With the closing of the Moosehead Tavern (aka Fatso's) late last year, John and I have been on the lookout for a new local watering hole. A place that may or may not serve food, but which serves up beer and atmosphere the likes of which are not readily available to your average "Citiot."
Over Thanksgiving we stopped by the Iron Horse Bar in Hudson (with all of our weekend guests, safety in numbers and all that). Since then we've been back once, last weekend, when we had the opportunity to visit with a friend who grew up in Hudson and who now lives in NYC-environs.
The Iron Horse is a quintessential old-man's bar, with knotty pine wood paneling decorated with old saws and other farm remnants, framed and yellowed autographed photos of big-haired wonders like Melanie Griffith (a la Working Girl) and a smallish bar area. In the back is a pool table and juke box which they'll plug it in for you, along with the disco lights, if you ask. The Iron Horse's signature item, however, are the "pony" beers they sell (smaller sized bud and corona bottles) for just a buck a pop.
Once the initial stares of not being a local wore off, we had a great experience, with friendly staff and conversation that extended down the bar and back up on the topics of Hudson's history of whaling, cement plants, detention centers and the recent fame of local Kirsten Gillibrand, most of whom thought she would do a good job as a NYS Senator, but didn't like her buckling on the whole firearms issue (a good article which matched the thoughts of the patrons at the Iron Horse can be seen here.)
Other topics covered were what it means to be 'Upstate.' If you live in NYC, for instance, Hudson is 'Upstate.' But for people in Hudson, 'Upstate' is north of Albany - perhaps from Troy on up. Poughkeepsie, it turns out, is "Downstate," at least according to the majority of folks hoisting a few at the bar. Being out-numbered, I wasn't about to argue.
What attracted us to the Iron Horse Bar in the first place was the great neon sign that hangs outside. It gleams a rosy red color in the night that is just so....inviting. That's got a story, too. Apparently the bar's name is actually the State Grill, but at some point, Paul Newman pulled into town to film "Nobody's Fool," and several key bar scenes (including the bar's pool table) were included. The film crew brought the sign for the movie and the locals liked it so much they never bothered to take it down.
In addition to an official club t-shirt, membership card and various plastic pig keepsakes, each month they send us a pound of "artisan" quality bacon carefully packaged in layers of foil insulation and freezer packs.
We thought it would be fun to provide a monthly review of our artisan bacon experiences but keep in mind that John and I aren't "foodies." We enjoy the offerings of a decent burger joint just as much (or perhaps even more) than a fancy restaurant if the burgers are tasty (not to mention topped with bacon) and the beer is cold, on tap and flowing as well as the conversation. We really don't spend a lot of time trying to get into the latest hot NYC restaurants (is there such a thing these days anyway?) or following the latest dining trends (unless, of course, you're talking about bacon explosion). That said, we don't eat Hot Pockets, either.
In terms of "reviewing" our Bacon of the Month (BOTM), we've decided we need to use something from which to measure, and that measurement, we decided, would be Price Chopper's Thick Cut Bacon. Retailing at just $2.99 a pound (a bargain, I know!), we give the PC Bacon about an 8 on a scale of 1-10. Not only is it a great value, but it cooks up nicely, doesn't have a lot fat, and has a "good" bacon taste.
Our first month's bacon hails from Iowa, a place near and dear to my heart, having participated in RAGBRAI for four years and having enjoyed an Iowa pork chop or two along the way. The Iowa Duroc Artisan Dry Cured Bacon comes from Vande Rose Farms, and is "hand rubbed with a dry cure mix of brown sugar, salt and pepper. Then the bellies are smoked in an authentic artisan style apple wood smoke house." The bacon can be bought on their web site for $12.95 a pound.
Overall, we liked the Vande Rose Farms bacon. The aroma when cooking is outstanding, you can definitely smell the brown sugar and the smokehouse, and the peppery taste combined with the sugar was excellent. That said, I thought the bacon was a bit fatty compared to the PC bacon. (and 13g of fat per slice). And while I liked the taste, for breakfast at least, I'd probably be just as happy with the PC bacon, leading me to believe that the Iowa bacon would be outstanding for say, BLT sandwiches, or just as a stand alone snack to be enjoyed with a big red wine, maybe a GSM.
So, the PC bacon has held its own this first month, and for me is a better choice than the Iowa bacon. I would, however, encourage anyone who enjoys bacon on the fattier side and peppery tastes to give it a shot. That said, John gave it the big thumbs up since any bacon is better than none.