Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mike and Ike Tangy Twister

Mike and Ike Tangy Twister

After the last review of Mike and Ike I did, I was hesitant to try another kind, but temptation got the best of me. On a run to the drug store (I needed a can opener in a pinch), I picked up a box of Tangy Twister.

My expectations were fairly low, but they were cheap. When I opened the inner bag, I was pleasantly surprised by a fruity smell. Maybe it's because my expectations were so low, but I was almost blown away with how good these were (okay, they weren't THAT good, but you get the idea). I'll do a run down flavor by flavor.

Tangy Twister

Apple was pale green, and tasted like the Zours green apple flavor. It was pretty good! Very sour, with hints of Granny Smith apple, but it definitely wasn't a natural taste.

Raspberry, the dark red, was much better than the raspberry flavor in the Berry Blast variety. It was tangy with a raspberry-esque zing that reminded me of more expensive candy (Jelly Belly jelly beans).

Cherry was the lighter red, and it was also a lot like the Jelly Belly Very Cherry bean. It wasn't my favorite, but it definitely wasn't a bad cherry flavor. Once again, tangier than it was sweet.

Pineapple, in yellow, was pretty cool. It tasted like punch, the kind with lemon-lime soda and pineapple juice! Very sour, and delicious. It wasn't exclusively pineapple, but I really liked this one.

Citrus Punch, the orange, was so delicious. The taste was made up of a little orange, a little lemon, and thankfully, no floor cleaner. It was super sour and tangy, and just as good as the Pineapple.

Although the citrus punch, pineapple, and green apple flavors stood out most to me, I can honestly say that there wasn't a flavor that I didn't like. They were all sour and tangy, and that's how I like my fruity candy. These really made up for how much I disliked the berry flavors!


Just Born website

Friday, February 27, 2009

Burrito Bandido

After my lackluster lunch date with Qdoba's rice and bean burrito, I figured I'd bump Burrito Bandido in Wilmington towards the top of my list, since I've heard good things about this (mostly) authentic Mexican restaurant that happens to do an off-the-menu big-ass rice and bean burrito (not authentic).

Oh, how I wish all restaurants, regardless of their size, would make a website so I could check out their menu before traveling to god knows what ugly neighborhood they reside in (MenuPages doesn't cover every city). If Burrito Bandido had a website, I would have known that there was nothing vegetarian, save a cheese quesadilla, on the menu. But, really, I kinda knew that was coming, as most authentic Mexican restaurants are all about the meat.What $5 will get you: one rice and bean burrito with two salsas.

And just so you know, Buritto Bandido's beans and rice contain lard and meat juice. I, of course, didn't think to ask about the presence of lard or meat juice in my off-the-menu rice and bean burrito until after I had arrived at home with my take-out and taken a bite into what would have been an otherwise fine, but not rockin', rice and bean burrito. Whoo, the beans had enough sodium to sub as a salt lick.

And, don't worry, this lard-in-bean/chicken-stock-in-rice thing happens all the time to me unbeknownst, and it doesn't make me sick or flinch. I don't like it, but it ain't no thang.

But...the people who work at Burrito Bandido are really friendly, the bright building is quite a cheery site in it's wasteland-of-Wilmington location, and meat-eaters say great things about their food. So get on it, Wilmington!

And here's their muy cute, single-fold, business card-sized menu. You're welcome.
Burrito Bandido
227 N. Maryland Ave., Wilmington, DE 19804
Mon.-Thurs. 10am-10pm; Fri.-Sun. 9am-11pm

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gonna Get Crunky

This chocolate bar is best consumed on the weekends alongside a malt beverage and some chronic.

Finally, a confection for all my bitches 'n hoes!

Actually, this Japanese/Korean Nestle Crunch-esque candy bar from Lotte has been around for a long time, but just caught my eye today when I was shopping at my local Asian market. It was a must-buy for the name alone, and it's actually not bad at all. Crunky Crunch Chocolate is not quite as sweet as a Nestle Crunch bar, and has more malt puffs than Nestle's bar (I ate the bar before I took a picture, or else I'd show you).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lemon Petits Fours: Cute Cakes!

My friend got me this cute cake pan with tiny flower molds for Christmas (and onion goggles, which totally rock...and work!). Actually, the pan is called a petit four pan, and that confused me a bit. You see, I always thought petits fours were tiny square layer cakes with icing -- as in, that's the only form they can come in and be called a petit four. Shockingly, I was wrong! Petits fours can be any small cake or confection. Now you know. Now I know. And on to the recipe...

