Thursday, March 31, 2011
Ready in five minutes and positively doused with sauce, (or "saw-uhce," as I heard one man mutter) we hunched down to chow. The pork belly and beef rib were filling, but with I imagined the beef rib would have a little more meat than bone. I really had to gnaw on it to get that tender, briskety flesh, and I ended up with sauce going as far as my forehead. The meat really absorbed the sauce, and they splashed a lot on. At this point, I wondered whether I should have stuck with my instinct and tried the chicken thighs, but the pork belly changed that for sure. Man, talk about Southern comfort. The contrast of textures- silky, creamy delicately charred fat with tender, juicy belly were so rich with an excellently crackly outer shell. It needed no sauce. The natural flavors of the charcoal soaked into the piece and I found that a small piece more than satiated me.
First Track's ribs looked delicious and fell off the bone at the slightest touch.Keepitcoming's sausage really impressed me. Everything about it was breathtakingly smoky, all elements housemade, with grilled onions kept hot underneath the hot dog. Fantastic flavoring and texture. The bun gets accolades of its own. It crisped up like a bagel and kept a soft interior. No sauce necessary.
Our sides were great to snack on in the middle of a meatfest. The baked beans, luscious, paprika-heavy forkfuls, true to their origin, were some of the best I'd had. A little extra smoke would have been asking for it, but the molasses was king and the legumes collapsed on the fork. The cornbread had good intentions in mind but was cold when it hit the table. Seeing as it was already wrapped in foil and filled with smoky peppers, would it have ruined it if it was dropped onto the grill for a few minutes? We thought not.
Since Formaggio has so much to offer, it astonished me (on my virgin visit, no less) that they touted some ballin' barbecue. Just proves that you don't have to hitch a ride with a stranger down South or risk the dodgier areas of town to get your meat fix.Happy healthy month, folks. See you on the other side.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
How could I not end normal bloggery on an awesome note? The second to last post before Healthy Month starts. I realized something a little disturbing when I decided to feature this sandwich. I've extolled its virtues. I've bonded over it. While I can't say I'm the Don Gorske of my generation, I'd be honored to be known as the unofficial enthusiastic spokesperson for this sandwich. The reason is simple- for as many exotic and fine foods as I have consumed, as many expensive and gourmet dishes gone down my gullet, the McGriddle remains firm on my list of the best foods I have ever eaten.
Go ahead and laugh. But then tell me this. Have you ever seen anything like it? Combining sweet and savory breakfast foods seems ingenious, even a little silly. Of course people have thought of it before. It has been often imitated- Jimmy D's francophone carbohydrate based Griddlers, a monstrosity that sounds like an end bin Batman villain, Dunkin' Donuts Waffle Breakfast Sandwich- but never duplicated. All have fallen in the wake of the Grid. Less a hastily combined melange of breakfast foods than a carefully proportioned chemistry set, Keepitcoming took a bite (three bites) and immediately picked up on how engineered the whole thing seemed.
And engineered it is, with its petri-dish compact form. The concept of fork-free brunchery seems to have an air of mad science lab about it, but damn, is it good. While one can argue that, in your pact with Ronald, you sell your soul and greaseless fingers for a sandwich with built-in syrup, but it is a very fair trade. I love it because it's almost retardedly simple, yet perfectly executed in an unnatural way. Tell me of another fast food item that goes well with a finger of 10 year old Laphroaig. The egg sheet crumbles like no egg should ever crumble, and the sausage is glisteningly greasy and spicy. The cheese binds it all together with a gooey, creamy saltiness, and the pancakes deliver an outer crunch and a doughy midsection (in more ways than one) with a sweet syrupy flavor that is surprisingly understated. The only way to experience this with any more enjoyment is to slip a hash brown into the sandwich, giving you a little more grease, a little more crunch, and fleeting moments of enjoyment that quickly segue into delicious, delicious guilt.Is it absurdly indulgent? Yes. Is it as bad as most breakfasts in a three dollar, fast food range? It's really not. For an adult eating 2,000 calories a day, eating a 400-500 calorie breakfast is not the end of the world. Compare that to the Dunkin' Donuts Maple Breakfast Sandwich, with 720 calories, and the Hardee's Loaded Breakfast Burrito at 780 calories and the McGriddle seems like a petty offense. Even the "sit down" equivalent to this, the Big Deluxe Breakfast, packs as much calories as two and a half of these. Haters can hate all they want, but this baby is here to stay. In my belly.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
"Brownies for dinner."
