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AskTP – Judgy McJudgerson

October 24, 2012

The 2012 All Over Albany Tournament of Pizza (sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union) is going to have a winner by the end of this week. The tournament has been flying by so quickly, and there has been so much going on, it feels like I barely had time to write anything about it.

But the semi-final round was amazing. DeFazio’s Buffalo chicken pizza is fantastic. The only thing that could make it better is if the chicken were breaded and fried. There’s that fat tooth popping up again.

Of course there’s the cupcake competition to judge too. But after that I get to take a little breather, just in time for Halloween. And before you know it Thanksgiving will be upon us. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today we are answering reader questions, in the semi-regular format of Ask the Profussor. I’ve committed to answering every query that is submitted to the comments with proper punctuation. Yes, it would be easier reply as each one came in, but life gets in the way. Plus these AskTP posts continue to be a lot of fun to write. So, without any further ado, onto the questions.

Burnt My Fingers asked a question of himself and then a follow up question to me:
By the way, notice I included a question. (Or do you have software that identifies that automatically?) (That was another question.)

I did, but I cannot tell you which hot dog you preferred. However I can answer your other question. If you count “search” as software, the answer is yes. I’m pretty low tech. When it comes time to do these AskTP posts, I go to the comments page on the WordPress dashboard, and search for question marks. Then it’s cut and paste. Easy peasy.

Stevo has some technical questions about the Tournament of Pizza:
I’m assuming the pizzas are cold or at best tepid when you taste them?

They haven’t been cold. It would be interesting to use a laser thermometer to get a reading. But i have the sense that most are slightly above room temperature, with only a few being perceptibly warm.

It’s a brutal way to evaluate a pizza. But all the pies are competing on the same battlefield. And unfortunately, this is the way a lot of people eat their pizza. But it has damned some pizzas to fail. Mostly this was the problem last year with DeFazio’s final entry, which utilized fresh mozzarella. Maybe that higher quality cheese tastes better fresh from the oven, but It did not hold up to the rigors of transportation as well as its traditional shredded counterpart.

Mr. Dave was disappointed with UAlbany for a different reason:
Hotdog topping contest at UAlbany (my Alma Matter) and no meat sauce? The organizers of “Fallbany” are living a lie.

To be fair, there was a topping called ground beef. I didn’t get to look too closely at it, but that could have been a saucy beef based topping. If I wanted to know what was in the meat sauce at our hot dog places I would seek out the information. But I know in Flint,Michigan they include ground cow hearts. So I’d just as soon not ask.

Ewan made a very generous offer:
I would be delighted to take you to lunch at the Patroon Room one day; I’ve been pretty impressed (especially this year) with their quality of food and efforts to at least move in the direction of local sourcing. Let me know?

Thank you. I’ve heard good things about the Patroon Room. This might be something to try over the winter when soup becomes more appealing and deeply satisfying.

Deanna questioned my choice of words and my criticism of U Albany:
Phantasmagorical – really? I have family that lives in Sherburne and I drive through there often. I’ll try to look into the JD Farms situation for you.I guess we need to give UAlbany a little credit for trying. It’s a valid attempt. Maybe next year will be better. (Small steps towards change usually yield more permanent results than flash-in-the-pan revolutions, right?)

“Phantasmagoria” as defined by Merriam-Webster,  “3: a bizarre or fantastic combination, collection, or assemblage.” So yes, really. As far as making small steps toward sustainability, sometimes it’s difficult to unravel whether something is a small step forward or a token effort so they can make an inflated claim. I suppose part of the answer will depend on if you can find anything about JD Farms. But the skeptic in me feels that this is not a small step forward, but simply a hollow marketing effort. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Jazzngas wants to know where I get all those wonderful toys:
Where do you buy the Shan Pav Bhaji mix?

That came from Parivar. But our South Asian and Asian markets are all wonderful resources. It may be time for you to get out and explore. Just in case you don’t like going outside I have added it to the FUSSYlittleSTORE and now you can buy it from your bed.

Stanford Steph may be shocked when she hears the answer to her reasonable question:
I don’t suppose you’ve ever tried to reduce the amount of butter? Sounds interesting but I can’t see myself making that with 2 sticks of butter in it.

