Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hershey's Miniatures Mint Collection

Mint Collection

Apparently, these have been around for years, and I either don't remember them or never saw them at all, but this year, they are new to me. I usually don't choose Hershey's chocolate, but it's limited edition, so I felt compelled.

If you haven't already, I recommend reading Cybele's reviews on and articles about the reformulation of Hershey's chocolate. For example, here's one about the standard Hershey's Miniatures. She's done a lot of delving into the situation, and it's very interesting, to say the least. I can only assume that these Mint Miniatures were affected, too.

Mint White Creme

First, I tried the Mint White Creme. If this were a beauty contest, this would be the hands-down winner! It's so festive! But unfortunately, the white chocolate was chalky. The mint was nice, and it reminded me of those pastel meltaway mints with sprinkles, but the white chocolate wasn't creamy enough. At least it was pretty! B-

Mint Sweet Chocolate

Next up was the Mint Sweet Chocolate. I used to like Hershey Special Dark, but lately, it tastes pretty bland. It wasn't much better with mint. The chocolate itself was grainy, and it didn't really go with the Special Dark taste too terribly well. A York Peppermint Patty would be a much more pleasing dark/mint treat. My husband liked this one, though. C-

Mint Milk Chocolate

Finally, I tried the Mint Milk Chocolate. Surprisingly, this was the best of the bunch for me. It had a mint taste reminiscent of an Andes mint, but again, had a chalky texture. The flavor was good, but I wish the chocolate was smoother. My father also liked this one best. B

Overall, these were pretty unremarkable. I can't say any of them tasted bad, but I certainly wouldn't buy them again. It was the texture that really got me, since all of them were grainy or chalky. Maybe that can be blamed on the temperature when I tasted them, though, so I'd be interested in hearing what other people think of these.


Hershey's Website (English)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nestle Caramel Macchiato McFlurry KitKat

Caramel Macchiato McFlurry KitKat

Has there ever been a KitKat with a longer name? I bought some of these KitKats while in Japan, and the package says it's a collaboration with McDonalds (hence the McFlurry part of the name). But right away, I knew this wouldn't be the KitKat for me. I'm not a huge fan of coffee-flavored things, even though I love coffee. However, with Japanese KitKats, I feel that I have an obligation to taste them.

The box boasts of a "delicate aroma and milky flavor" but the whiff I got when I opened the package was not at all delicate. Like many caramel KitKats of late, my first impression was a strong smell of caramel. I didn't pick up on the coffee or on any ice cream scent. My expectations were pretty low at that point.

Caramel Macchiato McFlurry KitKat

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I'm a sucker for pretty chocolate, and I do love a swirly looking KitKat. The coffee taste was very much in the background, with the exception of a few bites. It could have been my imagination, but I think the darker swirls in the white chocolate had a stronger coffee flavor. For the most part, the taste was a chemical-y caramel.

The white chocolate itself was creamy and decent (not chalky), and I finished one of the two sticks before my throat started to burn from the sweetness. With some bites having more coffee flavor than others, it seemed inconsistent, and they might as well have left off the McFlurry part, campaign be darned.

So, this isn't in the running for favorite KitKat by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it was better than Muscat of Alexandria (review coming soon). I was a little too kind when reviewing this last night, so as of 11/28, the rating has changed...again. Japanese Snack Reviews also has a review of this KitKat.


KitKat Website (Japanese)


Michelle Poole of CakeKraft is back in town, and is lovingly and masterfully baking cakes, cupcakes, vegan cakes, gluten-free cakes, cookies, and other treats with all-natural ingredients and the best local, organic, and free trade ingredients whenever possible. Expect to see her cakes soon in and around the Philly area, including the Philly suburbs, New Jersey, and Delaware, at coffee shops, restaurants, and markets.

If you're jonesin' for some cakes and cuppers from CakeKraft right now, you're in luck, because she also does custom orders. Contact Michelle on her website and place an order for your next wedding, party, or event (sitting around the TV watching Top Chef with friends qualifies as an event), and deliciousness will be delivered to your door.

I know I've presented fresh baked cupcakes from a bakery at a party before, and, gosh, besides having more variety than I would ever dare bake at once, CakeKraft's desserts are just tastier and prettier than what I can whip up.Oh, you want to know how they taste? I sampled four varieties of CakeKraft cupcakes (two vegan, and two regular) and they were all fabulous, satisfying my raging sweet tooth without being overly sweet. And the vegan cupcakes were just as delicious as the regular cupcakes. Seriously. The regular cupcakes had a finer crumb than the vegan cupcakes, but that was the only difference.

I ate (all at one sitting, of course):
  • vegan pumpkin-carrot spice with cream cheese frosting (walnuts and dried cranberries had me swooning hard)
  • vegan dark chocolate with chocolate ganache (not too sweet, deep chocolate flavor with espresso undertones)
  • chocolate with cappuccino buttercream (that cappuccino buttercream is crazy good)
  • vanilla buttercake with vanilla bean buttercream (can't beat a classic)
Now, go get some!


