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The Profussor is In – Actual Answers to Actual Questions

July 5, 2009

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you for all the good questions and comments.  I am glad there are still so many people engaged on a daily basis.  More new people are finding their way to the site every week.

If you are new, please make your voice heard.  And if you like what you see, tell your friends.  My ultimate goal here is to raise the level of food quality in my new community.  And every voice helps.

Now on to the most recent questions and answers.

Mama Ass wrote
, “Hey! So…about this syrup. Do you have a recipe or a good brand to recommend?”

No. No. No.  Don’t you even dare consider for a moment buying simple syrup at the store.  Seriously.

Dissolve equal parts sugar and water.  Use a little heat.  Stir a little.  Keep it covered, so the water doesn’t evaporate and the sugar doesn’t caramelize.  You’ll know if that happens; you will get a yellowish tinge and a slightly deeper flavor.  And that would be fine.  It just wouldn’t be so simple anymore.

Speaking of not-so-simple syrup, you can get fancy with it.  Simmer the sugar water with ginger and black peppercorns for ginger syrup.  Throw in whole cloves and allspice berries for spice syrup.  Fennel seeds can be used to make licorice syrup.  You can get creative with it.

Store it sealed in the refrigerator for a week.  More if you add in a slug of vodka.

Barrie pleaded, “How is fruity pinot noir such a contrast with roasted lamb? Is the lamb dry in this context? To do a “similarity” pairing, am I supposed to have the buttery Chardonnay with the lobster and drawn butter? Because I don’t really get the buttery Chardonnay thing (I have actually not really had any Chardonnays I’ve liked, and prefer to stick with dry Alsatians or pinot blancs). Help me understand, Profussor!”

I’ll do my best.

The opposite of dry is sweet.  Fruity and sweet are two different characteristics that are often conflated, and are in fact difficult to separate on the palate.  But you can indeed have a dry fruity wine.  Navarro Gewurtz is a good example.

In the context of the lamb, the fruity wine is put into contrast with the gamier meat.

You raise a very good point in saying that you “don’t really get the buttery Chardonnay thing.”  There exists what has been described as a “wine tasting shorthand” and buttery is one of those words.  It is used to describe a certain trait of some wines that have gone through malolactic fermentation.  And it is correct to say that it doesn’t taste like eating a stick of butter.  Perhaps the best way to taste for this is to try two similar wines back to back, one that is oaked and has gone through malolactic and one that is oaked and has not.

It’s a lot of work for someone who doesn’t like Chardonnay.  And there is a lot of Chardonnay in the market that is disappointing.  But if you ever get the chance, try some very good ones from France or one of the best from California.  They may be expensive, but they will change your mind about the grape.  And if you like dry, you could look for a French Chablis – which is an entirely different expression of Chardonnay.

Vanessa wondered, “If a chef/owner of a restaurant offers a comp meal, in response to a very bad meal, and then does not acknowledge it at the next visit..What to do?”

It is easy to be the armchair quarterback and suggest that you could have emailed the chef before your most recent meal to remind him of his offer.

Since you seem to have the chef’s ear, and email has been an effective way of communicating with the chef in the past, here is my suggestion given your current situation.

I’d write saying that you were just back in the restaurant and everything seemed to be back on track.  And that you had such a good time you forgot about the chef’s generous offer (it is just a little white lie).  But you have reservations to return on X date, and you would love to take the chef up on the previous offer then.

It serves to take care of all the nasty uncomfortable money stuff before you step into the restaurant, so you and your man can enjoy what will hopefully be another wonderful meal.  And if the chef screws you again, you cut bait.

slgreatsuccess didn’t ask a question but noted, “I love trying new kinds of cheese. Cabot Vermont Cheddar, havent had that in a while! May have to track some down!”

If you like trying new cheese, and you like domestic cheddar, allow me to suggest Grafton Village four-year old cheddar.  It’s my favorite of the domestics.

brownie asked, “Is there a flash card or cheat sheet I can use? I suppose if I REALLY cared I’d scour the internets or stick my nose in a “wine for dummies” book, but honestly I’d just like an easy out if wine ordering responsibilities are dumped in my lap.”

