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AskTP – A Clean Slate

September 27, 2012

Do you want to know the hardest part about fasting? It’s taking your kids out for pizza and not being able to have any. Then, as usual, they eat around the delicious end crust and leave it on their plate. But instead of getting to finish off my favorite part of really good pizza, I have to watch as it gets thrown in the trash.

Officially, I only take the kids to really good pizza places. And it was sad that we couldn’t maintain our annual tradition of Pizza King, as it is still closed in the wake of its proprietor’s passing.

Anyway after a day in temple, I’m beat. It’s a good thing I could come home to a pile of questions leftover from the last two weeks. To say I ignored them is a bit harsh. Perhaps it’s better to say I was saving them for a time when I could give them the attention they deserved. And that time is now.

After all, I’m committed to answering any question, regardless of how silly, just so long as it is asked with proper punctuation. If you omit a question mark, I cannot guarantee a response.

So without any further ado, onto the questions.

It sounds like Emily doubts my hyperbole:
How do you know your readers are good looking?

You should come out on a tour one day and see for yourself. Not only are they good looking, some a quite stylish as well. Mrs. Fussy is always perplexed that a small cadre of fashion bloggers show up for my events every now and again. There are also the healthy living bloggers, who have this inner glow. I have the beautiful moms in their yoga clothes. Some readers are TV personalities, others are rock stars (or at least musicians who get gigs). I get the AOA crowd over here, and if you’ve been to one of their parties, you know they too are a comely bunch. Not that we’re all gorgeous. I mean, look at me. And Albany Jane usually decides to have her face blurred out and replaced by Hello Kitty. So all are welcome, regardless of looks.

But I keep photos off the blog on purpose to filter out those who would rather just look at pretty food pictures.

christine keeps giving me the needle about Stewart’s:
I DID notice the absence of Stewart’s on the ice cream tour… I was most pleased to see that. As for egg sandwiches at Stewart’s- someone must be eating them. Poor things! Rubber egg like things with circle bacon and maybe cheese. And, just for a little more snarkiness- when I went into Stewart’s this morning they were displaying a familiar item right by the front door… APPLE CIDER DONUTS. How about that?

Separately, Stewart’s maple walnut ice cream was on sale this week, and it was just the right push at the right time to inspire me to pick up a box of the stuff. Really, it was for the kids. But I tried it and was pleasantly surprised. I’m a little embarrassed about how much I actually enjoy it.

Maybe one day when I’m feeling optimistic I’ll try one of Stewart’s cider donuts. But without even a chance of getting them warm, they seemed doomed from the start.

StanfordSteph was glad to finally make a Tour de Donut, since it was her idea in the 1st place:
OMG I can make that day! The angels are singing! Now, who wants to carpool?

How could I not have driven around the food muse who dreamt up this scheme. Since the first cider donut tour two years ago, I’ve organized several other events all with the same theme: taking specialty foods from the Capital Region and tasting them all back to back, looking for the best version of the form. So Steph got to ride with me. But I put her to work as the navigator. The fact that we got lost was probably my fault. I kept distracting her with intense conversations about food.

For the record, I can actually talk about other things too.

kathleenlisson wants to get juiced:
I have ramped up my fresh OJ producing capabilities by purchasing a citrus juicing machine. I am on the lookout for the perfect oranges for juicing. Do you have any suggestions? Type of orange or specific store?

You need to go to Brickman. Think of them like Adventure in Food Trading, except for produce. Oranges yield precious little juice, and you need a shit ton of them to make enough for a pitcher of the stuff. And that can get expensive. So you want to find a wholesaler who will sell to the public. That’s where Brickman comes in. They even have juice oranges from Florida. The thing to remember is that juice oranges aren’t pretty on the outside. They don’t have to be. You aren’t juicing the skin. I lived in Florida for fifteen years and in California for twelve. Both would consider themselves orange country. But California is crazy. Get the Florida oranges. Make juice. Then make mimosas. Don’t forget to invite me over.

So Jennifer Savino asked a very common question:
This looks like so much fun! Devoe’s has GREAT cider donuts along with other baked goods. Wish I could make it but look forward to seeing the results. Did anyone bring up Lakeside Farms by any chance?

This is totally my fault. Lakeside Farm was on the first Tour de Cider Donut. On the maiden voyage, I had not conceived of this as a multi-year project, so we crossed the Mohawk river to hit Lakeside, Bowman and Fo Castle. I enjoyed Lakeside more than most of the other members of the tour, but they didn’t crack the top two spots.

colleen @ foodietots didn’t know how to feel when bad news made her bad choice better:
Sometimes I make white rice because it’s faster… is it weird to feel slightly vindicated?

