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Ask the Profussor – Cheftacular

June 8, 2011

Somehow it seems like I’ve turned a corner. I’m going to blame my good friends at AOA for allowing me to write some very positive and higher profile pieces on things to eat in the region. But regardless of the cause, recently the momentum in my efforts to get closer to chefs and food producers has been picking up.

I just heard back from Central Steak about how the grass-fed steak special performed. This was the full quote I got from the restaurant, “The skirt steak sold really well. We sold out of it on Saturday night & then ran it again midweek & sold out again.”  That made me very happy. They also released a longer cut of the video, where you can hear me ramble on about food if you are so inclined.

At the event next Monday, I’ll be meeting Chef Christopher Allen Tanner and Chef Rocco Verrigni. Later today, I’ll be talking with Chef Jeremy Kane at Classé Catering. And I even decided to play nice with the new chef at Creo and ask his PR agency if he was interested in chatting about his planned changes for the fancy Guilderland eatery.

It also seems that a few cupcake bakers felt their ears burning, and they’ve been tuning in to what’s going on here, although that only complicates matters. Why? I’ll get to that when I answer all the questions you asked that have gone unanswered in the past few weeks.

Ready? Here we go.

Mrs. P. and irishj had the same overall contention about cupcake tasting:
The blind tasting can still be accomplished if you contact the bakeries and ask them to prepare the flavors that you want to taste…Most competitions are entered and judged. Restaurant reviews are often unannounced. Wouldn’t you want the bakeries to have the opportunity to prepare their best?

No. Ideally this tasting shouldn’t be about what the bakeries can do when they are really trying to win a contest. My goal is to evaluate what the bakeries put out on their shelves every day. And to achieve that, they cannot be forewarned of the event. However, since some have clued into the planning phase that might prove to be tricky. I’m going to seek some external guidance.

Beck had a bad idea and a good idea:
Regarding flavors, perhaps this could be conducted like the Tournament of Pizza – one vanilla, one chocolate, and then a third “Wild Card” of the bakery’s choosing which they feel best represents them – a signature flavor?

I am loath to attempt a Tournament of Pizza style evaluation for cupcakes. It takes weeks to execute, and a massive commitment from a panel of judges that needs to show up in its entirety for each phase of the contest.

But I do think the “Wild Card” signature flavor is a great idea. It does tap into that fanciful side of cupcake enjoyment that goes beyond the basic skills that will be evaluated in the chocolate and yellow cake categories. After all, what good is having skills if they are not put to good use?

That said, Bob W. questions the judgment of those who don’t wish to gild the lilly:
Again, I have to assume it is the unique flavors that are the raison d’être for these businesses. Who is going to a specialty cupcake shop and getting just a chocolate cupcake with plain vanilla icing?

I am. And there are others like me. One of these days I’ll tell the story about the $100 pound cake. But it’s the simplest things that are the hardest to do well. There is no place to hide the flaws and faults. Dry cake can’t be enriched with a filling. Flavorless frosting can’t be enhanced with candy and cookies. The cupcake needs to stand on its own awesomeness. And if you can do that well, it’s a thing of beauty indeed.

Ellen Whitby is with Bob W. and then some:
My issue with the cupcakes you get from these shops is that they are cake with frosting on top. How about a filling? What happened to the filling in cupcakes? My ideal cupcake would have a filling as well as frosting. Without the filling, it’s just a small piece of cake with frosting on top. And what’s the point of that?

Beck may have answered Ellen’s question, but I’ll weigh in too:
No snarkiness intended, Ellen, but isn’t that the point of a cupcake – it’s just a small piece of cake? I’d never thought cupcakes came with the added requirement of filling. That being said, I’ve had cupcakes from both Fluffalicious and Sweet Temptations (Albany Shaker Road) that all had filling.

Ultimately, I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I’d rather have a perfectly ripe strawberry than macerated strawberries over gorgeous shortcake with gently whipped chantilly cream. I do not require filling in a cupcake. But it’s good to be reminded there are bakers in Albany who are fulfilling Ellen’s desires.

ashallann clued into something from the cupcake comments:
Also when did I miss the CUPCAKE DRAMA in the Capital Region? Was there a cupcake coup? A frosting fight? Would love to find out the backstory on this.

I think part of the answer is in the question below. But I do not know the backstory, and in a town as small as Albany, I’m not sure anyone would come out and tell you. Or perhaps in a town as small as Albany, everybody already knows. I’m still not quite sure how small towns work yet. But I’m slowly learning.

Rachel Cocca-Dott may not have known I answer all questions when she wrote:
Cupcakes are all the rage, who knew? Four years ago when I opened there were none. I often look at my husband and say what did I do (more than twice a week). I sometimes think I should of went into the construction business.

Really? Really! C’mon. Maybe Rachel’s tone is just how she writes. I know my tone can be off-putting to some. But I have a hard time swallowing this modest naiveté. The following isn’t fully fact checked, but go with me here. If Rachel opened up the first Albany cupcake bakery four years ago, let’s call that 2007, let’s look at what preceded it. In the mid-to-late 1990s a small shop named the Magnolia Bakery opened up in New York City selling cupcakes. They were successful, and a few years later (around 2000) they were featured on a little show called Sex in the City. This turned cupcakes into a national phenomenon. Six years later, you could read this article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about two cupcake bakeries that were opening in their city.

