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Ask the Profussor – Wrapping Up Year Two

April 26, 2011

Hey dad, speaking of wrapping. The FUSSYlittleBLOG is wrapping up its second year. On May 1, the blog officially turns three. With another FUSSYlittleBALLOT season behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to a few of those issues that got lost in the shuffle.

Most notably, there were a bunch of questions over the past couple of weeks that never got answered. Today, I’ll try my best to get to them all. Except of course for B’s, which I haven’t forgotten about, and am still planning to answer in due time.

Spring is here, and it’s time to start anew. Hope you all continue to stick with me and see what becomes of this little project of mine. It’s been a thrilling ride so far. But there will be more time for reflection on the birthday itself. Now it’s time to get to some answers.

Not wanting to let go of the past irisira wrote:
Wow, I WAS on fire, huh? I loved that Dunkin post, what can I say?

Yes. Yes, you were. And I appreciated every single comment and question. But I’m going to hold you to your commitment to show up at a FLB Caffé Vero meet-up should I ever get that off the ground.

Irisira also laid out her modus operandi for taking a risk:
If I’m stuck in Boonietown-off-the-highway USA late at night, and I see a familiar chain, that’s probably what I’ll choose. But if I have local options? Smartphone service and a Yelp app? I’d rather take the risk to try something new and different.

If you have an iPhone and Yelp, you aren’t really taking a risk though are you? I know all too well about being on the road and placing convenience over all other factors. We’ve all been there. But even without technology, one can rely on one’s wits to ferret out good eats from sketchy restaurants.

My mantra is to find a dilapidated old restaurant that looks like it should be falling down or shut down years ago, but yet has a full parking lot. It’s how I discovered Ralph’s Tavern and a host of other tasty treasures. Some risks are worth taking.

-S asked so many questions in one comment, my head is spinning:
Come on now, why wouldn’t anybody like to eat, all things being equal(!), better tasting food? Maybe because it’s not always affordable? I’m referring to the bottom line here, not just the price at the store. Sure, you can find 10 different stores where you will be able to pick the best ham, then the best veggies, then the best cider donut, but not everybody has the time for that or the resources to go that distance. Maybe people would be more interested in a poll reflecting the best value?

1)    Some people like what they know, and don’t want to take a risk on something even if it might taste better. Getting them to take the leap isn’t as easy as one might hope.
2)    Affordability certainly plays a role in people’s choices, but sometimes it’s not about price but rather the perception of value, and that’s an important distinction.
3)    Perhaps the answer would be for each category to be broken down into three sub-selections. For example:
a) Best Sandwich Value
b) Favorite Sandwich Shop
c) Best Sandwich Shop

In my mind The Best is something you seek out on a special occasion, and it doesn’t mean “The-best-that-is-most-immediately-available-to-you.” That means it can be more expensive than your everyday selection and it could also be out of the way.

Unfortunately there are lots of reasons why people wouldn’t want to eat better-tasting food, and rarely an occasion of  “all things being equal.”

Tonia wanted to know if we found her amusing:
I have created many a foodie through my cooking. Sounds funny… ? It works.

It’s not funny. I’ve done similar things, but generally not with my cooking. Giving people tastes of similar things that they assume cannot be differentiated by an untrained palate is a powerful thing. You just have to find people who are open to taking the leap.

Sandra @ Albany Kid has her eyes set on the future:
We can hope that [my 11-year old son’s] taste buds will mature some day. Can we say the same of Times Union readers?

I have a lot of faith in the people in this region. Tastes are maturing here all the time. Really what I want to see is more restaurants, chefs and stores taking a larger leadership role in challenging and growing the tastes of the region. But I’m working on it.

derryX had what was likely a rhetorical question for the sake of an example:
It’s like if someone orders a steak medium well at a place that they’re not familiar with. The diner may have personal reasons for ordering the steak that way…But should that send the signal that that person doesn’t understand quality and the kitchen can slop anything on the plate for that particular diner?

A diner may have a perfectly good reason for wanting a steak cooked to oblivion. But cooks are people too. And some of them will also have personal reasons for treating that diner like a rube. No, I don’t condone it. But yes, it happens.

