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AskTP – Doing Just Fine

January 23, 2013

Really I need a staff of writers. There are so many topics to cover and not enough days in the week to do them justice. Just yesterday there were two great ones that popped up on my radar. One was the ReviewerCard. The other was the video released by Coke on obesity and its more honest cousin that was released by just someone who wasn’t going to swallow their propaganda.

That’s on top of already being delinquent on following up about a host of topics. Luckily today is the day I get to answer everyone’s burning questions. And that means at least some of the outstanding issues will get addressed in this magnum opus. Really, many of these questions deserve several hundred word responses. But I’m just one guy.

Still, I’m committed to answering every question that’s asked in the comments, just so long as it includes a question mark. For those who are reading Ask the Profussor for the first time, please note, all the questions are preceded by the mystery link of the day. They all go to the same place. Give one a click, and see where it takes you.

Okay, without further ado, onto the questions:

Chrystal was the first to ask a question that is on everyone’s lips:
Is there a reason there is no link to the Fussylittleblog on the right side of the Table Hopping blog now?

Yes. It was removed by Steve.

Pensive Engineer’s short question requires a bit of background:
My wife and I love going to Burlington, another post industrial town centered around a university, to frequent restaurants such as the Farmhouse Tap & Grill. What I can’t understand is, it seems to me that there is a large customer base similar to that in Burlington that is going untapped. The customers are here. If you build it they will come. I can’t believe there aren’t business people that see this. Why?

Given the stunning success of the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery, I hope that this changes. But I think the bigger issue is with geography and with the local propensity to believe 20 minutes in the car is the end of the Earth. I’ve found myself stricken by this same impulse, so I’m not casting aspersions. However, it’s challenging to get people down to the DelSo or Albanians out to Schenectady. It’s unfortunate.

Aaron M asked a question that probably is better answered in a full post, but screw it:
Ostensibly Fussell’s proles ate out, and enjoyed the status that came with it, without spending Albany prices, so why don’t Albany proles eat at prices that other cities’ proles eat at?

It feels like there is a distinct lack of competition among restaurants in the Capital Region. Why? I’m not sure. But that could have something to do with class too. The idea that one person isn’t better than another, and the desire for everyone to feel liked (as detailed in the prole restaurant post).

Anyhow, that could go a long way to explaining the lack of downward pressure on the cost of dining. Recently the high cost of good cocktails in Albany was explained to me in one word, “overhead”. Now if that’s true, and the overhead of a bar in Albany makes a drink more expensive than a fancy bar in San Francisco, that Albany establishment is paying far too much in overhead. Without competition, there is no reason to try and shave that overhead down, and prices stay high.

The Oak Monster asks out loud what Mrs. Fussy asked me in private:
Have you considered that San Fran, NYC, and Austin are the exceptions and that Albany dining (complete with “high” prices and average quality) is fairly normal nationwide?

Yes. And I find that potential reality to be unfortunate.

-R was struck by by questions on class in Albany and is trying to answer the inverse:
I’m still speculating about why larger metropolitan areas seemingly (with emphasis on seemingly) are able to overcome the class distinctions of our little corner of the world: sheer dint of population diversity and size? More rigorous competition combined with higher real estate prices drives quality? Or perhaps we ‘proles’ simply aren’t privy to such high-end establishments in larger cities. I don’t know, but it does raise many interesting questions.

Maybe it has a bit more to do with the anonymity of life in the big city? The Capital Region is a small town. It seems as if everyone knows everyone else’s business. Perhaps the familiarity of our region breeds more self awareness that can serve to reinforce the class distinctions as opposed to creating more of an impression of fluidity. Fussell also had a catchall for people who were able to transcend class barriers and distinctions. That’s where his arguments started getting really fuzzy. But he would say that the big cities would have a higher concentration of these characters. I’m pretty sure today we would call them hipsters.

wait…huh? is new here so I’ll be patient with this first question:
Seriously, the hell is wrong with you guy??

I don’t even know where to start. Sometimes it looks like this blog is all about food. And that’s true. But it’s really about making Albany (and the world) a better place. Call me crazy, that’s okay, I’ve got a thick skin. Just know if I weren’t doing this, I’d probably be littering up the airways with commercials or clogging bandwidth with annoying pre-roll spots on YouTube.

bakinginmybathingsuit sounds like she’d rather have me in the tent pissing out:
Organizers need to realize that blogging is a form of media or press even if there isn’t a professional news organization behind it. You have followers and they have money to spend. Why wouldn’t an event organizer want you to be there?

It’s a good question. Presumably they don’t value the positive attention I could draw to their event. Since I never heard back from that note, I’ll have to assume that was the case. And that’s okay. It’s always helpful to know where you stand with people. And now I know.

