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AskTP – Pizza Season

October 10, 2012

Time for me to break out the fat pants. Beach season is over and pizza season has begun. Every year around this time, All Over Albany breaks out their Tournament of Pizza. And once again I am honored to sit on the panel of judges that has the arduous job of deciding upon the best pizza in the region.

Dammit, it’s really harder than it sounds. The judges take the task very seriously. And we eat a lot of pizza for the sake of science. Check out this year’s bracket, and catch up on the early rounds.

But even if you aren’t judging food competitions, now is the time to indulge. The baggy winter clothes are coming. And if you don’t pick up a few pounds of warm, insulating body fat in October, you aren’t going to have any resolutions about losing a few pounds in January. Get with the program.

So I’ll just make myself comfy here with a bowl of ice cream and answer a few reader questions that have collected dust over the past couple of weeks. Because that’s what I do. Every question that includes an actual question mark eventually gets answered in this feature we call Ask the Profussor. But proper punctuation is critical. Now onto the questions.

christine echoed the sentiments of Mr. Dave when it comes to C-Store wieners:
Even more disturbing is the replacement of the hot dog steamers with one of those rolling hot dog cookers! What is Stewart’s thinking?

Corporations aren’t people. They don’t think. So I can’t read their mind. But here are few wild guesses:
– Death to soggy buns!
– Oooh. Rolling sausages. Sooo relaxing.
– Hot dog flavored taquitos or taquito flavored hot dogs?

Tonia is looking for the best alternative to GMOs:
But, the answer seems to be to grow heirloom vegetables?

Heirloom vegetables can be great. But there are also good reasons crossbreeds have been developed. These new plants that are developed by cross pollinating different cultivars are often used to muddy the waters by lumping them in with the science of genetic engineering. Do not fall for this obfuscating rhetoric.

-R had a Profussor worthy rant, so I just included the whole thing:
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?

Indeed! That said, so does Trader Joe’s. That Joe guy has some great stuff.

irisira is looking for a few good words:
We use the term “craft” when it comes to beer and spirits, I’m not sure it’s appropriate for dairy and produce. (I mean … “craft dairy barn”?)

How about “small”? Small dairy and small agriculture have a nice ring to them. Although it totally rips off Ogilvy.

Debra only wants the one thing she can’t get:
I would like to know where to find pumpkin donuts this time of year. Apple cider donuts are plentiful, but I only used to be able to find the pumpkin ones at Chatham Bakery which has been gone for awhile now. Any ideas where else these are sold?

I hear tale of a place out by Cooperstown, but you should probably call first just to check.

Tonia poses a really hard question:
There are many things “homemade” that are just as easy to prepare as the pre-made or processed versions…I think you are on to something here, but how to change this mentality?

Part of me wants to say by showing people in person how easy it is to do, and then letting them taste the real version of the food versus the processed version of the same food. But there are two major problems with that approach. One, it takes a massive investment of time to reach even a small handful of people. I’m okay with that.

The bigger issue is that people won’t find the real version of the food any better, because they have been programed to believe that microwave popcorn is exactly how popcorn should taste. The real stuff with actual butter may very well taste weird to some who have spent their entire life enjoying that chemical burn that comes from a bag hot out of the microwave.

Part of the trick is to reach people when they are younger. Before they have been totally corrupted.

Rachael apparently has some connection with the corn of central New York:
Do you know where, specifically, in CNY the corn for batch #4 came from? Just curious.

Thanks to Albany Distilling Company’s John Curtin and his late night emails, I’m pleased to report that the corn for batch #4 is Wapsie Valley corn from Lakeview Organics in Penn Yan, NY. I think you would be hard pressed to find better corn in any whiskey.

Mr. Dave is the funniest grumpy old man ever:
Remember back around circa 2008? There were only a couple “Upstate” or “Albany” or “Capital Region” people writing about our little corner of the world… We had our crappy little Blogspot blogs, crappy pictures, and grammatical errors.

Oh you hush. Blogs are fluid beasts. The come and they go. They ebb and they flow. I miss some of the local food blogs from back in the day too. But people actually sometimes leave upstate New York or tire of writing down their observations about food, as unthinkable as those two things may sound.

DerryX can’t follow my logic:
Following your Mexican restaurant logic, this one place should be all the area needs for people seeking out vegetarian fare. Why push the envelope any further? …I just don’t understand where you fit into the equation on this matter; maybe this just means I can count on you to stand by me to challenge the Mexican restaurants in the area to try harder to cater to those who want authentic, inspired Mexican meals.

You don’t get it. Mexico is far far away. You may long for good Mexican food here, and that’s a fine thing to wish for. I wish for Ethiopian food. But in this corner of the world, we have no reason to expect authentic regional specialties from either country. I consider the region incredibly lucky to have a place like Ala Shanghai in our midst. But I recognize this is the exception and not the norm.

But you know what is a heck of a lot closer? Farms. Amazing farms that grow a ton of delicious produce and grain, most of which doesn’t get featured on Albany restaurant menus. Pushing more restaurants to vegetarian food is pushing them away from industrially produced and factory farmed meat. And even if the vegetarian food doesn’t ultimately drive more local produce onto the menu, it will at least give me a better option to eat than the meat from animals fed junk to make them fat and antibiotics to keep them alive.

I think suzanne was serious when she asked this:
Why are you surprised by strawberries in October?

I was unfortunate enough to have some organic California strawberries at the height of the season in June. Never have I had a berry during the height of our season that even came close. So yeah, there are some straggling late season varieties. Just because you can grow strawberries in October doesn’t mean that you should.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. christine permalink
    October 10, 2012 9:23 am

    No questions today, Mister Fussy. Since you are bringing up pizza, I just wanted to brag a little and mention that I am the new, proud owner of an outside wood fired pizza oven. Husband spent a month or so building a very cool, totally homemade pizza making appliance that we plan to use quite often over the fall and winter. There is a learning curve and when we used it this past weekend for the first time the pizza was good, but not perfect. The plan is to do other things in the oven as well, like bread, chickens and maybe even a brisket.

    • October 10, 2012 2:01 pm

      This sounds incredibly awesome. Now just tell me that you also own a Big Green Egg (or, hell, built your own smoker) and I’m moving in.

      • christine permalink
        October 10, 2012 7:51 pm

        Nope, sorry, just the pizza oven….

  2. Eric Scheirer Stott permalink
    October 10, 2012 10:00 am

    The only way you should grow strawberries in October around here is if you have an Edwardian hothouse, preferably with a Scottish gardener to tend each plant.

  3. October 10, 2012 12:08 pm

    I really have to give you a time out on the Stewart’s hot dog thing. Mr. Dave also reported that when he tweeted about the transition from steamed to rolled-grill hotdogs, Gary Dake tweeted right back and told him some stores still have the steamed one and it’s manager’s choice. I then tweeted to ask where I could find steamers in Saratoga and Gary Dake tweeted me right back with store locations. For a non-thinking corporation, the would seem to be doing a pretty good job of paying attention to their customers.

    And if you want to settle this steamed vs roll-grilled, you can find them both side by side at the Circular at Broadway shop. Which did I prefer? Well, that’s a topic for a blog post one of these days over at Burnt My Fingers…

    • October 10, 2012 5:13 pm

      By the way, notice I included a question. (Or do you have software that identifies that automatically?) (That was another question.)

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