By the time Rachel had opened up her shop, cupcakes had established their foothold on the American psyche for the better part of a decade. Perhaps she was the first to bring cupcakes to the area, but they would have come here with or without her. Frankly, it’s amazing they didn’t get here sooner.

michelle may not have hung around to get her answer but she asked:
how do i nominate a bakery or two?

You just did. Thank you for bringing them to my attention.

Stevo is learning that life isn’t fair:
Sorry about the typo. It should read sight, not site. Is there no way to edit your posts?

There is a way for me to edit my posts, and generally it involves Mrs. Fussy. But even if something slips by her, I can still tinker around in a published document. However, there is indeed no way for you to edit your comments. While it may be frustrating, I think it’s for the best. I can’t have people changing their comments at will. That would be chaos. Instead, everyone just has to stare at your imperfections and remember that we all are human.

I’m surprised that fellow left coaster Otis has such questions regarding In-N-Out:
“Mustard fried into the burger” is a new one.
Do you give them that specific instruction? And they don’t mind, it doesn’t do anything harmful to the griddle?

The only specific instruction is, “Animal Style.” It’s one of the standard off menu flourishes that have made the burger chain so popular all these years. If you are in the know, you can get the food made a little bit better. Given that they have a button for it on the cash register, I doubt it mucks up the griddle.

Although Otis did scoop me on this:
I’d heard that Golden Gate has lost their baker…were the custard tarts still good?

Aiyeee! I had no idea. That’s tragic. But even more tragic was that when I got there the bakery was closed for vacation. I needed to get an egg custard from an inferior bakery around the corner. And that was head and shoulders above the best egg custard I’ve had in Albany, yet still a shadow of the mastery produced by Golden Gate (I guess in the old days, but maybe still).

Doc wants a name for his newly invented cocktail:
a simple drink made from pouring equal parts Aperol…and brandy over ice and finishing with a splash of decent lemonade…garnished with a slice of citrus…You can also switch out the brandy for tequila, but we have no name for that. Ideas?

If you through some seltzer in there you can have a Naranja Collins. Otherwise, I think it’s just a Bitter Bandito.

In regards to Nutella, Mitch inquires:
Did you know Sam’s Club sells it in HUGE jars??

I can only imagine, but it takes me forever to go through a small one. I shudder to think how long a mega jar of Nutella would take to finish. That is of course unless Mrs. Fussy got her grubby little hands on it. Then it could be gone in a weekend.

AddiesDad threw out a pitch for a favored purveyor:
May I recommend Elihu farms as your source for happy lamb?

As did Britin Foster:
May I also make a recommendation? Our friends Liz & Ross of Raven’s Roost Farm in New Baltimore (out 9W) pasture-raise lamb.

Recommend away, but ultimately I’m going to be maximizing on price to value ratios of meat that achieves some elevated ethical standard. Local is an added bonus. But I’m not going to be buying my kid $20/lb meat snacks, especially at the rate she tears through them.

G-LO is of one mind with Little Miss Fussy:
Two words… lamb lollipops. What’s not to love?

Well, for starters the price of good ones. I may need to put in a call to Adventure in Food Trading. There is nothing quite like buying restaurant quality food wholesale.

the_exile sees potential in a future foods-on-a-stick craze:
Incidentally, my four year old refers to ribs as “meat on a stick” and eats them very happily – maybe there’s a parenting pattern forming – or perhaps a business opportunity?

Food on a stick is just more fun, thus the brilliance of the corn dog. And sometimes if you get lucky, you can find fried cheese on a stick, which is also wrapped up corn meal, and is as dangerous as it is deadly and delicious (not to mention disgusting).

Deborah might not have gotten the full picture of Dnipro:
Is there a menu online somewhere?

It’s not exactly a menu kind of place. You can read all about it here. But in two weeks, when they are better equipped for sandwich making, perhaps there will be some kind of menu that I can post on Yelp.

C just about ruined my day:
Was it the Fine Mother Goose Liverwurst in the gold tube? That is my favorite liverwurst but I do believe it is a mixture of chicken, pork and veal livers.

Dammit. I should have looked at the fine print. But you are mostly right. The placard is a bit misleading, but the gold tube is clear on the subject. It says, “Pork, chicken liver and veal spread.” Still, if they’d make me a sandwich of that on rye with mustard and raw onion, I would be a very happy man.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. AddiesDad permalink
    June 8, 2011 9:30 am

    I can understand the reticence on buying $20/lb meat snacks, but I would highly recommend Elihu when you want lamb for a special dinner or treat. I know several restaurants in the northern half of the CD serve Elihu lamb on their menus, but I’m not sure about the tri-city area.

    Perhaps “we” can organize a sort of “best of” of area farmer’s markets via AOA? It could be both reader and vendor based.

  2. beck permalink
    June 8, 2011 7:36 pm

    I’m glad you liked my idea, Daniel, but I wanted to clarify (and defend!) my “bad” idea – when I referenced the Tournament of Pizza, I was simply referring to the practice of the shops including a flavor of their choosing, not suggesting tasters go through rounds and rounds, tournament style, of cupcakes.

    Also, I happily order very simple cupcakes. Sometimes, you don’t want a fancy cake.

  3. June 8, 2011 10:22 pm

    Oh, so you were just describing Animal Style Daniel? I have never been tempted because I don’t like the spread. But I guess I can just order “animal style, no spread,” yes? I’m there on 7/7. The clock is ticking….

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