I firmly believe in doing what you can to set yourself up for a successful experience in a restaurant. If you like big hunks of meat that are brown all the way through, there are preparations that result in amazing dishes. If someone has a predisposition against rare meat, I would strongly urge them to seek these out.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness had an awakening:
Poached eggs are SUPPOSED to be really runny?

If you ask me, I’ll tell you that the whites should be just fully set and the yolks gloriously runny. If you ask the federal government, and perhaps the state government, you would likely get a different answer.

I don’t think of runny yolks as raw. I think of eggs as this miracle food that comes complete with its own sauce packet.

North Country Rambler and I may have to agree to disagree on this one thing:
Why would anyplace else be my favorite? Because they have a really interesting selection of inexpensive wines that I never heard of but I really should try? Not.

Way. First let me say I understand and appreciate your approach. But I’d like to make a pitch for mine.

The sheer variety of wine that exists in the global marketplace is overwhelming. Despite what people may claim, it cannot be learned much less mastered, even with a lifetime of study.

Sometimes it is fun to cut loose and let serendipity be your guide. Some wines are cheap because they are made poorly from mass-produced grapes. Others are inexpensive because they haven’t found a market. It’s difficult to get an American consumer to pronounce, much less buy Txakoli. So someone imports what they think is a great version, it doesn’t sell, and ends up at Trader Joe’s. One person’s broken dream can be another person’s bonanza. Personally I find shopping this way to be a lot more fun.

Otis and I may also have differences of opinions on fat and respect:
When you order your brisket “fatty” does that mean you get served from the part of the cut that has fat running through it? Or that it has a layer of fat across the top of the slice? If the latter, you are paying for what in any decent Texas roadhouse would be sliced off by the server and tossed in the trash (prior to weighing, if you are paying by the pound). Having this proffered to you, if they did that, is hardly a sign of respect.

Well-rendered brisket fat out of the barbecue pit is one of the most delicious things I occasionally get the pleasure to put in my mouth. When I see it being carved away and tossed in the trash, a little piece of me dies.

Yes, if you are paying for meat by the pound, the vast majority of people want meat and not fat. But if that fat were the unctuous meltingly tender beefy buttery fat of my dreams, I would gladly pay beef prices for an extra thick layer crowning my brisket.

Jean Patiky (aka my mom) has her doubts about my all’Alfredo recipe:
I thought that the original classic recipe had an egg yolk beaten into the cream. added after the cooked pasta had been tossed in the melted butter…..then sprink;ed with the grated cheese. What do you know about this?

I know that all accounts of the original classic recipe are even simpler than the one as prescribed by Marcella Hazan in the post. The apocryphal story involves Alfredo concocting a dish for his wife at a time when she wasn’t able to keep anything down. So he simply made a plain pasta dish with butter and cheese. This wouldn’t have been notable, except he used a lot more butter than anyone had thought wise in the past.

Sue got a similar but different recipe for all’Alfredo for derryX and suggests:
Based on the post, it sounds like the recipe derryX sent me should be fettuccine all’derryX?

I’m glad someone is picking up what I’m putting down.

Matt K may have had the solution to my New Haven pizza problem:
If the crust is thin enough, couldn’t it qualify as K for P?

If someone were making thin crust pizza in New Haven they would be beaten and flayed and sent on the next bus home to Brooklyn. I might try to make the argument that pizza is something that is baked really fast. It’s something to eat when you are in a hurry. Just like our ancestors were in a hurry on their way out of Egypt. Dude, there’s no time for dinner, let’s just grab a slice. Perhaps pizza is the answer after all.

Joni is tempting me to break out my early 70s Jack Nicholson:
where’s the olive oil?

Between your knees?

Ellen Whitby might have been expecting me to read something very long:
Did you see the recent NYT Sunday Magazine article called Is Sugar Toxic? If you haven’t, here is your chance: What are your thoughts?

I hadn’t until you brought it to my attention. My bottom line is this (which may surprise the chemists who sometimes find me hysterical): the human body is pretty good at filtering out bad things. And I have to put great faith in that.

