Thursday, June 02, 2005

roadtrippin': an afternoon in the catskills, a night in the ironbound

Syracuse, NY -Newark, NJ - 510.0 km
The clouds rolled in to stay as I left Syracuse, rocketing my way down I-81 towards Binghamton. Scenic for a freeway, not like the torture test 401 can be in SW Ontario. The surroundings grew nicer as I hopped onto NY 17 to first follow the Delaware River, then hug the southern end of the Catskills. Towns like Hancock and Liberty had seen better days, but were good for a quick diversion. Spent a grand total of two minutes in Pennsylvania - it would have five to snap a picture to prove I'd set foot in the Keystone State, but the sky chose that moment to open up.

Didn't hop out of the car until I grabbed lunch at an old-school diner in Roscoe. Had a hearty meal of pastitsio with salad and soup. Kicked butt on an old Ms. Pac-Man game.

The outside of the Roscoe Diner, Roscoe, NY
No borscht or borscht-belt comedians in sight. Review from Roadfood.com.


Driving down to Newark proved hassle-free, due to a knack for dodging traffic jams that would start just beyond the exit I required. Headed into New Jersey along the Garden State Parkway, where I soon discovered one of the state's quirks - no self-serve gasoline. Even odder - gas prices much lower than self-serve stations in New York (the last NY station I'd passed was $2.48/gal for regular, $2.05 in Jersey).

I reached the hotel around 3:30. First time in a Comfort Suites, where my room was nearly the size of the bunker. The surroundings weren't much (a self-storage across the street, construction sites and old factories on the other sides), but the hotel was perfectly fine.

After checking in, I headed back out to explore Newark. The areas west of downtown had seen better days and would probably scare the shit out of some friends. I headed north to some plazas I'd passed on the way, stopping at Acme (owned by Albertson's, a company reknowned for gobbling up smaller grocery chains and raising prices - I wasn't impressed) and Stop n' Shop (owned by Ahold, who also owns Tops in the Buffalo area - alas, my Tops discount card failed to work. Cross-corporate integration, people!) At the latter, I found several varieties of Fox's U-Bet Syrup, a key ingredient in one of my favourite NYC treats, the egg cream. If you've never had one, here's a recipe from the company site. Mind you, I won't be able to use the pressurized bottle, and it'll be vanilla-flavoured when I try one in the Warehouse test kitchen.

For dinner, I headed to the Ironbound, a neighbourhood consisting mostly of Portuguese/Brazilian restaurants. Cops were posted at several intersections to direct traffic jams caused by happy soccer fans.


I wound up at the Pic-Nic Restaurant, after passing a few places that were either old man bars or you'd get the sense everyone would be looking at you as the freak who didn't belong. I forgot to write down the name of the dish I had, and they were out of takeout menus. It consisted small cubes of marinated boneless pork, mixed with shrimp, fried potatoes and pickled veggies. The serving was enough for two, a steal at $7. Walked off the meal at the Pathmark down the street, where I found boxes of Yoki cheese bread mix for half the price it goes for in Kensington Market (it's a mix for thumb-sized breads much like you can get at the Red Violin on the Danforth).

The day ended with aimless driving through the industrial swamps, a landscape perfect for dumping toxic waste, disposing mob hits or falling out of John Malkovich's brain. - JB

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