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AskTP – Bread for Tomatoes

August 28, 2013

I’m having a terrible time finding real bread in this part of the country. I want something with crust and chew. I want a wild and yeasty crumb that’s full of holes to help soak up all those precious tomato juices.

One of these days I’ll learn how to make the good stuff. And maybe I’ll travel with some starter wherever I go, so I’ll never have to go without.

The good news is that at least I’ve got more amazing garden tomatoes than I can possibly eat. And it’s also fortunate that I traveled to Pennsylvania with some of my favorite sherry vinegar. Last night I ate about two whole tomatoes cut into wedges. Hopefully, you too are eating like summer will soon be a fleeting memory.

By the time the next Ask the Profussor rolls around I’ll already be in Paris. That’s just nuts. Between then and now I’ve got to repack, move to New Jersey, unpack, get the kids started in school, have a birthday party, celebrate the Jewish new year and pack for France. Oy. I don’t want to think about that now.

So, without further ado, onto the questions.

caravan70 has an interesting if impractical riff off of the Fussy Little Tours:
My idea is this: (and maybe Daniel will go along): The Capital Region has a ton of old Italian restaurants, particularly downtown. Why not organize a tour of these places, and figure out if they live up to their legend? It would probably take two or three days…. one or two each night… but I think I could survive. ;) We can eat lots of cannoli, drink lots of wine, and have a great time generally.

I’ve said before that tackling Italian food in the Capital Region would take a lifetime. Maybe several lifetimes. There are just so many places, and each one has a menu that just goes on and on and on. A comparison would need to be very narrow, perhaps taking on a dish like Chicken Parm. But then the results don’t really provide a lot of usable information.

Maybe what’s needed instead is a bracket style tournament. All the restaurants are evaluated on a specific dish per round. If you win the Round One Chicken Parm battle, it’s off to the round two linguini with white clam sauce. Perhaps meatballs and sausage come into play? I don’t know. But given portion sizes, the only way to do this would be sharing dishes.

Okay. Maybe there’s a way to make this happen. But no way could it be in three days. If anyone still wants to do this, remind me when I get back to town.

sarahM is lucky to live in a place where food trucks aren’t reviled:
Where are you finding restaurant hostility toward trucks? I’m not implying it doesn’t exist, but I just haven’t seen it where I live (not Albany, obviously). The argument that food trucks are “free-riders,” however specious, makes zero sense to me.

For starters there’s a city called Chicago and another one named San Francisco that have been a little persnickety to this hot culinary trend.

ajsteiner was a bit put off by the limitation of the Troy Wing Tour to Buffalo style wings:
Not sure if you take suggestions, but why not do a wings tour of Troy that includes all varieties? Buffalo are always a great classic, but there are so many different creative variations now, it shouldn’t be pigeonholed to just Buffalo. Finnbar’s obviously has the Whiskey, Bombers Lemon Pepper Garlic are great, and Park Pub with the PB&J.

Taking suggestions is how these tours started in the first place. Suggestions are always welcome, but this one isn’t going to take. And it’s not just because I think that PB&J wings are a monstrosity. The basis of the Fussy Little Tours is to try ostensibly similar foodstuffs and find the one that rises to the top. Yes, occasionally the variable of flavors is added into the mix. But even in such instances, each evaluator is tasked with evaluating the same (or similar) flavor throughout the duration of the tour. This works well for a small cup of ice cream, but it would be a disaster when confronting five entire orders of wings.

caravan70 has clearly been bitten by the tour bug, and I can’t blame him:
I would have been interested in a Frank Pepe’s vs. Sally’s taste test, Daniel… maybe the next time you go through New Haven? Both are great, but they have their partisans. Perhaps a “tour de New Haven?” ;)

Me too. For some reason my Connecticut family doesn’t go to Sally’s. But I was able to get them to try a Pepe’s vs. Modern tasting. It was less of a tour because the lines make it logistically prohibitive. What we did however, was call in staggered to-go orders. So we arrived before the first pie was ready, and ate a piece immediately upon receipt. Then we ditched the box in the car, and went over to the next place (again, before the pie was ready). This way we were able to sample two hot-out-of-the-oven pies with limited downtime between each. Modern is a strong contender, but I still favored Pepe’s.

mr. dave is right as usual, but he’s leaving out one teensy weensy part:
Ah, yes. We live in an age where every idiot has a soapbox and a megaphone via the internet. Isn’t it glorious?

