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Excelsior Nachos

May 22, 2017

If you will it, it is no dream.
~Theodor Herzl

There’s an open secret about even the better places in the Capital Region. You have to know what to get, and sometimes even how to order it. Which can be infuriating.

It would be much better if business owners took a long hard look at their offerings, separated the wheat from the chaff, and only sold the stuff that was truly excellent. My hunch is that the average consumer in the Capital Region isn’t all that discriminating, and the vast majority prefer having a wide selection to actually receiving truly amazing products.

But this self-perpetuating cycle is no joke. Because businesses reinforce the mediocrity by halfheartedly offering buffalo wings, but buying jarred sauces and dumping them onto carelessly prepared fried chicken. Or taking a can of curry paste, mixing it with a can of coconut milk, and tossing it with mussels. It’s lazy. And these are just two of countless sins.

Regardless of the place, what I’ve learned from years of trial and error is that almost every kitchen is capable of producing something really delicious. It’s just a matter of finding out exactly what it is, and how to order it.

Which bring us to The Excelsior Pub.

The pinball tournament is over! I’m officially the best of the worst. I prefer that over being the worst of the best. But I’m clearly on the top of the second tier of players. I can hang with the big boys, but I’m really not in their league.

We’ve been playing Fun House over at The Excelsior Pub every Sunday for the past few weeks. And It’s given me a chance to get more familiar with the menu, which focuses on the foods of upstate New York.

Last week, I got a chicken spiedie with a side of Saratoga Chips.

Now, Otis may question whether the thick, hot, and super crisp chips served at this small Madison Street bar in Albany truly qualify as Saratoga Chips. I myself have precious little experience with the history of this food.

What I can tell you, is that the freshly fried chips were excellent.

Which isn’t to say they couldn’t be improved. In fact, from the moment I tried them, I started to fantasize about using these fried sliced potatoes for the base of a single upstate dish that involved buffalo sauce, hot dog meat sauce, and perhaps some kind of cheese.

My first instinct was cold shredded mozzarella as a tip of the hat to the cold cheese pizza of Oneonta. But it also occurred to me, that the cheese could be curds as an allusion to the poutine that crosses the border up in Plattsburgh.

But there is no cheese like that at Excelsior.

Last night, after I flamed out of the finals, I decided to drown my sorrows in my new creation. But a funny thing happened when I was ordering. The waitress asked if I wanted the hot dog meat sauce or the garbage plate meat sauce.

Game changer.

I stuck to my guns, because I had a feeling that buffalo sauce and hot dog meat sauce would be a better match. But I had never tried the Excelsior hot dog meat sauce, and there’s something about the onions in it that give it a sweetness which isn’t unpleasant, but not what I was looking for as I conceived this dish in my mind.

Plus, the more I thought about it, the more a garbage plate meat sauce made sense for one dish that that encapsulated a bunch of regional foods from upstate. Because then you have chips from the Capital Region, meat sauce from CNY, and buffalo sauce from Western New York.

So I’ve got to go back and try a revised version of these sauced Saratoga Chips. But one thing is clear, whatever this dish turns out to be, it’s going to be called Excelsior Nachos. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for that. It was the waitress’s idea, as she was just as excited about this as I was.

She even brought me a fork with the basket, just in case the thick sturdy chips got sodden under the weight of the meat and sauce. However, I didn’t need it. The chips didn’t stick around long enough to lose their crispness.

Did you think they might? Clearly you haven’t met my fat tooth, or heard of my love for all things covered with buffalo sauce. There may even be room for just an east meets west version of these chips, that exists solely as a vehicle for buffalo wing sauce, blue cheese, and celery.

So now you know. I’ll keep you posted of the refinements as they happen.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2017 10:12 am

    Your picture breaks my heart. It’s like going into the air conditioned garage on your estate and discovering that a vandal has keyed the gullwing door of your showroom-fresh Tesla X.

    On the other hand, I don’t think Saratoga chips have to be Saratoga brand to qualify. The term can refer to any fresh-made, non-machined potato chip. Those look like they were pretty good, before the horror happened.

  2. May 22, 2017 10:45 am

    I would try both sauces side by side. And maybe a side of blue cheese. Hopefully, Jay (the owner) shares your enthusiasm. Fun creation.

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