Amano Truffles

One of the highlights of food bloggery is being able to share delicious things with family and friends. Sometimes it gets to be a bit of a hassle- finding someone who wants 39 bags of an obscure corn-based snack food, for one, but I genuinely look forward to the times when I can crack into a weird-ass confection with buddies or share a nice chocolate with Keepitcoming after dinner. Sharing nice chocolates is on par with sharing nice wines, both activities I rather enjoy.Amano, to me, is the Trimbach of the chocolate world. Easily one of my favorites, but not something someone outside of the wine/chocolate circle would necessarily recognize as a household name. (Hershey and Hazlitt? Another story entirely. ) Its outstanding quality and depth of flavor in the bars I’ve previously tried, Dos Rios and Guayas, has the signs of a well-crafted level of skill. (Godiva and Gallo. Don’t stop me, it only gets worse from here.) After enjoying the strange thoughtfulness that the last two bars gave me almost a year back, we turned to the truffles for some more thrills and chills.
The box of twelve truffles had a somewhat murky beginning. The flavor guide corresponded to the number of chocolates, but the box seemed to lack certain flavors and have doubles of others. All the truffles featured different flavors paired with Amano’s all star lineup of chocolates. However, the main source of deviation from their standard format lay in the beauty of familiarity. For whatever reason, Keepitcoming and I found ourselves neutral to the more exotic chocolates. Cardamom and pepper barely held our interests with its muddled top notes, and key lime pie seemed to have a singular focused bitterness.
It was the raspberry truffle that made our tongues sing. Flavors I would generally skip over, we savored until the end, wishing we had entire boxes of these truffles. The raspberry had a spectacular jammy texture and fresh flavor, while the honey truffle, seen with my tasting notes, had a smoky, unctuous bitter flavor reminiscent of miello corbezzolo. The cinnamon chocolate with candied pecans was autumnal and its crisp, smoky flavors reminded me of chilly fall days and the scent of dried leaves. It was a delightful deviation from the normal flavors of Amano, and one I’d love to have more of. I don’t seem to see these on the website, so be warned- they may be a seasonal addition.

Philly Cooking Creme Italian Cheese and Herb

I am not a busy mom. I don’t find myself waiting hand and foot on a hungry husband and rushing my children to oodles of activities. My entire life is one big “me time” and I rarely find myself in a dilemma when the time comes to cook dinner for more than one person.

And yet, I found myself drawn to Philadelphia Cooking Creme.Maybe it’s because I’m a college student, but I never blink at the opportunity to add cream cheese to food. And being that this was one of Philadelphia’s biggest advertising campaigns yet, how could I not try it? The marketing really confines it to a very specific demographic: if you’re incompetent at cooking and find yourself literally paralyzed by anxiety over reading a cookbook, this supplement is for you. I can’t bring myself to call it a sauce, nor can I call it a creme, because thick, white, gooey stuff that smells funny just doesn’t do it for me.
Philly’s phinest comes in four flavors, Italian Cheese and Herb (herb singular), Santa Fe Blend, Savory Garlic, and Original. My grocery store only carried two of the four, so I opted to try the Italian Cheese and Herb. Upon opening the package, only one thought entered my mind: is it possible this has gone bad? It couldn’t have been- it had only been released less than a week ago. It made no sense. And yet, the texture was grainy and inconsistent, too wet and too pungent. When we tasted it, it was acerbic- that generic herb blend rearing its ugly head, and the “Italian cheese” was mainly just cream cheese. Cream-a chees-a, if you will.
However, it goes without saying that you have to cook with it before you eat it, thus damning this to the unitasking products we so loathe here at Foodette Reviews. It’s a one trick pony. You can’t spread this on your bagel or mix it in with your quiche. It’s a sauce, damn it, and it’s not going to pander to anyone else’s needs. So with that in mind, we tried it in three applications- as a breakfast food in eggs, as a lunch with a chicken burrito, and as dinner, with homemade gnocchi and meatballs. All three of them vastly disappointed us.
The eggs were probably the biggest failure, as we love to mix a little sour cream or cream cheese into our morning omelettes to make them creamy and fluffy. Cooking creme, however, made us feel like we were being molested by our morning eggs, rendering them grainy and seizing them up, tasting more like school lunch eggs from a military issued brown box than Mark Bittman’s low and slow method. The herbs overpowered all other flavors, the scariest being the smoky paprika I added at the end. If a chemical, er, supplement is so powerful that it overwhelms DJ Smoky P, we’re in serious trouble. All “creamy” elements of the sauce disappeared or dissolved into the eggs, leaving nothing more but a slimy trail at the bottom of the pan.With the burrito, the cooking creme was the most successful. Granted, that’s like giving an award to the best five inch penis in the world, but I digress. I cooked up some chicken in a pan and added about a tablespoon of cooking creme. It cooked and sizzled with the chicken, but ended up browning at the edges. In the minute or so that I sauteed it for, it managed to reduce itself to a milky, watery liquid that barely adhered to the chicken at all. This completely defeated the purpose of being a sauce, because a sauce is supposed to stick to whatever you’re using it on, and made it more of a marinade. That being said, a bulk of the graininess was cooked off, and it seemed more mild in a burrito setting. My main complaint, aside from the texture, was how bland it made everything look. That’s partially our fault because we think that keeping vegetables around the house is a carnal sin, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some small pieces of green and red peppers to enhance the creme. This may provide comfort for people with bland dietary restrictions or infants, but it was rather unpalatable for us.
The pasta and meatballs was a toss-up, because we only added a tablespoon to an entire pound of gnocchi along with a whole jar of pasta sauce. Any effects the creme had were negative. It blended in with the sauce until it was relatively unoffensive, yet still retaining that dastardly generic herb bitterness, and made the leftovers strangely clumpy. It really seems to defeat the purpose of using it as a sauce when you add a mere tablespoon and it still does nothing but screw up your food.

