Sunday, August 31, 2008
No, this anonymous partygoer didn't watch a creepy, posessed video tape before I took his photo. But he did catch a thrown grape in his mouth on the first try as the shutter snapped. I offer this photo to you because what says "fun, casual cocktail party" better than a photo of someone catching a grape in his or her mouth?
Even better than a "normal" cocktail party, this was a theological cocktail party. Well, it turned out to be more of a political cocktail party (because it was the evening of Obama's speech at the DNC), but the event is to recur. I'll definitely attend again, and not just because this could be the most appropriate snacking event series ever for a weblog called Snackreligious.
Alas, photos without flash were just not working. But there was a lot of good snacking material there. I brought Whole Foods' Two-Bite Brownies for the group. There were also various chip, nut, cheese, and fruit options. Then, something magical occurred.
Just before Obama's speech, I noticed I had set a cup full of Coke down on the counter next to a container of honey-roasted peanuts.
Hey, how did those get in there?
Saturday, August 30, 2008
I also have an aversion to "novelty meats," animals I would only eat if I were starving (deer, rabbits, squirrel, snake, etc.). That said, I would probably be willing to try my "never" foods just once in the right situation. For example, I would like to be willing to eat just about anything while traveling in another country, so as to not insult a potential host. But I'm sure I'd find there are limits to that.
I had to add a third category and italicize things I might have had. I'm not actually very picky and I've eaten/drunk a lot of things in my life so far, trying things at school and food fairs and off people's plates in foreign restaurants where I wasn't sure what I was eating. I can't remember all the details!!
The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison - I think I had this as a kid.
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros - I must have tried them at least once.
4. Steak tartare - but I do like tuna tartare. 5. Crocodile 6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp - I don't know. probably. Is carp that memorable?
10. Baba ghanoush
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi - love!
15. Hot dog from a street cart
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - could be I've had this.
pork buns - might have tried someone's pork buns once
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl - I've had chowder and I've had soup in a bowl. No idea if they were ever combined.
33. Salted lassi - was my lassi salted?
35. Root beer float
with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
41. Curried goat - I would eat this only in a foreign country.
42. Whole insects - If only I'd gotten the cricket tacos in Mexico. I was full!
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
47. Chicken tikka masala
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
60. Carob chips
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
79. Lapsang souchong
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
90. Criollo chocolate
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
p.s. Sorry that the links make this list a little hard to read. I should go through and remove them, but I'm not going to do that.
Friday, August 29, 2008
I've got a new album called Folk Lute of Anatolia (Ali Ekber Çiçek, voice and bağlama) and one of the last treats from Vienna, Meersalz Schokolade by Leysieffer [This is a rich, dark chocolate with large grains of salt. It's quite the saltiest chocolate I've ever tasted, but it's delicious and melts beautifully on the tongue]. And then, in a little while, we're all going to watch Little Women (1933, with Katherine Hepburn as Jo). Isn't life grand?
Is it incongruous of me to take my vitamin with a powdered donut (I'm supposed to take it "with food")? And on a day I am also drinking GT's Kombucha (in Gingerade)?
"One of these things is not like the others..." Or, rather, not one of these things quite goes with the others...
p.s. Did you know they changed the tune and words of that Sesame Street classic? I guess it has changed several times!
I visited Trophy, a bar on Broadway in Brooklyn, for a new twist on Happy Hour.
Tuesday night there is "Asia Night," aka Asian hot dog night. Proceed directly to the back yard for an alfresco hot dog extravaganza. Mel and "Tall Steve" have a large grill, buns, and coolers of toppings, as well as a chalkboard listing the available hot dogs that evening (I overheard that the list is pretty much the same each Tuesday, except for one "special" offering that changes from week to week).
It's a good idea that has been well executed. The only weakness, in my eyes, is the exclusion of the turkey dog, but one can hardly expect those to be standard on the grill. It's not that I don't appreciate being given a choice between beef or veggie dogs (or sausage or a burger). It's especially generous of the Asian Night hosts to have a veggie option. It's just that I am not a vegetarian, and while I choose not to eat beef (or pork) hot dogs I also think vegetarian hot dogs taste...well...gross. I've tried around 6 different brands and have only enjoyed vegetarian corn dogs from Morning Star farms. It was pointed out to me that the problem I have with veggie dogs is one of texture, not flavor (and that most brands of veggie hot dogs do not grill prettily or well). The toppings on the Trophy Dogs just can't surmount the veggie dog texture for me, as good as they are. If only there were turkey or chicken dogs available. I guess I'll just have to keep upping my tolerance of sausage.