This cake is an adaptation from the almond cake recipe that came on the the packaging of the petit four pan. I made the cake exactly as written, and it was great (most recipes on products' packaging are totally legit, 'cause they want you to have great success with their product) I'm more of a lemon girl than an almond girl, so just made some slight alterations to make the cake lemon. Great little cake, but, more importantly, they're cute! I'll try not to make all future cakes in the petit four pan to avoid cute overload.

If you don't have a petit four pan, just use a mini-muffin pan, and adjust cooking time as needed.Lemon Petit Fours
makes about 24

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1 lemon, zest only
3 egg whites
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a petit four pan.
  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar; stir in vanilla extract.
  • In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with the milk. Add lemon zest to mixture.
  • In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold egg whites into batter.
  • Fill molds 2/3 full, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Remove cakes from pan and let cool.
1/2 cup sugar
3 lemons, juice only
  • Put 1/2 cup sugar and juice of three lemons in a measuring cup, then add enough water to equal the 1 cup measure mark.
  • Bring sugar, water, and lemon juice to a boil in a small pot on the stove top. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until syrup has slightly thickened.
  • Let syrup cool.
  • Dip tops of cakes (or the whole thing) in syrup, and let cakes rest on a cooling rack to "drip dry" before serving.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Morinaga Shirakanba no Koeda

Koeda White Chocolate

I've been studying Japanese for a while, but it's always nice to learn something from candy. Looking at these, I had no idea what a 白樺 (shirakanba) was, and now I know it's a Japanese white birch. So, these could be called Morinaga White Birch Twigs.

In any case, these are a special version of Koeda chocolate for winter. The box claimed they were made cashew nuts and another mystery word: ラングドシャ (rangudosha). After some digging, I found out that it was French - Langues de Chat, which means cat tongues. Basically, they are crunchy, buttery cookies that are sort of shaped like a cat's tongue.

I don't think I've ever had to do so much research to understand a snack! It's too bad, too, because these just weren't that good. All that hype for some buttery white chocolate. The box had 12 packs with 4 sticks each, and I have only had 1 pack since I bought them a couple weeks ago.

The sticks were very rich, and the main flavors I picked out were butter and vanilla. I couldn't detect any cashew bits in these, and a little saltiness would have been nice. They were okay, but very rich; not something I'd want to eat a lot of. They were such a let down, because I really loved the matcha Koeda. At least I learned something.


Morinaga Website (Japanese)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Afternoon Tea At Hotel Du Pont

Not one to play with dolls or dream of ponies (seriously, girls, the horsey fantasies are sick), I preferred to play war games with my best boy buds and climb trees as a child. But despite being a tomboy, I did fancy breaking out the tea set every once in a while to serve my stuffed animals a proper, if but imaginary, afternoon tea.

If you were once a little girl (are there any boys out there who played tea?), you can live out your childhood right in downtown Wilmington in Hotel du Pont's Lobby Lounge. That's right! The stodgy and elegant, rich-grandparent-approved Hotel du Pont serves up afternoon tea and little girl fantasies on weekend afternoons. You don't even know how giddy I was to finally make a reservation for a proper afternoon tea and strike though an item that's been on my to-do list for years.

Afternoon tea with dainty tea sandwiches, scones, petit fours, and, lets not forget, tea is such a simple nicety that everyone - stuffed animals, little girls, women, old dames, and even boys and men - should take the time to enjoy it's frivolity.
We selected the cheapest ($18 per person) of the three tea services which include tea, tea sandwiches, scones, and petit fours. The two other services are identical to the service we chose, but include champagne and chambord (I believe priced at $23 and $28 per person).

After choosing one of a selection of loose leaf teas printed on the menu, a tea pot filled with tea leaves and hot water is brought to your table. You then place the strainer over the cup and pour yourself some tea. The very attentive servers will refill your tea pot as you drink it down.
There is no specifying of which tea sandwiches are brought to your table, but the servers kindly removed the chicken salad sandwich from our plates (tables of three or more have their tea sandwiches brought to the table on a tiered stand), and returned with a few repeats of tea sandwiches. On our plates were smoked salmon sandwiches, watercress and Boursin cheese sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, and roasted pepper sandwiches. Man, do I love tea sandwiches. So simple, yet so classy!After polishing off the teas sandwiches, a basket with two different scones arrived with a tee-tiny pot of strawberry preserves and a small plate of Devonshire clotted cream and lemon clotted cream. The larger dried apricot and walnut scone was sweeter than the small currant scone, and the clotted cream was an indulgence that I would never eat alone at home.

