Friday, July 31, 2009

Nestle KitKat Mango Pudding

Mango Purin KitKat

At a grocery store in Kyoto, I bought what I thought would be a bag of mango pudding KitKats, but I forgot to read the front. If I had, then I would have known that this bag was half regular chocolate, half mango. It was kind of a let down when I got home.

But in any case, this KitKat has been reviewed a few different places (Japanese Snack Reviews and Jen's KitKat Blog, for example), but I thought I might as well throw my opinion into the pile as well.

Mango Purin KitKat

The KitKat has a strong mango smell and it reminded me of mango sherbet. The flavor was very bold and fruity, and definitely mango. It was sour and tart, but it still went pretty well with the white chocolate.

It was different from other KitKats I have tried in the past, and definitely one of the best fruity KitKats I've ever tried. It was very sweet, but I am a big fan of mango, and the flavor was fairly authentic overall (for a KitKat).


KitKat website

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Tirol

These summer Tirol chocolates came in a fancy cup, and I bought them in a grocery store for about 300 yen. There were 12 designs (one for each Zodiac sign), but only 3 flavors: acerola, lemon, and coconut.

I love the pastel metallic colors, and even though I'm not into astrology, the package designs were pretty neat. Also, there were a lot of chocolates in this. Eating the whole cup would set you back about 1000 calories. On their own, they are about 30 calories each.

Summer Tirol

Coconut was half white and half milk chocolate. It smelled like coconut, but a little bit too much like sunscreen. Thankfully, it didn't taste like sunscreen, but the coconut flavor was very mild. Actually, I wished that the coconut flavor was stronger. It had a biscuit center, adding a nice texture. B

Acerola (cherry) was my favorite of the flavors. It smelled very fruity, and had a bright, strong cherry Starburst-like flavor. The white chocolate was light and smooth and didn't get in the way of the delicious, tart cherry gummy center. The gummy texture was sticky and chewy like a fruit gem. A+

Lemon smelled a little bit like cleaner, but tasted good. It reminded me of a lemon bar, because the chocolate was buttery and the gummy center was sour. The gummy had the same texture as the acerola. My sister didn't like the combination, but my husband and I did. B+

The lemon and acerola were nice and bold, so the coconut was disappointing by comparison. Overall, though, this was a nice variety pack, and there was something for everyone.

Tirol Chocolate website

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

BlissCandies Caramels

I got a selection of homemade caramels today from BlissCandies. One thing that I adore about her items is the way they're packaged. She puts things in these little baggies that are sealed, they look factory done, but are better because they're homemade, and then into a perfect little box. It just looks extremely professional, and I love it.

The first caramel I was sent was a traditional vanilla caramel, and even as I was opening the wax paper wrapper, I could smell a strong vanilla scent coming from the package.

The traditional vanilla caramel starts out plain, with just a buttery and sugary taste, but finishes off with a fantastic vanilla-y-, vanilla bean aroma and taste that literally dominates your senses. This is not the caramel you find in Grandma's candy bowl. It's soft, chewy, and creamy, with just a bit of roughness in the texture.

6/10- TASTY
This next caramel has a funny little story to it. The spicy ginger caramels, it was funny. When I got the request from BlissCandies to try her caramels, I immediately thought, wouldn't a ginger caramel be nice, and didn't tell her.

Proof, of course, that the reviewer and chef can read minds. ;)

Ooooh. This really was a spicy caramel. But the spiciness didn't linger and burn my throat. The ginger flavor was a little more mild than I would have liked, but was still very tasty, like a ginger snap cookie. I liked the kick of spice and think that this flavor works well with the candy.

6/10- YUMMY
The next flavor was vanilla hazelnut. I had high hopes for this candy, as it smelled very nutty and boasted a nice brown color. The flavor was more vanilla than hazelnut, but there was still a very buttery flavor to it, and it tasted like a nice coffee.

This flavor was very fascinating, as I'd never seen a caramel like it before. I was sent an orange creamsicle caramel. The color is a bright orange, one that I can only attribute to the orange flavor, and the flavor was sublime. It was caramely, malty, creamy, and orangy all at once, and was overall, a real winner in the flavor department. The texture was a lot smoother than the other caramels, and like ginger, the orange works well with the caramel and creates a pair where neither flavor dominates.

8/10- LOVELY
The last caramel was a sea salt caramel, a flavor I'd really been dying to try. For some reason, it was much harder than the other caramels, or maybe my jaw was just tired from eating the rest! The sea salt hit my tongue as soon as I ate it, and it was really salty, but dissolved into the traditional and delicious caramel that I know and love. A winner.

