Yesterday on Facebook, I got a gander of one of those listicles from last summer. Those things really take on a life of their own.
My point today is not to discuss how the author got the 12 Best Food Cities in Upstate New York totally wrong. The answer to that should be clear on its face. Sure, my Capital Region pride swells when the big prize is given to Schenectady. But if Morrette’s is the crown jewel in the best food city of Upstate New York, we all have a much bigger problem.
Luckily, it’s not.
All the same, that piece got me thinking about all the municipalities that didn’t make the cut. One of the things that I love about living in the Capital Region is how many interesting small towns, villages, and hamlets are within an hour’s drive. Each of them has something notable. Each has a certain character. And the all have rich histories.
Which made me think of Watervliet.
What can I tell you, I’m a glutton for punishment. Every year, when the Times Union’s Best of the Capital Region poll results come out, I’m curious to know what those who vote in this survey think are the area’s crowning jewels.
Sometimes it fills me with hope. Other times it’s despair. Usually, it’s a combination of both.
We talked about this year’s poll a couple of months ago when the voting was open. And no longer do I care enough about this long standing barometer to execute a formal campaign to try and sway the results. This year, it seems like Tipsy Moose did a pretty good job of that.
Congratulations to them. I’m serious. It’s no small feat. But besides the accomplishment of being able to achieve some movement in the poll results, more importantly it helped to put some fresh new businesses on the list, which by and large are fairly lacking.
Much like Albany itself, this is a town where reputations are long entrenched. Things get done the way they’ve always been done. So Uber has an uphill climb, we’re not getting wine in grocery stores anytime soon, and the fact we can now have a mimosa with brunch is somehow a staggering political accomplishment.
Grumpiness aside, let’s look at some of the highs and lows of this year’s results.
Yesterday we were talking about the things you can learn from attending a casual tasting. Well, the learnings get kicked up a notch when you’re actually judging a culinary contest.
Granted, Sunday’s contest was relatively small. It was part of the Jewish Food Festival at Congregation Gates of Heaven. Yes, I know it sounds a bit like a cult. That’s why I like to just call it Gates. And it’s full of people who care deeply about food.
The latke dinner at Chanukah is the best latke dinner I’ve been to in the area. So many latkes. It’s like fried potato heaven. And then there are the monthly potlucks, which feature not just delicious dishes from congregants, but also the reliably ultra-tender and well-seasoned baked chicken from the in-house kitchen.
But the annual Jewish Food Festival is the crown jewel. Del cures salmon. Randy chops liver. Harvey mixes up egg creams. And countless congregants pitch in to bake rugelach, braise brisket, and stuff knishes.
Oh right, the judging. I was on a panel of judges which included the rabbi and Jewish cookbook author Tina Wasserman. When you get three Jews to judge something, it feels kinda like a beit din. It’s a heavy task. And we were tasked with judging dessert.
Never stop learning. The world is bigger than it has ever been. There is too much for any person to ever experience everything, and more to know than one could ever possibly learn. Yes, you can read books, but I think some of the most powerful learning is experiential.
Today part of my job is to work with local business to plan Official Yelp Events. One thing that I try to do is make these fun, educational experiences for the community. And while I can’t speak for everyone who attends these soirees, I know for sure that I learn something at every event.
I mention this because Saturday’s OYE at the Savoy Taproom filled the restaurant’s dining room with 48 people for a tasting from the bar and kitchen. And like always, I walked out a bit smarter than I walked in. Here were my four big takeaways.
March is almost over, which means I’ve been on my new and improved healthful eating regimen for weeks. How’s it going? Well, it could be better.
It turns out that without the explicit threat of a lifetime of medication, I may find myself a bit more lax in my ways. However, last time around the doctor said I didn’t have to be so strict. So maybe we’re finding a happy medium here.
This is a crazy week, and last night instead of writing, I spent some time with a friend who recently had a baby. So today that means instead of words, you get pictures.
Some people like pictures more. And if any of these require posts of their own, just let me know in the comments, and I’ll take it under consideration.
Is there important stuff worth fighting over in the world today? You betcha. But instead of debating the serious issues of the moment, today I’m picking another stupid food fight.
Here’s the thing. As banal as these arguments are on their face, I do hope that they accomplish something meaningful. I’m concerned that we as a culture have lost our appetite for civil debate and discourse.
Winning an argument doesn’t have to be a scorched earth affair. The other side doesn’t have to be annihilated for you to win. Making concessions can actually improve your persuasive power. And sometimes it’s even okay to take a position you don’t believe in, for the purposes of advancing discourse. So let’s try this today with something that people care about, but is far from a matter of life and death.
Which is better, hot dogs or hamburgers? Today, once again, I’m going to take what I expect to be the minority opinion, and argue the case for hot dogs.
Remember what I said about the antidote to sugar being fat? Well, it’s true. And the people who attended last night’s Cookies & Cocktails in support of the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, proved it.
In addition to the official judges picks, there were also people’s choice awards given for best cocktail and best dish.
Everything at the event either had Girl Scout cookies in it, on it, or with it. You might be surprised how well Brown’s Vienna Lager pairs with Do-si-dos. So with all of these sweets, it makes total sense that the dish from Old Daley Catering featuring a giant hunk of tender, fatty, pork belly was the crowd favorite for food.
The judges top picks were a bit different from the people’s choice awards for a perfectly reasonable list of reasons. We picked Ama Cocina’s street corn topped with crumbled lemony Savannah Smiles, because we got to evaluate it when it was still hot and awesome. Plus I wonder if being upstairs might have had an impact in the popular vote.
Regardless, there was one thing from the event that truly knocked my socks off. Mostly, I suspect, because by all measures I should have hated it. But it was brilliant. And that’s a word that I don’t use lightly.