Believe it or not, at this point we were actually stuffed. Afternoon tea is quite filling, so big boys don't shy away if you think the servings are dainty. Finally, we got the tiered stand! Presentation is everything. Little cones filled with cream and topped with a blueberry, the tiniest madelines you've ever seen, lemon jam tarts topped with strawberry mousse, towers of chocolate and chocolate mousse, strawberry jam tarts topped with strawberry mousse, and chocolate dipped almond macaroons - we ate everything!

I then died and went to little girl heaven.

Best part - other than revisiting a childhood fantasy - was watching a darling little girl slathering gobs of preserves and cream on a scone while exclaiming to her grandmother,"I want to live here forrreeeever...because it's fancy." Me too, me too.


Afternoon tea is served on Saturday and Sunday at 3:00, 3:30, and 4:00 in the Lobby Lounge. This means you need a reservation, but I have no idea how anyone on the reservation list actually got their reservation. We called on three separate days at many different times of the day and could never get anyone to pick up the phone when we were redirected to wherever it is you're redirected to make reservations. We finally told the general operator our troubles, and the operator took down our info and promised to walk our reservation over. Someone dropped the ball somewhere, and when we arrived we did not have a table. But the excellent wait staff prepared us a table lickity-split. This frazzled the wait staff a little because they only prepare so many tables and make so many sandwiches, so any unexpected guests throw a cog in the wheel. Make a reservation, but good luck!

And I'm sure you've heard of the coats-required dress code of Hotel du Pont's more formal dining room, The Green Room. Tomboys and haters of formal wear will be glad to know that the Lobby Lounge only recommends business casual attire.

Afternoon Tea in the Lobby Lounge at Hotel du Pont
11th and Market Streets, Wilmington, DE, 19801
Sat. and Sun.: 3:00, 3:30, and 4:00 p.m.

reservation required
business casual attire

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yellow Lentil Soup: Boring Name, Exciting Flavors

It's still cold out there, huh? How 'bout some soup?

Posts and pictures of soup never get me giddy with excitement, jumping up to make them on the spot (I take that back; this one did), but I always wish the featured bowl of soup were sitting right in front of me -- kinda like soup on demand.

Ummm...this soup? I don't have much to say other than curry, coconut milk, and lime are some of my most favorite flavors, and they're all in here. And some lentils, of course. Also, make the soup thick and it's awesome spooned on top of rice. This soup makes me happy. I hope it does the same for you.

Yellow Lentil Soup
adapted from Food Network Canada
serves 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups yellow lentils, soaked overnight
1 can coconut milk
4 limes, (juice only)
2 small red chilies, finely chopped
6 cups vegetable broth (plus some to thin soup)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
limes and cilantro (garnish)
  • In a large pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook for about 3 minutes.
  • Add cumin, coriander, curry poder, turmeric, salt, pepper, and soaked lentils, and cook for 3 minutes
  • Add coconut milk, lime juice, red chilies, vegetable stock, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce heat.
  • Simmer for 1 to 2 hours, or until lentils are very soft.
  • Place half of soup in blender, and puree (or blend soup in pot with immersion blender). Add blended soup back into pot.
  • Adjust seasonings to taste, and add additional water or vegetable stock to thin soup if too thick.
  • Serve garnished with cilantro and a healthy squeeze of lime juice.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meiji Strawberry Yogurt Kinoko no Yama

Strawberry Yogurt Kinoko no Yama

The strawberry fest continues! This pack of Kinoko no Yama came from a variety pack along with a bag of plain, and bags of plain and strawberry Takenoko no Sato. The kinoko were cuter, so I chose to review them.

Strawberry isn't even one of my favorite flavors, but it's so readily available, seemingly year round. Pink chocolate sure makes for cute snacks, so as long as the flavor is good, I don't mind.

Strawberry Yogurt Kinoko no Yama

All of the flavors of Kinoko no Yama I've tried so far have been tasty. The texture balance is great, with the crunchy cracker and the smooth chocolate. The chocolate is a little on the sweet side, but the cracker helps to nullify some of that.

The strawberry flavor was light and fruity. I didn't really get the sense of yogurt from it, but I was pleased with the taste. Yet another good Kinoko no Yama flavor! The little bag only had about 6 pieces in it, if I remember correctly, and while that's excellent portion control, I wanted more!


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Meiji Fruity Strawberry Meltyblend

Strawberry Meltyblend

There is a whole lot of strawberry going on in this blog right now! I've got another strawberry candy reiview to add soon, too. But about this one...

