Under the Infuence

We are all influenced by those around us. Our personal circle of friends, family, and acquaintances affect how we view the world. In our jobs, professionally, we are constantly being pulled this way or that by our colleagues, superiors, and vendors. The media we consume—TV shows, movies, music, art, the national news, (food blogs!)—they all challenge or reinforce our views.

These forces are all, whether we realize it or not, constantly having an effect on what we like or don’t like, what we believe to be true or false, and what we deem valuable or insignificant.

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The Wood Fired Pizza at Restaurant Navona

Slowly but surely I’m becoming a pizza snob.

I’ve been eating a lot of pizza lately. In the last 9 months, I’ve had the good fortune to eat at three pizzerias that are some of the best in the country. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Pepe’s in New Haven, and Varasano’s in Atlanta. At home, in the Albany area, I’ve been eating pizza at a whole host of different local places as well. Both new and old. You could say in addition to my burger obsession, I’ve also been obsessed with pizza over the last year or so as well.

The nice thing about all the above, is that eating a lot of different pizza locally, and from all over the country, (and also with some influences by others that I respect), has helped me to form a strong opinion of what I like in pizza, and don’t like (which I’ve already spelled out in my Tinney’s Tavern post, so I won’t rehash it here), but the short version is I’m in love with Neapolitan style wood fired pizza.

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Death by Bad Chain Cheeseburger II – I’ll Gladly Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today

So I find myself in Crossgates, just after Christmas, dealing with the crowds and with a hungry 8 year old in tow. This kid is in love with Dave & Buster’s. Playing the games there is one of her favorite treats. We don’t take her often, mainly because of the expense. One can easily spend a small fortune in a very short time on the games there. Those guys have a racket going for sure. And they prey on suckers like me, who attempt to score points with his little girl from time to time by lavishing her with enough game time, to earn enough tickets to bring home a large-ish stuffed animal. An afternoon at Dave & Buster’s will usually elicit a “You’re the best Dad ever!” from the mouth of that beautiful little girl, and what Dad can resist that?

This is a ritual now that we’ve created. Little girl and I eat lunch at Dave & Buster’s, then we hit the game room. But with most kids still on Christmas vacation, the joint was packed, and there was a long line of families waiting for tables. So off through the mall we head in search of a not-so-packed restaurant in hopes of eating lunch before it turns into dinner.

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Death by Cheeseburger IV – Two Grass Fed Burgers and a Patty Melt Walk into a Bar

I’m not in love with grass fed beef. This is heresy in the foodie world. But I’ve yet to become fanatical about grass fed beef, while at the same time, not being ignorant of why it’s preferable over grain fed.

As grass fed beef becomes more prevalent, and I eat it more, I’m starting to like it more. It has an earthier, deeper flavor than conventional beef, which has taken me time to appreciate. My opinion may change in the future, and likely it will, but for now, it still doesn’t factor into my decisions when choosing what and where to eat. I’m still a bit apathetic toward grass fed beef. And me being frugal, its higher price sometimes causes my wallet to revolt.

Whole Foods has added burgers to the menu of their in-store restaurant. Being Whole Foods, the beef they use is grass fed, and they also claim it’s humanely raised. The feel good is there. But is the taste good there? Only for the strict purposes of science mind you, I intended to find out.

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Morocco by way of India, via Pakistan, with a stop in NYC

India, Pakistan, NYC, Morocco. That’s quite a journey. But the journey doesn’t end there. It ends in Schenectady.
Humble Schenectady of all places. And how blessed the Electric City is because of it.
I find it interesting that the small North African nation of Morocco (with a population of just 34 million) is ingrained into American culture. After all, one of the greatest films made, arguably, is Casablanca, set in the eponymous Moroccan coastal city.
“Here’s looking at you kid.” What American over the age of 30 doesn’t know that line?
Then there’s the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young hit Marrakesh Express. Love that tune. And according to Wikipedia, the song is based on an actual train ride Graham Nash took to the city of Marrakesh while vacationing in Morocco.
I was surprised to learn that Tara Kitchen is run by a husband and wife team of Indian, and Pakistani descent. She lived for a time in NYC. He, a transplanted Pakistani living in Morocco. When she was vacationing there, they met, fell in love, and married. It’s a fascinating story, and I recommend you read it.

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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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Pizza Pilgrimage

One morning, going through my email, and weeding through all the spam, I came across the email of promotions Living Social sends out to it’s subscribers each day.

I saw a special for Tinney’s Tavern. Tinney’s is on the shore of Lake Desolation, about an hour northwest of Albany. Apparently Lake Desolation is a destination for snowmobilers in the winter, and Tinney’s is a popular place to take a break, warm up, fill up your belly and have a couple of beers.

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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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Death by Bad Chain Cheeseburger – Crapplebee’s

I started doing a series of burger posts back in late August titled Death by Cheeseburger. I needed to take a break, because, as much as I love burgers, they are incredibly unhealthy and I don’t want to die just yet.

I also have been doing a series of posts titled Bad Chains, where I eat at a bottom of the barrel chain restaurant and write down my thoughts about the experience.

Those especially are a lot of fun. As much as I want to keep the content on the blog positive, (excusing a rant or two) sometimes I really enjoy reveling in just how bad the food at some of these chains are. I know, it’s weird, but I’m fascinated not only by food, but by food culture in general, both good and bad.

Applebee’s has launched a new burger menu. I haven’t seen any since, but during the summer, Applebee’s flooded TV with commercials about their new burgers. Applebee’s has been on my crap list for some time, as the food there is not good. They are ubiquitous though, and according to Wikipedia they have more than 2,000 restaurants in the US. So it’s likely most everyone has eaten there at least once.

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