Deanna has such a filthy mouth:
What’s the problem? It’s not like you told whoever it was that you were talking to that they were a cocksucker or anything.

See Emily’s question below. Because she saw it, and I commend her for calling me out.

Emily picked up on why my note was so obnoxious, and she is asking all the right questions:
I’m curious what these “other blogs” are that you are not like because you are a “serious regional food voice”. What is it that makes other voices less serious, and who is to judge?

That would be telling.

But it’s not yours. In fact, when I saw your comment, I was immediately regretful that I didn’t list the Capital Region Dining Blog as one of the local blogs that does a better job than mine, specifically in actually getting out and exploring the nooks and crannies of the region.

Oh. And I’m the judge. I mean, who else would be?

PensiveEngineer is trying to make me blush:
Quite frankly your writing is better than anything I read in the print news around here, so really, who is the real media here?

Thank you. I do admire real journalists. You know, people who know things about codes of ethics and all that stuff. I’m trying to do the best I can and keep everything above board. And I am learning. But it’s good to know that there are people out there who hold this blog in high regard.

Debra is delving into the semantics of deli:
I thought a ‘Rachael or Rachel’ was a Turkey rueben. No?

Honestly the interwebs is full of information that has it both ways. They also suggest the Rachel swaps out sauerkraut for cole slaw, which in my mind is simply a travesty. Luckily there are some people who have turned deli into an academic pursuit, and they may be willing to do a little of the legwork on this mystery.

Masticating Monkey is also coming to grips with the unique landscape of Albany dining:
I miss places like that out here, quirky, casual, creative little restaurants; AGB is certainly one good option, but I wish there were more. What is it that makes that such a small niche thing out here? There are lots of college students, lots of twenty-somethings that I’d think would populate such eateries.

True, but the region is also really spread out, public transit is not terribly convenient, and people are loath to travel across town lines when there are perfectly serviceable taverns in almost every neighborhood. There also doesn’t seem to be much appetite for the quirky.

jenh718 either thinks I’m an important resource or completely inconsequential, but I can’t tell:
This blog is an important food resource for the capital region. As far as blogs go, I see you right up there with Steve Barnes but I’d rather visit here because your readers don’t act like dicks. That being said, I get the refusal because you’re not a journalist. You are a good writer but I don’t know that blogs = journalism. Or maybe they do now? I don’t know. I think my comment is only making me question the issue more…

Thanks. I think.

albanylandlord obviously thinks I’m not nearly busy enough:
What other cities might have a similar history to Albany that we could compare restaurant scenes? Historical merchant class, large government bureaucracy… Any thoughts? Washington DC? Philadelphia? Sacramento? Northern NJ?

Dayton, Ohio? Wilkes Barre – Scranton, Pennsylvania? Buffalo, New York? Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Pennsylvania? Lansing, Michigan? I think what’s most interesting is the disparity of our lists.

chad9976 seems to have missed the point:
So are you agreeing with me or disagreeing with me? Sounds like both and neither.

Nope, I’m disagreeing with you. And I’m disagreeing with your stance in your lengthy comment too. Let me provide a more concrete example of one of the ideas I was promoting: quality ingredients.

My argument isn’t that it’s subjective, or based on expert analysis or opinion. Rather that it’s ideological. Take two tomatoes. Tomato A was grown in rich soil, close to the point of origin, on a small plot of land, by a farmer who uses no insecticides whatsoever; and picked by hand at its peak, delivered to the restaurant hours from harvest, and put on a plate that same day. Tomato B was grown at a massive greenhouse, in synthetic fertilizer, and picked when green; it sat in a warehouse, was transported for hundreds or thousands of miles, and at some point was gassed to turn red. Even if science could make Tomato B taste the same or better than Tomato A, I’m saying that Tomato A is the better.

Mr. Dave says I have a thing, and that’s true (see above) but there is another part of this thing:
Oh geez, people are adding stuff to food to make it taste better? Golly gee. This is like criticising our beer making forefathers for adding herbs, hops, or whatever else to their brews. Were they interfering with the pure taste of the malt?

It’s about ethics. When someone puts their hard earned money down for something, they should be getting that thing. If you are using inferior ingredients and need to hide that by using cheap shortcuts yet still charging a premium, I’ve got a problem with that. The goal here is to hold people accountable for their shenanigans in the hope that more tasty food emerges as a result. Maybe it won’t happen. But dammit, I’m going to try.

Honestly, I don’t know the history of beer well enough to address your analogy. But let me pose a different one. Take classic French food. Heavy sauces exist because most food tasted awful, and it needed to be obscured. I could play this history out in defense of my thing or as an indictment of my thing. I suppose the difference between then and now is that everyone was in on the joke. These days the machinations to make our food “better” happen largely in secret and the public is generally kept in the dark.

the fuj want in on this too:
This is the exact discussion I’m having with DFH beers right now on FB. Sure their beers hit all three marks listed above, but some (more often than not recently) are downright undrinkable. Just because it’s a well-crafted ale does it mean that I have to say it’s “good” even though it tastes like shit?