Meiji's Meltyblend (also known as Meltykiss) is one of my favorite chocolates. Ever since a friend sent me some matcha Meltykiss a couple years ago, it's something I look forward to every year. I've reviewed a couple other kinds (Dark Rum and Matcha), so this is kind of a mini-review. Meltyblend is all about texture, and that really hasn't changed.

The most recent strawberry flavor is really delicious. It's melty, buttery chocolate with a nice strawberry taste. It reminded me of strawberry frosting, and was very tart and genuine. Also, I found 1-2 cubes to be quite satisfying. Yet another hit from Meiji.


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Olé Tapas Lounge

It's unfortunate to be a Spanish tapas restaurant within a fifty mile radius of Jose Garces' Amada and Tinto in Philadelphia. You are going to be measured by the high bar Garces has set, and, probably, not measure up. And that was the case with our first visit to Olé Tapas Lounge in Newark, DE.

It was probably a mistake to dine at Olé Tapas on Valentine's and being forced to order their prix fixe menu, but if their website or the person who took my reservation over the phone had mentioned the holiday menu, I probably would have saved Olé Tapas for some other evening.

I'm not fond of prix fixe menus because: 1) half of the time restaurants don't have vegetarian options (Olé Tapas was thoughtful enough to accommodate vegetarians); 2) vegetarians can always eat cheaper off the menu; and 3) you don't get to order the foods you like. But it was what it was, and our party of four settled. Plus, the seven courses with seven wine pairings for $70 per person was not that bad of a deal.

Olé Tapas sits in a strip mall between a Dunkin Donuts and a Jackson Hewitt. The interior with crescent booths, large round tables, and bar has a feel of new construction trying to be warm and cozy, but misses the cozy mark. Large tables sit as islands in the aisle between booths on the wall and the bar, making the dining experience not so intimate, and a TV above the bar tuned to sports seemed out of place in a restaurant that is obviously not a sports bar.

Things started off rough when our server appeared fifteen minutes after we sat down to apologize for not seeing us and bringing water. Didn't see us?

The night's menu was printed on cards, but the wine pairings and vegetarian options were not. So when our first course was dropped off without any description and the wine did not appear until five minutes later, also without an explanation, we all started thinking, "Um...hello!" It took a couple rounds of courses having to explicitly ask the server what we were being served and what the wine was (she could only point to the wines on the list) before she got into the groove of informing our party what we were eating. Our server was plenty nice, patient, and accommodating, so I'll have to blame the managers/owners for not training their servers how to present food and wine pairings.
Everyone at our table agreed that the pumpkin hummus was a winner with it's subtle pumpkin flavor and velvety texture. The flavors aren't huge with this humus, but are still delightful.
This peasant-type dish of garbanzos (the server called them lentils) with spinach and onions was the best dish of the evening, and, while I did not see this dish on their regular menu, it should be added to the menu (Update: it's on the menu as garbanzos con chistorra, but you'll have to request it be made without the sausage if you're veg.) The spices (my palate has been failing me lately on singling out spices) were complex and interesting.
The third course befuddled us all. Olé Tapas called this thick potato soup-like dish a potato omelette. I get that traditional Spanish tortillas are like omelettes with potatoes, but this was neither a tortilla nor an omelette. With a fried waffle-cut potato chip atop a thick potato slurry, this dish tasted like liquid sour cream and onion potato chips. Not a bad thing, just not an omelette.
This salad of greens, red onions, pickled grapes and a strong cheese (don't eat with a notebook, sorry) was interesting just because of the pickled grapes, which I enjoyed quite a bit, but another at our table was put off by the whole plate. To each his own, I guess.
A glass of Cava poured over strawberry sorbet and a strawberry seemed like a cop-out course and wine pairing, but was quite delightful. I would have preferred a glass of Cava unmuddied by sorbet alongside a cup of sorbet unmuddied by Cava. And to each his own, again!
The main course of mushroom and goat cheese tart with accompanying onions, pumpkin, peppers and beets was quite large and filling. The tart filling was musty and mushroomy good, but the tart shell itself was flavorless and lacking the elusive flakiness. The vegetables were mushy and lacking interesting spices – kinda like baby food.
The study of chocolate dessert course was hit or miss. The white chocolate ice cream with raspberry swirl tasted great, but was already ice cream soup when it landed on our table. The chocolate tart with toasted almonds was flavorless and lacking intensity. The truffles rolled in cocoa, on the other hand, were quite intense and satisfied the chocolate craving that the tart could not.

