Red Lantern at Foxwoods, Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, CT

I’m not good at date nights. My small, mammalian brain tends to associate them with work nights, as most of my face-stuffing tends to be ‘on the job,’ so to speak. Sometimes, though, I pull it off effortlessly, and manage to convince the Bedfellow that I am taking her on a lavish junket, away from the humdrum of suburban Northampton, into the exotic and posh world of the elite. This, unfortunately, was not one of those nights.
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Cherrywood Kitchen, New York, NY

Cherrywood, in Soho, was a breath of fresh air, both from the overwhelming crowds of Mercer Street and the stifling afternoon heat last Wednesday. A new addition to a quieter part of town, Cherrywood offers a gilded interpretation of classic Asian and American flavors.

The décor is understated, almost a little generic with its blood-red curtains and eponymous wood accents strewn about the restaurant, high-ceilinged and classic like a more minimal boudoir. It is sprawling in all aspects and ends up feeling a little less intimate than the name Cherrywood Kitchen would suggest, but Cherrywood Study or Cherrywood Living Room ends up making more of a mouthful than the food. The upper catwalk of the main room had bookshelves and oddities along the shelves, which I craved more of than the small peek I received in gazing around.

The drink menu offers six cocktails, perfect for two to sample throughout an evening, and a reliable, if basic wine selection. The cocktails were what piqued my curiosity, utilizing an array of fresh fruits and ingredients, from the simple, but vibrant Botanical Gimlet, with Hendrick’s, tonic, lime, and cucumber, to the clever in the Cherrywood margarita, whose flavors were reminiscent of a craft cherry limeade. The vodka cider was my personal favorite – simple, clean flavors that perfectly complemented the ribs, with a punch of Cointreau to withstand the strong flavors of the meat. 

The Bedfellow was partial to her Manhattan, made with smoked orange peel. A serviceable sangria and delicate blood orange prosecco finished out the meal, before coffee and dessert wine. (Clockwise: Cherrywood margarita, vodka cider, blood orange prosecco, Manhattan, and Taylor Fladgate)

Our meal began with a selection of small appetizers and bread, the latter of which put other bread baskets to shame. Freshly baked ciabatta with whipped bleu cheese butter was en point, crispy and ethereally light on the inside, with a tender, flaky crunch. Tearing into it with our hands increased the satisfaction. Smeared with the earthy, equally light butter, we unabashedly ate two loaves in the blink of an eye.
We shared three small plates in lieu of larger appetizers – the miniature lobster ‘tacos’ with Old Bay hollandaise, short rib spring rolls, and housemade pickles. Syntactically, my eyes always gravitate toward interpretive dishes that riff off other dishes, it appeals to my meta aesthetics and inability to let go of my childhood whimsy. Luckily, this trend is rampant in modern cuisine, and even luckier, the lobster ‘tacos’ actually were tacos, served in petite hard taco shells made of spring roll dough, brimming with large, tender chunks of lobster. The egginess of the hollandaise disappeared amidst the bolder spices, the Old Bay reigned supreme. Three was an unwieldy number, and a contentious battle followed between the Bedfellow and I for the last bite.
The bite-sized spring rolls were devils in disguise, the crispy outer shells yielding to savory, succulent pieces of short rib, but they were elevated to a new level of appetizer elation with the au jus on the side, silky and deep with a slow-roasted flavor that we dipped the rolls, bread, tacos, and sneakily, our fingers in before we’d had enough.
Our final plate, the housemade pickles, were surprisingly varied in color and variety. I was expecting something of the bread and butter variety and received a Crayola-colored selection of snackable vegetables with a pungent, sweet set of flavors. Paired with crisp butter-roasted peanuts, it brought to mind a deconstructed Pad Thai.
The entrée selection sways from tastefully flashy to wriggling, almost uncomfortable levels of excitement – the tuna belly, caviar, heirloom tomato, and foie gras stuffed ribeye had an air of attention-seeking decadence whose description alone could have filled and killed us. It is easier to find satisfaction on the quirkier side of Cherrywood’s menu – the freshly killed, smoked chicken stuffed with eel, though technically apprehensive at times (tougher pieces of fat left on the bone and spines left in some parts of the eel) was robust both in portion and flavor.
We found greater harmony in the cherrywood-smoked ribs, intertwining Asian and American flavors with a deft, tender hand. The ribs had been cooked to perfection, nary a piece of fat or gristle left atop them, and carried a courageous, bold flavor balanced with soy, fish sauce and ginger to counteract the richer barbecue notes – ribs that have traveled, but do not forget their roots in Americana. Alongside a cool apple slaw (made with ‘local’ apples whose lineage I’m a hair inclined to dispute, as the Big Apple is more likely to outsource its apples to upstate rather than grow them in the metropolitan area itself), they were minimally garnished and correct in preparation.
After a brief repose to finish the last of our cocktails and gather our minds and stomachs for dessert, we studied the dessert menu, whose Franco-American-Asian pastries carried even more of a globe trot rather than a layover. Chef Cheung proves his hand in sweet as well as savory, especially with the cookies and cream, banana macaron, and coconut ice cream dessert, where caramelized bananas and milk chocolate mousse are nestled in light macaron shells in lieu of buttercream, alongside a pleasant, if somewhat redundant cookie crumble on the bottom, which, if nothing else, made for a decent textural diversion. The macaron shells are better sized to an American palate, far larger than their French descendants, but no less delicate and finely made.
The sesame fritters, recommended by our server, were baffling with an unexpected beauty. I was expecting a dessert dripping with honey, something similar to a Moroccan halwa chebakia, but was pleased to be presented with compact, dense balls covered in sesame with an unidentifiable, but glutinous, doughy interior similar to mochi, a stud of bittersweet chocolate in the center.The Taylor Fladgate 20, a classically sweet conclusion, mirrored the nutty, chocolatey flavors of the dessert.