I feel like this is gimmicky in every sense of the word, and preys upon the self-sufficiency of harried consumers. It tastes fake, it’s basically useless, and it markets itself as an upscale alternative to many, many other sufficient sauce boosters. This product practically fosters a dependency on packaged products. It’s not the mommy bloggers’ faults that they’re busy, but it is their faults if they can’t learn basic cooking skills or memorize the digits to their favorite Chinese joint. For $3.69, you could buy some cream cheese or make a whole mess of bechamel, both of which would provide the desired effect without the extraneous additions. Leave the Cooking Creme behind and order a pizza for your progeny.

Paldo Aloe Drink: Pomegranate

I used to see Aloe drink all the time when I was a young lad shopping with my parents in the Asian grocery store but was always turned away by its weird texture. Then one day, on my first food based adventure with Foodette we bought a bottle of regular green aloe drink from the local grocery and I’ve been hooked on it since. The taste of regular aloe drink is crisp and refreshing and tastes like really expensive Muscat grapes. The texture however is something that could take getting used to. The texture of aloe drink is mostly liquid I would say but contains little chunks of aloe pulp. The texture of aloe pulp is very much like the texture of grapes. A drink that tastes like Muscat grapes and has a pulp similar to grape pulp, it’s probably the best thing ever. You’ll love regular aloe drink as much as I do if you like grapes as much as I do, which is a lot.

I stumbled on this different flavor of aloe drink the other night after losing a bit of money at the casino. I saw this on the shelf of a local exotic foods market and thought: “I love aloe, and I like pomegranate too, this could be awesome!” At a price of over $2 a bottle, I was expecting the next greatest thing since regular aloe drink. What I actually got was a bottle of disappointment equal the amount of disappointment I would feel if the next Call of Duty game would feature the voice talent of Justin Bieber in collaboration with the whole cast of Glee.

I still haven’t figured out how they people at Paldo could mess up something that is as delicious as aloe drink, but they did. It was like they took the worst parts of pomegranate juice and the worst parts of aloe drink and bottled it. The juice tasted like artificially flavored pomegranate sugars with added bitterness in a futile effort to emulate the taste of natural pomegranate. The aloe did not absorb any of the flavors of the juice at all, thus it tasted like soft tasteless grape pulp.

It was sometime between the artificially bitter-sweet juice and the tasteless pulp to realize that I had been robbed for a second time that night. There was a moment of despair similar to the moment I had lost my final hand of Spanish 21. I had bought an overly expensive drink that was terrible. It wasn’t something that can be attributed to not having an acquired taste. It was because the drink was just terrible. The flavors are completely artificial and the aloe pulp is unflavored. Even if the aloe pulp absorbed the flavor of the juice it would be terrible. I’m going back to the ever refreshing and delicious green aloe drink which I can drink all day every day I don’t give a fuck.

