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July 2009: Gathering Steam

January 21, 2016

Month three of the blog. What was going on? Well, it certainly picked up momentum. How did we do that? Well, writing a post every single day was certainly played a significant role. Holy cow. That’s a lot of posts. I can’t believe I didn’t lose my marbles.

I did take a day off from original content on July 4 and posted links to earlier stories.

One of the things I noticed in rereading these was how many posts told stories of my past. Memories from childhood, tales from my professional life in California, and other personal anecdotes. While I was still critical of the regional restaurant scene and our local food critics, there were clearly places that I did enjoy. Bella Napoli, Capital Q, and our regional form of fish fry all got highlighted this month.

How did it break down day by day? I’m glad you asked. But before we jump ahead, you may want to refresh yourself on the origins of this Throwback Thursday project, and review the key below for decoding the rainbow of colors that awaits you after the jump.

Bold: Fundamental Beliefs. Core Ideas. Still hold true today.
Gray: Outdated ideas, naive assertions, blog maintenance, and other non-essential posts.
Red: Fundamentally sound, but could be updated to reflect current thoughts.
Purple: Wine posts. Apparently none of them are a good fit for this blog.
Green: Hyper local posts about the Capital Region.

July 1: Shiny Sauté Pan
All Clad stainless steel cookware kicks ass. It can go in the dishwasher, and it’s nonreactive. When you don’t need nonstick performance of cast iron, this should be your go to pan. Unless you’re boiling water, because nobody needs a $200 stockpot.

July 2: Bull’s-Eye
The secret to perfecting a dish is to cook it a thousand times. That’s why I can make a killer egg-in-the-hole-in-the-bread or whatever you choose to call that gorgeous morning treat we enjoyed as kids, and for some reason have largely abandoned in adulthood.

July 3: Lunch with a Luminary
I recall a lunch I had with Ruth Reichl in San Francisco when she was the editor of Gourmet and I was responsible for a crapton of advertising spending. Whatever you say about Ruth Reichl, you can’t accuse her of not having an ideology. A fact I found to be in stark contrast to our local food critic at the time.

July 4: Independence Day
In lieu of new content, I celebrated my independence from writing the blog by posting links to stories from the first two months.

July 5: The Profussor is In – Actual Answers to Actual Questions
This regular feature took a turn for the better as the formatting changed to something closer to its current state. It’s still a bit hard to read. But finding a format that works can take some time.

July 6: The Secret To Oddly Tender Chinese Meat
Cornstarch. And officially, this would seem to be my first inadvertent piece of clickbait. It’s my most popular post of all time. By far. And it’s kind of amazing that it came so early in the scheme of things.

July 7: We’re Not All Dead Yet
Fear no food. That’s my mantra. And I preached it early in the life of the FLB. Not all organically raised produce is created equal. I recommended prioritizing based on pesticide loads. Mostly because I found the notion of heavy pesticide use unappetizing.

July 8: One Universal Wine No-No
Never. Never ever. Never ever store your wine above the refrigerator. Beyond that, eat red wine with fish and white wine with steak. Drink it out of jelly jars. I don’t care. Heat and light are the enemies of wine. If you want to drink bad wine, fine. But don’t take good wine and make it bad.

July 9: Now That’s Italian
The one where I compared two Italian menus to each other. One menu was from Upstate New York. The other was from Oakland, California. And this started the ball rolling on an ongoing argument I made that the fancier restaurants up here are overpriced for the food they put on the plate.

July 10: Let’s Get Small
Cocktails should be small. I was served a jumbo-sized mai tai, and it was terrible.

July 11: How Cheese Came Into My Life: In Which We are Introduced to Cheese Girl
Every great story has a special character who helps the hero along his journey. Luke had Obi Wan. Dante had Beatrice. I had Cheese Girl. This was part four of an ongoing saga about how I turned onto cheese. What cheese goes well with fruity frozen daiquiris? Cheese Girl said aged gouda. And she was right.

July 12: Glasses for the Masses
I made the case for nice large-bowled, thin-rimmed wine glasses. But wine doesn’t always have to be such a fussy affair. I’m fine with using water glasses. What I’m not fine with are the stemless glasses being called “wine tumblers”, because they are just ridiculous.

July 13: Warming Up To Dim Sum
Sometimes you won’t love something on the first try. My first foray into dim sum was disappointing. But I came to love it over time. Actually, I can track my love back to one meal in particular at Yank Sing in San Francisco. This post is the story of that dim sum journey.

July 14: Why Would I Trust Michael Milken?
The Junk Bond King turns out to have a great recipe for a vegan Reuben. Holy cow that was good. But man, it was so much work I’m never ever making it again. I guess that’s one of the advantages of having a private chef.

