"MICHIGAN" IMPOSSIBLE - My 6-Day Obsession with the Iconic Hot Dogs of NY's North Country
UPDATE: Days 1 through 7 (yes, there ended up being 7 of them!) are now posted as of Monday 08/28/17. Enjoy!!
Good Morning, Billyboy
...your mission...should you decide to accept it, is to sample as many Michigan-style hot dogs as you can during your 6-day stay in the Adirondack Park. While it is unknown what connection these North Country staples have to the Wolverine State, they have been a big part of the local history for nearly 100 years. Preliminary research places the center of origin for these divine dogs, referred to by some locals under the code name "gut bombs", as in and around the city of Plattsburgh, NY. Seek any leads from local newspapers, magazines, waitstaff and fellow hot dog lovers and explore all avenues available to you: roadside stands, diners, family restaurants, hot dog carts, mini-marts, car hops and any other places that catch your eye. Report back to Roadfood on your findings so that we may analyze the data for future tours. As always, if you should be caught inquiring about where to find a Tuscon-based Sonoran-style hot dog or actually eating a Chicago dog "dragged through the garden", as it were, the Roadfood Secretary of Regional Eats (Wanderingjew
) will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self destruct in 5 seconds...
And so it begins... Monday July 31, 2017 - Day 1
- Time once again for my family's annual weeklong vacation in the Adirondack Mountains. Having secured a decently priced rental car in Manhattan instead of hiking over to Hoboken, NJ as I did last year, I hightailed it out of NYC as fast as I could through the traffic jam that is the Westside Highway and eventually made it on to the Taconic State Parkway. Now you might be thinking, "Wait a minute. Isn't Rte. 87 North much quicker?" Why yes, it is. However I had a good reason to take a more scenic and less direct route which shall reveal itself soon enough. After a bit, I felt the need for a stretch/nosh/restroom break so I pulled off to then left to check out the TASTE NY
building I had seen when passing by on a previous trip. These stores are located in rest areas along the NYS Thruway, at airports and many other locations throughout New York state. The great thing about them is that they feature jams, honey, sauces, cheeses, ice cream, milk, meats, ready-to eat foods and much more from local farmers, beekeepers, butchers and other artisans. While the price may be more than what one would pay for some snacks from a convenience store, the taste is worth it and it just felt right to support local people plying their trade. Unfortunately, the pictures of my Ronnybrook chocolate milk and turkey sandwich with apple and NYS sharp cheddar didn't turn out so well, but I'd highly recommend stopping at one of these stores if you have the chance.
My first planned stop was at Green Acres Farm
in Hudson, NY. Just a small farm on Rte. 82 about 40 minutes from the Massachusetts border.
I had first hear about them in 2010 when my friends, Doug & Marisa, introduced me to the wonderful peach pie from Green Acres that has haunted my dreams ever since. I've have tasted most of their pie line in the ensuing 7 years. Last year, I called ahead to reserve three pies but today I rolled the dice since I knew I'd be arriving well before closing.
As I entered the store, I saw a man, his wife and their daughter looking at the last two pies behind the glass, an apple and a peach. The wife turned to her husband and said, "So, should we take them both?" "Yes.", he replied. The look of grief that must have swept over my face having been that close to greatness, only to have it snatched away at the last second was surely obvious to the wife and to the pie man who said, "Don't worry, I've got more in the oven." This empty case almost made me cry until he uttered those words!
He was even kind enough to allow me behind the counter so I could take picture of the pies on the cooling rack. Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you!!
The peach pie of my dreams.
And a Dutch Apple pie for the rest of the family...hahaha!!
While their pies are fantastic, the suagr-dusted apple cider donuts are not to be missed. Moist, cakey and the cider comes through in each bite. I called Dayna and she asked for some of the Peach Applesauce she had bought last year. She didn't have enough vacation time at work so she didn't make the trip this year. I said I'd bring her back a double crust apple pie but the pie man said I should come by on my way back to NYC for a fresh pie. Oh well, I guess another visit is in order at the end of the week!MICHIGAN STOP #1
- The Noon Mark Diner
has been on my radar for about a year, ever since I had read about it in a local magazine on last year's trip and found out that they not only serve Michigans, but they also make lots of homemade pie, including Maple Walnut pie.
