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Ask The Profussor – Events R Us

March 22, 2011

How this happened I don’t know. But it seems like I’m spending all my time going to events, organizing events, or participating in events. It is barely even spring and I’ve got most of the summer already planned out. This is crazy.

Tomorrow I’ll be headed out for a night of partying with all my favorite All Over Albany people to help them celebrate the website’s third birthday. This weekend I’m hoping to meet up with Albany Jane and go sugar shacking. The following weekend is already the Jewish Food Festival. And less than a week later, I’ll be leading the Tour de Soft Serve. So much for swimsuit season.

Anyhow, I’ve noticed something about these Ask the Profussor posts. When I answer all the unanswered questions that have piled up over the course of a few weeks, I also engage in the time-intensive practice of linking all the questions back to the original comments. You know what? Nobody ever clicks on those links.

So I’m going to try skipping that step and see what happens. Now without any further ado, onto the questions.

kater has exciting news about the milk being textured at Crisan:
We’ve switched to grass-fed milk…is that what to call it?

I believe the word you are searching for is “awesome.” But you can also call it milk from grass-fed cows.

Tim stumbled upon the FLB from All Over Albany and asked:
Incidentally, didn’t we used to be friends on Yelp? The Internet is a weird place…

Oh man. I’m terrible at this game. It’s the main reason I’ve never gone into sales. I can barely remember the members of my own family, much less their birthdays, so please forgive me if I’m drawing a blank on this one.

John H. must have sensed that I’ve got chicken stock on the mind recently:
Profussor – how do you like to use leftover chicken bones/skeleton in making soup?

I like it very much. I’ll use the bones to make a stock, concentrate the stock, and use that concentrate for a soup. It makes for some deliciously rich broth, and if you’ve got the time, it’s super easy

On the subject of wine, my old friend Tim wanted to know:
Also curious, have you tried The Saratoga Winery yet?

There is a lot in Saratoga that I have not tried yet. More is the pity. But I am just really starting to warm up to New York wines. It’s a process, and I’m looking forward to the discovery.

In regards to the Jewish Food Festival Mr. Sunshine and llcwine asked respectively:
Is the dude really named Del Salmon?
Any kishka or kreplachs?

Yes, that’s his name. You should come and meet him.

I have a more complete list of the food available at the festival. It can be found here. However I was informed that last year’s homemade kishka went uneaten, so it was culled from the roster of this years delicacies. If you are interested in buying some, I hear under good authority that it’s been spotted at the kosher Price Chopper. Regrettably kreplach will also be a no-show. The organizers couldn’t find anyone willing to make it. Still, there will be plenty of delicious foods. I hope to see you there.

Chris wanted to show me a document from SUNY Albany about grassfed beef:
Daniel, have you seen this?

Given all that SUNY Albany is going through these days I really shouldn’t bash it while it’s down. But you really should all check out the link. In it there is a chart, and at the bottom of the chart is the following statement:

Beef from 1 grass-fed cow contains the same fat content as 2 skinless chicken thighs; or 4 beef loin grain-fed cows.

How an entire grass-fed cow’s worth of meat has less fat than a skinless chicken is beyond me. And I have no idea what “4 beef loin grain-fed cows” means. But I salute the effort despite the evidence that those behind it know little about what they are doing.

docsconz did a great job parsing the words of my post on Max London’s:
Why the “presumably” in front of local when describing Sheldon Farms potatoes? So far as I know, they are most definitely local – from Salem in Washington County.

docsconz is a smart guy, so I’m concerned that if he didn’t get what I was trying to do, it was lost on others too. The wording of that section was meant to demonstrate the thought process of an average diner coming into the restaurant who doesn’t have a broad knowledge of our local farms.

A farm name next to ingredient doesn’t always mean that it’s local, even if it’s high quality. Take Marcho Farms veal for example. They are not from around here yet are occasionally featured on better restaurants’ menus.

However I believe that it is a natural presumption, given the current ethos of fine dining, to assume that when a farm is listed next to an ingredient that it is local. Yes, Sheldon Farms is indeed local. My larger point was that Max London’s menu doesn’t explicitly say so, and it does itself no favors by leaving off pertinent details about the farms on their menu. 

Jess took the conversation about flavored coffee to the next level:
I think those flavored creamers might actually be more vile than the flavored coffees. And can you imagine combining them?