I would be tempted to say, “It’s obviously a well considered beer, made with skill and exquisite ingredients, but I can’t say that I care for the style. Those who want to be challenged by what a beer can be might love it, but I cannot recommend this to anyone but the most die hard DFH fan who is curious to see how far the brewers can push the boundaries of taste.”

Deanna knows the way to a man’s heart is through blindness:
I was cleaning out the root cellar and found a couple of gallons of cider that, no doubt, are “hard” at this point. I’m sure they taste like nothing buy apple cider. Wanna try some?

Yes. A thousand times yes.

Although maybe she’s retracted the offer by now [Deanna also posted this comment]:
He might as well have said: “Deanna is a fraud and knows nothing about cocktails. She has nasty vermouth just sitting there, stagnating. WTH?”

You know I didn’t name you on purpose right? Just so there’s no confusion… <ahem> …Deanna knows a lot about cocktails. She makes her own bitters, and is an overall badass, especially when it comes to old time cocktails. This is why it’s so surprising to stumble on the occasional lapse, for which I sometimes give her the needle. These lapses are merely specks of dust that do not stick to, nor tarnish, the glowing reputation of her mad cocktail skillz.

PensiveEngineer had the question about cider that I hoped someone might ask:
Real hard cider probably isn’t palatable to the masses. I guess a better question is how do you prefer “good” hard cider to taste?

So one of the best things I put in my mouth during the trip to Paris was this fermier cider from Normandy at this little crepe place. It was called Tisquin, made from the farms own pesticide free apples. It’s unfiltered, and more frissante than carbonated. It had some great barnyard funkiness, blended with fruit and a great complementary bitterness. The stuff was enchanting, and the bottle only cost thirteen euros at the restaurant. I want more of that cider. Badly.

Stevo probably hasn’t heard my rant on how I execute moderation:
Um, doesn’t this mean that if your cholesterol does come down that it will go right back up? Or are you being facetious?

I suspect that it will go up a little bit. I’m not talking about going on another fried food bender like I did in December, but rather slowly incorporating some of my beloved foodstuffs back into a more well balanced diet. This is the penance stage. Think of it like a cleanse. But without the enemas.

Eric Scheirer Stott is delving the depths of my feelings on vermouth:
Do you have an opinion on NY State Vermouth?

I did not until I followed your link. It feels a little gimmicky, but I would happily give it a try.

maltnsmoke is building up my hopes:
Have you seen this???: Noilly Prat brings back US-only dry vermouth formula

That would be amazing. But beyond that one blog article from months ago, I’m failing to find any current mention of the project. I sent a note to Noilly Prat and haven’t heard anything back. For the record, I do have a couple bottles still of the old stuff that I’m holding onto as my strategic reserve. It would be good to know there was hope for the future so that I could tap into those reserves while we wait.

Eric Scheirer Stott wants to go back in time:
I was about to dump my open bottles of Martini & Rossi when I gave them a thought: I got them when my Grandmother’s house closed up – that was around 1990, and they were already open. Anyone want a taste of the 1980′s?

Thank you, but I lived through the 80’s and have just about almost gotten the taste out of my mouth.

-R is just going to have to be patient:
Yet even more pressing is the issue of why Barnes has dropped your link from his little TU thing-a-ma-blog (which I must say has REALLY been sliding as of late – fewer daily entries, and watered down content (do we really need to see yet another photo of Yono anywhere on the TU website? I think not)). Will we be revisiting these topics anytime soon, or do you need further time to ruminate?

It’s really not that pressing. If you want to know, you can ask Steve. I’m doing just fine without the link. If he doesn’t want to recognize the FLB as part of the community of food blogs in the region that’s his right. But you can always come here to escape the pictures of Yono.

I think the other topics that you were looking for answers on have been addressed above. But I do also plan to come back to these themes again further down the road. I’m glad that they piqued your interest. And hopefully the more we discuss the issue, the closer we’ll get at unlocking the puzzle.

But in the meantime the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery is killing it. The Cheese Traveler has brought world class meats and cheeses to town. You can get a farm-to-table lunch at All Good Bakers for under $10 or for the same price a local hand-formed pasture-raised burger from The City Beer Hall. We’ve got a handmade noodle house that’s shockingly cheap. Ala Shanghai pulls off amazing feats of deliciousness. Tara Kitchen has brought the flavors of Morocco to Schenectady. There are pupusas, real tacos, delicious pastry, French macarons, chicken and waffles, Indian chaat, and a whole host of other delicacies that have appeared in the past few years.