This place had a real homey feel to it.
Hooks to hang up your camo hunting clothes.
Local newspapers to read over a cuppa coffee and a slice of pie.
Naturally, I went for a stool at the counter so I could watch the comings and goings from the kitchen.
Noon Mark has many homemade items on the menu: pies, breads, english muffins (seriously, who does THAT anymore?) and soups. When I spied homemade corn chowder on the menu, I had to try it. I rarely see it in NYC and even then it is only in the colder months. A cup of the Noon Mark's excellent homemade corn chowder. Lots of cream, corn, potatoes and bacon in this one. Pleasantly surprised to find this true gem available during the hot summer months.
The Michigan, presented naked, with chips and pickles. Onions to be added as desired. Mustard on the counter.
All dressed, with chopped raw onions and mustard. I neglected to ask what kind of dog they use but it was a tasty dog though I prefer mine with a char. I do think that Michigans, like NY Systems, Coneys and Texas Hots, are meant for the griddle. They used a top-split bun and the Michigan sauce was spiced with cumin and a hot kick of red pepper flakes. I'm not a huge fan of cumin but this wasn't overpowering.
Some places serve them up naked, others ask if you want onions and mustard, a few will serve them up fully dressed and an occasion, they will bury the onions under the sauce to reduce spillage. And yes Virginia, there will be spillage! Make no mistake, a Michigan-style hot dog is not a food for dainty nibblers. Upon picking it up (and many others throughout the week), the bun felt like an Olympic strongman at the end of a deadlift and is about to collapse under the weight of it all.
Michigan sauces are hearty, hefty, rib-sticking, multi-napkin affairs. Leaning forward while taking EACH bite is highly recommended and a fork (and knife?) is usually necessary to scrape up the rogue bits that spill onto the plate or into the cardboard boat. The only downside to this particular example is that the bun fell apart about halfway through. I should have asked if they would butter and griddle it for me, to shore up the bun and for that buttery flavor and crisp crust. It ain't just for lobster rolls, ya know!
My slice of Maple-Walnut pie. Yeah, there was no question what I'd be having for dessert. I even placed my pie order at the beginning just to make sure that I would not be denied! Buffetbuster
, The Travelin' Man
, you have taught me well! This was a very maple-y slice of pie with an abundance of crunchy walnuts. I was a bit concerned at first as it was served cold from a refrigerated case and while I do prefer a warm slice of pie, this was no slouch. Like a pecan pie but instead of molasses and pecans they subbed in maple syrup and walnuts. I'll definitely need to stop here next summer.
I was right in the heart of maple country and there were sugar houses all around. Many of the local farmers markets and diners have jugs of pure maple syrup for sale. After tasting just one drop of the liquid gold from those trees I can't imagine ever pouring the processed stuff on my pancakes ever again.
A big part of their business is their homemade breads, cookies, and an insane variety of pies! And for pretty much every fruit pie they make, they also have a crumb-topped version.
I figure $4.00 a slice for a 6-slice pie is a pretty good deal.
They also make lasagna and quiches to eat-in or take home.
If you're in Keene Valley, NY and you see one of these signs along the road, pull over and pick up some of the real thing!
It seems unlikely that one would PLAN to stop at a roadside maple syrup shack but I had encountered Black Rooster Maple
back in 2016 when Dayna & I spent an afternoon at the Adirondack Museum (now known as the Adirondack Experience) in Blue Mountain Lake. Run by the Bassarab family, Black Rooster had a tent there that day and I walked away with a jar of their pure maple cream which has adorned many plates of pancakes and french toast since then. When I found out that they were along my route to our rental house, I knew I'd have to stop in and they were just up the road a short way from the Noon Mark Diner.
I saw this sign along local country roads a lot when I was a kid.
Their logo. "Black" was the name of the rooster that the Bassarab family had and he would look over a flock of Rhode Island hens and they liked to peck at the white feathers on his head. The family made a small top hat out of duct tape to protect his feathers, hence the logo.
The OPEN sign outside was lit and the door was open, but when I walked in I just saw some empty boxes and sugaring equipment in front of me and a table with jugs, jars and bottles of maple syrup to the left. I called out. "Hello?!", a few times, but no one answered. No one was here? Strange...
Sap buckets as light fixtures. Pretty cool.
