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Keep Fussy Weird

August 26, 2015

When I took the Yelp job, I gave everyone the heads up that the blog might start to take a different tone. And since that date, I’ve been good about staying above the fray of petty conflict. It’s hard when there is someone who is wrong on the Internet. But I find a way to persevere.

But the FLB is still the FLB and there’s no danger of it losing whatever it is that makes it unique. It’s just that there’s a bunch of weird stuff happening in my life and the food world in general. Plus there was something interesting that landed on Keep Albany Boring yesterday (which in itself is a riff on the modern Austin battle cry – perhaps you remember my feelings on Austin).

Anyhow, this introduction to today’s post is a scattered mess. Sorry about that. They can’t all be winners. I assure you, the body of today’s post is just as scattered and twice as messy. So proceed with caution.

Did you know a Nordstrom’s Rack is opening up in Colonie Center on September 3? That’s exciting. And I’m not even that into clothes. But I remember Nordstrom’s from my SF days and I just hope that the brand has been able to maintain its high quality standards while the rest of the industry has been faltering. We’ll have to wait and see.

I only mention the store opening because the brand sponsored a strange piece of Albany-centric clickbait on bustle.com about what it’s like to live in the Capital Region. The only problem is that it’s not very good.

But if you hop over to Keep Albany Boring, you can be treated to a much cooler version of that list from someone who I wish had reached out to me about some of the food stuff. I still love you Laura. But maybe I’ll have to put out my own little pamphlet. It’s a cool design and a great idea.

We won’t linger on the details, but for number:
3) I’d sub out the HWFC cheese department for The Cheese Traveler.
3b) Andy’s isn’t as as fancy as Cardona’s, but the subs are better.
5a) Disco fries are best at Hill Street Pub. I tried them both on the same day. For science.

And things that make Albany great which were totally excluded:
– The recreation of a historic distillery downtown making rum the old world way
– An explosion of amazing beer bars and a craft beer culture that runs deep
– A speakeasy that rivals some of the best of the big cities
– Stacks Espresso Bar, where you can a great cortado built on a double ristretto
– Our taverns, including the Orchard, which has made a unique pizza for over 70 years

Look at me being a cheerleader for this place. I never thought that would happen. So that’s weird.

You know what else is weird? I’m going to the Travers on Saturday. I don’t even know what or who a Travers is. Was he a jockey? And I think there is something to do with canoes. But I do know that American Pharoah the horse will be there. And I get that he or she is a very fast horse. Or maybe just very lucky? Or maybe just graced with a skilled jockey? Regardless, I get that it’s rare to have a Triple Crown winner, and people are quite excited.

But I don’t get excited when I meet human sports stars either. I once saw a father point to the spot on the sidewalk where some New York Giant walked and make it seem like that was a patch of hallowed ground. This kind of enthusiasm for athletic performance is just beyond me.

The last time I watched horses run around a track was well over a decade ago in Berkeley. I bet on some horses, did some day drinking, and it was fun. But the scene there was a fair bit more seedy than what I’m expecting in Saratoga. Still, it would be fascinating to learn a bit more about the sport, and I’m optimistic that my host–America’s Best Racing–will help me gain a greater understanding of how it all works.

I’m not allowed to wear jeans, shorts, or “abbreviated wear” so I’m bummed that the Nordstrom’s Rack isn’t opening earlier. Surely I’ll figure something out. Although I don’t know where I’m going to find a big fancy hat. What I will most certainly find is the Shake Shack. I’m bringing a track food expert along as my wing woman.

Shake Shack makes me think of Five Guys and that leads me to a shocking discovery. My new favorite thing to get at Five Guys is their vegetable sandwich. Honestly, I can’t believe it either. But I noticed a slight degradation in the quality of the brand’s beef over time as the chain saw exponential growth. It made sense, even if it was hard to accept.

