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Butter and Optimism

June 8, 2012

Eventually I’m coming back to Albany. Really I still have four more full days in California. Mrs. Fussy is a saint for letting me take such an extended journey. Today, I’m reporting from San Carlos where I am visiting my cousin and his children (who are also apparently my cousins).

Blogging on the road isn’t easy. But it’s necessary. Just because I’m traveling doesn’t stop food from being interesting. However, it does sometimes get in the way of me being able to fully engage on a topic.

Really over the past week, there are a couple of things that have come to light. So today, I’m going to take a few minutes and try to weigh in on these issues.

Butter flavored olive oil
As fate would have it, there is a store in San Carlos called Olive Crush and they seem to have the exact same product line as Saratoga Olive Oil Co. But that shouldn’t be too surprising because I learned from this piece in All Over Albany, that a company called Veronica Foods supplies oils and vinegars to more than 200 such stores around the country. Presumably they supply The Olive Oil Source, The Chefs Olive Mix, and Prima Oliva as well (among scores of additional retailers).

And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is this butter flavored olive oil business. Because now I’ve tried it. And it’s truly unpleasant. When I asked at the store in San Carlos what it was made from, the clerk didn’t know the answer, and believed it to be a proprietary trade secret. My guess of course is that it’s diacetyl (which also can go by “2,3-dioxobutane” or “dimethyl diketone”).

This 99% pure variety is extracted from natural plant sources, so I suppose it can be construed as “natural”. But it’s also the same stuff that causes problems with microwave popcorn.

The good news is that there are credible sources which suggest Veronica Foods, which trades under the Delizia brand, brings some otherwise respectable oil to consumers. So perhaps I was too quick to condemn the whole product line at Saratoga Olive Oil Co. based on them carrying this one unfortunate product. But I hope the owners of this regional business take to heart the input from the community here that butter-flavored anything is never truly a natural product.

Optimism in the face of the TU results
The year I started to feel better about the TU results was 2010. That was the first year that I had engaged in the FUSSYlittleBALLOT. And while the outcome wasn’t great, I was hopeful that the effort demonstrated a little bit of influence, and at least I tried my best to change it for the better.


From a food perspective, there is precious little to get actively upset about. Yes. Mrs. London got robbed for bakery. But at least I understand the votes for Bella Napoli, and dammit they make some mighty fine donuts. And I get all the love for the Fountain and other beloved regional restaurants that captured the top spot in their categories.

Red Robin for Best family restaurant is a little bit upsetting. But I like how the category has been reframed as “Family” instead of “For kids.”

For some reason Best hamburger was excluded from the single location strategy. Had it held the line with the vast majority of the responses, perhaps we would have seen Jumpin’ Jack’s take the lead over Five Guys Burgers.

Sure. Some of the best places got robbed. Ala Shanghai should be on there. So should Caffe Vero, Mr. Pio Pio, and The Ice Cream Man.

However, without a doubt, this list is better than the one last year. And that’s improvement. Any improvement is good.  Yes, I’d prefer the improvement to come quicker, but this is a big ship we are trying to turn around. It does not rotate on a dime.

Let me say this again loud and clear:

If you are dissatisfied with this year’s Best of the Times Union 2012 reader’s choice poll, please help me in the effort to improve the results for 2013. Don’t forget the poll is based on fewer than 14,000 surveys. With a voting block of a few thousand, we could be the change we seek. I think there are enough of the dissatisfied out there, it’s just a matter of reaching them, and getting them to take action.

Also, I have to be optimistic. My belief that there is good stuff out there keeps me sane.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2012 10:33 am

    I’m not pleased that the Latham 76 was selected as Best Diner – but it was a better choice than the Gateway. You’d have expected that some of the love shown for the Miss Albany Diner would have spilled over into the voting.

    At least Five Guys and Jumpin’ Jack’s beat Red Robin.

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    June 8, 2012 11:22 am

    Of course “there is good stuff out there”! But what is not out there is a public educated and/or sophisticated enough to comlete an intelligent “Best of” survey!

    • June 8, 2012 2:11 pm

      Judging by this year’s survey, I’m with you. Clearly, there are quite a few ballot-entering people who wouldn’t know good food (or even be able to define certain words) if their life depended on it.

  3. upstatedave permalink
    June 8, 2012 5:35 pm

    Hey Mr. Fussy, where is the best place to hunt turkey within an hour’s drive? Where is the best place to get a Brazilian around here? Don’t really have a frame of reference for forming an opinion on these, do you (unless I have missed something on your blog, I don’t think you are out huntin’ turkey with an immaculately shorn undercarriage).

    This is the rub, there are people out there who simply don’t care about food. Hence, they have no frame of reference to make informed (informed being a relative term existing in your universe) decisions on the subject. Your words are wind to them and this will never change. Frankly, I think you are wasting precious effort and time that could be directed in a much more constructive direction. But hey, whatever smokes your sausage. To each his own.

    The Times Union poll is stupid. A lot of people who do not share my outlook on life seem to read the rag, but you know what? I am OK with that and I don’t spend a minute thinking about it. For instance, I can not for the life of me understand the appeal of that Kristy Gustarfson (spelling?) person who won the best local blogger thing. I concede that I have only read a small portion of her work, but found it overwhelmingly vapid, annoying, and droll, and I am the king of Vapid-annoying-and-drollsville. Don’t think I will be waging a campaign against her though, I am sure she makes all sorts of people’s mornings. So god bless her.

  4. June 8, 2012 6:04 pm

    Me too. The person who fills out the TU survey is the same guy who gets angry if he doesn’t have enough leftovers for a second meal, and thinks sushi is from Thailand. In fact, the best use of the survey might be knowing where not to go. Right now (5 pm on a Friday) that Cap District bon vivant is getting wasted at TGIF or gorging himself on endless fries at the Red Robin, so as long as I stay away from those place at least I don’t run into him.

  5. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    June 9, 2012 11:19 am

    OMG, I agree with Mr. Dave. Don’t think that’s ever happened before.

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