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Jess X Returns

July 22, 2015

Usually when people come into town, I like to show them the Capital Region classics. Mostly, those are the old and odd things that exist here and almost no place else in the country. But on Saturday, Jessica Pasko is coming back from almost two years away in Santa Cruz.

Jess is fantastic. I probably first bumped into her on Yelp, where she was writing as the anonymous woman of mystery, Jess X. At some point she must have changed her profile, because now it’s the much more mundane Jess P. But she was also the first AOA famous writer I met. Jess always had a great sense of taste and wrote a bunch of the early food columns before they became Eat This! and I took over the feature years later.

Of course, she was an actual journalist and worked for the AP and the local papers before heading west. It’s always rough to lose young and interesting members of the local community who want to see Albany rise to new heights.

And while it would be great to have Jess back for good, we’ll take what we can get. AOA recently asked its readers (on her behalf) what are some of the “can’t miss” new things to check out. So I thought I’d jot down my thoughts here and save some real estate on AOA for those who are good at writing short answers to easy questions.

My answers tend to go a bit long.

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Butter Rich

July 21, 2015

Ready for grump mode? I’m officially minding what I eat, and it’s not making me happy. But my increasing mass wasn’t making me happy either. So, the plan is to get back down to eating weight and rejoin the party just as soon as I can.

Of course that doesn’t mean I’m going to skip Dine’n at Nine Pin this week. Or if I do miss out on it again, it will be the result of other factors. I’ll just make sure to eat a dinner of reasonable size, and to avoid a dinner comprised entirely of fried foods. Because if left to my own devices, I might grab a dinner made entirely of fried foods, and eat just a bit too much.

Still, I’m grumpy. The first few days of saying no to second helpings, removing the chicken skin, sticking to one beer a day, using half the typical quantity of mayo, skipping dessert, resisting snacks, and all sorts of other indignities is always hard.

So let’s go to my happy place, and think about all kinds of luscious butter.

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Eating and Atonement

July 20, 2015

Yesterday I walked for seven miles in the sweltering heat. I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t particularly want to do it. But I was compelled to do it.

I suppose you could either call it a kickstart to my new healthy lifestyle, or you call it repentance for the feast of local foods on Saturday at Empire Farm. Whatever you want to call it, the sweating felt good. I made sure to stay hydrated, and even turned the excursion into a work project.

On my walkabout, I made sure to take pictures of local businesses that were photoless on Yelp. So in that sense, not only was it healthful, but it was also productive. Perhaps part of my new exercise strategy should be to go on a “yelpabout” every week.

I don’t know. However, I am certain about what compelled me to go on that urban hike. The food at the FarmOn! Foundation’s Hootenanny was incredible. I’m not going to give you the play-by-play, but I will share some culinary highlights along with a few things I learned.

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Closing Time

July 17, 2015

There was a time that I would stick around to close down bars, somewhere in the early part of my 20s. I’m not entirely sure when that ended. But end it did. Maybe it had something to do with life on the West Coast.

I vaguely remember seeing people in Berkeley lining up in the morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, eager for brunch. It seemed like madness to me. There was the willingly and happily standing in line part, which I still struggle with today. But even worse was the notion of waking up early on a weekend to do such a thing. Of course, if you weren’t closing down bars, it wouldn’t be quite as difficult.

Eventually I succumbed to the allure of brunch and gave up my bar closing ways.

Looking back, one thing I always took for granted was that I knew when the bar was going to close. 2a was closing. Last call was earlier. And after a certain point the flood lights went on to drive people out. Those who still lingered were then cleared out by the bouncers.

Today, I’m a little grumpy, because it seems the rules have changed.

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Benefit of the Doubt

July 16, 2015

Integrity is important. Supporting farms and farmers is also important. And I find myself at loggerheads today in that doing both at the same time could cause the perception of a conflict. But there is something awesome going on this weekend, and I want to make sure you all know about it.

At the end of the day, it’s my blog. So I’ll do what I want.

But it’s important for me to tell you that Yelp is a sponsor of the FarmOn! Foundation, and in turn the FarmOn! Foundation is a sponsor of the Weekly Yelp. I approached the foundation, because after meeting Tessa at the Albany Institute of History and Art, I knew I wanted to try and find some way to get involved with her work supporting local farms and farmers.

Let’s make something clear. This blog isn’t for sale. What I’m sharing with you wasn’t part of any terms of any agreement. It’s simply something that I feel compelled to share with as many people as I can across as many platforms as are at my disposal, because I believe in the cause.

Saturday is also going to be one amazing party. And if you miss it, you may regret it.

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The Appeal of Scrapple

July 15, 2015

Scrapple is one of the least appetizing names for a foodstuff I can imagine. I suppose shoofly pie isn’t that great either. And if you spoke French, the lovely Crottin de Chavignol wouldn’t sound quite so lovely.

It’s hard to get over a name. Especially one so evocative of the nature of the product. After all, who gets excited to eat the scraps left over from butchering?

[The Profussor slowly raises his hand.]

I may have mentioned that I brought home a piece of scrapple from my trip to Pennsylvania. Well, yesterday I finished it, and took a picture of the breakfast treat crisping up in my cast iron skillet. Naturally, I was using bacon grease. The picture got mixed reactions, including a question trying to understand the appeal of the stuff.

Today, I will attempt to explain.

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The Point of the Pizza Crust

July 14, 2015

By now the shock and horror of Pizza Hut’s Hot Dog Bites Crust Pizza must be waning. If you don’t recall, this is the pizza that’s surrounded by 28 mini hot dogs rolled up in dough and placed like a crown around the outside edge of the pie.

Not too long after this monstrosity came out, I had the chance to try it.

The best thing I can say about the beast is that it is no more disgusting than the sum of its parts. Pizza Hut pizza is Pizza Hut pizza. It’s squishy and soft and tastes more like despair than anything else. Those hot dogs on the outside of the pie were equally squishy and soft with a touch of sweetness. But the hot dogs pulled right off so they could be dunked into yellow mustard.

None of the bellyaching over this pizza innovation is really about a disgusting new flavor combination, largely because the flavors stay separate. The outcry has more to do with the health impact of throwing a lot of fatty hot dogs on top of an already fatty pizza.

My concerns are a little different. I’m worried that Pizza Hut has missed the point.

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