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Updating a Classic

March 26, 2019

Last week I was driving past a graveyard, and it made me think about what I would like written on my tombstone. How do you even begin to encapsulate a life in a few words carved in stone? I am lots of things to lots of people. And without a doubt, life is full of change. But as I thought more about it, I came to realize that my existence on this planet can be summarized in the following statement:

He could have done anything he wanted, and he did.

“Anything” is probably a little bit strong. For example, I couldn’t have been an NBA superstar. Nor do I have the physical frame to be a long distance runner. But I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pursue my dreams, regardless of how trivial they may seem. And for this, I feel incredibly grateful.

Perhaps, this is why I like my job with Yelp as much as I do. There is a tremendous amount of freedom for me to pursue whatever kinds of events and promotions strike my fancy. Looking back on the most recent few, we’ve explored the menu at an Afghan restaurant, learned how to make dumplings, and visited a maple farm to taste the sweet and savory sides of syrup.

Our next Official Yelp Event is particularly exciting because it’s in downtown Albany, and it’s at a place that I always wished would step up its game. Now it is. That effort is being driven by two local tastemakers who I’ve been following for years. And on Monday, April 8, I’m going to get a chance to help these two fellows show off what they’ve been doing to improve a local landmark

Who are these people, where is this place, and what exactly is an Official Yelp Event? I’m glad you asked.

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Will Walk for Food

March 25, 2019

It’s Monday and it’s always tempting to tell tales from the weekend. But typically, the last thing anyone wants to read about at the start of the week is a story about an amazing beer bar in Albany which was pouring some very special brews from Canada.

Which is fine. I totally get that. So I’ll spare you the boozy details.

The important part of today’s story was that I found myself down on Delaware Avenue on Saturday night. The sun was shining. The weather was crisp. And it was the very rare evening when there was nowhere I had to be. It had been hours since I finished a slice of the quebecois meat pie prepared by chef Dimitrios of the City Beer Hall, so I was feeling a little peckish.

It was a beautiful evening for a walk, and I had spent most of the day indoors. Itching for a little movement, I set off on foot in search of something to eat.

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Splitting Cocktails in Saratoga Springs

March 22, 2019

We’re almost done with the preliminary round of the 3rd Annual Albany Distilling Company Cocktail Contest! Three legs down and one to go. We’ve been to Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga Spring. Monday the contest comes to The Hollow Bar + Kitchen. At 7pm, some of the talented bartending hopefuls will start stirring and shaking their way into the finals.

If you’ve been following along with the reports from the Schenectady and Troy legs, you know a little bit about how this all works. As one of the official judges, I have a front row seat of sorts, to report about some of the best cocktails and cocktailians of the night. However, as a judge, I’m also cloistered away during the competition. The point of which is to judge the cocktails blindly without knowledge of which bartender made which drink.

There are two rounds. In Saratoga Springs earlier this week, we mixed it up a bit. Fort Orange Vodka went first. Then we sampled cocktails made with Ironweed Rye. We scored each drink on a 50 point scale, found out which drinks went together, and then combined the scores. Then we went into judges session, where we discuss whether the scores match our final perceptions, and adjust accordingly.

That was when things got tense, because the judges were split down the middle.

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Killer Kale and Sad Strawberries

March 21, 2019

The green that some people love, and others love to hate, is under attack. This time from science. Well, that might be overstating the methodology of the Environmental Working Group, and its annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Okay. It’s definitely overstating the methodology.

Nobody pays attention to the details anymore. It’s all just flashy headlines. Every year the EWG publishes a list that includes the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” made up of fruits and vegetables ranked by their synthetic pesticide loads. This year, kale is extra dirty.

The idea is to help consumers create a short list of which conventionally raised produce they can feel good about buying, and prioritize where to spend limited dollars on pricier organic fruits and vegetables.

Fundamentally, I salute the effort. It’s a great reminder about just how many pesticides can be used in conventional farming. We see abundance at the supermarket and give little thought to how all that produce arrives from so far away looking as beautiful as it does.

However, some of the data behind the EWG report itself is weak, and it leads consumers to false conclusions. Most notably about the alternatives to conventional produce.

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The Remains of the Fall

March 20, 2019

Welcome to the vernal equinox. Technically it’s the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, but you and I both know we’re still in the unlocking. Still, we’re getting close. The seasonal soft serve shops are starting to open. The snow has mostly melted.

But this morning as the kids went to school, the temperature was below freezing.

During the summer and fall, we try to squirrel away enough local vegetables to sustain ourselves through the long cold winter. Remember, while there may be hoop gardens which will produce early leafy greens, it’s going to take months before the farmers markets are bountiful with local fruits and vegetables.

In our freezer, there is still one last packet of pesto remaining. Perhaps tonight is the night to finally crack into it. What else has survived winter and made it into the solstice? Well, let me share my secret shame. Although, part of the blame for not eating all the vegetables falls on Mrs. Fussy’s shoulders.

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Emily L and the Jamaican Ice Cream

March 19, 2019

When it comes to food appreciation, flavor and texture go hand in hand. But in my experience, if pressed, people will be able to tell you which of the two is more important to them.

I’m #TeamTexture

Which isn’t to say flavor isn’t important. It most definitely is. But I can overlook dull, muted, or even slightly off flavors, if the texture of a dish is especially pleasing. However, if the texture is off, it can be a deal breaker.

This is cogent to today’s guest post from Emily L because it’s all about Caribbean ice cream. As far as I can tell, this is all about flavor. Still, so much of the love I have for great ice cream has to do with texture, which is one reason why I prize The Dutch Udder.

My snobbery for such things might have otherwise kept me from exploring this decadent treat which can be found on Central Avenue in Albany. And that’s one of the reasons why I love having guest posts on the FLB. They open me up to new ideas and potentially new experiences.

So, without further ado, let’s hear from Emily about her latest international adventure in the Capital Region.

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A Slice of Domino’s

March 18, 2019

Being a parent is hard. There is so much to teach your kids so that one day that might grow up to be respectable members of society. 

Important things like a love and affection for early Talking Heads deep cuts, and the finer point that the name of the band is Talking Heads and not The Talking Heads.

You see, it’s not all about food. But food is important too.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve completely set my kids up for future disasters. For example, the first time Little Miss Fussy had chicken wings they were from 20 North in Schenectady. Now, there may be better chicken wings to be found some places in central and western New York. Still for the most part, from that point on, she was doomed to disappointment.

The kids have come to understand how awful Dunkin’ Donuts truly are. I’ve gotten Little Miss Fussy away from putting ketchup on hot dogs. The young man is a cannoli connoisseur. And they both have a love for dim sum carts, even though they each have unique and distinct preferences for the treats the dim sum ladies are hawking.

On the flip side, with me as their food sherpa, the kids have a few culinary blind spots.

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