Still, the dogs we tried varied from good to excellent. All hot dogs are $3 each (but not 2 for $5, as the sign linked to suggested) and "while supplies last" (roughly 8-10pm). It sounded like the veggie dogs ran out before the beef dogs. And, as can be seen in the chalkboard link given above, there are several more options not listed here which I haven't tasted yet.
Ginny (kim chi and seaweed flakes): B
I've had kim chi of the ultra-hot variety before, and I'm not mad at it, but this kim chi tastes more mild and vinegary, which I liked. It's hot without burning the tongue. The seaweed flavor is strong, so if you're not a big fan I'd skip this dog.
Bangkok (mango, red onion, and cucumber): A-
If this had more mango (and was on a turkey dog), I would give it an A+. The onion was strong and crisp, the cumber tasted fresh and clean, and the mango was their perfect foil. More mango, please!
Vinh ("Banh Mi Style"): B+
This should be your choice if you like hot sauce. The spice here gave it that "tastes like burning" je ne sais quoi. It was dark, so I couldn't identify exactly which "Banh Mi" vegetables were included, but they tasted fresh and fine.
Ito (Japanese curry and apples): B-
The curry on this dog was good, but slightly too mild or bland for me. I don't think it needs to be spicier, but it was a little lacking in flavor (and I heard this from friends who ate it on a beef dog as well). And, like the Bangkok dog, it did not look like but tasted like it was short on fruit. The apple is such a good counterpoint to the curry when you do taste it. Needs more apple! Maybe on the bottom of the bun, under the dog?
Finally, Dan and Matt tried what we assumed was the new "special" hot dog, each ordering a beef "Mel and Steve Dog." I can't give this one a grade (I was full + the beef thing), but I did observe the guys eating theirs. They (the hot dogs) looked handsome in the buns and on the plates, covered in Asian slaw, scallion, and sesame as they were. Vinegar and butter were identified as strong flavors, though an opinion that the "butter" flavor may actually have been the richness of sesame was also voiced. "Where would this hot dog be without sesame, I ask you," an enraptured Matt exclaimed at last. Sounds like Mel and Steve could add this one to their regular rotation and have at least one weekly taker.
Update: Apparently, the "Mel and Steve" dog has been on the menu before. Matt, you may be in luck.
p.s. The dogs pictured above are, from left to right, the Ito, the Vinh, The Bangkok, and the Ginny
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Some gulls let us know they were jealous of our picnic lunch at the fountain near the Seattle Space Needle.
They were acting territorial about who got to stand closest to us.
Extended eye contact with an animal or bird activates my "I must feed you" instinct, but I know that's generally frowned upon. I stuck to my personal rule: "I won't feed them on purpose, but if I drop something they can have it" and then tried not to do any accidental-on-purpose littering of bread.
But, come on! Who wouldn't want some of this bread?
Ingenious! This stylish loaf was found near Pike Place Market at a lovely bakery named Le Panier.
Crusty! Chewy! Fresh! Yum (More about those cheese curds soon). Also, notice the giant drink in the penultimate photo above? That's an enormous lemonade with no less than an entire lemon (cut in half) floating inside. From this place:
We sat and ate (bread, cheese curds, donut nectarines) and were snuck up on by seagulls and watched children playing in the giant fountain (which varied its stream and patterns, sometimes playing music). Pretty cheery day.
Yeah, kid. Go for it.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
They're supposed to be foods that we loved as kids but no longer enjoy eating as adults. Maybe I'm still a kid at heart, but here are a few of
Other People's Pixifoods I Still Like
Fun Dip/Lik em Stik
Cadbury Creme Eggs
Frozen Burritos (Annies Southwestern with masa, esp.)
Oatmeal Cream Pies
Cheese in a spray can
Cocoa mix with tiny dry marshmallows already in it
Note: I think the key to all of the above is enjoying them in moderation and treasuring your memories.
