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AskTP – In Lieu of Presents

December 5, 2012

Tomorrow is my birthday. The kids want a party. They aren’t getting it. Not to say the day won’t be festive. I’ll pick up a birthday cake. We’ll eat lobster. There will be tiny bubbles in the wine. Mrs. Fussy asked if there was anything that I wanted for a present.

But my present is the trip to Paris we’ll be taking later this month. I’ve never been. But I have a friend from college who is living there, so we’ll get to hang out and she’ll show me around. Mrs. Fussy has to work during the first part of our stay. But we’ll have some time together to explore the city.

Mostly I just want bread, pastry, wine and cheese. Maybe some armagnac too. But I’m not going to try and squeeze four months worth of eating into four days. Four years wouldn’t be enough time to adequately eat my way around the city. So I’m coming to terms with missing out on lots and lots of delicious things.

Today though is all about answering your questions from the past two weeks. After all, even though I’m getting older and more forgetful by the day, I have not forgotten my commitment to make sure every single question that’s asked in the comments of the blog gets answered (just so long as it is asked with proper punctuation).

Now without further ado, onto the questions.

Burnt My Fingers has a technical question and needs an expert:
I am surprised at all the comments on variability. I’ve purchased Grade B from several purveyors over the years (including some I know personally) and texture and taste and sweetness has been extremely uniform. I have not inquired about the standards for blending and grading just assuming they work very well. Now, I’m wondering what testing and blending is actually done… any maple tappers out there that can help?

Apparently not. But we do have some distillers, brewers and winemakers who pop over here from time to time.

Selig liked the music video I posted on Thanksgiving which sparked the following:
Do you have the other side of the album? Always one of my favorites!

Albums have sides? But to answer your question, I don’t actually own the album. I just play the video year after year. And this year it made the children cry. That’s what I call creating memories. Kids love memories.

Kate H doesn’t even know the can of worms she’s opening here:
While I love fennel, can you give a little info on why you chose fennel pollen and not fennel seed and if I buy some how else could I use it?

Mostly because I bought some, and I haven’t been using it. And because part of the challenge of the contest was to create an original recipe. So since I had fennel pollen on hand, and I needed to adapt the base recipe that inspired the dish, this was one of a few personal modifications. They say that using fennel pollen increases the umami of a dish. And if that is true, I figured it would even make the pork more delicious. If it proved not to be true, it would add a more delicate fennel flavor and help me use up my precious stash of pollen.

But there are plenty of other readers out there with a stash of fennel pollen. I have been meaning to ask them what they had done with it. This is as good a time as any for them to weigh in on the subject. Ready? Go.

It sounds like -R found my post to be insincere:
Oh please; this is mere lip service to reassure your metabolically average readers over the indulgent holiday period that they too are free to consume high calorie foods without a care in the world, like you’re going to – are you attempting to assuage your guilty conscience?. You know as well as I that you don’t gain weight Profussor – and if you did, methinks there’s more than a small streak of vanity somewhere in you. We’ve had this metabolism discussion before have we not? You and I can eat and drink whatever, whenever in excess and not gain an ounce. Now in my (approaching) mid-40s, it still boggles me where it all goes. Everybody tells me that one day you’ll start getting fat, blah blah blah. Until then, I will peer over the abyss into Dante’s special circle with a chicken wing in one hand and an IPA in the other. However, is this the path you should be encouraging your readers to embrace, holidays be damned? Most simply can’t without bulky consequences…Oh, and Happy Birthday!

You may not believe this, but I totally have the ability to put on weight. In the weeks leading up to my departure from San Francisco I was eating my way through the metropolitan area, getting one last taste of the treasures I was leaving behind. I was having second lunches and second dinners. It was gut wrenching. And I totally put on fifteen pounds.

But the point is that now is the time to enjoy the bulky consequences, because you can hide under plenty of layers. This comes from the guy who had lunch at Hooters and then followed it up with a trip to Five Guys. In between those two meals I put in a phone call to Crisan and ordered a cake. Winter is awesome.

Bill Swallow is trying to nail me down on a technicality:
Dan, are you certain the Ruck uses butter in their wing sauce?

I meant to try and track down this answer for you, and completely failed to do it. Mostly because “Frank’s and butter” is a phrase that is used colloquially to describe the classic profile of Buffalo wing sauce. Whether the reality is “Frank’s and vegetable oil” or “Frank’s and shortening” should be immaterial. It was not the butteriness of the wings I was praising, but rather its classic flavor profile.

ktvorwald raises some interesting points, but I respectfully disagree:
I fail to see how shopping at Walmart constitutes purchasing something “ethically sourced” and how canola oil, however organic, constitutes purchasing something non industrially produced since itscreation is pretty much the definition of industrial food production.
Party pooping aside, I’m curious about if you considered the Roxbury winter share. We went for it and I’m a little terrified about how I’m going to store it all. I might start canning again.
Also, I really wish there was a Costco in the capital region (perhaps in east greenbush?? pretty please??) We make the trek to Springfield MA maybe 4 times a year to pick up $4/pound organic chicken and ground beef. It’s not certified humane or animal welfare approved, but it’s reasonably decent and the best we can afford.

