Tuesday, August 31, 2010

479 Madras Curry and Cashews Popcorn

On most nights, Keepitcoming and I love to make curried noodles. They're cheap, incredibly tasty, long lasting, and are so easy to throw together, an infant could cook them. We've been trying out a few different flavors of curry sauces and have a lot of fun coming up with new concoctions to eat for dinner.This popcorn reminded me of our adventures in noodling because of its gentle caress of curry spices in the seasoning. On top of the popcorn was a layer of seasoning and sugar with a bright yellow hue cast over the pieces. The aroma of curry wafted up from the pieces, combined with a nice coconut scent. The curry was not very spicy, with a slight heat that grew as you ate, but this was a popcorn we could not stop eating. It was just like kettle corn, with a very heightened savory element as opposed to the kiss of saline delight that one normally experiences.Mixed in with the popcorn were whole cashews. We found four in about a third of the bag. This was enough for us, but die-hard nut lovers might yearn for a few more. The cashews were liberally seasoned with the curry powder as well and provided a tasty flavor to the overall structure of the popcorn. Like the last flavor we tried, the crunch was spot-on and crispy.
479 has done nothing short of brilliant thus far. The boxes are attractive and minimal and the flavors are ingenious and very exciting. We look forward to trying more of their flavors, and can't wait to see what they cook up next.

Monday, August 30, 2010

White Girl Salsa

I'm no stranger to good salsa. I love it spicy, hot, and thick, and I'd take chips and dip over fancy bruschetta or crudites any day. It's such a versatile base for interesting flavor combinations and makes a great enhancement to many bland dishes.

White Girl Salsa sent me two flavors of their salsa, in both hot and cranberry mango. This excited me for a few reasons. The salsa has a base made mainly of tomatillo, and if there's anything I love more than regular salsa, it's salsa verde. And the idea of a tomatillo based salsa flavored with cranberries and mangoes intrigued me even more.I was disappointed to discover that the cranberry mango salsa, to me, didn't really provide an accurate embodiment of what a salsa ought to be. This was delicious and had a lot of fresh flavors and fruitiness, but really tasted like more of a chutney-minus-vinegar than anything else. The tomatillo flavor was too weak in the salsa and was bumped out by the dueling forces of mango and cranberry, which tasted jammy and lush. More peppers, spice, and onions would have made this memorable and provided a savory accent for the fruits. Since this condiment is lacking some of the main features that make good salsa appealing, I wouldn't consider it an appropriate dip for chips.The hot flavor was excellent. I didn't feel the heat of the chilies at first, and only got a nice, salty freshness, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks. A warm and mouthwatering spice flooded my senses, forcing me to run for some water and then run back for more. This flavor was fantastic. I loved it. Unfortunately, there was something a little off-putting about both varieties of this salsa.

I was just standing with my girlfriend in the kitchen, eating the salsa on some blue corn chips, when I suddenly felt myself become embarrassingly wet. Liquid pooled all over my fingers, and it seemed to be coming from the chip. There was so much water emanating from this salsa that I had to wash my fingers after a few bites. After pouring some on the chips and letting them sit for a few minutes, a reasonable timeframe for eating a snack, the chips were mushy and soft and there was a lot of excess liquid at the bottom of the dish.Rivulets of excess liquid cascade down the chip.

A snack like chips and salsa is not a fork and knife affair. It's meant to be consumed with friends, while relaxing and hanging out. Not only does this salsa completely shift the focus from socializing to making sure you don't make a huge mess, it is impossible to eat these without using the jar as a feeding trough and getting some salsa juice on your shirt. It's a major buzzkill for an event, and I would definitely not serve this to friends without giving them lobster bibs first.However, that's not to say that this wouldn't make a delicious enchilada sauce or mix-in with cream cheese or black beans. If this had been labeled as a taco sauce, I'd have skipped over complaining about the texture entirely. I just don't feel as though its marketing provides an honest depiction of what's in the jar and is misleading for people who would have bought this under the guise of its ease in consumption.


