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AskTP – Rock the Vote

November 7, 2012

Well it’s the day after. Unless the results were contested, Barack Obama won the national election. Now we can move past the horserace and get onto the serious work at hand.

Today, that’s answering reader questions.

Yes, it’s yet another installment of Ask the Profussor. I have committed to answering every question that’s asked in the comments, just so long as it’s asked with proper punctuation. Whether or not it’s the answer you want is another matter entirely.

I hope you voted yesterday. Speaking of voting, please make sure to check out the mystery link of the day. But without any further ado, onto the questions.

Burnt My Fingers couldn’t wrap his head around my position on consistency:
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.

You know what’s great? When a reader is able to articulate one of my deeply held beliefs that I wrote about many moons ago. Stevo answered BMF’s question above in the comments section and he totally nailed it. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy all over.

Masticating Monkey has me stumped:
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?

I’m not finding the answer in my paid subscription to Cooks Illustrated. But among the top three choices, I’d be compelled to go with the Valrhona Cacao Pate Extra 100%.

KB @ Home Baked Happiness was optimistic about Sweet Temptations:
Maybe they actually made their product edible now? That would be good.

The cupcakes were more than just edible. They were fantastic. It makes me really pissed about the cupcakes we got in the blind tasting. Seriously, it was night and day. And I was the one who picked up the cupcakes from Sweet Temptations on St. Patrick’s Day morning. They were fresh off the rack; packed up as I stood there. Maybe with the closing of the Schenectady location, Sweet Temptations is retrenching and focusing on putting out the best product they can. I have no idea. But whatever it is, it’s better than good.

Jean Patiky clearly hasn’t seen my entry into the Bellini’s Restaurant recipe contest:
Maybe you shoulda been a Rabbi…. Or maybe you kinda ARE one!!?

I love my rabbi, but it’s a crappy job. Too many meetings. And far far too many needy people. Plus while I’d be a reform rabbi, people would probably be intensely uncomfortable with my love of pork. Speaking of pork, you should check out the link of the week.

Deanna was curious about the identity of a fellow commenter:
Is that really your mom? Love it. I wish MY mom would comment on my blog. She just calls me and tells me her comment(s), instead.

Yes. Yes, it is. Knowing that my mom is reading my posts keeps me in check. However, I don’t think she’s on Twitter. I love my mother, but It’s nice to have a corner of the Internet where I have a little privacy from her.

-R wants to parse form and identity:
what kind of ‘cheese’ exactly is in cheese sticks (or perhaps it should be ‘stix’)?

Really, I believe they should be logs of hand-cut pieces from a block of mozzarella. Do not discount bricks of cheese. Its application on the classic New York style slice of pizza is unimpeachable. To suggest otherwise is fatuous.

Josh K was jumping the gun on talk about cheese sticks:
So is it often agreed around here that Ralph’s is the originator of the form? And isn’t the Raspberry sauce called Melba? Or around here is it simply Raspberry sauce?

No. Sometimes. Not always.

KB @ Home Baked Happiness isn’t feeling raspberry sauce:
Will tasters have the option of getting marinara sauce instead?

Not if I can help it. Listen. I know you don’t agree with this, but this isn’t about fried cheese. Fried cheese with marinara is available everywhere. Getting mozzarella logs with melba sauce can only be found here. The mere fact that it exists here and not elsewhere makes the dish worthy of further exploration. And dammit, that’s what I plan to do.

Todd who owns TJs tells us a bit about his stick:
I Think TJ’s has it over many other local places for the last 16yrs….hand cut, hand breaded mozz….scratch made raspberry sauce….whats not to love?

The devil is in the details. That, and the execution. But I’m looking forward to coming in and putting your mozz through the paces.

Reba keenly observed:
I can’t help but wonder if mozza sticks with raspberry sauce came about as a “down and dirty” cousin of baked (fried) brie with raspberry puree?

Yes. This. Seriously, the flavor profile isn’t that strange, and the fact that there is a gussied up parallel that involves brie wasn’t lost on me. If people hadn’t been conditioned to think of marinara sauce as the natural complement to this bar snack, this wouldn’t have such a strong negative reaction to this dish. Why it only exsts upstate though remains a mystery.

