Monday, September 29, 2008

Where Is Veggie Pho?

I just stated in my last post that I broke a record by making a bookmarked recipe in under one month. Here I go and break my own personal record, again. One week! Bookmarked and made a recipe in under one week! Give me a medal, already.

I was so giddy when the fabulous Philly expat living in Vietnam (I'm a bit confused about where she is now), Cathy from, posted her momma's vegetarian pho recipe, I hopped on that pronto. It was mighty delicious. Thanks, Cathy.

Here's the thing, though. I have nothing to compare it to. I've never had pho before this week. Not that I haven't tried. I've poked my head in the door of many restaurants along the Vietnamese restaurant saturated Washington Avenue in Philly in search of vegetarian pho, but came up short. I sort of gave up on veggie pho a few years ago. Now, I certainly didn't check out every restaurant in town, so maybe there's a chance that veggie pho lives in Philly, or perhaps nearby.

Do you know of a restaurant that serves vegetarian pho? By vegetarian I mean a soup made with vegetable broth, and, of course, no pieces of meat floating in it. The vegetable broth is the key part, since meat and toppings are customizable. Help me out if you can. Thanks.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rating System

So that readers can skip reading my reviews and just see what I thought, I think I need some kind of rating system. I'm no candy expert or anything, so I'm not really sure where to go with this. I could always do a scale of 1-5, 1-10, some kind of elaborate point weighting system, or something creative that I haven't thought of yet. Ugh, I'm at a crossroads. What will I do?

UPDATE: I've settled on going with what I know - school! So now, I'll be rating things F through A+. I'll try to work my way through old reviews to add grades.

Nestle Uji Matcha KitKat

Uji Matcha KitKat

Matcha is my favorite flavor ever. It used to be peanut butter, but for the past couple of years, it has been matcha all the way. And this Matcha KitKat is on top of its game. This is yet another purchase from the Pacific Mall near Toronto, and my favorite of all the KitKats I've tried. Even better than Caramel, but I may be biased toward matcha.

This is everything a matcha KitKat should be, and so much better than the last matcha KitKat I reviewed.

Uji Matcha KitKat

The chocolate is, of course, smooth, and the matcha flavor is sweet and creamy. The matcha filling in between the wafers is nice and bitter, and the crunchy wafers really add to the texture. The matcha flavor definitely wasn't overpowering to me, but those wary of green tea flavor might find it to be too strong.

In my book, this is a perfect KitKat. I could be biased.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tomato Jam

Hi, my name is Taylor, and I'm a condiment addict. I'm not in denial, and I don't need an intervention. I just need more shelf space in my refrigerator door.

Come take a look at what's in there: 1 two pound tub of mayo (Duke's only, I've got a little thing for the stuff), 1 bottle of bbq sauce, 2 bottles of ketchup, 2 jars of olives, 2 jars of vegetable spreads, 3 bottles of salad dressings, 4 jars of fruit spreads, 4 bottles of hot sauces, 5 kinds of pickles, 5 various ethnic sauces, 5 jars of mustard, and, count 'em, 7 jars of chutney.

Make that 8 jars of chutney. I just made tomato jam. It's really more of a chutney, or a chunky spiced ketchup, than jam.

Being the condiment whore that I am, I knew I wanted to make tomato jam when I saw it in The New York Times a while back. Bookmarked it and made it in under one month, which is a record for me in terms of getting around to actually making bookmarked recipes (one year to never is the usual turnaround time). As Mark Bittman says in his recipe demo video, if you're at the point of tomato desperation (tomato season is ending very soon!) where you're actually thinking about making ketchup, don't; make tomato jam - spicier, sweeter, and much more flavorful.

Now, I'm not keen on eating it on toast for breakfast like you would a fruit jam, but I imagine that might go over well with some. I like to eat it as a chutney on crackers with cheese, or as a sandwich spread. I haven't tried it yet, but I imagine it would be good as a sauce on baked tofu (or meat), and even as a base for a sweet and sour stir fry. I only say the stir fry bit because I had great success a few weeks ago using a jalapeno jam in stir fry (trust, it was good).

I reworked the original recipe to include lime zest, and subbed Thai Dragon peppers for jalapenos. If i were to do it again, I'd add more heat and less cloves.Tomato Jam
adapted from The New York Times
makes about 1 pint

1 1/2 pounds ripe paste tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, seeded and minced
  • Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  • Turn down heat, and simmer for about 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened to the consistency of a jam. (Actually took me 1 hour 45 minutes, but I made a double batch.)
  • Cool and store in refridgerator. Will keep for 1 week in refridgerator.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Las Bugambilias

We finally went to Las Bugambilias on South Street after our first attempt a few months back was stymied by the South Street Mexican restaurant's vacation closing...and I'm declaring Las Bugambilias with it's small, vintage Mexican photo-filled interior one of my favorite Mexican joints in the city. Really!