I don’t think it’s weird. But here is something else to consider. My mother reminded me that scientists are getting closer to being able to cure cancer. Since the concern of inorganic arsenic is ultimately cancer, the technological optimists should see no problem in staying the course with brown rice. Generally, Mrs. Fussy is a technological pessimist, so it’s funny to see her changing sides on the rice issue.

Eric Scheirer Stott might as well be asking me to predict the future:
Are Steel Cut Oats still OK?

Thank you for making me google danger and steel cut oats. Because as opposed to the story about brown rice, I’m very glad that I found this.

Like me, Cher would like to put her head back in the sand:
Can I pretend that I haven’t heard this news?

No, but you can keep on eating brown rice. Seek out brands that are lower in inorganic arsenic than the others. I’m kind of hoping to find some good Korean brand. For completely ridiculous reasons, this has become my prefered nation from which to buy Asian foodstuffs. The biggest thing to look out for is all the secret concentrated rice you are giving to your young children in addition to all the wholesome brown rice. That brown rice syrup has got to go. No more Cascadian Farm organic granola bars for the Fussy Little Children. Maybe they can cry all the arsenic out of their system.

Elyse asks a weighted question and gets a weighted answer:
People keep suggesting alternative grains to me, but are any grains safe, given the circumstances? Or does brown rice take up more chemicals from the soil than, say quinoa?

I’m pretty sure that eating brown rice every single day is still safer than getting into your car every single day. No, I don’t have the numbers, but I think it’s a good bet. Cars are dangerous. I don’t want to make light of this, but pretty much everyone gets cancer. It’s usually something else that kills you first, though. That said, rice absorbs more inorganic arsenic because of how it’s grown in water. The thing to remember is to eat a varied diet. That way when the next bombshell drops about how _____ is really terrible for you, at least you haven’t been eating it several times per week.

Count irisira among those who are considering cutting out rice:
Is this just affecting brown rice? From your post it sounds like much of the arsenic is shed when blanching to white, but I could be misreading. If I am, and the arsenic is present in the white, this could be the kick in the pants we need to get off the rice. Which will make C very sad.

Nope. It’s affecting all rice. But that’s not all. Sometimes you have to check out what foreign governments are saying when it comes to protecting their citizens from toxic elements in their food supply, because ours doesn’t seem too concerned with the matter. Hong Kong has not only come up with acceptable limits based on micrograms per kilogram of body weight, but also has identified which food categories are most likely to be contaminated with inorganic arsenic. That’s the good news. The bad news is that fish come up higher than rice on that list.

I’m going to have maryonhudson answer her own question:
Who sells the best Baklava in the Albany area?

The only way to know for sure is to have your own little mini tour. I’ll make it easy for you, and even give you a short list of places to try. When you are done, I expect you to share your results. I’d suggest Anton’s, Phoenicians, Mamoun’s, Nora’s, and Beirut. Others may disagree. Feel free to mix it up a bit. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness asks the ultimate question:
Were any of them worth the trip compared to either Golden Harvest or Indian Ladder?

If you like the crusty sugar drenched donuts at Golden Harvest and Indian Ladder, nothing up north is worth the drive. That said, the Hicks cider donuts warm are pretty special. It’s a long drive, and it’s not worth it for the donuts alone. But it would be totally worthwhile to make a day of it, do the full tasting in their cider house, and hit some other north country attractions. It’s not cider donut nirvana, unless you are in the camp that prefers softer cider donuts in the first place. Because for you, this place might just be heaven.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. -R. permalink
    September 27, 2012 10:29 am

    Mary, since you’ll be in Troy sampling baklava at Beirut (and in the same neighborhood there’s also The Greek House to try), I’d suggest popping up the hill to 15th for some of the baklava at Ali Baba; I’ve found it quite tasty. IMO, it’s worth going to Ali Baba for a meal as well – the lavash bread is simply divine.

    • maryonhudson permalink
      September 27, 2012 11:19 am

      Thank you. Will try as many as possible tomorrow.

    • September 27, 2012 2:18 pm

      Just finished a post about Ali Baba, wherein I mentioned the baklava briefly. I thought it was pretty good, all covered in sugar syrup, but it might be too sweet for some.

