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Ask the Profussor – Eat Up Fatty

July 6, 2011

Summer is supposed to be swimsuit season, but I’m not feeling it. Sure, I was looking great after I had the head cold and dropped a few pounds. But since then there was the trip to San Francisco where I gained about a pound a day, the culinary competition in which I judged 36 dishes in under ninety minutes, and the massive feast at Ala Shanghai which apparently wasn’t over until we washed it all down with soft serve from On the Farm. My pants are tight.

I have no plans to start working out, but if I did, I certainly would not be going here.

I’ve been so busy eating that a bunch of your questions have once again slipped through the cracks. And since I am committed to making sure that every question gets answered (so long as it is accompanied by a question mark), today is dedicated to playing catch up. It’s been a long time coming, so consider this the lightning round. Next time, I’ll try to take the food out of my mouth long enough to answer a few more questions along the way.

B had a hypothetical scenario and wanted a ruling:
No matter how transparent you are, a gift is a gift. Imagine if, say, Ruth Fantasia accepted a gift during a meal at a restaurant she’s reviewing for the TU. You’re saying that, as long as she admits this upfront, you’ll waive any doubt that the gift influenced her opinion?

No. I’m saying as long as she admits it upfront, I can use that information to decide how much I think it colored her opinion, or if it did at all.

Jenna was appalled at the results from the Times Union Best of the Capital Region:
Pizza Hut, IMO is the absolute worst, even of all the national chains. Seriously, how is it making the list??

Emily echoed that with:
Subway? Pizza Hut? Who are these people?

Bill answered his own question on the same topic, but I disagree:
The voters? They’re the nonadventurous majority of the population, trained to believe that they can only trust what they see on TV.

People like Pizza Hut. It’s why there are thousands of them all around the country and they make money hand over fist. Same goes for Subway. These people are not morons. They simply have a different set of priorities. But we could knock Pizza Hut and Subway off the list if you could convince your friends and family to vote for the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 3.0. I’m not kidding. It can really work. But I need your help, and together we can make it happen.

RealFoodMom, also upset by the results, chose a different path for her venting:
Did the TU actually mean for a specific store in a big chain to be counted as a single location?

I will not even fathom to guess as to the intent of the Times Union. But they disqualified a lot of national performers in Best Singer Songwriter, so they are not opposed to editorializing the results.

EatPrayLove was opposed to a category of the TU poll:
I love best Chinese/Japanese/Korean was it? In one category! That’s awesome, what’s the common thread there, rice???

The common thread is that for years pan-Asian food was the only game in town. Ichiban is Japanese, but it has an extensive Chinese menu. Shining Rainbow is Chinese but has a sushi bar. Ta-Ke was Japanese but served Korean food. The category reflected a historical trend in regional dining. Thankfully the trend would seem to be fading, but pan-Asian is still the dominant paradigm.

North Country Rambler was curious about my judging assignment:
Were these “blind” tastings? By the sounds of it, you knew who cooked what. I have to believe that would influence voting.

No, they were not, although Chef Christopher Tanner would like to move it in that direction. However in practice a lot of the judging was fairly blind, as we were moving too fast to fully register which dish was coming from which participant.

Albany Jane confirmed in fact that she and I are athletic eaters:
FACT: We are food equivalent of marathon runners. Sprinters, even. (Do they sprint marathons?)

I’ll tell you this: I do not sprint marathons.

Mike W. was shocked when he saw cake (the food, not the band):
Pictures on the FLB? Pretty groundbreaking stuff!

I blame All Over Albany and the work I’ve been doing for them on Eat This! Really I want to travel with my own photographer, so that they can do all the pictures. But apparently that’s not in the budget.

Ellen Whitby wanted to confirm a turn of phrase:
Did you mean to say “it’s absolutely devastating when strawberries are in season, and you can get them picked ripe from a local source”? I wouldn’t have thought so.

I did. But I meant it in the best possible way.

Steve Barnes took something I said in a way it wasn’t intended:
I’m very eager to hear how you think I should do my job, Daniel. Go only to places where I’m not recognized or where I know the food won’t be worth mentioning on the blog or in print? Wear disguises? Refuse any and all dishes offered to me? Don’t take the server’s or chef’s recommendation for what’s new and interesting? Do some kitchens pay special attention to plates they send me? I don’t doubt it.