7/10- MMMMM


Chilean Sweets

Here it is, the cookie that might very well rival the Clairesquare.

I was sent two famous items from the Chilean Sweets company, out of Maine, two traditional Latin American desserts: Dulce de leche and alfajores.

Dulce de leche is that caramel sauce we all know and love. It's paired excellently with pancakes, ice cream, and, in the case of the alfajores, cookies, but like Nutella, I ate this out of the jaw in spoonfuls. It's an achingly sweet caramel, almost a large, soft caramel candy than a sauce, with creamy undertones from its milk base.

I made pancakes with these this morning, using the sauce in two different ways. I incorporated the sauce into the pancake batter, as a starter, and then used it as a topper. It was definitely superior as an addition to the batter, but melted nicely on top. In the batter, it caramelized the outside of my pancakes and gave them this complex, buttery, salty flavor that made them perfect without needing any topping at all. They were moister and still maintained a dignified fluffiness.

This particular sauce is so deliciously authentic. It's a wonderful addition to any dessert, and perhaps a few savory dishes, too. I'm definitely going to use this in a baking project, as it is too good and rich to pass up.

9/10- LOVELY

The real treat in this selection were the alfajores, though. Alfajores, or the singular, alfajor, is a traditional cookie made with two graham or shortbread-like cookies, sandwiched with dulce de leche in the middle, and coated with chocolate or coconut.

These particular alfajores broke my Chilean cherry into the most indulgent and incredible cookies. They were wrapped like those little soaps you get at hotels, in dark green paper, and when I got them, were almost completely melted, but with the richness of the chocolate, peeled off the paper incredibly and just collapsed in my mouth.

Quite simply, they're one of the most amazing treats.

The cookie base is soft, but holds up to itself, like a graham, as it's eaten. The chocolate keeps it firm and inside, just before it completely collapses in on itself. The dulche in the middle is perfect, and regardless of the temperature, the cookie melts in your mouth.

The chocolate on the outside is a fine chocolate, that coats the cookie entirely, not a bare spot to be found, and encases it entirely. The dessert is rich and large and can easily be split with two people.

10/10- AMAZING

Chilean Sweets

Wow, two tens in two days. Send me crap, people. I have to keep up my image, here.

Teri's: Day & Night

While I've walked past Teri's, the Italian Market diner just south of Washington St., a million times, it wasn't until word got around that Teri's pulled out the linens and candles at night to become a fine dining BYOB destination that I actually took notice.
During the daytime, Teri's serves a very reasonably priced breakfast and lunch (nothing over $8.50). Go on a weekend, like we did, and you can call it brunch!

Inside you'll find a long, narrow diner with aqua booths and green walls, and an open kitchen. Very casual; very diner-ish.

On the menu: eggs, omelettes, pancakes, french toast, sausage, and other breakfast standards; plus burgers, crab cakes, pulled pork sandwiches, and spare ribs.
I went with the French toast with sauteed bananas and cashews (pecans were what actually arrived). I was immediately transported back to Mom's French toast on Saturday mornings, and this is a good thing.

The banana French toast at $6 is Teri's fancy French toast, and it's a more reasonable and sane breakfast than some of the massive dessert-like French toasts out there. But, you know, I think I'll hit up the $3.75 plain ol' French toast next time, 'cause Mom didn't do bananas or nuts.

Oh, and I'll hit up the roasted corn pancakes with chive butter (minus side of glazed ham) next time, too. Knew about these beauties from watching this video, but spaced it when ordering.
My partner had the three egg cheese omelette with spinach, side of home fries, and toast. This omelette was large, perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and stuffed generously, but not overstuffed, with perfectly garlicky sauteed spinach. I'm not an omelette person (too much egg), but this was one of the better omelettes I've tasted.

Home fries are thinly sliced potatoes that are of the kind not cooked to a crisp, and are also perfectly seasoned. I know there are crispy and non-crispy camps when it comes to home fries, but even crispy-boy got behind these taters!
Interested in what goes on in Teri's at night, we hit it up again, this time bringing a bottle of wine to take advantage of their BYOB/no-corkage-fee policy. Teri's also offers a $30, three-course, prix fixe deal in the evening.
Ooh, table cloths and candles are laid out, the server is dressed all in black, and jazz is playing in an attempt to make the diner classy!

No, you won't confuse Teri's at night with other fine dining establishments, but the combo of diner kitch and linen class is so charming and honest, it feels like home -- or your friend trying to spiff up his apartment for that special dinner. So cute!

