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AskTP – Last June in Jersey

June 11, 2014

It’s going down. I’m yelling, “Timber!”

We’re wrapping things up here at IAS. Yes, there are a couple of more weeks. There’s the chance to get in a few more lunches. I’m actually bummed that yesterday I missed the zucchini clafoutis with truffled polenta and tomato broth in the dining hall. If I can drop a few pounds, I may even be able to justify another visit or two to Hoagie Haven. But people are leaving for their home countries and the place is starting to feel a bit empty.

The U-Haul is booked. The boxes are standing by. We’ll need some more tape and to eat through a bit more of our stockpile of foodstuffs, but I’m sure we’ll manage. Plus, we know a couple of families that are staying on for another year. Hopefully one of them will find a use for a bag of chickpea flour.

In the meantime, life goes on. Posts continue to be posted. Readers come to the FLB and read. Commenters comment. Lurkers lurk. And occasionally someone asks a question. Even more occasionally, I’ll answer one. But I’ve made a commitment to answer all the questions asked in the comments section of the blog, and so I created this semi-regular feature called Ask the Profussor.

Today we’ve got a full sack. So, without further ado, onto the questions.

bluecollarcritic was also surprised by the grape nuts gambit:
I also find it equally hard to believe that no one noticed the tastes difference between the pre-soy protein version and the new & improved version. I assume they did Q&A on the new version so how the heck did it get past the QA people?

I’ve been on QA boards for new products. Crap gets through all the time. Part of me wonders how many people actually eat their Grape Nuts in milk where they can actually taste the cereal. I bet many more throw a handful into yogurt with honey and fruit just trying to get Some beneficial dietary fiber and a create a more satisfying breakfast/snack than just a plain yogurt.

bluecollarcritic says “elaborate” but I think a summary might be more appropriate:
Could you elaborate on what your different narrative is?

Sure. Cereal companies were saying that people were walking away from cereal in general because consumers want something more portable. That narrative suggests Americans have changed their eating styles based on their busy lives.

I called hogwash on this, mostly because cereal fits great into a busy life. My preferred narrative is that consumers are finally waking up to the fact that they’ve been eating candy disguised as a healthful breakfast and no longer want any part of it. I know that this is actually happening. What I do not know is if it’s happening in large enough numbers to be driving the downward trend that is concerning to the big CPG companies. That’s my narrative of choice.

bluecollarcritic really went nuts over the grape nuts issue:
Grape-Nuts Is just bread?

No. It’s not even toast. You can’t believe everything you read in the WSJ. Especially after it was sold to News Corp.

masticating monkey might think we don’t watch TV in our ivory tower:
Did you ever watch any of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show? There was some of the usual producer-driven “reality show drama,” but mostly I found it to be a pretty compelling look inside a (typically) terrible school lunch program.

I watched the full first season. Mrs. Fussy felt awful for the cafeteria ladies. But it’s true, a big source of the problem is the regulations that govern what a school can and cannot do. Part of me wants to get very involved in my town’s school system to help address this issue. The other part of me thinks that’s nucking futs.

bluecollarcritic wants to talk about out of control Orwellian systems, we can do that:
Some schools in Chicago are banning home-packed lunches. These unaccountable education bullies are telling parents they no longer get to decide what their child eats for lunch while at school. How’s that for an out of control Orwellian system?

That’s one good example. Or you can look at the recent FDA decision that was posted without review or comment which now apparently outlaws some of the world’s greatest cheeses from our shores and kicks small American cheesemakers in the balls.

Deanna will hopefully remember not to use so many question marks next time:
1) Where to start in reply?
2) Perhaps they should all be called, “Vietnamese sandwiches,” then further qualify with “on banh mi” or “on a hoagie roll” or “in a wrap.” Eh?
3) But do people always recall the origins of pizza when they add things like sausage or cook it more as a casserole than as the flat-crusted traditional offering? Do they say deep-dish style “pizza?” Nope. just pizza. Even though pizza is a protected cultural entity in the EU.

