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December 2009: Hate Makes A Comeback

February 25, 2016
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This is harder than it looks. But I’m a stubborn bastard. So even though this is the eighth week in a row that I’m struggling to compile the FLB TBT project, I’m doing it anyway. I knew this was a bad idea from the get go.

If today is your first exposure to this weekly feature, let me fill you in. The idea here is to see where the blog has been, how it got here, and what we missed. In doing so, I’m hoping to reveal what has changed, which ideas are still relevant today, and find a bit of inspiration for posts that still need to be written.

I think this exercise is useful for me, and I hope it’s mildly entertaining to read. The idea behind the color coding in the body of the post, is to help you focus on the archived stories in bold face. Those are the ones that matter. Of course, if you’re into wine or curious about which local issues I was focusing on at the time, those should be equally easy to spot.

In December 2009, coming off a month of being thankful, I came to realize that the tone of this fussy blog was getting a bit too positive. The only thing to do was to go on a few rants about things that I hated. These, however, were still productive posts offering alternatives for overused words like “fresh” and “perfect”. I railed against things that people held up as the gold standard for good restaurants and I went so far as to instruct people how to drink. And then there was one last passing shot at the Times Union before closing out the year.

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Gray: Outdated ideas, naive assertions, blog maintenance, and other non-essential posts.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.

December 1: Ask The Profussor – Where Did November Go?
I went an entire month without writing an Ask The Profussor. This would become a trend. But back in December 2009 I was still linking each question back to its original comments. Man, that was a lot of work. I’m really curious to see how far into the FLB project I dropped that labor-intensive step.

December 2: Bringing Home Cornelius
“I do not make a habit of pontificating about wines or spirits, because it is hard freaking work. Sure, separating aromas and flavors into their component pieces and then trying to slap names on them to make them recognizable to others sounds like it should be a piece of cake. But it’s not.” And with that said, I went on to provide a sensory analysis of Harvest Spirit’s Cornelius Applejack.

December 3: How To Drink
After evaluating a spirit, I was reminded that most people simply describe things as either smooth or sharp. And I’m pretty sure that’s because they don’t know how to drink. So I took a step back and got a little bit pedantic. But I hope it helped to open people’s minds to a new way of drinking that can provide more enjoyment than simply knocking back of glass of something alcoholic.

December 4: Consistency is the Enemy of Brilliance
“The frustrating part is that I want to try them all against each other to better taste the changing nuances from batch to batch.” Even back in the beginning, I wanted to drink all the things. But I couldn’t drink all the things. But in this post I focused on the benefits of inconsistency. The best producers are always striving to make it better. And in that pursuit, they occasionally fail.

December 6: The Pepsi Challenge
The Harvard Business School marketing case study is used in this post as a model for how to go about evaluating what is truly good. Although one has to be aware of the biases in the system and the physiology of human taste. Here’s the bottom line, “Just because you like it in a tasting, doesn’t mean you will like it later. Still, I believe the exercise of a tasting is valuable.”

December 7: Freshy Fresh
The blog wasn’t fussy enough, so I needed to write about something I hated. So I wrote about how I hate the word “fresh” because it’s pretty much meaningless. Off the top of my head, I came up with 11 different uses for the same word where each one means something different. And with so many different applications, “fresh” is awfully misleading.

December 8: Speaking of Perfection
It was so much fun to write about my hatred of the world “fresh” I followed it up with a similar post on the word “perfect” and things “cooked to perfection”. But to be helpful, I offered better words for different scenarios. Perfection is rare in this world. Some might argue it doesn’t even exist. So let’s be careful with the hyperbole. Okay?

December 9: Heavy Cream Heavy
Did you ever read the ingredients in heavy cream. Wait. Heavy cream has ingredients? Most of it does. And that’s the problem. Carrageenan, mono- and diglycerides, and polysorbate 80 are pretty common in heavy cream these days. And from my perspective, that means the dairy is charging you for cream, but selling you thickeners. No thank you. Stay vigilant.

December 10: Stabbing Cows
I’m not crazy about the use of rBST/rBGH. But since this post ran in 2009 consumer awareness of the issue rose dramatically, and many dairies have responded by walking away from these synthetic hormones. While most of the fluid diary that’s sold these days is produced from the milk of cows not treated with rBST/rBGH, you have to be careful when buying processed foods that have dairy sources of ingredients.

December 11: Ask the Profussor – Life & Cocktails
I wasn’t going to let another month go by without answering questions. It also seems like I got a lot more questions back in the day.

December 13: GTWBR: Screw Top Wine
Good Things With Bad Raps. This was a great series. Maybe I should bring it back. Screw top wine is fantastic. It’s sort of like beer in cans, which happens to be having a moment in the present day of 2016.