Our server at night, John, was the same server we had during the day, and whether he's wearing jeans and a t-shirt for the day shift, or all black for the night shift, he is the perfectly attentive and appointed server.
Warm, toasted Italian bread with sesame seeds accompanied by butter was complimentary.We started with eggplant rolatini, an off-the-menu appetizer special of baked, sliced eggplant rolled around herbed Ricotta, topped with melted Mozarella, tomato sauce, and basil chiffonade. With the first bite of this dish, I knew the rest of the night was going to be good. I breathlessly exclaimed, "Excellent," when our server asked how everything was, and I never say that.

Eggplant is a difficult vegetable to prepare because of it's potential bitterness, but the thinly sliced eggplant had no bitterness. And the scant tomato sauce was in perfect proportion, avoiding drowning the delicate eggplant rolls.

Seriously, these eggplant rolatini might be one of the best Italian dishes I've eaten in a long time.
The boy went with the tilefish with white beans and sauteed spinach. Again, everything was perfectly seasoned.
I was happy to see the butternut squash ravioli came with roasted corn and an herbed cream sauce instead of the greasy, butter sage sauce that usually accompanies butternut squash ravioli. At first, it was a little weird biting into chewy, roasted corn kernels with a forkful of ravioli, but it was a happy marriage. The butternut squash filling was sweet and plentiful inside the large pasta pockets.

Service was perfect at Teri's. No rushing from our server, comfortable breaks between courses, and the food was pipin' hot out of the kitchen. We were genuinely encouraged to stay and finish our bottle of wine after the check arrived, and the chef even thanked us on the way out.

Because of the quality of the food (grub's great), more than reasonable prices (a bargain), excellent service (John is awesome), and honest atmosphere (no salvaged European fixtures, or saucy plate flourishes), I don't think I've had a more pleasant dining experience in a long time. I cannot recommend Teri's enough, for brunch or for dinner.

But what worries me is that we were one of only two tables dining in during our brunch visit, and during our dinner visit. Show Teri's some love and get on down there. Don't sleep on this gem!

1127 S. 9th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147

Breakfast/Lunch: 7am-3pm, 7 days a week
Fine Dining: 5pm-9:30pm, Wed-Sun


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tirol Choco Crunch (Namco Edition)


My husband and I both like video games a lot, so when we were in Japan, we spent some time (and money) in arcades. In particular, we played a lot of UFO Catchers (also known as crane games), where players can win toys, candy, or pretty much anything (I've seen lobsters and Kobe beef).

These machines really aren't ever a good value. Maybe I'm just not skilled enough, but I'm fairly convinced they are rigged, or at least very hard to win. Usually, by the time I won something, I've spent more money trying to get it than the prize was actually worth. Amazingly, my husband won these Tirol chocolates on his first try, so it was just 100 yen. I won't mention how much we spent trying to win other things, but let's just say the house won.


The special Namco Pac-man box alone was pretty neat, as were the wrappers. Even though there were 6 package designs, they were all the same flavor: Choco Crunch. They were similar to the White & Cookie Crunch, but with milk chocolate instead of white.

Tirol Cookie Crunch

The chocolate smelled very rich and a little bitter, which was fine by me. They were a very pleasant sweetness with a nice cookie texture. The overall chocolate flavor was mild, with a bit of bitterness from the darker chocolate cookie bits. I enjoyed these as much, if not a little more than their white chocolate siblings.


Tirol Chocolate website

Necco Twilight Candy Hearts

I bought these on a whim with some of the best people in the world. How could we pass these up?

Necco made these for the Twilight craze. It was probably the best purchase I've ever made. These were fucking hilarious. I mean, first, you have flavor names like Passion Fruit, Tempting Apple, Orange Obsession and Secret Strawberry. Then there's the "from and to" header on the box so your own Edward Cullen can GIVE YOO HIS CANDEE HRTS OMGWTFBBW XOXOXOXOX"

I'm totally aware that says big, black woman and not barbecue.

There are the hearts. They come in a hard-to-open, vampire-piercing proof plastic bag, roughly 3/4 full. They're just like conversation hearts, except they say enigmatic and occasionally worrisome phrases like "Bite Me," "Live forever," and "Forks."

The flavors are pretty odious, but addictive. It's like eating stale bubblegum. All the flavors tasted the same, varying in acidity and color, and the texture wasn't like conversation hearts at all. Where the hearts are chalky and hard, these were chalky and chewy. Either they were left outside all night in a vampiric rainstorm, or the vampire glitter powder emulsifies them. Regardless of the cause, these are awful.