      • maryonhudson permalink
        September 27, 2012 4:43 pm

        So, looked at the geography, and did a mini-tour today.
        Husband generously tasted.
        1. Beirut – favorite – pistachio on top, walnut & syrup inside. 2 triangles 3″ square for $2.
        2. Greek House – walnut only. 1 triangle, 3.5″ for $5. Second choice, but double the price.
        3. Nora’s – pistachio on top, walnut inside. 2 triangles 2.5″ for $2. Third choice, but fine. The store was a wonderful surprise!!!! Will return.
        4. Ali Baba – walnut – least favorite. 4 little squares 3″ for $5.
        All four edible, none wonderful, doesn’t compare to Martha’s (Route 1 Hampton Falls) in New Hampshire.

  2. September 27, 2012 11:00 am

    Next week (I believe it’s October 1-7) all 36 Stewart’s ice cream flavors are on sale for $2.99 a half gallon. In typical non-marketing fashion, they announced the sale in advance (meaning it will cut into sales the week before) and in their quirky way they call it “two pints”. As I dig deeper I am really liking these guys. And would even without the Deli Dogs.

    • Stevo permalink
      September 27, 2012 12:43 pm

      BMF, thank you for the suggestions for my trip to SF (ask TP 8-15). I managed to make it to Fringale and it was wonderful. Probably the best meal I had all week. I also stopped by the food court at the Westfield Centre for lunch and enjoyed it as well.

      Daniel, unfortunately I was unable to do the burrito tour. But I did have a delicious, steaming hot bowl of cioppino at Tadich Grill. Man that was good. I had leftovers and ate them for breakfast the next morning! I also made it to Blue Bottle. Luckily the line was short. I ordered breakfast (which was amazing) and a Gibraltar. I did my best to sip it, but it was so good, next thing I knew it was gone and my food hadn’t even come out yet. At that point the line was so long there was no way I was going to get up and order another. Next time I’ll order two. Thank you!

      • September 28, 2012 8:47 am

        Glad you liked it, Stevo. I have a new SF tip for those who find themselves in the Ferry Plaza at lunchtime. Il Cane Rosso, a little stand opposite Slanted Door at the north end of the building. Comfort food with some imaginative add-ins, like peaches in the cole slaw and jalapeños in the lemonade (no, trust me, both were great).

  3. September 27, 2012 1:53 pm

    We got sucked in by the convenience of the cider donuts at Stewart’s. Meh. I would say they’re average at best, but I suppose they could satisfy a craving in a pinch (better than the ones we picked up from The Cookie Factory in Hannaford, actually).

    • September 29, 2012 11:38 am

      I haven’t had either of the above, but I have had the cider donuts from Bella Napoli. They are not “the same” as the ones you get on the farm, but they’re tasty in a pinch and they have a liberal cinnamon sugar coating. They would never win a tour, IMO (then again, Suttons did remarkably well – I would get those donuts again, and I’ll bet hot they are amazing, even if Suttons itself annoys the crap out of me for other reasons), but I would be willing to bet they’re better than what you find at the grocery store or Stewarts.

  4. christine permalink
    September 27, 2012 4:11 pm

    Ah, Stewart’s… Some things you should buy there are lottery tickets, maybe milk and if you smoke- cigarettes. Their ice cream is okay but man is it ever FROZEN. It takes a little bit to thaw it out or alot of muscle if you want the stuff NOW. Even more disturbing is the replacement of the hot dog steamers with one of those rolling hot dog cookers! What is Stewart’s thinking?

    • -R. permalink
      September 28, 2012 10:45 am

      Stewart’s also makes the best mass produced half and half sold in the immediate region. You know why? It’s NOT ultra-pasteurized, meaning (as far as I can tell), that it’s NOT loaded with chemicals to give it a shelf life of six months like most of (all?) the other half and half’s one finds in grocery stores. Dairy products shouldn’t last more than a week or so under normal circumstances, and Stewart’s half and half expires within the usual dairy time frame. Does it really take people six months to go through a pint of half and half? Does that shit in the grocery store even require refrigeration?

      • September 29, 2012 11:40 am

        AGREE. It’s my go-to in-a-pinch half-and-half provider. And it’s cheaper than most of the stuff you find in the grocery store. I LOVE Battenkill’s the best, but man is it hard to find outside of the local farmer’s markets. I’ll be in Niskayuna for a 5K tomorrow morning so I’m headed to the Greenmarket after; can’t wait to get some Battenkill H&H and some 3 Chicks & an Pea hummus. :)

  5. September 27, 2012 5:00 pm

    “How do you know your readers are good looking?”

    Haha, that is why I don’t come on your tours. My man-beauty would distract everyone from their donut eating….

  6. September 28, 2012 2:28 pm

    I would invite you over, but of course I grew up outside of San Francisco.

  7. September 29, 2012 11:41 am

    I could have done the research myself on the rice, or even asked you about it last week, but it had been too long since I had been in AskTP. :)

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