Let me answer all of those in order first.

No. No, and I’m not even sure that would work. Certainly not. Not listening to the chef would be foolish. I don’t doubt it either.

But the point I was trying to make was that I was critical of this aspect of Steve Barnes reporting in the early days of this blog. Now that I’ve gained a little more visibility myself, I am seeing how this kind of visibility can actually be helpful for readers (even though at the same time it has its unique challenges). 

North Country Rambler was surprised I was put off by a shady tactic:
Re: the “pay to play” offer that you (and a lot of us) received via email, which you found offensive – you’re kidding right? From the NYS Health Dept? Full disclosure is all that is necessary.

No. I am not kidding. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with advertorials.

Otis had an interesting argument, but I think he overstates one of his main points:
I came from San Francisco where Michael Bauer, the lead reviewer, took pains to make himself invisible. There were those who knew who he was but they did not out him because why would you do that, whose interest would it serve?

Michael Bauer may not have had his picture in the paper, but every restaurant knew who he was. He was operating under the guise of anonymity, however, he was far from anonymous.

B was probably being rhetorical when he asked the following:
Who doesn’t like free stuff?

The Turkey Police at General Motors! No chocolate turkey for you. Seriously.

Tonia finally sees my dilemma:
Oh gosh. Triple soaking? That is very fussy

You should see my greens. They are positively filthy. The water from the first rinse comes out brown.

irisira wants to know my ultimate thoughts on wine closures:
Because of cork taint, do you then think it is better for winieries to use synthetic or screw caps, or do you think the natural cork is worth the risk?

I love screw caps, especially for wines that are meant to be consumed young, and whose winemakers account for the lack of oxygen exchange. For wines that are meant to age, I’m sticking with natural cork. Sure, it’s an old technology, but it has proven itself to stand the test of time. Life isn’t without risk, and wine is life.

AC also answered a bunch of questions, I’ll weigh in on them as a whole:
Will the casual wine drinker experience noticeable cork taint at some point? Maybe. Poor cork seal and oxidation? Probably. Will he/she notice? Tough call.

Here is the bigger question: Is it a net gain or a net loss for the casual wine drinker to be able to distinguish flaws in a wine? All of a sudden something that might have been moderately enjoyable turns into something undrinkable. But ultimately I think it’s good to know that the problem with an unimpressive wine is the result of one bad bottle, rather than poor winemaking or a distaste for a classification of wines.

TechyDad and I must be soulmates:
Friday was your 10th wedding anniversary? It was ours too! Happy anniversary. Mazel tov!

Who knew? Congratulations to you and your wife as well.

mirdreams has the memory of an elephant. I wish I did. She asks:
Congratulations! Did you decide on your next case of marriage wine?

I haven’t. And given my schedule it’s unlikely this will get sorted out over the summer. Maybe I can tackle it in the fall.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness asked a very loaded question:
Speaking of sandwiches, where can you get a really, truly great sandwich around here?

I hate to answer a question with a question, but it really depends on what you are looking for, and what you consider to be a great sandwich. If you are looking for a great grilled cheese, that’s different than an Italian mix sub or hoagie or [pause] johnson.

Jenny on the Block is lovely but may not be the most patient:
Since you mention “sliced” pork, I assume it is a leaner loin type roast and not a fattier cut? Not sure I can wait until “Ask the Profusser” for an answer, so I will wing it!

If you are making it at home, you can use the loin. But at a restaurant I hear it can dry out on the line. That’s why many places use the Boston butt cut from the shoulder. I’ve never tried making this at home. You really need the Philly bread to make them right. Some things are best left to the pros.

North Country Rambler was espousing the benefits of a certain fried treat:
But remember ~ If not for double-dipping the oil, there would be no catfish flavored hushpuppies, and where would we be then?

The only hushpuppies I’m interested in are those made by ADS. He would cook them up in the turkey fryer as we were smoking Carolina style pork shoulders. They were like moist and rich, deep-fried corn bread. Nothing fishy about them.

irisira felt the need to add a few sparkling wines into consideration:
You had to know I was going to throw a NY wine in here, didn’t you?