Domino’s New Boneless Chicken Wings with Mango Habanero Dipping Sauce

Whew, talk about a blast from the past. I think it’s been at least a year since I’ve had Domino’s polygontastic boxes fill my dormitory. I like to order from these chains as a rare treat- when I’m not cooking my own food at home, it’s fun to see what kinds of expansion delivery places are offering. After seeing Grub Grade report the news about not only a new sauce, but new chicken, I knew I had to forgo the ‘zza for an order of wings. Boneless wings, that is. Domino’s has been making a lot of positive changes to their food, and after a relatively successful pizza reformulation, they’ve moved onto their chicken.
So how do they taste? Actually, I’m not sure. I have my timer set for exactly a half hour for delivery. If they tout that kind of service, I expect at least one high speed car chase down Route 9 to bring me my wings. So far, I’m a little wary. Domino’s says their new chicken wings are “new and tasty,” two modifiers, yet only one of which delivers a murky idea of what the flavor could be. New implies they’re not made from elderly chicken, which is good because I like them young, and tasty implies that they’re liberally applying Mrs. Dash with each winglet. Hell, at least they’re not spelled “wyngz.”They came early. Damn. An order of eight wings will set you back around $10 total if you’re a good tipper. Without the tip, it came to $8.36, a hair above what I like to pay for standard, fast food wings. Out of the box, they look pretty good. I always appreciate places that put dipping sauce on the side because twenty minutes in a car can mean the difference between stunning and slimy skin. There were eight pieces, but I don’t quite think it justifies being called eight wings as they are drastically differing in size, some of them looking to be at least twice as small as others. As far as value goes, I’m not sure if these were worth paying over $1 per wing.The chicken is crispy, with a thick coating of breading. I wouldn’t go as far as to call them crunchy like Popeye’s of KFC, but more on a Wendy’s scale of a softer crust. The chicken inside is a little chewy, but for the most part, tender. On their own, the chicken bites taste pretty good. They’re savory and taste like there’s some garlic and paprika in them, but I came for the sauce. Sauce masks all imperfections. Adding fruit to sauces can be daunting because you never know what you’ll get, but I’m pleased to report that the new mango habanero sauce is balanced and well-spiced, possibly one of the tastiest sauces on the fast food market today.
The sauce worried me at first. The container was filled only halfway up- would this cover eight smallish wings? But my fears were all for naught. The sauce is thick, but not gummy, with a nice orange color and obvious pieces of pepper throughout. It smells mainly of dried mango and assorted spices, and doesn’t hint to any obvious heat. However, upon tasting, it’s clear that Domino’s researched their peppers and researched them well. The heat from the sauce is persistent yet never burning hot, a combination that both satisfies my inner hot head and that of the general public, I’m guessing. It had a nice, smoky paprika flavor with a clean burn that definitely lingered, but kept me wanting more. The texture was a great peppery jamminess that adhered to the chicken and left me wishing I’d ordered more chicken to dip it in. I originally ordered two sauces, fearing I’d run out mid-way, but ended up only using one. Maybe I’ll slather the other on a sandwich.Overall, this might just become my new standard, assuming I try to order Domino’s more than once a year. They probably wouldn’t satiate the average college student, but they were enough for me. If they turned this into a specialty pizza, I’d definitely make an effort to make my way over there more often. If you love heat and fruit, this is something you should check out.

Archer Farms Mediterranean Tomato and Arugula Pizza

I’m not sure what kind of benefit importing foods or ingredients can lend to specific foods. Certain ingredients, for example, are impossible to obtain within the borders of the USA, like burrata, bush meat (it’s not what you think) or the impressive McRice. But can imported mozzarella really make a frozen pizza taste better than a crispy New Haven pie? Will imported gelato taste more luxurious than Herrell’s homemade ice cream?