And yet, like the fangirl to Edward Cullen's tired penis, I just can't stop eating them.

Necco Twilight Candy Hearts: My brand of crappy, sparkly heroin.

1/10- HORRID

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tirol Mitarashi Dango

Sorry for the recent lack of updates, but I've been on vacation in Japan. So, as a result, I have a lot of candy to review! I was able to find a ton of Tirol chocolate, so I'll start with the Mitarashi Dango deluxe Tirol. It cost about 20 yen at a convenience store.

Mitarashi Dango are made with syrup from soy sauce, sugar, and starch. I ate some at the Mitarashi Festival in Kyoto during this trip, and they were quite tasty, especially washed down with blessed spring water from Shimogamo Shrine.

Mitarashi Dango Tirol

The treat smelled like rich, slightly toasted white chocolate, and inside, there was some of the mitarashi syrup over a mochi gummy center. The mochi itself doesn't have much of a taste, but the syrup was tasty, with a slightly bitter flavor.

It definitely wasn't as good as the real thing, and the sweetness of the white chocolate was a little much. It wasn't too sweet, but having tried it after trying the real thing, I thought the syrup went better with mochi than with chocolate.


Tirol Chocolate website


Here's a homemade treat sent to me from an independent baker, Claire Keane.

She makes treats that are similar to traditional Irish recipes, like Marathon Squares from the UK, and more. The treat I tried was her signature confection, the Clairesquare.

The Clairesquare resembles, in ingredients, a Marathon Bar, with a layer of shortbread, a layer of caramel, and a top layer of chocolate. But Claire took the popular candy and gave it steroids, turning it into something downright obscene and incredible.

This post is dedicated to my dad. I told him I'd share. I didn't. I ate all three of these monsters in one sitting. It was pretty pathetic. But these cookies were not.

The shortbread layer was buttery without being greasy, and crumbled in my mouth, not in my hands. It was crispy and dense and flaky all at once. The caramel was definitely my favorite part, though. I had never tried a homemade caramel before, and this was an eye-opening experience for me. It was buttery, creamy, rich, and I'd have spooned it out of a jar, into my mouth, all on its own. The saltiness perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the chocolate, the final addition to this triple threat of a baked good.

The chocolate was a ganache-like dark, with a woodsy, smokey taste to it that blended with the caramel perfectly. It was a little soft and gooey with the caramel, which was perfect, but together, with the dryness of the shortbread, it created this delicious amalgam of flavors in my mouth.

Claire Keane, Clairesquares


Buttercream Cupcake Truck

I was eagerly peering into Jefferson Square park this past Saturday, waiting for Kate Carrara and her Buttercream cupcake truck to appear at the Cupcake Bandit Film Festival. Once spotted, I was there with wallet in hand.

Kate, or 'the cupcake lady', is just as cute and friendly as could be! At this event, she was selling mini, regular, and jumbo cupcakes that she bakes at the Philly Kitchen Share kitchen and sells out of her roaming, cupcake-styled, remodeled mail truck.I grabbed two regular cupcakes ($2 ea): vanilla with chocolate frosting, and chocolate with peanut butter frosting. The cupcakes are made from scratch, but Kate has mastered the formula for baking up cakes with a moist, light, fluffy texture reminiscent of box mixes (admit it, you love cake from mixes). The chocolate frosting was the smoothest frosting I've ever had, and the peanut butter frosting was light and airy.

Fond memories of childhood bake sales (when parents actually made goodies, instead of picking up from the grocery bakery) danced in my head as I gobbled up the Buttercream cupcakes.Be on the lookout for the cupcake truck around town and at events. Location and cupcake updates are tweeted at @buttercreamphl. The Buttercream truck is your new bff!

Buttercream Truck
Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thai Fanta

Another trek to an Asian grocery, one that's a little closer, brought this delightful...thing.

Swagger and I found this while stopping for a cool drink on a muggy day. There were a few flavors there, the standard orange and strawberry, but this looked intriguing. It was the only flavor where no english was present, so I was excited to have a drink.

The package was bright and green and featured many photos of tropical fruits, leading me to believe that maybe this was a tropical fruit, maybe a punch flavor. WRONG. When I opened the can- and it has that special can shape, that slightly more triangular shape of opening. Do you know what I mean? That one.

Well, when I opened the can, I was hit with a strong flavor of bubble gum. Strange. And when I tasted it, that was all I tasted. Bubble gum. It was as though someone had taken eighty five Bazooka Joes, thrown out the comics, and melted them down to make this soda. It was the same green color as the can, oddly enough, and threw me off for the flavor.

