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Ask the Profussor – Out From Under

March 28, 2012

Wow, it’s been a busy three weeks. The 900th post, the cupcake tasting, All Over Albany’s fourth birthday party, my first piece with the Chefs Consortium, a visit to Lloyd Spear’s honey house in Schenectady, and the Jewish Food Festival. I’m exhausted.

Perhaps with everything going on you will forgive the fact that there are plenty of questions I’ve let go unanswered until now. Because this is my covenant with you: ask a question (with proper punctuation) and it will be answered. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.

And now even though Mrs. Fussy is taking another business trip leaving me behind with our lovely, loud and demanding children, I’m feeling a bit more relaxed and peaceful. Still, there’s a lot of ground to cover. I had hoped to do this last week, so the answers might need to be a bit shorter than usual.

Okay. Let’s get cracking.

WrigsMac wanted to clarify a broad and sweeping comment I made:
You say you can freeze anything, but is that really a good idea?

Certainly not. But that doesn’t stop otherwise sensible people from freezing cheese.

maryonhudson and I agree on sushi and I’m happy to point her in the right direction:
Japanese: Can’t vote Sushi with the grade of fish in the area. What other Japanese food is worth trying in a local restaurant? (Yes, I have been to Japan. No, I’m not an expert.)

You should try the Japanese homestyle classics at Sushi Tei. I know it’s got sushi in the name, but try to put that aside for a moment and trust me and my friend Celina. She’s the one who has lived in Japan and loves this joint.

Jazzngas is on the horns of a very familiar dilemma:
[Mrs. London’s] is as Food and Wine magazine said the best bakery in North America. That said, I’ve got to get back back to my home town and visit Crisan. Are we blessed or what with these kind of problems?

We are quite blessed. The region is bakery rich. And thou shalt not forget All Good Bakers as their savory scones are magnificent (their pudding tarts are pretty special too).

WrigsMac is up already for question number two of the day:
Gastropub has a cheese plate too – have either of you tried it?

I have not. A cheese plate has to look awfully promising for me to order one when dining out. Because cheese is delicious and delightful, but it’s a fat and calorie hit I’m only going to take if it’s worthwhile. My bar for most things is high. My bar for cheese is even higher.

maryonhudson is staying neck and neck with WrigsMac:
Why we stay here? Well, it’s not the restaurants/food stores in general I’m hoping that comments posted online have more impact than a sigh and a quiet vow never to return. As, I keep reminding my husband, you can eat badly in France too!

I’m here because my wife is here, my kids are here and I own a house here. It’s within a day’s drive to most of our family, and we can afford to live on one income. Life is about tradeoffs. Plus I’m happy to fight the good fight and do what I can to help build a better food culture in the area.

Jazzngass may have been speaking out of his gazznJass:
Why is it that quality and restaurants named Wine Bar go hand in hand in the Capital District?

I would say that when one’s focus is on wine, the underlying message is that flavors matter. And where things come from matters too. Most great food rests on these two pillars. That said, Vin Santo seemed to struggle a lot more than the other wine bars to its north and south.

Jenh718 was going for a two-fer on the subject of mango lassis:
Mango puree should be just mango, no? In the Goya frozen food section (most Price Choppers have one) they have frozen mango or passionfruit puree and it’s just the fruit. It’s ridiculously cheap for what it is. One package would make several lassis (plural?) and you could always defrost it and then repackage it into smaller containers.

Mango puree should be pure. Sweetened mango puree should be sweetened. I make my lassis with the latter. Honestly I don’t know if the plural lassis is correct or not, but it is widely used. And sometimes, like in the case of “miniscule,” that’s all that is required to make it correct.

Elyse didn’t like the findings of my chocolate tasting:
Maybe I’m defensive of Theo because I used to live down the street from them- but I think you need to give them another chance! They make lots of different bars and it’s not even clear to me which one you tried. Have you tried their single origin chocolate bars?

I haven’t tried their single origin chocolate, but I was comforted to be backed up on my evaluation of the 85%. They need to work on that bar, because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Brent Halliburton is a man who can make me perform in drag, but I’m not biting today:
In the interest of forcing your hand and getting you to do some online shopping, I will phrase it as a question: So what do you think of Mast Brothers chocolate? Now you will have to buy and try in preparation for the next Q&A.