I can't say we had anything unpleasant at Olé Tapas, but, other than the garbanzo and spinach plate, there was nothing that excited me or made me want to return and order it again. Unfortunately, Olé Tapas is missing the intense flavors and brilliant combinations that Garces delivers just 40 miles down the road.

I will say that in comparison to Delaware's other Spanish tapas restaurant, Orillas in downtown Wilmington, Olé Tapas has a wider selection of vegetarian dishes and cheaper prices. And if you eat at the bar on weekdays during happy hour, you can't beat Olé's half-price tapas. And on weekends, Olé has half-price wine bottles. (Update: just check their website for specials; they apparently change.) Orillas in downtown Wilmington wins on atmosphere, though, with their tighter more intimate quarters in an older building with exposed brick walls. Either way, Delawareans, you at least have a couple decent Spanish tapas options if you're just too pooped to drive into Philly.

Olé Tapas Lounge
1126 Capitol Trail (Kirkwood Hwy), Newark, DE 19711
Mon.-Thurs., 11:45am-9pm; Fri., 11:45am-11pm; Sat., 4pm-11pm; Sun., 4pm-9pm

Friday, February 13, 2009

Signs: Awesome

This sign resides just outside the quaint and beautiful downtown of Aiken, SC. Um, yeah, I had to snap a pic. And cursed if "off da chain" is not back in my lexicon!Besides snickering, this sign got me thinking about the naming of restaurants. I'm actually fond of this more descriptive moniker than, say, some of the one-word descriptors that merely allude to the food and drink being served, or, worse, just sound pretentious.

Ansill, Supper, Bindi, Kanella, Xochitl, Tinto, Fork, James, Meme? Tell me what you really serve. For instance, Monk could be more accurately named More Beer Than You Can Shake A Stick At. Amada could be renamed Tapas So Good You'll Stain Your Drawers. And Moaz should be called Bangin' Euro Fast Food Falafel. Just a thought.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hershey Kisses Strawberry Creme and Cheesecake

Cute Kisses

My friends at work and I really like trying new Hershey Kisses, so when one of my friends found these at Wal-Mart and brought them in, it was an exciting day. I'm not sure if these flavors are new this year, but they are new and exciting to me! Plus, the wrappers are really cute, which is a big selling point!

When I complain about the lack of limited edition candy flavors in the United States, I always forget about the Hershey Kiss. They aren't my favorite chocolates, but they certainly keep things interesting!

Strawberry Creme Hershey Kiss

This might just be the cutest foil wrapper in existence! Perfect for Valentine's Day (and for my heart-shaped candy dish), the Strawberry Creme kisses have a very strong strawberry scent. The creme in the center, while not the most authentic strawberry, is pretty good. They taste a little yogurty, and the chocolate/strawberry balance is pretty good! I liked these a lot. B+

Cheesecake Hershey Kiss

The Cheesecake Kisses also have a cute, classy wrapper. The Kiss itself smelled buttery and had a very mild cheesecake flavor. It didn't have the slightly sour, almost-lemony bite I associate with cheesecake. Instead, it mostly tasted of sweet cream cheese. This wasn't a bad thing for me since I'm not a big fan of the bite. B

Whenever I think about all the KitKat flavors in Japan that I miss out on, it helps me to remember that I do get to try lots of different Hershey Kisses.

Hershey's Website

Berry Blast Mike and Ike

Mike and Ike Berry Blast

The last kind of Mike and Ikes in my trio of reviews was sadly the worst. I am a big fan of real berries, but these were very disappointing. The back of the box claims that they are "bursting with fruit juice flavor!" That means exactly what it says - the flavor of fruit juice.

Once again, there are five flavors, and I'll take a look at them individually. I tried one of each to see without looking at the box to see if I could guess the flavors, but the only one I got was strawberry.

Berry Mike and Ike

Blue Berry is noticeably not "blueberry" and it fits, because it doesn't taste like blueberries. It reminds me of a Dum Dum flavor, I'm just not sure which one.

Wild Berry doesn't really mean much to me, either. This one is green, and doesn't really taste like a berry. It's just vaguely fruit punchy.

Strawberry is very Chupa Chups strawberry - if you've ever had one of those suckers, you'll know what I mean. It tastes like how a strawberry car air freshener smells.

Mixed Berry is pretty forgettable. It's certainly not bursting with flavor and it's just vaguely berry.

Red Raspberry doesn't really taste like raspberries, either. It's missing the tangy flavor that I love in raspberries and it just tastes sweet.

So, these were pretty disappointing and forgettable. At least my curiosity about the various flavors of Mike and Ike is somewhat satisfied. I heard the Tangy Twister kind is good...