The only brownie mix I had on hand was the Vosges Caramel Toffee Chocolate Chunk brownies. Life's tough, huh? But be warned, fellow dessert diners, these aren't just brownies you can whip together as a sweet counterpart to Parks and Recreation. (Team Ben! Team Ben!) Our total cooking time added up to over two hours including cooling. Was it worth the wait?Serious Eats' Mixed Review correspondent, Lucy Baker, proclaimed these to be some of the best brownies she's ever had. Big words from a leading cookbook author. Looking at her photos and musings gave me a serious hankering while I waited. The toffee on my brownies didn't sink down to the middle of them and wound up crunchy on top in oozing puddles that seeped halfway through the batter, leaving craters of goo all over the brownies. They also took a half hour longer than the recipe said they would, but I kind of anticipated that.
One unsettling detail I noticed about these before cooking was the scent of the toffee. When you can smell something so hyperspecifically bad that you can identify the exact nature of the scent, in this case, canned fish and old milk, it can't be good, can it? Originally, I thought this was the scent of the bag and I poured the toffee into a bowl to air out, but it lingered. Turns out that was the toffee's natural aroma. After cooking, we waited an anxious hour to bite into them.In this case, looks aren't everything. While in texture, the brownies were everything I've dreamed of and then some- puddles of chewy caramel melding with the ultimate gooey innards and cakey crust, the flavor really fell short of my expectations. As I suspected, the two-odd sticks of butter in the mix rendered into a slurry of sugar and oil really dominated the flavor, leaving the chocolate and toffee behind. The vanilla and sea salt I added were lost in the slick. The biggest depth in flavor I got was the occasional sea salt bite, but it was fleeting gratification. The most disappointing aspect was without a doubt the toffee flavor. The strange fishiness, which I expected to dissipate in the heat of the oven, was present and oily in my mouth and gave an overall unpleasant flavor to the mix when consumed in too large a bite as well as a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach minutes after taking a bite.I can't say I've really been wowed by the Vosges line of baking products. For a $20 brownie mix, it should have been better than what it was and certainly should not have had such a strange, chemical flavor in its toffee. We've really relished each bar that Vosges comes out with, playing no favorites like a good parent, but their baking mixes seem to be inconsistent across the board.
UPDATE: I have decided to change the rating on these. We gave them a pretty harsh assessment when they were warm, assuming that, like most brownies, they would be at their peak when cooled for about an hour. In reality, they were exceedingly better about a day after cooking. The middle of the brownies was drastically different from the edges, harboring a gooey, rich, soft interior while the edges were cakey and mediocre. The pools of toffee remained strangely flavored, but as plain brownies with a thick middle, they were excellent. I'd recommend making these a day ahead of time in a thicker pan while omitting the toffee from the recipe.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I first encountered Cocoa Metro a few years ago in my persistent quest for the best chocolate milk. Shunning the siren's call of Hershey's syrup and the cougar classicism of Ovaltine, I set out on a quest. With a few careful Googles, I found that the object of my desire was indeed in existence- Cocio, the mecca of all milks. But alas, she was in Denmark- so close, yet so far. However, my searches led me to a more localized beverage, Cocoa Metro. Sold in specialty stores throughout Boston, I was gifted a bottle while on an outing with Keepitcoming Love and First Tracks.
The chocolate milk has slightly different packaging than what is shown online and represented in the bulk of consumer photos I've seen. I've done extensive research. It is now labeled as Belgian chocolate + milk with various witticisms around the label. I didn't see any sign of dark chocolate or any particular percentage designation so I cannot accurately tell you if this was indeed made with dark chocolate or not. It certainly tasted like a milk chocolate but lacked the irritating sugar rush that commercialized chocolate milks have. It was utterly refreshing. No sticky corn syrupy taste. No fake saccharine flavor. Just natural, delicious ingredients. It was also extremely smooth and milky with the perfect consistency.Also quite tasty as a coffee-free latte.
