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Ramblin’ Man

June 30, 2014

Last night was gorgeous at the institute. I tried to take a picture, but I couldn’t do it justice. There were so many fireflies dancing over the rolling green, I had to make sure Mrs. Fusy took a break from packing to come out and enjoy a few minutes of our last night in New Jersey.

Making the temporary move to Princeton was a difficult decision at the time. We also had the opportunity to spend the last two semesters in Palo Alto. I couldn’t believe I was saying no to a chance to move back to the SF Bay Area. ADS couldn’t believe it either. Stanford Steph was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to share in the joy of her alma mater.

As much as I would have enjoyed being back in California, I know we made the right call.

Exploring a new state is an incredible opportunity. And now I get to put another metropolitan area on the list of those were I totally feel at home. For the record, that’s New York, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Johnstown-Altoona, Albany-Schenectady-Troy, and Princeton.

Thanks to this sabbatical, I’m well versed in the intricacies of Trenton tomato pie. I’ve been able to visit both the big players and the up and comers. And I have a newfound respect for the Jersey tomato.

I got to try the famous Italian hot dog in all of its deep fried glory. Pork roll worked its way into my diet, and as a direct result I no longer flinch at American cheese (which should be white).

Hoagies were built based on dreams of greatness and devoured. Central New Jersey Yelpers were met with great fanfare and several beers. Craft distillers were visited and chatted up about being rooted in the past and looking toward the future. Breakfast was had with the owner of what may be the best diner in the state (who amazingly is a fan of the FLB). Salt water taffy was consumed on the boardwalk, almost as a matter of duty. Italian ices were scooped out of a 100 year old churn. Farmers markets were shopped. Farms were visited. Cheesemakers were observed (behind glass) plying their trade.

The dining hall at IAS has been incredible. Somehow I missed shark day. But I caught braised rabbit day, duck confit day, and lobster cake day. During the Christmas party, I got to take advantage of their incredible wine list. And I was able to participate in their wine and spirits tastings on multiple occasions. Plus, let’s not forget the first “Welcome to IAS” party where I was introduced to The White Lady cocktail.

Ice cream was a huge theme over the past several months. I am strongly in the Halo camp. Others are team Bent Spoon. And I get why they love the place, but they are wrong to snub the better ice cream around the corner.

Being part of this international community also brought opportunity for expanding my culinary horizons. I finally learned a few fundamentals of Indian cooking. My Israeli neighbors shared their secrets for baba ganoush. And I was able to attend a lecture by Najmieh Batmanglij all about Persian food. Who knew how central what is now Iran was to so many of the delicious things we enjoy today?

Princeton has two different Shanghainese restaurants, but each of them made me long for Ala Shanghai back home. That place is a gem. But here I was finally able to get another taste of true Szechuan food. Man, that stuff is great. And the nearby dim sum places with carts were a treat too.

Sure, some places were over hyped. Serious Eats thought the best croissants in America could be found in Princeton. I still maintain that they are at Mrs. London’s in Saratoga Springs, even after trying the wares from The Little Chef here in town. And the best chicken wings in Princeton, which can be found at Chuck’s Spring Street, pale in comparison to the second tier place in the Capital Region.

Naturally, there were donuts. Albany Jane, sugar fiend that she is, swears by the buttercream sticks at Eet Gud in Trenton. I can’t do it. But the Amish who have crossed the river from Pennsylvania, thankfully sell some of the best Boston cream I’ve ever had. Their butter is pretty freaking awesome too. As are their kielbasa sandwiches.

As much as I’ve done, and as much as I’ve eaten there is still so much more. I barely scratched the surface of the New Jersey bagel, which some say is better than those made in New York. At one point I thought I would try to eat at a diner a week, but that never happened. Here in the land of the diners, I really dropped the ball. Sure, I hit up a place or two, including a late weekend night stop outside of Newark for some pretty stellar disco fries.

And I could have done more with pizza. Trenton tomato pie doesn’t count. Pizza Town USA got more than its fair share of my attention. But their slices and their deep fried calzone are really special. Still, I’m glad to have built a relationship with my local slice shop. Sure, it’s in a strip mall. But those old Italian guys really care about the food they are putting out. And even though they may be surly on the phone, their slices are top notch.

Regrettably, I never made it to Elements or its sister restaurant Mistral. These were on my list when I arrived. Really, I should have made a better effort to get reservations early on with Mrs. Fussy. Sometimes life just gets in the way of food.

Like leaving Princeton. I’m not ready to go. There is still so much more to eat and do and see and learn.

Today, I’m loading up the truck and driving back to Albany. Granted, the car now has Jersey plates, a Jersey title, and a Jersey registration. But I’ll be a bona fide New Yorker again before too long.

Although once you’ve been on the road, it’s hard to put down roots again. The itch to wander is hard to let go. So this next weekend I’ll be off to Providence. The following Friday, I’m taking a road trip with Abany Jane to try some Old Forge style pizza. Soon thereafter it will be a week in the Poconos. I’ve got my cousin’s wedding in New Hampshire. And I’m trying to firm up plans for another East Hampton excursion.

Somewhere in there, I’ll be trying to squeeze in a summer FUSSYlittleTOUR.

Given all that’s going on, I have no real idea how long it will take to get back into the swing of things in and around Albany. In some ways, I suspect it will feel new and different. I mean, heck, there’s now a Whole Foods in Colonie Center and Slidin’ Dirty has gone legit. But in other ways I suppose it will feel like I’ve never left.

Except of course, I need to reestablish my Time Warner Internet access. So, hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow with another post fresh after the move. But no promises. Dealing with the local cable internet monopoly can sometimes be a little bit bumpy.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2014 1:06 pm

    What a fab read!

  2. Debra permalink
    June 30, 2014 1:11 pm

    Welcome back Daniel. Safe travels.

  3. enough already! permalink
    June 30, 2014 1:33 pm

    Daniel,
    How about a tour de croissant aux amandes? Certainly mrs London’s, but there are others, including placid baker. You could also weigh in price vs weight for best value.
    And welcome back.

  4. buffsoulja permalink
    June 30, 2014 4:45 pm

    Nice summary of your time there. I will use this as a guide if ever I am in the area (I am just about always in North Jersey usually when I cross State lines)

  5. Andrew permalink
    June 30, 2014 5:01 pm

    Welcome back. When in the Poconos, I highly recommend Inti, a Peruvian restaurant. http://www.inticuisine.com/

    My wife and I stumbled upon this place last summer and it was tremendous. Their ceviche empanadas and a quinoa and mushroom risotto with a peruvian soft cheese were revelatory.

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