A little slice of home recently landed in the college town of Newark, Delaware, in the form of Groucho's Deli, a sandwich shop hailing from my very own hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. But how did a deli that was started in South Carolina in 1941 end up in Delaware? According to a Delaware News Journal article, David Richardson, the owner of the Delaware Groucho's (now a franchise with all but just a few location in South Carolina), grew up in Columbia, but his wife, who is from Delaware, wanted to move back to The First State, and so they brought Groucho's with them.

The history behind Groucho's goes that Harold Miller (nicknamed Groucho because of his resemblance to Groucho Marx with his mustache, cigars, and joking demeanor) dreamed up the recipe for coleslaw, potato salad, and salad dressings while he was still a child in a Philadelphia orphanage. Groucho took those dreams with him to Columbia, and in 1941 opened what was one of only a few Jewish-style delis in the area.
I know Groucho's very well. Their subs were one of maybe only two non-home cooked meals my family would eat at our kitchen table. It was always such a treat when my Mom decided to go down to, at the time, the one and only location of Groucho's on Harden St., Columbia's own college area, to pick up an order of subs to bring back home. As I perused the rack of exotic chocolate bars and tins of hard candies in the gourmet grocery section that was a deli fixture only up until the the 1980's, my Mom was at the counter getting winks and a discount from Groucho who mistakenly believed my Mom to be Jewish.

What we took home was Groucho's signature sandwich, the STP Dipper, a soft, long roll filled with melted cheese and mounds of warm turkey and roast beef topped with crumbled bacon. God, these were good! But that was when I ate meat.
As a vegetarian, Groucho's doesn't have much of interest for me — various salads (actually not bad, but they aren't part of my childhood memory), and a couple of sandwiches filled with cheese and veggies either on a roll, sliced bread, or in a pita. About every couple of years I'll order a veggie sub just to jog the memory of the excitement of taking a trip down to the deli with my Mom and eating this sacred food of my youth.

And, so, I visited the Newark Groucho's to pay homage to my youth and ordered the veggie Italian sub. Slices of four kinds of cheese — Provolone, Swiss, Muenster, and sharp American — are melted on a soft roll, then topped with chopped lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. It's basically a salad on top of a roll with melted cheese, and it's a little hard to eat without using a fork to eat some of the salad first.What is strikingly different at Groucho's from all the hoagie and sub shops in the Delaware Valley is the softness of the bread. The bread is cloud-like and can be easily squished down into virtually nothing, a far cry from the sturdier, crusty breads of a hoagie or sub from around these parts. I know y'all are staunch about the firmness of your hoagie and sub rolls, and even which bakery supplies the bread, so the bread at Groucho's is really going to throw y'all for a loop.

You also won't find any broccoli rabe or chunks of sharp Provolone at Groucho's. These are not traditional Italian hoagies. Nor are Groucho's specialty sandwiches typical Jewish deli fare. What you will find is Formula 45 sauce, which is pretty much Groucho's claim to fame.Formula 45 sauce is a secret blend of Thousand Island and Russian dressings along with dill and spices. It's up to you, dear eater, to either employ the dressing as a dip for the sandwich or as a spread to slather inside the sandwich. Groucho's and their Formula 45 sauce is the reason I am such a huge proponent of special sauce — or any sauce — on sandwiches.

Formula 45 sauce even caused rifts in the deli sandwich eating community of Columbia when a former employee of Groucho's opened Andy's Deli a few blocks away from Groucho's with a strikingly similar menu and special sauce. Groucho's and Andy's is Columbia's own Pat's and Geno's, but the rivalry is more subdued, and no guidos line up on the sidewalk for a sandwich.Groucho's thinks their Formula 45 sauce is so good they put it on almost all of their specialty sandwiches. For 60 cents you can get a small side of Formula 45 to slather on their other sandwiches, and if you find yourself as smitten with Formula 45 as much as I am, you can even pick up a pint for $5 to take home.
Are you, birthrighters of the hoagie, going to love Groucho's sandwiches? I don't know. I invite you to wipe all notions of what you think is a proper sub or hoagie out of your head, go into Groucho's, and, if you eat meat, order the STP with Formula 45 thinking of it as nothing more than a sandwich.

