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Ask the Profussor – Almost Done

April 18, 2012

In the last couple of days before the polls at the Times Union close, I really should be making one final push for you to vote the FUSSYlittleBALLOT and email your friends. But if I haven’t convinced you by now, I’m out of options.

And as I’ve been hawking this admittedly quixotic project your questions have been piling up and other work is going undone. For example, do you know that the blog turns three on May 1? It’s my blogiversary and I’ve got nothing planned. DerryX has told me that this will not do. So I’ll have to think of something in the next few days.

For now, let’s take care of old business. I’ve got a big stack of your questions to answer. Should you be a relatively new reader to the FLB, I’m committed to answering every question asked in the comments, provided proper punctuation is used. However, I often cannot answer them all right away. Those questions that fall through the cracks get saved up for a periodic feature called Ask the Profussor.

Now without further ado, onto the questions!

Burnt My Fingers is getting all Northern Californian environmentalist on me:
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?

I feel your pain. There are too many causes to take up in the world, and I’m glad there are others out there championing ones like the environment. I try my best to do my part. But I don’t see myself picking up this sword anytime soon.

djdubjay has clearly never seen me order at McDonalds:
What does $20 worth of McDonald’s for only two people even look like?

Believe it or not, the things that more closely resemble food at McDonalds aren’t terribly cheap. You get some premium chicken selects, some of their delicious French fries, a Newman’s Own Coffee and a hot caramel ice cream sundae and you are pushing $10 (I think). Not that I do that often. This kind of meal happens on freeway rest stops only when the provisions we’ve brought for the ride turn out to be insufficient. And that’s rare.

Greg K is still figuring out how this works:
Im not totally sure how this Q&A with you works…To whoever was asking about non-sushi entrees at sushi tei, may I suggest the katsu ju at sushi tei, or the nabeyaki udon?


Greg K also wants more answers about chocolate:
“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
[Ed. note: Just this once I’ll assume he meant to put a question mark at the end.]

1)    I would buy a single origin chocolate that was harvested without child slave labor from a producer that makes other ethically suspect products sourced from West Africa. The objective would be to vote with my wallet and show them there is a market for more expensive slave-free chocolate.

2)    The world is a complicated place. I know that it is filled with shades of gray and that those who are working to reform the broken system (vs. creating a new one entirely) are engaged in an important and valuable enterprise. I salute the effort. But I also worry that such a stance provides too much wiggle room. It’s better than business as usual, but until the system is fixed, I’m going fair trade.

Eric Paul is a pit bull of tasting:
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?

All good questions. With more than four entrants into the competition, these are all important criteria for helping to decide a rank order of comestibles. However, even with our crude methodology we were able to have a statistically significant winner of the contest. As to spitting, yes, there is something gained but there is also something lost. Based on my estimates, the judges’ bellies should have been able to handle the task at hand. Food and wine leave a different impression when they are spit versus swallowed. And I wonder—if you only taste the hint of violets on the exhale when you spit out your sample, is it actually there at all?

Burnt My Fingers wants a ruling on winter storage vegetables:
You asked originally what winter seasonal vegetables we were using… does cabbage count?

Oh yes. Yes it does. What you do with cabbage at your blog is important and meaningful stuff. If there was any justice, it would be the official state vegetable of New York. Seriously.

mattVSmatthew is like a hungry fish nibbling at slimy bait:
Ok, I’ll bite – why no love for Gastropub?

It’s not even a problem of expectations. Yes, mine were high. And I’ve only been once. But based on that first experience I’m in no rush to try again. The moules frites were just bad. Small and gritty mussels, with no real sauce to speak of, except a little oil from the sliced chorizo, and thick fries that were oversalted (and this is coming from a salt fiend). I know they were bad because three people barely made a dent in them. The Swedish meatballs weren’t much better. I have no interest in a Kobe hotdog, but might try some of their other dishes. However, the food isn’t cheap enough to have two out of two plates miss the mark. I’ll save my money for the Lark Street Wine Bar.

Chrystal has keen powers of observation and finds herself in a quandary:
How was Off Shore Pier left off the choices for the best fish fry? That omission doesn’t even make sense since they obviously modified the questionnaire due to the FussylittleBlog campaign and Off Shore Pier was the obvious favorite on the FussylittleBlog Tour de Fish Fry.

Glad to see that somebody else noticed that too. Clearly it was an oversight.

ktvorwald is picking up what we’re putting down:
I have to admit I feel a little bit weird voting for a place I haven’t been to myself. But if people really think Subway and Five Guys have the best of anything in this region, a little white lie won’t hurt anyone, right? Plus I trust your (and your readers’) judgment in coming up with this ballot.