The things I chose to eat or not to eat really depend on if I find them appetizing. And those things that are made in a lab out of ostensibly the same chemicals as a similar item produced by nature are simply not as appealing to me. I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I’ll take my cream without mono or diglycerides and my produce from plants without patents, thank you very much.

On the subject of sugar specifically, should we all eat less sugar in all of its forms, getting more of our nutrients from vegetables rather than fruits? Most likely, yes. But I’m sticking with my strategy of maintaining a varied diet. I figure if you eat a little bit of everything, you won’t get enough of anything evil enough to ruin your day.

North Country Rambler smells a rat:
I received an e-mail last week from Hudson Valley Magazine, which was soliciting votes for their annual “Best of the Hudson Valley” readers poll. I had not noticed this until you started your campaign: their ballot (at least their on line ballot) was restricted to local businesses. No national chains. Interesting, no? The magazines advertisers? 99.9% small local businesses. TU’s? Follow the money…….

If you are suggesting that Hudson Valley Magazine is playing around with its poll to pander to its advertisers you may have a point. But I’m not sure it works the other way around. There is also a significant difference between a magazine poll and a newspaper one in terms of the cross section of the population the readership draws from. One is more representative of a region, and the other is decidedly more upscale.

mirdreams must have been reading my mind:
Prof, I have an idea. Maybe next year as a lead up to Fussyballot 3.0 you could do a survey of your readership to get our take on the ballot before it goes up. I myself would have rather seen The Standard as “Best Restaurant for Kids” and For Love of Wine for best wine store. I know other people have their own favorites they’d like to see make 3.0. If you did it as a preliminary round before the TU’s ballot came out it might make people feel more invested in voting. What do you think?

I was totally thinking the same thing, except for the part about favorites. We may all have different opinions about which are the best, but I would ask when soliciting input that we remember the difference between the places we go to the most and the ones that are truly operating at the top of their category.  Regardless, it makes sense to have more people feel like they have a vested interest in the ballot.

But I’m thrilled to see that the wheels are already in motion for the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 3.0. I have a feeling this next year is going to be a very good year indeed.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2011 9:43 am

    Yes, they way I make fettuccini alfredo is slightly tweak and deviates from the simplicity of the original dish, and, although there is much to be said for following recipes to the T, sometimes there’s the leeway for your own interpretation and particular tastes. But yes, as I am not Alfredo, I make fettuccini alla derryX.

  2. April 26, 2011 9:53 am

    Love the idea of a pre-ballot survey! Maybe it would help to do a pre-ballot tour series. But my question is: where’s the Year 3 Birthday Party?

  3. April 26, 2011 10:20 am

    Hi,
    Thanks for posting a link to the St. Joseph’s event ( http://www.chefsconsortium.com/albany-spring-celebration-historic-st-josephs.html). If possible, please come to the event as our guests. Thanks! Take care,
    Noah

  4. April 26, 2011 1:18 pm

    That’s a good idea, actually — a pre-ballot survey, which would then help shape the FussyBallot (though if people pick crappy places, you still reserve the right to toss those results and go with better ideas).

  5. Ellen Whitby permalink
    April 27, 2011 11:52 pm

    Was I expecting too much? I apologize. Please excuse me for my oversight. Here’s a short version of the point. And for the record, I’m not a chemist and if I make a mistake here, I ask forgiveness from your readership.

    The carbs we ingest are digested into a variety of “ose”s. The article talks specifically about glucose, which is what becomes of flours, corn, potatoes, and a variety of other starches. The other “ose” is Fructose – a combination of glucose, and sucrose which is what becomes of refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The glucose gets processed by all cells in the body and the work of distributing/disposing of it is shared. The fructose goes straight to the liver and the liver has to work extra hard to process it. In juice form, the author likens it to an attack on the liver. This organ has no reason to expect to have to work so hard and at a certain point, it goes into overload. This overload is what eventually leads to a lack of insulin production or the inability of the insulin to process “ose”s properly.

    I agree that people who eat should choose in moderation. No reason to condemn so much of what makes food tasty, but it’s important to understand exactly what about it is bad, even if it means reading a lengthy article once in a while.

    And after all, isn’t “educating the eater” the point of all your fussiness?

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