Besides the STP Dipper and veggie Italian sub mentioned here, Groucho's also serves a wide variety of salads, clubs and deli sandwiches, including low-fat options.

P.S. Delaware's own Capriotti's (also now a franchise) still makes my favorite vegetarian sub — they have veggie turkey, for cryin' out loud, and, yeah, I prefer the sturdier bread — but when I order mine I have Capriotti's make it with Russian dressing. Just a little secret I learned from Groucho's.

170 E. Main St., Newark, DE 19711

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier Tea Collection

Here's a set of interesting truffles I found to be duly appropriate- Keepitcoming was recovering from a brief malady, so tea-flavored confections couldn't go wrong. This particular set is from Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, and features four truffles in Earl Grey, Rose, Blueberry, and Jasmine.The four truffles are enrobed in dark chocolate, ranging from 61%-70%, and feature flavored teas infused within the ganache itself. This may have been the first issue we had with these. Rather than the essences of the flavors in an oil or powder, the teas were used, possibly yielding a weak flavor.We started with earl grey, a particular favorite tea of mine. The dark chocolate paired well with the slightly astringent flavor, carrying a heavy bergamot and lemongrass spiciness in the first five seconds, but then tapered out to a mild chocolate and little else. Where I would have loved to taste a little cinnamon, orange, and more peppery spice, the midpalate was very short and unsatisfying. The chocolate was delicious, but I was really looking for that flavor to carry through until the end.The next flavor was rose. A similar effect occurred here- we enjoyed a luxurious chocolate truffle with a nice fruity shell, but would have never guessed that this was a rose-flavored confection. There was no floral notes in the first truffle, though Keepitcoming tasted a very faint rosiness in the next. It was a very pleasant truffle but touted little else.The blueberry truffle was the most satisfying of all the flavors sampled. From the entry, it had a distinctly fruity, dark taste, and was pleasantly grainy with the pieces of blueberry. The chocolate, a lighter dark, was paired well with this flavor and counterbalanced the dried jamminess of the berries themselves. There was no distinctive tea flavor here, but it was a fantastic fruit truffle and maintained an accurate representation of its ingredients.The last truffle in our tasting was a jasmine truffle. This had a flavor that reminded me of wild grapes, a very tart and tangy flavor underneath the smoothness of the chocolate. After knowing its flavor, it might have been more easily matched, but as an unknown taste, it's rather murky and indistinguishable.In all the chocolates, the ganache was rich and creamy and fantastic on its own, but might have been too rich and overwhelmed the subtleties of the tea flavors.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

479 White Cheddar and Black Truffle Popcorn

I am continually amazed by my level of self-restraint.

I've had this popcorn for about a week now, and I haven't eaten the entire box. Damn. This might not seem like a big feat, but I have two prime factors riding against me. The first is my large appetite, indifferent to the gourmet, that pit of desire in my belly that makes me want to devour anything and everything. And the second factor is how incredibly rich and well-crafted this popcorn is.The popcorn in question is 479 Popcorn, and was graciously sent to me by Caroline Yeh of the company itself. This is gourmet popcorn, and while I generally scoff at popcorn as a snack, preferring the less cumbersome and teeth-sticking potato crisps, this truly represents smart food for the Smartfood set.

Of the five flavors I was sent, I was both genuinely terrified of and intrigued by the black truffle and white cheddar popcorn. While "Ebony and Ivory" crooned in my ears, I set about getting to know this popcorn in a more intimate fashion.

Truffle oil is a fascinating ingredient. Able to give the simplest of dishes a rich and deep flavor in the most sparing amounts, each variety coats the mouth with a earthy, salty taste- what we now know as "umami."This being the black truffle oil, I was expecting a very dominant flavor, with the white cheddar acting as padding for the starchiness of the corn. The flavor was balanced, extremely so, and was less of a coating or seasoning than an infusion. Each piece of popcorn had a luxurious and silky cheddary flavor, one that I'd actually associate as white cheddar. It was sharp and buttery, with a slight tang. The truffle oil was the star of the show. It accentuated upon the saltiness and crumbly sour flavor of the cheddar and yielded a very garlicky, earthy scent. Surprisingly, it also brought out the corn's scent and gave a pungent delight to the entire snack.This was an extremely excellent combination of flavors. I was highly impressed at how seamlessly the oil eased into the natural flavor of the popcorn and cheese without adding a strange texture or taste on top of the rest. It was integrated really well. I am increasingly excited to eat the next few flavors in the box because of this positive experience, and definitely can't wait to write more about them.