Eventually the not-so-good overpriced restaurants will falter unless they change their ways. They are fighting against a rising tide.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric Scheirer Stott permalink
    January 23, 2013 10:18 am

    Followup on my 1980’s Vermouth: I dumped the half bottle of Dry, but the Sweet was in better shape and I’m cooking with it. I’ve already made a shrimp scampi & some Vermouth poached pears & both came out very tasty.

  2. January 23, 2013 11:41 am

    Wouldn’t it be easier to just respond to all the question and comments on their respective posts?

  3. January 23, 2013 1:19 pm

    As an aside and regarding the history of beer/ale and its various flavorings, it is actually a pretty interesting subject. Way back when people drank un-hopped ales flavored with nothing, or otherwise all sorts of wonderful herbs and things. It has only been since the 1500-1600s that hops has seen wide spread use in (Western European) brewing.

    It seems some monks and monasteries got involved some years back, cornered the market, and foisted hops on us (gross oversimplification, but it is a gist). Now we are left with beers/ales/lagers/etc… that almost exclusively utilize hops for flavor/bittering. Kind of sad… I have made beers with myrica gale, sage, mugwort, heather, and other things that have turned out really good. Anyhow, it is an interesting subject.

    • -R. permalink
      January 23, 2013 1:41 pm

      Thanks for that Mr. Dave – you had me scrambling to Wiki to investigate myrica gale and gruit in general. Seems like somebody ought to be concocting more of these fanciful tonics, and while they’d probably never quite catch on, it would fulfill a cozy niche market.

    • January 25, 2013 11:40 am

      I may be able to shed a bit of light on the hops thing. Originally beer was very perishable, and could not survive transportation for very long. Hops have a natural antiseptic quality to them and a somewhat appealing bitter flavor. When added to beer they extended the life of the beer significantly and added depth of flavor. This allowed for beer to be used on ships crossing the ocean to the new world, or heading toward India.

      As for new (old) and exciting ingredients in beer, there are many micro and nano breweries that are starting to add these ingredients into beer once more. The problem with the big breweries is that their over head dis-allows them from experimenting with new formulas as all of their equipment is sized incredibly large. I think as time passes more and more concoctions will be coming out from breweries that utilize some of these herbs and spices. With that said, it will most likely be kept on a smaller local scale, because of costs and sizing issues. My recommendation would be to make good friends with your local brewery.

    • January 25, 2013 12:03 pm

      Yes, thanks mr. dave, neat, I want to know more too!

  4. Michaeline permalink
    January 23, 2013 11:45 pm

    What’s with the “c***s*****” comment by Deanna, Daniel? I fail to see the reason you need to post filthy language in a food blog. I’m a bit disappointed in you.

  5. Colonel Ball Head permalink
    January 25, 2013 3:02 am

    The bottom line is that if you marry someone who doesn’t like onions you are not allowed to comment on food. Grow up and move on. Also, you are not a professor. Your wife is. You are an unemployed hack.

    • mattVSmatthew permalink
      January 25, 2013 8:30 am

      Jeesh dude, calm your jets

    • Lulu permalink
      January 25, 2013 10:27 am

      Uh, here’s some reading help. Daniel does not claim to be a professor,dear, only a ProfUsser. Take a deep breath. No one is forcing you to read his blog. You might want to take your own advice re:growing up and moving on because your comment proves that you have yet to do so.

    • January 25, 2013 1:46 pm

      Humm, since when did one’s partner’s eating preferences null the First Amendment? (Not to mention all the stay-at-home parents out there who were just equated to unemployed hacks) What a terrible world that would be to live in… It sounds like someone else needs to do some growing up!

  6. Jen Gonroff permalink
    January 25, 2013 11:34 am

    Profusser ≠ Professor CBH. Get it – Mr. Fussy is the Pro Fusser, not a Professor. Kinda sucks that you missed that right?

    • Colonel Ball Head permalink
      January 25, 2013 12:10 pm

      He is not a “Pro” at anything.

      • Laura Northrup permalink
        January 25, 2013 12:14 pm

        Of course he is. He is pro-fussiness.

  7. Lulu permalink
    January 25, 2013 9:38 pm

    i wonder if CBH is really Mr. Barnes…

    • January 25, 2013 11:02 pm

      I have serious doubts Steve would take Daniel off his blog roll and then troll the FLB., doesn’t fit his MO…(no offense Lulu!)

    • January 25, 2013 11:46 pm

      Lulu: It’s doubtful. CBH has been here before and the ip address is different from Steve’s. It’s nice that CBH keeps on checking in and inviting me to leave. Perhaps if I didn’t have a mortgage, a wife with a career, kids with their school communities, and my own deepening roots to the area, I’d consider the option. But for now, I’m staying.

      Steve and CBH are just going to have to live with it.

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