Just Born website

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Coconut Truffles

Last year I made truffles for a birthday gift in February, and inadvertently posted them right before Valentine's Day. This year, I made truffles at Christmas, but am purposely posting the recipe before Valentine's. So...I guess what I'm saying is you can't go wrong with making truffles for any occasion, at any time of the year, and Valentine's is perfectly fitting.

What's to love about these truffles? They are beyond easy to make, since we're not fooling around with tempering chocolate for an outer coating. And, I swear, if I didn't tell you, you'd never guess that these truffles are vegan.

I had such great results subbing coconut milk for heavy cream when making chocolate coconut ice cream last year, I thought why not sub coconut milk for heavy cream in truffles? Coconut milk and heavy cream are both rich with fats. Results: awesome!

So easy. This is all you do:Pour warm coconut milk over chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Stir chocolate and coconut milk until chocolate pieces are completely melted, and coconut milk and chocolate are incorporated. Chill in fridge until cooled.
Scrape up about 1 tablespoon's worth of ganache, and form into a rough ball.

Roll ball around palm of hands to make more uniform. Your hot little hands will melt the surface of the ganache balls, but that's OK.
So the coconut flakes don't get dirty with chocolate from your truffle-rolling hands, if you have a friend, let them roll the still warm-surfaced truffles in a dish of coconut flakes as soon as you make them. If alone (like I was), you're gonna have to work harder to get the flakes to stick to the now cooled truffles by pressing stubborn coconut flakes onto the truffle.

Simple, no?

Coconut Truffles
makes about 35 truffles

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup coconut milk (not lite)
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes (toasted, if desired)

  • Scald coconut milk in a small saucepan on the stove.
  • In a small bowl, add hot coconut milk to chopped chocolate, and stir until chocolate is melted and thoroughly incorporated.
  • Store chocolate ganache in refrigerator until chilled (1-2 hours).
  • Scoop out about 1 tablespoon of chilled chocolate ganache, and, with your hands, roll into balls. Place balls on parchment or waxed paper.
  • Roll ganache balls in a bowl of coconut flakes, pressing flakes into the surface of the balls.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mike and Ike Italian Ice


I suppose this is part two of my three part Mike and Ike review series. Here we have Mike and Ike Italian Ice flavors, which have been out for a while and have been reviewed by many other people. I might as well toss my two cents in.

Italian ice isn't really something I have a lot, and it's not really something I think of as strong enough to have it's own variety of spinoff candy, but I do give them credit for being creative. There were five flavors in the box: cherry, blue raspberry, watermelon, orange, and lemon.


Orange had a good tangy outer shell, but the inside was really sweet and not orangey enough. It reminded me of watered down sherbet. Probably my favorite.

Cherry reminded me of Kool Aid, but it was pretty blah and I don't have much to say about it.

Blue raspberry definitely tasted blue and reminded me of a slushy. I didn't really get any raspberry notes from it though. Just blue.

Watermelon didn't taste like watermelon at all to me. I thought it was an overly sweet green apple before I looked at the box.

Lemon was okay, but not tangy enough, and was a little bit like a floor cleaner.

Overall, these weren't very impressive. I did like that they tasted like slushies, but maybe if I had Italian ice more often, I would better be able to compare them to the real thing.


Just Born website

Mike and Ike Lemonade Blends


I'm not sure why, but I never used to like Mike and Ike, despite my love of fruity candy. I preferred Skittles. Somewhere along the line when I was an adult, Zours came out and I loved those, so when I saw Mike and Ike Lemonade Blends at a drugstore last weekend, I thought they might be worth a try.

The box includes five flavors: lime lemonade, strawberry lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and tangerine lemonade. I don't know if all boxes are like this, but mine seemed like it was about 50% plain lemonade, the other half being a pretty even mixture of the other four flavors. Here's a quick rundown of how each flavor tasted.

Five Flavors

Lemonade was not too sour, but a nice mix of sweet and sour with a nice lemony touch. It didn't taste like a cleaning product, which is always a risk with lemon-flavored candy.

Lime Lemonade was very similar to Lemonade, but with a hint of lime. Again, it had a nice sweet/sour balance. I think it's the sour coating, which seemed a little different from regular Mike and Ikes in that it actually offset the sweetness of the jelly center.

Tangerine Lemonade wasn't very tangy, but it was okay. The flavor wasn't very strong, so I assume that they were aiming for orange but fell short and called it tangerine instead.

Strawberry Lemonade reminded me of PEZ, but was pretty good. It tasted like a tangy fruit snack. This one was probably my favorite of the bunch.