Now there's a contest I'd love to judge!
Seriously?! Wow! I didn't even know that that was a "thing"! I took a nice pic of the shot I poured from an open bottle into a sample cup but I seem to have misfiled it somewhere. NOTE: Found it! Next picture after this one.
Man, this was some next level stuff! The bourbon scent was front and center. And I could taste it in there too. What a treat! I ended up grabbing some maple candies and a jug of maple syrup to tide me over until my next trip up north. I dropped my cash in the box, made my change and signed the log, listing the items I purchased.
While Keene, NY isn't exactly the Lido deck on the Pacific Princess, this shot of high-quality PURE maple syrup made for one heckuva nightcap!
Having lived in NYC for 14 years and seen a lot of weird goings-on at all hours, I think I may have become somewhat jaded about the human condition. When I saw this sign and the pile of cash in the box I just couldn't believe that it was real! I thought maybe there was a hidden camera or there HAD to be a catch. The honor system? People still do that? No way would anyone even think about doing this in the Big Apple! A very heartwarming surprise that filled me with hope about my fellow man.
While Michigans may be on the sign I'm not so sure that a clown is the best way to draw in customers. Though it could be that between Stephen King's "IT", John Wayne Gacy and that freaky clown doll in "Poltergeist", clowns are just ruined for me!MICHIGAN STOP #2
- Mountain Mist Ice Cream
is right alongside the road on Rte. 86 in Saranac Lake, NY. I had known about them since my trip last year as Custard's Last Stand in Long Lake, NY has strikingly similar architecture and the font on the sign is a close match.
Separated at birth from Mountain Mist?
While not listed on the regular menu, one of the specials was a Maple-Walnut milkshake (made with REAL maple syrup!). I was all over that in a second and watching the counter girl pour in two ladles of that golden nectar of the trees only served to amp up my excitement! Shakes don't tend to make for great photos but this one had a rich maple flavor and most of the walnuts had been blended down, which gave the shake a nutty grit, which was a good thing and and assertive walnut flavor. The real surprise were the few rogue walnuts that had somehow escaped the executioner's blade and provided a nice crunch at the end.
My Michigan which features a split and griddled dog which had a nice crust on it, a heftier sesame-seeded bun which held up nicely to the sauce, and a thick Michigan sauce, the contents of which escape me at the moment. I think this one was leaning more towards a chili with a hint of sweetness but I just can't be sure. In any case, I really liked it a lot.
It was initially wrapped in foil and they had forgotten to ask if I wanted onions and/or mustard so I brought it back and they gave me the classic Michigan hook-up. For some reason, I had never been a big fan of mustard on a hot dog with a meat sauce on it but so far on this trip it REALLY works for me and just seems to make sense.
While it had started to rain just as I sat at one of the picnic tables under some trees, the view was great. Like eating lobster rolls on a deck by the wharf in Maine, tucking into some Texas barbecue in a smoke-filled parlor or wolfing down a late-night Philly cheesesteak on the sidewalk, surrounded by the glow of neon, having a Michigan amongst the waters and mountains of the Adirondacks just feels right.
It was getting late and the sun began to set. Last year, we didn't arrive until after midnight and driving along the winding country roads with deer lurking among the trees was not a performance I cared to repeat. I arrived at our rental house in the very small town of Rainbow Lake just before dark and I actually missed it twice before doubling back and seeing my sister's car in the driveway. I took these pictures throughout the week but for the sake of continuity, I thought I give you all the full tour right here. Camp Casey looks pretty small and ordinary from the outside.
Surrounded by trees, we had lots of privacy.
We spent a fair amount of time in the backyard: eating on the deck, grilling with the pretty new Kitchen-Aid grill and sitting around the fire pit. They also provided bikes, canoes and kayaks for our use, at no extra cost. The wooden structure at the left of the picture is an outdoor shower. How cool is that?! I told myself I'd use it at least once but 'twas not meant to be.
Love this bear. I have one very much like it that my Uncle Joe made for me years ago.
These four bears watch over the living room.
The living room and my bedroom for the week. The sofa bed was comfortable enough but not having a place to unpack or store my items did wear on me somewhat by the end of the week.
The attention to the little accents and details was incredible. I think this may have been a painting by the homeowner.
