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Inviting Disappointment

January 25, 2019

Who wants to be disappointed? I mean, it’s a big world. Surely there are some people who thrive on being let down. But most of us would prefer to have our expectations met, if not exceeded.

Yet far too often, we doom ourselves to unsatisfactory outcomes with an overly optimistic sense of the world around us.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m neither preaching an ideology of pessimism, nor am I suggesting one lower the bar of criticism. But yesterday’s guest post from Emily L had a line in it that really struck a chord. She wrote, “If I had gone with my gut instinct with the eggs benedict, I would have been disappointed. The bread was soggy and the hollandaise was too lemony.”

Emily loves eggs benedict. She originally set off on a quest in the Capital Region to find the best one. And for the most part, her search revealed one failure after the next. All of which felt very familiar for some reason.

When I first moved the to Capital Region, one of the things I desperately wanted to find was good pizza. Because here I was back in New York state. Just a few hours drive from New York City. Surely there were people up here who could produce a killer slice of New York style pizza.

What the pizza snobs will tell you, and they have a point, is that the best way to evaluate pizza is by going with a slice of the most basic pie. With just crust, sauce, and cheese, there is no place for deficiencies to hide. Each part has to be able to stand on its own, and work as part of a harmonious whole. And the idea is that if a place make a delicious cheese slice, then nothing else matters because all the other pies will be built on a weak foundation.

The problem is that perfect pizza is a rare and remarkable thing. We don’t have it here. But that’s okay. One isn’t doomed to awful pizza. Because there are some truly delicious pies and slices to be found around the Capital Region.

In looking for something that’s perfect, you can lose sight of what’s good.

Is it easier to make a delicious pizza when you add quality toppings to the pie? Sure. Does that make it any less special? Well, I suppose that depends on who you ask. But I didn’t like DeFazio’s when I first had the pizza from this remarkable Troy restaurant. Back then, it wasn’t the pizza I was looking for. Today, I love it.

I learned to let go a bit. I embraced the buffalo chicken pie. I accepted the idea that one could build a pizza on a family bread dough recipe, and that it didn’t have to fall within the framework of “New York style” for it to be delicious.

With that in mind, maybe eggs benedict is just too finicky a dish.

Like with the plain slice of pizza, there is no place for imperfections to hide. If the eggs aren’t drained properly, the toast can get soggy. Slightly overcooked, and there’s no runny yolks. Slightly under and you’ve got snotty egg whites. The hollandaise sauce can’t be too gloppy or thin. It can break, be too lemony, or under seasoned. A handful of elements need to come together perfectly to execute the dish.

Stumbling on a great version of eggs benedict is truly a joy. But I think what we’ve learned in watching Emily’s journey unfold is that the pursuit of a great version of eggs benedict is inviting disappointment.

More importantly, much like my own personal pizza journey, the pursuit of the perfect prevents other pleasures of the palate.

Just because a tavern may pre boil and under salt its pasta, resulting in a plate of limp, bland goo; that doesn’t mean the place can’t make some incredible wings, pizza, and mozzarella sticks. Nor does a restaurant have to be good at everything it does.

It’s taken me a long time to come to peace with this idea of appreciating a place for what it does well. The trick is simply trying to identify those dishes, and finding a way to enjoy them on their own terms.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2019 1:09 pm

    A breakfast place that can’t properly poach an egg doesn’t deserve to be in business. And if your hollandaise keeps breaking, get some premade off the Sysco truck.

    We shouldn’t settle for mediocrity just because it’s so prevalent in the Cap District. It’s usually easy to tell whether a place is making things from scratch or heating up a bag from said Sysco truck, and whether they have a competent cook on staff. Today I have an odd craving for an Americanized Chinese Lunch (not actual Chinese from Ala Shanghai or Hu’s House) and am going down to Tasty Chinese in Malta because they are better than any of the local places in Saratoga. They’re better cooks and have a few special things on the menu, so it’s worth the 15 mile round trip.

  2. Dave permalink
    January 28, 2019 6:32 am

    Ever hear of Ricotta Hotcakes?


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