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Ask The Profussor – In Which The Profussor Reveals His Ultimate Goal

September 23, 2009

I can’t believe it has been three weeks since the last installment of AskTP.  There have been so many wonderful comments, insightful points, and good feedback in the past few weeks.  I have been very much looking forward to giving them the proper response they deserve.

All of my posts from the past two weeks really seem to have written themselves.  This happens periodically, where I tap into some deep well of fussiness, and it all just comes gushing out.  I still have a full editorial calendar through the end of this week.

Next week on the other hand remains an open book.  I have a few ideas, but I may need to do something interesting this weekend to prime the pump.  As far as milestones go, we have now blown past 500 comments.  The FLB is averaging more than four comments per post.  I’m very thankful for all your feedback.  Please keep it up, and please keep talking, tweeting, and reposting links.

My goal is nothing short of having the FLB being the most influential food blog in the region.  I have a big hill to climb, I know.  But I think I can do it with your help.  How about you?

But now, onto the questions.

Kate C. had a very long but thoughtful comment on “Value in Moderation.” I will cleverly italicize the comment, so you can tell where she stops and I begin.  I will also add numbers to her points, so I can address them as succinctly as possible.

#1) I think, Mr. Fussy, that you are creating a false dichotomy: quality vs. quantity. Readers, do we want to eat crappy restaurant food? No? OK, that’s settled.

#2) Now to the question of portions and leftovers in good restaurants. Restaurants have to decide on portion size; just right would be perfect, but since each diner’s appetite is different, I’d rather they erred on the side of slightly too much rather than slightly too little. It makes me anxious, to pay a lot of money for a tiny portion of even meticulously sourced fish with three organic beans from the restaurant’s own garden on the side. It makes me feel like someone else is putting me on a diet, and I’m paying for it, and where’s the bread basket. Even if it’s perfect, I want enough to fill me up (and it doesn’t have to be the pricey protein part).

#3) So, ok, what do you do if the portion’s slightly too big? Would you really consign a third of your lovingly curated three-day braised pork to the trash can if you were full? Or should you stuff yourself, and waste it inside your body instead? You should take it home of course! And you should let the fact that you CAN take it home allow you to stop eating when you are full–or even before you are full, so you can order that dessert you wanted.

#4) The braised pork would probably even improve the next day .

#1) I do really try to avoid seeing the world in black and white, but rather try to appreciate all the tones of gray.  That said, while people generally do not desire crappy food (although honestly we all crave bad food every now and again), they often settle for something adequate.  Adequate falls in that gray zone between good and bad.  It’s not good, it’s certainly not wonderful, and it’s far from brilliant.

#2) Issues of satiety are truly individual, and I find them very interesting.  Please keep your eyes open for a proper post on this very subject within the next week.  But even restaurants that provide more reasonable portions still generally provide more food and calories than are recommended for most adults.  Your reasonably sized meal should stave off your hunger.  If your meal doesn’t satisfy your desires, perhaps, just perhaps, it’s not the fault of the chef.  You may be looking to be full which I will argue is different from being fed.

#4) I really do not think it improve the next day.  One of the reasons why it is so good is that after the pork has been braised it is cooled and trimmed.  Then it is heated in the kitchen while being constantly basted, which is one of the things that makes it so good in the first place.  If you had the basting liquid from the restaurant, and were committed to performing this time intensive task for 1/3 of your leftover protein, then perhaps it would be as good the next day.

So, I say…

#3) You stuff yourself and enjoy a bit more than you probably should, and regretfully leave too full, without room for dessert.  Hopefully after a nice walk, and maybe a digestif, you will feel better in a little while and maybe enjoy some sorbet or ice cream on the way home.  I fail to see how food can be wasted inside one’s body, however the efforts of the chef and their staff can be wasted as brilliant food is brought home only to be turned into acceptable food (at best) by their well-meaning patrons.

[Mrs. Fussy thought this was a little harsh.  She is more sensitive than I am.  But I left this answer unchanged, and hope it does not discourage you from posting in the future.]

Jane Sweeney (who has joined the ranks of people who think I focus on restaurant food at the expense of other important elements) asks, “But what about the great dining experience you’ve had that is more than the tangible?”

You should really read Jane’s entire question.  It was a very thoughtful examination about what restaurants can mean in peoples lives.  And I absolutely agree with her about this.  I think the X factor is really the tone set by the combination of the food, décor, and atmospheric elements and really speaks to the power of design.  That said, our local restaurants need to tackle the tangible first.  Frankly, I think they are too focused on trying to nail the X factor, and when the food comes out, the observant diner realizes that it’s all style and no substance.

Despite phairhead’s typo, I can infer from, “how found good wings here? the boyfriend is on an endless search to find the wings of his dreams,” that she is looking for a recommendation.

I found them at Scubbers in Latham, which closed down soon afterwards.  I did get to have a few meals there, so I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity.  On my brief wing crawl of New Scotland and Delaware Avenue, the Elbo Room was the top contender.  And my fussy friends from the wing wasteland of Northern California were quite happy with the versions served at the Washington Tavern.  I do like the Ale House in Troy, too, although I’d argue their wings are not Buffalo style.

But I haven’t been inside your boyfriend’s dreams.  His dream wing may be a breaded garlic-parmesan monstrosity.  In which case, none of this does you any good.

Brownie wondered, “’Albanian’ is the demonym? Really?”

I have no idea, but it’s awesome.  It may be one of the top 10 things of living here.  We share the same demonym with the Kosovars.  And if you believe Wikipedia, it turns out to be true.  Unless of course, someone decides to change it.