There is no good cheat sheet that I know of.  And you have me, so there is no need for a “wine for dummies” book.

Here is your easy way out.  Trust the wine list and trust the sommelier.  Create a list of parameters for the sommelier or waiter to work within, and ask for a few suggestions.  If they are good, their suggestions will cover a range of prices – if you are not comfortable mentioning your price range in front of the other diners.

What parameters you ask?  Try this:  I was looking for a
(choose one) red | white (you can take a poll of the table on this one)
with good acidity (which will make it what we like to call ‘food friendly’)
and is (choose one or make something else up) earthy | fruity (depending on what you feel like tasting).
Do you have any suggestions?

If you wanted to be super suave, you could point to the wine list (pretty much at random but a wine in your price range) and say, “I was thinking about something like this.”  The savvy sommelier will get the clue, and steer you in the right direction.

Phairhead and Mr. Dave weighed in with different opinions on whiskey sours.

Here is my short advice for finding a good whiskey sour.  If you walk into a bar, and there is a bowl full of fresh eggs next to a bowl full of fresh citrus on the mahogany, do yourself a favor and order a whiskey sour.  I guarantee it will be wonderful and unlike any you have ever experienced.  A true whiskey sour, with the emulsified egg white, is a drink of phenomenal beauty, taste and texture.

If these conditions are not present, I’d recommend something else.  And I am a big fan of sticking to straight booze when I do not trust a place to make a drink well.  Think of it as a great opportunity to try a new brand of hooch.  Maybe you’ll like it better than your old standby.

Sister of Raf wondered, “How could I not have known about the rinds?”

Well, your brother does have a history of eating all the best parts of the dishes he prepares in secret.  Are you really surprised he never told you about the rinds?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mama Ass permalink
    July 5, 2009 9:51 am

    Thanks! I’m going to attempt a simple syrup today and try to make some Tom Collins for my afternoon guests! I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. joni permalink
    July 5, 2009 10:44 am

    well, you know how it went at Creo. then i was at New World twice this past week. what is going on and what happened to all the terrific meals we were enjoying? has the chemo messed up my taste buds? only the double chocolate frappucino i enjoyed with you guys the other day hit the spot. i’m thinking of 333 cafe for our next night out. as long as everyone is okay with wine b/c they don’t serve blood orange margaritas.

  3. joni permalink
    July 5, 2009 10:46 am

    ps simple syrup made with some fresh mint is an excellent addition to freshly brewed iced tea.

  4. brownie permalink
    July 5, 2009 6:58 pm

    Thank you sir. John Cleese is on the tube right now, learning me the difference between sweet and dry wine and what malolactic is. I feel fussier already.

  5. BenP permalink
    July 6, 2009 10:16 pm

    You’ll also know that you messed up your simple syrup if it solidifies in the pan. ;)

  6. Jafe permalink
    July 10, 2009 5:11 am

    Re: Whiskey Sour. I don’t know Profusser – I like me some cocktails, but it sounds like you’re advising that unless you can find a bartender/mixologist who makes the *perfect* whiskey sour, you’re better off doing without. Or to put it another way, unless you’re eating kobe beef, you’re better off staying away from steak. Now I appreciate a well made cocktail using fine ingredients (e.g., after a pleasant conversation, and because I randomly asked, a bartender at Dressler’s in Brooklyn made me the perfect Singapore Sling using real cherry brandy, citrus and fine gin, ending a multi-year quest), but I’m not always up for paying the excessive prices often charged for such cocktails or dealing with the attitude that can come with the establishments serving them (e.g., Milk & Honey, PDT, Employees Only).

    Also, while I have read that some recipes for a Whiskey Sour use egg whites, the only drink I’ve had with egg whites is a Pisco Sour made at a Peruvian restaurant. I find a version using a good sour (there’s the rub) is perfectly acceptable, especially as I don’t care for the taste of most straight booze.


    Here’s a blasphemous mojito variation that’s most delicious – substitute coconut rum for regular rum.


    Here’s a gin question for you – why would I enjoy Bombay Sapphire and tonic, but dislike versions using other gins (e.g., Tanqueray, Plymouth, Hendrick’s, etc.)?

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