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Ask the Profussor – The FLB Strikes Back

October 19, 2010

It would seem there are some new readers here at the FLB.  Welcome to you all.  A few people have stayed on after the torrent of traffic from being serendipitously listed on WordPress’s front page and the interest taken by the Reddit community in my post about black pepper.  

For those of you who are new, please let me explain how this works.  Periodically, I answer all the questions that were left unanswered in the comments.  To be answered, all questions must have proper punctuation.  What is proper punctuation for a question?  Get it?  I should also note that I do not consider rhetorical questions as questions to be answered.

Although be forewarned, I will sometimes answer questions that aren’t questions at all.  Commenting on this blog may be fun, but you may be asked to defend yourself.

If your question isn’t here, it is likely because I am saving it for a dedicated post in the days to come.  A few of these were so thought-provoking that I really wanted to give them the responses they deserved.  Now without further ado, on to the questions.

Particle wondered:
Do you talk to store managers or customer service personnel when you can’t find a product you want at a local/regional market?

I do not. I like shopping at local markets, and I do realize that generally they are more than happy to order anything that isn’t in stock.  But I also like to vote with my wallet and support the stores that are stocked daily with the products I desire.  

This has led me to the sad position of not having any sherry in the house.  But when I do finally find a store around here that actually stocks a good selection of the stuff, I’m going to be super-happy.  And I guarantee you will here about it on the blog.

Jon in Albany also seems to be pushing a local agenda, so he asked:
Have you ever compared mail ordered black peppercorns to something locally available?

No.  I am very happy with the quality of what I get from Penzey’s.  I believe in local when local means that I’m getting higher quality than I would otherwise.  This holds true with some produce, but not all.  It also is a good generalization when it comes to eggs, dairy and meat.  You would have a tough time convincing me that there is a place locally that cares as much about the sourcing, quality and turnover of their spices as one of the best mail order purveyors.

There were some questions about the Tour de Donut most notably from my mom, but also from Ellen Whitby:
Wondering if as the day moved on that your later donut stops, the donuts were less “fresh” and had more time out away from the cooking source….what do you think? Also, were your taste buds satiated by the time you reach the third stop?

Did you ask how “fresh” the different donuts were?

At every location the donuts seemed to be on a continuous production cycle, except for possibly one.  So their relative freshness shouldn’t have been an issue as time marched on over the course of the day.  The third stop was where things started to get difficult, but I assure you that we all maintained our critical capacity.  If anything, by the end of the tour, our palates were more attuned to the differences in nuance between the donut in front of us and earlier specimens.

Erinn I’m sure was trying to be helpful when she wrote:
For future tour ideas, may I suggest a cupcake tour?…
For next summer, there’s the ice cream stand tour option. I’m sure I can think of others if I try…

Yeah, I’m going to pass on the cupcakes.  I don’t expect everyone to have read everything I’ve written, but I’ll leave this for those who are interested.

After I recover from the Tournament of Pizza I will be ready to tackle a Winter Tour de Something.  And the Tour de Softserve may even be a rite of Spring, not summer.  Ice cream is totally in the future though, of that I am sure.

Tonia questioned my restraint when I took on RealFoodMom’s rant against Target:
Nice post. I <3 butter. P.S. Why would [she] use the “bad” butter in baking? I am wondering why you did not question this.

The short answer is that I felt the need to pick my battles. How RealFoodMom chooses to use her fancy butter is up to her.  I was just concerned with the fact that my fancy-schmancy butter from the co-op didn’t actually have more flavor than the rBST-free butter from Target.  For me, when I enjoy some of the finest butters in the world, they go on bread and bread alone.

Albany Jane innocently asked:
How bad rBST hormone for a person?

I have no desire to get sued.  So we’ll let the internets do the talking.  The answer to Albany Jane’s question depends upon who you choose to believe.  There are those who say that rBST is completely safe and that milk from cows that have been treated with the hormone is completely identical to milk produced without its use.

And then there are those who are concerned that it’s not.

StanfordSteph, without whom there would have been no Tour de Donut, hopefully asked:
Sad to see that Bowman ranked so low. How is the picking at the other farms?

I have always had good experiences picking at Indian Ladder.  You buy bags from them, so that nobody has to search your car on the way out.  I have to say I was a little creeped out at the sign at Bowman that screamed, “All PRODUCE MUST BE DECLARED BEFORE ENTERING.”

beck wanted some more info from my meal at Garden Bistro 24:
How were the mussels? I’m curious to try them, but my husband doesn’t eat seafood, so I’d be on my own with them.

Like the steaks, I thought the mussels were good.  None of the food here is knock-your-socks-off amazing.  It’s just simple food, well prepared.  The things that are truly special about this place is that it has both focus and value.  I do think these go hand in hand.  Since the kitchen doesn’t have to be everything to everyone, they can keep food costs down.  And because the cooks are preparing the same things night after night, they are pretty darn good at it.  I wish more restaurants would take a page from their book.

Marilyn Quinn had a long story about a meal involving soggy vegetable pizza and asked:
Is restaurant etiquette dead or is it too much to expect the owner to rectify a customer’s dissatisfaction?