Authentic Mexican taquerias don't do much for me, simply because they don't offer up much for the vegetarian. I admit that a big-ass rice and beans burrito is my absolute favorite (hello, Cantina), even if it is far from authentic. And Distrito with their fancy Mexican tapas is just heavenly, but sometimes you want a platter of enchiladas with a side of beans and rice. Good enchiladas. Not the crap you find at Rosa Linda's Ranchero in the strip mall (I made that up. If there's a Rosa Linda's Ranchero, I'm sorry).

Say hello to Las Bugambilias. A nice compromise between all of the above. Also the best enchiladas I've ever had. ¡Hola!
It's a tight squeeze in Las Bugambilias, so we had drinks at the tiny corner bar while waiting ten minutes for a table. We were dining without a reservation, but at a late hour. I recommend a reservation for prime time.

I was a little scared of the Coche Mexicano I ordered from their cocktail menu because it contained licorice infused tequila, but the bartender assured me it did not taste like licorice. I went for it and enjoyed the citrusy (Cointreau and lemon), but woodsy (that's the licorice infused tequila talking) cocktail.

Three other cocktails (don't remember which ones) and one pitcher of red sangria were also consumed. By four people!Comlimentary chips and salsa: fried tortillas with one fresh type salsa, and one spicier mole type salsa.

Three of the above four dishes contain meat, so I can only repeat what the other eaters told me. Everyone loved their dishes, but since they know I write this blog, people tend to mention what bothered them.

Top left: Ceviche mixto with flounder marinated and cooked in lime juice, crabmeat, shrimp, onion, jalapeno, scallions, mango, jicama, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, and olive oil went fast at our table. The one Peruvian ceviche purist said it reminded him of seafood salad. He poo-poos almost every ceviche I've seen him eat, but, yet, he orders ceviche almost every chance he gets. This is a case of wanting something exactly one way. Sort of like me and mac and cheese.

Top right: Corn Empanadas filled with corn, zuchinni, and pumpkin blossoms. While eating Distrito's empanada-like quesadillas, I longed for Las Bugambilias' tangy, veggie-filled empanadas, if that tells you anything about how good these were.

Bottom left: Grilled achiote-marinated grouper filet topped with marinated shrimp, avocados, and salsa, with fried plantains, rice, and beans. No complaints on the fish. The only complaint was that the fried plantains were overly mushy. But it's a plantain. What's not to love.

Bottom right: Shrimp stuffed with cheese, pumpkin blossoms, zucchini, and corn wrapped with bacon, served with a chipotle sauce, rice, and salad. The biggest eater in our group ordered this and was a little afraid that five shimp would not be enough, but he was stuffed when it was all done. Shrimp, bacon, and cheese in one bite! It must be awesome. Believe it or not, he actually thought there was too much bacon. He was perplexed at that declaration.
Now, what I ate...the best enchiladas, ever.

I'm not a lover of cheese enchiladas because I just don't need that much cheese in my system, but even though these three vegetarian enchiladas are covered in Chihuahua cheese, the tart, assorted vegetable filling made me so, so happy. The menu says it's filled with carrots, zucchini, and spinach, but I remember corn in there, too. This may become the dish I have to order every time I visit Las Bugambilias. Thank you for not making a vegetarian enchilada by simply filling corn tortillas with cheese. And thank you for making it so tasty.

My only complaint about my meal was the black beans. I found them thick and grainy. But a friend across the table kept groaning about how she loved the beans, so...

Let's all do a ritualistic dance to preserve Las Bugambilias' presence on South Street. Or just go support them. But not when I want a seat!

Las Bugambilias
148 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Monday, September 22, 2008

Phileo Yogurt

When the self-serve frozen yogurt store on South Street, Phileo Yogurt, opened a while back, it seems like everyone did a little happy dance at the arrival of frozen yogurt. I was scratching my head wondering if everyone slept through the 80's TCBY and ICBY take over of the nation and all the other frozen yogurt shops that spawned and lived through the 90's into today (Jerry, Elaine and George were getting fat off the stuff in the 90's, remember). Unlike suburbs and smaller towns, I guess Philadelphia just doesn't have enough frozen yogurt shops to go around, and the city had a craving for something hip like the Pinkberry franchise in LA and NY (TCBY hasn't been cool for over 20 years).

