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Sarah Saves the Day

July 16, 2014

That crappy gas grill I bought last week? It’s still in the box.

Not because I’m not excited to give it a whirl. I’m kind of looking forward to charring some vegetables on the fire. But for starters, I’ve been busy. Also, it’s also been raining. Plus, there’s the sticky issue of having no vegetables to cook.

Sure, I could just run out to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Honest Weight, or any of the local farmers markets. Or I could arrange a Field Goods account, place an order with Farmie Market, or simply just walk to the Barber’s Farm truck that is a regular fixture around my neighborhood. Not to mention the Price Chopper, Shop Rite, Hannaford, or Walmart produce sections which are all only a few minutes away.

But no. Instead I was just sitting around a barren kitchen bemoaning the fact that this would be the second year in a row that I missed signing up for a CSA share with my favorite local farm. Incredibly, my salvation came from a reader named Sarah.

And if you don’t remember, here’s the comment she left,
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The “I’m Back What Did I Miss” Party

July 15, 2014

I’m beginning to see the light. This calls for a song.

It also calls for a get together. You can call it a meet-up, or maybe a social if you prefer. But whatever word you use, I’d love to try and get a few of you out of your homes and away from your screens for a few minutes next week to join me in enjoying something cold and sweet.

Sure, I still have stuff in boxes. But progress is being made. Things are being put away. Meals are being cooked in the kitchen. Bills are being paid. Broken things are being fixed or replaced. But there is a lot of food stuff to catch up on from my sabbatical.

For example, I missed three tours. The last cider donut tour happened without me. I was absent for the Troy edition of the Tour de Buffalo wing. And I had to read about the Tour de FroYo from New Jersey.

Turns out that I wasn’t the only one who read about the Tour de FroYo. One of the more promising runner-ups reached out and wanted to do a little something special for readers of the FLB. So, here is what we’re going to do.

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The Strange Pizza of Old Forge & Beyond

July 14, 2014

Pizza comes in many forms. Some dispute this and say New York thin crust is the one true pizza style. But that’s ridiculous.

That would leave the blistered pizza napoletana of Napoli, the coal fired apizza of New Haven, the red streaked tomato pies of Trenton, and the cheese stuffed deep dish of Chicago out in the cold. And what about Old Forge, Pennsylvania, which proclaims itself to be the pizza capital of the world?

I had been to Old Forge once to try their rectangular pizza with its sweet tomato sauce and unique cheese-blend topping. But it was many years ago, and I can’t even remember which of the town’s many pizza joints we visited.

The time had come to finally commit to a broad tasting of Old Forge style pizza. So with the guidance of NEPA Pizza Review and the iron stomach of Albany Jane, I think I now have a solid sense of the style. All it took was nine slices of pizza from five different places. And then of course we stopped at two other pizza joints in New York for dessert on the way home.

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The Book I Read

July 11, 2014

It’s been a while since there was a song to go along with a post. Here’s the one for today.

All the food books are unpacked. They were easy, because I have one bookcase that’s dedicated to the subject. And I try to keep it fairly well organized. Reference books go on top, cookbooks on the bottom, and food prose goes in the middle.

Food prose? Sure. That where titles like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Extra Virginity, and An Economist Gets Lunch live. But also on that shelf is a thinner, less famous history of gin, simply titled, Gin. That is a delightful and informative volume in The Edible Series by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson.

Among other things, she is half of the 12 Bottle Bar team. Perhaps you remember them from a while back. Lesley and her husband David had the ingenious idea of suggesting that classic cocktails need not be complicated. Together they launched a blog where the duo limited themselves to just twelve bottles, and crafted really well-written posts about all of the drinks you can make with this limited arsenal of spirits, bitters, and vermouths.

In just a few weeks, the 12 Bottle Bar is taking a huge step. It’s leaping off the internet and into a published book. And you’ll never guess what else.

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July 10, 2014

Electric stoves seem like such a terrible idea. The world is a big place. I guess there are some people in it who get excited about such things. Maybe it’s the clean lines of the appliance. Perhaps these folks have an irrational fear of gas. Or, I suppose, they are good for places where natural gas isn’t available.

Sadly, we have an electric stove. The kitchen isn’t set up for gas. Sure, we can redo the kitchen to run a gas line for a stove. But that’s a project we’re just not ready to undertake right now.

During the sabbatical, however, I was cooking with gas. And that was absolutely essential for blistering eggplant to make baba ganoush. Now that I’m back to electric, I have to re-learn how to cook. For example, I knew how hot my high output gas burner would get the cast iron skillet when cranked up all the way. But I have no idea how long it takes an electric coil to get fully hot on the number six dial setting.

Transitions are tough.

In part because I need some way to char my eggplants, and in part because I miss cooking with gas, I’ve just done the unthinkable.

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Petty Problems

July 9, 2014

Transitions are tough. That’s a good mantra if I’ve ever heard one. Yesterday, I had to flee into the Berkshires for a few hours just to escape all the boxes and the drudgery of unpacking.

While there, I finally made it to Teo’s. You know, since I had Gus’s on my mind.

Teo’s makes a mighty fine interpretation of the Capital Region’s mini-dog with meat sauce. And I have to say, Teo’s really does a great job with their sauce. The raw onions were a bit too hot and bitter. But it’s a mighty fine specimen. I’m encouraged to see that such things can find an audience across state lines.

However, this isn’t a review of Teo’s. I’m going to vent my spleen about a few frustrating failings found from my foray into what should be Albany’s new grocery nirvana. It’s moments like these that I’m glad to be writing something called the FUSSYlittleBLOG, because that gives me a bit more leeway to let my fussy flag fly.

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The High Cost of Change

July 8, 2014

Seven years ago, in the wee early hours of July 6, the Fussies officially became residents of Albany. This was only my second time in the region. The first was a month prior when the missus and I spent a few frenzied days looking for a place to live.

Albany felt like a very different place then. And I think it was.

The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering only had one building. New World Bistro Bar had not opened its doors. The only place to get a cappuccino was at Ultraviolet Cafe, and it was totally hit or miss depending on who was working. Ala Shanghai had not graced the region with its top notch soup dumplings. And I couldn’t find a grassfed burger anywhere.

A lot of work has gone into improving the region. And it has been going on for a long long time. And it’s great to see some of the fruits of those labors. Some come in the form of long awaited chain stores, and that’s fine. Others come in the arts and the worldwide recognition of the Albany Symphony Orchestra after its first Grammy win earlier this year. Then of course there is the ever-expanding roster of ethnic restaurants.

But all of this growth comes at a cost.

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