I’m sure it is quite lovely.

Burnt My Fingers is going in for the two-fer today too regarding local grocers:
Last time I was at HW, they told me they had discontinued their battery recycling. Can you confirm they’ve resumed it? As for extra services, I vote for the Ben and Bill’s Deli inside the Saratoga and Slingerlands (or is it Guilderland?) PC?

What?!? No! I cannot confirm they have resumed it. Bastards. Well, that’s just one less reason to go there. Maybe TJ’s will offer a battery recycling program. That blows. In the happy thoughts column, the Ben and Bill’s down south is indeed in the Slingerlands Price Chopper, and I agree that it’s the best pastrami I’ve had in the region.

Casey Johnston is somebody I’d love to get a burger with:
I’ve only eaten at Juicy Burger once, but based on that one experience it seems like they cut their burger meat with something like… ground hot dogs? Has anyone else gotten this impression?

What?!? I’m starting to sound like a broken record here. No, I have not. But I am very curious to hear more about what you were tasting in your burger. I’ve always been pleased with the overall quality of the beef, although I find it to be underseasoned.

I.M.R. lashed out at me and got his questions were answered, but I want to take this one:
Dinner for two at McDonald’s can cost you upwards of $20.12 what do you or anyone else expect to get for that price in this day and age?

Well, given that one of my favorite restaurant week dishes ever was a braised and glazed Berkshire pork shoulder over a warm faro and grape pilaf that had a shockingly low food cost under $2 I expect quite a lot. Portions, careful selection of protein, and seasonal accompaniments go a long way in providing bang for the buck. Restaurant Week is not the time to be lazy, it’s the time to get fired up. With a level playing field the competition is intense, and I.M.R. was working at one of the restaurants that was pitching a ho-hum menu. Pity.

irisira may or may not be relieved with the answer to her question:
Best Italian – Katrinella’s? How has this not been mentioned yet? Daniel, you’re the one who turned us on to that place. (Oh, lord, as I write this, please don’t say it is closed. Please.)

Here’s the short version of a longer story. They are open, but the word on the street is that the quality there has slipped. I would love to be told otherwise, and it’s a while since I’ve been. But right now I’m not comfortable putting them up for the best.

llcwine is giving me a choice between curtain number one or curtain number two:
Count me in as a loyal reader and sometimes commenter…or is that commentator?

Let’s go with commenter.

irisira is here all the time and apparently she still doesn’t quite believe me:
Wow, am I really the number 1 commenter?

Yes, you are. Now keep it up. Because second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.

Burnt My Fingers wanted to confirm something about the origins of the FLB:
Was Fussy Manifesto your very first post? I went back and looked and even that had critical comments! So much more interesting than a food blog where the typical comment is “sounds yum!”

It was indeed. Thank you. From the beginning this blog was intended to be more than a cheerleading site about the food I ate. I may not be moving the needles as much as I would like, and sometimes I get distracted. But I take this seriously, and having a manifesto lead it off seemed like a good idea.

Jessica R. was curious about Hot Dogs, Ice Cream and Diners:
Are these actual catergories, or some of those that you’re hoping they add?

No, these are all real. There were too many legitimate categories to go through in the time we had, and they had to take priority. Maybe when the poll is over, we can keep speculating on a few of the hypothetical categories for next year.

Jessica R. is trying to catch up:
Having read this entry and your Diner requirements, have you been to the South End Diner in Troy?

I haven’t but it’s been on my radar for a long time. It does sound like the kind of place I’d really enjoy. Maybe not right now as I’m being more careful about what I eat. But soon, after I correct my lipid count through diet and willpower alone.

But irisira is a force of nature and cannot be contained:
As for fave diners, my fave is also in Glens Falls, and it’s called Poopie’s. Noticing a trend here?

You like dirty, stinky things. It could explain why you hang out here so much. I’ve heard good things about Poopie’s in the past. One of these days I’ll get there. But first I have to get to Glens Falls.

Kerosena was curious about the silence of the cupcakes:
You mentioned on Saturday that you contacted each shop to ask some questions, but none of them responded. Have you received any responses since the AoA post came out?

