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AskTP – Summer’s Eve

May 29, 2013

Yesterday during the cold snap, I made what will probably be the last batch of chicken stock in this kitchen for the year. Heck, it only has to make it through the end of July. However, I’ve got a kid who loves chicken broth.

My hope is that I’m weaning Young Master Fussy off of Kraft Mac & Cheese and turning him on to tortellini en brodo. The next step will be to have him start making his own filled pastas. They cook so quickly that I think it could be a nice summer supper. We’ll have to see how it goes.

For now, let’s not speculate about the future. Let’s fill in the gaps from the past. Because readers asked questions, and I’ve got some answers. As always. After all, that is the commitment that I have made. Every question in the comment section of the FLB that uses the correct punctuation will eventually be answered, usually in this semi-regular feature called Ask the Profussor.

Ready? Let’s begin.

-R seems to have misremembered my stance on blue cheese:
I too would enjoy a wings-de-Troy tour. I had an order at The Ruck last Thursday, and while their wings are indeed very good, your infatuation with their abysmal “blue-cheese” (which absolutely must be cut with some type of nasty-ass ranch dressing) is utterly puzzling to me. Really? You like that shit? Blech. Good wings, bad dippin’ – we’ll have to agree to disagree.

I would say infatuation is a strong characterization. My love affair with The Ruck is with its wings. Their blue cheese dressing is made in house, it has big chunks, it’s not sweet, and the one I had was thick and full of blue cheese funk. In my book that puts it in the top tier of blue cheese sauces. But the vegetable and the dressing on the side are value added items to me, much like everything at a BBQ joint other than the meat.

WrigsMac was among the many who derided my lack of knowledge about racing season:
Have you even heard the “Sar-a-to-ga!” song yet on the radio or the teevee yet? Racing season isn’t until August, silly. I don’t even LIKE horse racing and I know that.

I don’t consume a lot of local broadcast media. If it’s not on Hulu, Netflix or Pandora it may as well not exist. So I don’t even know this “Sar-a-to-ga!” song of which you speak. And I have a feeling that I’m the better for it. I thought that horse racing started with the Kentucky Derby. Maybe that’s only down south. All I know about horses is that their fat makes for delicious fried potatoes.

Maria is obviously one of the many great fans of Villa Italia:
Villa Italia’s gelato is ok but I don’t get the ‘mediocre Italian pastry’ label. Can you direct me to your review of their pastry? I’ve only found your review of their decor, cookies, cupcakes and espresso. That’s not pastry. Their sfogliatelle and cannoli are quite good. If you’re looking for superior Italian cookies, head to Civitello’s.

My review of their pastry is here, and frankly I think it’s generous. But in it I state, “The cream filled pastries are especially not great, as they’ve been filled and left sitting for far too long.” That goes for their sfogliatelle and their cannoli. Which they refuse to fill to order even when asked nicely at a time when there are no other customers in the shop. I find that last part unconscionable.

Maria followed up on the poll about figs on local menus:
Has this experiment gone anywhere or was it simply a question?

It was simply a question. The answers were all over the map. Hopefully chefs will take that into consideration as they write their menus in the future. It’s good information to have in my back pocket should the issue come up in conversation.

Jessica R had a great idea that really shaped my thoughts for the Tour de Gelato:
Could it be a game-day decision to pick 2 of the 3 Schenectady shops? I’ve never been to Civitello’s, but looks like their definitely well know for their Italian Ice, not their Gelato.

Yes. Although Villa Italia is a definite. Ambition is the top seeded competitor in the city, but I’m reserving the right to swap them out on game day for Civitello’s.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness got excited about Sage Bistro and their gelato:
Ooh, no kiddin’? That’s the first gelato I ever had. Yeah, I second this nomination.

No kidding. Well then, we’ll have to give it a go.

albanylandlord had a great question about retooling the tours:
Perhaps it would be possible to use a car powered freezer to collect samples from many places for a central testing? I would think gelato would travel very well if properly maintained. I realize that is not how the tours are traditionally done, and it certainly flies in the face of the very name of the event. But it would perhaps allow more places and better head to head comparisons without the time delays in between. Though maybe we need the time to digest and make room for more samples…

Ice cream and gelato by extension is affected significantly by slight changes in temperature. A little colder makes it harder and lessens its flavor. A little warmer threatens its structural integrity but enhances the flavor. The precise temperature at which a place decides to sell its frozen desserts is important. Putting ice cream in a cooler for transportation to a central location changes it. Maybe not in big ways, but in small yet meaningful ones.

What albanylandlord is suggesting isn’t a tour but rather a tasting. I’ve done this once before with cupcakes, and always pledged to do another one with a different item that wouldn’t degrade or otherwise be changed as a result of transit. Regrettably, I wasn’t able to schedule it before leaving for New Jersey. But that’s okay. I’m coming back. And there will be time for that when I return.

MB has some thoughts on gelato flavors:
Are you taking flavor nominations? When I travelled to Italy, I would sample hazelnut gelato whenever visiting a new shop. I don’t know if you can get it everywhere on your tour. Maybe the availability of specific flavors could help you narrow down the list of shops to visit on the tour.

Gelato flavors are fun and frivolous. I think it would be a mistake to eliminate a shop just because they are lacking a particular flavor. That’s why I’m thinking about this tour in the context of flavor categories. Nutty is a good example, so if you started off with hazelnut, and then at one location instead of hazelnut they only had pistachio, you could swap it out on the fly.