Though it was clear that chocolate was the main focus in this, it could have been bolstered by the addition of a few other ingredients to accentuate its flavor. It was certainly delicious and smooth, but for a milk that touted a complexity that "doesn't exist" outside of this particular brand, it needed work. That being said, I would drink this again in a heartbeat- we polished off the entire quart in a sitting. No regrets, readers. No regrets.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I saw these frozen cream cheese jalapeno poppers in the store one day and thought they would be a very nice addition to any meal I decided to make. It might even be something that was easy and quick to make to satisfy those late night munchies. After a hard day of work, I decided to grill up a burger and nuke these bad boys and have them on the side. The instructions to make these were quite simple. All one had to do was to empty the box onto a plate and put it in the microwave for a few minutes. I grilled up my burger to perfection and poured myself a stiff drink and was ready to enjoy.
Yes, that’s a glass of scotch. In case you were wondering…
The first thing I noticed about these cream cheese poppers was that it suffered from the Hot Pocket paradox of microwave heating. For some of them, the cheese center was still stiff and icy cold, while on some of them the center had turned into sticky napalm lava. The only way to make sure all were going to be cooked evenly was to rearrange the platter and put it back in the microwave for another few minutes, of course this resulted in lava filled gushers after a while.
After a few rearrangements of the platter and a series of reheating and cooling, they were finally ready to eat. The taste of these things turned out to be pretty average. The people at Cooper’s definitely did not bring anything new to the Cream Cheese filled Jalapenos market. The cheese was rather greasy and flavorless. The layer of jalapeno pepper was a strange leathery texture and eating it felt like chewing on a thin belt. The breading on each of the poppers was soaked with a strange liquid that was a mix of water and grease. These poppers weren’t good but they were edible. It wouldn’t be something I get to eat on a special occasion but it would probably be something I could bear to eat during one of my late night episodes of the munchies, or at least with much help from my good friend Jonathan Walker.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
These chocolate chip cookies, held up by a metal humanoid fork, are supposedly some of the best, according to Vosges and NOTCOT, with high quality ingredients, Vosges' own dark chocolate chips, and a special blend of flavors to make the ultimate cookie experience in a variety of sizes and shapes.The bulk of the negativity in other reviews of Vosges products was the difficulty in preparation for a "box" mix. This wasn't so much the case here- I didn't have to break out the measuring spoons or cups, but I did have to wash a few pots and pans as well as an electric mixer. While this doesn't qualify as obscenely arduous, I was hoping it would result in a superior product. My own main complaint was having to melt two sticks of butter for one batch of cookies. How decadent is too decadent? And is it two sticks of butter's worth?
After mixing the batter, I could sense the anxiety creeping upon me. The chocolate chips, cutely illustrated as tiny morsels in the instructions, are actually chocolate slabs, huge chunks of chocolate commonly shaped that way in couverture, or melting chocolate. Despite the heavy handed mixing that later ensued, I was looking forward to the creation stage. The cookie instructions offered me two options for constructing my confections- one that included one tablespoon sized balls, and the other a mammoth four tablespoons smushed together.Unfortunately, both sets of instructions yielded similar results. Yes, Virginia, there is such a concept as "too much of a good thing." You might be saying to yourself, "Slanderous lies! I could eat an entire pizza and feel happy. I could have a Tristan Taormino reading marathon in low light with tiny print and be happy to die of a sex-related migrane. I could masturbate my brains out and have a heart attack and I'd DIE HAPPY." In actuality, none of this is true. What Vosges wanted us to interpret as "crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle" in a zen-like balance of textures was brittle on the outside and dense on the inside with an utter overload of chocolate.
The cookies themselves were hard to shape as they forced us to work around the chocolate chips, blocky obstructions in an otherwise smooth dough, which later took the form of one of three categories: melted puddles inside the cookie, molten oceans on top of the cookie, or burnt crisps on the bottom of the cookie. No matter how few chips we used, there was always a poor ratio of chocolate to dough. The flavor was inconsistent, each bite taking the form of either an overly buttery, bland dough or a rush of sugary dark chocolate, lava thick (and hot!) on the tongue. The "juxtaposition of gooey chocolate in a moist interior" proved to be overkill in its final product. Even with sea salt on some of the cookies, it did little to help the singular sensation of chocolate domination.Always optimists, we decided to give the second application, the Cookiezilla, a go before we completely denounced them. Following the instructions to the letter, we made four balls of cookies and stacked them high......Only to smush them down into a misshapen blob of dough. Frankencookie may be more appropriate. Following the same directions, I incubated my cookie, wondering if my first approach was too conservative. Once again, I was proven correct, though. From the burnt remnants of chocolate chip on the bottom to the grainily undercooked center (this coming from someone who loves undercooked baked goods) it was starting to taste more and more like a cookie I'd tried to microwave rather one I'd lavished love and attention on as though it were a child.While I don't hate these cookies, I just can't justifiably give them a high rating based on quality of ingredients alone. You might like the pools of chocolate and crispiness, but it just didn't induce an orgasmic reaction on our end. Cooking is part care and part chemistry, and while the care is clearly present in all aspects of this mix, the science is off and the ratios really need to be tinkered with. This was far from the perfect cookie and even far from being a cookie I wanted to eat more of, and I'm never one to turn down delicious baked goods. With so many easier and less expensive homemade cookie remedies on the internet, there's no reason to splurge on these unless you're easy to please and have a large disposable income.