Jean Patiky started telling stories of my childhood:
Professor when you were just a wee fusser of 4 , we used to frequent the Atlantic Restaurant ion Atlantic Avenue, walking distance from our Brooklyn apartment and had the best Lebanese food and sweets, Actually Sahadi importing company is located there as well….three of us ate a sumptuous dinner for under 10.00! Don’t you remember the warm bread, babaganoush, hummus, kabobs and sweets?

Nope. I remember the Blimpie, the Baskin Robins, banana flavored Columbo frozen yogurt, the Burger Kind, the Good Humor man (and his change belt), and couple of my birthday parties (viking and cowboy). I remember vegetable tempura at the Spiral restaurant and my first ribs ever at Shorty’s. But I recall very little before my little sister was born.

CP is trying to be diplomatic, but I’m not buying it:
How about “Local Curiosity” rather than “Local Specialty”?

There aren’t a lot of things up here that we can call our own. I say embrace them in all their weirdness, warts and all.

Elyse seems to forget that my tours generally involve a bit of travel:
How great would it be if we could travel back in time and have a tour de egg cream in brooklyn?

If we could travel back in time, the Tour de Egg Cream would involve at least three boroughs.

irisira is trying to make sense of KBs denial of Mozz & Raz:
Based on the names of the restaurants, aside from the spot in Gloversville, they’re all in Albany/Colonie. I consider myself local in that I hail from “the 518″, but really I grew up much further north. Knowing you’re in Saratoga County, I wonder if this is a “specialty” that never made it north of the twins?

I heard that there is a good version at Circus Cafe in Saratoga Springs. But the concentration does seem to be around Albany and Colonie, but more specifically in the area’s taverns. Part of me wonders if the blind spot of some Capital Region residents to this dish has to do with class. I have no idea. My hope was to put some sociologists on the case. But no dice so far.

Mr. K W James wonders what it will take to make KB happy:
Maybe KB will be satisfied if we define the region of this “regional specialty” as zip codes 12201 – 12214?

I doubt it.

todd may have been just a wee bit excited about TC Bakery Paris:
Creme Brulee….rustic fruit tarts…inside the chocolate Gecko?!?!?! Forget about it!!! you had me at macaron !!!! anybody have a spare insulin shot? my blood sugar is rising just thinking about this ;)

Sorry about that. This could be dangerously delicious.

Eric Scheirer Stott is contemplating City Dining Cards and his navel:
Mmmmm, tempting, and it could expand my food experience- but am I worthy?

Sure. But we’ll all await with breathless anticipation as to who will choose in this latest giveaway.

phairhead is snipe hunting:
I’ve been searching for that rare bird….a bar that makes their own grenadine and sour mix. Am I chasing a phantom?

First I’m wondering what drink you are looking for that uses grenadine. Your best hope is probably dp or 9 Maple. Maybe The Point. But for the most part I’ve given up on the search for good cocktails out here.

Ewan must not have carefully read the last AskTP:
OK, so why have you not responded to my invitation to the Patroon room? :-)))

I’m pretty sure I did.

Chrystal should probably combine efforts with phairhead:
Do you know any bar around here that makes their own tonic using tonic syrup like Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic?

Wow. No, I don’t. I’d be happy with a bar that used a high quality small batch tonic water. But i also hear it’s not that hard to make at home with quinine tablets, alhough I’m happy to pay for the good stuff.

Incidentally, you know it’s November right? What are you doing with tonic water?

Mr. Sunshine is on a roll:
But don’t you think the lower-than-expected sales suggest that the Albany area is just not “spicy” enough? The raspberry-and-mozzarella and teeny wienies crowd just don’t go to Penzey’s!

You must never have seen the jars of Raspberry Enlightenment on the shelf at Penzeys. All kidding aside, I don’t know for a fact that they do have lower-than-expected sales. But I do know they look closely at the catalog sales before moving into an area. So we do buy spices here, but it sounds like we may be resistant to buy them at the mall.

irisira made a shocking confession:
Also, we have no Allspice. What?! :)

I guess we know that you aren’t Jamaican.

Christine wants some history, but I’m going to give her a practical strategy:
Who invented the concept of the mall anyway? I detest shopping in all malls and I can count the number of times I’ve gone to Crossgates on one hand. It’s just so much easier to park in front of a store, amble a few steps and then- you’re in!