Disclaimer: No couches (or chaises!) were mussed, molested, messed up, macerated, or mucked on during the photography of this review.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chad's Chai Green Peace Tea

My poor Keepitcoming is feeling a bit under the weather today, so we decided to have some tea with our dessert this evening to heal up her throat. Luckily, I had just received some tea from Chad's Chai and we eagerly cracked open a bag to have a go at it.The Green Peace tea is a mixture of green teas and mint leaves and from the get-go, smells really, really minty, like Crest level mint. Before steeping, the tea leaves are in coarse shreds in a bag. It smells like spearmint gum and has a nice, smoky, nutty strong tea scent. A little bit of this goes a very long way. Once boiled, we put two teaspoons into our teapot and let it sit for a bit, and when we poured it into our mugs, it released a smooth, crisp minty flavor. This is definitely a tea that needs some sugar. The bitterness in the green tea mingles with the mint, but the mint is not enough to suppress it. With a little sugar, we found that it was contained to a point of staying earthy and smoky, but not getting unpalatably bitter.This was a very good tea, better than we'd expected. I imagine that it would be very good iced, with some sugar and maybe some lime to accentuate some of the green tea's natural flavors. Definitely a tea to try again.

Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies

Annie's Cheddar Bunnies

In my teenage years, I did my share of babysitting, and undoubtedly at some point during the day, the kids and I would get hungry for snacks. Almost every parent said “help yourself to anything in the kitchen,” but it meant more in some houses than in others. I will never forget the all natural “animal crackers” I had at the home of a particularly earth-conscientious family – the things tasted like cardboard.

All natural food has come a long way. This box of Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies came from Target for $1.99 US. I was immediately drawn in by the plentiful cute bunnies, including Bernie, the mascot. These baked bunnies are all-natural, but they fall into the same product category as Cheez-Its and Goldfish crackers, and they are made without additives or preservatives.

Annie's Cheddar Bunnies

They smelled mildly of cheddar, and had a good crunch. The cheddar cheese flavor was mild throughout, probably to appeal to children, and the level of saltiness was about right for me. There was no oily residue or bad aftertaste, which I attribute (possibly incorrectly) to the lack of preservatives.

Overall, I enjoyed these crackers about as much as I can enjoy a cheese cracker (not my usual snacking choice). I loved the clean feeling and the cute shape, but I wish the cheddar cheese taste was sharper. It’s been a while since I’ve had other cheese crackers, but Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies definitely stand up to the competition, and in my opinion, the non-oily aftertaste gives Annie’s the edge.


Annie's Homegrown website

Thursday, August 26, 2010

State Street Deli, Northampton, MA

This is my deli.

Maybe you live in Northampton. Maybe you've been going here for years. Maybe, wonder of wonders, you actually pay the mortgage on this deli.

But make no mistake. This is MY deli. I...need it.State Street Deli, shown to me mere weeks ago by Keepitcoming Love, is the best place in Northampton. On the recent reader poll, you guys voted and told me you liked restaurant reviews. I know this is more of a poetic wax than a review, but trust me on this one.

If you go for nothing else in this deli, despite that they have an awesome rotating selection of cookies, an eclectic and moderately priced wine store, and a bitchin' staff, go for the curried turkey salad on a sandwich.Every time I come in, a paltry three times in two weeks, Keepitcoming groans because she knows what is looming in her immediate future. It's the same thing every time.

It begins, like most love affairs do, with the salutations.

And then, gracefully, moves onto business.
"What'll you have?"
"Curried turkey salad on sourdough."
"Anything on that? Vegetables? Sauce? Cheese?"
"Nope. Just that."
"No pickle?"
"No pickle."

And lo, the valediction!
"...I like that."

