Sunday is the seventh instalment of chef Josh Coletto’s Rock n Roll Brunch at The Low Beat in Albany. That means this is the fourth one since I’ve returned to the area. And I’m still going to have to miss it. Damn obligations. Hopefully, I’ll make it next month to the eighth one in November. With my luck I’ll be out of town. Harumpf.
Chef Josh also participates in the Chefs’ Consortium, and I’ve followed his career in the Capital Region since he first appeared on my radar at The Flying Chicken. Now he’s mostly working down at Local 111, but still comes back up to Albany to cook these monthly brunches.
This time around he’s got a local grassfed chicken fried steak with gravy. Add a fried egg and one of his buttermilk biscuits, and I’m a happy guy. But these come with home fries too. I guess if you’re eating steak, you have to have some potatoes.
A few weeks ago Josh and I were chatting, and it dawned on me that I may not be the only person who is sad about missing these brunches. So together we came up with a little plan.
Recently I was sent a press release about a new enterprise called the DZ Farm. It’s the newest venture from DZ Restaurants, the company that owns and operates Chianti Il Ristorante, Boca Bistro, Forno Bistro and Pasta Pane.
Anyhow, they were having a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a big party to celebrate the farm’s official grand opening. And I was suspicious.
After reading some of the copy about DZ Farm on the website, I had my doubts about the integrity of this project. How much of this was about cooking with local seasonal produce, and how much of this was about saying the restaurants were doing such things?
To make a long story short, I was invited to spend some time talking with the company’s executive chefs at the farm, and judge for myself.
Who has the best pizza in the Capital Region? After judging the finals of the Tournament of Pizza, I was asked this on camera by some St. Rose students making some kind of short film.
I didn’t have a short answer.
Pizza is a broad category. Someone who thinks pizza is exclusively the domain of New York style thin crust will never enjoy the charred blistery exterior of DeFazio’s. And those who believe the only way to cook a pizza is in a scorchingly hot oven will never delight in those rectangular pies from the Orchard Tavern where the crust almost fries in its metal pan.
Sometimes the pizza that I love the most is from my local slice shop. Not because it’s the best. It’s not. However, that’s the pizza I get to know deeply. That’s the pizza which sustains me. And that’s the pizza which comforts me.
So let’s ask a narrower question.
Between DeFazio’s and Marino’s, the two shops that made it to the finals of All Over Albany’s Tournament of Pizza: Championship Edition, who has the better pizza? You might think this has an easy answer since the question was decided on All Over Albany yesterday. Especially since all the judges, both the official panel and the attendees voting for people’s choice, were in close agreement.
But again I find myself more comfortable with a longer answer.
This is going to be a big week. There’s a lot to talk about. Friday I finally made it out to Taste to put their new weekly menu through the paces. Yesterday I got to take a look at the DZ Farm and talk to all the executive chefs in the restaurant group about their plans for the future. Tuesday All Over Albany is going to announce the winner of the Tournament of Pizza.
But today is Columbus Day, and I usually take the day off. So what am I doing here? Good question.
When I lived in Berkeley this quasi-holiday had been transformed into Indigenous Peoples day. The world is a complicated place, and seems to get more complicated by the day. Did Columbus do more harm than good? Most likely if it wasn’t him, it would have been somebody else. It was the age of ships and the age of discovery.
Today I will neither celebrate nor demonize the man. I will however enjoy a day off and have brunch with a few of my favorite people. And I’ll leave you to ponder the following.
It still doesn’t quite look like fall foliage is at its peak in the Capital Region. But this is really a great time to be upstate. The trees are so much prettier here than they are in New Jersey. It’s one of the good things about being back home.
There’s also a lot going on. Some restaurants and event organizers send me press releases, and occasionally, I’m even able to post them on the FLB before the events actually happen. Today is one of those times.
Take the event happening on Saturday for example. If you are lucky enough to be holding an All Over Albany Tournament of Pizza Finals party ticket, this event could be a good pregame activity. And if not, it would be a great way to drown your sorrows. But that’s just the beginning.
I’ve also included one press release about a punk band that’s coming to town. Sure, it’s not something you’ll find on other food blogs, but how many other food bloggers had GG Allin’s band play a set in their house? It was an unforgettable experience.
But we’ll still start and end with food.
Today, we continue the Unburdening series.
Cooking healthful, affordable meals for a family doesn’t have to be a burden. I’ve been there. I’ve lived through the challenges. And for the most part, I’ve found ways to overcome them. Today’s topic however is especially close to my heart and lies at the intersection of cooking and parenting.
Thanks to a recent study from North Carolina State University, and the media attention it has received, the barriers to cooking meals at home have been painstakingly documented. My goal is to offer solutions to as many of these problems as I can.
We’ve addressed the impossible expectations of the ideal meal.
We’ve covered the expense of lean meat and less expensive options.
We’ve identified healthful alternatives to expensive, perishable produce.
We’ve explained how a few quick preparations are better than 30 minute meals.
And there are still more to overcome. Because what good is it to make a simple, quick, inexpensive meal, packed with nutrients if it’s going to create fights over the family table?