Thanksgiving Recipes

You probably already have the T-day menu planned, but plans can change (ours did), or maybe you're just undecided. A couple of recipes on this site are getting lots of hits recently due to, I'm sure, frantic recipe searches, so I figured I'd make a post of a few of the most Thanksgiving appropriate recipes on M&C.
Balsamic-Braised Cipolline with Pomegranite - I wish these were on this year's menu.
Sweet Potato Biscuits - mmm.
Soy and Seitan Turkey - tips on Bryanna's recipe, which is on this year's menu.
Bourbon Walnut Sweet Potato Mash - skip the experiment part and go straight to the recipe.Copper Pennies - a simple, but irresistible side.
Raw Beet Salad - no cooking!
Apple-Cranberry Pie - made this last Thanksgiving and it was fab.
Rustic Rolls - carb load.

What's on our menu? Well, after our small gathering shrank to just the two of us, we nixed the baked brie, pecan pie, mashed potatoes, and salad greens topped with dried cranberries, pepitas, roasted beets, and roasted squash. We're keeping the soy and seitan turkey (already made it), my grandmother's cornbread dressing (cornbread's ready to go), nutritional yeast gravy, cranberry sauce (cranberries and oranges finely chopped and left raw, with spices and sugar), sweet potato souffle (my fav), brussel sprouts, and pumpkin pie (already ordered from MANNA). Very traditional.

Happy eating, whether it's take out or home made, amongst dozens or alone.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Orillas Tapas Bar

I'm excited about the revitalization of Wilmington's downtown lower Market St. that's been dubbed LoMa (Lower Market). I've already attempted The Rebel (gotta give it another go, since the first time failed), and a few days ago I dropped in on Wilmington's newest tapas bar and restaurant, Orillas, for lunch. At the time of my visit, Orillas had been open less than two weeks.

The long and narrow Orillas is quite cozy with a few high-top tables looking out the street font window, a wooden bar along an exposed brick wall, and linen-topped tables in the back. I sat at one of the high-tops and warmed myself while watching the first snow of the season float down, but could easily see myself returning to the bar for an evening drink and nibble.

Orillas' menu of small plates is not as veggie friendly as other tapas bars in Philly such as Bar Ferdinand, Ansill or Amada, for example. Orillas offers only four vegetarian dishes on their lunch menu (assorted olives, vegetarian croquettes, sauteed spinach, and an olive, mushroom and artichoke flat bread pizza), and adds two more veggie options on their slightly larger dinner menu (an eggplant flat bread pizza and roasted vegetables).

It seems that some dishes, like the salads and flat breads, could easily be modified to be vegetarian, but this was never suggested by my server who caught on to my vegetarianism and ran through the menu options with me. I did not press the subject since I had a few options with which to start. There is also a paella studded with vegetables on the dinner menu I noted that could possibly be vegetarian, but is unclear from the menu description, and I had quizzed my server enough on the lunch menu already.
While it would be nice to see a larger percentage of vegetarian plates at Orillas, as long as there are a few options I am not that put off.

The one thing I would suggest Orillas change for sure on their menu is their cheese plate, or more correctly, cheese and meat plate. Most tapas bars and wine bars allow you to order a cheese plate independent of meat, but at Orillas the menu only gives the option of a small cheese and meat plate and a large cheese and meat plate. They should separate the two and offer a plate of assorted cheeses, and a plate of assorted meats, or, at least, an option that lets you pick and choose any combination of cheese and meat. And if this is already a possibility, please make the menu more clear.
The vegetarian croquettes were dark and crispy outside, and comfortingly soft and warm inside with a mush of onions, spinach, peppers, and carrots harmoniously blended, but never tasting overridingly or any one of the ingredients. The real flavor of the dish comes from the roasted pepper-heavy romesco sauce.
The Jardinera flat bread pizza comes topped with artichokes, roasted mushrooms, kalamata olives, pine nuts, goat cheese and romesco sauce. At $10, Orillas' flat bread pizza is a tad more expensive than flat bread pizzas found at most restaurants in the area, and for that reason there is no excuse for the canned artichoke hearts that topped this pizza. I'd suggest nixing the artichoke hearts and ramping up the flavorful roasted mushrooms in their place. The earthy flavors of the mushroom would also help balance out the salty and tangy olives and goat cheese.

This is absolutely total nitpicking, but I think new restaurants need the criticism so they can quickly correct the little wrongs. For cutting purposes, the flat bread would have been better presented on a flat wooden plank instead of a concave plate. I struggled to cut the flat bread with my butter knife as the flat bread slid up the opposing side of the plate, all the while fearing the loud clank of metal on porcelain when I finally made it through the less than paper thin, crispy crust. If not a wooden plank, at least present the flat bread on a flat plate.

Again, I'm excited for the revitalization of Wilmington's downtown and the new businesses that have arrived and are still to come. And although it doesn't seem like I'm excited about Orillas with all my nitpicking, I am. This charming restaurant is brand new, so has some kinks to work out and, hopefully, a menu to fine tune. I can't wait to go back and enjoy some wine or sangria at the bar and grab some cheese (let's get a cheese plate option!) and dessert. Hear, hear to more walkable dining destinations in downtown Wilmington.