There might have been hints of tropical fruit flavor, but there's a chance I'm making that up because I'm confused.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

AC Food & Wine Fest Winners Announced

My lovely assistant, the random number generator, spit out the following five numbers:

8, 16, 18, 20, and 28

Come on down, Amy Williams (8), Alissa (16), Apples and Cheese Please (18), Alyssa (20), and Devon (28).

If Blogger had numbers next to comments this would have been so much easier, but, rest assured, I quadruple checked, and then had another person check to make sure each person's name and entry (first commenter = #1, etc.) matched with the randomly generated numbers.

Winners, please be sure to contact me in a speedy fashion (show's next weekend!) at (at) with your name and address to which you'd like to have tickets mailed.

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Choco Banana Pocky

Look. Let me get one thing straight. I hate weeaboos. I hate the Wapanese. I am not racist...okay, maybe internet racist, but I hate the people that run around spouting phrases like "kawaii" and calling people "Foodette-san" or "chan" and making eyes like this >< on their photos.


Hi, I'm Jess, and I guess I'm racist.

But I love bananas. Possibly more than I hate Wapanese. If that makes any sense at all. So while browsing at my local Asian grocery, the same one that Swagger (who is legit, straight-up Asian, yo) and I went to, this exotic looking treat was too much to pass up, especially for a buck fifty. Even if it does scream poser.

This particular product, made by Glico, the pocky overlords, boasts a creamy banana flavor with swirls of milk chocolate. I had to test it. One thing the Japanese have completely mastered is constructive packaging. Here's another pet peeve of mine. The environment. I don't care. Glico doesn't, either. And we work together wonderfully. They've included, in the lovely box, two packages of pocky so package two doesn't get stale while you're eating the first one.

The sticks are nice and slender, with an even coating. A part of it is uncoated so it doesn't melt all over your fingers and make them sticky-icky. The flavor was pure banana, and the chocolate was in just the right amount, like the coating on a chocolate covered banana. It was delicious.

What I like best about pocky is that it's rich without being too high calorically. It's tasty and elegant, but not too bad on the tummy, too. A good snack. Even if you're not a weeaboo.

9/10- YUMMY

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mrs. S's Sensitive Treats

Whooo! It's been ages since I got these treats, and again, another huge and generous sorry from me to her. I was laid up in bed and gumming down Jell-O.

I got many things in this package. The idea with these treats is, they're made for sensitive stomachs, so all are wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, and dairy free. Oy. To best put these to the test, I actually ate some of them- well, swallowed some whole- while laid up during surgery, where I was told I may throw up. Sure sounds like a sensitive stomach to me!

I was sent a large assortment of treats in a huge package, delivered by none other than Mrs. S's HUBBY, whom I thank greatly for helping me out and going twenty minutes out of his way to drop a package at the house of a random stranger. So, in the box was a decadent chocolate cake, zany zucchini bread, two fudgey brownies, a chamomile lemon cake, and banana bread.

I tried the zucchini bread first. I can't believe this was free of so many ingredients. The zucchini pieces were delicately shredded, not chunky, and the bread was buttery, flavorful, and tasty. I ate the entire loaf in one sitting. I'm not even upset to say so, it was that good. The texture was crumbly, but stayed together, so the only place it crumbled was in my mouth. It was the perfect treat. If I had one criticism, it would be that it didn't take to spreading very well, like with margarine or cream cheese. But then again, those eating this bread probably aren't spreading it with rich toppings.

9/10- LOVELY

The next dessert to sink my teeth into were the brownies. They were good, but very crumbly. The chocolate flavor was intense, but to some, the texture might have been a little off-putting. Because of the lack of eggs, the brownies were fudgy, but somewhat dry. I personally enjoy a wetter brownie. To remedy this, I simply microwaved it. It was very tasty and, as promised, chocolatey good.

5/10- GOOD

Next was the chamomile lemon cake. It was a good cake, again, improved by microwaving it. It wasn't very intense in the way of flavor. I couldn't taste any chamomile and not much lemon at all. There was a dusting of powdered sugar on top. This cake was good, but for flavor, somewhat bland. It almost had a meringue, hazelnutty taste to it, but from what, I do not know.

The texture of these baked goods is remarkable for foods that lack some of the ingredients we take for granted and consume on a daily basis. I still don't know how all of these hold together.

4/10- OKAY

Again, I got another whole cake. I could not believe it. For ordering purposes, these are generous cakes for the prices you're getting them at. Very heavy, dense cakes, too.

