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Thinking about Thanksgiving

November 22, 2017

So tomorrow is the big day. I guess that makes tonight Thanksgiving Eve.

Somehow over the past several years, the night before Thanksgiving has become a big deal. And it makes sense. People go back to their hometowns on Wednesday, so they can wake up and start celebrating with their family on Thursday. But without family obligations on Wednesday night, you are free to meet up with old friends at beloved and once-frequented watering holes.

Thanksgiving day itself used to be sacrosanct, but over the past few years Black Friday promotions have crept earlier and earlier into the day on Thursday. When almost everyone had the day off, and there was really no place you could go—or anything else to do but spend time with your family—the day took on a magical tone.

Now, in some ways, it feels not that much different from any other day. Especially as the rush of consumerism reaches its annual peak.

Here’s a question to get us started, can we make Thanksgiving great again?

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Thanksgiving Drinking

November 21, 2017

Family. We love them. Which isn’t to say family gatherings aren’t easier with a little lubrication.

Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe people really don’t care about which wine to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe the meal doesn’t matter either. Perhaps it’s all just an elaborate ruse so that one can day drink around family without additional judgement.

Because there is always judgement.

The Thanksgiving feast is only a couple of days away, and just today I learned there are some people out there who do not like stuffing. The only conclusion I can draw from that statement is that these people have lived their entire lives without tasting good stuffing, and it feels like a tragedy. But with two days until the holiday, there is no way to change anybody’s mind at this point.

What I might be able to do is help provide a bit of guidance about what to pick up at the local beer, wine, or spirits shop. And maybe in doing so, I’ll even clarify my plans a bit.

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Learnings From Melt N’ Toast

November 20, 2017

What does it take to make a great grilled cheese sandwich?

Some will talk about the bread. Others will mention the cheese. The iconoclasts out there might suggest the fillings. But my answer is butter, salt, and time. And this is how I make grilled cheese sandwiches at home for my kids.

You need time, because the butter needs to slowly soak up into the bread, and turn each pan fried surface to an evenly edge-to-edge shade of deep golden brown. When done right, by the time the exterior is done, the cheese is perfectly melted. Although a little of the cheese may have run over the edge a bit to caramelize on the cast iron.

That’s okay too.

But even if you have nailed all the textures, if the sandwich lacks seasoning, all that work is for naught. Salt doesn’t always need to be added, if you use salted butter, and a flavorful cheese. Still, one has to know their ingredients.

With that in mind, let’s run through the seven contenders from this year’s Melt N’ Toast.

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The Limits of Passion

November 17, 2017

Every restaurant owner is in business to make money. It’s a business. But almost no restaurant owners open a restaurant driven by the goal of financial reward. The work is too hard. The risk is too great. The profit margins are too slim.

People open restaurants because they are passionate about them.

Passion for restaurants can take many forms. Some are driven by hospitality. Some by food. Some by beverage. Some by design. But it’s unrealistic to expect restaurant owners to have an infinite well of passion, and that’s where things can get dodgy.

Here’s a good example. I know a guy who reads this blog who loves The City Beer Hall. Loves it. But he and his friends don’t go out to eat alone, they bring their wives. And the ladies aren’t beer drinkers. They are wine drinkers. And the wine program at The City Beer Hall is its achilles heel. There is clearly nobody at the place who has a passion for wine.

The argument here isn’t that everyplace has to be everything to everybody. But even just a few well chosen bottles would go a long way.

But I don’t want to talk about wine today. Today, I want to talk about beer.

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Sullying Spinach

November 16, 2017

Subscribing to a CSA is a mixed blessing. The good side is that you get some amazing local, seasonal, and sustainable produce on a regular basis. The bad side is that you might get vegetables that half of your household refuse to eat.

And “refuse to eat” is probably too strong of a term for what happens in the Fussy household. The rule is that the kids have to try everything. But the corollary is that we don’t force anyone to eat something that will cause them distress.

Seriously, I’ve heard too many stories about adults refusing to eat certain foods because they were traumatized by them as kids. So we just don’t go there. My goal is to try and create positive experiences around food. And family dinners are a part of that.

Not too long ago, we ended up with a lot of spinach, and I followed the advice of my old friend Raf. His kids eat vegetables because they are loaded with salt and fat. The cooking methods Raf employs render green veggies as unhealthy as eating french fries, but his kids will eat spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, and the like.

With Raf’s example in mind, I set out to make creamed spinach.

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Pollan’s Nightmare

November 15, 2017

Here’s the mantra. You’ve heard it before, but it’s short:

Eat food.
Not too much.
Mostly plants.

That’s from Michael Pollan. This isn’t news to regular readers of the FLB. And following this path has helped me to drop twenty pounds since the end of the summer. Remarkably, that weight has been staying off. Of course, there has been a little exercise too. But very, very little.

What’s funny is that I think the new Bloomin’ Onion from Outback Steakhouse might be on the Michael Pollan diet.

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When Life Hands You Ground Veal

November 14, 2017

Maintaining a daily food blog while growing the local Yelp community has been a challenge.

Maybe you’ve noticed that the daily posts are going up later in the day than they had in the past. That’s a problem I need to fix. Perhaps there are more typographic errors in my daily musing too. It’s certainly likely, since with a delayed posting schedule, fewer essays are getting a second set of eyes from Mrs. Fussy.

I’ve also been told that the content is getting further away from my core mission of improving the local food scene, and focusing more on the trivial and tangential. Those criticisms aren’t wrong. They are hard to hear, but I recognize the truth in them.

That said, I continue to find the FLB a fun and worthwhile pastime, so it persists.

But it’s not just the blog that’s been suffering from the demands of the job and the requirements of everyday life. Home cooking and family dinner isn’t quite what it used to be either. I haven’t even had the chance to leaf through “Sara Moulton Cooks at Home” which I’m hoping will have some quick weeknight meal ideas.

However, thanks to the New York Beef Council, I have a new go-to dish in rotation.

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