05/5/14

The Healing Powers of Puppies and Food Trucks

Pain took me out of the blogging game for most of last week.  I had been walking, unknowingly, on a sprained ankle for three weeks.

I woke up one morning with intense pain in my leg. At first, I thought it was a leg cramp but it wouldn’t go away. When I got to work I was in pure agony and ended up asking to go home because I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

Due to fly the next day, I went to a doctor to make sure it wasn’t something more than a bad cramp.  At one point when the doctor was examining me, I wondered out loud if it was actually a sprain and not a cramp.  He literally told me it was not possible and that it was just cramps and that if I wore socks to bed they wouldn’t happen again. I asked him if I could have something for the pain and he refused by saying that I could take Aleve and it would take care of it.

Fast forward three weeks and after a short period feeling okay, I woke up in the night with the same intense pain. I suffered throughout the night and took myself to urgent care first thing in the morning. This doctor took me a little bit more seriously and gave me a pain shot in my backside and sent me for a x-ray. When the results came back she said that I had some swollen tissue around my ankle but not a fracture and sent me home.

Several hours later, I was still in the same level of pain and all I could think to do was go to the emergency room. The emergency room doctor felt around my foot and took a brief look at my x-ray from earlier in the day before telling me that I had a sprained ankle.  As a result, I am now on crutches and high level pain killers. My ankle still hurts a lot but not the insanity levels of the past few weeks.

After all of this pain, I needed something to make me feel good. When I heard about the No Kill LA (NKLA) pet adoption event at La Brea Tar Pits, it sounded like just what the doctor ordered. I mean, puppies AND food trucks?  Throw in Chris and Spotify and that sounds like my idea of heaven. So, I drugged myself up and headed on over to the event.

No Kill LA Adoption Event

As soon as I walked through the gates of La Brea Tar Pits park, there were dogs everywhere.

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I decided to start out with some food from one of the food trucks. Both because of hunger but because it would give me some time to sit down and rest my ankle before walking around the dogs.

There were several food trucks at the event. The only one I  had seen before was the Grilled Cheese Truck. I’ve eaten from them before but with as hot as it was, the idea of hot melted cheese wasn’t really doing it for me.

Hang 10 Taco truck

Hang 10 tacos

Instead, I decided to try out the Hang 10 Tacos truck. There menu was made up of a variety of interesting sounding tacos. Each of which was named after a different Los Angeles area beach. All of them, including the vegetarian tacos, sounded interesting and I knew I was going to try more than one. So, I took advantage of their three tacos and a drink for $10 deal.

Hang 10 Tacos menu

My taco trio was made up of The Manhattan,The Huntington and The Laguna.

Hang 10 Tacos trio

The Manhattan was made from charbroiled steak,cheese, cilantro and pico de gallo.

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The Huntington taco was pretty much the same thing but with pulled pork instead of the steak and with guacamole added.

pulled pork taco

The Laguna taco, which as the one I was looking forward to the most, had battered scallops, cabbage, jalapeno cream sauce, guacamole and pico de gallo.

scallop taco

All of the tacos were good but the scallop taco was the best. The light battering  meant not having to fight through breading to get to the tender scallops.  I was happy that the jalapeno cream wasn’t spicy.  In fact, none of the tacos I had were at all spicy. Which is prefect for me but I would imagine a lot of taco fans would have wanted a bit more fire.

dog in line

rescue dogs

With my foodie side satisfied, I headed into the main event to check out the dogs that were hoping to find new homes. Events, such as this NKLA event, make me both hate and love humanity. On one hand, there were hundreds of dogs at the event. Many of them had been abandoned or neglected but their original owners. As a dog lover that really frustrates me.

On the other hand, the NKLA event was full of people that volunteered their time because they know shelter animals face death if they donn’t find homes. That has to be the source of some hope.

Not to mention those folks that adopted a dog or a cat at the NKLA event. All around the park there were people cuddled up with their new family members.

dog adopted

A big part of me wishes that I could have been one of them. There were certainly a couple dogs that I would have enjoyed getting to know better. However, part of being a responsible dog lover is knowing when you aren’t ready.  I had to leave two dogs behind with my ex-husband when I left the UK.  I am still not really over the guilty feelings I have from that. That, combined with my small apartment and busy work schedule has me convinced that it is best that I show my support in other ways.