Update: Orillas Revisited
Update: Orillas has moved up the street to 902 Market St.

413 N. Market St., Wilmington, DE 19801
Lunch: Mon-Fri, 11am-2:30pm
Dinner: Mon-Thurs, 5-10pm; Fri & Sat 5-11pm

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good Girls Get Capriotti's

I've written about my love of Capriotti's veggie turkey sub before, and, to be honest with you, it's the one food I eat out (technically, it's take-away) more than any other food in Delaware or Philly. Capriotti's veggie turkey sub is #1 on my list of the few foods I will miss if, and when, I ever leave the area.

I almost cried (and later considered writing a letter to the owners) about a month ago when they told me the supplier of their veggie turkey had discontinued the product, and they didn't foresee ever getting veggie turkey again. But I knew to simmer down and let it go; this veggie turkey disappearing act has happened before, and then magically reappeared.

Here's where I reveal more info than you need to know, but I know blog readers just loves them some personal info to put in their stalker file: I always treat myself to a Capriotti's veggie turkey sub on the day of my annual girly exam. It's kinda like getting a lollipop at the end of a doctor's visit for being a good girl.

My doctor's visit was yesterday, and, well, what was I going to do, seeing as how Capriotti's veggie turkey had dried up? I'm a big girl; I don't haaave to have a lollipop.

Well, after waking up to a flat tire (good morning!), and then riding on the flat tire to two gas stations to find an operable air machine (just put a sign on it if it's broken - a person only carries so many quarters, you know) because I didn't have time to fix a flat before heading to the doctors (they charge you if you don't make it), then driving through snow to the doctors (I know they were just flurries and would never stick, but I hate snow and it makes me incredibly worrisome and tense) where she tells me my blood pressure is higher than usual (no, shit! I just had a flat tire and drove like a mad woman through snow to my favoritest place in the world - ugh, I pride myself on low blood pressure), then I go to work to find I can't work because Y didn't do Z, so I go get my $20 tire patch, but have to wait two hours in a waiting room with a TV spewing crap and a woman talking loudly on her cell the en-tie-yur time for them to tell me that because I drove on my flat the inside of the tire is ruined (knew I shouldn't have taken that shortcut down the cobble stone road!) and I need a new one (of course, I rock the high dollar low profiles).

What I need is a lollipop. Now.

After I paid for my new tire, I walked to my car, sat in the parking lot and called Capriotti's (it's in my cell) in hopes that veggie turkey had magically made a reappearance, has!!!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Morinaga Koeda Deep Matcha

Deep Matcha

Yet another box of sweets from my recent trip to Japan! These were purchased at a grocery store in Osaka about a block from my hostel. On a side note, I'd definitely recommend staying at that hostel (J-Hoppers) if you are traveling on a budget! My husband and I both found the beds comfortable, the rooms quiet and clean, and the location very convenient. But back to the chocolate...

Basically, these are chocolate covered matcha sticks. Koeda means twig, and I suppose that's a more picturesque description. The matcha part has a crispy texture, possibly from rice. There was also a chestnut flavor, but I gave those away to a friend, so sadly, I have no idea what they taste like. In any case, I find the packaging to be pretty and even classy. Who doesn't love classy chocolate? You can see from the picture of the box (which wasn't photographed very well, I apologize) that the outer layer is chocolate and inside is matcha white chocolate and (presumably) crisp rice.

Koeda Matcha Sticks

The box contains several bags (6-8, I can't remember), each containing two twigs. The whole box has over 20 grams of fat, so it's definitely a "pace yourself" kind of sweet. Pacing myself was not easy, however, because these are delicious! The matcha taste is just right, and the smooth chocolate melts with the crispiness so well. They were not too sweet, but not bitter, either. I was so sad when they were gone and will be asking my Japanese friend to bring more when she visits this winter.

In the past, I have used these as an edible garnish for matcha ice cream because I find them so delicate and pretty. They also tasted good cold. I could eat these forever. Again, I may be biased. It seems a lot of my matcha reviews are As...


Morinaga Website (Japanese)

Beet Curry Soup

I was a little more than disappointed with my last beet soup - a classic and spartan borscht. And, yet, I was so excited to make that borscht, as I've never eaten borscht before (not in my family's recipe repertoire, and rarely found on menu's unless you're at a Polish or other Eastern European restaurant).

I followed a recipe from Olive Trees and Honey, a Jame's Beard award-winning cookbook of authentic Jewish vegetarian recipes, but its borscht recipe with meager onion, vinegar and sugar stock, cubed beets, and sour cream garnish just did not impress. I chalk this up to the fact that I like bolder flavors, and borscht is a simple soup. I still would love to try another version of vegetarian borscht, though (hint, hint, borscht recipe holders). Maybe a version with more variety of vegetables, since I went bare bones borscht the first round.

I still couldn't shake the need for beet soup, so now I present you with a beet soup my taste buds can get behind. And yours will too, if you like bold flavors. Roasted beets add an earthiness, apples add sweetness, and ginger and curry paste add that kick I so love in food.