Raspberry Lemonade tasted a little artificial, as raspberry candy often does. It wasn't bad, but the flavor wasn't true to raspberries.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with this mix of Mike and Ikes. The slight sourness was nice. I don't know that I would buy these again, though, because there are many candies I'd rather eat. They were fun to try, though!


Just Born website

Monday, February 9, 2009

Belize: Pt. 2

Welcome to the island of Caye Caulker off the coast of Belize! Caye Caulker is tiny, about five miles long and one mile wide at it's widest, but most of that is uninhabitable. The main part of the island, where all the action is, is just three streets wide and a dozen or so blocks long. Feet, bikes, and golf carts will get you any where you want to go. The golf carts seem silly, the island's so small, but I guess they come in handy at some point. And, I wanted to rent a bike, but that seemed silly, as well. I could never lazily pedal a bike, and if I did, it would still only take five minutes to cover all of the island.

Caye Caulker is supposed to be the "backpacker's" island, or the less touristy island, compared to the much larger and commercial Ambergris Caye directly to the north. I wouldn't know; we had no desire to check Ambergris Caye out. The only somewhat downer about Caye Caulker is that there aren't any beaches to lounge on and swim off of. You've got to go off a pier (most are private) or go up to "the split" on the north end to swim.

Not surprisingly, food on the island is seafood-centric, and you'd have to be a fool (hi!) to not eat seafood while you're there. While there was always a veggie option or two at every place, it was usually rice and beans with a side of coleslaw or veggies. I'll spare you pics of most of my meals, 'cause we all know what that stuff looks and tastes like.For our first eats on the island, the vegetarian won and the pescatarian lost. There are lots of veggie options at the Bamboo Bar, and I went with the veggie pocket, thinking it would be like a pita. But what came out was a large fried bread thingy folded over warm, sauteed cucumbers, cauliflower, tomato, carrots, peppers and onions in a "Belizean sauce" that didn't taste like much, but the whole thing was great. The side of beans was somehow phenomenal, but when I asked for what spices were used, all I got was onions and garlic, but I know there was something else in there. And, no, it wasn't bacon! The boy had a grilled snapper sandwich with mango and lime sauce. He was thinking mango chunks with lime juice, so was disappointed by an overly sweet sauce on his, otherwise, fine fish.Stopped in Jan's Place for something sweet, and fruity pastry was on my mind. I chose a slice of peach cobbler. Peach? Yeah, I was thinking tropical fruits, too, but it was peach or cherry to choose from, and I don't think either were grown in the area. Peach cobbler did the trick, though.After walking the entire strip to see what was offered at the many restaurants with grills out front, to the side, and around the back grilling up the catch of the day, we settled on the Tropical Paradise restaurant for their grilled barracuda steaks (I had rice and beans). The boy had never had barracuda, and I think he's in love now. Very firm texture and not overly fishy. He gave Tropical Paradise a thumbs up.
We only went out to sea two days, partly because we wanted to just chill, and partly because the dive trips the boy really wanted to do (I only snorkel), did not sync up with our stay. We both went snorkeling with Ragamuffin Tours on one of their sail boats. I saw fishes, of course, but also saw rays, nurse sharks, and a sea turtle. The sea turtle was such a graceful swimmer, and so amazing to observe. No pictures, but the vegetarian won the lunch battle on the Ragamuffin Tour. I got a huge plate of rice and beans, coleslaw, and potato salad while everyone else got a small chicken or fish sandwich. They also cut up fruit, made shrimp ceviche, and poured rum punch on the way back in.

I went snorkeling on one of the boy's dives another day, but it wasn't that great. Gotta snorkel on snorkel trips and not the dive trips that have just OK snorkeling. Plus sail boat are so much cooler than speed boats that take you out to the dive spots.Take your rum punch party to the north end of the island, called "the split," where Hurricane Hattie split the island in two in 1961. There's a narrow channel where boats pass and people swim. There's also the Lazy Lizard with a cheap 2-for-1 happy hour and a roof deck that's great for watching the sun set.And God bless the CakeMan! At sundown he makes his way to the Lazy Lizard with a basket of freshly made cakes. I got the key lime cake. Tart, key lime curd slices through a super moist and almost whole-wheat-healthy, but not too whole-wheat-healthy, tasting cake. There's also a convenience store on the main road that sells the cakes. Just look for a small sign hanging above your head that says CakeMan.Know what I like even better than cake? Kitties! This kitty had a donation jar to help feed him. Caye Caulker had a lot less stray animals, dogs in particular, than the main land. It was nice to see most people had a leash or collar for their animals. Know what I hate, hate, hate? Beer. But the boy and almost everyone on the planet loves it! Belikin is the beer of Belize. The boy tells me it tastes like Coors, but not as bad as Coors. They also have a stout, which he says is much better.