July 15: At Least It’s Food
Taco Bell used to be a client of mine back in the old ad agency days. Well, the beans are totally beans. So when I’m in a pinch, the bean burrito is my go-to order.

July 16: The Cocktail With No Name
White rum with coffee liqueur. I put ’em together. They were delicious. And seemingly, nobody had made claim to this combination of base spirit and liqueur in the past. So what should it be named? I had a few ideas. The Afro-Cuban cocktail was my top pick.

July 17: The Profussor Responds – Big Week
Effectively this was another Ask the Profussor post. Two in one month? Now we’re getting somewhere. The blog also sailed past 10,000 page views. It felt good to have some momentum behind this project.

July 18: How Cheese Came Into My Life: Nana Needs Her Cheese
My first taste of real stilton, Colston Bassett Stilton, was an earthmoving moment of awesomeness. Knowing what’s good seems to run in the family, because this was my nana’s favorite cheese.

July 19: FUSSYlittleSTUFF Open For Business
In theory, I suppose, you can still buy FLB t-shirts, hats, and such. But I haven’t checked out the page since I set it up all those years ago. The FLB t-shirt I bought all those years ago is looking a little worn. Maybe it’s time for a new one.

July 20: Hunting Vegetarians
I met Shannon Hayes of Sap Bush Hollow Farm, and fell in love. She was at a screening of a film about a lifelong vegetarian who moves to Alaska and becomes a hunter, because that’s how you live a sustainable life up on the frozen tundra. This post is full of the challenges facing farmers and restaurants in bringing better meat to consumers. But it all starts with farmers.

July 21: Reader Requests Recipe #1
How do you make the most delicious steel cut oats? I follow the Cook’s Illustrated technique which toasts the grain in butter before slowly cooking it in a mixture of water and milk. Man, it’s slow. But totally worthwhile.

July 22: Take the Donuts, Leave the Cannoli
People love a lot of places out here. After a first visit to Bella Napoli I didn’t see the appeal. What I didn’t realize at the time is that some of these beloved local places may only have a few truly exceptional things. It’s just a matter of finding out what those are. At Bella Napoli it’s the donuts.

July 23: Build A Bar
You don’t need to have every kind of base spirit to have a great home bar. I limited myself to a small liquor cabinet and figured out a few tricks for how to make the most out of very little space. It’s all about thinking ahead and drinking what you like.

July 24: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Food* (*but were afraid to ask)
The Food Lover’s Companion is an incredible book. Out west, where restaurants were more comfortable pushing limits and patrons were eager to try new things, I had to consult this guide in order to understand a few dishes on a few menus. And that’s a very good thing.

July 25: How Cheese Came Into My Life: Cheese Cheers Me Up When I Am Feeling Blue
Coming off the stilton, I discover an amazing blue cheese from my local cheese chop called Peñazul. And this was even better. If I was hooked before, this was the cheese that set the hook. From this point on my destiny was locked in. I was a cheese lover.

July 26: Why Wine?
Because it goes incredibly well with food. Drink it with a meal, and be happy. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. But you’ll be amazed at how much it adds to the pleasure of a dinner.

July 27: Foot Long Fish
I “discovered” the classic Capital Region style of fish fry. That would be a long and skinny piece of white fish that’s breaded, fried, and partially nestled into a hot dog bun.

July 28: The Wine That You Eat
What wine should you buy when using wine to cook? Never use cooking wine. Only use a wine that you would drink. And wine made from a blend of grapes is better than a single varietal for this purpose.

July 29: Quandary With a Capital Q
Just when I discovered a great place for food in the area, my doctor told me to lay off the fatty meats. That’s the quandary. But man, I love that fatty brisket from Capital Q. The Carolina-style pulled pork really excited me too.

July 30: Maybe Capital Q Is Not For You
Before Celina Ottaway and I were friends we were adversaries. She was always very pleasant, but we just had diametrically opposite tastes. Over time, we found a few patches of common ground. But she had a really bad experience at Capital Q and got one of my favorite people fired.

July 31: Oh Fee
Does anyone remember when it was almost impossible to find orange bitters anywhere? I do. Which is why this post about discovering Fee Brothers orange bitters was such a big deal. Now we’re living in a bitters paradise. But once upon a time this was a bitters wasteland.

One last thing.

The good folks of Blaze Pizza want you to know that they’re new location is opening today in Stuyvesant Plaza, and tomorrow they are offering free pizza from 11am to 10pm to anyone who follows the brand on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. I’ve heard good things about the “Chipotle of pizza places” but have yet to check them out myself. Surely, this would be a good chance to give it a spin.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 21, 2016 4:14 pm

    Yes, Blaze makes a decent pizza. It’s at least worth checking out once. Especially if you like a thin, crunchy, end crust.

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