Maybe, but when everybody has a soapbox and a megaphone, nobody can be heard over the din. Luckily, most people are pretty good at blocking out those voices that don’t deserve their attention. Still, I’d rather hear about 100 meals at a restaurant from random strangers who feel compelled to write about it on the internet, than one meal at a restaurant from a professional critic whose opinions may be tempered by an editor and publisher.

Lorres wants in on Google’s new answer to Yelp:
What’s the URL on the Google city guides? I’m tempted to follow right behind you with reviews of Capital District places just to see if piling on gets our location into the hopper.

First you need to become a Google City Expert. Rabbit, meet hole.

Sue has her concerns about Yelp and shares them in this local tale:
There is a yelp review this morning for a food establishment where I whole sale. There is a threat in that review and some personal drama. I am sure it will be removed. But I just read it, and how many others?

Maybe dozens. Perhaps hundreds. But you were able to tell that the “reviewer” in question was clearly out-of-bounds. And I think one has to give credit to others to filter the information they come across on the Internet. Yes, other people noticed it. But given that they won’t give it credence, it shouldn’t be detrimental. In fact, it could be positive, providing another reminder for the reader that they should check out this local business.

It makes sense to stay on top of your Yelp reviews and reach out to critics in a mature and measured way. But it does not make sense to worry too much about any one review or reviewer. Believe in people. You are one of them.

addiesdad seems excited about my upcoming trip to Paris:
Will you share the select list of bistros you wish to visit? What are the specific cheeses you want to have again, or try for the first time? Or is it more of a “find what’s interesting and recommended at the fromagerie”?

I don’t like traveling with musts or to do lists. Paris is a big city and I’m going to go where the city takes me. That means keeping my options open. But I’m doing my homework, writing down recommendations, and we’ll see which neighborhoods I happen to be in when either hunger strikes or I get tired of walking.

For cheeses it’s always what looks interesting at the shop. But the ground rules are that it has to be in the subset of raw milk, small production cheeses. Nothing else need apply.

jenh718 has a similar tale of censorship on one of the local food blogs:
BTW, I’ve tried to submit a comment on Michelle’s blog and it wasn’t approved either. I was not rude or offensive, I merely questioned an insider type food event she was raving about that was prohibitively expensive for the general public…how dare I?

Personally, I am very thankful for the critical and even harsh comments I get about myself or my writing. People are going to disagree with me. But the only way I can directly address those issues I care about the most is when people speak up. I love all the positivity from the loyal readers, but without vocal critics I would just be preaching to the choir.

irisira got off two questions, one about my amazing copy editor & the other about elites:
a) No, no, not everyone can have a Mrs. Fussy, can they?
b) A Disney resort restaurant had it on the menu for double the price I can get it anywhere else, so it MUST be OK. I’ll try it. Talk about elitist, right?

a) Even I can’t have Mrs. Fussy for most of August. And even if I did, the last few posts would have made her so deeply uncomfortable that she would have recused herself anyhow. But I’m really looking forward to getting back into a regular routine in September so that all my commas are in the right places.

b) I’m not sure if elitist and Disney can exist in the same sentence. Disney may be expensive, but being able to pay the theme park’s premiums doesn’t elevate its guests to the status of elites. I can’t imagine any of the true elites I know going on a family vacation to Disney World. They tend to favor more out of the way and private spots for their leisure travel.

PatriciaN raises a good point about modern notions of philanthropy:
Going to events and doing good deeds can be mutually exclusive. Why is it that people who contribute quietly, and without the expectation of thanks or any public acknowledgement, are not thought to be active because they (we) do not attend these ridiculous events?

