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AskTP – The Better Half

December 26, 2017

What does everyone do between Christmas and New Years? A lot of times, writers will look back over the past year. They will create best of lists. They will summarize the year. Some might attempt to predict the future.

Looking back I’ve noticed, it has been a long long time since I answered any reader questions on the blog. How long? The better half of a year. How many days will it take to catch up with six months of accumulated questions? I don’t know. But we’re going to find out.

After all, many years ago I committed to making sure that every question posted to the comments section of this blog received an answer. My only stipulation was that questions needed to include proper punctuation.

Never did I say those answers would be timely. I never even made a claim that those answers would be correct. Heck, the answers don’t even have to come from the Profussor. But there are unanswered questions, which need to be resolved. Before we get to them however, please remember that the links embedded before every question all go to the same place. I like to call it the mystery link of the day. If this is frustrating for you, just don’t click on them.

Finding the original post that generated the comment is just a quick Google search away. Now without any further ado, onto the questions.

Chantelle was sad to see The Flying Chicken close up shop:
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this place over the last 5 years and will miss it tremendously. I’m lucky to have gone the last two weeks in a row and will try for once more. How many places can you go for delicious fried chicken AND play pinball while you wait?

But if you want fried chicken and pinball, McGeary’s in Albany has some decent wings and a pinball machine. You could do worse.

-R looks back on childhood memories of junky sweets:
Who didn’t love all that crap as a kid? Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Zingers (raspberry please), Hostess Cupcakes with the helical swirl of white frosting – shit was the bomb.

For me it was always Little Debbie Star Crunch. I don’t know how that one came into our lives, I just know it was a lunch pail staple. That and CapriSun really define a large portion of my elementary school years.

-R wanted a bit more detail on my beer adventures:
So, did you actually make it to Tree House (and obtain some beer) or are they merely an economic exemplar?

Yes. I’ve been to Tree House a few times, although I haven’t made it to their new facility. And I’ve been able to try a bunch of their beer. Is it really good? You bet. Is it worth driving two hours, waiting in line for an hour, and driving two hours back? Probably not. Once the allotment was eight cans of Julius and one 750ml growler (with a choice of three different beers). If you happened to be a Julius fan, you would be in luck. But it’s not in my top three of their beers. Fortunately, I didn’t just make the trip to Sturbridge for beer. I had other business to attend to in the area.

Ryan H commiserates on the cost to value ratio of craft beer:
Is the $10 bottle really 2.5 times better than the $4 bottle?

The easier question for me is if the $25 bottle is really 2.5 times better than the $10 bottle. No. Better? Sure. Enough to justify the premium? Well, that depends on what you value. That said, the $10 bottle can easily be twice as good as the $4 bottle.

Jenny is curious if my beer rant applies to wine as well:
So my question to you, is, does your price to value equation transfer to wine as well, or does something else come into play there?

My bottom line in the beer post was that “there are some truly delicious beers that are far less precious. And I think it’s time to get more familiar with them.” Same thing goes for wine. There are some really delicious bottles of wine under $20. I’m looking for the plump, juicy, middle. Yes, you can occasionally find something quite tasty for under $10. But things get a good bit better in the $14-18 range.

EPT has a big question:
Hey FLB, maybe take this one on, where has the flavor in food gone?

Easy. It’s been sacrificed to boost the bottom line of big food. Flavor costs more money, takes more time, and ultimately provides less of a competitive advantage than one might imagine. There are other ways of spinning this story that involve extending food’s shelf life and transportability to minimize waste. But humans are very easily tricked. Fat, sugar, and salt. Get the right proportions and marketing mix, and the world will beat a path to your door. Flavor be damned. Want proof? Walk into any Dunkin’ Donuts.

Lacey Putnam had a much more narrow question:
Have you tried any of the vegan Ben and Jerry’s ice cream?

I’m sure whatever frozen vegan treat Ben and Jerry have churned up is delicious. But it’s not ice cream. That said, I really should try it at some point. It’s just that I haven’t had the chance to do so yet. My list of things to eat, is incredibly long and always getting longer.