Monday, March 21, 2011
The Stacker was built for MEN, god damn it, teenage boys and single dads who don't want any pansy vegetables on their burger. Consequently, that is also how I, a delicate flower of a woman, take my burger. So I threw caution and lettuce to the wind and went on another stealth lunch to get my prize.
As much as I wanted to get all four burgers and make a hilarious AT&T symbol joke on my dashboard, I had to listen to my therapist's advice and "think about other people and how my actions would make them feel." I rationalized that Keepitcoming would feel bad if I died in the driver's seat of the car in the driveway after ingesting 10 beef patties and many condiments and would likely blame herself and I couldn't do it to her, I really couldn't. So I ordered the Double, what I reasoned to be the midpoint of the set, and based it from there.
To my surprise, the burger was good- really good. I don't remember the last time I had Burger King, so I can assume it was in my deeply repressed childhood. Unwrapping the burger, I was tickled to discover that one of the noble Burger King's serfs had meticulously cut the single bacon strip into four pieces and had placed two pieces on top of each patty. I like the visual of such precision. The sammich was quite tasty overall. Breaking it down, the patties were surprisingly crispy yet tender on the inside, never mushy, but then again, I'm occasionally inclined to well done pieces of beef. One slice of cheese was definitely enough on this, as the bacon was already lost in the throes of sauce. "Stacker sauce" is obviously some variation of ketchup and mayonnaise, no surprise there, but for my tastes it was much too sweet and reminded me of a less flavorful barbecue sauce. The basic concept wowed me, though, more than I thought it would when I invested my two Washingtons into it. As I suspected, the double was the perfect size for snacking- the single would have been overwhelmed by bread and the triple or quad would have made me feel slimy and choked. Even by my last bite, I was staring this burger down and wishing that I had a drink to wash it down with.
What I like about this concept, though somewhat uninspired, is the price point aspect. From the Double to the Quad, bacon is basically at a fixed price point, an almost unheard of phenomenon. If you can justify that each dollar added onto the sandwich equals another burger patty, you're getting the bacon for free. With this fact in mind, there are plenty of hacks to ensure you're getting the most for your money. The sandwich breakdown has the same amount of bacon per sandwich, excluding the requisite dollar menu Single, with a patty added each time. For a little cash, it's easy to customize. The bacon tapers off after the single, and just goes up from there. If you want a bacon heavy experience, all you have to do is order two doubles instead of one quad, or four singles. Because the condiments are fixed, it's easy to get more or less for the same price.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
The other two doughnuts were equally as impressive. I mean, just look at that glaze puddle on the toasted coconut! Drool inducing for sure. These were no Dunkin' Donuts for any weight put on as a result of these is meaningful and worth it, god damn it. Forget sterile shavings of sugared coconut, this was covered in toasted coconut with oodles of glaze coating its supple surface and hunks of island fruit all over the place. With that delicious brioche, it was another favorite. The last doughnut was delicious but I wouldn't have felt empty inside had it been swapped out for another. With toasted almonds and dulce de leche, it was sweet and crunchy, but had little else to offer in the way of exciting or different flavors. Next time around I'd check out the Earl Grey or the lemon poppyseed or...graham cracker cheesecake. I'm curious to see what other flavors Dough has to offer. Nom and a half. If nothing else, though, get your ass down there to try the blood orange. Your taste buds will love you 4EVA and will probably post a cryptic and self-referential Facebook status in your honor.