As far as I’m concerned, my classic benchmark flavors are pistachio and stracciatella. But I’m not sure which two I’m going to go with on the tour. Maybe I’ll have to see what everyone else is targeting so I can fill in any gaps. I’m flexible that way.

WrigsMac has an interesting idea of great:
Wouldn’t it be great if we had televisions in the meat section of the grocery store showing a video of the farm where your pork was raised?

Well, it would certainly be jarring. I’m guessing a lot fewer people would be buying meat. And there would be a lot more work for the supermarket’s custodial staff.

Jenn is troubled by the solution to foaming pig poop and exploding lakes of manure:
I’m surprised that the conclusion is more antibiotics, which is very problematic. Wouldn’t it make more sense to add in some bleach? Are they worried about fumes?

I’m concerned too. I’m actually surprised that the conclusion isn’t to stop feeding the pigs junk. Or, you know, to scrap the manure pits altogether and get those pigs out into a field or something. But given the smell of pig farms, I can’t imagine they are worried about fumes. My guess, and this is even scarier, is that bleach is powerless against the sludge.

Susan L. got sucked into a regional stereotype:
I’m going to toot my horn again for Schenectady county. We get little love because we have so little variety (Italian, anyone?)

That has to stop. Yes, I get that Schenectady has more Italian-American red sauce joints than any of its nearby sister cities. But it also has Tara Kitchen, Mizu Sushi, Flores Family Restaurant, La Mexicana, Orchids Jamaican, Gershon’s, more Guyanese than you can shake a stick at, and more. Don’t sell yourself short.

Cihan has some good points about the anti-GMO crowd:
I see time and time again people claim that gluten sensitivities and allergies are coming from GMO wheat (what GMO wheat, where is GMO wheat being grown?). I see people confuse basic farm chemicals, yelling that Round Up is a pesticide, when it is most certainly an herbicide.

Dammit. You are totally right about RoundUp being an herbicide and not a pesticide. I hope I haven’t gotten that wrong on the FLB in the past. But I’ve totally heard it used in the context of being a pesticide. And there is not GMO wheat either.

GMO may have become a shorthand for big agriculture. The argument I’ve heard about wheat and allergies is that they are driven by our relatively recent monoculture, and lack of genetic diversity. People hear genes, and think GMOs are to blame. But in the case of wheat they really aren’t.

Stanford Steph is trying to stick it to me on the syrup issue:
What do you think of the proposed changes to grading nomenclature? Wish you had included a photo of the two syrups.

I don’t like the changes at all. I want to save more of the Grade B syrup for me and my family, and for those who already knew of its superiority. Should it ever get a Grade A designation more people will want it, and this great maple syrup will become both more scarce and more expensive. Explain to me why that’s good?

Burnt My Fingers wants a do-over:
I think you probably got a bad batch of the Uncle Pat’s. The description doesn’t sound right and there shouldn’t be that kind of taste, texture and appearance variation. Don’t you think you should get a new jug of Grade B and re-do the test?

You may be right. And if they want to send me another bottle, I’d be happy to put them through the paces. Or maybe they’ll sample on site at the Schenectady Greenmarket one of these days.

-R thought I might have been taking poetic license:
Was Mr. French really his name?

Yes, it was.

Todd wants names of syrup and places to buy it:
Do you have a particular favorite ? and where do you buy it consistantly?

I don’t. There are too many of them. Plus they change a bit from year to year. Finding the best could be one’s life’s work. Or, you know, it could be the subject of one of those tastings I had just mentioned.

DEN is concerned about the Tour de Gelato:
I like the gelato at Sage, but do they make it in-house? The TU review last year said they got it from an outside vendor.  Which raises the question of whether that vendor is already on your list of tour spots.

Who knows? Largely, it’s immaterial. People love the gelato at Sage, and that’s why we’re going to put it through the paces. If they do buy it from a local vendor who we are also visiting, I would hope someone is able to peg it. We’ll see. The proof of the gelato will be in the eating.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2013 11:06 am

    I stand by my suggestion. If people seeing where their food comes from makes them barf it will most definitely instigate change. But since profit is king and people might stop buying meat for a while, I can’t imagine grocery stores would be willing to implement my brilliant idea. Too bad.

    So here’s a question for your next AskTP: Just saw on Reuters this morning that China’s Shuanghui is looking to buy out Smithfield in order to better their image and export more US pork to China. Number 1 – how sad is it that Smithfield could improve another companies reputation? And number 2 – Do you think like the substandard treatment of pigs in China is going to worsen the already deplorable conditions of US pigs if a Chinese food processor takes over Smithfield?

  2. May 29, 2013 12:53 pm

    Good lord — one has to wonder how you’ve lived here all this time and never soaked up this bit of local culture:

    (Crappy video, but you get the point.)

  3. May 29, 2013 11:08 pm

    Has anyone made a douche reference (oh, I’m being crude… “feminine wash” reference) about your title yet?

    Summer’s Eve… Fussmeister brings back freshness anytime!

    • June 1, 2013 8:39 am

      Ha! That is the very first thing I think of when I see or hear the words “Summer’s Eve.”

  4. May 30, 2013 10:53 am

    Ok, so my question above took an odd turn when I found out about Ractopamine – which Smithfield has used in its pigs. It’s a banned substance in China…so they’re probably just as concerned about the quality as we are about their standards and accountability.

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