The two sticks *is* the reduced amount of butter. It’s just the maximum that I can personally justify feeding to others. Vegetables can be decadent. Think mashed potatoes, but with better flavor and color.

It sounds like Mr. Dave might have nickname envy:
I live in Delmar not far from Delaware Ave. Can I call my neighborhood DelDelSoSo (Delmar Delaware South South)?

I think that would be DelmarDelSoSo. But that’s just picking nits.

Luckily for WrigsMac, I don’t set the bar for maturity above the third grade level:
Is it wrong that your last sentence made me giggle like a 7th grader?

Naturally, she’s referring to Mr. Dave’s line, “I will have to go over to the Cheese Traveller and poke about in his meat case…” And the only thing wrong about this is that I didn’t write it.

Deanna was recalling her favorite memories from the Creo/AOA dinner:
And that chard empanada?

Loved that chard empanada. They nailed the crust. They nailed the filling. Personally, I would have liked to see them take the steak and fill another empanada with that instead of the sous vide preparation of beef on the plate. Maybe chef Brian can put White Clover Farm beef empanadas on the menu soon. Maybe for lunch? Please?

innaepark also was pleased she came out to the Creo/AOA event:
Had a lovely, lovely time. How could I not, with such wonderful food and company?

Like always there were too many interesting people to meet and I regret not getting to come over to your table over the course of the meal. But with so many farmers in the room, and my terrible track record for getting out to our local farms I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and get to talk with them more about what they do. I’m glad you were able to stick around a bit after the meal to catch up.

irisira must have gotten some bum batch of instant pudding in the past:
If I actually have to get a pot out and boil something, anyway, why not just do it the right way?

Mrs. Fussy has a soft spot for instant pudding. In fact, she just made some last night. I watched as she put powder in the cereal bowl, then milk, and mixed out the lumps. In minutes the mass congeals before your eyes and turns into “pudding”. The hope is that once it’s inside you, it stops congealing. But I find the whole thing entirely unappealing.

But yes, if you are going to boil something anyway it makes sense to do it from scratch.

irisira’s compatriot C is a bigger foodie than she, yet asks the following:
“Why would I want to go to a tea store?”

Because tea stores are filled with taste experiences and some of the finest leaves from around the world. If you’ve never been to Divinitea on upper Union Street in Schenectady, you are missing out.

I have the feeling that Laura hasn’t been looking very hard:
On a side note, what ever happened to 4-H?

Um, it’s still here and in Schenectady. I bumped into the Schenectady chapter at the Greenmarket last winter. I think they were appalled at the notion they might be raising their bunnies for food. So maybe this is the kinder gentler 4-H than the one Mrs. Fussy joined in her youth. Because in those days you ate your pet lambs, and they were delicious.

I know Michaeline is only trying to help, but she has some reading to do:
Daniel, why don’t you try a wonderful & utterly consistant restaurant for a change? The name? Katrinella’s Bistro on Madison Ave. I dare you to find bigger portions…..great food, & such an excellent value!! They don’t give you a “slice” of cake for dessert….they give you a SLAB!

Thank you for the suggestion. I think Katrinella’s is a charming little place. It’s been a while since I’ve been, and some reports suggest that it’s not as good as it once was. But that aside, consistency and portion size are not things that get me excited about a restaurant. The last time I went their desserts were not made in house and were decidedly lackluster. Still, the place is a rare value in the massive sea of overpriced red-sauce Italian-American restaurants in the region. And that does indeed count for a lot in my book.

Todd totally gets it, and it warms my heart:
Why would a place offer food or service that doesn’t reflect their typical offerings? The whole idea is to get new faces through the door who would not otherwise be there as a full price customer.

In the case of Jack’s it would seem the answer is to be supportive of the BID. This is all supposition, but my take is that they begrudgingly go along with the promotion to be good citizens of the neighborhood. The only reason it could be okay to offer lesser food is that the restaurant is comfortable with the fact the suburbanites coming to partake in Restaurant Week either won’t notice, won’t care, or won’t be back regardless.