That was from the first time, my deli deflowering, and how memorable it was. This salad is simple- shredded turkey, raisins, cashews, mayonnaise, and curry powder, but contains a microcosm of flavors that hit all the right spots on my taste buds and makes the camera macro flip out.The most beautiful thing about this sandwich is that it can hold its own on bread alone and needs no smoke and mirrors sauces or toppings to boost its flavor. It boasts enough substance all alone. Some sandwich purists may disagree and argue that vegetables give a textural difference, but I say NAY, that is a stupid opinion and you should be shot.Vegetables are for chicken salad and little else. (But it does look awfully luscious!)

This sandwich is incredible. It speaks for itself in its simplicity, and really caters to many tastes. Give it a try today, you won't be disappointed! And check out the rest of the store, too. It's funky and priced well.

Caramel Cake

Ask me for a recipe, and I'll give it to you — duh, I have a food blog. Share the good times and tasty treats, I say! But some people keep recipes secret, and will not give them out to even their best friends and family. Where's the sense in that?

We have a relative in our family who makes the best caramel cake ever. Ever! It's her dish and her duty to bring it to every family and holiday gathering. Everyone looks forward to her caramel cake, and even lines up at the dessert table before hitting the main buffet line to assure that they get a piece. Outstanding cake!

But the recipe is a secret. It will die with her, and that is a shame. History and memories lost.A while back I tried to recreate her caramel cake using a recipe from A Gracious Plenty, a book by John T. Edge of collected recipes from the South, thinking that Mr. Edge probably rounded up a good caramel cake recipe. The cake was great, but the icing was not so great, and caramel cake is all about the icing.

Fast forward a few months, and, hello, September 2010 issue of Food and Wine magazine featuring a recipe for caramel cake!

But wait, the recipe is from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, a new, and yet (but soon) to be published collection of Southern recipes that is also edited by John T. Edge. I ran down stairs to check my edition of A Gracious Plenty to make sure the recipes weren't identical, and they weren't (yay!), so it was onward with the recipe for caramel cake in Food and Wine.

Outstanding! Fabulous! Delicious! Perfect! Just as I remembered! Caramel Cake
Adapted from Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

The icing is fabulous, but I did run into a small problem with it. I waited the recommended 15 minutes before mixing the icing, and mixed the icing for the recommended 15 minutes before pouring it over the cake, but it was still too warm, so spent the next hour scraping puddles of soft caramel off the plate and back up the sides of the cake until the icing had finally cooled enough to stay up. The lesson here is that you might want to wait a bit longer before pouring the icing over the cake.

1 cup whole milk
4 egg whites, room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
3/4 cup heavy cream

3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Butter 3 8-inch cake pans (I used 2 10-inch cake pans), line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and flour the pans, removing excess flour.
  • Cake: In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup milk, egg whites, and vanilla.
  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of milk. Mix until smooth. Add the egg white mixture in 3 batches.
  • In another bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the batter, then fold in the rest.
  • Divide batter between the pans, smoothing the tops.
  • Bake in a 350 degree, pre-heated oven for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Let cakes cool 10 minutes on a baking rack, then remove from pan, remove parchment paper, and let cool completely.
  • Icing: In a saucepan, stir 2 1/2 cups of the sugar with the corn syrup and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Keep warm.
  • In a large, deep saucepan (size is important because caramel bubbles up and it extremely hot) sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until an amber caramel forms.
  • With care, poor the warm milk mixture over the caramel. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the caramel dissolves, then stop stirring. Without stirring, let the caramel cook until the caramel reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.
  • Into the caramel mixture, stir in the butter, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream.
  • Pour caramel into a bowl and let cool for 15 minutes, then beat in the remaining 1/4 cup heavy cream with an electric mixer until creamy, about 15 minutes.
  • Cake Assembly: Set one layer on a plate. Pour enough icing over top to cover the top of the layer. Top with a second layer and cover the top with icing. Add the third layer of the cake and pour the remaining icing over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Using a spatula or knife, spread the icing evenly around the cake.
  • Let cake stand for 2 hours to set the icing before serving.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oral Fixation Mojito Mints

Oral Fixation Mojito Mints

The other night, my husband was making beer chili, and when he was almost done adding the ingredients, we realized that we didn't have any beer. I dashed out to the little local grocery store, but even though I only needed one thing, I got a little distracted in the candy aisle just before checking out.