Marie Sharp's habanero sauce is the condiment of choice in Belize. Remo, that crazy New Jerseyan back in Bullet Tree Falls, gave me a great tip for getting Marie Sharp's on the cheap stateside. Just look for your generic grocery store brand, and if it says "made in Belize" in small print, it's Marie Sharp's.Fran's Grill is on the main street with two large picnic tables and a small grill out front of a small building. Fran's was packed the night before, so we decided to give her cheaper grilled seafood a try. The boy got a lobster, but you get what you pay for, and the lobster was much smaller than other lobsters around town. You get free rum punch and free dessert, though. Rum punch? Check. Oreo cheese cake? Nothing like cheesecake at all.Left: Caye Caulker Bakery. Right: Glenda's

I put a couple of well known cinnamon rolls to the test. Caye Caulker Bakery on the middle road has a sign out front saying that they're famous for their cinnamon rolls. Glenda's on the back road has kudos from guide books. Caye Caulker Bakery won with their large, soft cinnamon rolls, compared to Glenda's small, odd-tasting (plastic?) cinnamon rolls. Glenda's are way cheaper, though, at something like 25 cents each. Neither were to die for.Lots of restaurants have grills out front and a table displaying the catch of the day. You point to what you want before you enter the restaurant, smaller specimens being cheaper than larger, and they grill it up for you. This table was outside Rose's, and the boy thoroughly enjoyed his whole, grilled snapper with a side of rice and beans and veggies.
An American dude sells these shrimp sticks (5 or so different sauces) off his tiny grill under some palm trees near the north end of the island, and they are good!Rainbow Grill sits right on the water and has a large deck facing the ocean. We went there for lunch to get out of the sun and... to eat! Had to try conch (essentially, a large snail) while we were there. The boy had a grilled conch burger. Conch is very chewy and rubbery. He is not in love with conch. Above right is a sampler plate of fried seafood: conch, shrimp, fish, and lobster. Fried bits of seafood!
And this is what happens to all the conch shells after the animals have been ripped out. They're piled up along the shore on the back of the island. If this pile of conch shells were on the beaches of Delaware or the New Jersey shore, stumbling on this would be like finding gold! Locals do make jewelry and trinkets out of them, though.Top row: Spring rolls; roasted veggies is cheese sauce. Bottom row: Coconut-crusted snapper; key lime pie.

While most of our meals on vacation cannot be compared to fine dining stateside - you cut restaurants in small, developing countries slack - I'm not going to cut Habanero's any slack.

Habanero's is the fanciest restaurant on the Island, and many claim it's better than the fanciest on the larger Ambergris Caye. Habenoro's doesn't just serve up basic seafood like most every joint on the island, but puts an international flair to most of their dishes. You know...fancy! Habanero's was the biggest disappointment.

The Asian spring rolls with bland filling was the loosest, sloppiest rolled spring rolls I've ever had. The dipping sauce, which, at first, I though was watered down soy sauce, didn't even taste like soy sauce. I can only describe it as brown water. We ate the two rolls, then talked about how we should have sent that dish back.

Oh, and there are sticks of bread on every dish that are dry and unpleasant.

Oh, oh, oh! I almost forgot! Topping the spring rolls (and all the other savory dishes) were strips of onion that were pickled in what tasted unmistakeably like cherry Kool-Aid! I kid you not. Kool-Aid pickles are gross, and so are Kool-Aid onions.

My dish of roasted veggies in herbed cream cheese (not many veggie dishes, so I had to go with it), was odd. After I swallowed, a smell/taste went up by nasal passages that reminded me of the same smell/taste after one vomits. I sent this dish back.

The boy's coconut-crusted snapper dish was fine, but he thought his side of potatoes and vegetables tasted sour. After my dish, I thought his side tasted wonderful!

I will commend the server for being very apologetic and understanding, not charging us for the dish we sent back, and offering us free dessert. The key lime pie with vanilla frozen yogurt was excellent!Just to remind you how easy it is to eat vegetarian in Belize, the rinky-dink airport in Belize City has a veggie burger. Sure, the chick pea patty didn't taste like anything, but it's something!

I'd go back to Belize in a heart beat. I loved it.

If you have any specific questions about transport, tours, logistics, etc., I'd be happy to try to answer them.
Check out our first leg of the trip on the mainland, too.