Granted, there are certain physical and chemical properties of these ingredients that can enhance foods in ways local specialties cannot. But adjusting to such a change in an ingrained love can have negative repercussions, especially when innovative chefs and companies try to reinvent the wheel. We all wept when Coca-Cola sold out to the man and took cocaine out of their formula for the more economical, purified imported coca leaves.When Keepitcoming and I found this pizza at Target, a frozen favorite that all but gave the equation that directly correlated the relationship between imported ingredients and blissful nirvana. I mean, really. The whole damned thing was shipped in pieces from Sicily, complete with a grade-school map on the back. It had better be good. Out of the box, I wasn’t impressed by the sum of its far-away parts. Though it had thickly slices pieces of buffalo mozzarella neatly spanning the inner circle, it was also inconsistently scattered with tomato and arugula, in a mannerism some may call “artful” but I liken to reaching into a D-cup set of breasts and coming up wrist deep in inflatable bra mechanisms. Damn you, Victoria’s Secret. Damn those fake nipples. But I digress.

What came out of the oven can only be best described by wordsmiths far better than I: in the immortal words of Joan Jett, “my, my, my, whiskey and rye, don’t it make you feel so fine.” Simply replace “whiskey and rye” with “tomato and arugula” and you have a point, Ms. Larkin. It looked perfect, but just didn’t do it for me. Without expounding upon the irritation I have about ignoring ingredients that are featured in the product’s title, I’ll just say that the amount of tomatoes on the entire pizza couldn’t have covered a stripper’s nipple, much less six large slices. The smells that wafted off the pizza radiated little more than steam and vaguely removed dairy, and forecasted the eventual taste. TL; DR, this shit was bland, yo.
While the mozzarella gave a nice chew to the toppings, the tomato and arugula had been so frozen and refrozen and cooked and exposed to high altitudes that they were shells of their former selves, bitter and mushy remains of vegetables that exclaimed more of maceration than Mediterranean. That being said, I didn’t quite see the connection between these ingredients and the Mediterranean. Maybe someone in copyediting mixed up the Med and the Margherita, but it lacked all of the acidic, tangy features I typically associate with the cuisine. The crust was inedible as well, having lost all semblance of moisture and airiness in the oven, but provided entertainment the next morning as we broke it in jointed segments like tree branches. This was a fun deviation from our standard Amy’s Pizza, but I think I’ll stick with my favorites and let the natives handle my requests in the future.

Mast Brothers Black Truffle and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bar

In terms of food and wine, I’m always curious about what subtleties and notes do to enhance the overall flavor. Can they intertwine with the base product without overwhelming? Sometimes I like when things are subtle. I’ve long since eschewed milder flavors, because in all things- food, wine, human interaction, I find that the most robust of gestures have the most lasting impressions on me, but I especially relish when something can tread the fine line between bold and over the top.

When illustrating this point, I often use the example of brettanomyces. With low levels of Brett, a yeast compound found on the skins of grapes, a young red wine can be brought into a depth usually unattainable for its age, be given a certain complexity beyond its years, with organic, musky notes that one must search for. Too much Brett, though, can ruin a wine.With this in mind, I approached the Mast Brothers bar, a gift from Keepitcoming’s friend First Tracks, with the same analytical hesitance that I approach certain wines. I did not know if the unusual flavoring would enhance or destroy it. The bar was beautifully wrapped. This was a company whose chocolate I had wanted to try for some time, but had never seen in stores or had the opportunity to purchase. The bar, containing only five ingredients, was flavored with black truffle and sea salt, savory additives I’d only since enjoyed on savory snacks.After unwrapping the bar, it was clear the flavors needed no coaxing. From the initial scent, the umami was nearly palpable, musky and salty on the nose. If the smells were this bold, what would the flavor be like? From the moment I popped a piece in my mouth, and even before that, I could taste the meaty earthiness of the black truffle and the tangy sea salt. It was present just long enough to blur the lines between savory and sweet, and then receded to allow the fruitiness of the dark chocolate come through, a cherry, fruity, naturally sweet taste with an unfortunate textural stubbornness. Clearly, this was a flavor in two acts.
At first, I was a little unsure at how I felt about the clean divide between the flavors, and that one brief interlude of time that I wasn’t sure where one ended and the other began. I wanted the entire experience to be like that. But without those two segments, the middle wouldn’t be nearly as impressive, and would have had a one-noted taste. It was the subtleties that hooked me. Like a wine with Brett, I found myself searching for that midsection with each bite, delving through the flavors until I found exactly what I was looking for, only to do it again. In the end, it was the hunt, and not the capture, that brought me back for more.