I was vaguely aware of the gourmet chocolate and candy selection at this particular store, but I hadn't looked in a while. The sexy, elegant packaging of Oral Fixation sugar free mints ($1.99 US) called out to me, and I knew I had to try them. I went with Mojito, but there were at least 4 other flavors available. For the record, I also took home some Tazo Mexican chocolate and a Lake Champlain chocolate bar, but I'll review those later.


Each mint had a star on one side and the word "FIX" on the other. They were about the same size and shape as Altoids, but Oral Fix mints were uniform. Each mint was easy to get at once the stylish but slightly annoying wax paper insert was pushed out of the way. Immediately, I noticed was how nice and smooth the mints felt on my tongue. I haven't had too many actual mojitos, so it was hard to judge the authenticity of the flavor.

The lime flavor was mild just a bit tangy on the tongue happy to take a backseat to the very cool, slightly sweet mint. The mints did a pretty good job of freshening my breath without feeling sever or painful. The Oral Fixation brand name was quite appropriate, because it was tough for me to eat just one mint. I was popping 3 to 4 in a row, sometimes 2 at a time. I'd love to try other flavors, especially since I'll be out of the Mojito very soon. Tip: when you're done, the tin makes a great business car holder!


Oral Fixation website

New Feature: Keepitcoming's Cocktails

Greetings, Foodette readers! Jess has handed over the reigns to me, Keepitcoming, for a special feature about one of my favorite pursuits: creating new cocktails!

This post will detail how I transformed Bella Lula Citronnade, a delightful lemon juice beverage we sampled at the Fancy Food Show, into a new creation I call "Lula's Lanai."Bella Lula reminds me a little of San Pellegrino Limonata, since they both have a perfect balance of sweetness and piquant lemon flavor. However, Bella Lula, while not carbonated, has one special feature that takes it to the next level: it has a distinct note of fresh mint leaves. The mint flavor comes across very naturally, even when mixed with vodka and a little tonic water for fizz. If my recipe sounds basic, it is because I discovered that Bella Lula needs very little adornment. It mixes well, but does best when its simple and elegant composition is allowed to shine. Bella Lula makes a similar beverage with orange juice, which is also outstanding and equally good in this recipe.Lemonade and fresh mint just scream relaxing summer fun, and what could enhance that lounging experience more than vodka? This for the lanai in your mind's eye.

Lula's Lanai

4 oz. Bella Lula
1 1/2 oz. vodka (I like Smirnoff -- neither too good nor too bad to mix)
diet tonic water to taste

Pour the vodka and juice over ice in a tall glass. Blend and top off with a small amount of tonic, just for effervescence. Garnish with a thin lime slice if desired.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jet Puffed Swirl Mallows

There isn't a whole lot in this world that pleases me more than a good 80's bully flick. What am I talking about? You know the scene. The same lines, the same facial expressions, the same outdated turns of phrase. And the same punishment. Public humiliation. Food fights. Tripping. And the swirly.

I've never experienced a swirly, despite dangling on the edge of high school social circles, veering dangerously towards The Weird, but the phenomenon fascinated me much like waterboarding does. Who did this? When? It tapered out in my day, but even in mentioning, the swirly was an ominous fate for those who did not conform.These marshmallows have little to do with the aforementioned problem, but brought to mind vivid imagery and repressed issues I'll probably bring up in therapy in twenty years. But they were on clearance for 68 cents, and for that, my mind was settled. I would take these freakish swirly marshmallows home and raise them as my own.This is really the meta-marshmallow to end all marshmallows. Now you can have cocoa in your cocoa while you cocoa with Cocoa. What? But really. There's a pleasant, hypnotic brown and white swirl and an averagely sized marshmallow. I didn't really enjoy these, much as I might not have enjoyed their namesake. The flavor, instead of being a combination of vanilla and chocolate, was a queasy berry flavor on top of a yielding fleshiness, a fake fruit from the island of Kraftedonia's laboratory and scarier than Dr. Moreau's creations. It completely dominated any hopes of gleaning an authentic marshmallow taste, and left a chalky residue and trail on the inside of my mouth, like a sweet, sugary STD. This was pretty unpleasant. No wonder it was so cheap.