Kyle had a bunch of detailed questions all about the Troy movie theater project:
1) Would building a giant movie complex be more beneficial to Troy’s downtown economy if built away from 1MS; helping to establish another popular destination; adding value, spurring growth in that area and every walking point between there and 1MS?
2) I’m not sure if Saratoga Springs has done an enviable job recently. Compared to what other downtowns?
3) And how long until movie theaters are niche like vinyl?

I have no idea.

C had a more manageable question on the same topic:
What happens in 5-10-15 years when Bow Tie is out of business and now you have this hulking windowless building that was built for movie theaters?

Someone either has a clever use for it, or the whole thing comes down and we start again. But with any luck, we could have had 15 years of film festivals, and a place to go downtown after a couple drinks to catch a flick.

Dave says he’s no crazed activist, but talks like a crazed activist:
Stop eating meat. I’m no crazed activist, I’m practical. I eat maybe a pound of meat a month now, which is a pretty large departure from my past habits. You can talk “sustainable” meat all you want, but have you seen a cow? Those bastards are huge. Eat bugs or something.

Cows are amazing. They can take something nasty like alfalfa and convert it into digestible protein for humans. In certain parts of the country, beef production is among the most sustainable things you can do with the land. So put that in your hippie pipe and smoke it.

enough already! was looking for some intel based on my Montreal adventure:
can you please share the names of those restaurants you can recommend?

Have I not written up my travels on Yelp? Ooh. I guess I’m falling down on that front too. Most of our adventures were in Chinatown. Nudo was great for hand pulled noodles. Kim Fung was fine for dim sum. We went because there were carts, and my kids don’t get the cart experience in Albany. Bien Mason is the new kid on the block, but has great soup dumplings. There are great baked treats in both Patisserie La Legende and Patisserie Harmonie, so keep an open mind, and eat with your eyes

Doug apparently has a religious affiliation with St-Viateur Bagel:
Fairmont?? Heresy…

We were on foot, with cranky kids. St. Viatueur would have been another block. And I think it would have resulted in a full fledged revolt.

Beck doesn’t get the love for one of our local ice cream stands:
I live right up the road from Scoups and we go there occasionally, but I have to say, I’m always disappointed. I want to love their ice cream, but the flavors aren’t strong enough, they’re aren’t enough mix-ins, and it’s not as creamy as I’d like. I’ve had their cookie dough, black raspberry, and peanut butter recently. The best was peanut butter, but it wasn’t great. Those who love it, am I missing something? Ordering wrong? I’ve yet to find homemade hard ice cream locally that I love.

You have indeed triangulated your way to the best flavor in the peanut butter. I think the best way to put this is that Scoups is hard ice cream for the soft serve set. One would also be wise to look at the market in which it competes. In a world of soft serve stands and Stewart’s, I’d rather have Scoups any day. I’ll drive the extra ten minutes to get there if I’m craving ice cream, because there isn’t anything better within that radius.

Burnt My Fingers may have just discovered the long tail of the interwebs:
I find it fascinating that 86Margorie would have glommed onto a random post from 7 years ago. What’s up with that?

Yes, I can sometimes get random comments on old posts. That’s the internet for you. Actually my ancient post about Lindt Truffles has been doing exceptionally well this week.

Burnt My Fingers noticed that I prioritized donuts over a food festival:
Your donut tour conflicts with the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival, but the latter seems scaled back this year. Care to comment? (That was a question.)

Sure. I enjoy these regional food festivals, and occasionally through my role with Yelp I even find myself in the role of a sponsor. Yelp was a media sponsor of the 2016 Saratoga Wine and Food Festival, and I had a great time. Ama Cocina made a kickass frito pie. But it is exhausting to trek up to Saratoga for two days of eating. Plus, I needed to get the donut tour done earlier than usual, for my own scheduling priorities.

Roger K had a technical question about judging chicken wings:
Is taste a component of flavor? Or vice versa?

Flavor is a component of taste. Let’s see if I can provide an example. The other judges loved the breaded honey wings. The honey flavor rang true. There was nothing wrong with it. However, the taste of the wings fell flat because besides that one flavor element, they were lacking seasoning.