Cherrywood is an approachably luxurious repose in the heat of the summer, and makes for a great dinner if you’re in the area and need a break from shopping or running around. They’ve been open for around six weeks and are already creating fascinating, innovative dishes that left us hungry for more from this Soho smoker. (Thanks to the team for having us by!)

McDo Casse Croute Menu: Poulet-Poivre, Oriental, and Mixte Sandwiches

France, you did it! You’ve come through and all but virtually guaranteed my eating nothing but fast food for the remainder of my time here. I’m a disappointment to all who know me, but it’s okay because limited edition. McDo France has released three new sandwiches to celebrate me, I assume. Too bad they’re terrible, but we’ll get to that. McDo’s Le Casse Croute menu features a sandwich and a medium drink for 4,50 Euro, or $66,000 USD as far as I’m now concerned. The sandwiches, the Oriental, Asian-flavored burger patty with the onerously named Oriental sauce, the Poulet-Poivre, or chicken with pepper sauce, and the Mixte, with ham and Emmental cheese, are all atop a McBaguette (my love, I have been waiting for so long to type such sweet words) and adorned with potato patties.

I bought all three sandwiches. Interestingly enough, despite refusing the drink, the server insisted upon it, even though the emotional line between carrying three sandwiches to your apartment for “research” is suddenly crossed when you bring three overflowing things of soda upstairs, too. Now I have three miniature bottles of water forming an impenetrable barrier between the sandwiches and me, which is good, because they kind of suck.

Let’s deconstruct this Derrida-style, old-school, call me MacDaddy because I’m into making postmodern phallocentric references rich in cultural capital in order to maximize the time you spend on this site. Zing, am I right? Anyway, the sandwiches themselves happen to be chiasmus-angia combos. Meat, bread, potato, and sauce, though the quality is wildly different between the three. The Poulet-Poivre was my favorite, and the only sandwich I finished in its entirety. I will gladly state that for the cardiologist’s record, too. It was really just a sliced chicken patty, but it had the most fillings and the best balance of flavor, with the pepper sauce providing a zesty lubrication to the whole shebang. Vastly improved with a few shakes of hot sauce. My only complaint was that I wasn’t crazy about the fried-on-fried element of the potatoes and the chicken. It was a little too much.
The baguettes themselves, at least for 1er arrondissement standards, are not half bad. You wouldn’t confuse them for actual bread, but they mimic the sensation of bread fairly well, with a sweet, malty flavor and very crisp crust. The inside is soft and spongy, and surprisingly moist. They are also, in true McDo standards, enormous. The sandwiches require a momentary and snake-like unhinging of the jaw to fully enjoy.

