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March 2010: Brushes With Fame

March 17, 2016

Everybody hates this. Nobody likes this. Mrs. Fussy grimaces on Thursday mornings when she comes down to copyedit the TBT posts. So she’s flown the coop this morning. She’s so sick of these posts that she took a plane out of town and won’t be back until Friday.

So here’s my compromise. I’ll do just two more. This one will cover March. The next one will cover April. Then I’ll have done twelve. We can package it all up as The First Year of Fussy, and never speak of it again. I knew it was a bad idea in the first place, but hey, sometimes good things can come out of bad ideas.

The goal here was to see where the blog has been, how it got here, and what we missed. In doing so, I had hoped 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 we’ve done that. We’ve certainly improved the color coded key to help navigate the tangle of post summaries that follow.

In March, the blog had a few brushes with fame. Of course, my idea of fame probably looks different than yours. But I got the attention of local businessman Matt Baumgartner, and we had a public dialogue about burritos. I also reached out to Jim Leff the founder of Chowhound and he sent me a present by mail. And one of my stories was covered in The Consumerist. That was super exciting. However, I’m also struck by just how much back and forth conversation there was between the blog and its readers towards the end of this first year.

So how did it break down day by day? I’m glad you asked.

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Gray: Outdated ideas, naive assertions, blog maintenance, and other non-essential posts.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

March 1: Walmart Vindicated
The Capital Region was such a grocery wasteland, I was buying most of my family’s food from Walmart. But Mr. Slow Food himself Corby Kummer found in a head-to-head blind comparison that the some produce at Walmart tasted better than the stuff from Whole Foods. Just don’t buy the meat.

March 2: Wonderful Wings
We have a wing inferiority complex in the Capital Region. But our wings are some of the best in the country. I especially noted the excellent samples from The Ale House and Bombers that did so well in the Times Union contest.

March 3: Ask the Profussor – Answers and Rebuttals
Do you miss the “Go back to California” taunts that I used to get from angry commenters? I’m just not getting people as pissed off these days. For what it’s worth, I have finally discovered the good side of The Fountain’s pizza. Even still, I’d challenge anyone who claimed it was “the best pizza around.”

March 4: There is No Microwave
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Now we have a microwave. The shame is great. I even used it yesterday to take the chill of my leftover pesto pasta. Oh the humanity. But the diet couldn’t spare another grilled spaghetti sandwich.

March 5: Drink Like a Pro
I take a page from F. Paul Pacult’s book and talk about his process for professional tasting. It’s intense. And it involves a lot of swirling. But tasting is not to be confused with enjoying. Because tasting is serious work.

March 7: Half Glasses and Flights
If you want to learn about wine, you have to drink wine. The more you drink, the more you learn. This is why half glasses and flights are so important to the dedicated student of wine. These make it possible to have a full tasting experience while out at a wine bar, instead of trying to orchestrate one at home. 

March 8: A Public Dialog on Burritos
I heard from Matt Baumgartner the owner of Bomber’s Burrito Bar after I wrote something snarky about his burritos. While Matt and I have cleared the air, I would still like him to drop the word “Burrito” from this otherwise inoffensive Albany institution. My advice remains to avoid the burritos and stick to the fried bar snacks.

March 9: Living on Leftovers
There was some confusion on my feelings about leftovers. Here’s the bottom line, “Restaurant meals should be reasonably sized portions that do not result in leftovers. But if you cannot complete your meal at a restaurant, I am all for taking the leftovers home and enjoying them as best you can.” A close corollary is that if restaurant leftovers taste better on the second day, that restaurant serves lousy food.

March 10: Burgers Should Taste Better From a King
After a ten year hiatus from Burger King, curiosity got the best of me and I tried a double cheeseburger. How gross was it? Grosser than I had imagined.

March 11: ARA: Help Build My Bar
There’s a lot of bad cocktail advice out there on the Internet. Seriously, jaw droppingly bad. So I offered some sensible tips for getting started with a home bar.

March 12: In Defense of Cheap Beer in Cans
When thinking of good beer six years ago I listed, “hand-pumped cask-conditioned ales, rare Belgian beers on tap, and a laundry list of unpronounceable German beers” from Mahars. Not one mention of big juicy IPAs. Cheap bear also has it’s place. But I do still recommend pouring it out of the can and into a glass. It’s not about class; just physiology.

March 14: The Anatomy of a Wine Pairing
How do I put together a wine pairing? Well here’s a practical example, where I look at several dishes on a menu and demonstrate the thought process behind which wine would go best with the meal.

March 15: How is Everything Over Here?
I hate sending food back in restaurants. I rarely do it. The onus should be on the restaurant to have not just good quality control, but also the integrity to take action when they observe that something isn’t right.

March 16: Eight Months of Mud and Ice
Yes, you can have a local seasonal menu in Upstate New York even when the growing season is shorter than in California. It takes work, sure. But that’s one reason I will pay fine dining prices for a good meal. And if that means no caprese salad in February, so be it.

