Death by Cheeseburger VII – Best Burger in NY State

Daniel B., Albany’s Yelp Ambassador, was gracious enough to invite me to participate in a burger tasting. He knows I’m a big fan of the form, and I’d enjoy judging a few burgers. Initially, I was a bit hesitant, but ultimately decided I’d do it, and I’m glad I did. It was a blast. There were four judges in total, and besides Daniel and me, Josh D. the Syracuse Yelp Ambassador, and Yelp Elite Thomas C. also took part in the fun.

But this was no ordinary burger tasting; we’d be judging the “Best Burger in New York” contest, run by the NY Beef Council. It’s a contest they do every year, and the goal is to highlight local beef producers and the businesses that sell their product. That’s great, and a noble cause in my opinion.

The restaurants all happened to be in Central NY, between Utica, and Syracuse, which meant a long day, with lots of driving. Daniel picked me up at 9:30 am, and we didn’t get home until 11 that night (after a little side trip to Utica for pizza). It was indeed a lot of driving and of course, a lot of eating.

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The Politics of Apologizing

No, this post is not about politics. As George Bush the elder once said, “Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.”

This post is about an experience my wife and I had the other night. It’s about a “stuff happens” moment that was initially handled poorly and my thoughts about how it could have been handled better.

I won’t mention the name of the establishment; it’s not relevant to the story. This could’ve happened anywhere, at most any restaurant. It was a local, sit-down full-service restaurant that is very much like a “better” chain, in the vain of casual dining similar to Cheesecake Factory, or Bonefish Grill, etc., and it has to do with the length of time we waited for our meals to come to the table. For context, I think it’s reasonable to expect that you should be eating within 20-25 minutes after being seated.

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My Wife’s Salad Dressing

Search my yelp reviews for the words gooey or gloppy and you’ll find a few rants against bottled, factory made salad dressings. I can’t stand them, and in my opinion, most of them are just terrible.

Most use soybean oil, which is flavorless, and they’re loaded with thickeners, which gives them that gloppy consistency. Plus there’s the artificial colors and flavors they’re made with. And they’re usually too sweet. Worse, they’re sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which is just awful for you.

I really don’t get why people like them. They just can’t compare to a simple oil and vinegar based dressing. Not only because of the unpleasant gooey texture, or cloying sweetness, but they tend to be salty, and artificial tasting, and they cover up a great salad instead of complimenting it.

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My Dream Kitchen

Everyone that loves to cook, dreams of having the ultimate kitchen. And those who have the money build them. I used to work in construction, and I’ve worked on some homes with really nice kitchens.

Ask most home cooks what their dream kitchen would consist of and you’ll pretty much get the same answers. A big 6 or 8 burner gas stove, with double ovens. A big island, granite counter tops, lots of counter space, and lots of cabinet space, and maybe they’ll want a big fridge and freezer.

That’s all well and good. But they’re missing the point.

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Pumpkin Pushers

Here we go again.

Every year at this time, we get overloaded with pumpkin everything.

Pumpkin coffee drinks.
Pumpkin beer.
Pumpkin cake.
Pumpkin french toast.

It gets worse.

There’s pumpkin spiced potato chips (yes, really).
Pumpkin flavored croutons.
Pumpkin flavored butter.
Pumpkin spiced nuts.

On and on it goes. I’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s nothing off limits. If you can think of it, some company has pumpkinized it (to coin a phrase).

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Annoyed

When I’m out, I tend to be pretty easy going. I very rarely complain (though my wife might disagree with that), and generally I let wrongs slide. It’s just not worth making a stink, and being the bad guy. I even get embarrassed when someone unduly complains. If there are serious issues with the food, or service, that’s one thing, but for little offenses, especially when with a group, it’s best to keep your mouth shut, smile, and let the good times roll.

I can be a perfectionist to a fault sometimes, and while that can be an asset, it also is a curse. When things aren’t up to standards, I get annoyed. I recently had an experience at a food establishment that pushed a few of my buttons. It ended up being a cascade of annoyances. It got me thinking about things that annoy me, and common ‘wrongs’ I see perpetrated on the restaurant going, food eating public.

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Quick and Easy Mashed Potatoes

Is there anyone on the planet that doesn’t love mashed potatoes? If there is I haven’t met them. Mashed potatoes are a crowd pleaser, and any self respecting home cook needs to be able to make a good version of it. They’re incredibly easy to make to make well. Any home cook can make satisfying and delicious mashed potatoes.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a repertoire of dishes that are delicious, easy to make, and everyone loves. Mashed potatoes are also on that list.

Making them over the years I’ve learned a couple of tricks to make them taste better. And I think my mashed, despite being simple, are quite good. I’ve even had a family member tell me once my mashed were the best they’d ever had. I say that not to boost my own ego, but to make the point that great mashed potatoes are easy to make. Anyone can do it.

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Feeding Twenty Three Thousand

I’m an IT Professional, and as part of my job, I go to a technical conference every year. This year I had the pleasure of attending Ignite. Ignite is put on by Microsoft, and it’s huge. There were 23,000 attendees this year. 23,000 IT sys admins, developers, engineers, and managers. It’s fun and you learn a lot about upcoming products and technologies.

But I want to talk about the food of course. The conference fee includes breakfast and lunch. I can only imagine the logistics of trying to feed 23,000 people. It’s got to be a massive undertaking. And as you can imagine, just getting that many people in line to get their food, and setting up tables is a job that requires a lot of staff. The hall where the food is served is gigantic. It’s mind blowing how big it is.

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Quick Gravy

Mention gravy and my mind will immediately picture a mound of buttery mashed potatoes, with a pool of silky homemade gravy resting in the middle. Or scratch made biscuits, smothered in the stuff. Or thick slices of turkey, made even tastier with a ladle poured on top.

Making gravy is not hard, it’s easy, and it doesn’t take long either. Please don’t buy the jarred stuff, it can’t compare to homemade gravy. The foil packets or boxes of gravy mix are subpar too. Homemade gravy is best.

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