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Trying Out Travers

August 31, 2015

Saturday I got bit by the bug. Going to the Saratoga Race Course for the 146th Running of the Travers turned out to be a great idea.

Crowds aren’t really my thing. For example, I won’t stand in line to get into a bar on principle. Battling traffic drives me bonkers. And masses of people in one place tend to make me uneasy. But the reality of this historic event in Saratoga Springs was that the crowds just weren’t that bad.

Sure, parking was expensive. But I arrived super early, a little after nine o’clock, and avoided downtown entirely. Plus I stayed at the track until the last race had finished, so getting out wasn’t that bad either. We hit Shake Shack early in the day, when there was almost no line at all. Burgers for breakfast are never a bad call. Later in the day, when it was time for a Hattie’s fried chicken sandwich, the line was fast moving and pretty painless.

It was a great day of learning all around. I took in a ton about horse racing, a bit about the food at the track, and even something about myself.

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Betting On Burgers

August 28, 2015

The newest issue of Consumer Reports arrived yesterday with an alarming cover. It’s the disembodied head of a living steer staring straight off the page into your eyes. Written across his head reads the message, “Wanted: Safe Beef”.

My instinct was that the magazine would get the story all wrong. Safe food is irradiated food. And nobody wants irradiated food. Real food grows in the dirt. It’s surrounded by bugs and animal droppings. It’s full of bacteria. And for the most part, I think that’s okay because human beings turn out to be more bacteria than human. Man, I love the human biome project. This stuff never ceases to blow my mind.

So beef. It’s not safe. What a shocker. Get me my smelling salts.

On the blog, I’m sure I’ve talked about the giant feed lots and their massive sewage pools. I know I’ve mentioned that conventional beef gets fed chicken feathers, which is contaminated with spilled chicken feed, which is made from cows, which is how cows can contract mad cow disease. We’ve talked about the routine use of antibiotics on healthy animals, the importance of happy meat, and all the goodness that comes from grass fed cows.

Still, there are a few facts in this month’s cover story that are unsettling.

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Beer Paralysis

August 27, 2015

How do you choose what beer you want to drink? It’s a huge question. Especially as there are more and more choices for consumers. And the answer for the same person may change day to day. Here are some situations I’ve personally encountered lately:

“It’s hot, so I want something refreshing.”
“I’m feeling decadent, so I want something rare and expensive.”
“I need to stay sharp, so what’s low in ABV but still tasty?”
“Here I am on vacation. What’s available in this state that I can’t get at home?”

And these selection criteria help to narrow the field substantially. At a good beer store, there should be someone who can help you navigate the options, too, based on what you enjoy, and what you are looking to purchase.

My immediate problem is more about what to do at some of our region’s great beer bars where there are some truly great offerings mixed in with some less great ones. If you go when it’s slow, you can chat with the bartender and find something fantastic. However, far too often the bar is busy and the time you have with the person working the taps is brief at best.

The obvious solution is to have The Fuj on speed dial. But outside of that, I’m hoping the beer geeks out there can offer some real world advice. Let’s take the list that I’m facing tonight as an example of the problem.

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Keep Fussy Weird

August 26, 2015

When I took the Yelp job, I gave everyone the heads up that the blog might start to take a different tone. And since that date, I’ve been good about staying above the fray of petty conflict. It’s hard when there is someone who is wrong on the Internet. But I find a way to persevere.

But the FLB is still the FLB and there’s no danger of it losing whatever it is that makes it unique. It’s just that there’s a bunch of weird stuff happening in my life and the food world in general. Plus there was something interesting that landed on Keep Albany Boring yesterday (which in itself is a riff on the modern Austin battle cry – perhaps you remember my feelings on Austin).

Anyhow, this introduction to today’s post is a scattered mess. Sorry about that. They can’t all be winners. I assure you, the body of today’s post is just as scattered and twice as messy. So proceed with caution.

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Delighted by Mediocrity

August 25, 2015

The Internet can be a dark and dismal place. I tell my kids not to click on links, unless they are absolutely sure about where they go. It only took one moderately disturbing YouTube video to really hammer that message home.

It would be nice if I could follow my own advice.

I don’t even know where I stumbled upon this link. Perhaps someone posted it on Twitter. But it took me to a corner of the Internet that I wish I could pretend didn’t exist. However, now that I’ve seen it, I can’t pretend it’s not there. Probably my best bet is to just talk about what I saw, and try to make peace with it.

As I sit and reflect on the matter, of course there are people like this out there in the world. In fact, some of you may engage in these kinds of deviant behaviors. And I’d like to say that I’m not judging you. But that would be a lie.

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Nice, Good & Reasonable: Found

August 24, 2015

For years I have been looking for a restaurant in the Capital Region that is nice, good, and reasonable. It’s a fairly simple request, but I was looking for a place that satisfied all three. There have been casual places to get good food at a reasonable price. And there have been nice places to get good food, but they have priced themselves at NYC levels and beyond.

Of course, there are a countless number of nice places which serve unremarkable food for a fairly remarkable sum.

Now before you start flying down to the comments section to share your nice, good and reasonable restaurant recommendations, don’t. We’ve already been there and done that. The thing is that a lot of that input came before I had a chance to fully articulate what I meant by the horribly imprecise words of nice, good, and reasonable.

So the first thing I’m going to do today is share just a little bit from the ancient past.

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Funday: Barn, Farm, and Shmarm

August 21, 2015

It’s been many weeks since I’ve shamelessly posted press releases that have come into my email box. Some of that has been that I’ve had a lot to say. Of course, there aren’t always enough emails to justify a post. And then by the time enough have accumulated, some of the news is too old to share.

As it turns out, I still have a lot to say, but my posts lately seem to have prequels and follow ups. And I should really wait until Monday to start the next discussion of the current thoughts on food that are floating around in my head.

That means that today you get treated to a few press releases. I’m still a bit unclear on the beer one. It’s a bit long, and I’m struggling to figure out its newsiness. But it was sent to me. It’s clearly a press release. So you can check it out and decide for yourself.

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