Good point. It makes me wonder if the FDA has approved them for use in flavored coffee. But I do probably have to admit having had a soft spot for non-dairy creamer in the dark days of my college years. It’s a long story.

Ellen Whitby had a question about kashrut at the Jewish Food Festival:
Tell us, will any of the food actually be kosher or only kosher style?

Congregation Gates of Heaven is a reform synagogue. That said Saati kosher catering will be there as will Kosher Catering by Raizy. Who would have thunk.

Sophia Walker writes, and I believe her:
I am dying to try absinthe. Where in Albany should I go?

My best bet would be the dp brasserie. At one point they had three absinthes on their cocktail menu all for $16 a pop. So it’s not cheap, but they’ve got it. St. George from California, Kubler from Switzerland and Pernod (absinthe) from France. I’d probably go with the St. George myself, and make sure they don’t do anything to it. Ask for it in a tall glass neat, with a glass of ice water on the side. Then you can sit at the bar like a crazy person taking an eye dropper out of your purse and watching all the beautiful thick trails form on its way to a beautiful milky louche.

When it comes to feeding cows corn, Jon in Albany had this to say:
If you had a cat or dog, would you never give it a treat? Possibly be a daily treat?

I can’t imagine myself with a cat or a dog. But I think the best argument for small quantities of corn in a cow’s diet is wrangling that beast back to the barn should they happen to wander off. Although, I don’t think that’s what cowboys used to do when they drove cattle across the prairie. I think back then the men were men and the cows were just dumb animals that would eat tractor seats (I’m conflating a couple of stories here).

Jess was shocked by one of my more regular diner orders:
Oatmeal at a greasy spoon? I agree- that is definitely ordering wrong. Wrong wrong wrong!

Diners are also for old men. And not all old men disregard their doctor’s orders and continue to feast on bacon and eggs. Some resort to oatmeal. And there are some places that make a respectable version of this hearty and heart-healthy breakfast. In fact, how they treat what could be a sad watery mess of a meal speaks volumes to me about the soul of a diner.

Brent asks me the mother of all questions:
If I am going to a new restaurant and am desiring to judge it, what is the best way? I want to say you have blogged this before: should I order what I am in the mood for, order food I think I understand well, or order “the house specialty” – despite the fact that I may not have a good reference point for judging its quality?

It really depends on the restaurant. A truly fine-dining establishment should be able to blow you away with a dish that you traditionally hate. Seriously. For example if they can make sweetbreads, kidneys and livers taste divine, there is a lot of talent behind the stoves.

At other places that may truly be great, it’s possible that their greatness is more limited in scope than their ambitions. I’ve still yet to go to Hattie’s up in Saratoga Springs, but when I’m there I’m getting the fried chicken. Period. Some say there are other good things on the menu. But if I’m only going once, and I’m trying to evaluate its storied excellence, I’m going to order the dish that made them famous.

Now if I don’t have a reference point for judging its quality, that’s on me. But I do think one can evaluate the excellence of fried chicken even if one hasn’t spent years eating at the best fried-chicken joints in the country.

StanfordSteph sounds like she could use some help with her vegetables:
Would you consider doing a little seminar/info session on how to manage the stuff you get from a CSA? Or maybe there are some good references for newbies?

The short answer is sure. I’ll help you with anything you need. But every case is different. The variables range from the priorities of the shareholder, to the storage/cooking options, to the quantity and selection from the farm. So something like this really is best one on one. But I can answer your questions, based on your priorities and variables in the hope that it also helps someone else.

Ultimately it’s about triage. There are the things that will keep, the things that won’t, and the things in between.  Often your veggies will come from the CSA with a bit of information on the above, such as, “eat the corn as soon as you get home, do not pass go, do not heat up the stove, do not stop to pick up butter.”

And you may also find that there is someone that is blogging their adventures with your CSA. They could be your veggie guide, or at least a source of weekly inspiration for what to do with kohlrabi.

Phairhead is not the lone voice of dissent, just the first and most vocal:
Doesn’t all soft serve come from a machine? Not to the lone voice of dissent, but what’s the point in doing this?

It’s funny, because in Altoona, PA I did get soft serve that didn’t come from a machine exactly. But I still need to do more research on it before I can mention it again. Still, I don’t expect to find anything like that on the Tour de Soft Serve.