This may have something to do with class too. Or maybe it’s old money versus new money. I’m not entirely sure. I know nothing about this. But the true activists I know have no interest in going to fancy parties, they are in the trenches trying to save the world (or at least improve the lives of people in their community). God bless them. Seriously.

Paying $100, $1,000 or even $10,000 to attend some fancy party that benefits a good cause isn’t going to save the world, but I suppose having a portion of those proceeds go to a charity’s bottom line is better than nothing. And the picture you may get in the paper will look a whole lot more glamorous than the one of you being arrested for feeding the homeless.

Mr. Dave has given up on convincing KB @ Home-Baked Happiness about Mozz & Melba:
It is such a funny issue to take a stance on, isn’t it?

I’m hardly one to talk about taking hard stances on funny issues. Perhaps that’s why she feels at home within this community, despite this one ongoing disagreement.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2013 7:51 am

    Touché. Perhaps “privileged” is a better word. (And I am among them.) Though, there are plenty of elites dining at Victoria and Albert’s. :) (Oh, how I wish I could be one of them …)

  2. kriskaten permalink
    August 28, 2013 10:25 am

    any italian restaurant tour MUST include meatballs. it’s my gauge of a good italian restaurant… well, besides the sauce, obviously. whenever i try someplace new i get a side of meatballs, and if they’re really good, i will most likely go back. bellini’s in slingerlands and the (unfortunately now closed) katrinella’s bistro are two of my absolute favorites in the area. i’d be interested in finding more places :)

    • Jessica R permalink
      August 28, 2013 10:58 am

      Try Testo’s in Troy – great meatballs.

    • -R. permalink
      August 28, 2013 11:16 am

      While meatballs are indeed ubiquitous in Italian-American restaurants, you would find the task of surveying meatballs impossible in Italy proper. I can recall only one instance of ever running across a meatball there, and that was at a restaurant in Rome that specialized in the cuisine of Campania. The solitary meatball (polpette) was about the size of a softball, made primarily of ground veal, and centered around raisins, almonds and pignoli. It had no sauce whatsoever, and was completely delicious but totally unlike what we typically think of as meatballs. Perhaps at a departure lounge in an airport you might find them pandering to the common conception of what Italian cuisine is supposed to be about, but having made numerous trips to the country, meatballs are as American as apple pie. If you do see them on a menu there: run. You are eating in a tourist trap.

  3. August 28, 2013 12:51 pm

    Didn’t you say we were done with this MHA business? (That was a question.)

    Also, it’s ridiculously easy to make the bread you describe although you’re going to have to procure some starter. Check out http://www.burntmyfingers.com/kettle-bread/ or simply http://www.burntmyfingers.com/basic-sourdough-bread/.

    You did pack your cast iron dutch oven, yes?

    • August 28, 2013 1:22 pm

      I said I was done. Others may still choose to mention it. I’ve been fortunate in that I have never had to moderate comments on the FLB. Yours was held up for a few moments by the blog’s filter. It’s a very mild filter. It holds comments from first time commenters or comments with more than one external link for review.

      Personally, I think it’s a better system than using a captcha which I just find annoying and an impediment to the free flow of commentary and discussion.

      My cast iron dutch oven is enameled, but it is indeed packed. However, I have no idea what the counter space will be like in my Princeton kitchen. Baking may take priority or it may take a backseat to exploring my temporary new home.

  4. August 28, 2013 12:51 pm

    And you’re now moderating comments? Oy vey…

    • August 28, 2013 3:26 pm

      By the way, it has been documented that the plastic top thingie on a Le Creuset DO melts at 460 degrees and you will be cooking your bread at 480. Maybe you want to take it off first and plug the hole with a little piece of aluminum foil.

      • Jon E permalink
        August 28, 2013 9:26 pm

        Le Creuset makes a stainless steel replacement knob that is oven safe to whatever temperature stainless steel melts at.

  5. September 6, 2013 1:58 pm

    “First you need to become a Google City Expert. Rabbit, meet hole.”

    I’m in!! My little fingers are tap tap tappety tapping those reviews!

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