These kinds of situations are always tricky.  How can anyone who wasn’t there make a judgment without hearing both sides of the story?  I am pretty good at getting what I want.  One simple and often overlooked way to get what you want is to make sure you tell people what you want.  If you want a soggy pizza to be taken off your bill, you should tell the owner you want it off the bill.  This story sounds like a negotiation gone bad.

But I do think the restaurant should have a chance to remake the dish properly, to your specifications.  If they cannot do so successfully, as was clearly the case here, it is reasonable to ask for the item to be removed from the check and ultimately returned to the kitchen.

What the restaurant does next is their business decision for how to deal with a hungry and frustrated customer.  Yes, it’s upsetting when they decide to let you leave unhappy, but that’s why you don’t go back.

As for me, I think I will try it for myself before I come to any conclusions.

Box761 was shocked at the prices in the FUSSYlittleSTORE:
Wow. $19.40 for Kraft Mac and Cheese?

This could explain why nobody has bought any.  For the record, I don’t really hope to sell anything at the FUSSYlittleSTORE.  It is really there as a way for me to highlight products that are relevant to posts in an environment I can control.  And just in case someone felt like impulsively buying an item, I would be giving them that option.  Fair enough?

Kim D. was checking in on my coffee grinder:
are you still happy with this? i’m in the early stages of making my christmas list.

I am happy with this grinder in that it gives me permission to buy good coffee beans and treat them with the respect they deserve.  As far as giving the grinder as a gift, the recipient would need to be in the right sweet spot on their coffee journey.  For the same price, you can get a hand-cranked burr grinder with a superior grinding mechanism.  But that’s not for everyone.  These kinds of grinders take several minutes of manual cranking to make enough grounds for one cup of coffee.  My electric grinder is made by Cuisinart, so almost by definition, it is made for everyone. 

Mirdreams seems to have received the one thing from Penzey’s Spices that isn’t a spice:
I was gifted with a jar of Raspberry Enlightenment recently and haven’t tried it yet. Any recommendations?

Having never tried it, my first and only thought is using it as a dip for our regional variant of fried cheese.  Fried mozzarella sticks dipped in raspberry sauce.  Me?  I’d probably re-gift it.

Selig succinctly asked:
How about Turkish coffee?

Funny you should ask about that.  I was just thinking about getting a Turkish coffee pot.  But I do really want to master my Cuban coffee before moving on to the other great sweetened coffees of the world.

We are almost done here.  To finish strong, we’ll end with the lightning round.

Phairhead wanted to know:
What’s a kitchen oil can?

You may know it as something else, but as you can clearly see, it’s an oil can.  You know, for the kitchen.

Twelve Bottles helpfully suggested:
Since Peychaud’s and Absinthe play so nicely together, have you tried a little of both?

Yes, and yes.  Thank you for the reminder.  But now I want a Sazerac.

Jess wanted to know if I had experienced one of her favorite coffees:
I actually love the Italian roast from Ambition in Schenectady. Have you tried?

No, but it seems like I’m there all the time these days.  Italian roast just made my list.  Thanks.

Andrew might start hunting vermouth if only he knew one thing:
How would one differentiate a new bottle from and old bottle?

Easy, the old one is on the left.

StanfordSteph is hoping you can learn from her example:
Shoot, that’s a typo. No way to delete or edit I suppose?


Phairhead was curious about my trip to the Schenectady Greenmarket and asked:
did you try the vegan dip?

Who needs dip?  Vegans are tasty all on their own.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Ewan permalink
    October 19, 2010 11:05 am

    Well, if we’re doing questions… have you found a local source for good chorizo?

  2. Phairhead permalink
    October 19, 2010 11:37 am

    Agreed vegans don’t need a lot of sauce or flavourings :D

  3. October 19, 2010 2:36 pm

    If you’re in Schenectady all the time, we should meet for coffee one of these days. I work just up the street a piece from Ambition. Maybe we can plan a winter Tour de Something, since I would love to be part of one of those.

  4. Ewan permalink
    October 19, 2010 3:47 pm

    Hmm. How about a coffee tour?

  5. Ellen Whitby permalink
    October 19, 2010 5:01 pm

    I love it…more questions to follow.

  6. Shay permalink
    October 19, 2010 7:21 pm

    haha. LOVE the last answer. Although I am a vegan and I don’t think I’m too appetizing.

  7. October 19, 2010 11:30 pm

    To Kim D. – I’ve had that particular burr grinder for years now, and like it so much that when my mother said she wanted a coffee grinder, I bought an identical one for her last Christmas. It’s great for both French Press and drip coffee. I don’t think I would trust it for espresso.

  8. October 20, 2010 2:45 pm

    Re the first question and answer, if you don’t ask the shopkeeper for a desired item that is not in stock, how do they know you want it? Just sayin….

  9. October 22, 2010 11:33 pm

    No local agenda being pushed here. I’m not sure if you can really go “local” with black peppercorns anyway. I was just asking if you had noticed differences in quality between Penzy’s and something I regularly purchase.

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