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Working Weekend

November 15, 2012

I’m told that Thursdays are when most normal people make their weekend plans. Most of the time, I don’t weigh in on what you should do with your precious free time on Saturday or Sunday.

But this week is different.

I’m sure there are many worthy events happening over the next few days that deserve your time and attention. However, on Saturday I’m hoping to get a few of you out to support something I’m doing. And on Sunday, I hope to see others support the official grand opening of a remarkable new business in Albany.

My variation of Tonno del Chianti made it into the finals of Bellini’s annual Calling All Cooks recipe contest! I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who voted in the semi-final round that played out on Facebook. It was brutal, but people came out from every corner of my life to help support the effort. Thank you all.

Well, the finals are a live cook off at Different Drummers Kitchen in Stuyvesant Plaza. I hear some of the other contestants are bringing their own cheering sections. There is even talk of team posters and t-shirts, like at a pro wrestling match.

Let’s be clear. I’m not expecting any of that.

But it would be nice if somebody showed up. My immediate family will be otherwise engaged, and my extended family is scattered across the country as are most of my friends. So I’m counting on you. I’ll be cooking starting around 11:45 in the morning, but the big showdown is between 3p-5p. Tentatively I’m scheduled to present my dish to the judges at 3:20p. And I’ll be cooking extra food so that spectators can have a taste of this pork shoulder that’s simmered in olive oil for over three hours, served with aromatic white beans, and topped with a tart red cabbage salad.

It’s going up against not one, but two braciole recipes, a cannelloni, and a chicken breast. While I’m allowed to have an assistant in the kitchen, I think calling upon my buddies from The Chefs Consortium would be cheating. So I’m going to go at it alone. The recipe is pretty simple. If I have some time to kill, I may even do some live tweeting from the event.

The good news is that I’ve reconsidered my plating, and I think the dish will be a lot more handsome than the one that got me a spot in the semis.

I’ll also have a limited number of small treats for those of you who come out and stick around for the judging. Bonus treats for those who bring encouraging “Team Fussy” or “Team Pork” signs (while supplies last). Come and see me after the judging is complete to collect this token of my thanks.

Slowly but surely The Cheese Traveler has been preparing for its official grand opening. First came the cheeses. Then the locally raised meats. Then the dry goods. Then the French confections. Then the cured meats from around the world. Then the POS system. Then more dry goods and vinegars. And more cheeses.

That list is probably out of order, and certainly incomplete, given all the work that Eric and his family have put into making this new food lover’s paradise look great. They have also managed to stock it with ridiculously delicious products that make choosing just one or two things to buy an almost impossible decision.

My last visit I got some amazing salumi instead of a domestic cured ham. But since I left that day, I’ve been longing for that single muscle, heritage breed, prosciutto style meat.

But I digress.

Sunday is the official grand opening celebration, and there are a lot of great activities on deck for the day. Some of the chefs from the consortium will be doing cooking demonstrations, one of the cheesemakers will be there with the cheesemonger. A poetry reading is on the schedule in addition to live music.

But the festivities start at 1 o’clock. I’ll be there on the early side with the kiddos. They love the meats and cheeses from The Cheese Traveler.

Some parents spoil their kids with expensive presents and toys. Mine get some of the best food from around the world. Young Master Fussy loves drinking aged balsamic vinegar from a cordial glass, and Little Miss Fussy was delighted at her discovery of sliced tongue.

I love my kids.

If you have been looking for an excuse to check out The Cheese Traveler, this is it. Sure, it will be more crowded than usual. But there is safety in numbers. Parking will be an issue, but just park further down Delaware Avenue and walk a couple of blocks. After trying some of The Cheese Traveler’s wares, your arteries will thank you.

I look forward to seeing you there too.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2012 10:20 am

    Definitely planning on going to the Cheese Traveler. The weather is supposed to be cold but sunny, so I will walk from my mom’s. I am pretty sure I’ll be able to drag c away from Sunday football with the promise of cheese, particularly since the Giants have a bye week. :)

  2. November 15, 2012 10:33 am

    Do we get extra points for wearing a pig costume to Different Drummer’s?

    I’m not sure whether I’m free, and I don’t have a pig costume. I just want to check.

  3. November 15, 2012 1:03 pm

    Wish I could make it either day, but I’m helping friends move. Enjoy and good luck on Saturday!

  4. November 15, 2012 4:50 pm

    I am out of town this weekend, but StuyPlaz is located in the very heart of one of my ancestral home hamlets (born in Albany, lived in McKownville after age 8)! I even had two jobs in StuyPlaz as a teen. I will confer with the McKownville/StuyPlaz spirits and see if they won’t bless you with good fortune.

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