This cake really hit the spot. The chocolate cake was a lot cakier than the brownies, and had a dense, rich ganache on top. I think that the frosting aspect of this was what made it really spectacular. It was a deep, dark chocolate flavor, very tasty, and microwaved, was gooey and rich. Rich. That's a good way to put it. It was a very rich cake. The chocolate flavor was consistent and the texture only improved with microwaving.

Best of all, they worked! They worked! My tummy wasn't burdened by any of the flavors, no matter how rich!

8/10- YUMMY

Last, but not least, was the banana walnut loaf. The banana taste was very natural and very subtle, a very buttery and fruity taste to it. The walnut chunks were a little too bit for my liking, but the flavor was good. The texture was that nice "wet" texture that banana breads get, the dense, yet wettish texture. You know what I mean, right? I'm not a crazy girl, right? Wet. Wetlicious? Great. Now the banana bread sounds like a porno.

Regardless, it was very tasty bread. Definitely dense enough to hold up to a spread, and sweet enough to hold its own.

7/10- LOVELY

Super treats, Mrs. S! And thanks again for your patience. :)

Mrs. S's Sensitive Treats

Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival Ticket Giveaway

I've got five pairs of tickets to give away to the Grand Market event at the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival!

The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival is a four day festival going on July 30-August 2, featuring food and wine tastings, beach soirees, celebrity appearances and cooking demonstrations hosted by the industry's elite, including Emeril Lagasse, Tom Colicchio, Ted Allen and Guy Fieri (just to name a few).

What I'm giving away are tickets to the Grand Market event (more info here) that goes down Saturday, August 1 and Sunday, August 2. The Grand Market event is held on the expo floor of Bally's Atlantic City, where you can stroll amongst local and celebrity chefs, tasting their signature dishes; sample wines; and purchase foodie items. Should be a tasty way to spend the weekend!

If you want a pair of tickets, leave a comment between now and Saturday at 5 p.m., when I’ll pick five winners by randomly generated numbers. Be sure to check back this weekend to see if you won and contact me (I'll put up an address), so I can get some info from you and have the tickets mailed to you. Five pairs of tickets! Your chances are pretty good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Updates and how I can spy.

Readers, I SEE YOU. Thanks to my new Wowzio widget, that is.

So here's a question, you sneaky lurkers, you. I have a child conundrum. They're not my kids, they're the kids of my father's girlfriend. And I want to have a lot of fun with them this weekend, so I told them we'd make peanut butter.

Let's take it one step further, though. What other recipes can I make with a two and four year old that will drive them bananas and think I'm the coolest?

Comment freely! I don't bite.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Flipz Double Dipped Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Flipz have always been a favorite movie treat for me, and when I went to see Bruno yesterday, these looked too good to pass up.

One of my favorite things about Flipz is that there's a perfect balance of crunch and cream, of salt and sweet. These were a little different in that they were "double dipped" and thus a little thicker on the coating than the other varieties of pretzels. This particular coating was a layer of peanut butter and then a layer of chocolate.

Biting into this was a soft bite, then the pretzel crunch. The flavors came together well, but the peanut butter was far more subtle than I'd thought. In the bag, which was about three dollars, there were twenty mini pretzels, a bad value, in my opinion. The chocolate was good, a little mockolate tasting, but not so bad.

Overall, I far appreciate homemade chocolate covered pretzels or at least ones with better flavor coverage.

3/10- LAME

Monday, July 20, 2009

Barker Chocolate Box

This is a series, the first of two, in which I review bakers and candy-makers who have made things and waited patiently while I recovered from my surgery to review! Sorry for being late!

This candy-maker is out of Barker, New York, and sent me a selection of truffles and delicious fudge to review. I tried the cherry chocolate fudge she sent, first. It was a nice chocolate base with mixed chopped cherries. The chocolate was a good flavor and melted nicely in the mouth with a smooth finish and none of the grainy taste and texture that fudge can sometimes have.

The cherries were a little too overpowering, giving the fudge a bit of a flowery taste to it. It's good, but just a little too much. I liked the texture mix of the chewy cherry bits and the fudge, though.

6/10- GOOD

The next selection she gave me was in a little box of items. In the box were four truffles, of raspberry ganache, a walnut caramel with sea salt, a genuine Ohio Buckeye, and a chocolate ganache.