Chubby Kids Soda: Cream Scream and Grape

Why don’t we all just acknowledge the elephant in the room and get the obvious over with. Yes, it’s a soda called a Chubby; and yes, a chubby is a synonym for the erection of a penis. Let’s all take a few moments to laugh at the picture of me holding these sodas in suggestive fashions.

Oh hey guys look; he’s holding 2 Chubbies at his crotch! It’s like he’s suggesting they’re dicks or something. Wow, a penis joke! This website is awesome, it’s got informative food reviews and penis jokes!

Anyways, I think we’ve had enough fun at the expense of my hilarious photo and get on with the review. I saw these on the shelf of the local Stop & Shop and thought of the hilarity factor and since they were only 50 cents each, I couldn’t afford not to buy them. I think if there is anything that the people at Chubby got right with this drink it would be creating as good of a gimmick as the people in the Insane Clown Posse had. They proudly display a picture of a portly cartoon child on the front the bottle almost like a surgeon general’s warning to those who want to drink it. “If you drink this colorful fruity soda, you’ll become a cartoon caricature of a fat kid”. So soft drinks make you fat… it’s a magical miracle.

Chubby Soda is a brand that is very popular in Trinidad and Tobago; it’s one of those countries that you hear about in middle school geography textbooks or in a vacation brochure but doesn’t really contribute to our everyday lives or major news. I guess the country’s real contribution to the world is Chubby Soda.

The first flavor I tried was the Grape. In a word it was just plain awful. It tasted like something that FEMA would have gave to Hurricane Katrina victims. Imagine government subsidized grape soda and you’ve got it. And the government soda was probably come in these small packages too. Don’t want the Katrina victims to be too happy with the grape soda that is provided by taxpayer money. Then they’ll never go back to living their old productive lives, they’ll just chill out in the superdome and drink grape soda all day. This soda also went flat really quickly. Within minutes of opening it the carbonation was gone and all that was left was a badly flavored grape flavored drink. Maybe grape drank is just more appealing to more people.

The other flavor was Chubby Cream Scream. I guess this was supposed to be their version of cream soda. The cool thing about this flavor was that it didn’t taste like what regular white people cream soda taste like and this really caught me by surprise. This had a much sweeter and candy taste to it. It was more like a cotton candy flavored soda than vanilla cream. The odd taste was one that would probably take some getting used to. This one however held onto its carbonation for a long time. I had left this bottle in my car for probably a week and it was still carbonated, once again… fucking miracles. All in all these 2 drinks were interesting and if they paint a correct picture of Trinidad and Tobago, I’d probably want to vacation there, but not to the parts where they only have Chubby Grape.

The Roost, Northampton, MA

Things overheard at The Roost:
“Have you heard the new Girl Talk album? It’s deck.”
“I put off paying my rent because those new Nike collectible shoes were a must.”
“Really, because I think Nietzche’s sentiments were just echoed by Charles Bronson in a cooler way.”
“Has anyone even been far as decided to use even go want to do look more like?”

Things not overheard at The Roost:
“Are there fries with that?”
“I love my new non-Mac computer! It is sufficient and perfect for all my needs!”
“No, I’ve never read What Color Is Your Parachute, why do you ask?”
“Kombucha? What is that, Japanese fellatio?”

Needless to say, The Roost looked like the exact kind of place I would resent. Surprisingly, it’s the first of its kind to open up in Northampton- a hipster cafe, complete with upcycled picket fence and pallet board sign construction and fake rust accents. Open for a mere week, it already had its staples of Mac lovers and Khalil Gibran touters. Because this seemed like the kind of place with a hipster dress code and 3 PBR minimum, Keepitcoming and I went in disguise.The menu takes a good deal of getting used to. For a place that boasts a relaxed, vintage atmosphere, there are stringent hours regarding when one can and cannot eat breakfast or lunch. I omit dinner because the “dinner” menu is paltry at best, with nothing under $10 providing adequate sustenance for one person. The staff is also apparently unable to whip up a cold sandwich after four PM. They do not yet have menus for takeaway, yet have taken liberties to print recycled house menus with alternating capitalization.