And that was where things started to go downhill. I tried the Mixte next, because I was curious about how the combination of hot potato patties and cold cuts would be. It seemed like something I’d have made at home. Indeed, the cool and hot element was nice- the cheese was underneath the ham and on top of the patties, so it melted slightly, and would have been the dominant flavor in the sandwich, had McDo not tried to make it more exciting. The real Britta of the group was the fromage blanc, or white cheese sauce. It was more like white cheese mayonnaise, and it sucked. It took a clever idea and turned it into a stoner’s nightmare, where everything tastes like nacho cheese sauce and resembles your stepmom’s house.

The Oriental was up next, and if I’d thought the Mixte had won points for sucking and having the cruelest of all flavors, I was wrong. This took the cake. In its defense, it was certainly Asiatic in flavor, the problem being that the interpretation of Asiatic was apparently sourced from that one strip mall Chinese restaurant in the middle of Milwaukee with kind of okay lo mein and a shitton of soy sauce. The patties had to have been soaked in soy sauce, as they were inedibly salty and had a strange, powdery glaze on them. The sauce was nearly inedible- it was sour and creamy with a melange of spices, two of which were definitely caraway and garam masala. Completely disgusting.
So, these were a gamble, and a fairly disappointing one. The one consistently positive aspect about these is that they’re a great value- they are not snack-sized sandwiches and would definitely be a substantial lunch, considering that the potato patties also omit the need to get fries, although for your 5 Euro you could just as easily get a kebab with frites. Unfortunately, the flavors are way off the mark and are probably a bit too experimental for the French fast food palate.

Shang Palace, Paris, France

Having survived dinner at Agape Substance and lived, albeit barely, to tell the tale, Miss Love and I were reluctant to commit to another potentially disastrous tasting menu while on this trip. We’re not averse to eating spaetzle and frites at home by any means, but we did want to go out for at least one other meal out before she left. As luck would have it, I was browsing David Lebovitz’s website late last night, in between post-writing jags and cell-phone shopping, (okay, and maybe I was also ogling motorcycles) when I saw a very positive post about Shang Palace, one of two restaurants at the Shangri-La Hotel in the 16th. 

Not that I’ve been seeking it out, but it seems that the only decent Chinese food in Paris can be found at 2AM when you’re inebriated. It can be found everywhere, with a sort of underground McDonald’s like eeriness in its frequency and consistency. You walk into the kiosk. Sometimes it says “traiteur,” sometimes not. Sometimes you can tell just because of the metallic aromas of nuked soy sauce. Hand the person at the counter 2-4 Euro, mumble your order. It doesn’t matter. In less than a minute, you will receive a dented microwaved plastic box with plastic wrap on top, noodles and chicken steaming the hermetically sealed packet. It tastes of MSG and heartbreak and will leave 3rd degree burns on the inside of your mouth. Because you are drunk, you will enjoy it and in the morning, remember little more than the blisters and heartburn.

It may be cheap, but it’s hardly satisfying, never scratching the itch that saucy, sweet, spicy noodles and crispy mong beans do. So Chinese, along with decent bagels, chicken salad, and mozzarella sticks, has been put on the back burner until I return to the States. When we saw this write-up, though, we thought it would be fun to go for lunch. Shang Palace has one Michelin star and the service and food is certainly implicit of this fact. Walking in, it was like we’d quietly shut the door to busy Paris and been ushered into a sound-proof museum, quietly playing piano music.
I’d never had a near-silent lunch before, but as the only patrons in the restaurant surrounded by imposing, maze-like woodwork panels and an impressively large table for two, it seemed as though we would soon be experiencing one, the waitstaff silently moving around us. You could hear a chopstick drop in there, so we were pleased when more customers started filing in for lunch. Everything about Shang Palace is poised, with a grand, yet tasteful power to its decor and design. I imagine it’s a popular spot for business dinners, as evidenced by its upper three and four digit wine list!

We opted to share a teapot of green jasmine tea, easily the best beverage deal in the restaurant. One pot yielded at least five steaming mugs of very elegant, naturally sweet tea for us both.

As David’s review had warned of oversized portions, we opted to share the Dim Sum menu, with a side selection of caramelized barbecued Cantonese meats, one of the specialties of the restaurant. This was an excellent choice for two people. It was the perfect amount of food for us. The pacing and service of the lunch was impeccable, some of the nicest I’ve ever had. Highlights included fresh, steaming plates every two courses, steamed towels at the beginning and end of the meal, and careful, attentive service without coming off as nosy. Our waitress noticed that my chopstick and sauce spoon was placed on my right side, but that I kept using my left hand to eat. Not two bites in, she swiftly picked the set up, cleaned them off, and placed them on my left side once more.

