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Love and Judgment

April 20, 2010

One of our wisest sages once said, “The power of love is a curious thing.”  It certainly has a way of affecting one’s judgment.  One thing you won’t hear a lot of people say is, “I love this place, but really there is a better one up the road.”

The thing is that there are a lot of different reasons one might love a restaurant, café, bar, bakery or other such establishment that have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of their food, coffee, cocktails, or pastry.

Maybe it is childhood memories, or positive associations.  Perhaps it is just a sense of peace and belonging you get from the physical space or the warmth of the proprietors.  It could even be that this place is the only joint around that makes a certain something that just cannot be found elsewhere.

They are all justifiable reasons for one’s love and affection.
But are the places we love the best?

Not necessarily.  And I am sorry to have to be the one to break the bad news.

We saw a lot of this when discussing the pizza at The Fountain tavern.  People love The Fountain.  The reasons are clear to see.  Families have been going there for generations, eating pizza in the warm, cozy and convivial setting.

You may even love The Fountain’s pizza.  Maybe you take a bite of it, and it brings you back to your childhood, and you experience all the simple joys of youth.  Perhaps you have been away from Albany for many years, and a taste of that pizza is a taste of home.

That’s fine and good.  I do not challenge your love, nor am I suggesting you are wrong for holding the pizza in such high esteem.

It is just not the best.

These two notions seem very difficult for people to separate.  But I’ve been thinking about them a lot as the clock counts down on the voting in the Times Union’s 2010 Best of the Capital Region Poll.

There are a lot of great bakeries in the region.  We have long established Italian bakeries that have been supplying thousands of families with their breads and rolls for generations.  An eastern European bakery opened in downtown Albany relatively recently, and is by far the best patisserie in the city itself.  Many people love it, and it is a jewel on Lark Street.  But it is not the best in the region.

In my mind, despite the beloved bakeries mentioned above, this category has one clear leader: Mrs. London’s in Saratoga Springs.

If you want to know the truth, I don’t love it.  I appreciate it.  I admire their work.  I think the pastries are exquisite.  I am glad it is here.  But the bakery itself is just a bit too precious.  And their breads are grotesquely expensive.  Who would think that San Francisco prices would be a bargain when compared to upstate New York?

I suppose part of this lack of love has something to do with their stunning croissants and cream scones not fitting into my diet anymore.  Or perhaps I need to make more of an effort to get up there during the week, at an off time, when it might be less crowded.  Diet be damned.

But when it comes to voting for which is the best bakery in the region, without a doubt it is Mrs. London’s by a mile.

All I am saying is that when considering which businesses to vote for in the last few days of the Times Union poll, try to vote with your head, and not your heart.  It should not be a popularity contest.   The poll is not called Readers’ Favorites of the Capital Region.  The focus should be on which places are the best.

That is what I have tried to do in assembling the FUSSYlittleBALLOT.  Please help us get The Best places in the area recognized in the Times Union’s annual poll.  Tell your friends. There are only four days left to vote.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2010 9:49 am

    I agree that Mrs. London’s is the best in the area…and possibly the state. There are few finer in the country, which is why they charge and get the prices they do. They don’t skimp on quality and doing that isn’t cheap. Another contender has emerged, though, and that is The Chocolate Mill in Glens Falls. Their croissants are not quite up to Mrs. London’s and they don’t bake bread, but their cakes and pastries are on a par and their bon-bons are something not available at Mrs. London’s. In any case, we are fortunate to have not just one, but two world class bakeries in our area.

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    April 20, 2010 2:40 pm

    I agree with DocSconz.

  3. April 21, 2010 4:40 pm

    I heard on a radio interview with Michael London that every single item is baked on the hearth of their volcanic-stone oven, in their home in Greenwich. With so much variety that is just hard to imagine, but the counter person confirmed it. John, do you know if this is indeed true?

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