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AskTP – Merry February

February 5, 2014

Here we are, in the thick of winter. But even in the ice and the snow the days are totally getting longer and that gives me a bit of hope. Actually, winter in New Jersey isn’t that bad. Sure, our roads are a mess after it snows. And school seems to get cancelled at the mere anticipation of a light accumulation.

Even so, it’s warmer here. Winter started later and I bet it’s going to end earlier. And in the thick of it the cold just isn’t quite as biting in Central Jersey as it is in Upstate New York. Sure, Central New York and Buffalo have it worse. But that’s cold comfort.

I haven’t even needed to pull out my balaclava once.

Today isn’t about gloating about the weather. Today is for answering reader questions. It’s been a while since the last Ask the Profussor, so I’ll give a short reminder to those who may have forgotten. I’ve committed to answering any question that’s asked in the comments section of the blog, just so long as it includes a question mark. No, they may not get answered right away. But they do always get an answer.

Now without further ado, onto the questions.

Chef Paul asks a simple question that’s almost impossible to answer:
So who has the best burger in the capital district?

I cannot choose just one. I can’t. Here’s what I can tell you.

On any given day, if I’m feeling like a burger, I’m getting the local grassfed one from The City Beer Hall. However, if it’s burger night at the Capital City Gastropub, I’m going there. That said, once a year I permit myself the deep fried Buffalo burger at Swifty’s. Even though its beef has no pedigree, I would eat that monstrous thing every day of my life if I could do so and still live to see my kids graduate college. But if it were summer and a nice day (on one of the few days of the week) when Pirates Lakeside Grill was open, I’d swing by there to eat one of their $5 grassfed burgers al fresco.

-R was getting into the spirit of preventing food waste, but I’m going to go a step further:
Most folks will simply toss milk that’s a day past its expiration. Why not give it a little sniff before pouring a quart down the drain?

You know, sometimes that sour smell from a carton of milk isn’t the milk itself, but the stinky carton? Seriously. Sometimes the milk collects on the edges and can start to smell off, but the milk inside tastes perfectly fine.

So I would argue, for the sake of loss abatement, don’t smell your milk. If you are curious, pour a little bit out and take a sniff from a clean glass. By pouring it, you can also tell whether or not it’s gotten chunky. Use all your senses. Dates are merely constructs. Trust your taste to guide you.

Constantine Katsifis of the Americana Diner visited after I wrote about his bread service:
Your idea of recipes for day old or hard bread on the opposite side is a good one – Suggestions are welcome?

I would suggest changing the recipe for the season. In the winter a nice savory bread pudding would be perfect. In the height of the summer, old bread is magnificent in a panzanella. In the spring when the greens begin to sprout, old bread can be used as croutons for a salad. And what could be better than using old bread for a stuffing in the fall? And those are just for starters. We’ve left out bread crumbs, ribollita, gazpacho, French toast, and a host of others.

Josh K. hits upon one of the major weaknesses of the new dumpling house:
BTW – Did anyone like the soy/vinegar dipping sauce for the dumplings? I found it unappealing. I much prefer a darker, savory soy sauce with dumplings.

Nope. Not really. We all found it a bit lacking too. It needed more punch. I’d be curious to try their frozen dumplings and see how come out when boiled at home per their instructions. Still, I’m not giving up on the place yet.

Dora had her ears pluck up at the mention of a condiment from her ancestral homeland:
Hungarian hot pepper mustard?!? Will have to search for this…

You don’t have to search for it. The Profussor is at your service. You can buy it from the producer directly here. Just a word of warning, it ain’t cheap.

addiesdad was very excited to hear about my recent wine find:
Why? Why do you post things like Don’t you already know I have a slight problem? That was after several years of being on the wagon after a serious Wines Til Sold Out binge. Have you no shame?

No shame at all. It’s a fun little scheme. I’m not sure it’s for me. But I love that all the wines I’ve gotten come with screw top closures. Sadly, I’m still not drinking that much wine these days, so I still have three more bottles to try before I can come up with my full opinion on the service. Hopefully I’ll get them down before spring.

Lorres must have taken a vacation far away from the things of man:
Wait a minnit – innovative dim sum downtown? Where?