I get that a lot. It’s the biggest thing that holds people back from voting for the ballot. And it’s not a lie. You are casting your vote because you trust the information you’ve found here. This news makes me (and hopefully my readers) very happy. Trust is important, and it doesn’t come easy to lots of people. Thank you.

Silvia Lilly has her own approach to the FUSSYlittleBALLOT:
If I don’t have an opinion I’m happy to support your choice. Burger, though? I had one at New World recently and it may have been the best one I ever ate!

I’m glad. My burger at NWBB didn’t achieve that bar. The grill was too hot, and while the internal temperature was fine, it was so charred on the outside that the meat had a thick gray layer between its admittedly beautiful crust and its rosy center. Gray meat is not the best. But the uneven execution of dishes at NWBB seems to be par for the course.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness answers her own question:
Best print journalist leaves out Kathleen Moore of the Gazette? It’s a travesty.

There are a lot of travesties on that list. Glad I’m just sticking to food this year.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness is displeased with my lack of photography:
Why do neither of these posts (yours or Epicurious) have a photo? I want to pin it, so I don’t forget to try it one of these days. *shakes fist at Epicurious*

I don’t believe in photos. I think it distracts people from reading, and selfishly as a writer, I want people to read the words I’m spewing on your screen. If you want pictures, follow me on twitter. Because there sometimes snapshots say it best.

capitoltocapital and irisira pretty much echoed the same sentiment:
If people think Genoa is better than Andy’s, then I need to go to Genoa. Where is it and when are we going?

This sounds like one we can tackle over email. Unless we want to show up en masse and order one of everything (with each sandwich cut into 10 pieces). Actually, that’s kind of appealing. A Tour de Italian Sandwich. That might work for a summer savory tour. I’ve got to think about that.

Ed seems to have forgotten I’m a great lover of semantics:
What makes a Cafe a Cafe? What makes a Bar and Grill a Bar and Grill?

1)    Coffee.
2)    The presence of both a full bar and a grill (not just a griddle).

Burnt My Fingers may host some of the worst guests ever:
Regarding not heating the HBH, does anybody ever have problems with guests who say that’s inviting trichinosis, salmonella or worse?

As far as I can tell it’s no worse than the risk of any deli meat sandwich that most people eat without any second thoughts (but pregnant women should totally avoid). It’s not raw meat. It’s a fully cooked ham.

Burnt My Fingers is just begging me to do some funny math:
Checked out the Chipotle bag online… it’s $18 plus another $6 for shipping. How about they sell them in stores and reduce the carbon imprint as well as the use of packing materials and the total cost to the purchaser?

As someone once involved in the business of advertising, I love that this is being made from reclaimed billboards. I’ve always thought there was a market for those, and it’s great to see them being put to use. I say that it’s a $24 lunch bag minus the $8 for a burrito, so it’s $16 delivered to your door. Personally, I think that’s a pretty sweet deal. Cool lunch bags aren’t cheap, neither is delivery. If you take out the delivery cost, the bag is only $10. That’s a steal.

-R thinks he has the answer to my rant about wine prices, but I’m not convinced:
One word: overhead. You think rent is cheap at Crossgates? In fact, I’m surprised that you got away with only a 50% markup.

NorthCountry Rambler earns his name with a question on the same topic:
(and did you add delivery charges in your comparison?) (and was that a run on sentence?) But I would look at it this way ~ if paying an extra $9 for a bottle of wine is the worst thing that happens this week, it’s still a good week. Have a glass of wine and relax.

That’s just nuts. There are great wine stores in big cities with bigger rents than the Albany mall that don’t gouge their customers like that. And let’s not forget Penzeys is in the same freaking mall, presumably paying the same cost per square foot, and they charge the exact same prices as they do in their already reasonable catalog. To be clear, the wine is not a 50% markup. It’s a 50% markup from already high retail prices. I don’t buy from because they are expensive to start AND they have shipping charges to boot. But it’s still an interesting point of comparison.

Jessica R seems to have some money burning a hole in her pocket:
Daniel (or anyone reading), I’m looking for a food-related fund raising event in the June-August timeline for a group of 15 women. Any ideas? We have an “Epicures” group at work, and I’m trying to find an event we can do in the community.

As it just so happens, I’ve been looking to raise money for the Daniel Needs More Caviar Fund, and that could easily be in late June or July. Let’s just say I’m flexible. Short of that, I’m drawing a blank. But I’m willing to work with you. It could be the Daniel Needs More Calvados Fund or a variety of other worthy organizations.