While I obviously didn't run out the door for frozen yogurt, a long walk this past weekend had me thinking of the treat as we were heading back to South Philly, so we stopped in. Frozen yogurt is a good thing, after all.
The joint is clean, modern, with a roomy front area with chairs lined against the street-facing window and a few tables along the interior wall. The self-serve frozen yogurt machines are recessed in the wall down a narrow hall-like space in the back. Maneuvering back there when it's crowded can be a little frustrating.

On my visit we could choose from vanilla, chocolate, cheesecake, snickerdoodle, peach, blueberry, mango, pineapple, banana, taro, green tea, plain tart, Oreos and cream, and a couple other flavors I'm blanking on. Not a bad selection.

Then you move to the counter with self-serve toppings. Lots to choose from: fresh fruit, sprinkles, chocolate chips, syrups, gummi bears, crushed candy bars, sugary cereals, nuts, and, really, just about anything.I went with a twist of cheesecake and snickerdoodle topped with Cocoa Pebbles and small gummy mochi that looked like mini marshmallows. My cup essentially tasted like toned down cinnamon cheesecake with crunchies and chewies. Loved the mochi, though. It's like gummi candy, but not as chewy.
My partner went with a little peach, a little blueberry, and a little mango. The tart blueberry tasted like grape bubble gum, but the other fruit flavors were a little more convincing.

I do like the self-service at Phileo. You can get a little of this or a lot of that without giving explicit instructions to a person behind a counter, and, consequently, outing yourself as a freak, or being just plain obnoxious.

Be careful when you fill those large cups (large is about the only size they offer), because, at .49 cents per ounce, the scale will take a bite out of your wallet, and I'm sure Phileo is aware of this when they stock only large cups. I filled my cup up with what looked like a minuscule amount of frozen yogurt and just a couple of spoonfuls of the lighter toppings, and still came out with a $3 and something dessert. The person behind me must have paid $10 for what they fit in their cup. They were fah-reeks!! And that's ok at Phileo.

And they still have styrofoam cups...right beside the paper cups. They're either giving you options, or the styrofoam backstock has not run out yet.

Phileo Yogurt
416 South St., Philadelphia, PA 19147

Friday, September 19, 2008

Nestle Mint Aero

Two Aero Bars

More candy from my husband's and my trip to Toronto! I took a picture of both milk and mint Aero bars, but we gave away the milk chocolate one. This picture was taken in the car because I knew we wouldn't wait to try the mint flavor.

I had heard of Aero before in Japan but never tried it. Apparently, it was sold in the US in the 1980s, but unfortunately didn't catch on. While in Toronto, I spied caramel and dark chocolate flavors, too, but had already spent way too much money on candy.


Aero was not at all like I thought it would be! It was so light, airy (hence Aero, I imagine), and smooth. For some reason, I was expecting it to be more like Nestle Crunch or Lotte Crunky, but it wasn't at all crunchy. I can't say I really "felt the bubbles melt" because I didn't really feel the bubbles, but it was quite a pleasant experience.

The taste was a lot like a giant Andes mint, but a little milder. I was glad my husband and I split the bar because I don't think I could have finished it, but it was delicious. Great for mint chocolate fans. However, it did upset my stomach, and I later noticed that milk was pretty high on the ingredients list. So next time, I'll come prepared.


Nestle Website

Stuffed Peppers with Honey and Walnuts

Snack, starter, small plate, hors d'oeuvre, nibble, tapas...whatever you want to call it, here's a small bite I made a while back from the pages of BBC Good Food -- goat cheese stuffed roasted peppers with honey and walnuts.

Pretty dang simple if you buy already roasted peppers in a jar, but, of course, roast away if you must. Don't even think about trying this without the honey. The honey really was my favorite element, and, without the sweetness of the honey, a cracker or piece of bread topped with roasted pepper and cheese just isn't as satisfying.
Stuffed Peppers with Honey and Walnuts
adapted from BBC Good Food
serves 2

2 ounces fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
5 ounces goat cheese
salt and pepper
4 medium whole roasted peppers
4 tablespoons honey (or more!)
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Mix spinach and goat cheese together, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Fill each pepper with the cheese mixture, then place on a lightly greased baking pan, and bake for 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
  • Place peppers on a serving plate, drizzle with honey, and add chopped walnuts. Serve with bread or crackers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jones Brunch

This past weekend when my boyfriend's parents were in town, we had to come up with a weekend brunch spot to accommodate a mini family reunion for ten plus one infant. The long-wait, popular brunch spots were out, as well as the tiny spots. Also, ethnic spots were out. We wanted a regular old brunch that would please just about everyone.

Jones came to mind. It's Stephen Starr, so you know it's pretty basic and pleases most, and the sunken center dining area at Jones would fit eleven. Jones isn't keen on making reservations unless you have a party of twelve or more, and then it goes to the event planner, and you're stuck with a prix fixe menu. Not cool. We just decided to get there when the doors opened at 10 a.m., and that worked out well.

I've already blogged Jones, so this will be a brief show and tell of just my brunch plate and my boyfriend's (not subjecting the entire family to picture time!).This stack of three monstrously large pancakes is just obscene in size. You can't complain about being skimped. If you ate half you'd be beyond stuffed. While just fine, the boy wanted more bananas and less walnuts. He also wanted pecans instead of walnuts. I was going to order the portobello sandwich, but had an inkling that we were grilling up some mushroom caps for dinner, so went with the egg and cheese biscuit sans ham. Fitting with the mid-America comfort food theme of Jones, the biscuit reminded me of a light, fluffy, greasy, fast food biscuit from Bojangles (I haven't eaten a fast food biscuit in many years, so this Southeastern fried chicken and biscuit chain is the only thing I have to compare the biscuit to. Man, did I eat the hell out of some BoBerry biscuits -- a biscuit studded with blueberry-like pellets [yeah, it's not real food] and topped with a cinnamon roll-type icing -- on weekend nights during high school! So wrong, and sooo good. OMG, there's one PA location in Reading! Field trip! Did this just become a post on Bojangles?).

I subbed a salad for the fries. Or was it tater tots? Everyone else got tater tots with their more traditional breakfast items. I swear our server said fries came with the sandwiches...and maybe they did. I would have gotten the tater tots if I had known. The salad was mixed greens and a few cherry tomato halves and raw red onion dressed in a vinaigrette. Basic.

700 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Monday, September 15, 2008


There has been a lot of hype surrounding Jose Garces' Philly tapas empire, which includes the Spanish tapas restaurant, Amada; the Basque tapas restaurant, Tinto; and most recently the Mexican tapas restaurant, Distrito. Hype and good press is great (for the restaurant), but too much hype turns me off and sets my expectations so high that a place could never live up to the hype.

Take, for example, Capogiro, the extremely hyped and loved Center City gelateria serving artisinal gelato. When I first heard of Capogiro, I was excited. But then I heard more. All the time. People visit twice daily, devote blogs to the place. I've never been. I'm sure it's good, and I'll get there one day, so don't yell at me, but the bar has been set so high that I can't help but be disappointed. And, so, Capogiro is not on the top of my to-do list.

I feel similarly about Garces' restaurants. After not being able to get a reservation at Amada when it first opened, and then hearing all the hype with Garces' successive restaurants, his restaurants were no longer at the top of my to-do list.

But that's not to say that I didn't squeal with joy when my boyfriend informed me that he had made a reservation for dinner at Distrito this past weekend for ourselves and his parents, H. and E., who were in town for the weekend.

I'll skip the description of the large bi-level interior with pink walls, luchador mask wall, and VW booth, because I'm sure you've already read about how some feel the interior is either loud and gaudy, or fun and lighthearted. It's all of those things. Pick your mood.

I'm also going to skip in-depth analysis of the food, because, honestly, everything that we ate was wonderful. I don't think any of us four could really complain about a single of the thirteen menu items we ordered. Anything negative I write is just minor nit-picking and/or personal preferences.

I'm going to break down our dishes by favorites and least favorites (for the most part), because, like I said, it was all good, and I think ordering such large numbers of dishes lends itself well to picking favorites. It also shows that food truly is subjective. Just because one person does not care for a dish, doesn't mean that the next person will not love it.

Forgive the pictures. I worked my hardest to remove the rosy hue from these photos, which were taken in a dimly lit, pink room. Just know that everything is beautiful and plated well. So, let's begin!
These complimentary roasted nuts consisting of peanuts, cashews, pecans and walnuts flavored with chili oil and lime started us off. Very similar in heat and flavor to Trader Joe's Thai Chili cashews (dangerously additive), except Distrito's nuts are warm and homemade, so even better.

Everyone agreed that the traditional guacamole was excellent. Topped with finely shredded queso fresco, the guacamole was very lightly seasoned, letting the avocado do it's job of being simply delicious.
E.'s Favorites
E. loved the carne kobe tacos with flat iron steak, truffle potato, tomato/horseradish escabeche, and Yukon fries. This was H.'s least favorite dish, because the meat was tough. E. appreciated the authentic cut of meat since she's accustomed to tough meat tacos in Mexico (mucha familia en Mexico).

While E. wasn't in love with the cochinta pebil that accompanied the masa of the tamales, she absolutely loved the slightly spicy masa. So much so that this dish still made her top two.
H.'s Favorites
The los hongos huaraches (a sort of flat bread-ish dish) with forest mushrooms, huitlacoche sauce, queso mixto, black truffle, and corn shoots was earthy without being over powering. I actually ordered this dish, and H. did not eat nearly his share, since he feared I'd not get enough to eat with the handful of meat dishes that were off limits to me. I was stuffed by the end, so he really should have had more.

H. liked the chicken tacos with chicken ropa vieja, queso fresca, crema, and radish.
My Favorites (and my partner's!)

It seems that my boyfriend and I are in sync when it comes to food. We both picked the same two favorites.

You all should order the los hongos huaraches! With three out of four votes for favorite, it's clearly a winner amongst most palates.

We also love the esquites: sweet corn, queso fresco, chipotle, and lime served in a tall glass with a spoon. This was the spiciest dish of the evening (that I tried, at least). Think comfort of creamed corn, but with heat and tang. I'm still thinking about it!
Our Favorite (Again)

Somehow the sopes with poblano, sweet onion, quail egg, and chili piquin was completely forgotten when we were discussing favorites and least favorites (there were a lot of dishes to remember), but when we did remember the dish, my partner and I both made room for these sopes in our top two (we bent the rules). We both hate fried or poached eggs, so the quail egg did nothing for us, but the thinly sliced peppers and onions swimming in a creamy sauce atop the sope was just wonderful.

An odd number of food photos, so here's the luchador mask wall!
Also Very Good

All four of us mentioned the heirloom tomato and avocado salad and the black beans and rice when deciding on favorites. These dishes are in the last menu section titled acomanamientos, almost as an afterthought, but don't dismiss these offerings.

The lime tang of the dressing on the tomato and avocado reminded me of how good lime juice is on just about everything -- a light bulb that also turned on when I was in Mexico earlier this year.

The black beans and rice are just simple and good. Who doesn't like beans and rice? The pickled onions on top just elevated a dish that needs no perfection.
The Dishes That Paled In Comparison

The quesadillas with zuchinni squash blossom, poblano-avocado puree, and radish were the size of empanadas, and reminded of us empanadas, not quesadillas. While just fine, this dish is not a must have.

The Huachinango with red snapper, pipian verde, and poblano crema was described to me as nothing special. I'm not sure this dish was even finished.
No Category For These

The jicama salad with finely cubed jicama and watermelon, orange, pepita, chili pequin, and orange vinaigrette could also be placed in the paled in comparison category, except I was the only one at the table who really liked this tart, juicy, fruity salad. I ate most of it. Again, maybe because others knew I wouldn't be eating the meat dishes.

Everyone was stuffed, but I ordered churros any way. The thin sticks of fried, cinnamon spiced dough were amazing. The chocolate sauce was chocolaty-yum, but was very thin. Even with a couple of shakes after dipping the churros into the sauce, I could not get the dessert to my mouth without drippage. I realize that the glass of chocolate is meant to be hot chocolate, but what's a churro without dipping it into chocolate? Normally the churros are served with mocha ice cream, but, at the late hour that we were there, they were out of all ice cream flavors except corn. H. and E. did not like the corn ice cream, saying it tasted like popcorn. I like it just fine. Goes to show you!

The tapas plates at Distrito are small, and I think it's easier to share some plates with a smaller number of people. Cutting some items in half allows for only one bite, which is just not enough. The upside of sharing with more people is the array of dishes that can be sampled. Work it out to best suit you.

With roughly three dishes and one drink per person, our bill averaged $35 per person before tip -- about on par with an evening at most mid to high-end restaurants in Philly.

So, am I glad I tried a Garces restaurant? Yes! And I'm more inclined to try one of his other restaurants now that I've seen just how great ALL of his dishes are. So, yep, I'm hypin' his hype. Maybe next, I'll hype Capogiro.

3945 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA, 19104

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blackberry Fest

Just getting a few photos from my blackberry fest a few weeks ago off my desktop. One I've already written about (summer pudding), and three others that I just can't muster the enthusiasm to write a real post about. Consider these ideas for what to do with a butt-load of blackberries (that's one half of one shit-load), or any berry, for that matter.

Blackberry Cornbread - Sort of like the blueberry cornbread you pick up at Whole Foods, but with a bigger berry. Even though I used a recipe for sweet cornbread, it just didn't turn out as cakey and sweet as I had hoped. My cornbread was cornbready. Go figure.

Blackberry Muffins - These were really good, and probably deserve a post, but.... maybe one day. Basically it's a coffee cake studded with blackberries and topped with a nut streusel. Go crazy with the streusel. With a rebel yell, she cried more, more, more.

Blackberry Smoothie
- Possibly the dopest color of any smoothie I've ever had. If you have kids, or are into going all out for themed parties, think Halloween.

Blackberry Summer Pudding - Not for me, but perhaps for you. I wrote this one up, just because it was so pretty.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream

So, the boy comes back from a weekend play date in NY where he eats at a Japanese restaurant...that has black sesame seed ice cream. Wha?

How come I've never had black sesame seed ice cream after an evening of sushi? Green tea, ginger, and red bean ice cream are the only ice creams offered up at the Japanese restaurants I've been to.

He says black sesame seed ice cream is nutty and quite yummy. Grrr. I hate it when I'm left in the dark. So, I made it my own damn self.

Yes, it is nutty. Sesame sweet nutty. Subtle sesame, no where near as sesame-y as sesame oil (thank goodness).

I have to say, while this ice cream is definitely good, I'm just not that into it. Not by the bowl-full, at least. In a flight of ice creams -- say the usual green tea, ginger, and red bean -- I think a small nub of sesame ice cream would rock my socks off. I absolutely love the pale gray color, though.

Curious? Love nut-like flavors? Give it a go! Why be in the dark.This quart is going to be gifted to the nut lover in my life.

Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream
makes 1 quart

3 tablespoons black sesame seeds, roasted and crushed (mini-food processor works great for crushing)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks

  • Add sesame seeds, heavy cream, milk, and 1/4 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat on a stove, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.
  • Beat together the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the egg yolks in a medium bowl.
  • Very slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking the eggs the entire time, being careful not to cook the eggs.
  • Return the contents back to the saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened to a custard. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature.
  • Process in an ice cream machine. Chill overnight in the freezer before serving.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nestle Sakura KitKat

Sakura KitKat

During our weekend in Toronto, we went to the Pacific Mall to look for Japanese snacks, and I found them. Because I wanted to restrain myself at least a little, I got mainly KitKats. This is the first of several. I was really amazed with the selection of KitKats available at Pacific Mall, but couldn't bring myself to spend $8 on a bag of mini KitKats, so I stuck to the regular sized ones.

There's quite a bit of flowery (ha) text on this box. Sakura (cherry blossoms) are an important symbol of Japanese culture, so it's rather exaggerated here. The box says up top "The sakura will definitely bloom..." and "Spring will surely come, wishing for sakura in full bloom." The name of the KitKat itself is something like "snow look sakura." It's all very flowery, indeed.

Sakura KitKat

The bars themselves are gorgeous, but I love a swirly KitKat. The actual KitKat is good, but maybe not as inspiring as the box. It's very interesting and definitely tasty, but not as good as some other KitKat varieties out there (for example, Caramel).

The cherry flavor is light, and a little flowery. It's almost soapy, but my husband said that it tasted like how you wish soap would taste. What it really reminded me of was cherry frosting or a cherry cupcake. Very sweet, slightly floral, and fruity. Definitely a winner.

Check out the photo pool links below for many, many more photos of different flavors of KitKats. Also, if you have suggestions for better translations than mine of this box, please let me know.


KitKat Website (Japanese)
Have a break, have a KitKat photo pool on Flickr
Japanese KitKat photo pool on Flickr

Monday, September 8, 2008

Veggie Cheesesteak

Stopped by GreenFest again this year. Last year the festival featuring eco-friendly businesses and organizations was along South St., but this year the festival was just off of South St. on 2nd St., capitalizing on the already heavy Headhouse Farmer's Market traffic.

Again, Cosmic Caterering was the only food booth at the festival (Los Taquitos de Puebla were there, but they don't count because they're a market fixture). Los Taquitos is a bet you can't lose, but I decided to gamble on Cosmic Caterering's veggie cheesesteak, seeing as how I'm currently on a veggie cheesesteak roll. No, I'm not on a bun! I've just had a few cheesesteaks recently.
I was offered cheese and ketchup or honey mustard on my sandwich. I blurted out yes to cheese and ketchup. They asked? Must be how you do it.

I was told by my partner that the veggie meat amongst the onions and mushrooms was Vegadelphia meat, a locally made meat substitute that shows up at lesser sandwich shops. I believe this was my first encounter with Vegadelphia meat, and I did not like it at all. The small seitan chips are kind of squidgy and kind of gross. I could not finish my sandwich. Since I was noshing directly outside of a Wawa, I got a Shorti to replace the nastiness. Yay, Wawa!

I'm torn between awarding Cosmic Catering or Gianna's Grille with the worst veggie cheesesteak award. Seeing as how I managed to eat the sandwich from Gianna's, Cosmic Caterers gets the award. Cosmic Catering, you seem like nice people, but just say no to Vegadelphia!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Orbit Crystal Mint Gum

Orbit Crystal Mint

This is the elusive 16th flavor; the last current regular Orbit flavor I had to find. I bought it at Meijer, near the checkout lanes. They had 3-packs in the candy aisle at one point, but they were all gone when I went, and it looked like they were on clearance. The pictured pack is all beat up because it was in my purse for a week or so before I remembered to take a picture.

Anyhow, I knew it would be minty, since it's Crystal Mint, but seeing as Orbit already has a Peppermint, Spearmint, and Winter Mint, I wasn't exactly sure what I would be getting. Would it be like Dentyne Ice's bizarre (and overpowering) Arctic Chill? Or more like Extra Polar Ice (meaning Extra Xylitol)? Or do those two gums taste the same?

What I got surprised me. This gum tastes a lot like Wint-o-green Life Savers. You know, the ones you could crack with your teeth in a dark room and make sparks? In fact, the whole experience reminded me of those sparks, bringing a pleasant nostalgic feeling.

Also, this gum has little blue blobs in it that I assume are "flavor crystals." I wish I took a picture, but if you've ever had Ice Breakers gum, you know what I mean.

My only complaint is that I'm not sure it tastes very different from Wintermint. It's been a long time since I had that flavor, so I'll have to try and compare them.


Orbit Website

Moe's Hot Dog House

Took a trip recently down to Moe's Hot Dog House on the corner of Washington and Grays Ferry. Whoa, I've never gone to the very western end of Washington, and it's ugly -- uglier than the rest of Washington. But Moe's family-run dog house will greet you at the end of your drive and make things all better.
Moe's corner wedge building houses a handful of tables out front of a long counter where Philly's salt of the earth steps up to order their breakfast staples, hot dogs, or sandwiches from one of the smiling employees behind the counter. I came for the hot dogs, so that's what I ordered. They have regular, beef, and veggie dogs for your approval.
You just know I ordered the Connie Mac - a hot dog topped with their homemade mac and cheese. You know what? Their mac and cheese is not bad. The elbows are loosely held together with cheese and grease, and definitely spiced with homemade love. I'd put Moe's mac and cheese in the category with many soul food restaurants' mac and cheese, which is to say pretty good, but, of course, not glorious. At least it's not my hated fancy-restaurant-crock-of-noodles-in-a-cheese-bath.

My dog came with a fork to shovel the mac directly into your face, and I would suggest you do that, because the flavor of the mac and cheese gets lost when you eat it with the split-grilled dog and the bun all at once. Skip the dog and just order the mac as a side, if you like. I went off the board and ordered a dog with Moe's homemade sweet pickle relish and homemade creamy slaw. That's two tangs at once! I like tang, and think you need some tang or pep on a dog. I could use about four times as much slaw on my dog, though. I want somebody to just weigh my dog down with goodness. Ya know, I'm no lightweight.
Dog eats self. Just too tasty. Couldn't resist.

Here's the curious part about Moe's dogs, and what I liked the most (besides that you can tell they take pride in their business), the hot dog buns are essentially tiny hoagie rolls. It makes perfect sense in such a hoagie-proud town.

It's definitely worth traveling to the end of Washington to visit Moe's for a great dog.

Moe's Hot Dog House
2617 Grays Ferry Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19146

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Summer Pudding

Gorgeous! That's one good thing I can say about this English summer pudding I was inspired to make from the pages of an old issue of BBC Good Food magazine.

I've been meaning to make an English summer pudding for a couple of years now, and I finally made it this past weekend when I had (again) tubs of blackberries to go through.

The pudding needs to be made a day in advance of serving, but the ingredient list is short and the construction is quite simple -- line a cup with bread soaked in sweetened berry juices, and fill with cooked berries. Hopefully the photos will help explain the construction.After constructing my fruit-filled pudding, I waited until the next day to dig in. What never crossed my mind the past two years I (somewhat) thought about making this dessert, and while actually making this thing, is that I would not like it -- it's just too pretty! -- but I couldn't get past the fact that the bread was wet. It didn't matter that the bread was soaked in sweet, sumptuous fruit juice; I just couldn't love wet bread (I feel the same way about ultra-soggy, coffee-soaked lady fingers in Tiramisu).

I also used plain white bread, and think that a sweeter bread like challah or brioche would be better.

All I can say is please try this dessert ahead of time to see if you like it before you serve it to guests. Food is subjective. You may not have an aversion to wet bread. The English apparently don't, and neither does Gordon Ramsey (it was his recipe I was inspired by), nor do other people.

This dessert would have been a spectacular finale to a dinner, but I'm sure glad I only made two individual servings for myself before trotting this out for others.
The last bread piece is in place, and the pudding is ready to be covered and put in the fridge.

Summer Pudding
makes 2 servings

2 cups mixed berries (your choice), washed and drained
1/3 cup sugar (more or less depending on tartness of berries)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
6-8 slices of stale challah or white bread, crusts removed
  • Combine berries, sugar, and lemon zest in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the juices have released, but the fruits still hold their shape.
  • Drain berries for ten minutes over a bowl, reserving the liquid.
  • Cut pieces of bread to fit your mold (in my case, large cups to make 2 individual servings) - For each cup you will have 1 round piece to fit the bottom of the cup, 2 rectangles to wrap around the inner sides of the cup (1 slice of bread cut lengthwise should make 2 rectangles), and 1 piece to fit the top of the cup.
  • Dip each side of the pieces of bread one at a time into the reserved liquid as you assemble the pudding. Start with the piece of bread lining the bottom of the cup, then the 2 rectangles lining the side.
  • Fill the bread-lined cup with about half of the drained berries, level to the top of the bread, pressing down on the berries with the back of a spoon. Then top the berries with the final piece of bread.
  • Cover and chill overnight in the refrigerator. Also refrigerate any remaining reserved fruit juice.
  • To serve, invert the cup on a serving plate. If the pudding does not come out easily, pry the sides with a knife. Drizzle tops of pudding with fruit juice, and garnish.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What I Did On My Holiday Weekend

This Labor Day weekend was filled with a big ol' bunch of nothing to do -- except bake (three blackberry themed goodies), make ice cream (poured scalding milk on my hand), ride my bike (Delaware Greenway rocks!), and take liberal naps (I'm half cat). My only real outing of the weekend was a trip to the New Castle Farmer's Market just south of Wilmington in New Castle, Delaware.

Unless I'm going to the DMV, I never attempt to go immediately south of Wilmington. The traffic is atrocious at all hours of the day, and I just can't figure out why. How can an 8-lane highway be parked still just south of Wilmington (I-95 and Hwy 13)? Is it because everyone lives in lower Delaware, but works in Wilmington and Philly? Whatever the reason, it has kept me away.

Because I never go south of Wilmington, I've never seen the New Castle Farmer's Market until last weekend when coming back from the beach we detoured from the stopped traffic on 95 to hop onto the stopped traffic on 13 (can't win!). We passed a huge parking lot filled with hundreds of cars, a large building with "farmer's market" on the side, and an outdoor flea market. Being a sucker for flea markets, I put the New Castle Farmer's Market on my to-do list.

I started inside the building first. The building is long, but not very wide, so the size is a little deceiving from the road. Inside there are two large produce stands (one at each end, and not all local produce), various shops selling cheap knock-off goods, a Mexican grocery, candy shop, Amish bakery and butcher shop, Mexican restaurant, pizza joint, seafood restaurant, pretzel shop, ice cream shop, another meat counter, and a couple of other American burger and sandwich type places (I know I left some things out; I'm not a directory).My first stop was at Stoltzfus Amish Bakery. (Are all the Stoltzfus bakeries related, or is it just that every third Amish person is named Stotlzfus and owns a bakery? This is a serious question. Amish aren't keen on making websites, so the puter box reveled no answers.) Amish classics like shoofly pie and whoopie pies do not thrill me, so I went with a slice of red velvet roll. The cake was flavorless and tough, but perhaps the cake needs that tough texture in order to be rolled without cracking. Cream cheese frosting saved the day.
I had every intention of picking up lunch at the market, but nothing excited me. The thick stuffed pizzas were the most tempting, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat all that cheese (had a salad later at home which makes for bad food blogging, but saves calories).
The real fun is outside at the flea market where you get to riffle through people's collected crap in search of treasure. No flawless set of original Fiestaware was found, but I did pick up a pickling recipe book amid the hundreds of crockpot cookery and microwave cooking books. Do you think in 30 years well laugh at all the celebrity chef and special diet cookbooks we buy now that will end up at flea markets?I also got two Corelle cups that were the perfect size for the blackberry pudding I made (very pretty, but strange -- coming soon).

Despite the horrid traffic on 13, I will be back to the New Castle Farmer's Market for the flea market (love 'em!), but probably never back to the indoor section (it's not a true farmer's market, and I have no need for knock-off purses).