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Ask the Profussor – Keeping on Track

June 1, 2010

Summer is here. Lost is over. I survived the desert. You all have helped me get closer to understanding what is going on with Albany restaurants. It has been one helluva month.

If you are coming back from a long weekend and are backlogged on your blog reading, don’t forget to leave a comment on my giveaway post to enter for a chance to win one of three cast iron skillets.

For those of you who may be new to the FUSSYlittleBLOG, I have made a commitment to answer all reader questions.  And while I may not be able to do this on a daily basis, every few weeks I delve through the comments to find out what has remained unanswered and settle all affairs.

Now without further ado, onto the questions.

Elyse wondered:
Why hasn’t the frozen yogurt trend reached Albany yet? Do you think that people would go for it here? Too many soft serve ice cream stands?

I know exactly what you are talking about.

Here are my thoughts:
1) There is that thing I heard about Albany being ten years behind on trends.
2) Some people strongly believe that Albanians prefer bland and boring.
3) The pricing structure of “by the ounce” rubs locals the wrong way.

That said, I imagine if the trend persists, it will make it here eventually.  There is a gussied up frozen yogurt concession at the movie theater in Crossgates these days.  I haven’t tried it, but it looks interesting.  I don’t think the ice cream stands will have a profound impact on the model.

My personal favorite thing about the business is how large those blasted cups are, and how people are so programmed to fill them up to the top.  I put in a reasonable amount of yogurt, which looks so meager swimming in that gigantic bowl, and a few toppings.  Then I walk away with a delicious treat without paying a crazy amount for fro yo.

Brendan had a few suggestions about what to do in Tempe:
– Careful crossing the street. The crosswalks seem about half a mile long and people drive like idiots.
– Stay within spitting distance of the misters.
– Check your shoes, bed and bags for scorpions.
– In Tempe, go to Rula Bula.

Lots of you had great advice for Arizona, but my itinerary ended up matching more closely to Brendan’s suggestions.

It turns out there was a bicyclist killed at the intersection I had to cross to get my cappuccino just one week prior to my arrival.  There was a memorial constructed on the scene, which was a sobering reminder for point number one.

The misters at Rula Bula were some of the best things from the trip.  Luckily we saw no scorpions.  I think I would have soiled myself. 

A new commenter with a suspicious name asked:
Does someone realize how to define a real Expert Avisor from fraudulent and a clear signals from fake?

The only reason I didn’t delete this comment and dismiss it as poorly written spam is that I like the nature of the question.  If you recall I once noted some dreadful advice about building a bar from “experts” that I found via a reader’s link.

It is a difficult decision to decide whom to trust.  But when it comes to me deciding on my own expert advisors, I look to people who have a method or a philosophy behind their opinions.  While I may disagree with F. Paul Pacult on a few of his picks and pans, I am very confident he is the real deal.  His procedure for tasting is so regimented, his writing is so enjoyable to read, and the breadth of his work so impressive that I have no need to look elsewhere for spirit buying advice.

Kater made my month with the following:
After your cappuccino post a few weeks/months back, I started paying much greater attention to my preparation :) The owners trained us, but they can only be out front so much, and mine were a bit crappy for a while there. I’m not a coffee drinker so the post on real cappuccinos was so helpful!

Whee!  I only wish there were a place in Albany I could buy you one that you could use as a model for future drinks.

I’m hoping there will be more cappuccino posts to come.  When I get off my ass, I’m going to send an email with some questions to that awesome café in Tempe.  If everything works out, there will be a dedicated post on how they brought great coffee to the desert.  And it if it happens, there will certainly be more about cappuccino.

Ellen Whitby had a multi-part question on my approach to Albany restaurants:
I wonder if, over the course of time, our local restaurant “industry” has changed much. Has it always been like this? Has the number of overpriced/mediocre restaurants increased over time as the well-priced/good restaurants decreased?
Are you trying to answer a question for which there really is no answer?

My understanding is that Albany restaurants on the whole are much better than they were ten, even five, years ago.  In the last couple of years there have been some high-profile, high-end restaurant openings.  But I can’t honestly call them all mediocre just based on their menus.  All I can say is that many of them aren’t terribly compelling considering what you can get in other cities for the same price or less.

I’m one of those people who think that every question has an answer, and that every problem has a solution.  The key of course if identifying the problem in terms that are solvable.  And that is really what I am trying to do.

B had a very specific question about one of my core arguments:
I guess this gets back to your assertion that area restaurants are overpriced. I don’t have any data or enough experience to compare to other areas. Can you link to where you’ve covered this before, or show solid examples?

Yes.  A cross-comparison post has just made my to-do list.  It may take a while, but it will get done.