We went for lunch, as that seemed to provide the most variety and value. Surprisingly, Four Loko was not listed as a special. We ordered two grilled cheeses in their savory and sweetvarieties, a blondie, an iced chai tea, and one of their specialty cocktails. Props to a restaurant (with this level of pretension) with no moral quandry about serving booze at one in the afternoon. Musta been the weather. The staff is clearly still getting used to the lay of the land, because during the 45 minutes we were there, we heard two loud crashes coming from the kitchen area. The decor was funky, and clearly malleable enough to progress as the restaurant grows. I especially appreciated the gender-neutral bathrooms, but felt a little put on the spot when given the choice to enter “number one” or “number two.” I suspect the latter had a longer wait time.

The eight Macbooks in a ten foot vicinity were old hat, but the wood tables and drinks served in Mason glasses were a unique touch a la summer camp in the Poconos. Lunch for two came to thirty bucks, generally a little more than I prefer to spend on sandwiches and dessert.Our sandwiches were pressed panini, oozing with filling. This was what would separate The Roost from Wheatberry and hopefully soar it into the platinum plus status of a Woodstar or Bread Euphoria. Sweet baby Jesus, I said to myself, please, please don’t let this be another Wheatberry. Perhaps even become the mayor of Foursquare or whatever. My wallet is crying in my back pocket. But lo and behold, it was not! It was fresh and filling, if a tad on the greasy side. The savory sandwich contained tomato, avocado, whole grain mustard, and swiss cheese, and was juicy with a panoply of textures, but somewhat of a lack in flavor. The whole grain mustard was especially enhancing, but little else seasoned the sandwich. The ingredients were clearly of a high quality, so it was a shame that they weren’t salted to their full potential.The sweet grilled cheese had a similar seasoning problem. The ingredients were quality- peppery arugula, fig jam, brie cheese, and green apples, but seemed to be haphazardly thrown together in a way that was deliciously messy, but a little inconsistent. The one bite I had with all the ingredients was sublime, but for nine other bites with small amounts of filling, it wasn’t worth the price. Both sandwiches were stuffed and grilled to a crispy shell, but lacked the tang and intensity I often crave in a good sandwich.Our drinks fell down in quality. Keepitcoming’s specialty cocktail, though innovative and summery, consisted of roughly two ounces of cava (an already cheap alternative to champagne) and three ounces of ice halfway filling up a tumbler. The concept was tasty- cava with thin slices of lemon and confetti strips of chiffonaded basil at the bottom, but lacked the finesse and portion that one regularly expects in a cocktail. Or maybe I’m just an alcoholic. But for eight dollars, they really cheaped out on this one. It was slightly astringent at first, and was improved with a little simple syrup.Opting for a cool drink from their coffee list, I ordered an iced chai and was pleased to discover that it was light on the ice without even asking for it to be. It was a large serving, but was a little light on both the sugar and spice. The contents were definitely milky without being watery, and struck a good balance between liquids. It grew on me as I drank and was especially good with the peanut butter blondie. From the right angle, these resembled the foodstuff equivalent of a lead pipe. We didn’t know they were wedges and assumed they were just inch-thick squares of dense blonde action, able to kill a man at a glance.But she was more delicate than her appearance, far more so. The blondie fell apart at the slightest nudge from a fork, dissolving into crumbly, sandy morsels infused with a delicious nutty flavor in both the batter and the dough. I was pleased to have a little sweet with my salty, coming in the form of soft white chocolate chip morsels. A tasty bakery treat, but unfortunately nothing I’m dying to run back for anytime soon. For the crowd it aims for, The Roost is an inclusive alternative to Starbucks, but doesn’t quite cater to the expectations I typically have.

Lark Fine Foods Polenta Pennies

Throughout my college years, I’ve made a steady niche for myself as a self-proclaimed carboholic. Followed by meat as a close second, there is no bigger place in my heart as there is for a pizza or some homemade bread. For some reason, grains never really caught on with my palate. Whenever my dad would make rice or polenta, I eschewed it for a sandwich. It was only until now that I’ve really reaped the benefits of the smaller grains. I’ll eat cous cous at dinner or pick up some sushi rolls, and a few days ago, I got the chance to sample polenta pennies from Lark Fine Foods, a little cookie with a big crunch.
These cookies seemed to contain at least one of every ingredient that I’m ambivalent about. If they had included mushrooms, they would have had a full set. But that must not have made it out of the test room. Instead, these had golden raisins, polenta, and lemon zest. For a girl who prefers salty, sweet, and bold flavors, I was curious to see how I’d react to trying these. The bag was crammed full of cookies, little half-dollar sized confections in a sunny yellow tone, studded with raisin gems only slightly darker than the cookies themselves. Each cookie was crumbly, but held together like shortbread. The flavor was buttery and citrusy, with the perfect amount of sugar, and a zippy, jammy chew from the raisins. What really brought this to a level higher than Keebler was the texture. Regarding confections, I’m really starting to get hooked on sweet treats that utilize cornmeal. It reminded me of the best of Effie’s Corncakes with a more breakfasty flavor and more accessible, thick texture. These were something I’d snatch up for sure if encountering them in a grocery store, and would be easy to doll up as miniature desserts for guests. A dollop of lemon cream cheese, anyone?As a brief diversion, I would also like to draw attention to two unrelated phrases from Oprah online today. They both provide examples of my current mood and financial status. So take that, Facebook! “Cool, heterosexual downtown-ness…the laid-back doctor is in.” God, it’s like a terrible fortune cookie.