One word of warning: the recipe I followed called for 1 to 2 tablespoons of curry paste, which I found a bit vague since there are many curry pastes out there. I went with a green curry paste, and started by adding less than 1 tablespoon, but that already was too much. So, do start with a much smaller amount of curry paste, as curry pastes are very different, and add more if needed.

Beet Curry Soup
adapted from The NY Times
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large beets (2 1/2 pounds total)
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 apples, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable broth, more if needed
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 tablespoons curry paste
salt, to taste
yogurt or sour cream, (optional garnish)
  • In a bowl, drizzle oil over beets, and toss to coat. Put beets on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour, or until beets can be pierced easily. When cool enough to handle, peel beets and chop into large chunks.
  • In a large pot, melt butter and saute onions until caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Add apples, broth, ginger, curry paste, salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until apples are soft.
  • Pour soup into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Adjust seasoning and add more broth if too thick.
  • Garnish with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meiji Dark Rum Meltykiss

Dark Rum Meltykiss

Dark Rum Meltykiss was one of the first treats I bought in Japan (along with Pure Blueberry gummies) from the Lawson near our hotel. As I've said many times, I'm a sucker for limited edition and new candies, so I couldn't pass these up. I'm also a huge fan of Meltykiss.

These are special for winter, and I think there were two other flavors available: strawberry and maybe a regular milk chocolate. I can't remember. Anyhow, Dark Rum sounded the most interesting, so my husband and I chose that one. Inside the box, the chocolates came individually wrapped in lovely metallic purple wrappers.

As usual with Meltykiss, there is a thin coating of cocoa powder on the outside of the chocolate (not nearly as uniform as the picture on the box). The first taste was a nice rum flavor, not overly strong but the taste of alcohol was definitely there. After that, as the chocolate melted, it was pretty much the usual smooth Meltykiss milk chocolate. Very tasty, but the rum flavor was mostly gone.

In any case, my husband and I both liked them, as did the friends who tried these. However, if you don't like candy that tastes like alcohol, you won't care for these.


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Continental Midtown

I'm pulling this visit to Stephen Starr's Continental Midtown location from the way back file...because it was warm outside at the time when we ate on Continental's roof deck. Ahh, warmth and sunshine.

Continental Midtown is Stephen Starr's global tapas and martini lounge themed restaurant with olive shaped light fixture, car seat inspired booths (looking a little worn these days) on the first floor, swinging seats on the second floor, and a free standing fireplace on the roof deck. Trendy or cheesy? It's your pick.

This only makes my second visit to Continental, and I believe the first visit a few years ago was under a similar situation - need a place to kill some time and grab a snack before heading elsewhere. And I'm almost certain that I ordered the exact same thing. This is what happens when menus never change (a bad thing if you like variety, or a good thing if you have a favorite), your diet limits your choices, and kitchens are not flexible.

The mixed drink come with a shaker of extra drink, but since the glasses and shakers are so small, it's really like you're getting one average to large drink instead of what looks like two drinks.I wanted to order the summer rolls without the meat, but the kitchen could not or would not make the rolls to order (an inflexibility at about half of the restaurants I visit that serve summer rolls, which I don't understand, because they're the simplest, fastest things to make), so I ordered the tofu-chive dumplings. The chili oil and sweet soy sauce covering the plate and the four garlic and tofu-filled dumplings packs enough kick to make my taste buds happy, and makes a nice small snack.I shared the massive bird's nest-like pile of shoestring french fries with another, and while it sure does look large, these skinny fries with a side of Chinese mustard sauce leave you wondering if you even ate a plate of fries. I would love to know how many potatoes actually are used to make a plate of Continental fries. One? Two? Besides not being filling (if shared), these are the most awkward things to eat. They don't stay on a fork easily, they're hard to grab with your hands, and since you grab or stab a mini jumble instead of one long fry, getting them in your mouth is a bit of a challenge. Basically, it's very hard to eat these using good table manners.

If you want to fill up for a bargain, though, order a salad. They're huge.

I was a little disappointed that the roof deck view out to the city was obscured by walls and plants, and that only half of the roof deck was was truly open air, but I guess when the weather is inclement you'd be glad that half of the roof deck is under a roof. The best of both, I guess.

You can file Continental under another Stephen Starr establishment that serves perfectly fine food, but really doesn't do anything for me. I think Starr is really good at creating restaurants with themes that excite, but food that only just pleases. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Continental Midtown
1801 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA, 19103

Friday, November 14, 2008

Signs: Gottahava

I've you're from Pennsylvania or the immediate surrounding states, you know exactly what letter is missing from this sign. W. And that spells Wawa, the Ojibwe word for the Canada goose...or a chain of convenience stores and gas stations that people either feel indifferent about or love, love, love. Or maybe you're somewhere in between indifference and love, like me. Older Wawa applesticker

Funny story (not really, but...): Even though Wawa is one of the most prominent convenience stores in the Delaware Valley, it took about a year and a half after moving to the area to discover that Wawa is not a health food store. Health food store? Why in the hell would I think that Wawa was a health food store?