1) Start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start.
2) No. We don’t have to dumb down Americans any further.
3) Even in Chicago they say “deep dish” or occasionally “stuffed” because they also have a regional style of thin crust. I reject the notion that there is one true pizza much like I reject the idea that there is one true beer. It’s a form that has styles. Those styles have rules. Some of those rules can be bent. Others can be broken. And there are absolutely stylistic variations within legit banh mi. But none of this can elevate the Reel Seafood “banh mi wrap” to anything more than an abomination.

no3rdw was curious if I was staying on top of the Vietnamese food scene:
Daniel, did you get a chance to check out the banh mi at Kim’s before you left?

While I made it to Kim’s, I made it there before they put a sandwich on the menu. I had hoped against hope that they would make the addition, especially considering the restaurant is right in the middle of the student ghetto. Overall, I thought like our other Vietnamese restaurants, the place was too expensive for what it was. Still, I’ve been encouraged by tales of their pho from sources I trust, and I look forward to seeing if even their suboptimal banh mi can scratch an itch.

EPT isn’t the first to ask this and I suspect won’t be the last:
Who cares, don’t you have a real job?

I guess that depends on what you mean by “real” and for that matter I’d also like a little clarification on this “job” thing too. Do I sit around and eat bon bons all day and troll the Interwebs looking to pick fights? Nope.

Most of the blog stuff happens late at night when the kids and the wife are asleep. Really, it’s taken over my video game time. And maybe my reading time. Possibly also my guitar practice time. It has definitely cut into my sleeping time.

Here’s the deal. I sat down one day and asked myself a question. Now that I’m living in Albany where I can’t run multi-million dollar ad campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, if I could do anything, what would it be? I care about food. A lot. I’ve cared about it for a long time. So more than anything else, I wanted to try and help change the food culture in the Capital Region. The FLB is part of that, but there’s more to come.

gorgeousgoodness wants my thoughts on breakfast, but I’m giving her something else:
Overnight oats are perfect for warmer weather. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve made them with chocolate milk, banana, and peanut butter. Does that even count as breakfast?

The only thing to look out for is the chocolate milk. I mean, the whole thing sounds totally nutritious. I’m not one of those sugar fascists. Sugar is great (in moderation, of course). But what I can’t stand is the carrageenan added to most chocolate milks. Even the good ones produced by otherwise unimpeachable local farms. Your best bet is to make your own chocolate syrup and then make your own chocolate milk. It’s a couple of extra steps, but it’s super easy.

Evan got a little prickly when I challenged people’s love for Lindt Truffles:
What is mass production? I really hate when people jump on products which use artificial ingredients. Do you have any fucking clue how expensive for them (and the consumers) it would be to manufacture millions of those every year with REAL cream and vanilla extract? I bet if they made a batch substituting the real thing you couldn’t even tell the fucking difference. Please QFT.

It’s not the mass production per se. My big complaint as I mentioned in the post is that these truffles are sold, “under the guise of craftsmanship and quality.” And I know exactly how expensive these would be if they are made right, because I buy real ones from real chocolatiers whenever I get the urge. They also are pretty easy to make at home if you can live with rolling them in nuts or dusting the truffles with cocoa.

Truthfully, I’m more sensitive to artificial flavors than most. But I find the texture of Lindt truffles is off putting. Sure the centers are soft, but they feel greasy in the mouth instead of creamy. Perhaps those who haven’t had the real thing won’t notice the adulterations, but for those of us who enjoy well made chocolates that contain truly high quality ingredients, the difference is jarring.

Burnt My Fingers threw down the gauntlet:
Here is a menu from a restaurant that is not in the Cap District. Maybe you think it’s esoteric but I see a lot of creativity in that kitchen. Anything like this happening around here?

The Capital Region isn’t the most adventurous place. There may be some elements of dishes there that are echoed here, but I can’t think of anything like this in the immediate area. Frankly, I’m not even looking for this kind of creativity from local chefs. I’d be happy if they nailed the fundamentals of a local, seasonal and sustainable menu that doesn’t just pay lip service to the culinary philosophy of good, clean food.

cattywampush like Deanna before her used a ton of question marks. Okay. Here we go:
1) What is local all natural ice cream supposed to taste like when you have been raised on Blue Bunny?
2) I often wonder why we keep seeing Rick Orlando, (as we had with Carmine before him), and not the head chef from Karavalli, Parivar, Ala Shanghai, or Kims?
3) WAMC had a chef on the air the other week who openly talked about opening a #10 can of sauerkraut and adding white wine to it. That was his recipe for homemade sauerkraut. I dont blame him. Making homemade sauerkraut is almost as smelly as Kimchi. But really?

