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Ask the Profussor – Not the Professor

October 27, 2011

Let’s get another thing straight. I hold no advanced degrees. Mrs. Fussy does. She is a professor. Maybe we should call her Dr. Fussy. But that might quickly go to her head, and we wouldn’t want her to become confused with an M.D. Although I bet Young Master Fussy would get a big kick out of seeing her wear a stethoscope around the house.

I’m the proFUSSor. With a U. It’s a meaningless honorific I created just so as to not be confused with Mr. Fussy. Because that guy is a registered trademark, and he kind of looks like a green Hitler. It’s the mustache. But mostly I don’t want to tread on someone else’s intellectual property.

Now that we know who I am, you can cask me anything you want. Just so long as you use a question mark, I have committed to answering all questions. Sometimes the answers come quick, other times they lag behind a bit. The following are the great questions that have been unanswered since the last installment of Ask the Profussor.

Most of the links that follow are simply there to help you see where each new question begins. They all go to the same place. That would be the mystery link of the day. You should click one and see where you end up, just for shits and giggles.

Now without further ado, onto the questions:

Valerie MacMillan had an interesting question about cars and crops:
I also get a little skeeved out by the vineyards I’ve seen along the Thruway (down south and out beyond Buffalo). What must all of the motor exhaust do to those crops?

My bigger concern isn’t about the exhaust from today, but rather the exhaust from the past. It may seem like a million years ago, but cars used to run on leaded fuel. That leaded gasoline, created exhaust with lead. This lead got into the soil, and lead doesn’t really go away. This is just one of the ways that lead gets into things like grape juice, wine and balsamic vinegar. Luckily our government tirelessly tests products to make sure our exposure remains at safe levels. Actually, it doesn’t. But wouldn’t it be nice if it did?

-R responded to microwave popcorn rant with the following:
What “food” item, wrapped in hermetically sealed plastic, with a list of ingredients that reads like a speech therapy screening exam and expires sometime in the mid 20s could possibly be good for you? That’s not food, that’s chemistry.

Vitamins. They aren’t exactly food. But many many years ago I used to take a little packet filled with seven horse pills every day. SuperNutrition was a client of mine. And I continued to take the vitamins even after they produced an intensely uncomfortable niacin flush.

Jenh718 went to Harvest Spirits and noted:
Did you notice they’re doing something with bacon?

I’ve had this debate with Dominick Purnomo about bacon in spirits. Fat washing is an interesting technique, and I enjoy how it can infuse spirits with different flavors. But I like my bacon as bacon: crispy, fatty and warm. I also think that bacon spirits are getting a bit played out. Harvest Spirits may prove me wrong, and I’ll gladly drink my words if it comes down to it. However, it’s not something that particularly excites me.

C has some strong opinions on pizza toppings:
Hot pepperoni on a pizza, gross. It’s up there as one of my least favorite pizza toppings, don’t get me started on meatballs as a topping. Why would you put bland ground beef on a pizza when you can have sausage? If you want meatballs, sauce, cheese and bread order a meatball sub.

As I see it this isn’t a problem with the pizza topping, it’s a problem with beef. “Bland” and “ground beef” are not words that should exist in the same sentence. Cows can produce incredibly flavorful meat. When that meat is combined with even more flavorful beef fat, the impact should be exponential. At the same time, I know what C is saying is true. And that’s because most ground beef doesn’t really taste like anything. It’s not easy to make something tasty taste like nothing. It’s really a team effort. Thank you factory farms, thank you industrial processing plants, thank you federal regulations.

Todd Ellis wrote a book entitled In Vino Veritas and came here to ask:
I would like to know if you could review my book ?

That would probably require me to read your book? It’s not that I’m opposed to reading in general or even reading your book specifically. I would love to read it and I would love to review it. But lately I haven’t had the time to read anything substantive. I haven’t even had the time to watch a feature length picture.

I’m honored that you considered me to review the work. Maybe if it comes out as an audio book, I can find a way to listen to chunks of it at a time while I’m in the car. Wow. Starbucks drive-through and audiobooks. What has my life become?

C wants a cocktail recipe:
Will you be sharing your recipe for the Five Year Blog Grog? I went to Nicaragua a few years ago and I still have an unopened bottle of that Flor de Cana Black Label Rum just sitting there waiting. I will say any drink I’ve made with Flor de Cana here just doesn’t add up to how amazing it was drinking it there with fresh picked limes off the tree in the yard.

I think you answered your own question. One of the reasons I never wrote up the cocktail for the contest is because I felt that anything I did to this fine spirit would only detract from its craftsmanship. So I wouldn’t hold your breath for a recipe.