You see, the first two years of living in Pennsylvania, I lived a very sheltered existence in a small town where I did not have the time to get out much due to work, so the only Wawa I saw was of the homely, older variety (the super Wawas with gas pumps weren't even on the scene at that time) with a hippy-dippy orange and brown bird logo and the words "food market" on the building. Yep, health food store. I, of course, had never stepped inside a Wawa.

It wasn't until a roommate of mine told me that the sandwich she was eating was from Wawa, and that she worshiped Wawa and their sandwiches, that I got the full story on Wawa - sort of like a 7-Eleven and a Subway combined, but better.

I don't know when I actually tried a Wawa sandwich, but I can tell you that my first experience convinced me to love, love, love Wawa - as far as convenience stores go. Far better than Subway, and almost as good as a local corner hoagie shop, Wawa has some pretty good sandwiches. ElCapitan

But what I love the most about Wawa is the touch-screen ordering system that spits my order out to a person behind the counter. No interacting with people, no repeating my toppings, and a button that actually specifies a little bit of mayonnaise, I wish every sandwich, burrito, salad, or any other lunch spot where you move down the line calling out the ingredients you want had this system in place. Yes, I prefer not to interact with strangers (bah humbug), but my order is always correct at Wawa.

While Wawa isn't my first lunch of choice, I can't deny that I gottahava Wawa sometimes. And after returning home from a food-scarce road trip with no Wawas to duck into, you practically fall down on your knees and kiss the ground when you get back into Wawa territory.

Other reasons to love Wawa: cheap gas; coffee (some people swear by it, but I'm not a big coffee drinker); snacks like cheese, crackers, yogurt and fruit that you'd actually feel good about eating; and surcharge-free ATM's.

I love Wawa's sandwiches and touch-screens, but am indifferent about the rest.
Why do you love Wawa?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nestle Kyoto Edition Matcha KitKat

Kyoto Matcha KitKat

At the train station and souvenir shops in Kyoto, it felt like I was in heaven. Matcha was everywhere! Kyoto is famous for matcha, so it makes sense. In any case, I picked up this pretty box of Uji Matcha KitKats...for myself. Like the Soy Sauce KitKat box, it was designed to be a gift. Don't worry, I shared some.

Kyoto Matcha KitKat

The box says "Fastidious Uji Matcha." Uji is a city known for matcha, and fastidious is the best translation I could come up with. I guess maybe "authentic" would be a better word? In any case, it's definitely matcha.

Kyoto Matcha KitKat

I don't know what to say as far as a review, because these are exactly the same as the last matcha KitKat I reviewed, only in a 15 pack of miniatures. They are delicious, creamy, rich, and strong. Highly recommended for fans of matcha sweets.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tirol Pumpkin Tart

Pumpkin Tart

The biggest reason my husband and I went to Japan was to visit with one of my best friends. She lives in Kyoto, but she was an exchange student at my university a few years ago, and was a bridesmaid in my wedding last year. Sometimes we send each other candy or clothes from our respective countries, so I get a lot of candy recommendations from her, and one of her favorite things is Tirol chocolate!

Tirol chocolates are small, cheap, and cute. Some kinds are better than others, but like many other Japanese candies, there are always new, limited edition kinds to try. I bought this Pumpkin Tart flavor at a Lawson convenience store for about 40 yen, I think, and it's a "Premium" Tirol chocolate. I think that just means it's bigger than the normal size. Also, the Jack-o-Lantern on the wrapper suggests that this flavor is a limited edition for Halloween.

Pumpkin Tart

Oddly enough, my friend who loves Tirol chocolate hates pumpkin, so she passed on this one. To me, the pumpkin flavored white chocolate wasn't very strong or spicy. It just had a hint of pumpkin and cinnamon. I really like pumpkin treats to taste like pumpkin pie with whipped cream, but that's probably a little too rich for Tirol.

Inside the chocolate, there was a little cookie. I'm guessing that was the "tart" part. It was crunchy and more savory than sweet, and it added a great texture. Tirol chocolates often have great textures; many are made with mochi (pounded rice) centers. In fact, check out Orchid64's Japanese Snack Reviews for a great review of another Tirol chocolate (Kinako Mochi) that was available at the same time as this one. She also has a review of this one!

I liked the Pumpkin Tart, but do wish the chocolate had been a bit richer and spicier. Of course, pumpkin pie as I know it isn't really a Japanese taste, so I'll take this chocolate as it is.


Tirol Chocolate website (Japanese)


For all you local readers, I know I'm preaching to the choir when I say that Capogiro and their artisan gelato is da bomb. This cool customer makes it onto must-try-while-in-Philly lists, and almost every Philly blogger professes their love (there's even a blog devoted solely to Capogiro). But, would ya know, I didn't drink the Kool-Aid until...this past weekend!

This avoidance of Capogiro's traditional Italian gelato flavors like nocciolat piemontese and fior di latte, and their more inventive flavors like tahini and pineapple with sage was on purpose, of course. I've known for years about the greatness of Capogiro, and it's power to draw people in for multiple cups of cream in one day. And that, my friends, is precisely why I've avoided it. Peeps, I don't need to be eatin' no gelato twice, three-times a day.

