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October 2009: Deli Daze & Pizza Ways

February 11, 2016
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Welcome to week number six of the FLB TBT project. Have I mentioned lately how stubborn I can be? I’m still kind of convinced this is a terrible idea. However, I really want to look back and review what I’ve written, and chart the arc of the blog to see which ideas have stood the test of time

But that takes a lot of time. So I figured as long as I was putting in the work, I might as well make it into a post.

We’ve learned a lot so far. The blog started with a bang taking shots at the paper and raking up muck. Then I took a vacation, and lost a bit of momentum. But I came back swinging getting back to tackling serious issues about restaurants and criticism.

What’s the big takeaway from October? This was after all the first fall I was writing the blog. And fall is usually a great time to be alive in upstate New York.

The blog was getting beginning to get some legitimacy. I had scored a coveted honor, of being named a judge for All Over Albany’s Tournament of Pizza. That meant I got to expand some of my thoughts on pizza on these pages. However, the plurality of this month was about Jewish Deli. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say, there will never again be ten days of posts on a single subject leading up to an interesting event.

So how did it break down day by day? I’m glad you asked. But before we jump into the daily summaries, you may want to refresh yourself with the color coded key.

FLB TBT KEY
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Gray: Outdated ideas, naive assertions, blog maintenance, and other non-essential posts.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 or some place else.

October 1: Crimes Against Cheese: Cheesediggers
“There are some people who do not care for the bloomy rind of the cheese. So instead of cutting a proper slice, they scoop some of the cheese out from between the rinds. And once one person indulges, the floodgates open wide.” Don’t do it.

October 2: My Pink Drink
It’s called pink gin. And it’s room temperature gin with a ton of Angostura bitters. “To me, putting ice in a Pink Gin is like taking your LPs and converting them to MP3s and listening to them on your iPod. Surely it sounds like a good idea given the prevailing wisdom of the time, but more than a little is lost in the translation.”

October 5: Deli as Academic Pursuit
I announced a theme week dedicated to Jewish Deli in advance of a lecture at the uptown SUNY campus. Welcome to “Deli Days”.

October 6: Corned Beef or Pastrami Sandwiches
Don’t ask me to choose between the two. And don’t put them both on a sandwich. “Lean corned beef or pastrami is an abomination. The stunningly brilliant thing about good fatty Jewish deli meat is how delicious, buttery and meltingly tender it can be when done right.” The rest of this post is a love letter to the poetic beauty of a great Jewish deli sandwich.

October 7: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
When you have a kosher deli, you can’t use butter. What’s a better substitute than fake butter? Real schmaltz. It makes the best matzoh balls. And a byproduct of the schmaltz rendering process is a miracle food called gribenes. They’re like the Jewish equivalent of pork rinds, and worth every minute they drain from your life.

October 8: Deli Don’ts
Rule one: This should go without saying, but a corned beef sandwich does not come on white bread with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Rule two: Get what you came for. Rule three: The basics are ridiculous enough; avoid the phantasmagorical. Rule four: If you order soup, unless it says it has chicken in it, it doesn’t.

October 9: My Father’s Soda
In a public birthday note to my dad, I recalled an early formative eating experience he shared with me. “I didn’t have a full understanding at the time that we were Jewish. But without knowing it, I had been imprinted. My father had given me a taste for my cultural heritage. Smoked fatty meat, with mustard, some form of cabbage, some form of pickle and a Cel-Ray to wash it all down is for me the quintessential New York Jewish culinary experience.”

October 11: Jewfish
It’s pickled herring. I prefer my pickled herring with a big dose of sour cream stirred into the mix. And it has to have onions. Man, I do love the food of my people.

October 12: Picklish
Speaking of pickles, there’s a divide. Half sour vs. full sour. I make the case for full sours in this post. But as of 2016, I’ve discovered the joys of half sours.

October 13: Knish Wish
I wish they were smaller. And I wish they were more readily available. Because knishes are delicious. This post also contains the story of how I was taught to make knish in elementary school at my Jewish day school, using nothing but convenience foods.