And what’s even more interesting is that it seems the tilapia served during Restaurant Week has made it onto their menu now that the promotion is over. It’s not a fish I would expect a restaurant of this caliber would be serving.

innaepark is going to make pudding, but could use a little more guidance:
Any recommendations on the type of unsweetened chocolate?

Cooks Illustrated did a tasting of unsweetened chocolate and at the top of their list was Hershey’s unsweetened baking bar, Valrhona Cacao Pate Extra 100%, and Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Dark Chocolate. As long as you are going out shopping, you may want to consider getting a little bit of instant espresso powder, as a little bit of coffee has a great way of making the chocolate flavors even deeper and darker. But then again, maybe it makes sense to do the recipe one time first entirely as written.

Josh K and the Downtown Albany BID seem to be at odds about Restaurant Week:
Sure they get bodies in for a week, but if they don’t come back, then was it worth it?

I do see Jack’s side to the story. Maybe they are squandering an opportunity here to win new business. But I doubt they can put something on a plate that’s typically of their regular menu without hemorrhaging money for under $30 a head. So their choice is either to shun the BID and be aloof like dp, Yono’s and Prime, or support the downtown community that they’ve been a part of for over 100 years. It’s hard to walk away from something like this. They are really in an impossible position, which is why I wish the BID would open up Albany’s Restaurant Week to follow the scheme used recently in Troy.

Mr. Dave never ceases to amaze me:
Fudge Fancies — For those who enjoy raw cookie dough and toothaches. Why so much fudge? Halve the fudge!

Damn your lies. You wax philosophically about the joys of mini hot dogs with meat sauce, because they are one of our very few, but uniquely special regional foods, yet you take a dump on Fudge Fancies? I take exception with your disdain.

Why so much fudge? Because it’s awesome. And the cookie is primarily a fudge delivery device. It’s not called a fudgy cookie. It’s a Fudge Fancy or Fudge Fantasy, depending upon where you are standing. But regardless, fudge always takes the top billing.

We need to sit you down and apply a little reeducation, Clockwork Orange style. Otherwise next you may deny the glory of mozzarella sticks with raspberry sauce. Or perhaps you will belittle the unique little pizza they sell at The Orchard. So let’s shore up this little fissure before it gets any worse.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Elyse permalink
    October 24, 2012 11:00 am

    Yo hearts are delicious! And probably way less scary than what’s in the actual hot dog!

  2. October 24, 2012 11:08 am

    Why is consistency not one of your criteria in judging a restaurant? If the chef can’t replicate the same thing day after day, accounting for the variability of ingredients and conditions, then how can the restaurant attract a loyal following? Otherwise I agree about Katrinella’s Bitro; on my one visit I was not impressed.

    • Stevo permalink
      October 24, 2012 12:10 pm

      I agree with Daniel on this one. One of the main drivers for chain restaurants (and one reason why they are so popular) is consistency. The chicken parm I get at Olive Garden in Albany, is the same exact chicken parm I’m going to get in any other Olive Garden anywhere in the country. And if I may be presumptuous, I think it’s that kind of consistency he’s referring to. A good chef will put out consistently good food, but there will be by nature of cooking from scratch some variance in the dish from day to day or week to week.

  3. October 24, 2012 12:42 pm

    Yeah, I am a bit unqualified to discuss sweets as I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I will say that I prefer the little tiny fudge fancies. However, I will not digress on the big ones though. All things in moderation including fudge, meat sauce, and raspberry drenched mozzarella. I repeat… TOO MUCH FUDGE!

  4. October 24, 2012 2:46 pm

    Re: Innae’s question about chocolate and the Cook’s Illustrated test, if I’m thinking of the same test, I remember being quite amused at Christopher Kimball’s disbelief that Hershey’s took the top spot–he believed this was purely a result of testers being driven by old childhood memories or something.

    I can’t remember, though, what his choice was. Ghirardelli, maybe?

  5. October 27, 2012 11:27 am

    You misunderstand me. As you know, I don’t care for processed food at all. If I am going to eat it, I need a good reason, and that reason is convenience. If I have to do dishes after, that’s not convenient. If I have to throw out a pudding container in the garbage and wash a spoon, well, THAT is convenient. :)

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