What’s my point? You may regret that you asked.

My point is to shatter the idea that all soft serve tastes identical.
My point is to try and find a soft serve among our region’s best that I truly enjoy.
My point is to try to remove the shackles of nostalgia and memory from people’s soft-serve experience and open them up to other possibilities.
My point is to discover which stand churns out the best product so that those with limited time in the region, or a limited annual capacity for ice cream can sample something truly special and not just somebody else’s good memory of childhood.
My point is to highlight some of the most beloved if not particularly well-known seasonal ice cream shops in the region.
My point is to have a grand day out with fellow food obsessives like myself, eating ourselves silly on fat and sugar.

My point is not to crap on people’s good memories of their favorite places. However, your good memories aren’t going to make mediocre ice cream taste better to anyone else but you, and maybe your progeny.

Mike W. was caught a bit off guard by the Tour de Soft Serve:
What happened to the Tour de Fish Fry?! Let’s hope this is in the works as more stands open this summer…

I’m still working through the Tour de Fish Fry. But I think it’s important to do one sweet, one savory, and then back to sweet. A Fish Fry tour is not out of the question as summer rolls around. In fact it may just work out perfectly. Let’s focus on one thing at a time though. One thing at a time.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Phairhead permalink
    March 22, 2011 10:28 am

    I regret nothing! :-)

    Hopefully yr going to Bumpy’s, best seasonal ice cream shack in the region

  2. March 22, 2011 10:30 am

    The Jewish Food Festival will be kosher style, with meat and milk served in separate rooms. Some of the home cooked delicacies come from kosher households. The CGOH kitchen is kosher style, but not under the Va’ad, obviously.

    Really, kosher is in the eye of the beholder – one man’s kosher is another man’s trait. If your looking for the heksher on the packages you’re not going to find it, because none of the food is coming out of a package. You’re just going to have to know that the food you eat was made with joy and intention, including the full side of cured salmon made by Del Salmon and the tzimmes made by his wife from her grandmother’s recipe. It will taste better for it, and you and your progeny will enjoy it.

  3. March 22, 2011 10:31 am

    *traif

  4. March 22, 2011 1:11 pm

    Incidentally, speaking of Hattie’s, they also have Sheldon Farms potatoes on their menu — and they also don’t say where that is. I had assumed, before reading here, that either Sheldon Farms was really famous with people in the know about farms, or else it was in the area somewhere, but it didn’t say.

  5. March 22, 2011 2:00 pm

    I should also mention, we’re using eggs from free-range chickens now as well! It makes separating eggs much more exciting :)

    I’m bringing some home for myself, and one of the other employees is taking it as well, but we have lots of egg shells and coffee grinds good for composting–if anyone wants any, let us know and we’ll keep some for you!

  6. March 24, 2011 1:29 am

    I hope you know I was just joshin’ with you.
    Also, I never looked into this and meant to: http://www.absinth.com/links/sebor.html
    It’s a website that apparently specializes in absinthe and absinthe accessories and the address in Albany’s Center Square. I think you should check this out.

  7. March 24, 2011 1:34 am

    Here’s the link to their e-store and address: http://www.absinth.com/links/eshop.html

  8. March 29, 2011 3:12 am

    Is there a fish fry season? I would think the case could be made that it’s a summer food, except that Lent causes a lot of folks in Albany (and elsewhere) to start their Friday fish fry ritual in February.

    • Sarah permalink
      March 31, 2011 1:27 pm

      I find the whole concept of fried fish being a summer food a bit odd, myself. My family owns a fish fry in CNY and in my experience fish fry ‘season’ is generally the winter. It ramps up once the weather starts getting cold in the fall and kicks into high gear when Lent starts. Summer is usually a much slower period. Between the summer heat, the Friday night regional events, and people just wanting to be outdoors communing with their gas grill folks are generally less inclined to stop in for some fried fish. There are some potentially mitigating factors for our restaurant that would affect my observations – we’re take out only, for example – but I don’t know that that necessarily would reverse the trend altogether. That said, summer is probably not a bad time to have a Tour De Fish and Chips because you’d be less likely to get lost in the dinner hour crush, and I like that it spotlights the businesses in what I would consider to be the off-season. :)

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