Even the curtain rods were made from reclaimed wood.
A blanket rack, for those cold nights. Even in the heat of summer, the nights in the mountains can dip down to the high 50s/low 40s.
Lovely light shade.
There were hooks like these all throughout the house. Hats, keys, jackets, same place every day for me.
The main hallway, looking into the kitchen from the front door.
The full kitchen. The house was completely decked out. Flatware, glasses, cookware, linens, towels, cleaning supplies, shampoo... I think they thought of just about everything. We really only had to bring our own food. Mom & Harold had found this place online and then they had taken a day trip up to check it out in person. There was a binder on the coffee table with a list of who to contact if any questions or problems and there were rules about how and where to toss out garbage, etc... Basically, it's a "carry-in, carry-out" philosophy. Leave the place as clean or cleaner than when you arrived. We always practiced that as campers when I was a kid so no problem.
The ceiling light in the kitchen. Love the tree shadows. Nearly every fixture had an Adirondack theme.
For opening beer/soda bottles and catching the caps.
The eating nook in the kitchen, While there wasn't a formal dining room, this space worked quite well. There were 7 of us there but we did;t all eat at the same time. Still, 6 could fit in there pretty comfortably. We didn't go out for breakfast any of the mornings so we started the day here with some fruit salad, pancakes, omelets or just a slice of pie and watched news on the flat screen TV. The end of the day sometimes consisted of playing a card game of pitch or sometimes I would write my notes for the stops I made and plan out the next day's adventure here. I really love the wood throughout this house.
The front bedroom. Not huge but it worked well for my niece, Maddie and her friend Chantyra who was with us for the week. This room had a dresser for storage and a closet, though it was full with the life vests and paddles for the canoes and kayaks.
A map of the Adirondack Park. It encompasses about 6 million acres and is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. I hope it remains that way forever. Here's some more info for your reading pleasure: https://www.apa.ny.gov/About_Park/more_park.html
In addition to maps and magazines featuring local attractions thoughtfully provided on the kitchen counter, two of the bedrooms had various books on the dressers with some great local reading material. There really is such a rich history in this region of environmentalists, captains of industry (aka robber barons) building "great" camps, and pioneers in medicine, outdoor living and cooking, making their mark in this region. I could spend a lifetime reading about them and never tire of their stories.
Ok, I know bathroom shots can be odd but this was just such a beautiful space.
From the bear metalwork on the light fixture, to the pine cone towel rack and the picture on the wall of Lake Placid as seen from atop Whiteface Mountain (SPOILER ALERT: a much more vivid photo to come in the next installment!), the little details really put us in an Adirondack state of mind for the whole week.
The bedroom off of the living room where my sister and her husband Dennis stayed. Looks cozy and I like the comforter.
I'm not sure if the rods & reels and the guitar were for decoration or for our use.
The master bedroom where Mom & Harold stayed.
All of the bedrooms had ceiling fans as did the living room, which made for very comfortable sleeping conditions. The house even had A/C! Love the handles on the dresser and the canoe above the TV.
Just a couple of chipmunks out for a paddle on the river.
More ADK reading. Love the split pine cone bookends.
The master bath. Great accents, a flat screen TV and...
a jacuzzi tub! Not too shabby.
That's it for Day One! Thought I'd end the day with this folksy sign in the front entryway. Coming up on Day Two...
we go up high where the crow soars, a sleeper hit sandwich shop, ice cream with a twist and a toasty end to the day with a fire and some pie! The 411:
1.) TASTE NY Market at Todd Hill
Taconic State Parkway
Lagrangeville, NY 12540
Ph# (845) 849-0247
2.) Green Acres Farm
Hudson, NY 12534
Ph# (518) 851-7460
3.) Noon Mark Diner
Keene Valley, NY 12943
Ph# (518) 576-4499
4.) Black Rooster Maple
10819 Rte. 9N
Keene, NY 12942
Ph# (518) 576-9792
5.) Mountain Mist Ice Cream (listed as Mountain Mist Custard in Google Maps)
260 Lake Flower Ave
Saranac Lake, NY 12983
Ph# (603) 848-7629
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mountainmisticecream/ (also listed Mountain Mist Custard on their FB page)
post edited by billyboy - 2017/11/08 11:36:59