I had a particularly strong bond with my pug that I left behind in the UK.  I loved both of my dogs but she really was my baby.  I’ve been trying to channel those feelings of sorrow and guiltby giving a little bit to the Pug Nation Rescue of Los Angeles. I do this by linking my Ralph’s card to them which means that Ralph’s gives them a percentage of what I spend.  I you want to learn how to do that, Pug Nation Rescue explains the process on their donations page.

Pug Nation Rescue

Rescue Pug

By far, the most common breeds I saw at NKLA were pit bulls and chihuahuas. Seriously, if you live in LA and buy or breed in order to get a chihuahua puppy then you are committing an act of cruelty against the huge number of strays that will be put to sleep because they couldn’t be found a home.

Dog Rescue

By the time I had finished walking around and meeting dogs, my ankle was starting to hurt again. In fact, it is throbbing with pain right now. It was worth it though because each time I saw a tail wag, or had some puppy kisses on my hand, I had a few moments of feeling better.

adopted dogs

Nothing felt better though than going past an empty cage and seeing the adopted notice hanging on the door. Congrats to all those dogs that, thanks to NKLA, are spending their first night in their forever home.

04/15/14

Groupon Review: Cupcake Tour of Hollywood

I may have mentioned this one or two times before but cupcakes are sort of my thing. The Doughgasm girl icon has a cupcake in her hand for a reason. When a Cupcake Tour of Hollywood showed up in my Group offerings,I was pulling out my wallet in record time.

The cupcake tour Groupon cost $47 for a tour for two. Which, is down from the Great Food Tour’s normal price of $100.  That is a bit steep but Chris has been known to enjoy the taste of a cupcake now and then too and I figured it would be a nice foodie day out.

The morning of the Cupcake Tour of Hollywood started with a bit of chaos when we misinterpreted the address the company gave for the starting point of the tour. I have a bit of a thing about being on time and had a mini stress attack before we finally figured out where we should be and powered our way there just in time for the tour to begin.

When we finally arrived at the first cupcake store of the day, Georgetown Cupcake, we were met by a tour guide that suggested we go inside and buy a bottle of water for the journey. I suppose we should have thought about bringing a drink with us but since we didn’t we took his advice.

Once the rest of the tour group had gathered, the tour guide told us that we would each be getting to try a mini cupcake from the shop.  The offering of the day was the Cherry Blossom cupcake that Georgetown Cupcakes created as a homage to their Washington DC origins.

The Cherry Blossom cupcake is a Madagascar bourbon vanilla cake with fresh cherries baked into the cupcake. It is then topped with a cherry infused cream cheese frosting with a fondant cherry blossom appropriately  being the cherry on top.

Neither myself or Chris usually care for cream cheese frosting. So, I was a bit unsure about how the cupcake would go down with us but, as it turned out, the cupcake was really good. The cherries in the batter had a lovely fresh taste and helped to keep the cake extra moist.

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A big thumbs up from both of us and left us curious to try more from the Georgetown Cupcake menu.

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When time came to move on, our cupcake tour guide informed us that our next stop wouldn’t be to a cupcake shop. A bit of a bummer since the whole point of this tour was to try as many cupcakes as possible. Instead, it would be to Tartine O Chocolat, a French style pasty cafe, where we would be given the chance to taste one of their French macaroons.

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To be fair, the pastries looked great but Chris doesn’t like macaroons. So, that was one less tasting that he would be enjoying for the price we paid. I’m not an enormous fan of macaroons either but I figured that I had paid for it, so I would try it.

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The man that ran the cafe was kind and gave us some interesting history of the shop before he allowed us to select from a choice of flavors of French macaroons. Fairly predictably, I went for the chocolate macaroon and it was pretty good but it wasn’t a cupcake. You could be the best macaroon ever and I would still think you aren’t as good as a decent cupcake.

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Next, we moved on to Joan’s on Third.  Joan’s has been on my foodie radar since I moved to Los Angeles but I hadn’t been there before the day of the Hollywood cupcake tour. Sadly, I still feel as if I haven’t been there because rather than be invited inside to experience the feeling of Joan’s on Third, the guide left us part of the way down the block and asked us to wait while he went inside to collect the cupcakes we would be trying.

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When he came back, he had boxes of full sized chocolate cupcakes with him. To say that they weren’t good would be unfair to Joan’s.  The cake itself was very rich and dense. I felt like I should be using a fork rather than biting into it. They were very good but they were more like a cake in the shape of a cupcake than a cupcake.  Still, they were good enough to make me want to go back to Joan’s on Third and actually go inside.

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Next up was another non-cupcake stop in the form of Simplethings Sandwich Pie Shop.