Burnt My Fingers must have mistaken me for a water sommelier:
Why drink French water or Fiji water when you can get snobby water from the USA?

For that I’ll refer you back the The Man Who Ate Everything or Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay on water in the May 1991 issue of Vogue. I eschew bottled waters, but there are differences among them. It’s not just about snobbery. And some restaurant tap water is just nasty. The best restaurants not only use filtered water for their guests, but they also infuse it with cucumber. Lemon in your water can mess with the taste of your wine.

Ken Kozak (@kenkozak) asked a timely question about the Table Hopping soiree:
Is the party open to the public?

No. It’s not. Hopefully you didn’t find out the hard way. That bouncer looked pretty mean. I think his name was Mike. I wouldn’t want to mess with that guy.

zack wants to know if he’s a victim of our soda culture:
Here I am, a cocktail novice (and that’s probably being too generous) and what do I immediately gravitate to when creating a cocktail for a contest? Something sweet of course! It really was the only way my mind was willing to go. Hmmm?!?!?!?!?

Cocktails have probably suffered the worse from the sweetening of the American palate. But it’s almost impossible to find a dry (or even a balanced) drink on any cocktail menu. Your appletini was clearly a product of its environment. The solution, mind you is simple: fresh squeezed tart citrus. Lemons, limes, blood orange, or grapefruit would all work. But their snappy acidity fades with time. So while there may be some who argue that lime juice peaks at a few hours after squeezing, I still say your best bet is squeezed to order.

ajw93 is seeking validation:
So, you would approve of my Six-Pocket Wine Tote that I picked up a couple years ago for the purposes of a winery tour?

We do not validate, but I do indeed approve of the carrier. One must be careful with bottles on wine on a tasting tour. Wine isn’t as delicate as some people have been led to believe. But leaving a few bottles in your car on a hot day is a recipe for disaster.

wendalicious has taken a much more forgiving approach to wine that I might:
Why would you feel guilty about drinking a wine that you like? Because the “wine snobs” don’t approve? Let it go! Every human being has a different amount of taste buds, and no two people taste something in exactly the same way. Just because Robert Parker likes it doesn’t mean YOU have to! My definition of a good wine: one that I like. That’s it. Otherwise, why bother?

You might feel guilty if you haven’t given better wine a chance. If you thought appreciating fine wine was beyond your capacity, you might feel guilty about chugging down something sweet and simple that gives you a buzz. You might because you recognize there is something tastier out there, but what you have is comfortable and good enough. I say, go with the guilt. Don’t be afraid. Try something new. You might like it.

Which isn’t to say that if you like sweet whites you should try a big tannic red because Parker gives it a 90. That’s insane. If the above describes you, drop me a line, and I’ll help you out. Gently.

My definition of good wine is one that exhibits a true varietal character. This doesn’t just taste like “wine,” it tastes like Riesling. Ideally it should be made for a love of the wine and not simply for profit. There’s a difference, and it informs every decision of the winemaking process along the way.

Now I’ll get off my soapbox.

wendalicious moves past her wine 101 statements with wine 201 questions:
A question for you: do you taste rose petals when you drink Gewurz? I do, and I sometimes see it mentioned in tasting notes. It’s actually my favorite part of my hands-down favorite wine. I think a wine tasting tutorial is brilliant. Do you need a teaching assistant?

Sometimes. I actually prefer my Gewurz with more spice and less flowers. But that’s me. Rose petals are also something you can occasional encounter in Pinot Noir too.

Thank you for the compliment. But given that I have nobody to teach at the moment, I’m not entirely sure what an assistant would do. Maybe find me someone to teach? Sure. You have your first assignment.

Kerosena has clearly never met Raf or ADS:
Who goes to Tokyo and eats so much ramen that they vomit from overeating almost daily?

Yeah. I could see a few of my friends doing that.

@jessjamesjake is already lobbying hard for her egg sandwich pick:
Glad you like the Egg Sandwich idea. Let’s do it! Can we please keep Hamilton Cafe in?

Hold your horses there lady. As we get into November, I’ll start to nail down a date, most likely some time in December. Then we’ll open to floor to nominations. It’s not entirely a democratic process. Since you were the originator of the idea, Hamilton Café will get special attention, and I’ll try my darndest to keep it in the running. But with these tours there are a lot of ins a lot of outs and a lot of what-have-yous.

Britin F. got a bit smitten by my description of Garden Bistro 24:
I love that GB is featuring fresh local foods in such a tantalizing way! It all sounds delicious. Could you tell us who the chef is?

