Nominations for Mozzarella and Melba
As a kid I grew up in Brooklyn Heights. And you know what? I really could not tell you anything about the regional food of the borough, based on my childhood. Today, I could discuss the Brooklyn style of egg cream and the brilliant pizza shops that reside there.
Which makes it very possible that someone could have grown up in the Capital Region and not had any idea that mozzarella sticks with raspberry (aka Melba) sauce are a specialty of the region.
Sometimes it takes an interloper. Someone who has been around to come into an area and realize something is done differently here than it is everywhere else. Although there are some locals who appreciate these things too. Mr. Dave takes significant pride in the regional foods of his homeland. And I too want to celebrate these ever rarer regional variations in food culture, and in many ways that is what the Fussy Little Tours are intended to do.
Although these usually come with reactions of horror and disgust from Mr. Dave as I venture forth to pick apart and examine his beloved foodstuffs.
But I haven’t let that stop me in the past. And it’s not going to stop me now. Because today I am officially opening up nominations for the Tour de Mozzarella and Melba.
I do have a little bit of bad news. This tour is going to be different from those conducted in the past. And it pains me, but to pull this off there will be executional realities that need to be considered.
Counter service fish fry, walk up ice cream stands, hot dog joints, and apple orchard bake shops all have something in common: it’s easy for groups of varying size to come, get their food, evaluate it and leave. They are set up to do a high volume of a particular food item without a large order causing quality to diminish. And the foot traffic of a large group doesn’t disrupt the regular operations of the business.
Things got a little bit tight at the Tour de Egg Sandwich, especially at Jack’s Diner. And I’m trying to learn from my past experiences.
So this tour is going to have a very limited number of spots. And as a result, I will not be announcing it publicly. Instead I’ll be emailing a select list of commenters and past participants in these kinds of events.
Yeah. It sucks. But I have a plan to make it up to you in the Spring.
However, that makes your participation at this point in the game even more critical. Because I’m asking for your help in nominating which restaurants we should visit for the tour. And as usual, I’m already starting with a short list. But given my relatively recent arrival in the region, there are probably other places that are off my radar which should be included.
As always the tour will consist of five stops. Plus it wouldn’t be a tour without a little bit of driving. And dammit, sometimes you need that drive to take a break from eating.
TJ’s is at the top of my list. Todd is a regular commenter. And I’ve met the guy. He takes a lot of pride in what he does. His commitment to fresh ingredients is impressive. It’s been far too long since I’ve been in there. And I’d love to see what he does with this classic regional dish.
Ralph’s was once one of the greats in the region. I can’t go back in time. But I can hope that some of that institutional knowledge found some way to filter down over the years. Maybe even though its glory days are gone, it is possible that their cheese logs are still better than most. We’ve got to try them to see.
Scubbers had great wings in their Latham location. I’ve been less impressed with their Wolf Road location. But I never had their mozzarella sticks at the old spot. So I can only judge them against the others we will try that day.
Across the Street Pub is another place that was mentioned a lot on the interwebs both in the past and in the present. Despite being a rather dark and small place it continues to pack in patrons. They must be doing something right.
My last pick is the dangerous one. It’s the one that would keep attendance of the tour down even if I opened it up to the general public. That’s Big Mike’s Hot Dog Place in Gloversville. Yeah, it’s far away. But there is some awfully specific information available on the Internet that I have no particular reason to trust, which claims these were the first cheese sticks in the region to be served with raspberry sauce. However, even the faintest possibility of this makes it worth the trip.
That said, other names that get tossed around are The Fountain, The Orchard and Circus Cafe. Back in the day people loved The Lexington Grill. But we are stuck in 2012 and my time machine hasn’t worked in years.
This will also be different from previous tours because all participating places will know that they are participating. I’m hoping that each place could manage with a group of twelve of us coming in to eat, chat, score, pay and leave without disrupting their regular Saturday business too badly. But it’s also possible that some places will not want to play our little reindeer games, or at the very least prefer we come with a smaller posse.
So that too could have an influence in which restaurants are included in the final tour. But I really really want to hear from you before I get in touch with the restaurants. Where should we go. Equally important is where should we avoid at all costs.
When it is all said and done, I’m hoping those of you who were not able to come along on the official tour, will go and do it on your own. I can even supply you with scoresheets if you like. Or you could decide to do less damage to your body than the participants on the tour, and simply go and try what we determined to be the best mazzarella and melba in the region.