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Initially, it was disappointing to have another cupcake taken out of the tasting count of what is advertised as a cupcake tour. However, in this case I am going to be forgiving because both myself and Chris thought their offering was the best thing we tasted on the tour.

Amongst the pies that Simplethings offers are a series of mini pies they call Cutie Pies. On our tour stop, they gave us their salted caramel pie to try. I’m a sucker for salted caramel as a flavor profile. So, I was happy to taste the salted caramel cutie pie. I wasn’t so sure if Chris would find it appetizing but I loved that he was willing to go out of his comfort zone and give it a go.

I know he is glad that he did because it was a true doughgasm moment. When we saw the salted caramel pie we were both concerned that it would be an overly sweet dish but instead we found it to be deliciously balanced.  The graham cracker crust took on most of the work of bringing the sweet tones to the almost clean tasting salted caramel. The richness of which was cut by the unsweetened cream on top.  Winner!  As soon as my healthy eating challenge is done, I am dragging Chris back to Simplethings for more pie.

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Eventually the tour had to move on and the group headed to Sweet E’s Bake Shop. Happily, this took us back to being given cupcakes to taste on the cupcake tour.  Sweet E’s is a super cute shop. The perky colors and playfulness of the shop design brought out the kid in in a candy shop feeling in our cupcake loving adult bodies.

The cupcakes weren’t half bad either. The cupcake that they offered the tour was the mini version of what they were calling an Irish Car Bomb cupcake.

I feel that I would be untrue to myself if I didn’t address my dislike of the American insistence on using that name to refer to the popular beer,Baileys and whiskey cocktail.  Having lived in the UK during some horrific car bomb terrorist attacks associated with the Irish troubles, I find the name to be in incredibly bad taste. Not just towards the victims of such attacks but to the Irish themselves where it borders on having racist undertones.  There, now I said it.

Anyway, no matter what they were called, the cupcakes from Sweet E’s were really tasty. The whiskey and stout that were involved added an adult flavors to what looked like a very youthful cupcake.  We enjoyed them enough that after the tour was over, we went back and tried a couple more of the mini cupcake flavors available from Sweet E’s. They were all good but none of them popped as much for me as these.

Allow me a girlfriend moment and say that I really love this photo of Chris holding the cupcakes from Sweet E’s. How lucky did I get to find a guy that not only enjoys foodie stuff  but who volunteers to hold the things we try so that I can take photos for my food blog? He’s mine ladies! lol.

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The final stop on the cupcake tour of Hollywood was Magnolia Bakery’s Los Angeles location. I had been to their main New York City location a couple years ago and enjoyed what I had ordered so I was curious to see how the West Coast venue measured up. Aesthetically, they managed to keep the same quaint but modern feel to the shop which makes for a cozy and inviting atmosphere.  The big displays of full sized cakes were a nice touch and good advertising for what they do beyond the cupcake menu.

At first, I groaned a bit when I heard that what we were being offered from the Magnolia Bakery was a mini cupcake version of their red velvet cupcake. There we were again with the cream cheese frosting issue. Something which has meant that neither myself or Chris are big fans of red velvet cake.

It all comes down to that dang cream cheese frosting. My sister and myself have been insisting to people for years that the red velvet cake that we grew up with in the Philadelphia area did not have a cream cheese frosting. It wasn’t exactly a buttercream either.

Frustratingly, neither of us can remember the recipe for the family’s red velvet cake frosting despite having made it several times as kids. Sometimes on its own just so we could eat it with a spoon. Yeah, I was pretty much destine to be the fat kid.

Preparing myself for disappointment, I bit into my mini red velvet cupcake only to be met with a yummy frosting that was not cream cheese! This was the nearest I had been to that family frosting in the years since I moved back to the United States. Reading the Magnolia Bakery’s menu, they use a whipped vanilla frosting. Bingo!

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With them being a New York operation, perhaps it was a case that red velvet didn’t always have a cream cheese frosting in the North East but that the Southern recipe that included it has since become the national norm? Whatever the reason, It was great to have validation of what I had spent years insisting to be the case.

Once the tour was over, we were left wondering between us if it had been worth it.  We did have a good time but largely because of being with each other. Was it worth the money?  The truth is in the numbers themselves. After the tour, I went through the websites of the places we stopped at on the tour and did some calculations.

We could have gone to each shop and bought the items we were served for a total of $16 per person or $32 for the pair. At the full company price of $100 for two people that is a ridiculous mark up. As it was, we paid $47 for the tour through Groupon so the level of service from the tour guide could have swung things.