Tony’s Pizza, Sutton, MA

While traveling to and from our vacation this weekend, Keepitcoming pointed out a small restaurant on Route 146 that she remembered being delicious. It looked like exactly my type of pizza joint- on a creepy stretch of road and a local favorite. Call me Guy Fieri, but I was there, son. So on the way back, we stopped for lunch so I could see what the hype was all about.

Tony’s was packed for a lazy Sunday afternoon, full of regular patrons and families with kids, waitresses shouting salutatory questions out into the air. The decor was like stepping into someone’s furnished basement, with knotted pine walls and haphazardly scattered Little League trophies, along with photos and newspaper clippings and the requisite engraved “Captain’s Place” sign above the stairwell and doorway. The menu’s stock photos were straight out of the seventies and everyone called you “hon.” Definitely the kind of place that you can tell serves good pizza.

We placed our order- a small pizza with half cheese and half peppers and onions with a side of buffalo wings and waited a few minutes. Everything about this place was relaxed, so we sat for a bit and grabbed our drinks. After about fifteen minutes, our food was fresh and hot and we picked it up to eat. The pizza was twelve inches around, the standard small pizza size, and about 3/4 of an inch thick. I should give you a preface before I tell you how happy this made me- as a kid, I was a rebel to the “pizza theory”, that is, that your first slice/impression of pizza is what you consider pizza to be. Now that, of course, was thin, crispy, brick oven New Haven style pizza, and will always be, but in my youth, all I wanted was Domino’s or Pizza Hut. Party pizza. Greasy, thick, doughy pizza. I eschewed the artisan crisp for blankets of cheese, and never got it.

Now that I’m surrounded by mediocre pizza for the most part, (sorry, Western Mass) I find myself missing that crisp, thin tang, but this pizza really brought back memories of what I always wanted as a youth and never received. My god, this was delicious pizza. This was sublime. The crust was buttery, but not greasy, with a sweetness to the dough and a crisp exterior, barely passing the line of being crunchy. The crust, which never got soaked through with toppings, was covered in a layer of thick, sweet sauce- probably the closest thing I’ve found to a Beverly sweet sauce pizza thus far. It wasn’t really tomatoey, but flavored with more of an onion and brown sugar dominance, with garlic and tomatoes coming in to round it all out. The cheese was stringy, melty, and milky, all things I love in a pizza cheese. It was simple. It was comforting. When you get down to it, this was just delicious pizza. The upskirt.

Just when I thought I could have gorged myself on this and been happy for the rest of my life, the wings came. These were no ordinary wings. Up until now, I don’t think I’d ever been privy to dry wings with breading, but here they were. I realize I’m sounding a little like Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation when I tell you that “literally, these were the most phenomenal, most decadent chicken wings I’ve ever had in my entire life,” but they were that fucking good. Honestly. With one bite, the bulk of the meat fell off the bone along with the crispy, crispy shell, which was flavored with paprika and buffalo seasoning and garlic and all sorts of magic. Was this a traditional buffalo wing in the dictionary definition of the word? No. Was it better? By far. This is what I imagine broasted chicken to be- tender, falling off the bone, crispy, crunchy goodness. These are wings I would travel for.
The money shot. Doesn’t that look like a cartoon chicken wing? The kind that looks delicious and completely unrealistic? Yeah, that’s what these are. If we ever go down this way again, I’m definitely making a case to stop for more pizza and wings. For a menu with so many items, they do it right, and I absolutely love it.