Mrs. Fussy who mistakenly thinks I have plenty of caviar and brandy suggests you contact the food bank.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Chrystal permalink
    April 18, 2012 10:30 am

    This made me bounce in my seat: A Tour de Italian Sandwich

    It would be hard to narrow the extensive list of Italian market/delis in the region and how would you decide on meat and toppings? Most places all use Boar’s head, unless they roast their own turkey and roast beef, but that is not an Italian sandwich. So there wouldn’t be much variation on the meat, so really is it just the differences in the bread, toppings and price?

    I’ve had my standard of hot sopressata, mortadella, fresh mozz, roasted red peppers, onions with oil and vinegar at Andy’s, Cardona’s, Via Fresca and Genoa, and the main difference at any of them is how thick they slice the meat and the bread. Via Fresca because of the bread is my favorite out of all of them.

    • derryX permalink
      April 18, 2012 11:17 am

      Italian Sandwich (or combo) generally refers to ham, salami, and provolone on a hero roll (or it should, at least). Some places make substitutions and additions, but this is the base. (Of course, there’s the ridiculous Panera Italian Combo which is “Roast beef, smoked turkey, ham, salami, Swiss cheese, peperoncini, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions & our special sauce, on Ciabatta” aka a joke, but I digress).

      I think it would be an interesting enough tour to just go into a number of the places and order their standard “Italian Combo” and compare not only the quality of what they give us, but also what they do actually give us.

      Look at this, the tour de Hard Ice Cream isn’t even planned yet and the seeds for the next one are already planted!

      • Chrystal permalink
        April 18, 2012 12:34 pm

        I didn’t realize there was a traditional Italian combo of meats and cheese, since they always seem to be different and I usually don’t pay attention to the sandwich names and just order what I want on it anyway. I figured if it was Italian meat then it was an Italian sandwich. So it would be interesting to order what they call an Italian sandwich and compare, there would be more variation than just the bread and toppings.

      • April 18, 2012 3:23 pm

        Totally up for the Tour de Italian Sandwich. We order it and cut it up so at the end of the day you have eaten no more than one entire sandwich. People who prefer bread get the end of each sandwich, those who like meats get the middle, so the tasting experience is controlled.

        P.S. It appears been spending way too much commenting on this blog. Don’t you think? (Please note I posed that as a question.)

  2. Chris permalink
    April 18, 2012 10:32 am

    Regarding the chocolate, check out – they work exclusively with 1 grower in Mexico and stone-grind the beans, the old fashioned way. I placed an order on Monday for a variety of bars and will report back.

  3. April 18, 2012 12:58 pm

    Tour de Italian Sandwich! Please, please! I was living out of the area when the fish fry and mini hot dog tours were held, to my eternal sadness.

  4. April 18, 2012 1:45 pm

    In response to Jessica R ~ if I may be so bold, DB ~ A July “Food Related Fundraiser” will be held on 7/14 at Sporty’s in Minerva to benefit Essex Country Toys for Kids, which supplies needy children from Adirondack schools with toys (and coats) during the holidays. Lobster, fish chowder, corn on the cob, and your’s truly grilling up the BBQ chicken. Wear your dancin’ shoes.

  5. addiesdad permalink
    April 18, 2012 3:56 pm

    Semantics, eh? Perhaps the Profussor knows the answer to this question that has bugged for some time. What’s the difference between a bar, a tavern, a pub, a saloon, etc? I’m not talking in the modern sense, but in the historic sense.

  6. April 18, 2012 7:45 pm

    Hey there! 2 points of complete agreement:

    1) I’ve eaten twice at the Gastropub, both times were disappointing. I will give them credit for their delicious brussels and decent beers on tap. The entrees order (in the group) were: fish tacos, poutine, their speciality veg pizza of the evening, Pork belly banh mi. Everyone was underwhelmed . . . both times.

    2) Silvia and DanielB are both correct about the burger at NWBB. James and I had excellent burgers there – top 3 of life – and then bragged on it to our friends and promised to take them the following weekend (Sunday brunch). We all (4 at our table) got the burger, and it sucked. It was embarrassing given the praise we had just issued, and a waste of $60 for burgers. Haven’t been back since.

    • April 19, 2012 10:54 am

      Hm, with a menu as wildly varied as ‘fish tacos, poutine, their speciality veg pizza of the evening, Pork belly banh mi,’ I’m not surprised that the reaction would be underwhelmed. Just looking at a menu like that would make me nervous.

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