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Unfortunately, we were both really disappointed in the tour guide. At each stop, he would take a moment to give us some background on each of the shops. Seriously, just about every time the story boiled down to how they were originally from Europe and then came to the States and started baking and were now running successful businesses. Not much at all about the actual food was shared.

He was also pretty rubbish at keeping track of his group. The tour covered a lot of ground between shops which meant a bunch of crossing streets. Not once did the tour guide wait at the other side to make sure everybody had crossed before he marched on. Instead, there were always a few people left way back trying to keep a visual on the group so they could eventually catch up. This lack of attention to his group was made most evident when several people left half way through the tour without him noticing.

All of which was made just a bit more tacky when he ended the tour by making a plea for tips. Normally, I would tip a guide but for $16 worth of tastings, I felt like I had already tipped the company enough. Not least because two of the promised tastings on the cupcake tour weren’t even cupcakes.

Whilst I enjoyed eating cupcakes with my sweetie, the truth is that for $50 we could have put together our own self-guided tour based on Yelp reviews and been able to sample a lot more than we did on the official tour.  In fact, I might just have to put together my own Doughgasm tour of Hollywood for us to do on our own.

That way I can go back and try more from the cupcake shops that we enjoyed without feeling I am paying for more than is being delivered.

04/8/14

Hanging with my Peeps (and other Easter candy)

If I ever need to remember that I lived outside of the United States for a long time,I just need to take a trip down the candy aisle. Many of the basic candy brands that were around when I moved to the United Kingdom are still on the shelves.  The varieties in which they are available,however, is often much different.

No time of year is that more evident than during the Easter candy sales season. Take Peeps as an example. When I left the States they were available in a couple of colors. Fast forward fifteen years and there is a veritable rainbow of Peeps available as Easter candy.

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It isn’t just the colors of the Peeps that have changed. Apparently, the Peeps flavor profile has also expanded.  Birthday Cake Peeps? I am imagining they have a more vanilla taste than the normal Peeps.

Birthday Cake Peeps

From fully chocolate covered to merely having their bird bums dipped in either milk chocolate or dark chocolate, chocolate has also become a feature of the Peeps Easter candy lineup.

Milk Chocolate Peeps Dark Chocolate Peeps

Of course, Peeps aren’t the only candies that take on unusual forms during the Easter candy season. Some brands such as Lifesavers, Nerds and Swedish Fish take on new shapes for the season.

Easter Lifesavers Easter Swedish Fish Easter Nerds Easter Jolly Ranchers

Others such as Kit-Kat and M&Ms simply jazz up the existing product to make it suitable for inclusions in Easter baskets across the country.

Easter Kit-Kat

Easter M&Ms

I may be new to all of these variations of classic American candy brands but for the most part I can understand the appeal of each variation.

However,could somebody kindly tell me what the point of Sugar-Free Peeps?

Sugar Free Peeps

 

03/20/14

Mountain Dew Cheetos & 7 other crazy junk food flavors

What is more American than Coke and Oreos? Some brands of junk food have been around so long that life wouldn’t be quite the same without them on the shelves.

What are those brands like outside of the United States though? Here are eight crazy but real flavors of iconic brands from around the world.

Mountain Dew Cheetos

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As is the case with so many of these unusual flavors, the Mountain Dew Cheetos are a Japanese product. Apparently, the Cheetos are dusted with a Mountain Dew powder that gives them a fizzy lemon lime taste.

 

Pepsi Cheetos

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While we are on the subject of Japanese Cheetos, it would be foolish to leave out Pepsi Cheetos. Apparently, there isn’t any cheese flavor involved with these Cheetos. Which, I suppose is a bit of a blessing.  From what I have heard, they also have a pop rocks sort of effect that creates a popping in your mouth.

 

Blueberry Ice Cream Oreos

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American Oreo fans are no strangers to limited edition Oreo flavors these days but it looks like we have only just chipped away at the Oreo flavors that have been seen around the world.  For example, Oreos with a blueberry ice cream filling have been available in Singapore and Indonesia.

 

 Strawberry Ritz Bits

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None of that cheddar and peanut butter stuff for these Ritz Bits. In Japan, they served up a bright pink stuffed variety of Ritz Bits.  By some reports it is simply a strawberry filling and by others it is strawberry cheesecake. Either way, it is bright pink. Like the Hello Kitty of Ritz crackers.

 

Ginger Ale Kit Kats

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Now these I have actually tried. When I lived in London, I would occasionally go to a shop that imported American candy. They also had a Japanese section and that was how I was able to try the Ginger Ale Kit Kats. It sounds horrible but they were actually pretty good.  The chocolate part of the Kit Kat is a white chocolate that contrasts nicely with the lightly gingered citrus taste.

 

Ice Cucumber Pepsi

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You guessed it. Japan strikes again! This time with an Ice Cucumber Pepsi. For me, this is an example of fundamental difference in the sort of flavors a culture enjoys. I have no desire to drink a cucumber in any form. Much less in a carbonated Pepsi variation.

 

Orange Coke

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Orange Coke is another one that I have had the chance to try. It was introduced into the United Kingdom market when I lived there. It was a companion to the lemon and lime varieties. I enjoyed those but I really disliked the Orange Coke.

The orange mix gave the drink a bitter taste. Perhaps if the sweetness of the Coke had been able to come through more it would have worked but they way they put it out resulted in a big nope from me.  When traveling in Germany, I would often seen colas mixed with orange drinks so maybe it did better on the European mainland.

 

Clam Chowder Doritos

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I would totally try these Clam Chowder Doritos from Japan. Partially because I don’t think I have seen anybody try to create an artificial clam chowder flavor. Mostly though because it sounds like it could be really good.

So, what flavors of beloved American brands have you seen around the world? I’d love to know!

 

 

03/12/14

Birthday Cake M&M’s Review

Apparently,Mars wasn’t discouraged by the lackluster response to White Chocolate Carrot Cake M&Ms’. They are back with another cake based M&M’s flavor. This time around, it is a Birthday Cake M&M’s being introduced as a limited edition.

When I saw the Birthday Cake M&M’ on the shelves of my local CVS, I wasn’t immediately sure that I wanted to try them.  When I see ‘birthday cake’ as a flavor my mind goes right to a vanilla flavoring. The sort that tastes oddly sweet and not particularly like like actual vanilla.  Has anybody else noticed that all those girlie vodka versions from cotton candy to (of course) birthday cake are all just variations of vanilla?  Serious, the vanilla thing has been overplayed.

birthday cake m&m's

Eventually though, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up a pack to take home for a taste test. The first thing I noticed when opening the pack of Birthday Cake M&Ms was that the actual M&Ms were bigger than normal. Not the size of the the new Mega M&Ms but more like they had been overstuffed enough that they began to bulge and the seams.

When I started to eat them, I couldn’t help but notice that the chocolate filling had a different texture than normal M&M’s.  In particular, there is a creamier feel to it. Not at all unpleasant but different enough to notice.

So, how did the Birthday Cake M&M’s taste? It turns out that they are pretty dang good.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the birthday cake was a chocolate cake. I’m not sure why I didn’t figure that out before tasting. It isn’t like they show a big slice of chocolate cake on front of the packaging or anything, right? They are successful in creating a flavor profiles that is a chocolate cake batter taste with a hint of vanilla frosting. I’ll give them slack for the vanilla since it really is just a note and it compliments the chocolate.

So, thumbs up to the Birthday Cake M&M’s. They might not be quite the caliber of the dark chocolate peanut M&M’s (which are amazing!) but they are well above most of the limited edition M&M’s flavors of recent times.

03/1/14

Vampire Slayers Pickles from Pickled By Hattie

Society can be divided in to two types of people. Those that take the pickle off the hamburger and those that don’t. I am most certainly one that does not.  Maybe it has something to do with my Pennsylvania Dutch blood that predisposes me to like anything pickled but I really I love pickles.

When I was at the Hollywood Farmers Market this weekend, the Pickled By Hattie stall caught my eyes. Normally situated in the Spice Alley section of the market, this week they stood out in contrast the the fruit and vegetable stalls that surrounded them.

Pickled By Hattie Hollywood farmers market

There are a good number of artisan products available at the market but I think this was the first time that I saw artisan pickles. A variety of pickles available on the stall, most of which were spicy. Sadly, I am a wimp when it comes to spicy. Spiced is a great thing but spicy not so much. My heat boundaries have been pushed back since moving to California but I am still not going to be actively buying something labeled as hot and/or spicy.

Pickled By Hattie

Being spice-challenged, those varieties of pickles from Pickled By Hattie were out for me but what did grab my attention was the ir Vampire Slayers pickles. Garlic and pickles? Jackpot!

Vampire Slayers Pickles

Vampire Slayers Pickles

When they say garlic, boy do they ever mean it. My nose was twitching like Samantha as soon as I popped the lid off the jar of Vampire Slayer pickles. It was great to look into the jar and see real ingredients such as herbs,garlic and even a lone whole chilli floating around. It gave me the impression that I was truly getting a handcrafted product rather than factory produced in faux rustic style.

Pickeled by Hattie Vampire Slayer Pickles

There are few things as sad as a limp pickle, right? Not an issue with these super crunchy pickles. To say that the Vampire Slayer pickles were bursting with flavor would be a massive understatement.  Immediately, my whole mouth was tingling from the intensely zesty garlic. The chili took my taste buds to the edge of too much spice but managed to still keep it pleasurable.

These aren’t a pickle that you are going to forget moments after they have been eaten. That flavor bomb of garlic and spice stays with you. That is good for your taste buds but does mean that you probably do want to have a stick of gum ready.  Unless the person you speak to next particularly enjoys the smell of garlic breath.

At $12 a jar, there is no pretending that the Pickled By Hattie Vampire Slayer pickles are the cheapest around. However, the jars are big,the pickle spears substantial and they are the best pickles that I have had in a long time.

 

02/28/14

3 Gen X snack foods that should make a comeback

Social media was buzzing a couple weeks ago with rumors that Crystal Pepsi was making a comeback. Sadly for those looking  forward to a moment of junk food nostalgia, it appears that the rumors were falsely started on a satirical news site.

Though, if anybody at Pepsi has any sense, they should be taking advantage of the buzz and bring Crystal Pepsi back for real.

Crystal Pepsi

The product may have be considered a flop but whoever created the Crystal Pepsi commercials knew what they were doing. They were so epic that, even 20 years later, most folks of a certain age can’t help but hear  Sammy Hagar in their heads at the mere mention of Crystal Pepsi.

Crystal Pepsi might not becoming back anytime soon but it did get me thinking about other lost Generation X food products that I would like to see return.

First choice has to go to Apple Slice soda. Also from Pepsi Co, Apple Slice was part of a range of fruit flavored Slice branded sodas that were out in the mid 1980s.

Grape, pineapple, peach, strawberry and, the fairly progressive for the time, passion fruit were just some of the other varieties of slice soda. I can’t say that I remember the taste of any of them other than Apple Slice soda.

My mother was pretty into it at the time, especially the Diet Apple Slice. I can’t blame her because it was a flavor unlike any other soda of the time. Tart and crisp a bit like a sharp cider taste.

The nearest I have gotten to it since was in the UK with Apple Tango soda but it wasn’t as full bodied as I remember Apple Slice tasting.

Around about the same time period as Slice, there was a potato chip offering from Keebler called Tato Skins. There was a bunch of Tato Skins flavors such as cheddar and bacon, sour cream and onion, and steak and potato but my favorite was the basic baked potato flavor.

I’ve heard from several people that T.G.I. Friday’s Potato Skins is the same product as Keebler’s Tato Skins just under a different name.  Has anybody that remembers Tato Skins tried them? What is the verdict?

Why did Jello-O Pudding Pops get taken off the market in the first place?  Perhaps my home wasn’t representative of the nation at large (in OH so many ways) but we almost always had them in the freezer.

Jell-O put out both gelatine and pudding pops. I would eat the gelatine ones if they were around but they have a slightly odd texture. The pudding pops, on the other hand, were great. Especially the chocolate and vanilla swirl pudding pop variety.

I was the fat kid that was always on one diet or another. In addition to the the taste, the pops were on the lower end of the calorie spectrum from most of the snacks I enjoyed. The Jell-O Gelatine pops were a mere 35 calories each and the Jell-O Pudding Pops came in at 90 calories each.

Plus, Bill ‘The Cos’ Cosby was on TV every day pushing them too us. Any friend of Mortimer Ichabod Marker had to be taken seriously.

P.S.  Was there a butterscotch flavor of Jell-O Pudding Pops or am I just dreaming it into existence?

02/24/14

Sunday morning at Hollywood Farmers Market

Should I eat before I go? Inevitably that is the question I ask myself before heading out to the Hollywood Farmers Market.

It is a mental toss up between knowing that my tummy will be grumbling as I pass by all the glorious food stalls and wanting to wait so that I have an excuse to tuck right into something I bought once I get home. Today, I opted for the empty tummy plan.

What foodie doesn’t enjoy a good farmers market? Especially in an area like Southern California where the weather allows for such lovely local produce all year round. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve tried out a few local farmers markets. None have clicked with me as well as the Hollywood Farmers Market. Initially a bit of a surprise because I assumed that one smack dab in the middle of Hollywood with the sign visible in the distance, would be the snobby one with ridiculously hiked prices.

Pleasantly,that isn’t the case. The fruit and vegetables are all fairly priced. In many cases, on par with local supermarket prices but for a superior product. Some of the more artisan products such as cheeses and oils from mom and pop sort of start ups might feel pricier than your normal shop. There too, it will often be better than whatever brand you would buy in the supermarket. Normally, my plan of attack is get the fruit and veg that I need for the week and then pick out one of the artisan products to try as a treat.

The Hollywood Farmers Market takes place each Sunday from 8am to 1pm. Even if the apocalypse,otherwise known in LA as rain, should occur. It is on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Street. There is reasonably priced parking available at the nearby Cinerama Dome parking lot. Just go to the markets information booth for validation.

For me though, part of the charm of the Hollywood Farmers Market is how easy it is for me to get there from Koreatown by public transport. I just hop on the underground Metro at the Wilshire/Western station, get off two stops later at Wilshire/Vermont and jump onto the red line headed towards North Hollywood. That takes me all the way to Hollywood/Vine, which is the nearest station to the market which is just a few minutes away by foot. If the trains match up, the whole thing takes me about 15 minutes.

I find the produce selection at the local supermarket chains rather limited. The same apples and the same oranges each week and only the sort of vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, that they know will be sold in large numbers.

At the farmers market, you will find whatever is in season. Look at the size of the leeks this lady is pondering. I have barely seen leeks in a supermarket since leaving the UK and when I do they are small and uninspiring.

Note to self: Those and some of the wide variety of potatoes found at the market would work well together to make a lovely leek and potato soup.

Hollywood Farmers Market Leeks

Soft fruit such as these strawberries always look so much better at the farmers market too. You can practically taste them with your eyes.

hollywood farmers market strawberries

As somebody who,more often that not, is cooking for one, I also like that I can buy as much or as little as I like of an item.  These sugar snaps, as an example, looked so good. I can snack on fresh sugar snaps like candy but I just needed enough for me. I grabbed a few handfuls and ended up paying two dollars for a farm fresh and organic product.

Hollywood Farmers Market

Did you notice the ‘try me’ written on the sugar snaps sign? That is another reason I enjoy the farmers market. You can taste practically anything before you decide to buy.  Not only does this allow you to go between stalls and see who has the best tasting strawberries (or whatever) that week. It has also encouraged me to stab one of the provided toothpicks into a sample of a fruit I have never tried before.

I didn’t know what a persimmon tasted like until I tried one at the market. Without having that opportunity, I may have remained a bit unsure and never given it a chance.

Certainly, it helped fruit stall owners get a sale out of me today. After a taste test, I ended up picking up this bounty which includes several super juicy blood oranges, an Asian pear, some mandarins, Meyer lemons and some perfectly crisp pink lady apples.

hollywood farmers market fruit

Whereever you go in the market, you will find ladies,such as these, tucking in to bit of citrus.

hollywood farmers market people

The people of the Hollywood Farmers Market is another one its charms. As you can likely tell from my street photography efforts, I am a people watcher and there are few better places to people watch in Los Angeles than at this farmers market.

You get all sorts of people from the expected hippie types to the the long-haired rock veterans and the hip good looking LA types. The market is good for the occasional celebrity spotting too or so they tell me. So far, the only celeb that I have noticed on my trips has been America Ferrera.

hollywood farmers market people

hollywood farmers market people

hollywood farmers market people

It is Hollywood though and so there is no shortage of creative people making themselves known at the market. Musicians are at every turn from a rather nice looking and rather talented male harpist (must remember to find out his name!) to ragtime bands and much in between.

hollywood farmers market people

Hollywood Farmers Market

Then there are the folks that show their creativity by being the characters of the market. Which is great. Whether it has been London, San Francisco or Los Angeles, I have loved that every city in which I have lived, no matter the size, has their local characters that everybody recognizes.

hollywood farmers market dog

hollywood farmers market poet store

hollywood farmers market busking

Before I left the market for this week, I had to make a stop at the Homeboy Bakery stall. It is always the first stall that I see when I walk into the market but I force myself to wait until the end. Mmostly so that I don’t end up squishing the bread I buy under the weight of the fruit and veg.

homeboy bakery hollywood farmers market

You have seen me mention my appreciation for Homeboy Industries before when I used their tortilla strips to make my Drunken Sloppy Joe Nachos for the Super Bowl. As yummy as those are, there is something wonderful about about seeing the program in action at the farmers markets they attend. Plus, the bread is really good. So are the cookies they sell.

homeboy bakery hollywood farmers market

This week, I walked away with a loaf of the Homeboy Bakery’s  Multigrain Pan Bread. The first thing I always notice when I buy this variety is the weight of the loaf. None of this so light that you wonder what is in it type of bread. This is a dense loaf that feels like it really is packed with all those grains and oats that are promised on the label.

Homeboy Bakery Bread

Since I had left for the market on an empty tummy, thinga were getting to critical hunger status by the time I made it back to my apartment. The Homeboy Bakery bread came to the rescue. Which was a good thing because just the rich color of the bread slices had my tummy threatening to stage a coup.

homeboy bakery bread

homeboy bakery sandwhich

So, excuse me while I go enjoy my tuna salad made with fresh dill and lemon that I picked up at the market. Of course, on top of this great bread.

02/15/14

Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy Oreo Reviews

Today, Chris and I kicked off our Valentine’s Day festivities by going out for a meat-filled lunch at Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills. Every piece of meat we ate was better than the one before. I’m nuts for lamb. So, I was particularly happy to find lamb chops amongst the selection.

As good as that was, later in the evening a very ‘Chris and Sarah’ sort of celebration took place. Both of us have been intrigued by the new Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Krispy Oreo flavors. We read good reviews but couldn’t bring ourselves to buy a whole package on our own.  When I saw them in the supermarket, I decided to grab one of each and save for us to try together over our Valentine’s Day weekend.  It didn’t sound any worse than munching through a box of chocolates.

Of the two new Oreo flavors, the Cookie Dough Oreo has had the most media attention. Consequentially, our expectations were fairly high.

Sadly, neither of us really enjoyed the Cookie Dough Oreos all that much.  The flavor of the filling had a coffee sort of taste that didn’t remind us at all of cookie dough. If anything, it brought Tia Maria to mind. It would have been more accurate if they had been called tiramisu Oreos. I’ve never really enjoyed tiramisu.

cookie dough oreos cookie dough oreo

Neither of us knew what to expect from the Marshmallow Crispy Oreo flavor. We couldn’t conceptualize how the crispy part would be integrated. I was worried that the cream part would be overly sweet. I never tried the Candy Corn Oreos because my teeth hurt just thinking about them. So, with trepidation, we opened the pack and gave the Marshmallow Crispy Oreos a shot.

Woah! We loved them!

Marshmallow Crispy OreosMarshmallow krispy oreo

Rather than be silly sweet, the Oreo filling has a toasted marshmallow flavor. There are just enough crispies added to the mixture to give it an interesting and pleasant crunchy texture. The sweetness that there is in the Marshmallow Crispy Oreo is brought from the golden Oreo cookie itself.

Now, we just have to forget we ever tried them or we may end up having to head to Oreo rehab.

 

 

 

 

 

10/31/13

What is a doughgasm?

You know that moment of ecstasy that is experienced on the first bite or sip of something truly delicious?  Your eyes forcibly close as an expression of delight spreads across your face. You pause and then you go back for more.

That is a doughgasm.

The term was coined a few years back after my first visit to San Joses’s unbeatable Psycho Donuts. They specialize in doing crazy and creative doughnuts.

Crazy certainly is the theme they go for with both of their locations decked out as if they were inspired by the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest. Complete with the counter staff being dressed as ward nurses.

Oh and whilst you are deciding which flavor doughnut that you want to try first, they give you bubble wrap to help manage the stress of the decision.

Psycho Donut Nurse

My first doughgasm came with the help of Psycho Donuts’s Marla doughnut.  It is a maple doughnut that is topped with peanut butter and crushed up Butterfinger candies.  It took me some time to get the name…Marla Maples…get it? lol.  One bite of that beauty and it became the doughnut by which all further doughnuts have been judged.

Psycho Donut selection

Since then, I have been doing back whenever I get the chance. Which isn’t as much as I like now that I am living down in Los Angeles. That is likely a good thing for my waist line.

Not only has each doughnut I have tried been delicious but I love their sense of whimsy.  These are some photos from a visit I made on  Easter a couple years back.

psycho_donuts_3 psycho_donuts_4

The ‘He is Risen’ doughnut name made be chuckle out loud even before I noticed that it was decorated like a crown of thrones complete with drops of blood.

My mind went right to Homer’s ‘mmm Sacrilicious’ moment on the Simpsons.

May every first bite in your life induce a doughgasm greater than the one before.