That’s fine. Just don’t go saying that sparking wines in the $10-$20 range aren’t much better than those under $10. Because it is in that range where the Roederer Estate lives (unless you are buying it for too much money at some overpriced store). And I’ll put that $18 bottle of wine up against $30+ bottles anytime.

derryX had this to say about my negative impression of Twinkies:
Maybe you’re opinion would change if it was battered and fried?

Perhaps. But now that I’ve experienced them naked, it will be that much harder for me to take the fat and calorie hit of trying to enjoy them deep-fried. But maybe if the Wine-N-Diner ever reopens, I’ll get the chance.

Grace’s indignation about ingredient lists is quite specific:
I love the “and/or” in the ingredient list: “Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening.” What? They don’t know?

It’s nice the feds let manufacturers cover their bets like that so food producers can use the absolute cheapest ingredients in the junk they sell to kids. Commodity prices change all the time. You wouldn’t want to be locked into partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening, if one day there happened to be a glut of pork fat. Personally, I like the vagueness of “animal” shortening. There are a lot of different animals. Think about it.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness asks all the hard questions:
On the “tour de” front, my boyfriend was just asking yesterday when the Tour de Fish Fry is gonna be… is that still next on the list, or might we skip to the cupcake-off?

I want to do it. I just need to find the time. Since the cupcakes aren’t a tour, the existence of that tasting shouldn’t play a role in the Fish Fry dates. My schedule is just awful. But that’s not your problem. It’s mine.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 9:32 am

    An update on the twinkie (or is it Twinky) story: I had one on July 4th in between shooting them in the air on bottle rockets. It was just as horrible as it is on paper!

  2. July 6, 2011 10:47 am

    I didn’t catch your first post about “pay to play,” but will now respectfully disagree with you.

    Given your blog’s mission; of course, you would “feel dirty” if you took on a sponsored post for something that goes completely against your beliefs.

    For those of us who look on blogging as both a cause and a profession, not just as a hobby, advertising revenue is necessary to the venture. It would be silly to forgo advertising income from sources that we think are worth promoting. I do appreciate your coverage of this issue; however, as it’s made me rethink the way I handle disclosures – even for something I deem a worthy cause.

  3. SisterFussy permalink
    July 6, 2011 12:58 pm

    fusspot’s sister reporting for volunteer photo duty

  4. kmr permalink
    July 6, 2011 7:16 pm

    Just FYI, all of the links in this post point to this, starting with “B had a hypothetical scenario and wanted a ruling”:

    • July 7, 2011 12:50 am

      Yes, I know. It’s a long story. But I’ll try to make it short.

      A long time ago I spent far too many hours linking the questions back to their original comments. At the time I thought there would be people who might want to see the comments in context. But as it turns out, nobody would click on those links.

      So a few months ago I decided to replace those links with a “link of the day.” Sure, the link wouldn’t be relevant or maybe not even particularly useful, but it would still break up the post and make it easy for readers to scan from question to question.

      The back story to why I chose this specific link is that recently a bunch of Albany Crossfitters were ganging up on a semi-critical Yelper, and it got totally out of hand. I was amused by this practitioners comments, especially as she seems to be preaching the benefits of *positivity*. By sharing it with you all, I was hoping others might see the humor in it too.

  5. July 7, 2011 10:50 pm

    Fair point on the sparkling wine. I suppose it also depends on where you buy it. The Wiemer is currently at Exit 9 for $21, which is by far the cheapest I’ve EVER seen it, and I noted a lot of other sparklings I’ve tried in the past and thought were quite good, that were under $15.

    As for screwcaps, that makes sense. I think they’re probably good for non-vintage, “drink now” (or drink soon) bottles. I tend to like the idea of synthetic corks from an environmental perspective, but then again synthetic anything often has OTHER environmental impacts that we don’t necessarily weigh right away … plus, I somehow doubt that wine production and bottling alone is the reason behind endangered cork.

    As for exercising … I tried the Crossfit thing a couple times through another trainer (who had originally went to the Albany Crossfit), and it was really not for me. However, in fairness, she was extremely encouraging and Joy is a truly wonderful person. If people are interested in trying out this exercise method, I highly recommend contacting her instead: However, me? I prefer workout-at-home DVDs/programs supplemented with outdoor activities. :) (It helps keep the guilt away as I indulge my foodie habits.)

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