals and all the Long Island kids at SUNY.

Was good to meet you. Come back and insist that DC let you hang out with some of her Be-atches.

Dan said...

I bet you're right. So he's not an idiot, he's a provincial, stubborn, townie. Oh well.

It was good to meet you too. I'll be sure to get some more time with the be-atches next time I'm in town.

marshall said...

Dan, why did Reggie pose for his BHOF bronze plaque wearing his back-up set of dentures?

Dan said...

I'm thinking the sculptor must've been a Dodger's fan. Speaking of the hated Dodgers, how about Brooklyn Joe going to manage the blue devils? Poor Scott Proctor.

Speaking of lame artists, the sculptors at the BHoF totally suck. I'm sure I could do a much better job. All I have to do is learn how to sculpt bronze. Well, learn how to sculpt first, then how to sculpt bronze. Can't be that hard. I wonder if the BHoF has health insurance.

Lauren 02143! said...

Oh - Collins Circle drop off - I know it well!

And yeah - it's absolutley about the marinade...

Dan said...

speaking of the marinade: Italian dressing. fancy.