I think Shang Palace speaks to the interesting differences in the sensibilities of restaurants based on the average age of the clietele and cultural desires. When we’ve eaten tasting menus at newer, relatively trendy restaurants, there seems to have been an overarching desire for the waitstaff in New York to explain and chat, to analyze every element of the food and provide background information on individual ingredients. While there is a time and place for that, sometimes it’s refreshing to allow the food to speak for itself, something Shang Palace has obviously seen and touched upon.

We started with Ha Kao, shrimp dumplings, and Siu Mai, shrimp and pork dumplings with a little fish roe on top. These complimented each other perfectly, with the delicate, sticky shrimp dumplings, perfumed and saline, contrasting the robust, almost hefty Siu Mai. Neither of these required soy sauce or even the transcendent and fresh hot chili sauce I kept close to my side.

After our first few bites, the meat platter was brought out, a hefty plate of roasted duck, marinated chicken, and crispy pork brisket, each with their own accompanying condiment. Each meat was impeccably prepared, generously portioned, and none felt like an afterthought in the selection. However, I was most impressed with the duck, served with a sweet orange and prawn sauce, its lacquered skin crispy and crackling with a tender, moist chew. That being said, the savory chicken and crunchy pork with hot mustard were not to be left behind!
Our next dim sum course was brought out, Shanghai steamed pork buns. I expected these to be more akin to the traditionally fluffy buns, but in retrospect, they were more like soup dumplings, served with a piquant black vinegar and ginger sauce. The subtle flavors in this played well with the boldness of the sauce, the dumpling skin fresh, stretchy, and tender.
Moving on to soup, we shared a steaming bowl of white tofu soup (with a self-described superior crystal broth) with a giant crab dumpling. Eating this was like slurping down Chinese matzah ball soup, from the finely ground texture of the crab meat to the hot, savory broth– admittedly superior. It was comforting and cozy on such a damp day.

After finishing up the last of our meat and drinking another mug of tea, the table was again cleared and made way for a huge bowl of fried egg noodles with chicken, bean sprouts, and onions. Perfectly cooked, not over salted, and pleasantly grilled in flavor…this was one dish I couldn’t resist spooning a little chili sauce over. With or without the sauce, it was a great end to the savory part of our meal.

Miss Love’s menu came with a dessert, a chilled mango cream with pomelo and sago. Originally, we thought this would be served in steamed bun form, a dessert that looked delicious on David’s blog, but instead, we received a small pot of this sumptuous cream, delicate and floral with small beads of sago and individual grains of pomelo.

I ordered dessert, too, a special double-cream almond pudding inside a sweet, thin sesame shell. The presentation on this was stunning, with a toasty, almost savory exterior counterbalancing the sweetness of the thick almond cream. The inner part of the shell absorbed the cream and with time, got glutenous and chewy, like a mochi. The perfect ending to the meal.

Shang Palace is impeccable in every respect, achieving a quiet dignity through their flavors and service that some restaurants would benefit from adhering to. It is obvious that they have maintained a style that many find irresistible. It’s definitely somewhere I’d love to go back to!

Foodette in Gay Paris: Winter Eats, Chilly Treats

In an attempt to get through the incredible backlog of reviews, events, and posts I have planned for you, I’ve decided to do another fun compilation of foods I’ve been eating here. Winter has sort of set in in Paris- not quite to the extent of a New England winter. Hell, I’ve had Augusts colder than this, but it’s the perfect time for chilly-weather treats and meals. Most of the cafes and restaurants have heated outer terraces, perfect for sitting and watching the world go by without worrying about losing a finger to frostbite.

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Vonnegut came to Paris for a weekend visit. He is studying abroad at Oxford and had never been to France before! We enjoyed pastries and parties together, and ate at some sweet brasseries near Saint-Paul. I had this Camembert salad for lunch one day. Simple and delicious- roasted Camembert fondue with honey and greens.
On this visit, we also enjoyed some pastries from Miss Manon- sesame and sunflower seed sables, an enormous, self-destructing millefeuille, and the Mexico, a gold-leafed chocolate monstrosity. They were all delicious.

