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The Pizza Champions of Champions

October 15, 2014

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.

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When Dreams Go Wrong

October 14, 2014

When I tell people I have a food blog, they usually ask, “So you write restaurant reviews?”

Frequent readers will know that’s not what typically goes on here at the FLB. Reviews themselves aren’t all that interesting, especially in this modern era where reviews can be crowdsourced and experiences aggregated over time. That’s why I continue to contribute to Yelp. With all of its faults and foibles, I still think it does the best job in that space overall.

This isn’t to say that restaurant reviews are unimportant. The restaurant critic of any major newspaper has a platform to be a tastemaker for the region. More often than not that opportunity is squandered.

Today’s post is going to try and walk a fine line.

Last month I wrote about the exciting change going on at Taste in Albany. A talented chef was moving to a shorter weekly menu, based on seasonal ingredients, at a reasonable price, and in a lovely setting. It took a few weeks to clear my schedule, but last Friday Mrs. Fussy and I were finally able to venture out on a rare date night.

Here’s the story of what went wrong, and what Taste needs to do to get back on track.

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Eating Columbus

October 13, 2014

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.

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Funday: Better Than Raking

October 10, 2014

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.

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Unburdening: Avoiding Food Fights

October 9, 2014

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?

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The Joys of Whole Foods Albany

October 8, 2014

Today we’re turning it around. It’s time for a little hump day positivity, and I want to focus my attention one of the newest players in the Capital Region grocery scene: Whole Foods.

I must confess that the Albany store didn’t immediately wow me. There were some start up supply issues that prevented me from getting my weekly challah and roast chicken there on Friday afternoons. The disappointments were hard to take, but I’m glad that I persevered. They continue to bring up the Zomick’s challah that I discovered while on sabbatical. Plus, I feel good about buying their Level 2 rotisserie chickens, which are mighty tasty after I give them a little TLC back home.

Is Whole Foods expensive? Yes. In fact, for some things our smaller Whole Foods has higher prices than the massive one down in Princeton. The price they are charging for Tom’s of Maine toothpaste up here borders on criminal. But every grocery store has a handful of ridiculously overpriced items in order to subsidize the values. The secret is knowing what to buy where.

So while some people find themselves blowing their whole paycheck at this market, I find it hard to leave spending more than $50.

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On Food, Culture, and Society

October 7, 2014

Last night I got a sneak peek at Ric Orlando’s new Albany venture. It’s a catering operation on Delaware Avenue in the old Burger Centric building. Previously, his catering gigs were being cooked and loaded out down in his Saugerties restaurant. But it’s totally insane to try and cook for three different events while cooking for 200 people in the dining room.

Chef Ric would do it. But he’s clearly much happier about the new production space.

Of all the little bites that were being passed around and sampled, my favorite was the Korean chicken bites with gochujang and kimchi. Ric does know how to bring the heat.

Really, I should have been eating more so that I could report back on the food, but I often find that conversation gets the better of me. This is especially true when surrounded by passionate food lovers who never tire of talking about the subject.

There’s one topic that came up last night I want to share and spend some more time discussing. And that’s what seems to be a meta trend across restaurant food over the decades. We are stealing food from the poor.

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