The raspberry ganache was, like the texture of the fudge, very smooth. The taste was a bit vague, and at times, I tasted more of the essence of raspberries than the taste of raspberries, but it was delicious. It was a smooth ganache, less like the fudge than a frosting-like goo, very delicious. The outer texture was good, but the real treasure was in the shape. It was a beautiful jewel of a little raspberry, something that I think would charm guests at receptions or just as a stand-alone gift.

6/10- GOOD

I've really been broadening my culinary standpoints as of late, and two of my goals were to try salty desserts and spicy desserts. This marked the coronation of my salty dessert. The caramel was a nice piece of very buttery flavor. Having tried homemade caramels before, this was just fantastic. The walnuts were a little too chunky with this one, but the salt made a perfect mix. It was like eating gourmet salt water taffy.


The Ohio Buckeye was one I'd been dying to try, and one that Cindy touted as being an amazing treat. She wasn't lying to me, either. This was a creamy treat, and I wish I had more of them to dissect so I can appreciate and try each individual layer. An Ohio Buckeye is basically a peanut butter bon bon wrapped in chocolate. Mmmmmm. The peanut butter wasn't quite peanut butter, it was more of a fudgy, but frosting-like taste, and it was a delicious and melty, rich flavor. Incredible. The chocolate enrobing it was fantastic and the entire thing was just a joy to consume.

9/10- LOVELY

The last truffle was a chocolate ganache. This one was a surprise. The coating was the same rich flavor as the other chocolate, but the ganache inside was a little bitter. I'm not sure what was going on. It was tasty, like a semi-sweet chocolate or those natural bars, and really brought out the more subtle, woodsy flavors of cocoa, but for those seeking a sweet treat, was not exactly saccharine.

4/10- OKAY

Find her at Barker Chocolate Box

Layer Cake Tips

Making layer cakes frustrates the hell out of me. It's so hard to get them to look in real life like they do in books and magazines. I am aware of food styling tricks and cheats, so never beat myself up too much over appearances, but, dang, how come I'm not perfect?

I was so proud of myself for making the above pictured chocolate peanut butter cake* posted by Deb of Smitten Kitchen, and, hot damn, if mine didn't come out just as gorgeous as hers. (Patting own back.)

I've learned a few tricks to layer cakes that make the construction of a beauteous cake easier, and I will never not do these steps:

Freeze cake layers
- Wrap each individual cake layer in three or more layers of plastic wrap, and freeze them before assembling the cake. It's so much easier to handle frozen cake layers without the fear of soft cakes cracking and crumbling in your hands. This also lets you break the cake making tasks into parts: bake cake one day, make frosting and assemble the next day (or some later date; the cake will keep in the freezer for weeks).
Obviously not the chocolate peanut butter cake, but I had these pics on file.

Trim Cake - We all know about leveling the tops of layer cakes so they sit flat, but also trim the sides. For whatever reason, you can bake cake layers in straight-sided pans of the same diameter, and carefully center them on top of each other, yet the sides will be wonky. Trim them!Wax paper - Y'all know to stick strips of wax paper or parchment paper under the cake before applying frosting, so the serving platter doesn't look a mess, but I'd be remiss if I didn't include this tip.

Crumb Coating
- Frosting a cake is the most frustrating part for me, because all those cake crumbs get in the frosting, even after you've brushed the crumbs off, making for a homely cake. A crumb coat is the initial thin layer of frosting that coats the tops and sides of a cake, where you try your darnedest to not get crumbs in the frosting, but it'll happen anyway, then you stick the cake in the fridge, walk away, and come back in 30 minutes to a slightly stiffened frosting that is ready to receive the final, thick, glamour coat of frosting. Crumb coat once, and you'll never not crumb coat again.

* This chocolate and peanut butter cake is da bomb, and every bit as rich and wonderful as Deb describes it, but do note that this cake is not suited for warm weather. After sitting on an outdoor buffet table on a gorgeous, sunny, summer day for a few minutes, the ganache melted into a syrup-like consistency and slid off the cake (the top picture with ganache flowing over the side is how it's supposed to look...but things got worse). Then the butter, cream cheese, and peanut butter-based frosting gave way, and there was a cake avalanche at some point after it was cut into. I don't beat myself up too much. Cake disasters happen.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wise Honey BBQ (With cheese) Cheese Curls

Cheese is an underrated delicacy, often delegated to the garnish position or simply a topping. Think about it. You see pasta with parmesan on top. A ham sandwich with a lonely American single oozing out of the top. It just ain't fair.