On Vonnegut’s last evening in Paris, we went to Angelina for a hot chocolate and some macarons. I went for the traditional chocolat africain, while he tried the white chocolate. I’ve had quite a few hot chocolates in Paris so far and highly recommend Angelina. It’s no secret at this point, but what they do, they do exceptionally well.
Shortly before Vonnegut’s arrival, I took a trip to Normandy and Saint-Malo for a few days. The above beverage is a local Breton specialty, lait ribot, a fermented milk beverage. I was expecting something similar to the chilled buttermilk my grandfather used to drink straight from the quart, but received a large, deceptively deep mug of lukewarm, slightly effervescent, thick, tangy milk. It tasted somewhere in between yogurt, seltzer, and a milkshake, with a cheesy aftertaste. Later, I discovered that lait ribot is made from the leftover fermented milk used for making butter, which explains its richness. It took some time, but the flavor grew on me, especially with the sweet, sweet crepe I ate alongside…

This crepe was served flaming, drizzled with housemade Calvados, and stuffed with salted caramel and baked apple compote. Topped with vanilla ice cream, it was one of the best crepes I have eaten here so far.
The next day, I ate this special omelet for lunch. The omelet Normande, or Omelette de la Mère Poulard, as the famous restaurant in Normandy is known for, is puffed up by whipping the whites into a frothy sauce, adding the yolks shortly after. Good ones are served like a soufflé, with a soft middle and fluffy outside. This was from a restaurant close to the Mère Poulard, but for a fraction of the price. There was no way I could see myself paying 35 Euro for an omelet, no matter how good!

Back on the home front, here are some of the things I’ve been cooking. I’m afraid it’s been fairly basic for the most part. I’ve been realizing the differences between living somewhere and vacationing somewhere. It’s an interesting fact to reconcile, as so many of our conceptions of international travel are based on these montages (backed by accordion music) of shopping, eating, and attractions in a week-long period.
Somehow, it comes as a surprise to people to find that I don’t wake up at 6 every morning to schlep to the Eiffel Tower, nor do I eat steak frites for every meal or go out to a cafe every day. It astonishes them to hear that I spend weekends doing laundry or- gasp! homework, and they are amazed to discover that I don’t go to the Louvre once a week. The truth is, it’s difficult to justify buying a block of foie gras over a week’s worth of groceries. However, I’ve still been having a smashing time with my own recipes. So many little stores and places make their own products, or their own condiments, the likes of which I’ve been buying and enjoying to fit my needs. Chinese five-spice mustard and freshly squeezed tangerine juice have been making appearances in my latest recipes. Above, you’ll see grilled proscuitto and raspberry-coing preserves. Below, pulled pork for a party.

For a special Halloween dinner, I made pumpkin crepes.

Sometimes, I stick to basic, but tasty standbys, like this Caprese omelet and grilled cheese, with fresh basil from the Marché St-Eustache and a slice of tomato atop melted sheep’s milk cheese.
I have been treating myself to some pastries and funky favorites, though. My Parisian pastry bucket list is getting smaller by the day! These giants are the famous rose pralines from Francois Pralus. He has a store in the 4th, about two blocks from my apartment, but at the Chocolate Salon, they were baking these inside giant pop-up ovens in their booth. I got to try a fresh piece of one- flaky, buttery, and sweet. I don’t know that I could eat an entire loaf. 

When Dillinger and my little sister came, we took a walk past the Christmas market at Champs-Elysees. Dillinger picked up one of these Alsatian specialties, chocolate boules, a thin layer of chocolate topped with coconut or caramel, filled with fluffy whipped cream. It wasn’t that cold out, so we were surprised to see how well the chocolate held in the cream.

Another day, I took a walk with my sister to one of my favorite patisseries, Pain de Sucre. In addition to their plethora of macarons and pastries, they make gigantic, squishy marshmallows in a wide array of flavors. We picked up whiskey and salted caramel, rose, vanilla bean, and olive oil, and raspberry-coconut. I’m dying to go back and try their black sesame, too!
These croissants, from Sadaharu Aoki, have also worked their way into my breakfast repertoire. Flaky matcha croissants, bright green on the inside. It is my goal to ensure that at least one makes the trip back to my apartment to photograph. Four croissants and I’m still unsuccessful.