March 17: Soothing Irish Oats
Do this tonight. Here’s a technique for putting steel cut oats in your slow cooker so that in the morning, you’ve got a hearty and soothing breakfast. This is perfect for the day after St. Patrick’s Day.

March 18: In Defense of Fussy Little Portions
There is value in small portions. Nice restaurants are not intended to be food troughs. They provide sensory experiences. That said, it’s obviously disappointing to leave and still feel hungry. However, the patron has some amount of control over this, and those with heartier appetites should order heavier dishes. 

March 19: The Fine Art of Rimming
I had a little bit of fun with this post. Most bartenders are terrible when it comes to putting salt or sugar on the rim of a glass. It doesn’t have to be a sloppy mess, but it usually is. Here is how you do it well. Except don’t try making this honey powder at home. That didn’t work out as I had imagined.

March 21: The Anatomy of a Wine Pairing, Part Two
The first post went long, and was only able to cover the apps. This is where we get into the wine pairing for the entrees.

March 22: Bad Attitude Rules
I’m actually okay with surly service. Depending on the place, I might even prefer it. But there’s a difference between surly and obnoxious. You can curse at me, call me names, and deny my requests. But you have to earn the right to that attitude. For better or for worse, Starbucks baristas don’t have it.

March 23: Remembrance of Italian Sausages Past
Perhaps my favorite part of being unemployed out of college in my early 20s was being able to make Italian sausage sandwiches for lunch, pretty much every day. The taste memory of those, even back then, brought me to my happy place. Now it’s happiness on top of happiness.

March 24: Crazy About High Fructose Corn Syrup
There has been a steady drum beat over time of scientific findings getting closer and closer to the notion that HFCS is actually more harmful than table sugar. This summarizes some of the current science of six years ago.

March 25: Failure to Communicate
How I scored one of my most precious possessions.: an original Chowhound Passport mailed to me by the one and only Jim Leff.

March 26: Important Liqueurs: Cointreau
This clear orange liqueur is freaking amazing. Pay the extra money to get the good stuff. You’ll only use it a tablespoon at a time. It will elevate your drinks, and make you happy.

March 28: My Sweet Side
Did I go a whole year without mentioning dessert? Well making sweets for the end of dinner parties was how I got into cooking in the first place. Here’s the early history of how I did that without baking. Because baking is an entirely different skill set. I’m still not quite ready to tackle that, but I’m getting closer all the time.

March 29: Bread, I Love You
“The simple pleasure of a hot loaf of pain d’epi with a healthy smear of Pamplie butter is too great to bear. The butter melts on contact with the light yeasty crumb, and the crust offers such a satisfying crunch before it yields to the warm soft center below.” I contemplate this as Passover approaches, and bread will be out of my life for a full week. Egads.

March 30: There Will Be Brisket
This was my story that got picked up by The Consumerist. If the owner of a restaurant shows up at your door with your delivery, do you tip him?

March 31: Butter Fried Cookies
People were pissed off that this recipe wasn’t for cookies deep fried in butter. But the lacey form these cookies take is from the bubbling fat as the cookie fries in its own fat. Yes, they are cooked in the oven. But the crispness is all the hot fat. Would cookie confit have been any better?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2016 10:38 am

    I’ve gone back an skimmed a few of your old posts because of these conglomerations. Mostly because I’m narcissistic and I remember commenting a lot during the time period and it is funny to read my old comments. I was much more strident, melodramatic, and corny 5 or 6 years ago. I have become much more indifferent and spare of language in my old age.

    • March 17, 2016 1:04 pm

      mr. dave, please correct me if I’m wrong, but if I’m not mistaken you are in your mid-thirties. Referring to yourself as being “in my old age” when you’ve not even hit mid-life is melodramatic and corny. You’ve not changed as much as you think.

      • March 17, 2016 2:17 pm

        Oh come on. There is a sea change in life style/personality between late 20s-ish and mid-thirties.

  2. March 17, 2016 11:44 am

    Ok, I’ll bite. What did Jim Leff send you? (All I got was some advice on BBSs and a lousy FB friendship.)

  3. Bob W. permalink
    March 17, 2016 12:25 pm

    I have actually been enjoying these trips down memory lane. I am a nostalgic old fart at heart, though, so I can see where other reader’s results may vary.

    That said, I still don’t read posts about wine. Nope, no thank you.

    • March 17, 2016 2:18 pm

      He has replaced wine posts I don’t read with beer posts I don’t read, haha! I take fussyblog as a metaphor for the beer scene in general. Everyone is busy trying to turn beer into “the new wine.”

  4. March 17, 2016 1:09 pm

    Regarding Cointreau; one of my favorite uses is to macerate strawberries in it. I then spoon the Cointreau strawberries over vanilla ice cream and top with chopped (salted) almonds. It’s a dessert made in heaven.

    • Monica Gordon permalink
      March 17, 2016 4:33 pm

      I agree, especially with the addition of a spoonful of honey.

    • Monica Gordon permalink
      March 17, 2016 4:38 pm

      I agree, especially with a spoonful of honey mixed in.

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