I gave up on that list of questions. They were just too hard and too damning. I did get a nice note from Fluffalicious and a very gracious comment to the FLB facebook page from Rachel Cocca-Dott. Seriously.

Eric Paul may conflate the love of everything for the love of cheese:
What no sniff test or analysis of appearance by squeeze in addition to by sight?

Man, I had enough data to go through as it was. For what it’s worth, anyone could have taken any additional analysis they desired and wrapped it up in the cupcake’s overall score.

Mirdreams who has actually won something for inventing a cocktail wants to know:
What do you recommend as a spring cocktail?

It’s not like anything edible is actually blooming yet. My knee jerk reaction would be something light and floral like St. Germain with bubbly. The good folks at 677 Prime think wilting lavender and strawberries are good harbingers of spring. They’ve clearly given someone over there too much leeway with the cocktail program. Because that’s just nuts. A Ramos Gin Fizz has both orange flower water and egg white. It’s a little too heavy for my tastes during summer, so spring may be just the perfect time to shake your arms off making this wonderful classic cocktail.

-R asks a question that should get more ink than this, but it needs a decisive answer:
Finally, should AGB really be included as a restaurant? I know they do more than bake, but so does Uncommon Grounds for example, and I would not consider them a restaurant in the truest sense of the word.

Yes. Absolutely yes. They cook, they do not just bake and assemble. There’s a difference. Nick excels at putting flavors together, balancing colors, textures, heat and sweet. That’s what makes a chef.

Kerosena seems to be asking for a quick line call here:
Can I just place the same votes as Josh K.?

Totally. And that goes for anyone else too. Just let me know, so I can weight the votes appropriately as I’m trying to assemble the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 3.0.

Jessica R really doesn’t have kids:
What kid doesn’t want to sit at a picnic table and eat peanuts?

Lazy kids. Small kids who fall off seats without backs. Toddlers who can’t eat nuts. Seemingly every third kid who has a peanut allergy. Kids who want to save room for pancakes. Kids whose parents want them to eat the food they ordered. Kids who would rather play Doodle Jump on the phone/tablet. I think what I’m trying to say is, plenty of kids. [wink]

Surely Bob W. is joking, but let’s take this as a chance to remind you of one thing:
I guess some tweaking is still needed on their end, as both times it wouldn’t accept its own password. Which begs the questions — which one is truly the fussy blog?

The Chefs Consortium site may be a little too tightly controlled, but nothing is fussy like the FLB. Seriously, I should mention something. On my other assignments, I take on a different tone. You’ll see it. It’s more positive than grumpy. I’ll find good things to say, and I will not say what I don’t mean. But I may choose to overlook a few shortcomings here and there. In other words, they are 100% me, but a whole lot less fussy.

maryonhudson may have pulled out a victory in the end (but I’m too tired to count):
Does bakery mean patisserie or bread?

Sadly the word is terrible. You should have seen my disappointment the first time I walked in to Prinzo’s Bakery to find nothing but bread. But in Crisan there isn’t a loaf to be found. Some of the best domestic bakeries I’ve visited do both bread and pastry equally well. It’s a challenging, even daunting task, but being able to pull it off just proves how badass the bakers are at their craft.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2012 9:49 am

    Pretty sure I’ve gotten dinner for two at McDonald’s for about 6$ :D This is not really relevant, but, you know. Maybe I’m just a good bargain shopper.

  2. March 28, 2012 11:10 am

    Glad you share my outrage at HW dropping the battery recycling program. Apparently “they” have decided that alkaline batteries (but not recyclable batteries) are now okay to put out with our regular trash. I think I’ll throw some electronics in there too! And some old cans of lead-based paint!

    Seriously, this battery-washing (which has also spread to the public dump up here in Saratoga) seems like BS to me. When you are ready to take a break from your battle with food mediocrity, maybe it’s a secondary cause to take on? (Notice that was phased as a question.)

  3. djdubjay permalink
    March 28, 2012 11:49 am

    What does $20 worth of McDonald’s for only two people even look like?
    For $18 something you can get two burritos at Chipotle, with guac.Then you ask for water cups and fill them with seltzer and lemon slices. Meal. Delicious. Under $20. Minus the clown.