Elyse had an interesting question come up on the subject of all you can eat sushi:
I was talking to my co-workers about the enormous popularity of that all you can eat Sushi place around here- they went (they are the creators of capital-sushi.com so they go everywhere) and, as they expected, it was mediocre. The group they went with absolutely loved it. I don’t know what to say- quantity over quality? Low standards?

This feels a bit like an old Douglas Adams bit about the red-checkered-tablecloth Italian restaurants where the regular rules of math do not apply.  A similar thing happens in all-you-can-eat buffets.

I have never really talked about this here, but I did mention it briefly once on Yelp.

Being able to consume a variety of foods for one low blanket price is fun.  It allows a level of sampling that may not be otherwise financially feasible in the short term.  Ultimately I think this comes down to another example of a sliding scale.

I knew someone like AC was out there somewhere, but it was good to hear:
I started reading your blog for your posts about wine. You haven’t written about wine in a month or more. What gives?
If I may ask, do you ever drink NY wines or are you still stuck in the California state of mind? What’s your opinion on riesling and gewurtzatraimer?

Honestly, until right now, it didn’t seem like anyone noticed that the wine posts were on a hiatus.  I’m trying to figure out what to do about it.  The problem is that they are consistently the least read and commented on posts, by a considerable margin.  I love wine, and I love getting people into wine, but I was unconvinced that the posts were accomplishing anything.

I haven’t tried many NY wines, although I have tried some. But I do love a nice spicy gewurtz (without too many flowers) and Rieslings up and down the residual sugar spectrum (provided the sweeter ones are accompanied by enough corresponding acidity to bring the wine into balance).  One day I’ll make it up to the Finger Lakes and explore some of the NY wine country.  But it may take a while.

Please, post more comments like this.  They are inspiring.  Seriously.  Also if you like you can help promote the wine posts by tweeting about them, or even just emailing links to your friends and family.  That’s the best way to see more wine on the FLB.

Beck was being very open and honest when she asked:
So can I still enter the contest, even if I don’t need a second cast iron skillet?

Absolutely.  Especially since I would argue that you totally need a second cast iron skillet.  I have three, each of different sizes.  These days the 10” and 12” get all the love.  The 6” has been woefully neglected.

In a similar vein Ellen Whitby had these questions about the giveaway (and Starbucks):
What if your name isn’t really your name? What if you already have two favorite cast iron pans (one for meat and for dairy)? What if Starbucks doesn’t really make milkshakes?

1) I just need a working email address.  Incidentally does admitting you are writing under a pseudonym cast needless suspicion on your identity?

2) You can’t have a third favorite cast iron pan?  What is up with you and Beck?

3) A chocolate Frappuccino is the closest you will get to a milkshake at Starbucks.  They are actually put through a blender, and they actually contain fresh milk and whipped cream.  It may not be the platonic ideal of a milkshake, especially given its complete lack of actual ice cream.  But I reckon it’s the best thing you’ll get at a drive-through in the Capital Region once the shamrock shakes are sold out for the season.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2010 7:50 am

    Just a quick note on the FroYo thing. Frozen yogurt used to be much bigger around here, there were a lot of TCBYs around. I actually remember eating froyo at the Stuyvesant plaza location more often then ice cream anywhere else. Mayhaps Albany is 10 years ahead of trends. You ever think of that? Can you live at that speed?

  2. beck permalink
    June 2, 2010 9:14 am

    What is up with me? Well, I’ll tell you, since you asked! I could have another cast iron pan, but I have a lot of pots and pans already and very little storage space in my kitchen. I figure the 10″ skillet I have now is a good size for two people. I don’t have a need for a bigger one at the moment, and a smaller one seems redundant. I also have a cast iron grill pan, so another cast iron pan would be my third.

  3. mirdreams permalink
    June 3, 2010 7:37 pm

    If you want to try more NY wines you should check out the wine store at Harmony House Marketplace (http://www.harmonyhousemarketplace.com/) in Cohoes. They only sell NYS wine and they frequently have tastings.

  4. June 4, 2010 9:16 am

    Pretty sure there’s a Frozen Yogurt joint opening in Saratoga Springs very soon. It will appear in the space where Eugenio’s Gelateria once was. Eugenio’s has since moved north on Broadway a bit…

    Will report back if I hear or see anything further…

  5. June 5, 2010 2:24 pm

    **Gratuitous Advertisement for local products to follow**

    If you want to try some New York Wines, there is an event in June for the Berkshire-Hudson Beverage trail. It is called Strawberry Fields and has to do with the Strawberry Harvest. Not sure what we will be doing at Harvest Spirits…

    There are 5 wineries, a distillery and a brewery on the trail. I haven’t had the chance to try too many of the wines, but the brewery makes a good brew and the distillery is (of course) world class.

    Info at: http://hudsonberkshireexperience.com/trail-events/

    **Disclosure: I work at the distillery, click my name for a link**

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