My Pixifoods Would Include
Big League Chew
Wax Soda Bottles
Chef Boyardee Ravioli
Liver and Onions
Boston Baked Beans (the candy)
Bubblegum ice cream
I'm On the Fence About
Hostess Fruit Pies
TV dinners - sometimes I find I am craving one with fried chicken and mashed potatoes and corn and a brownie
American cheese slices
Cinnamon Toast Crunch - or at least the generic kind I had recently, which got soggy too fast.
Fast food chicken - KFC kinda grosses me out and even Popeye's tastes like soap to me now. I still try to like it every once and a while.
Candy Canes (I mostly just like chocolate and cherry flavors)
Zero Bars - I think I need to try these again to determine whether I find them gross now.
Instant mashed potatoes - I haven't had any in years, but I liked that whole "hot lunch" scene at school.
I am happy to go into more detail about any item on these lists. Mentally, I've made another list called "Other People's Pixfoods I Never, Ever Liked." And I will defend my positions! Not to the death or anything, but still.
["Pixifood" topic originated on: Joe Posnanski]
Let's talk tea. I am in love with genmaicha these days.
Mmm...toasted rice and green tea. Little pieces that have popped like puffed rice cereal. Unique, nutty flavor. Smooth and warm and comforting.
I've been drinking it at home and on the road.
When we stopped to have a bite to eat while hiking around Deception Pass in Washington state, we enjoyed three different flavors of chocolate with grey sea salt we had picked up at Bayleaf in Coupeville. The "Aztec Chile" spicy version was my favorite. The salt grains made the experience a little transcendent and there were roasted pepitas inside.
Another flavor was burnt caramel. Delicious. The third had coconut flakes and almonds inside.
We, a thoughtful bunch, picked up all of our trash. The birds, who had previously snacked on shrimp, did not. They left behind the heads.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The babe with the power.
The power of voodoo.
Remind me of the babe.
Okay. Enough lyrical silliness.
Several people told me to check out Voodoo Doughnut while in Portland (even Matthew, though he did not seem to recommend the Tang-encrusted donut). The Voodoo Doughnut location I found (looks like there are two now) is located at 22 SW 3rd Avenue and is, according to the website, open a whole 24 hours. It is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall dive of a donut shop that is really-and-truly-would-I-lie-to-you-about-donuts worth a trip.
Pictured: Butterfinger topping on a devil's food cake donut, an "Old Dirty Bastard" oreo and peanut butter on devil's food, a "Maltnomah" glazed with malted milk balls and very fudgey frosting, and the classic glazed "Voodoo Doughnut" with jelly blood filling and pretzel stake through the heart. All gimmicks aside, the donuts are so delicious that they'd be worth eating without any toppings/fillings - especially the glazed - but since the toppings/fillings are impressively inventive it's worth trying a few. Alas, the bacon-topped maple donut was not available when I was there. And, perhaps less sadly, the Nyquil Glazed and Pepto-Bismol donuts have apparently been put on hold indefinitely.
Also, my Voodoo Donut (in the shape of a gingerbread person made of a jelly-filled glazed donut) was gorgeous and fully-frosted. Then it spent the evening in a bag within a bag at Ground Kontrol (and got just a tad smooshed in a photo booth pile-up) and the rest of the night in Andre's fridge (because I became full eating the Maltnomah donut), which is why a lot of the frosting has come off in these pictures. It was still fabulous the next morning, if somewhat less photogenic.
Unicorn Crepes is in the International District neighborhood of Seattle, just around the corner from Uwajimaya. Inside, a display of plastic crepe wedges with various plastic toppings catches the eye. Choose your poison! Your delicious, delicious poison.
Wait. Why are they called Unicorn Crepes?
Oh, I get it, maybe! I guess it's because you start with a crepe that has been made flat and round, but then after the person behind the counter finishes putting the fillings in it in a wedge shape, the crepe is rolled into a horn-like cone and eaten that way. Tear the paper off as you eat from the top down.
Dan's Banana Corn Flake Choco Whip (pictured above) was excellent. That's banana slices with corn flakes, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. I really dug the inclusion of corn flakes; they're an asset to any crepe, turning a rather soft dessert into something less passive. My strawberry (slices of whole strawberries, not just sauce) and yummy vanilla custard and whipped cream (and chocolate? I forget.) crepe was almost as good. Needed cornflakes. There were a number of savory crepe suggestions, too, such as spicy tuna and egg salad, but their plastic display counterparts appealed to me less.