1) The source of the Stonyfield yogurt they sell at Walmart is the same as the Stonyfield yogurt they sell at the Honest Weight Food Co-op.
2) The organic canola oil I buy is also cold pressed and not expeller extracted
3) Costco? Ugh. I’m happy with Adventure in Food Trading. No membership fee either.

Hipster Brewfus wants to recommend a beer:
Like you, I’ll gladly take a porter (Anchor please!) or a nice Stout (Bells Expedition anyone?).

I’d take one, thank you very much. If you want my mailing address, just send me a private note. Beer by mail is the best.

Masticating Monkey wanted in on this beer recommending thing too:
Ever tried the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout? That seems like a winter seasonal that could be in line with your tastes. It is awfully heavy, though, so best to enjoy it at home.

I like enjoying most things at home. Bars are often filled with people. And it’s usually frowned upon to visit them in your pajamas.

Nino went on a rampage about the new Honest Weight Food Co-op building:
Given these figures, this means the primary lender (M&T Bank – not local) will be owed more than half of the investment making them the biggest partner in the Co-op. Who will have the most influence over the Co-op’s decisions? If things get tight will policy, prices, and people change to suit the biggest investor? Who would get paid back first if things don’t work out? I also wonder why this is being pushed so hard? Who stands to gain from the new building being built and what relationship exists, if any, between them and member/s of the Co-op?

This is not the time (if there ever was one) to build such an expensive and expansive store. Where will the extra customers/sales come from to pay the loans and additional overhead? Do you really think people clamoring for a Whole Foods will go to the Co-op instead of the new Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods when it arrives at the Colonie Center (better part of town)? Further, every major grocery store in the area has a fairly well stocked health food department.

You should really read the full rant, but the above paragraphs seem to contain most of the questions.

Look, I don’t know how their debt is structured or if the banks get a seat on the board. But I totally understand the reluctance to take on such a large amount of debt. The idea of the co-op is for profits to be returned to the community. But with debt, there are no profits. And money that could be going to support its mission will be used to pay off interest and capital.

Apparently HWFC  has a plan and their sales projections have been very conservative. Despite the changing market conditions the board continues to be bullish about the prospects of the new store. I have my doubts. And I’d love to be wrong. But we’ll find out soon enough.

Chris Van Doren used a question mark, but there’s little I can say:
We had a seasonal blind beer tasting a few days ago – my first time and very interesting what putting the bottle in a bag does… Anyway the Full Sail “Wreck the Halls” was a favorite (and the best named) along with Southern Tier Crampus, Rogue Yellow Snow, and Rogue Santa something. The Ridgeway (Bad ELf) beers were horrible (last years?)

Maybe.

Randy K. may not fully understand the marvelousness of Marcella:
Are you in the Albany area? Have you tried Katrinella’s Bistro?

I’ve tried Katrinella’s Bistro. And it’s good for the price. But nothing there holds a candle to anything in Marcella’s book. Even the meat loaf that’s stuffed inside a boned roast chicken.

Mr. Dave Will have to take the good with the bad:
Is Ralph’s still calling their rasberry sauce “coulis?” I found that to be a bit affected during my last visit…

It may be good to hear that I checked the menu and Ralph’s is back to calling it sauce. However, you’ll be dismayed to hear that I found this information on their website. Even I found it delightfully charming to move here five years ago and discover that this local institution had no web presence at all. I’m crushed by this news of a website. I can’t even imagine the impact it’s having on our sensitive and tender Mr. Dave.

Christine may not quite grasp the awesome power of the internet:
I wonder if that Pioneer Woman- Ree Drummond has a cookbook? If she does, it will be my least favorite because something about her really gets under my skin…

Of course she does.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2012 10:50 am

    I can’t get over that you eat at Hooters. Would you like to see your daughter work there? When she’s of hooter having age, of course…

  2. December 5, 2012 10:51 am

    And also, I’m totally with ktvorwald on the Costco love. We have Trader Joe’s, all I need is a Costco to be complete. Costco blows BJ’s out of the water.

  3. Elyse permalink
    December 5, 2012 12:09 pm

    My fennel pollen is just sitting around! That’s why I want your award winning recipe!

    Oh- and have fun in Paris! I say you should eat as much as you can! And bring some antacid with you- forgetting it was my biggest mistake when I went there!

  4. Debra permalink
    December 5, 2012 1:52 pm

    I just watched the “Deli Man” & it made me sad because I just heard that the Stage Deli closed. They (the delis) really are disappearing.