Now I get one of those rich and tender buns slathered with mayonnaise and filled with grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, green pepper, pickles, hot sauce, and jalapenos. What I just found out yesterday is that they’ll grill the jalapenos for you too. Man, it’s delicious. And the whole thing is a meager $3.19. Even if the sandwich was calorie free, splitting the 1000 calories of a $3.59 order of regular fries would be a meal’s worth of calories in and of itself. So for five bucks, I’ve got a delicious meal at Five Guys that full of vegetables? It’s crazy. Crazy awesome.

What may just be crazy crazy is what’s happening down in Florida. But, you know, Florida. I think I can say that because I lived down there for about fourteen years of my life.

In Florida, they are struggling with the standards of identity for milk. You see, there is one producer in the state who is skimming the milk and not injecting vitamins back into the fat-free fluid dairy. This producer has been doing it the same way for years, without ill effect on its customers. But now the state has taken notice.

Apparently consumers are under the impression that skim milk and whole milk should be nutritionally equivalent. So that’s where the requirement to add nutrients comes into play.

Florida thinks the nutritionally inferior skim milk should be called “Imitation milk product”. Even I, who think that skim milk is an abomination, acknowledge that this is a step too far. Skim milk is milk with something removed. That’s its name. That’s what they do it. If consumers don’t understand that, it’s either time for some better reading comprehension classes, or an educational campaign about the health benefits of whole milk.

I’d push for the latter. But at this point, I have to assume any sensible person has stopped reading. Tomorrow will be more focused. I promise.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. -R. permalink
    August 26, 2015 10:20 am

    Here’s another one for you – Israel has told Heinz that it must label the ketchup sold there as ‘tomato seasoning’ since it doesn’t contain enough actual tomatoes to qualify as ketchup under their labeling standards.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34052147

  2. Steve permalink
    August 26, 2015 10:38 am

    Baruch Hasem!! Sombody is finally calling John Kerry’s piggy bank out!!!

  3. Steve permalink
    August 26, 2015 10:39 am

    ewwwww I frogert and E

  4. Gabby permalink
    August 26, 2015 11:46 am

    Thanks for that heads-up on the veggie sandwich at 5 Guys–had no idea they had that, but going to get it posthaste!

  5. August 26, 2015 4:33 pm

    Nordstrom is to Nordstrom Rack as Cheese Traveler is to HWC cheese department. And as Shake Shake anywhere in NYC is to Shake Shack at the track, or so I’m told.

  6. Jenna C. permalink
    August 26, 2015 5:36 pm

    Place for fancy hats (for both boys and girls) is Soave Faire on Broadway in Saratoga. Actually, they have quite a hodge podge of interesting things. http://www.soavefaire.com/

  7. August 28, 2015 7:32 am

    The problem (based on only around five years’ experience in living in Albany, mind you) is that the culinary ambition proceeds in fits and starts, and while there are excellent restaurants here, no one (outside of a few obvious suspects, like Ric Orlando) really gives adventurous cuisine a chance. The menus inevitably revert to buffalo wings and chicken parmigiana and the like. There are great places on Central Avenue, but people here largely know what they want and refuse to pay for anything outside their realm of experience. I’m sure there are many exceptions, but even if you walk down St. Marks Place or 16th Street in the Mission you’re going to find about 20 times as much ambition as you find anywhere in Albany. I don’t say that to put it down, only to suggest that there’s a much higher hurdle to open a restaurant here and succeed culinarily and financially than there might be in some other cities (including Austin, which has become a sort of music mecca and thus has many people traveling from a variety of places who are accustomed to getting good cuisine).

    Hope I run into you at the Travers Stakes. Looking forward to it, although I’m sure it’ll be a madhouse. Went out to Belmont to see the third leg of the Triple Crown, and the subway lines were jam-packed. Hope to get back to Albany without spending hours on the Thruway.

  8. JaymoJangles permalink
    August 31, 2015 11:20 am

    Hill Street Cafe, not Pub.

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