His name is John Grizzaffi and from all accounts, he’s a really nice guy.

squirrelfarts asked an obnoxious question that I’d really like to answer:
However, if a case of Bud was well past its “sell by” date, would anyone notice by taste alone?

I have no idea. My hope is that if one knew what to taste for, and if one were evaluating a few Buds side by side it would be readily apparent. Perhaps since there was less going on with the beer overall, Bud would be a great choice as a beer to taste the negative effects of age (and the corresponding positive effects of youthfulness). Now I need to figure out where I can get one old Bud and one young one. Maybe I just need to buy a single now, store it in my fridge for a year, and get back to you in 2013.

jenh718 sounds like she’s thinking about giving GB24 another shot:
I still have not made it back there. Sucks because I really liked the food. Time to suck it up and let bygones be bygones?

Yes. It’s past time. But wasn’t there something I was supposed to do too? Was I supposed to go with you? Did I need to retry Sovrana’s? I don’t want to weasel out of a deal, but my memory isn’t what it used to be.

DerryX was flummoxed by the sausage, pepper and onion pizza:
Overall, my interpretation was that this was supposed to simulate the sausage and peppers experience; why else would you order this combination of toppings?

Since the comment, DerryX and I have spoken and he came to realize that this topping selection was modeled off the 2010 Tournament of Pizza winning pie. Then everything started to make a lot more sense.

Kate wants to buy some Fee Brothers Bitters:
Can you tell me where I can get Fee’s bitters locally? or someplace I can take a road trip to (so I can check out other stuff)?

You can buy it from me at the FUSSYlittleSTORE, but that’s still online. Locally I haven’t found it anywhere. But I do understand at one point the Fee Brothers had a museum at their global headquarters in Rochester. It’s probably worth a call. But I bet if you made the trip, they would sell you a bottle of their orange bitters.

And between you and me, those are the only ones that you need to get. It’s nice that they are regional and have a full line of products. But the orange bitters are the only ones I wholeheartedly endorse.

Kerosena has never once before raved about the Jonesville Store’s pancakes:
Does this mean you’ve tried Jonesville Store’s pancakes? And that you found them dry?

No! I haven’t. Nor have I heard them ballyhooed in the usual local foodie places. So these pancakes were not on my radar. From your tone, it sounds like they should be. I looked into them, and I still can’t find people raving about their buttermilk pancakes, but I am excited that they use real NY maple syrup. I may have to make a trip out to Clifton Park.

On the subject of tangy frozen yogurt Jess wanted to know:
Have you tried frozen kefir?

I haven’t tried that either. I do like it tangy though, so I’ll keep a lookout. I mean, if they have it in Chicago, certainly there must be someplace to get it in Albany. Right?

northcountyrambler also isn’t too pleased with government oversight:
Yesterday’s Boston seafood expose seems to prove that we still have no idea what we are being served, even when we ask. We need some USDA oversight of seafood to right this situation. Get on that, will ya?

I thought with Michelle Obama and her interest in food, we would really see some positive changes in U.S. food policy. Maybe it might happen with a second term? It’s certainly not happening should some party that is opposed to government regulation come into office, or one that is focused on dismantling the federal government.

Here is a problem that the private sector doesn’t quite seem capable of correcting. Really, it would be great if they could. But they can’t. And it’s unrealistic for consumers to be able to identify the 1,000+ species of fish. Bummer.

Elyse may just like to write using a lot of question marks:
Killing a spider on the table and leaving it there??? Yech! That would even gross me out at a greasy spoon, never mind Chez freakin’ Panisse!
I think I had a perfect meal at Bocuse (I mean, it better have been, right????)

To be fair, it was the more casual restaurant upstairs at Chez Panisse, and it was really a very very small spider. It left more of a smudge than a carcass, and it hardly ruined the meal or our appetites.

As to your second point, expense and reputation don’t always make for a perfect meal. And that’s fine. Sometimes when the expectations are so high, it’s impossible for something that is still ultimately food, to reach those levels. It’s one of the reasons I’m not in search of the perfect meal. Sometimes you will only find something when you aren’t looking for it.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2011 9:58 am

    Ha! While the topping selection makes much more sense, that topping combination alone does not make up that 2010 TOP winning pie. And despite that, knowing that was what they were going for gave me an appreciation for the semifinals.