  5. December 5, 2012 1:56 pm

    I don’t know if this answers Burnt My Fingers question but being Canadian and an avid lover of syrup I do know that each state/province has different grading systems and regulations to adhere to in order to classify syrup and are subject to fines. These slight differences and processing techniques could lead to some confusion and variability. For example, the VT grading system maintains a slightly higher density than the US system. It has almost a full percentage more sugar and less water. I can’t imagine people can notice such small differences but I think the “variability” people are noticing has more to do with different grades and subgrades that have different flavors. For example Grade A can be “light amber” or “fancy”, medium amber or dark amber and be very different. All syrup must reach a specific density (using a baume scale) and then grades are determined by transparency. Grade B does not have subgrades which makes things easier for those concerned about consistency as Burnt My Fingers noted. From what I understand, changes in weather during the short season of tapping affect the sugars in the sap creating differences in resulting color/flavor. Sap harvested earlier in the season produces lighter color and later is darker. Preferences can be like with beer, some prefer lighter more delicate flavor, and some prefer darker, more robust flavor.

    • -R. permalink
      December 5, 2012 4:13 pm

      Thus my problem with genuine maple syrup: inconsistency. Syrup is a condiment like ketchup or mustard; condiments in my mind demand absolute consistency hence my personal preference for the fake stuff (Vermont Maid for me). For example, most ‘artisanal’ or homemade ketchup is downright nasty. Dammit, I want Heinz, not some impostor wrecking my fries. I respect the variability in mustards: some applications call for French’s, some for Gulden’s and others for Plochman’s. Personally however, I can’t give syrup as much latitude as I do mustard, but I respect the variability of each individual’s palate.

    • December 6, 2012 12:29 am

      Thanks Reba. After my post I realized that all the Grade B I’ve purchased, amounting to several gallons, comes from half a dozen farms within 100 miles of each other stretching from Speculator to Washington County to Fonda. (And I actually recall the Fonda tasted a bit different.) So we have common terroir (maybe except for Fonda) and common grading standards… so maybe the surprising thing would be if they WEREN’T consistent?

      The big aha came one year when the “good” producer in Spec was out of syrup and we had to buy some from the “bad” (because he was “commercial”) producer instead. I was really surprised that the quality was exactly the same.

  6. December 6, 2012 12:32 am

    I’m with you on the Pioneer Woman, Christine. But what about Barbara McMartin? Would you buy her cookbook if there was one? (I don’t think there is… I think she preferred to run down her game and eat it o the spot.)

  7. addiesdad permalink
    December 13, 2012 2:41 pm

    Profussor, I have my bottle (two, actually) of Ironweed Bourbon Whiskey from our friends at Albany Distilling, but the flavor profile is a bit too young for me (not a big white whiskey fan), though it does open up when poured in a glass. Any cocktail suggestions for this immature bourbon? Something other than a Manhattan?

    • December 13, 2012 3:21 pm

      It would be my pleasure (but may have to wait until I get back). Anyway, before I answer you, I’ve got two questions of my own.
      1) From which batch was your bottle?
      2) Can you try to further articulate what it means to your nose and mouth when you say “too young”?

  8. December 16, 2012 8:49 pm

    I am going to step in here and defend to address 2 of your 3 points:

    1) The source of the Stonyfield yogurt they sell at Walmart is the same as the Stonyfield yogurt they sell at the Honest Weight Food Co-op.

    Yes, of course it is. However, this isn’t about Stonyfield yogurt. This is about Walmart.

    My issue with Walmart, and the point ktvorwald was making (I think, please step in if I am wrong), is that shopping at Walmart for anything at all is in essence unsustainable. Walmart’s business model is based in driving out the competition (not just including, but especially small businesses), and they do so through unsustainably low prices. They increase their profit margins by treating their employees poorly; paying them so low that they cannot afford the company-sponsored insurance and encourage employees to go on medicaid; have been repeatedly ruled against in pay equity lawsuits; etc.

    I understand why people choose Walmart. I still refuse to spend money there, and tend to encourage others not to, either, for the reasons I stated above. Many corporations don’t have stories that are all that much better, but their story is particularly nauseating.

    3) Costco? Ugh. I’m happy with Adventure in Food Trading. No membership fee either.

    Costco, on the other hand, operates a business model where they purposefully treat their employees well and pay them a living wage and comprehensive health care. What they spend on doing this they save in the long term because they have a significantly higher staff retention rate. Also, happy staff are better employees in general, and happy/better employees also = better customer service. One can feel a lot better about shopping at Costco than at Walmart. (Though, I agree with you, the local choice is almost always the better choice.)

    (Skipping 2, as I don’t have much knowledge or, for that matter, much an opinion on the production of canola oil, probably because it is not something we use all that often, so it’s not something I’ve looked into extensively.)

    • December 16, 2012 8:50 pm

      Defend ktvorwald, that is. Not sure what happened there. :)

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