  4. March 28, 2012 11:54 am

    Im not totally sure how this Q&A with you works, but id still love to hear your thoughts on all the questions I asked in the chocolate post a while back.

    To whoever was asking about non-sushi entrees at sushi tei, may I suggest the katsu ju at sushi tei, or the nabeyaki udon? These are the two things I order most frequently.

    • maryonhudson permalink
      March 28, 2012 12:13 pm

      Thank you. Will try them.

      • maryonhudson permalink
        April 7, 2012 3:45 pm

        Thank you again Greg K, have now tried them. Brought a friend who is expecting visitors from Japan. She thanks you too.

    • March 28, 2012 3:42 pm

      The idea is that all questions get answers. While I didn’t answer your chocolate questions, they were answered. And in my estimation they were answered quite thoroughly and completely. If your questions were not actually satisfied, please let me know specifically what fell through the cracks and I will fulfill my end of the bargain.

  5. March 28, 2012 12:33 pm

    Hey, I could always use a set of steak knives… ;)

  6. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    March 28, 2012 1:43 pm

    I will go to my grave saying Yes, you can freeze hard cheeses such as parmigiano! Research shows I am not alone in my un-Fussy belief.

  7. March 28, 2012 4:58 pm

    Yeah, for some reason I thought more questions went unanswered than actually did. And I appreciate the conversation it spurred between Albaniana and myself. I am curious about these, however;

    “What about companies that use questionable sources but also sell single origin chocolate that comes from a good source?” (In reference to your feelings on purchasing from said companies)

    Also, what about companies that don’t take the ‘No west african chocolate/Only fair labor chocolate’ but rather adopt the mindset to ‘make changes where we source our chocolate, supporting action to regulate/legitimize it, raising awareness, education, and generally trying to improve the quality of life for farmers/workers’ – Such as Barry Callebaut

  8. March 28, 2012 5:12 pm

    Dude! This is pretty typical judging for things even beyond cheese! It’s the idea that a judge employs all five senses in judgement. Sight, smell, touch and taste are critical for wine and cheese and would be interesting for cupcakes too. I saw a critic ready to jump through someones computer screen the other day to correct them on the proper name for a cocktail glass, and boy have you got me almost ready to do the same! How does the cake look both in the center of the cake and at the edges? What happens when you give the cake a little a squeeze — does it fall apart or turn to gum? How did they smell — vanilla, chemical, nuts, spices, etc? This is standard musts for judging!! Maybe you’re are busy, but I demand a re-answer to my question.

    And to finish this fussy post off, I’ll pose my other point in the form of a question so perhaps you’ll answer it too — why no spit bucket/rule to save the judges bellies and palates?

    I look forward to your ribbing! :)

  9. March 28, 2012 5:56 pm

    Thanks Daniel for the defense of us being a restaurant! The reasons you stated are why I am willing to work 12+ hours per day to support Nick’s talents (I know I’M biased, but it’s so great to see others recognize his abilities).

  10. March 28, 2012 7:56 pm

    RE: Poopie’s, I should qualify that I AM biased. I went to high school with the owner’s daughters and spent many a night hanging out in their basement as a teenager. Because of this, many a morning, Mr. DiManno also gave us egg and cheese sandwiches from the restaurant. My mouth waters just thinking about them … yum. Not much tastes better than nostalgia.

    As for Katrinella’s, yes, relieved. I had the best linguini with clam sauce I’ve ever had there, and it was enough food for 2 more dinners. The wine list was so-so but reasonably priced, which made for a fun night out with another couple. We’ve been meaning to get back there and just haven’t made it yet. I liked it not only for the quality of the food, but also the atmosphere and the reasonable prices.

  11. March 28, 2012 10:32 pm

    Also, savory scones this week are sweet potato w/ smoked mozz from R&G!

  12. Josh K. permalink
    March 28, 2012 10:38 pm

    I went to Katrinella’s not too long ago. We all had a very nice meal. I have to say it would probably make my top 10 Italian restaurants in the area (the Capital Region excels in this Italian American category) but not top 3.

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