Loving Hut

There's a new, all-vegan restaurant on South street called Loving Hut, an international vegan fast food chain founded by the animal, planet, and veg-loving, cultish leader Supreme Master Ching Hai.

Like most Loving Huts in the United States and around the world, the South Street Philly outpost of Loving Hut has a television dialed to Supreme Master TV at all times, but don't worry, you'd never notice Supreme Master Ching Hai on the boob tube in the back of the restaurant willing your money into her bank account unless you speak Taiwanese (I believe?), or someone told you about the woman behind Loving Hut.Please don't let this stop you from eating at Loving Hut. Your all-American neighbor two doors down undoubtedly has crazier notions than anyone who follows the Supreme Master, plus the food at Loving Hut is not bad — it's a known fact that cults and religious groups make some of the best vegan and vegetarian food around; if you ever have a chance to eat at a Krishna temple, I highly recommend it — and the Philly Loving Hut owners are super sweet.

Loving Hut serves bubble tea and food with a pan-Asian bent, but also offers up Western items like burgers and chicken nuggets. Each location has a similar, but different menu, letting the owners decide what to sell in their market. Unfortunately, the Philly location is working with a severely limited menu, whereas other US locations have menus two to four times larger. Yes, Philly vegans, you are missing out on vegan corn dogs, vegan pho, vegan teriyaki kabobs, and vegan wonton soup.Summer rolls filled with tofu, vegan ham, rice noodles, jicama, carrot, cucumber and lettuce are just as good as any summer roll you can find at any restaurant, although I'd love to see some aromatic herbs like basil, mint, or cilantro thrown in the mix. The thick, sweet peanut sauce comes pre-made out of a container. The Fluffly Quinoa salad is more of a greens and vegetable salad than a quinoa salad, with only a small portion of quinoa tossed with mixed greens, shredded carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, cilantro, and a light peanut and lime dressing. Thin slices of soy chicken top the salad adding a bit of protein that I so often miss when eating salads out. All ingredients were extremely fresh, and the salad was made to order.Golden Cheesy Bread will certainly fulfill any vegan's cheesy, greasy, salty, carby cravings. Seeded baguette slices are topped with a vegan mayonnaise spread studded with vegan ham, vegan cheese, and scallions, then popped into a toaster oven. A little too yummy, actually. Glad there were only four pieces to the order.Guru Curry Rice is a mild Indian curry studded with potatoes, onions, carrots, tofu, and soy protein serves with an attractive, purplish 5-grain rice and side of broccoli. Since this is a fast food chain in theory (many Loving Huts are in mall food courts), the curry is pre-made and gets a go in the microwave, and the side of broccoli comes from the refrigerator. Rice comes out of a steamer like at any restaurant, sit-down or fast food. Even with the microwaving, this dish still tasted fresh. You'd only be so lucky to find such a dish in a mall food court.
The vegan carrot cake was the only disappointing item I tried. Tasting like lemon cake rather than a spicy carrot cake, the cake was moist, but not in a good way — like it could have been baked longer. The sprinkled sugar topping also tasted a little off. A sugar substitute, perhaps?

Dining in at Loving Hut can be uncomfortable since it's often empty and the owners keep the back room in the dark, and the front room only lit by a few of the available lights. There is no music, just the sound of Supreme Master TV coming from the back room. The only customers I saw on multiple visits were South Street slackers taking advantage of the two computers at the front of the restaurant.

With a limited menu, a dining room that feels dead, and a South Street location that sees mostly tourists and Hot Topic teenagers, I'm just not sure about the longevity of Loving Hut. I'm most definitely pro cult vegan dining, but wish Loving Hut had opened in Center City were there are thousands of office workers who would certainly fill the seats at lunch for healthy, affordable, vegan eats.

Loving Hut

742 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147


Sun-Thurs: 11am-9pm

Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm