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Predisposed Prejudices

November 23, 2015

Egads! The week feels like it’s over before it has even begun. Somehow I cleverly scheduled two different overnight trips, in two different states, on either side of Thanksgiving. Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll be in Rhode Island. Thursday and Friday I’m back in Albany. Saturday and Sunday I’ll be in Connecticut.

It all sounded like a good idea at the time. The blog will continue. Yelp will Yelp on. Everything will be fine. And I’m actually excited about all the plans. The logistics are just unfortunate.

My biggest concern is whether or not I’ll be able to bang out a batch of chicken stock in time to make some kind of quick and sleazy stuffing for Thursday night. That’s our small immediate-family dinner. Our bigger feast isn’t until Saturday. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that. My aunt N. has it all covered.

The only thing I’m worried about right now is revealing how wrong I’ve been about some deeply held prejudices. But when I’m wrong, I come clean. So here goes nothing.

Actually, both of these findings came out of the Beaujolais Nouveau Celebration hosted by the Alliance for Positive Health. For full disclosure, Yelp was a media sponsor of the event. Time and memory are failing me. I either went last year, or three years ago. But either way, the event has grown to include a lot more food than years past.

There was a crew from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que pulling pork on site, and I have to say, the sandwich I had on Friday night was the best one I’ve ever had from the institution. That’s because the fellow doing the pulling was very kind to me when I requested that he stuff my sandwich with as much of the pork’s bark as humanly possible. And he did. Plus he threw in an extra piece of bark on the side. Damn, that was good.

I’ll just try to pretend the pork came from a farm like this instead of a farm like this.

Ric Orlando was participating once again. The last time I saw him there, Ric had brought his hand rubbed lardo. I can’t remember what year the event took place, but I can tell you the layout of the food vendors, and which restaurant brought which dish. That lardo blew me away, and was totally the single best dish presented at the gala.

This year though, Ric brought his ballyhooed eggplant balls. It’s a dish he’s had some success with nationally, but it was one that I just could never take seriously. I can’t quite pin down the reason, but whenever I heard about his eggplant balls, I wanted to roll my eyes. Naturally, I had not gone out of my way to try them.

But Friday, there was no avoiding them. I had stopped to chat with Ric, who I like quite a bit. We talked about some of the Upstate New York Dinner menus, and Jasper’s shad roe in particular. I’m hoping that Ric will still submit a menu for the project. He seems to be interested.

Anyhow, as we were talking, he slipped some of the eggplant balls onto my plate. Those were actually pretty freakin’ good. In fact, they were my compadre’s favorite bite of the night.

Wow. I really misjudged those. Now I know. But that wasn’t the only thing I was wrong about.

Cider Belly Donuts also had a table at the benefit. I like to think that I can walk through a food event totally anonymously, but that’s proving to be no longer the case. Jenn told me that I had to try the apple pie frosted cider donut, but I demurred. In the past, while I have loved the shop’s basic donuts, I’ve found their glazes to be too sweet. And a glaze made with apple pie schnapps sounded exactly the opposite of something that I would like.

But at the end of the night, I came back to try one, and it totally changed my mind. On paper, it should have been a donut that I hated. Those flavored “schnapps” are the antithesis of small, finely crafted, distilled spirits. Most likely the flavor came from synthesized esters built from the ground up in some New Jersey laboratory.

Even still, I had to admit, that not only was the sweetness of the glaze in balance with the rest of the donut, the “apple pie” flavor really amplified the cider donut experience.

I was floored. It’s days later, and I’m still floored. Maybe I’ll have to pick some up during Chanukah as I begin my weeklong celebration of the miracle of the oil. But that’s still weeks away. Let’s get through Thanksgiving first.

Speaking of which, tomorrow I have something to share for which I’m quite thankful.

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