Last but not least, my absolute favorite dinner here so far- okay, I’m biased. The spiciest and subsequently, best dinner on a cold night, takeout noodle soup from Happy Nouilles in the 3rd, near the Arts et Metiers metro stop. My go-to order (typically paid for in coins) is the #4, the Zati, with black vinegar, ground pork, bok choi, and hand-pulled noodles shaved right into the pot when you order. Amazing, sheer perfection with my now omnipresent mug of Lapsang Souchong. My inability to use chopsticks turns my tablecloths into a warzone. More treats as the cold sets in!

FritoLay Yakitori Corn Snack Two Flavors (Negima & Tare)

Grilling season is almost over, at least for me. Luckily, I have some tasty treats to tide me over when steak frites and ice cream no longer pushes my buttons. J-List sent over a whole mess of treats for me to nosh on in Gay Paree. I had to crack a few open before my departure, though, and was very curious about this Yakitori snack. And yes, it is called FritoLay Yakitori Corn Snack Two Flavors (Negima & Tare) and contains two shapes and flavors of corn chips, similar in texture to Jax with a rough, airy interior. The combination of the two flavors is supposed to mimic the overall sensation of eating Yakitori, Japanese teriyaki-grilled chicken.

The two types of chips couldn’t have been more different. The negima chip, hollow and tubular with a bulky shape, had a sweet and smoky flavor with coffee, caramel, and a corn and butter flavor with a forward wasabi aftertaste. I thought it would be fun to eat first and get information about what these were after trying them out. Apparently the negi is a Japanese long onion, native to the country, with a sweeter and lighter flavor than our green onion equivalents back home. It was really unique and varied with a curious set of spices and I loved its interpretation in chip form. I imagine the real thing would be delicious as well!

The football-shaped chips were not hollow, and seemed to have a softer crunch than the negima chips. These were sweet and savory, with a soy sauce and garlic flavor and corn base. I enjoyed them enough, and after discovering they mimicked the soy-based condiment atop the chicken, found them aptly flavored. Did the chips taste like yakitori when eaten together? I couldn’t tell you, as they were impossible to fit in my mouth together. The negima chips were simply too large eat in one bite and too messy to cleave in half. These were fantastic chips, though, and were clearly conceived very carefully with a remarkable attention to detail. Definitely something I’d seek out in other flavors and they kicked the ass of our “twofer” chips. Go home, buffalo and blue cheese!

Bratwurst, Jalapeno, and Caramelized Onion Potstickers

I hate summer. There, I said it. I’m allergic to the beach and catch burns faster than Snooki catches STI’s. The only person more miserable on a boat is Tommy Lee Judd post-Double Jeopardy. The irony of spending over 75% of my childhood summers on boats and at beaches is not lost on me. But now I’m a grown-ass woman! I can fast-forward to any damned season that I want. And today, I decided that I wanted autumn to hurry up and get here already. So for lunch, I made Miss Love a boatload of homemade dumplings, filled with bratwurst, jalapenos, caramelized onions, and topped with a spicy mustard sauce. And they say July is a summer month.

If you haven’t made homemade potstickers before, take it from an authentic Jewish, American white woman whose only contact with Asian heritage involves casual hookups: these are easy and worth your time. I cheated a little and got premade dumpling wrappers from a local Asian grocery. They tasted fresh and were easy enough to make that in retrospect, it seemed silly to make the dough from scratch. If you have access to these wrappers, I highly suggest you pick some up. They’re hardy and thaw quickly for easy preparation.

To make the dumplings, we combined a few of our latest and greatest favorite ingredients- I’d had the good fortune to receive a selection of Gold’n Plump chicken sausages earlier this week, as well as a tangy, sticky mustard sauce simply named, “That Yellow Sauce.” I’m addicted with this. I’ve been slathering it on top of all of my favorite foods. Mixing those together with some of Gordy’s Thai basil jalapenos, picked up at the Fancy Food Show, and chopped caramelized onions yielded a sweet, savory filling with a wonderful lingering spice.
Bratwurst, Jalapeno, and Caramelized Onion Potstickers
Ingredients (makes 18-20 dumplings)
2 3oz. uncooked bratwurst sausages, taken out of casing
2 tablespoons chopped jalapenos
2 tablespoons of spicy mustard
4 tablespoons of chopped caramelized onions
18-20 dumpling wrappers
1. Mix together ground bratwurst, jalapenos, mustard, and caramelized onions. If you’d like, you can do this the night before you make the potstickers so the flavors have more time to blend together.
2. When you’re ready to make the potstickers, place a teaspoon of the filling in the center of a dumpling. With your fingers, wet the edges of the wrapper and draw them together, pinching and sealing the edges so that the filling doesn’t leak out.
3. Place the filled dumplings in a greased pan on medium-high. Cook until the bottom is brown and crispy. Pour 1/3 cup of warm water in and steam on medium-high for five to six minutes, tossing the dumplings as needed. When the water is evaporated, lower the heat and simmer until fully cooked. Serve with a garnish of onions, mustard, and hot sauce.