Without thought or hesitation (nicely buzzed), I walked into Capogiro's 20th St. location this past Friday, breaking my Capogiro ban, and ordered Thai coconut milk and Nutella gelato wedged together in a cup. Rich and smooth, but not waxy, and tasting exactly like what they say they are - Thai coconut milk and Nutella - I was quite the happy girl. Oh, but the dulce de leche gelato sitting next to my partner's cappuccino gelato was so, sooo good.
And back I was on Sunday to Capogiro's other location on 13th St. after checking the flavor-of-the-day list (dangerous) to get a scoop of lime cilantro sorbetto, which I loved, loved, loved. Super tangy and limey with a hint of cilantro, I don't even think a cilantro-hater could hate this. But I did not love the melograno (pomegranate) sorbetto that snuggled my lime cilantro. Melegrano's subtle flavor and sweetness could not stand up to the bold, zingy lime cilantro. Both good, just bad bedfellows.

With 27 flavors made fresh each morning from local ingredients, changing daily and seasonally, I can see why people visit so often - to discover the next best flavor. And if you're not from Philly, you gotta try Capogiro before you leave town. If you see me back in there, though, slap me and tell me to go home.

119 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107
117 S. 20th St., Philadelphia, PA 19103

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Here's an autumnal recipe for all you people out there gushing about fall foliage (it is beautiful) and sweater weather (I'd rather run around nekkid in the tropics). I was flipping through some recipe books in search for bread recipes (I've vowed to make more bread this season), and landed on these sweet potato biscuits. I like love sweet potatoes, and I like biscuits, so...I made them.With two cups of mashed sweet potatoes in the dough, these biscuits aren't exactly high-risers, but they certainly aren't dense pucks either. And with sugar, cinnamon and allspice in the recipe (I skipped the allspice, since I had none), I'd say these biscuits are a hybrid between biscuits and scones (I even sprinkled sugar on top when I baked them, to make them more scone-like). But the subtle sweetness would not stop me from eating these sweet potato biscuits alongside a savory meal. And, yes, you can taste the sweet potatoes, but, be forewarned, if you smother these biscuits with fruit jam, you'll mask the subtle sweet potato flavor. May I suggest cane syrup or honey slathered on a warm sweet potato biscuit for the autumn hiding behind, hunkering down.Sweet Potato Biscuits
adapted from A Gracious Plenty
makes about 13 large (3-inch) biscuits

3 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for rolling surface
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup shortening
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup milk
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, allspice, and cinnamon. Cut in the shortening (I like to use my hands) until it resembles coarse meal. Add the mashed sweet potatoes to the flour mixture (again, hands work really well). Add the milk, and mix until incorporated.
  • Turn dough out on floured surface, and roll to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut dough with biscuit cutter (I used a 3-inch cutter), and place on a greased baking sheet.
  • Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until done.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nestle Blueberry Cheesecake and Strawberry Cheesecake KitKats

KitKat Singles

Fianlly, another recent candy review. It's KitKats again, but I got these at a convenience store during my recent trip to Japan. These are single serving packets, and I paid about 40 yen for each.

Both are white chocolate KitKats, and neither had a particularly strong flavor. Neither tastes much like cheesecake, either, except for a hint of tartness.

The strawberry one tasted like very artificial strawberry, but maybe that was just the tartness. It definitely wasn't as good as other strawberry KitKats but it wasn't bad. Pretty forgettable.

The blueberry one was better! At first, the blueberry taste was very weak, but as I ate, it got stronger and was tasty. I haven't had any other blueberry KitKats, so I can't really compare it to anything, but I liked this one much more than the strawberry.

I like the single serving KitKats, but there is a bit of a mark-up. I also saw solo KitKats in Canada, but I think they were a little longer than these. For another take on these KitKats, check out the review at Japanese Snack Reviews.

Strawberry: B-
Blueberry: B+

KitKat Website (Japanese)

Nestle Strawberry KitKat

Strawberry KitKat

Here is another Japanese KitKat review. I've caught the Japanese KitKat bug, and there are several more on deck, including new ones from my recent trip to Japan. This review is about an older KitKat.

To be specific, this is not just a strawberry KitKat, it's a Tochiotome Strawberry KitKat. I don't know if there's a translation for that or not, but it's a variety of strawberry in Japan. I believe they are grown in Tochigi prefecture in Japan. Maybe that's where Tochi comes from, and otome means maiden.

Strawberry KitKat

The KitKat is a milky pink, as is most strawberry chocolate. I don't know that it tasted different from other Japanese strawberry chocolate, but it was smooth, creamy, tart, and flavorful. The strawberry flavor went really well with the wafers, and it was altogether tasty!

If you like strawberry chocolate, I'm sure you'd like this KitKat. It's no longer available, but it's only a matter of time before Nestle puts another one on the market.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Nestle Fragrant Black Tea KitKat

Black Tea KitKat

Continuing with my recent theme of Japanese snacks, here's another KitKat review I've been lazy about posting. October was a busy month, so I kind of let candy blogging get put on the back burner.