1) See above for Evan’s thoughts on Lindt chocolate truffles. I suspect it’s similar.
2) Ric is handsome and charming. He’s been on TV and had some media coaching.
3) Holy cow, that’s crazy. Rua used to say on his website that people can’t tell the difference between canned chicken broth and homemade. This region has a problem. Shining a light on it is part of the solution. I missed the show on WAMC. Can you tell me who is “making” their own sauerkraut so I know where to aim the spotlight?

-R was properly disappointed in my choices prior to the bar mitzvah:
Really?!?! Fu**in’ Dunkin’? I don’t know man…how did you think Jerry got so orange?

I know. At the very least, it was good to reaffirm that the Dunkin’ Donuts are as hideous as ever and that nothing on their menu board is recognizable as food.

Mr. Dave had a question about some of the lesser pizza styles:
You really think anyone likes those Grandma’s pies anymore either?

People like all kinds of things. I love many different pizza styles, but have never really been wowed by a Sicilian slice. I’m hoping one day that will change. But I don’t begrudge anyone their stylistic preferences.

MikeH realized it wasn’t fair that I was asking for details and provided none in return:
What was so terribly bad about the pizza you had this past weekend?

Could the crust have been baked in advance? I remember the puffy crust of the Fountain having a nice crispness on the bottom when served hot. There was nothing of the sort. The bottom of the pizza was nicely browned, but the whole thing was shockingly soft and mushy. While that’s a critical shortcoming, they also changed the sausage topping that used to be quite enjoyable. In the past, the Fountain used loose bulk sausage. But on my last visit this once great topping had morphed into the vastly inferior sliced sausage.

Those were the two most glaring discrepancies from what I’ve come to expect from this bar pie. Had I been a more regular devotee, I might be able to comment on changes to the sauce and cheese, but I cannot.

jenh718 asks a good question for which I actually have a good theory:
Why is pizza so often soggy upstate???

Takeout. Seriously, why the f*ck try to make good pizza if most of them are going to just get put in a cardboard box to steam and die. Motherf*cking takeout. Seriously people, if you want takeout, get barbecue. It holds great. But most foods are better when you eat them as soon as they are made. There’s a reason why the best pizza joints in the country don’t offer delivery. Albanians have demanded bad pizza, and that’s the pizza we now have to deal with. First we need to change attitudes. Then maybe we might be able to get some better pizza.

Lorres probably doesn’t even realize the power of what she’s said:
I’m not sure if I have ever made mac ‘n’ cheese the same way twice, but who cares when you can add just about anything into the sauce depending on what sort of cheese you have put in there? Kielbasa and onions win the “hearty” prize with a nice fontina or monterey jack.

Kielbasa AND onions? You are speaking my language. Those are two things that I love that Mrs. Fussy hates. Just let me know when you’re making it and I’ll come right over.

Burnt My Fingers may have been looking to see if the farmers market was a tourist trap:
Did they have the seven sweets and seven sours at the Trenton Amish market?

Not as far as I can tell. There are Amish vendors at the Trenton Farmers Market–mostly of meat and baked goods–but it’s not actually an Amish market.

MB is kind to think that I might actually read a book every now and again:
Have you read Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity (2012)?

Funny you should ask. I just recently picked up a copy, and now it’s in the book stack. That’s one step closer to being read, but mine is one slow moving stack.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2014 6:20 pm

    Tourist trap? Quite the opposite. I have been on the hunt ever since the waitress at Dienner’s said, “if you’re looking for the seven sweets and seven sours, you missed it by 30 years!” I love that kind of a challenge.

    Also, you don’t really mean U-Haul, right? You’re using it as a generic term, yes? Please tell me you’re not moving with U-Haul.

  2. Katie permalink
    June 18, 2014 9:28 pm

    Hey, I have a question for you and your readers! Who makes the best carrot cake around here? Spouse and I had carrot cake for our wedding last August and we’d like to continue the tradition for our first anniversary. I saw on Yelp that there’s a carrot cake specialist, Mary’s Carrot Cake, in Pittsfield, but that’s quite a haul. Is there anything closer by you’d recommend?

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