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Holiday Ham Wars

December 14, 2018

Growing up we never had a festive ham on the dinner table. Ever. Yes, we were Jewish. But we didn’t observe the kosher dietary laws. I had a friend who kept kosher and didn’t eat Oreo’s, because at the time they contained lard. However in my home we ate bacon and breakfast sausage without a second thought.

As an accompaniment, or an ingredient, a little bit of pork was no big deal. But a large pork roast as the centerpiece of the meal? That would be unthinkable.

Lobster, on the other hand, was a completely different story.

Perhaps this is why I love holiday hams so much. I never knew they were a thing. And I still recall with glee my very first experience with a HoneyBaked Ham. It was only later that I learned one can glaze their own ham with remarkably delicious results, thanks to one of my greatest bosses ever Bossman Jones.

With this in mind, I was shocked when I took a peek at the supermarket circulars this week.

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Why All the Cookies?

December 13, 2018

Growing up Jewish, there’s a lot I don’t get about Christmas.

It’s not that I haven’t been exposed to it. Christmas is everywhere. And actually, as a young kid growing up in New York City I decorated trees, sung carols, sat on Santa’s lap, and checked out the shop windows every year.

Only after moving down to Miami, where I was enrolled in a Jewish day school, did I learn what it meant to be Jewish. Although, for some people, their Jewish identity is entirely about not celebrating Christmas. Thankfully, I’m not one of those folks.

There’s a lot about Christmas that I love, and I’ll never turn down an invitation to Christmas dinner, or a Christmas party. I take delight in the annual arrival of Christmas cards. Which isn’t to say that I’m great about giving Christmas presents. I’m not. We’re also not really into the whole tree thing. That said, I do love basking in the glow of a freshly cut tree.

What I’m am little confused about are all the cookies.

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The French Fry Revolution

December 12, 2018

In college I took a really interesting class on the French Revolution. If I could remember any of what I learned, I’m sure I could come up with a clever tie in to my current course of action with french fries.

Perhaps you remember the scuttlebutt about the Harvard professor who suggested a burger should come with only six french fries and a side salad. Well, that’s just silly. But the larger point he was making is very valid.

The mindless eating of too many french fries, will make you feel stupid full, very fast. And the opportunity cost of doing so is a wide variety of additional culinary pleasures. Which isn’t to say that french fries should be avoided at all cost. Rather, one should try to maximize their joy by eating fewer french fries, to save room for other treats.

That is something I can get behind. So, last night I put this new ideology to the test. But to make it work, an old ideology had to be sent to the guillotine.

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Getting Emily’s Goose

December 11, 2018

Chanukah is over. Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas per se, doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the Christmas season. I mean, I’m not a monster. The smell of fresh cut conifer trees is fantastic. And who doesn’t enjoy a cookie or two? Eggnog is delicious. And pretty much I’m always down for a party.

Presents? Those have never really been my bag. Little Miss Fussy pretty much got eight nights of Duck Tape, and she couldn’t be happier. I’m aware that there is some kind of expectation to get presents for the postal clerks, the bus driver, the kids’ teachers, and so on and so forth. But honestly, I have no idea how far this thing is supposed to go.

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten my boss or my subordinates presents around the holidays. Actually, I haven’t managed anyone besides my own children for years. So at least those lapses are ancient history.

Anyway, Emily L discovered a classic Christmas tradition around Albany that has to do with food. And frankly, I’m a little surprised by her cheery description of it, but I’m happy to chalk it up to the exuberance of the holiday season. But she also has a question for you about gift giving, so let’s hand over the mic and see what happens. Read more…

Chili, Judging, and Creativity

December 10, 2018

In Schenectady on Saturday, the chili game was strong. It was a pleasure to be out on the streets, representing Yelp, and serving as one of the official judges with a couple other members of the Yelp Elite Squad.

Shoutouts to Peter H and Michelle P for spending the afternoon with me talking chili. Actually, Michelle documented the experience as an IG story and saved it as a highlight. While I have no idea how long that will stay up, for now you can catch it here.

In the end, we tasted sixteen chilis. I had made some predictions last week about which ones I thought were going to come out on top. And as it so happens, all of the winners came from that list. Except for one.

So what did it take to be the judges favorite chili? And how did we come to our conclusions? Well, I’m more than happy to spend some time clearing up the answers to those burning questions. Especially in regards to the chili which won the prize for being the most creative.

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The Not Quite Six Fry Solution

December 7, 2018

Yesterday’s birthday was a lot of fun. I made myself a special brunch, took advantage of a free birthday deal, and went out to a new favorite place for dinner with the family.

While there is no age limit on the free giant birthday beer promotions around town, there may be a maturity cap. But I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to try one of the ridiculous coffee drinks from Starbucks for free on my birthday. Especially since I got the reminder by email in the early afternoon, just as I was starting to lose a bit of focus.

Part of me wanted to try the new juniper latte, because that’s something I would never order. But the other part of me thought I should get a drink that I would be most likely to enjoy. I went with something called a Cordusio which isn’t quite so ridiculous on its face. However, a venti has six shots of espresso and would cost more than $7. So naturally, that’s what I ordered.

But what I really want to talk about today are my birthday potatoes.

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Saturday’s Forecast: Chili

December 6, 2018

No, I’m not a meteorologist. But I am a dad. And as such, I’m entitled to make a dad joke or two. Especially on my birthday. Which is today.

Let’s not make a big deal about it. Tonight I’ll celebrate with my family by going out to a special dinner. But it’s also Chanukah. So the kids will be the ones getting presents. There’s really nothing that I want, except maybe to be able to make it through a civilized meal out at the restaurant of my choice. That said, it’s one I think the kids might also enjoy.

We’ll see how it goes, and perhaps next week there will be a recap. I am cautiously optimistic that my progeny are now old enough to demonstrate reasonably good manners in public.

Saturday, however, I know is going to be excellent. Because Saturday is the Chili Chowdown in Downtown Schenectady, and once again, I get to be one of the official judges. Is it going to be cold? You bet. But that’s just going to make the chili taste better at each stop along the way.

It’s not even officially winter yet, and if you live in the Capital Region, you can’t let a little chilly weather keep you from getting out. You will miss out on all the fun. Here is a sneak peek at some of the tastes I’m most excited to sample.

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