  2. October 27, 2011 10:12 am

    Nice. I look forward to the results in 2013 :)

  3. October 27, 2011 10:38 am

    I’ll admit that Wendelicious was responding to my guilt over loving Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc. For the record on an expensive trip to Empire Wines over the weekend I did steer clear of the giant bottle of Monkey Bay and did grab a few new things to try. Last night I had my first Gewurztraminer – and it was decent. It was the Valckenberg 2010 (cheap and has a twist off cap – bonus – haha). It wasn’t as dry as I’d like, but it was fruity without being sickly sweet and was more interesting than my go-to Blanc. It also didn’t have that musty taste that I’ve found in so many white whines – so that was nice. It was very drinkable. I did grab a few other bottles of random whites to try. Of course I also went home with a half dozen new reds, including a Pino which I usually don’t like as much as Malbec or Cab. What can I say, I was feeling adventurous.

    I think my aversion to trying more whites and sticking to a go-to one that is ‘alright, I guess’ is because I just don’t find whites to be as interesting or enjoyable as reds. I will work on this while simultaniously avoiding vineyards near major highways.

  4. Bill Swallow permalink
    October 27, 2011 11:00 am

    Regarding old Bud, there are a few things to consider before you begin your experiment. First, cans have evolved wonderfully and now keep beer better (and fresher tasting) than bottles. Also, because they are an opaque, sealed unit, they keep beer longer than bottles.

    As far as the expiration date or “sell by” date, you know how to find that, right? Look at the codes on the bottom of the cans. You’ll have letters at the front indicating month, then 2 digits for the day and 2 digits for the year, followed by the state the beer was bottled in. The “born on” date means little, except for maybe Bud and other light (whether a light beer or not) American lagers, as most beers build character as they age. But for the light US stuff you probably want to drink it as early as possible to enjoy the lovely corn and rice flavors before the wee bit of actual barley used starts imparting its intended flavors.

    And finally, storage. Stick a beer can in the fridge for a year and it’ll be fine. Likely it’ll be fine after 2 years. Leave it at cellar temperature and the mettle of the beer will be tested. A robust beer can age for years. I have several in my cellar that are over 10 years old that I’m saving for a special occasion. A Bud, well, might not last too long before tasting a wee bit off. But, if in a can, it won’t be bad (infected), just disgusting. Leave any beer out where it can be exposed to varying temperatures and light (because sunlight can warm a can) and all bets are off. I lost a case of some rather excellent craft beer because I left it in my garage in the late fall (low 50s by day, low 30s by night), went away for a long weekend, and the weather switched back to high 70s by day. All bottles were spoiled.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Bill Swallow permalink
    October 27, 2011 11:04 am

    A good experiment would be to keep a can, aluminum bottle, and glass bottle of Bud in the fridge, one identical set in the cellar, and one set on the kitchen counter for a year, then try each one to note the changes. They should all taste the same, ideally, so you’d have a control by storage location and by packaging. Of course, you can’t trust what might have happened to them between the bottling line and the beer store.

  6. Kerosena permalink
    October 27, 2011 12:13 pm

    Re: Jonesville Store

    I’m surprised that I haven’t heard anything from the local Eaterati about JS pancakes. Even this Metroland review doesn’t touch on them:

    The menu description is “Pancakes (Buttermilk) – traditional New England family recipe.” I have tried to replicate, and started a discussion on another food blog. I have been unsuccessful in replicating. It’s just as well.

    Before JS, I probably have not ordered pancakes in a restaurant since…elementary school. I don’t really like them.

    I like these pancakes because they are very thin and moist. I love the texture/chew. They’re somewhere between a pancake and a crepe. I imagine the batter is thinner than normal pancake batter. They are also not quite round. They look overcooked, almost burnt. They are not pretty, but they are just so delicious.

  7. October 27, 2011 12:46 pm

    Very appropriate typo: “you can cask me anything you want”

  8. October 27, 2011 1:49 pm

    I still haven’t been to the Jonesville Store yet. Now I wanna go, though. Group pancake outing?

  9. October 27, 2011 9:47 pm

    I do believe there was talk of a joint visit to the GB24. Let’s do it. Lunch? I’m around on Friday’s…

  10. October 30, 2011 12:52 pm

    @Wendalicious (r.e., Gewurztraminer) – the notes you taste in your gewurtz (or, for that matter, any wine) will reflect the other crops that soil grows. For example, if you drink a gewurtz from the finger lakes, you’ll taste notes of apples and pears. A Cab Franc from Long Island, you’ll taste blackberries. Etc. (I use NY wines as I know NY crops a little better … but this would be true of anywhere.) So, rose petals in a gewurtz would likely have something to do with roses grown close by.

    Often, peoples’ preferences for certain wines have to do with this, too. For example, I love apples, which is probably (in part) why I love FLX rieslings.

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