It’s credited to a guy named Apollodorus of Damascus. But let me help you with the larger problem. Buying spices at Penzeys in Crossgates should be no harder than getting them from a standalone store.

Here’s the trick. Enter the mall from Rapp Road on the far southwest corner of the property. Skip the light on the access road and turn right to merge onto the access road in a counter-clockwise direction. Make a left turn in advance of the light to head into the lot by the big Dick’s. Park to the east of Dick’s, and there is a door a few paces away that will let you in by the Fresh Healthy Cafe. Penzeys is just down the hall and to the right.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Annie permalink
    November 7, 2012 11:31 am

    Wow, that’s a LOT of questions. And, Sahadi’s is the best! Didn’t know it held family history for us… even better! Let’s go next time you are in NYC

  2. -R. permalink
    November 7, 2012 12:03 pm

    You left out an important historical note regarding Apollodorus of Damascus: he was reportedly put to death by Hadrian for scrutinizing the emperor’s architectural abilities (he designed the Temple of Venus and Rome which Apollodorus criticized…luckily, he didn’t say anything about the Pantheon, which Hadrian also renovated). Apollodorus is credited with building Trajan’s market in Rome.

    See what building malls gets you?

  3. November 7, 2012 12:05 pm

    If only bars in Albany/Colonie have it… then it’s not really a regional food, but rather one specific to one city (and its suburb). That would explain a lot, since many people who live in the region don’t often, or ever, go to bars in Albany/Colonie.

  4. November 7, 2012 12:31 pm

    I swear I didn’t imagine or dream about Chris Kimball testing baking chocolate, but I’ve stumped myself, too, now. I probably saw it on a rerun of the America’s Test Kitchen show on the splendid PBS Create channel.

  5. November 7, 2012 2:32 pm

    Here be Chris Kimball’s chocolate test, and Hershey’s as winner ~

  6. November 7, 2012 5:02 pm

    I’m not giving up on this consistency thing. Emerson said that “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” and I think that is the kind of consistency you are dissing. Specifically, you praised Harvest Spirits because each of its batches is different, and Stevo damned consistency with faint praise by saying it’s something that chain restaurants strive for.

    But here’s the thing. The average restaurant-goer doesn’t necessarily want to be surprised each time they order a familiar dish, even if it’s at a fine dining restaurant. They like that dish and may have gone to that restaurant specifically to enjoy it. They are spending a lot of money, and are investing a fair amount of time in the experience. To think that the chef can instead pull rabbits out of a hat and they’ll consistently be delighted is just unrealistic and not a recipe for commercial success. What do you have to say to that?

  7. November 7, 2012 7:10 pm

    Profussor, what do you think of the recent chef exits at the Flying Chicken and Creo? I’m especially surprised Brian Bowden leaving Creo as I thought he was doing great things there. Thoughts?

    • November 7, 2012 8:11 pm

      Where did you hear about Chef Bowden leaving Creo?! I have not heard this and can’t seem to find anything about it. I think he has been doing a great job as it is one of our favorite places to dine and I love his food. I would be truly disappointed to hear of his departure. :(

  8. llcwine permalink
    November 8, 2012 10:17 am

    @Todd, it’s on the Table Hopping Blog…Steve Barnes reported it….

  9. November 10, 2012 2:11 pm

    Ha! I was just surprised I didn’t have any allspice. I had a recipe for a sausage soup that called for it, and I thought for sure we had some. Nope. In this case, it was easy enough to substitute something else (I used cayenne instead), but I want to have some on hand.

    Regarding the taverns, that’s a good point. I don’t necessarily know if I would use the word “class,” though. I went to a lot of taverns in Glens Falls growing up with my mother and my grandparents as, these establishments do tend to be “family friendly” at certain hours (and the list of places you have on your list fit that mold), but I don’t have kids, so I don’t generally go to “family friendly” taverns. That said, I still want to try the Orchard Tavern at some point.

    Also, I am willing to put my marinara-snobbery aside and try this dish, skeptical though I am. But I don’t want to take a slot away from someone who is super psyched about this. Keep me posted. :)

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