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Ask the Profussor – Für Elyse

February 1, 2010

It’s not so much that I abandoned writing the semi-regular Ask the Profussor posts, but there has been a lot going on, and I’ve had plenty of other things to talk about.

Luckily sometimes, someone asks such a good question, I need to stop and write an equally good answer.  This time it was a new reader named Elyse.  And while I’m doing that, I will also try and catch up on all the unanswered questions since the last installment of AskTP.

If for some reason after today your question remains unanswered, I assure you it was a terrible oversight.  Please feel free to contact me directly or publicly chide me in the comments.  Either way.  I just want to make sure everyone’s questions get answered.

Without further ado, here is what Elyse had to say:
I am puzzled and disturbed by your love for Chipotle. Their sustainability model is excellent, but it doesn’t make up for the way their food tastes, or rather, doesn’t taste. It is totally bland. I’d expect higher standards of Mexican food from someone who spent some time in California! Did you forget what it’s supposed to taste like?

Just to make sure, I reread the three posts I have written on Chipotle, and the only time the word Mexican is used is the one time I refer to restaurant’s full name: Chipotle Mexican Grill.

I have never considered Chipotle to be Mexican food.

The primary thing that is missing at a Chipotle is the heady smell of corn that is central to Mexican food.  Well, that and the presence of actual Mexicans.  It is a Disneyfied version of a taqueria, made friendly to the mainstream American palate.

I still swoon when I think back to the carnitas at my favorite panaderia/taqueria in Berkeley.  It has been several months since I last had those carnitas filling a torta on the shop’s house-made buns, but I have not forgotten their taste or more importantly their texture.  The version that is served at Chipotle doesn’t deserve to be called the same name as what I have had in more authentic establishments.

Did you see what the burrito experts at had to say on Chipotle? Every burrito they eat goes through a twelve-stage evaluation.  In theory the top score would be a 10, but to date the highest scoring taqueria has earned only an 8.82 (for comparison’s sake the lowest is 5.67).

Competing against the best and most authentic burrito specimens in the burrito capital of the country, Chipotle’s downtown location scored a 7.42 on its carnitas burrito – ultimately brought down by the bland white rice that I wholeheartedly agree is the weak link of the restaurant’s ingredients.

Besides the rice, which in my opinion is a major flavor suck, and perhaps the cream and the cheese that can serve to mute some of the flavors, I cannot call their food bland.  Frankly, it objectively has too much fat and salt to qualify as bland.

I could imagine getting a bland burrito.  It would have a standard load of rice, a standard load of pinto beans, carnitas, mild salsa, lettuce, sour cream and cheese.  But why would anyone want to order that?

May I suggest, if you are a flavor seeker to try the following burrito build:

Barbacoa, 3T of rice, 3 scoops of black beans, hot salsa, and cheese.  Ask for the sour cream on the side, if you need it to cut the heat.  It’s my current favorite, especially if I’m not planning on sharing a bite with the kids.  If you want to avoid the extra fat and calories, it works well in a bowl too.

But the sustainability side of the business is also important to me.  And honestly I probably wouldn’t be as excited about the food if it were made with conventional ingredients.

Ultimately I love it for what it is, and there is nothing else like it in the region.

Jean Patiky asks:
I don’t know what a “corked” wine is…please explain….that the wine had been “corked”…is that a bad thing?

Corked wine is a bad thing.  There is a compound called TCA that can become introduced to the wine in a variety of ways.  The end result is an unpleasant aroma that is often described as moldy newspapers.  But if you are unfamiliar with a wine, moldy newspapers might get conflated with forest floor and wood.

AddiesDad wanted to know:
Are you planning on comparing the two rye’s based on their flavors, or is price the only factor?

Price is not the only factor.  But even using the lower prices available locally, we are still talking about a $70 bottle of whiskey for Tuthilltown spirits. I did have the opportunity to taste the two next to each other.  Regrettably it was not enough to be able to write a good post about their flavor differences.

However I am confident to say that the Tuthilltown rye was not so much better than the McKenzie as to justify paying that kind of premium.  And since I live in a world that is all about price-value ratios, I see no point for me in going forward with the Pepsi Challenge for these two spirits.

Of course that could change if some benevolent reader sent me a bottle as a gift.  You know Valentines Day is just around the corner.

Susan R and kerosena wanted some clarification regarding Mrs. Fussy and onions:
So, I wonder if she is allergic? Maybe it is the fear of the burning and tearing up that comes with these alliums?
How about shallots(I consider part of the French cooking trinity)…leeks, chives, scallions?
No salsa, even? No fresh pico de gallo in the summertime?

Thank you for your concern.  She is not allergic and she is not afraid.

If shallots and leeks can be cooked so that they virtually disappear, they can be included in a dish.  So I’m not making any leek soups or tarts.  Chives and scallions are both out of the question.  As are most salsas and all pico de gallo.

Mrs. Fussy claims that leeks are milder and she has less of a problem with them. But at the same time she also confirms that vichyssois would be a non starter.

All too long ago Phairhead wanted to know:
Where is Bellini’s?

The one I went to is in the Slingerlands Price Chopper Center.  Although I hear there is another location further north.

Jojo posited:
I’d love to get your take on artificial sweetener.

I am opposed to it.  But if you are going to use it in your coffee or cooking, I would recommend using a blend of products.  Instead of putting just Splenda in your coffee, try a bit of Splenda with a bit of Equal.  In theory it should provide a rounder, fuller sweetness profile.

Unless you have some kind of medical condition, you should just use sugar.

AC was looking for some guidance to this burning question:
How would you describe the taste difference between rye and bourbon?

I really think this has more to do with the craftsmanship of the individual spirits than with the commonalities of the types.  Much of the production requirements are the same.  They both need to be aged in new, charred oak barrels (at no higher than 125 proof).  And both can only be distilled to a maximum of 160 proof.  The principle difference is that bourbon is a whiskey that is made with at least 51% corn and rye whiskey is made with 51% rye.

In theory the grain mash can be very similar for both products, so the differences will vary depending on the specific methods used for each whiskey.

That said, rye is considered to be drier, spicier and fruitier than bourbon.

Sarah M. made me laugh out loud when she wrote:
So your little show here is only to direct people to your personal chain of restaurants? Is that cool?

If you want in on the joke, please check out my crankiest commenter Ron, on the Guilderland blog (comment #4).

Thank you all for the excellent questions and comments. Please keep them coming!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    February 1, 2010 11:30 am

    Probably a typo, but it’s vichysoisse, not vichyssois (a pet peeve).

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    February 1, 2010 11:18 pm

    Gaa! It’s vichyssoise, not vichysoisse!

  3. Elyse permalink
    February 4, 2010 9:09 pm

    Whoops- I’m several days late here- thanks for the detailed response! I think we are going to have to agree to disagree, but I do admit that after writing that comment in your blog, I went into work absolutely CRAVING a burrito. If there was a Chipotle in Averill Park (ha ha ha) I would totally have been there.

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