December 14: The Miracle of the Oil
I explain chanukah. “A holiday that encourages the consumption of French fries, chicken wings, fish fry, onion rings, fried chicken, deep fried turkey, corn dogs, fried cheese, sesame balls, falafel, fried okra, Bon Chon Chicken, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. That, my friends, is the best holiday ever. And it plays to some of the culinary strengths of the region.”

December 15: Judo?
Do you know what makes a good bagel? It’s not just how it tastes. Texture is critical. In this post I lay out the criteria. Here’s a good shorthand. Good bagels make terrible sandwiches. If you’re enjoying a bagel sandwich, that’s a terrible bagel. Sorry, but it’s true.

December 16: Taste the Cheese
When buying cheese, you have to taste the cheese. If you cannot taste the cheese, you probably shouldn’t be buying the cheeses. Even if it’s a cheese you’ve had before. Because every single wheel of cheese is different. Sometimes the differences are small. Other times the differences are dramatic. The only way to know is to taste. Every. Single. Time.

December 17: Buckets of Love
There was a bunch of venting frustrations. But this was a round up post, grouping stories of places and things that I loved into categories: regional foods, local spirits, local markets, local eateries, local events & media, restaurants that earn national acclaim, and national chains of distinction. It’s not a bad list for 2009. That list would be much much larger in 2016.

December 18: Ice Is an Ingredient
“Here are some maxims to remember:
1) The larger the cubes, the less water they will shed.
2) Stirring aids the cooling process, and keeps the cubes intact.
3) Shaking will get a drink colder, but will throw off more water, and break up the ice.
4) And of course the longer the drink sits on ice, the wetter it gets.”

December 20: Better Wine by the Glass
I had a horrible experience locally when ordering a glass of wine. But I spoke up, informed the bartender of my displeasure, and got a reasonably better outcome. “I came away reminded of two more helpful tips for ordering wine by the glass.
1) Ask for a taste of the wine. The worst that will happen is they’ll say no.
2) Go for sturdier wines that can withstand the rigors of being open for a while.
…Shiraz and cabernet sauvignon would be my other go-to varietals if I were unsure of the care taken by a restaurant with its wines by the glass.”

December 21: The Best Gift Ever
Caviar. We were sent fancy caviar as a wedding gift. And it was truly the best gift ever.
“1) Because it is perishable, it must be consumed quickly.
2) Fine caviar is a rare culinary treat.
3) We wouldn’t buy it for ourselves.
4) It brought two nights of decadent pleasure.
5) We still remember them to this day.”

December 22: Last-Minute Gift From a Musketeer
D’Artagnan used to make these decadent morsels called French Kisses. A 12 oz box used to cost $12. Now, in 2016, a 3 oz box costs $10. But you probably don’t need more than 3 ounces of these armagnac-soaked prunes stuffed with foie gras mousse.

December 23: Holiday Spirits
A reader wanted me to write about port, because he was loving port. I didn’t want to write about port, but his request made me want to write about sherry. I recommended two reasonably priced bottles from larger producers: Domecq La Ina Fino and Hartley & Gibson Amontillado.

December 24: Hamtastic
I love HoneyBaked ham. It’s all about the crust. And knowing what to do with the ham after your bring it home. Which is why the ham comes with instructions. The only problem is that nobody reads instructions. This warning is so important that I put it in all caps and boldface on the blog. Something I almost never do. “HEATING MAY CAUSE THE HAM TO DRY OUT AND LOSE FLAVOR.” And heating means warming. Even just a little bit. Don’t do it. Bring it to room temperature instead.

December 24: Let’s All See a Movie
Normal people watch movies over Christmas. So I recommended an important food movie on Hulu. But by now that link is gone and the film is no longer available. So it goes.

December 27: Champagne Name Game
Champagne is a place. It’s a region. Reims and Epernay are part of it. To be called “champagne” the wine has to be produced a certain way. It’s not a word to use lightly when describing any type of sparkling wine. Because only Champagne is Champagne.

December 28: 3 of 10
The Times Union published its top 10 bites of the year. I thought three of those looked like they might be good. The rest left me questioning the paper’s judgement. I never got to try Dale Miller’s duck confit firecrackers. They still sound good.

December 29: Top 10 of ‘09
What were the top ten posts on the FLB for the year? Well, I snuck in 11. But the top three were:
#1 The Secret To Oddly Tender Chinese Meat
#2 Chipotle Answers
#3 Food Versus Restaurant Food

December 31: The Great Pennsylvania Bitters Shortage of 2009
“If you are one of those people who opposes Federal regulation and prefers things to be handled by the states, let me submit to you the example of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is out of aromatic cocktail bitters. That’s right. The whole state is out. And here’s the punchline: they’ve been out of bitters for six weeks! At least that’s what several people at local state stores have told me.”

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