Afsal defensively questioned, “What’s wrong with olives? I don’t mean a giant slosh of olive juice, just a strategic olive or two to enjoy soaked in gin, with an actual measure of vermouth. That’s how I like em, anyway.”

There is a wonderful purity to this classic cocktail that is destroyed by garnish.  Period.  An actual measure of vermouth is fine.  Really finding the right balance of vermouth, gin, and bitters depends dramatically on the brands of each, since they all offer up different flavor profiles.  I would not want a full measure of the Vya dry, but I think the old formulation Noilly Pratt would work with a lot of gins.

Once as I was twisting a lemon peel over my drink, it slipped and fell into the glass for a split second.  And even that exposure threw the drink out of whack.  Even one olive changes the character of the cocktail.  I’d ask you to give the unadorned version a try, and leave the olives on the table as a nice snack to accompany you

Mr. Sunshine desperately wanted to know on September 4, “Where are you getting “bitter lemon soda”? I used to love it, but haven’t seen it in stores for years. I thought it was discontinued.”

When I saw this question, I thought, “I’ll wait to answer it on my next ‘Ask the Profussor.’”  If Mr. Sunshine had waited, it would have been almost a grueling three weeks before he got his answer.  Sorry about that.  Instead, he wrote me a note, and I told him Polar makes it.

We can learn two things from this.
1)    Emails get responses.
2)    I may need to comment and answer questions on an informal basis more regularly.

phairhead wanted to check a term and asked, “my boyfriend used a dry rub on ribs that we grilled for 3 hours. does that make it barbeque?”

If the heat was low and indirect, and if there was smoke, there was barbecue.  Three hours seems a little quick.  But if they were smaller baby backs, it is certainly possible.

llcwine took a moment to write, “One question, other than the legs, what other parts of frog are edible, and how would they be prepared?”

Are you really going to make me do this?  What if I just link to something, so those who are faint of heart don’t have to see?

Jennifer wanted to know, “Can you use pomegranate syrup from a middle eastern store? Would that be the same thing? If you didn’t want to make your own?  Not that I don’t love making things from scratch. I think I’ll try it this weekend. I’m thinking it would be nice in plain seltzer to make a soda for the kids.”

So here is what I think would happen: you would get the full cooked pomegranate flavor, without the brightness of the fresh juice, and you would not get the full sweetness from the added sugar.  Which means yes you can, but I don’t think you should.

Putting it in seltzer for the kids is a great idea.  Just make sure to leave out the vodka.  I mean omit the vodka.  You understand.

Jennifer also weighed in on the issue of the doggy bag, “This issue was on my mind this weekend as the partner and I decided to have an early dinner at Villa Valenti. Don’t mock my choice, I was craving eggplant Parmesan and I had a good memory of eating there a few years ago…O/T does anyone have a good recommendation for an inexpensive red sauce Italian joint in the Capital Region?”

First, I would never mock your restaurant choice.  I’m not in the mocking business.  If you were a public figure that was telling people that Villa Valenti was the best Italian restaurant ever, and their eggplant was fresh and cooked to perfection, well… then maybe.  But you are not, so feel free to eat where you like, and tell me all about it without fear of retribution.

Second, my family loves Ralph’s on Central Avenue.  Do yourself a favor.  Unless you want a big mess of leftovers, get the half order of pasta.  Even if you are a hungry adult.  I swear the kids portion would be plenty for me, and I’m a 175lb man.  I usually get the eggplant or sausage torpedo sandwich, depending on how concerned I am feeling about my cholesterol.  Pasta, eggplant, sausage, soup & wings – stray from these options at your peril.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2009 10:59 am

    you called me out on my typo! :P

    and by the by, there was definate smoke and indirect on out labour day ribs. mmmmmmm rib-tastic :) thanks for the f/u, daniel. it made my day : )

  2. September 23, 2009 1:19 pm

    I don’t consider myself ‘faint at heart’ but I am cautious so I looked at where your link was pointing and saw this, “live-frog-eating-man-from-china”. I certainly do not want to see a man from china being eaten by a live frog – how does that help the questioner? :-)

  3. Kate C. permalink
    September 24, 2009 3:59 pm

    Mr. Fussy: I appreciate your considered response, and you can reassure Mrs. Fussy that I like a spirited argument.

    Here’s how you waste food by eating it: you consume too many calories, which are then stored as fat, and then you never find yourself in the sort of survival situation in which those extra inches come in handy. In fact, you go to great lengths on treadmills and so forth, to get rid of all the extra energy you didn’t need. (Perhaps you are one of those people with a great metabolism who has never faced this problem. In that case, I envy you your confusion.)

    On the other hand, if you don’t eat those extra calories, but take them home for lunch the next day, you are not wasting them, and are in fact also saving the time and money you would use to prepare yourself a fresh lunch. Perhaps the quality of the food does diminish. Perhaps it’s half as good as it was the night before. But if it’s really all that delicious to begin with, then half as good is better than many other lunch choices. Rather than doing that poor chef a dishonor, this shadow of a delicious dish might remind well remind one of the thrill of the original.

  4. September 29, 2009 6:22 am

    wasted food is a huge pet peeve of mine. even if i’m stuffed to the breaking point and have perhaps resigned the rest of my meal to a doggy bag, i can’t help but want to clean up my companions’ plates. is that weird? probably not. what’s weird is that i feel the urge to clean up the plates of other diners who are not my companions. :)

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