It’s the new place. Rain, on Lark Street. I’m looking forward to the foie gras soup dumplings.

Matt suggested leaving Disco Fries behind for their superior northern cousin:
Actually, Shirley’s in Saratoga Springs has great poutine (with squeaky curds!). Have you tried them? Perhaps because Saratoga is marginally closer to Quebec, the atmosphere up here is better for poutine!

I haven’t been to Shirley’s. But I was not impressed with their sister restaurant that opened in Crossgates Mall. Maybe I will have to make a trip north to try the poutine at the mothership.

Debra wants to know what to do with her beans:
Is it a bad thing to store your coffee in the freezer? I have heard pros and cons, but still not sure if it’s okay to do.

Bad sounds so judgemental. There are worse places you could keep your beans. But I don’t put mine there. The best thing to do is buy your beans in smaller quantities that you’ll use up within a week (or less). Then just worry about keeping them away from excessive heat and light and they should be fine.

Find a good local coffee shop and they will gladly sell you quarter and half pound increments. The good thing about this too is that you can work with the shop to find a bean and a roast that you love. If you want more information on this process, I’d be happy to help walk you through the steps.

Jon in Albany asks a stupid question:
Stupid question: why not just add some Franks to the butter you are putting on the popcorn?

It’s too wet. I want to keep my popcorn crispy. I even take extra the water out of the butter by clarifying it first. Water is the enemy of popcorn and witches.

Jessica R. thinks I’m joking:
Dehydrated vinegar? Surely you jest.

Nope. I figure I would go through the same process of making Frank’s Red Hot powder. I’ll put some on a plate and scrape up what’s left after a couple of days. Why? Does your science tell you something that I don’t know yet?

Mike wanted to check in how the Colorado team did in the Super Bowl:
How did you like the Dale’s Pale Ale? It’s one of my favorites. A little bigger and hoppier than you average pale ale.

Yeah. It had a lot of character. I’m still not so sure what I think about beer in cans. I know I’m supposed to love it. But I have a hard time getting past the BPA can liners. That’s not to say I’d look down my nose at a can of Heady Topper. But as much as I enjoyed it, I don’t think I’ll be making Dale’s a regular part of my beer shelf.

Barbara is the newest member of the grumpy old cereal eaters club:
WHY THE HECK WON’T COMPANIES STOP RUINING OUR CLASSICS??? I’M FED UP, LITERALLY WITH THIS KIND OF CRAP. Furthermore, did they think kids were going to start asking for these now? That’s just stupid, plain and simple. (And I DO miss my cereal but it’s not my cereal anymore)

I did hear somewhere that Post is going to make GrapeNuts GMO free. I’m not sure if that means they are going to take out the soy that they mysteriously put in, or if they are just going to find GMO-free soy. They can put whatever kind of soy they want in that box, but I’m still not going to buy it. Cereal doesn’t need added protein. It’s asinine.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr.dave permalink
    February 5, 2014 11:33 am

    Distilled vinegar is acetic acid and water. You would be left with acetic acid. Doesn’t this count as one of your dreaded “chemical additives” haha? Weren’t you just saying you preferred Applegate products because they used celery salt to cure instead of sodium nitrate/nitrite that had been “synthesized god knows where…”? What is the appellation d’origine of the acetic acid in your vinegar?

    My point is that all food is chemicals and it is funny you are only scared of certain ones. Next you will be putting sodium chloride of unknown provenance on your popcorn…

  2. February 5, 2014 4:06 pm

    Thanks, Mr. Awesome, for the info. on the Hungarian mustard. I have contacted our mutual friends who like food adventures to see if they can score some for our fin shops. (And, ummm, me.)

  3. February 6, 2014 2:00 pm

    I have a surplus of mustard seeds, I’m totally going to take a stab at that Hungarian mustard.

  4. Susan L permalink
    February 6, 2014 2:19 pm

    Take heed of’s warning: New York State is currently vigorously cracking down on unpaid sales taxes on out-of-state purchases of wine and cigarettes. They’re checking online credit card purchases going back several years.

  5. February 26, 2014 12:57 pm

    What make you of this article at Eater on Manhattan variations? To me many of these are there own cocktails, and, technically, isn’t a Manhattan a bourbon martini?

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