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Heather’s Mix Tape

January 29, 2016

Once upon a time, I was really really into wine. What happened? I moved to New York where wine isn’t sold in grocery stores.

I never bought a lot of wine in California’s grocery stores. Still, it was always good to know it was there. But having grocery store wine did something really really important for the wine culture in the region. It elevated it. And here’s why. If you were a serious wine store or a really good restaurant, you wouldn’t be caught dead with a bottle of wine on your shelf or on your list that could be procured from the Safeway down the street.

This isn’t about snobbery. It’s about an appreciation of small passionate winemakers doing their thing. It’s about interesting wines, with character and nuance being made the hard way, without regard for marketing or consumer trends. These kinds of products don’t usually have the production runs to be carried in supermarkets. These special bottles go to smaller wine stores where passionate owners chase them down. And of course, they go to restaurants, where sommeliers make sure to have great wines at every price point.

Back to the Capital Region. So Vic & Heather opened up a wine store. A real wine store. A wine store with personality. And browsing through that curated selection, you’re unlikely to see any bottles you recognize.

The potential for this shop is huge. So I’ve gone and done something entirely unprecedented.

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August 2009: Fussy Takes A Vacation

January 28, 2016

Here we are in the fourth week of this FLB TBT project. You remember. This is the bad idea I had at the beginning of the year to try and chronicle the history of the blog. See where it’s been. Try to chart the arc it took. And check to see which ideas have stood the test of time.

What we’ve learned so far is that in the beginning there was a whole lot of wine, then I started casting blame about the state of food in the Capital Region. That must have caught some people’s attention, because the blog started to gather steam, and then I dropped the ball.

Yep. That’s what happened in August. After three months of daily posts, I took a trip to San Francisco and I had more than a few days without content. And readership took a nosedive. It would take another couple of months to recover, but I learned a valuable lesson. Post or perish.

So how did it break down day by day? I’m glad you asked. But before we jump into the daily summaries, you may want to refresh yourself with the color coded key. Oh yes. Today’s post looks like I lost a battle with a box of crayons.

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The Dreaded Turkey Burger

January 27, 2016

When I was a kid, mom did most of the cooking. Dad had a few dishes he made. He had a deft hand for seasoning tuna salad, and mom could never make it quite right, even when using the same ingredients. He was also the one who got me hooked on putting Heinz ketchup into Kraft Mac and Cheese.

After my parents got divorced, there were a few staple dinners we would eat on the weekends when we stayed over at Dad’s place. None of them were particularly good. But I had the sense that divorce was expensive, and there just wasn’t that much money for better food. Although this could have just been some kind of attempt to eat healthier options.

I remember the boneless skinless chicken breasts marinated in Italian salad dressing that were baked in the oven. There were canned chopped clams that he tossed with pasta and oil. And of course, there were the turkey burgers. Those I will never forget. For a couple of reasons.

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Abandoning Local Food For Seasonal Treats

January 26, 2016

Surely, you are now well versed in the mantra of better food. Say it with me as I say it aloud, “Local, seasonal, and sustainable.” There are a lot of things that get wrapped up in the banner of sustainability. At one point that word used to be “Organic” but let’s not quibble over particulars right now.

The idea is that food raised with care and brought to market at its peak flavor is going to be the very best food you can find. And local is important, because it supports the sustainable local economy objectives, plays into issues with environmental stewardship incluing the greenhouse gasses of shipping things from around the world, and also insures that the food is being grown for flavor and not transportability.

Whew. Did you get all of that? It’s exhausting. It really, really is. And I’m a true believer in this ideology as well. I insist that not only is it totally possible to provide a local and seasonal menu 12 months a year in upstate New York, but that it could be absolutely delicious.

Now watch as I walk the highwire and make the contrarian claim while still preserving my integrity.

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Cocktail Dinner at the Beer Hall

January 25, 2016

We’ve been talking a lot about pairings recently. But pairings can go further than food and drinks. You can have pairings of personalities and talents. And when those things work together, you’ve got something bigger than the sum of their parts.

It’s almost not fair that in one of Downtown Albany’s buildings we’ve got the talents of Robert Mack and Dimitrios Menagias. Robert is in charge of the cocktail program at the speakeasy. Dimitrios is responsible for the food at the City Beer Hall. Both care deeply about what they do.

If that dynamite combination wasn’t enough, now the place has just added Ian O’Leary to the roster. That’s just rubbing it in.

You can feel free to take all of this gushing with a grain of salt, as I’m coming off of an amazing five-course bourbon dinner (plus a bonus amuse bouche) which was hosted by Brown Forman. I’m indeed grateful for the invitation, but that doesn’t change my opinion of the meal. But I’ve been bullish on these two for years.

What I really want to focus on today are a couple of the actual food and beverage pairings from the dinner, and one of the whiskeys that really impressed me on its own.

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Mind Blowing Beer Pairing Ideas

January 22, 2016

Have I mentioned my beer buying problem recently? There are some things that just suck me up into the hype machine. Limited time offers are one of them. Packaging is another. And the current state of the beer market is just a minefield of temptation for me.

Yesterday afternoon, I picked up a few cans at Trader Joe’s, including Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA, which I really really like. Then it was off to The Fountain for Tavern Time, where I had some more beer. But finding myself next to Beer Belly, I couldn’t resist popping in and just looking around their bottle shop.

I came out with Boom Sauce, Steal This Can, and Lizard King. Never heard of them? I think that’s the point. My beer is much much cooler than I am. But if I don’t buy these now, I may never get another chance. And I do love the packaging. Plus, the liquid in the can is mighty tasty. Tasty enough to justify its premium? That’s another post.

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the answers that I got to the question I put out last week about mind blowing beer pairings.

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July 2009: Gathering Steam

January 21, 2016

Month three of the blog. What was going on? Well, it certainly picked up momentum. How did we do that? Well, writing a post every single day was certainly played a significant role. Holy cow. That’s a lot of posts. I can’t believe I didn’t lose my marbles.

I did take a day off from original content on July 4 and posted links to earlier stories.

One of the things I noticed in rereading these was how many posts told stories of my past. Memories from childhood, tales from my professional life in California, and other personal anecdotes. While I was still critical of the regional restaurant scene and our local food critics, there were clearly places that I did enjoy. Bella Napoli, Capital Q, and our regional form of fish fry all got highlighted this month.

How did it break down day by day? I’m glad you asked. But before we jump ahead, you may want to refresh yourself on the origins of this Throwback Thursday project, and review the key below for decoding the rainbow of colors that awaits you after the jump.

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