Benjamin raises a few interesting issues about school lunches:
By the time you walked down, got your lunch, and got back to your classroom to sit down and eat it the time might be 10:45. Who wants to eat anything resembling lunch that early? We had another class at 11, so I had to also eat fast. To this day, I generally eat my lunches early, and I always eat very fast because I was trained through public school lunches not to take a long time. It drives my wife crazy how fast I eat.

I guess it depends on what time you wake up. Personally, the time of day does not constrain my eating options. I’ll eat fried rice in the morning and pancakes for dinner. Cereal can be a snack. I’ve made my daughter quesadillas for breakfast. But I’m intrigued by this idea that schools are pushing horrible eating habits in addition to promoting horrible foods.

Burnt My Fingers wanted a ruling when it comes to “drinking milk”:
I have recently been into kefir. Does that count?

Nope. Kefir is kefir. It’s not fluid dairy.

mrrafe should consider hanging out with Dave:
Humans are the only species that continue to drink milk after transitioning to solid food. Would it be any less grotesque if they drank milk from their own species instead of others’? I just don’t know.

My issue isn’t the consumption of milk from other species, it’s just that I have a hard time getting behind fluid dairy. Custards, cheeses, and butter I can endorse without any qualms at all. I find nothing grotesque about it. At all.

EPT went for another big question:
Salt is indeed, in my opinion a necessary ingredient. It doesn’t have to be Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (my go to choice) or Himalayan pink (my second choice). It can be soy sauce, fish sauce or some other “salty” ingredient…Parmesan cheese comes to mind. Salt is one of those ingredients that the lack of is equally as bad as an excess of. Opinion DB?

I get where EPT is coming from with the statement, “Salt is one of those ingredients that the lack of is equally as bad as an excess of.” The only problem with that is that one can always add salt, but it cannot be taken away. When push comes to shove, even though an unsalted dish is woefully unpleasant, it can be made edible with the addition of salt at the table. The same cannot be said for an oversalted dish.

Dave has a bone to pick with better burgers:
Thick “restaurant” burgers have always irked me. Loosely packed diner burgers made of ground beef of dubious provenance slapped on a griddle and fried crisp are the true expression of the form. The big “juicy” burger restaurant thing is a shame because I’m sure there are better preparations for some of that meat (un-ground) that people could enjoy at the same price point. But whatever, if people like it and it drives business? God bless.

I’m trying to think about the cuts of beef used in better burgers and how they could be turned into restaurant dishes priced similarly to burgers. But I’m drawing a blank. Beef stew? Chili? Maybe. But what about in the spring and summer?

Josh comes to the defense of the $16 hamburger:
Man do I love a good cheap burger! Butttttt if we look further at the actual value of food, what is it worth? Buying grass fed beef from a quality local farm will cost most people around $7/lb. With that you are supporting an economy of farmers who are trying to raise animals to be more healthy, happy and delicious. As a chef I want to show people the importance of supporting these farmers, by preparing the meat in the best possible way. After all…the farmers become attached to these living things, and for them to do the major task of raising and killing them so we can eat is a huge sacrifice. Anyways… for me I see that maybe the problem is in the way that we expect food to be cheap…and It can be (eat more beans), but the cost of meat should be looked at in a whole different way.

While I absolutely agree with a lot of this, my complain isn’t that food in general should be cheap, but that certain foods have achieved popularity based on their relative value. So even with $7 per pound ground beef a $16 burger (without sides, and served in a very casual setting) is going to give me a bit of the vapors.

Chuck Miller who is now an independent blogger and better for it wants to know:
Don’t you like being part of the “7 and 7” list?

You better believe it. Have you seen the mystery link of the day?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. mrrafe permalink
    December 26, 2017 2:38 pm

    Hi Daniel, thanks for the shout out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn we’ve thrived for another year unassisted by cows and are still out here looking forward to your epiphany in 2018.

  2. December 27, 2017 10:24 pm

    Why do all the mystery links go to the same place? Wouldn’t it be better to answer the questions directly?

    Also, if I ask a question in 2017 are you still going to answer it in 2017? I thought you had said so above, now can’t find the commitment. Nonetheless I will hold you too it.

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