When I see "Now with xx% less fat!" on a package, I always wish I'd gotten to try the original full-fat variety. Because what if the situation is like that of 3 Musketeers bars, which are nowhere near as good as when they had more fat? These Nik Naks (sent from the UK) claim that although they contain "50% less saturated fat than in 2005" they still have the "same great taste." I wonder.
Another claim on the packaging is: "Nice 'N' Spicy Flavour Knobbly, Freaky Sticks of Corn." I assume that this means that Nik Naks come in other flavors.
Me? I'd say this one is better described as "Not Bad Sweet 'N' Sour Flavour Knobbly, Freaky Sticks of Corn-Flavored Foam." There's a slight onion flavor under the vinegar sour-sweet coating, and the texture is that of a lighter-weight Cheeto. But they're maybe more "loosely inspired by corn" (like Capitaine Achab, the odd little French film I saw last night at Lincoln Center, was "loosely inspired" - or some such wording in the credits - by Moby Dick).
I might eat these again, but overall I prefer NicNacs.
p.s. In other snacking news, we've been eating a whole wheel of cheese at work. Seems to be cheddar. Yum. And today Wendy brought two kinds of brownies (which reminds me, the name "No Pudge" embarrasses me as much as the idea of a no-fat brownie offends me, but I have made them myself in desperation - once, it was the only mix in the store - and the brownies are actually pretty good), while Caitlin returned from a trip with assorted See's chocolates.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I didn't take a lot of pictures in Portland, OR which is too bad because in some ways I liked Portland as a city better than Seattle. Don't get mad, Seattle, I like you, too.
So, we stayed with a very hospitable friend in NW Portland (where I was delighted to discover that many of the streets inspired Simpsons characters' names) and wandered around looking for food a lot. One morning found us in Ken's Artisan Bakery on NW 21st Avenue.
I have to say, even without having a picture of it to post, that it was there I ate what might be the best croissant I've ever tasted. It was flaky and tender and fresh-tasting with a real bread flavor - not just the "empty air and butter" of some old pastries. I think Ken's sells bread and pastries all over the city, and if the croissant is any indication of the other items' superiority over competitors' breads, they're probably doing excellent business.
p.s. Planning street names so that they run in alphabetical order is such a good idea. I've seen this in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and in Portland, OR. I imagine other cities have grids like this, too. So much better than naming your streets after states, and then putting them in chronological order depending on when they joined the Union. Lawrence, KS, I'm looking at you!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Not long after dawn, the light fell beautifully across a bag of Cheese Rings and apricots. Guess which looked better for a pre-breakfast snack? Hint: not the Cheese Rings.
Oh, and also Eva made some great eggs, scrambled with both onion and green onions. Even better.
Beautiful sunsets and (more importantly) dry weather in the Seattle area led us camping. We made our way to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle. Once on the island, we stopped at Bayleaf in Coupeville, a charming shop selling cheese, bread, wine, chocolates, and more.
We bought camping snacks there, including some wine (screw-top necessary), bricks of marigold gouda and a spicy cheese, individual puddings in rich flavors, mini chocolates, crusty bread, and some the best sausage I've had to date.
Oh, hadn't you heard? I'm eating some pork now. Mostly hard sausages and prosciutto/bacon. I'll save the wherefore for another entry.
Now, about those sausages --
Both (we bought two flavors) were perfect. Fresh air and beautiful views may have made it tastier, but it was already sharp (both the "hot" version and the less spicy) and chewy and moist. Beautiful. And for a camping trip, you really can't beat the portability of hard sausages and bread. I could have eaten nothing but this all weekend. I might have gotten ill, but I wouldn't have cared up until that oops-I-got-ill point.
If you like sausage, keep an eye out for this label:
Inarizushi are fried tofu pouches filled with sushi rice. They are good cold -- moist and sugary, but tangy from the (rice wine?) vinegar -- but I wondered if they might be even better just fried and crispy. Then I discovered that the pouches come pre-made in cans. One merely stuffs and (some recipes say) steams them. So I guess they wouldn't be crispy that way, either.