As far as I know, there were four different flavors released in this series of wider, more filling/less cracker KitKats. This is my third, and since these are no longer being made, I doubt I will ever try the fourth. The fourth is an apple flavor, though, so I'm not too upset. Fruity KitKats are not my favorites, with the exception of orange. Actually, there may be a fifth variety of this kind of KitKat that is orange, but I'm not sure if it came out at the same time.

Black Tea KitKat

Anyhow, the KitKat pictured above is called "Fragrant Black Tea" and it certainly was. The chocolate coating is smooth, as always. As for the filling, it was the bitterest KitKat I have ever tasted. It was much stronger in flavor than any KitKat I've ever tried. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it was a little weird. Delicious, but weird.

I liked this KitKat, but it's not a new favorite. It was definitely a fun tasting experience, especially if you enjoy tea. It really tastes like black tea, and it doesn't taste like a rehash of an old KitKat.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Nestle Gianduja KitKat

Gianduja (Hazelnut Paste) KitKat

Before this KitKat, I had never heard the word "Gianduja" before in my life. Wikipedia tells me that it is "a sweet chocolate containing about 50% hazelnut paste" that is similar to Nutella.

I'm not a huge fan of Nutella, so I was a little wary of this one, but my husband loves the stuff, so he was very excited. This is another KitKat that has more filling and less cracker, but unlike the matcha version, this one worked.

Gianduja (Hazelnut Paste) KitKat

The hazelnut flavor wasn't strong, but it was very pleasant and just strong enough to give the cream a flavor. Both the chocolate coating and the chocolate/hazelnut cream were smooth, rich, and melty. It made for a very pleasant KitKat.

Unlike the matcha version where the green tea flavor was missing, the hazelnut flavor here was just enough. I'm sure I would have liked it more if I was more of a hazelnut lover. My husband really enjoyed it, though.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Meiji Blueberry White Chocolate

Blueberry White Chocolate

All over my apartment, I have scrap pieces of paper with tasting notes. This review is for chocolate that I ate a while ago, but I thought since I have the pictures, I should post a review.

I love Meiji chocolate. They do flavored white chocolate very well, especially green tea flavored. A few months back, I reviewed Blueberry Apollo, and this one is pretty similar.

Meiji Blueberry White Chocolate

The chocolates are very pretty, and again come individually wrapped. Like the Apollo, it has the "Meiji Hokkaido Label" from the Hokkaido factory. These are labeled as blueberry and yogurt flavor, but they tasted very similar to the Apollo, which were not promoted to contain yogurt.

The texture of the white chocolate was a little to flaky at first, but it melted well to a smooth consistency. The blueberry flavor melded well with the white chocolate, but it didn't really knock me out. I think I liked the Apollo better just because of the novelty of the shape.

So, these were tasty, but not exceptional. I don't even know if they are still being made, but Meiji recently put out a lavender flavored version of the same kind of chocolate. I'll have to try to get my hands on it.


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rasa Sayang

Wilmington recently got a Malaysian restaurant in that crazy Independence Mall that looks like Independence Hall (huh?) on Concord Pike. I meant to pounce on Rasa Sayang the second they opened for business, but things happened...or, more accurately, didn't happen. And then, when I did get it in action a few weeks ago, the mall Rasa Sayang is housed in caught fire a mere six hours after I paid the bill and exited the new restaurant. Nooooo! Thankfully, the other side of the mall was ablaze (I know those businesses weren't thankful) and none of the restaurants in Independence Mall were destroyed...and, of course, no one was hurt.

Rasa Sayang's interior is nice, but nothing out of the ordinary for a restaurant in a strip mall. A bar greets you when you open the door (why do all restaurants, no matter how casual, have bars nowadays?), and, to the right, a couple of stairs lead down to an dimly lit room filled with tables and booths.

Our server was eager to take our order before I had even looked at the menu, and returned to take our order in under two minutes after we requested more time. She also wasn't familiar with the dishes on the menu, but explained to us she was new. Understandable.

The menu could be a little more descriptive of the dishes. Special sauce, house special sauce, special brown sauce, and chef's special sauce don't really give diners any hint as to what exactly any of these sauces are.