These are easy to customize and create and can easily be frozen for later snacking. I’m planning on trying these with spicy brisket and shredded chicken next.

Fourteen Japanese Caramels

Food dreams are the absolute worst. Not dreams with food in them- I have no intentions of rambling on and on about the last dream I had, only to accidentally reveal a sordid repressed history of a life of teenaged crime off an ABC After School Special. I’m talking about the rare dream about food, some sort of product that infiltrates your subconscious that dream-you wholly believes to be authentic. I woke up this morning hell-bent on reaching into my real live purse and taking out a box of real live Japanese Inside-Out Chocolate Brownie Kit-Kats that my dream boyfriend gave me, only to discover that they never existed in the first place. I died a little this morning.
Luckily, Japan’s exportation coda requires all edible items shipped to the States to be completely wild and insane, so for today’s review, I’ve collected a whole bunch of bizarre caramels, some from Miss Love, others from J-List, to write about and review today. These make Brach’s look about as edgy as a broken Hummel figurine.
Sweet potato: Amazing! Tangy, slightly metallic, with a rich, creamy, starchy potato flavor. Very brown sugar and caramel-heavy, but delicious. Probably the best retention of the caramel and potato essence.
Corn:Milky and sweet, like fresh corn on the cob. Definitely candied and sugary, but distinctly vegetal. Butter: Disturbingly accurate—waxy, like margarine, with a forward salinity and sweet flavor, like sweet cream. Really rich.
Chestnut: The most dense caramel with a rich, coffee-like flavor and hint of nuttiness. Tasted more like chestnut syrup than actual chestnuts, but we weren’t complaining!
Matcha: Grainy and vivacious in texture and flavor, with an intense and concentrated flavor. Matcha buillion. Ghenghis Khan: Based off lamb curry (!!!) this was surprisingly mild, but not without a slight gaminess and faux-grilled tang. An excellent novelty.

Cantaloupe: The best, hands down. Tangy, cool, creamy, and sweet, with that quintessential pulpy melon flavor. This is what Starburst wishes it was. We demolished this box completely.
Persimmon: Prickly, sweet fruit with a slightly spicy undertone. I’ve never had a raw persimmon, but there was a distinct flavor to this that leads me to believe this wasn’t just half-assed.

Sticky rice in coconut: Definitely reminiscent of the coconut part, not sure about the sticky rice. Definitely had a glutenous chew, though!
City lights: I have no idea what this is supposed to represent. I’m going to go with either “pixels” or “14-year old girl,” and based on the sweet, berry-like flavor, it’s likely the latter. Japan, you so crazy. This tastes like boysenberries and haskap, slightly musky and sweet.
Natural yogurt: Their words, not mine. This tastes exactly like lemon cheesecake filling—tangy and fruity, with very little dairy. It’s bizarre.
Yuzu: This was the most unique as it was contained in an edible rice paper package, which offered a unique crunchy contrast to the sweet, gummy caramel inside. This was the chewiest and sweetest of the bunch.

These are delicious. And they’re even available at Japanese dollar stores. Kind of makes my local Family Dollar selection of crushed Saltines and headless dolls look even sadder.