We also tried onigiri (not pictured), triangles of rice and filling (salmon, eel, etc) with crisp seaweed around the outside. The packaging of the brand we found in the market ingeniously keeps the seaweed dry - even if one of your onigiri gets lost in the cooler and doesn't get eaten until the next day.
Ooh, and there were some kind of delicious shrimp rolls (I've forgotten the name). They were excellent - fresh and crunchy and light.
Less satisfying were the Cheese Rings, which also tasted quite sugary. Though the flavor was "off," the shape was novel and they were eaten anyway. I mean, as long as one is trying new things...
As much as I like chocolate, I'm not that into "mocha" flavored drinks. But I do like frozen-whipped-smoothie-icy beverages. So I was all for trying an advertised "Monkey Mocha" after a long car ride on a sunny day. Dan saw the sign and hopped out of the car to buy a couple while we were in line outside the parking lot for the ferry to Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, WA, and he made it back to the vehicle just in time for us to board and drink the mochas on the crossing. Not bad. Hit the spot, as they say.
Yet -- why "monkey?" It certainly wasn't an ingredient. Was there banana in there? I didn't taste any. Nor was it served by monkeys. The bikini coffees at the bikini espresso stands are served by bikini-clad women (ask me what I think about this), so shouldn't the monkey mochas be served by primates? Nice mocha; confusing name.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I was under the mistaken impression crumpets would look like small eclairs or cream puffs, but the crumpet is apparently a cross between an English muffin and a pancake. These pictured above, which we watched being made, started out as batter poured into ring-shaped molds on a large griddle (this is the pancake-y part). Then, the griddle top was closed in with a sort of tent wall made of large metal sheets (about the size of large cookie sheets) leaned over to meet the top of the stove, making the cooking environment more oven-like. Once the crumpets had finished baking on the griddle, the crumpets in their molds were removed from the cooking surface and, after resting on a table for a few minutes, the metal rings were removed.
So, where were we? The Crumpet Shop is near Pike Place Market in Seattle. There, crumpets are served hot - with a wide variety of sweet and savory toppings. A number of teas may also be had. I chose Nutella and ricotta. Others in the party enjoyed pesto with tomato and one with marmalade and butter.
For what it's worth, ricotta doesn't have a lot of flavor, but it is so rich and thick that it is perfect between the crumpet and the chocolate hazelnut spread. The crumpet is crispy and soft and eggy and bready and quite nice!
More pics to come once I have a full-sized computer at hand. Thanks for your patience!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I do not like aplets and cotlets. In years past they were given to us at Christmas as gifts by friends of the family, so I have known that I dislike them for a while. Recently, Dan insisted on buying them as a genuine Washington state treat for a camping trip. I thought I should give them another try, especially as I might like this new cranberry flavor more. I did not.
They are not "deliciously soft." The jellied texture grosses me out. The plasticky taste does not please me. And the walnuts suspended in the semi-solid goo remind me of when I did not like "nuts in things. "
I was kind of glad they got soggy and wrecked in the cooler and had to be thrown away. Sorry, Dan.
Diane, I am in the Pacific Northwest for a little R&R. Haven't made it to the Great Northern, but I have sampled 4 cups of the local joe in the past 3 days. Unlike you-know-who, I'm not much for the stuff back in my workaday life. I'd rather start the day with a large glass of milk. Which may be why, when having a coffee/espresso, I'm partial to the latte.
The best cup I've enjoyed up here? A latte (no sugar needed) at Victrola in Seattle. Victrola coffee is roasted on-site in small batches. The flavor was smoother and sweeter than my Portland choices (including Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which I was told is the best in Portland - indeed, it was the best I tried in Portland) and if I were staying in Seattle I'd make Victrola a regular haunt.
No cherry pie, Diane, but a mighty fine lemon bar and peanut butter chocolate chip cookie were also consumed.
I'll be back in the office soon. Give Gordon the heads-up as to my general whereabouts. Tell him my disposition is dandy.
Friday, August 15, 2008
In Seattle, Eva offered me a Sequoia Chocolate, which does have cocoa butter in it but not much chocolate flavor. The dominant flavor is green tea, which comes on strong (and I like it!), and there's a background note of fruitiness. My best guess about the name, as most of the information on the package is in Japanese, is that the lines etched into the green tea chcolate (surrounding wafers and more green tea chocolate layers inside) are meant to resemble tree bark.
Hey, whose toes are those?