October 14: An Unforgettable Jewish Food
I totally forgot what this was. Oh. It’s chopped liver. Of course. There was that time when I was given a taste of the stuff after not eating it for years and years, and I was instantly whisked back into my Nana’s living room, taking dabs of chopped liver out of the serving dish and spreading it on crackers.

October 15: Deli Run Amok
Do you get the feeling that Deli Days ran just a bit too long? I did too. The subject matter was fun to write about, but it was too much deli concentrated into too short a burst. Mental note… never do this again.

October 16: Cider Donuts
My first stab at getting a handle on the apple cider donut. They’re better with sugar. It doesn’t feel right to get them at a non-orchard based bakery. On some level I want more apple flavor than the donut is able to deliver. But they are a regional food, and regional foods rock.

October 18: Pizza Philosophy
I was asked to be a judge for AOA Tournament of Pizza, so I thought it would be wise to share my pizza philosophy. It boils down to this. “There are so many different styles of pizza. Each really has to be evaluated on its own terms. Every style has its rabid fan base that insists theirs is the true expression of the form, and all others are merely imposters.”

October 19: Austin Again
The WSJ reported Austin has one of the best sushi restaurants in the country. “This involves paying top dollar for the highest quality fish from Japan that is flown to NY and LA. Then the fish has to be flown immediately to Texas. It’s tricky, and it’s costly. Yet they do it because they have high standards and a desire to make Austin ‘a great restaurant city.’ This could be done anywhere, and arguably would be easier in Albany, given our proximity to NYC.”

October 20: How to Serve Vegans
I needed to cook some food for a family with a vegan member. So I did some research and found a recipe that looked pretty darn good. So I made it. And it was definitely tasty.

October 21: Ask the Profussor – Welcome New Peeps
New readers came to the blog thanks to Deli Days and the AOA TOP judging announcement. That was cool, and AskTP was as good a place to welcome them as any.

October 22: Big in the Big Easy
All about Crystal hot sauce. Man, that’s the only stuff for balancing out a nice bowl of red beans and rice. Officially, this was #4 in my Hot Sauce Library series.

October 23: The Unfussy Sazerac
I was cutting corners on this classic drink of rye and brandy by using bourbon instead. But I do tell the tale of how I first came across this drink, as it was an experience that I won’t ever forget.

October 25: Sweating Over Wine
Speaking of unforgettable experiences, this was the story of my first trip into a serious wine store as an adult, and how I broke into a cold sweat. The idea was that if there are people who are uncomfortable about wine, I get it. I used to be there too.

October 26: More Than Just Pizza
The Fountain vs. Pasquales. The pizza was better at Pasquales. No contest. But Mrs. Fussy always wanted to go to The Fountain. Not for the food, but for the warmth of that tavern atmosphere.

October 27: Eggless
Thanks to my experiments in vegan cookery, I discovered how crumbled tofu resembles scrambled eggs. And this recipe for a tofu scramble was easy and shockingly tasty. I was making these for a while when I gave up eggs in an attempt to reduce my cholesterol numbers.

October 28: Burritos are Coming
In October of 2009, the Capital Region neither had a Chipotle or a Trader Joe’s. The best place to get a burrito at the time was Bomber’s. But that was soon about to change. Chipotle was coming. And I was thrilled. So I wrote up what I loved about this Mexican-inspired chain.

October 30: Pizza Sausage
The five forms of pizza sausage from most to least desirable:
1) Chunks of loose sausage
2) Sausage rings, generally with casing
3) Shaved sausage, generally without casing
4) Ground meat with sausage seasoning
5) Rabbit pellet sausage, akin to what one sees on frozen pizza

October 31: I Want Candy
“‘If I were trick-or-treating, and I came to a house with all of those grocery store candies, and I was allowed to choose just one to put in my sack?’ It would be Twix. No doubt. Crunchy cookie. Chewy caramel. Rich chocolate It’s a layered textural and flavor experience like no other.”

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