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Fussy on the Ledge

November 8, 2012

Happiness is elusive.

Things on the blog have been going great. Traffic is up and people are engaging more with the content. I got to give a guest lecture at RPI on social media and marketing which was a lot of fun. Lanny at Ala Shanghai just let me know that he could specially prepare a Szechuan dish that I’ve been missing. And I also just picked up a few ounces of some super delicious, thinly sliced salumi at The Cheese Traveler.

But all is not sunshine and light. In the past couple of days, Josh Coletto left The Flying Chicken and Brian Bowden is gone from Creo. I also finally returned to Pizza King since it reopened, and maybe they were having a bad day, but the slices weren’t close to what they had been. However, what’s weighing on me most right now is the standing of my Tuscan Braised Pork with White Beans and Shaved Red Cabbage in the Bellini’s restaurant recipe contest.

To be able to cook this recipe for the judges, the picture of the dish needs more Facebook likes. Several dozen before 1pm today tomorrow [Note: I lost track of the date, man I need more sleep] should do the trick. Otherwise I will lose because I wasn’t able to mobilize my base. And that’s the crazy part. Because you all are my base.

Maybe I didn’t do quite a good enough job explaining why I find this to be important. Or maybe you thought it was a lost cause. But I’ve got some good news and some more reasons why you should support my latest quixotic campaign.

Late last night we picked up a little momentum. The Facebook page for my entry lept from 5 Shares to 15 Shares. And looking at the competitors, I’ve come to realize that getting shares is the secret to success in this game.

But I’m also excited to have some high profile endorsements. Mr. Dave asked his twitter followers for support in this effort and yesterday Albany Jane even dedicated a blog post to the matter. When The Culinary Librarian shared it on her Facebook page, it was liked by Michael Ruhlman. Wow. I mean, that should turn around my mood right there. But even that hasn’t.

Because this isn’t about ego. It’s about changing the perceptions of food. And Italian food in this area of the world rarely goes beyond tomato based sauces and pastas. Not that there is anything wrong with classic red sauce Italian-American cuisine when done well. I love a good chicken parm as much as the next guy.

But take a look at what’s outranking my variation of Tonno del Chianti in the contest:
– Braciole stuffed with Prosciutto, Roasted Red Peppers, Ricotta and Parmigiano Cheese
– Braciole al Ragu over Spinach and Linguine
– Chicken Francaise Broccoli Rabe & Ziti
– White Lasagna
– Penne with Chicken Sausage, Brocoli Rabe and Sundried Tomatoes
– Cannelloni with Butternut Squash Bechamel
– Duck Leg with a Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette Reduction

Except for the duck leg, it’s all pasta and/or red sauce. And that’s just crazy. Because Italy is a giant country with different culinary specialties in every region. I kind of feel like the Lorax in that I’m here to speak for the cuisine.

Maybe we’ve stumbled on why people go to the Olive Garden. Too many people have no idea that Italian food is actually any different than what they serve at this national chain. And we can place that blame squarely at the feet of independent restaurants who rely on the same old uninspired dishes.

Look. My three hour olive oil simmered pork may not win the contest. But I want the judges to taste it. Not for my sake, but for yours. It’s delicious. And I hope it awakens in the owners of this restaurant a spark that there are other flavor profiles of Italian food that they can be highlighting on their menu.

Maybe my aspirations for the dish are a bit far fetched. But they will surely shrivel up and die in a few hours [note: 28 counts as a few, right?] if more of you don’t click on this link and like it. However the critical step is to then share the image and ask your friends to like it too.

Now you can tell them that Michael Ruhlman likes it, if you think that will help.

The next few 24 hours are make or break. You all will either decide that you are tired of just seeing the same old stuff on Italian restaurant menus, or you’ll help me promote delicious alternatives. Please help and ride the wave of last night’s support into the finish line at one o’clock (Eastern) this afternoon (Thursday) Friday. And hopefully with your help we can get this dish into the top five.

Thank you very much.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    November 8, 2012 11:22 am

    I agree. Yours is by far the most interesting and really Italian (Tuscan?) dish on that list.

  2. Amy permalink
    November 8, 2012 11:26 am

    As someone who doesn’t like pasta and “picky” with sauce/gravy, I agree that Italian food in the American mind is limited and have also always been boggled by the full parking lots at Olive Garden. Went once and was one too many times, but I digress and am happy to see a dish that is outside the collective psyche of authentic Italian dishes.

  3. November 8, 2012 12:28 pm

    I entered this contest last year and got much less farther along than you, if that’s any consolation. I took to heart the advice on the FAQ that “This is an Italian/American contest, we ask that your dish does have an Italian/American inspiration so that it coincides with our menu at Bellini’s Italian Eatery.” And if you look at their menu you will find it is your standard red sauce place.

    So to be different may be tilting at windmills, Fussy. The dish that wins (I think this is true of recipe contests in general) is usually one that is very familiar but has one ingenious yet easily reproducible twist. Please don’t jump.

    • November 8, 2012 1:16 pm

      I’m totally tilting at windmills. I thought that was obvious. The dish itself is totally Italian. But topping it with an Italian cabbage salad is an innovation that calls upon the proud American tradition of slaw crowned pulled pork. Because at it’s heart this Italian dish isn’t that far from that beloved American classic. That’s how I see this straddling the Italian-American divide.

      And given that the Bellini’s menu had a big hole where the pork should be, I felt this dish would help to fill in the gaps. Plus since it’s easy to make in large quantity and the components can hold well (and are made from modestly priced ingredients) it should appeal to the owners as well as chefs.

      We’ll have to wait and see.

  4. MiMi permalink
    November 8, 2012 1:15 pm

    I voted for your dish a couple of days ago and like you was surprised by what items were “liked” more than yours. If I could vote more than once I would. It looks delicious and I can’t wait until you post the recipe so we can try. This reminds when my boss and his wife asked me about Mezza Notte, I explained that it was wonderful and my husband and I loved it. They hated it because there were no red sauce dishes. I was flabbergasted!

  5. November 8, 2012 2:27 pm

    I don’t want to be critical, but a couple of the other dishes kind of look like diarrhea on a plate. I like the minimalist nature of your dish, i.e. a few quality ingredients elevated with technique.

    Also, “high profile endorsements?” I chortled the diet pepsi out of my nose when I read that title associated with me…

  6. November 8, 2012 9:46 pm

    I don’t facebook, but for you…I snuck onto my wife’s account. Good luck.

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