Cheetos W Gourmet Corn Potage Soup

“It’s 4/20,” I said to Miss Love, “So I’m going to review this strange flavor of Japanese Cheetos.”
“They’ll like that, right?” I said with the apprehensive tone of a middle-aged father trying to pick out a hip-hop CD for his teenage son’s birthday. “They like bizarre combinations and things that come from Asia, right?” Well, while these contain neither hemp nor any advertisement, subliminal or otherwise, referring to or evoking Bob Marley, they are, like stoners, both fascinating and a hair creepy, so happy 4/20!
These chips came from Japan, sourced by J-List, and are part of the Frito-Lay Japan Cheeto “W” line. Not to be confused with the gourmet line of Cheetos, or the chocolate-covered Cheetos, or the Cheetos released that taste like all the different kinds of Korean cuisine, these double-your (“W”) your flavor by using twice the normal amount of flavor powder. Double your pleasure, double your pun, Japan. No word on whether some ambitious gamer has conducted a quantitative study as to exactly what the normal amount is and whether this is actually doubled, but suffice to say the class action lawsuit settlement alone would be enough to keep you rich in Cheeto dust fingers for your entire life and afterlife.
Oddly enough, the first thing that struck me about these wasn’t so much the powder, but the scent. It smelled like I’d accidentally wandered into a Denny’s or a state fairground, a sweet combination of maple syrup, fresh kettle corn, and oil wafting out of the bag. Not bad, but completely unexpected. Out of the bag, the Cheetos didn’t appear to have any more flavor powder than their standard, naked counterparts, and the powder was subtly colored rather than taking a page from the nuclear ‘merican ones we’ve come to know and love.
The flavor is curious. It tastes like sour cream and onion chips and Corn Pops met under normal circumstances, dated for a while, had some mutual differences that were impossible to overcome (she’s too sweet and cloying, he has an underlying musky scent like he doesn’t bathe) and parted on good terms, resolving to stay friends all the same. Until they met up at their ten-year high school reunion, reconnected, and she popped out these nine months later. They’re neither breakfast nor snack food, but they contain familiar elements of both. The sweet and savory balance is spot-on, and while I couldn’t detect any cheesiness in these, there was a definite heaviness not unlike actual corn potage, combining starchy, rich flavors with other starchy, rich flavors. Perhaps these are better eaten in the winter, or as the bag suggests, atop actual corn potage like a fat kid’s croutons. Either way, I found that despite their perplexing odor, they subtly and masterfully highlighted the base ingredient of Cheetos- corn, and added an extra layer of flavor mimicry to them as well. Best paired with Pink Floyd and more Cheetos, I assume.

Korean BBQ Cheetos

Pffft, while the rest of you were eating your salsa con asshat Cheetos, I was eating meat Cheetos. Meetos. And it was Korean beef, too. Squares. J-List sent over Korean BBQ flavored Cheetos and who am I to ignore the sultry obese siren’s call of two of my favorite foods inside of one of my favorite chips? As far as the packaging goes, I would be looking you straight in the eye and lying if I said that I did not value the bag art on this more than a live human infant. Although I desperately wish that it featured the antics of our beloved Chester Cheetah a little more, perhaps wailing on a sweet guitar or chewing Kim Jong-il’s arm off or something, the image of sizzling meat warms the cockles of my heart and the acid of my stomach.
A cross between Japanese yakiniku and Korean bulgogi, these chips feature a garlic and soy heavy scent mixed with the generic grilled meat nose that often accompanies things that are neither grilled nor meat. Imagine a slightly more pungent ramen noodle seasoning packet and you’ll have a good idea of how these things smell. If not entirely appetizing, nostalgic at least, and immediately conjuring up the image of things that might taste like meat. Again, kind of like ramen. Unlike their sauce-drenched inspiration, the Cheetos are primarily yellow with a fine dusting of brown flavor powder. I find that in the past, I’ve preferred Japanese Cheetos to American ones because they lack the rough, corrugated texture that comes with the American’s cornmeal base. They have a softer, more delicate crunch and a finer chew, which leads me to wonder if these are some sort of rice flour and cornmeal based snack to better suit the Japanese palate.
In either scenario, I really enjoyed these. While I can’t honestly say they reminded me precisely of the flavor of meat sizzling on a grill, they certainly nailed the sauce flavor down pat, with a sweet flavor profile consisting primarily of ginger, garlic, brown sugar, and soy. With a little research and kanji translation, I found out that this flavor collaborated with the Ebara Foods company, a maker of popular sauces and marinades in Asia, and based it heavily on their yakiniku no tare sauce for barbecued meat. Absolutely delicious and neither overly salted nor bland. I can see these going really well with a cold beer.
LinkCheck these snacks and many other awesome treats out at J-List!