And strict vegetarians need to get ready to ask lots of questions. Many traditional Malaysian dishes are made with shrimp paste or fish sauce, and menu descriptions of some dishes don't always mention this. I've stated before that my one vegetarian sin is that I eat dishes prepared with fish sauce when dining out at South East Asian restaurants (I love Thai food too much), but I do not do shrimp paste (a paste made from fermented shrimp and fish that smells like hell, much more so than fish sauce), and many dishes at Rasa Sayang contain shrimp paste. Because of this dietary restriction that I impose on myself, many dishes offered at Rasa Sayang are off limits.
We started with achat, a dish I've never had. Achat (also spelled achar and acar) is a cold dish of pickled vegetables in a nutty, sweet, and mildly spicy turmeric sauce topped with sesame seeds. The crisp pickled vegetables were delightful, and did not taste as if it included shrimp paste as is called for in some, but not all, achat recipes (since I was unfamiliar with the dish, the inclusion of shrimp paste never even crossed my mind, so I did not inquire before ordering). I wouldn't mind if there were a big tub of Rasa Sayang's achat in my fridge right now. There is a chili pepper denoting spiciness next to this item on the menu, but I would never call this dish hot. My partner ordered the kang kung belacan, a Malaysian dish of sauteed convolvulus (I believe it's misspelled on the menu as convolvus) with shrimp paste. This mound of sauteed mild greens is similar in taste to spinach, and the sauce is pungent due to shrimp paste (hey, some like it). Again, this dish had a red pepper on the menu denoting spiciness, but did not register as spicy. My partner, who can stomach shrimp paste, cleaned his plate.I ordered mango tofu, a Malaysian dish that I knew was shrimp paste and fish sauce-free. I've only had this dish once before, and I vaguely remember it being too sweet, but gave it a go again since it had been so long since the last time. Yep, too sweet for me. The sweet sauce on top of sweet shredded mango served in hollowed mango halves was a double whammy of sweetness. I could have used more rice than the small molded cup I was given to cut the sweetness, but the fried tofu was quite nice, though -- chewy fried skin surrounding soft silken tofu. I don't normally like silken tofu, but the tough skin contrasts nicely with the squishy insides.
Since I'm always on the quest for my favorite pad Thai, I returned for take out to sample Rasa Sayang's version of this Thai noodle staple. I was very pleased with Rasa Sayang's pad Thai because: (1) it was light on the fish sauce, (2) very close to the sweetness that I like (sweet, but not too sweet), and (3) was not gloppy with sauce. But the most surprising and delightful discovery were the little flecks of red pepper that gave just a little bit of heat (just a little) to a dish that normally is not spicy. And...Rasa Sayang has my new favorite pad Thai in Wilmington!

An aside: Actually, there's a place in/near Wilmington that has a pad Thai I like just slightly better than Rasa Sayang's, but the owner of this other restaurant (no mention of or link to the business; they don't deserve it) wrote me a passive aggressive email telling me to eat elsewhere, so I've never been back...and never will. And, since the owner's remarks were sent to me personally and not left in the comments, I won't reprint them (I respect private emails).
I also ordered the satay tofu stuffed with cucumbers and bean sprouts. The light, crunchy vegetables combined with tofu sure beats a plate piled high with plain fried tofu (I can only eat so much tofu, you know), as is the usual veggie satay offering at many restaurants. The satay sauce was a little oily, but the perfect nutty, sweet and spicy foil for the tofu and veggies.

I'll definitely be back for pad Thai at Rasa Sayang, but will probably stick to the Thai dishes and the few Malaysian dishes that don't contain shrimp paste as I work my way around the menu. In the mean time, if Rasa Sayang would like to elaborate their menu descriptions and crank up the spice levels, that would be awesome.

Rasa Sayang
1601 Concord Pike, Suite 73, Wilmington, DE 19803

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mazag Cafe

Update: no longer open.

Walking briskly down Washington towards the Broad St. Septa line with free tickets in hand to the Sixer's game on Halloween, we made a quick detour to stop in the recently opened Mazag Cafe, a coffee shop on the corner of 10th and Carpenter specializing in Egyptian and Mediterranean bites. The small interior is definitely coffee shop-esque (Meal Ticket has some interior shots), and they do serve up coffee and a full range of drinks, but you can cobble together quite a nice meal from Mazag's small deli case.The spinach pie I ordered was my favorite item of the evening with spinach and mushrooms scented with cumin between two layers of flaky dough. Grab this to go, or have the very gracious owner warm it up for you in the microwave and enjoy with a fork and some decorum. I also ordered a small side of couscous salad studded with a melange of vegetables, olives, almonds, and goat cheese. While perfectly tasty, this dish reminded me of something I might throw together at home, so did not win any oohs and ahhs.

My partner ordered a larger side of an Egyptian specialty (not pictured) consisting of fried rice, tuna, and green peppers , but, even though he is a fish lover, found something a little off putting about the dish. A little less than fresh, maybe?This eggplant salad doesn't look like much, but it packs intense flavor and garlic, and would definitely be ordered again. The stuffed grape leaves with yogurt sauce are also great. I usually pass on stuffed grape leaves packed in oil, so appreciated Mazag's non-oily grape leaf packages.

Also not pictured, we grabbed a bag full of small cookies made in house to eat on the go -- crisp strawberry twist, apricot filled cookie, chocolate chip cookie, and spice cookie. These cookies were all delicious, but the strawberry twist and spice cookie I ate were of the crispy variety, and I do prefer chewy cookies. Next time, I'll get a slice of the chocolate cake covered in chocolate ganache that tempted me so, but turned down because cookies are easier to eat while walking.

I usually don't think of eating lunch or dinner in coffee shops because I really dread the ubiquitous veggie offering of mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich, but standard fare is not what Mazag is dishing out. Get a coffee at Mazag, but be sure to also get a bite to eat.

Mazag Cafe
1001 S. 10th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19147