Wise Honey BBQ (with cheese) cheese curls stands completely true to this point. They're honey BBQ curls, so one would expect the traditional phallic cheese curl shape, with a honey barbecue flavoring. Wise is different. They've taken that, but blended it with the cheese flavoring, taking all the glory and fame from the mighty cheese curl, that rare food that features cheese, and turns it into another flash in the pan barbecue mess.

But cheese knows. Cheese knew from the moment they saw the damned bee on the package, in his bling and sunglasses and hip purple tunic, planning out a new curl. Cheese means mice on the package. Mice mean the bee loses his job and slick honey spreader. So the bee got clever, and planned a curl that featured honey BBQ. To take the fame from cheese.

Cheese is clever, though, and that's why, in the bag, these cheese curls taste like cheese, with a slight hint of barbecue. Not barely enough to be considered a flavor, much less a prominent, glossy-fonted one. The flavor is interesting, though, like a nice spicy cheese taste. The brittleness of the puffs are from the cheese's anger, curdled by the rage towards the bee, making each puff feel like a nice bite of cheesy broken glass.

The curls are plentiful, because the cheese must multiply and prosper, and bring down the bee. So there are enough to share. Just remember. Cheese is pissed. Don't fuck with the cheese.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Cranberry Raisinets

These confuse the hell out of me, first off. For one, cranberries are supposed to be the color of my damaged and pained skin right now- bright red. But the cranberries in the package were a dull brown.

For another, the name. Cranberry Raisinets. Now, I realize Raisinets is the brand name, but I still think people would have gotten the message if they were called "Craisinets" and the Craisin company may have been able to cash in on some product placement there. Calling them Cranberry Raisinets sort of makes me think, as the consumer, that they're raisins flavored like cranberries, sort of an undesireable Grapple mutant, and that's just...confusing.

These were a dollar five, and for their price, it worked out to roughly ten cents apiece, and those are some pretty tiny pieces, like breath mint sized. The pack was one hundred calories. The cranberries were average sized, and tasted average, too. I went to a cranberry festival once and ate the cranberries right out of the bog. Those were fresh, juicy, and tart. Even a lot of dried cranberries are tart, but these were not. They were mildly sweet, not very memorable.

The mockolate coating on Raisinets has always gone well, in my opinion. It was the same stuff this time around, just a milder fruit.

Send some sympathy my way. Lost my job.

4/10- LAME

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mas Cantina

What's this? Another post on Cantina los Caballitos, the South Philly Mexi-bar that holds the honors of having the most posts on this blog of any other restaurant? Nope. It's a post on Cantina Dos Segundos, Cantina los Caballitos younger sister restaurant in Northern Liberties.

Cantina Dos only differs slightly in the food menu from the South Philly location (although brunch is served daily at Cantina Dos, but only on the weekend at Cantina los Caballitos), and all the fabulous margaritas are still there, as are the relaxed vibes, so I can't say it's worth going out of your way to visit Cantina Dos if Cantina los Caballitos is closer. But I was already in Northern Liberties, and a pitcher of margaritas sounded right on!

I have my favorites at Cantina -- vegan fajitas, big-ass bean and rice burrito, and Mexican corn on the cob -- but decided to try something different.Not on the South Philly menu, the salad of julienned green papaya, papaya escabeche, avocado, red onion, radish, cilantro, and papaya seed vinaigrette is a snazzy, snappy, fresh salad with lots of flavor and acid, and I was glad I tried it, since their nopales salad I've tried on previous occasions has left me bored. Papaya salad: upgrade!
The vegetarian sopes with vegan refried black beans, lettuce, salsa verde, salsa rojo, queso fresco, and crema are also not on the South Philly menu, but are not an upgrade. I've been spoiled by eating many sopes in Mexico (sopes are one of only a few vegetarian items on Mexican menus), and these fluffy corn cakes lacked the density and corniness of the sopes in Mexico. Also, the vegan refried beans (not visible in picture, but are underneath all the toppings) were watery and the beans were almost non-existent. Yeah, as much as I love Cantina, I'll admit that not everything there is stellar.The boy had the special of the day, grilled baby octopus in garlic oil sauce. He loooved these! I, on the other hand, a person who is not at all squeamish -- talk about poo or maggots all you want while I'm eating, or skin a deer in front of me; I don't care -- covered the view of his plate with the basket of tortilla chips. All I could think about while he happily chewed was these critters crawling out of his ass in the middle of the night and attacking me in my sleep Alien-style. TMI! And TMM (too many magaritas)!

Cantina, whichever one you visit, is always a good time.

Cantina Dos Segundos
931 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19123
Open daily, 11-2am
kitchen open 'til 1am
brunch served daily, 11am-4pm