Farberware Stainless Steel Blender

Recently, Keepitcoming Love and I received a few new appliances from the wonderful folks of Farberware in anticipation for their new line, debuting this September. The three new pieces include a blender, food processor, and coffee and tea machine, and are all made of stainless steel with LED touchpad controls. Today, we checked out the blender and made our first batch of homemade hot sauce.

The Farberware blender retails for $59.88 and features a seven cup capacity for all of your liquifying projects. I would have killed for this when my wisdom teeth had been taken out. Taking it out of the box, it has a few features and interesting add-ons that I’m a fan of. There’s a special cord hiding system in the bottom of the machine, which allows you to store the cord and keep it out of the way or tether it closer to your outlet. Speaking from the point of view of someone who continually stretches the limits of most appliances, I found the cord a hair too short and, though I appreciated the hiding system, I didn’t find that I really used it while using the blender.

So, the recipes. I tested this out on two of my favorite foods, hot sauce and milkshakes. The hot sauce was the brainchild of an unexpected bumper crop of Hungarian Wax and Jalapeno peppers, all five of which you can see here. Each pepper happened to ripen in a different color, thus inspiring the name “Rainbow Sauce” for my eventual product. I expect to trademark it by next week. The hot sauce was perfect to test out in the new blender. After checking out a few recipes, dumping my ingredients in, and turning the ignition, I played around with the settings.

The blender’s LED touchpad isn’t really a touchscreen in the sense of an iPad, but is configured more like a fancy keyboard with a persistent backlight. It’s somewhat difficult to tell when the blender is off or on as the light stays on at all times. It does not have a safety lock when the pitcher is off its stand. It has manual settings for ULTIMATE CONTROL and pre-set speeds. I tested all of them and didn’t find much of a difference between them, but left with the new found knowledge that this blender is powerful. In both a good way and a bad way. On one side, it only takes about three pulses on the medium setting to get a smooth, creamy milkshake. On another side, those three pulses nearly pulverized it into oblivion and made crumbs of the three Oreos I crammed inside. Slap a Tengwar inscription and call me Sauron, because this was almost too powerful for its own good.

12:03 is sexytime. Milkshake, anyone?

The little perks of buying a nice blender are similar to the perks of buying a nice car. Our last blender was loud, not very powerful, and had a faulty design that made it nearly impossible to clean. People often ask what the appeal is in nicer versions of the same thing. Mercedes over Honda. iPod over Zune. Leather over latex. The answer is that the sum of its parts may appear to be the same, but the details are so enticing that it makes it completely worth it. Take this blender. The stainless steel accents are both pretty and easy to clean. The Easy Clean button is an ingenious concept that is just now being put into reality. A drop of hot water and dish soap and a thirty second pulse and the blender is clean. And this! This is fucking awesome!

Measuring lid…or bomb diggety shot glass? My lawyers endorse the former!

With the hot sauce, the blender did its job correctly, but my ratios were a bit off and to get the consistency I desired without adding too much liquid, I had to strain the sauce to take away some of the pulpy fiber leftover from the peppers and onions. Once strained, the hot sauce was relatively seamless and tasted oddly like I’d expected it to taste- wildly, vehemently tangy with a pungent heat that requires a deep inhalation and a slight bit of smoky sweetness. Not bad for a first try.

“The Pound and the Fury” was already taken.Although my rainbow motif turned out like a rejected Lisa Frank design and my five little peppers ended up looking like they’d passed through the cat’s digestive tract once or twice, I was pretty smitten with the end result. All in all, this is a blender I can get on board with. It’s easy to use, easy to clean, has a sophisticated design scheme, and allows me to live out my spicy, sweet dreams. How many Make A Wish Foundations and birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese can make that claim? I’m proud to have made my first hot sauce in this, and I’m proud to add it to our collection of appliances. I think it’s a good first blender and a good blender to easing oneself into some of the more finely pureed intricacies of cooking. Nine out of ten discerning single felines agree that the housing box makes an excellent makeshift cave. Who knew? Special thanks to the folks at Farberware and Russell Hobbs, Inc, for hooking us up with these. Stay tuned for my foray into dough! And potato chips!

Trader Joe’s ¡Mango! ¡Mango! Fruit and Yogurt Gummies

After I work out, I reward myself with something small to eat. Usually, it’s gummies. Today I rewarded myself not for working out, but for sitting through the entirety of Ree Drummond’s premiere episode of her new show on The Food Network. Is there nothing that ginger buffoon can’t infiltrate? Even my sacrosanct workout ritual is now sullied with her pinched grimace. Soon, the grocery store. Soon, my sex life. So after my G ritual, as my pasty Swedish skin refuses to tan and laundry is for people with lives, I took a brief jaunt to Trader Joe’s to check out the latest goods.

Little did I know, of course, that the path of Hurricane Irene, mere incontinence when I arrived at the store, would lead me directly to the bombardment of bumper stickered Prius cars and corn oil powered bicycles hinting at the frenzy inside for the last cases of organic tofu chili and free range bottled kombucha. We escaped with a few necessities (read: frozen pizza) and these gummies, half of which we ate in the car on the ride home. These are new from Trader Joe’s, at least in our area, and are surprisingly made in Germany. Regardless of their provenance, they are exceptionally good. Their bite in relation to Sharkies or Haribo fare is very, very stiff, with an almost meaty, substantial chew. One gum takes about six or seven good chops to macerate it into oblivion.

The gummies came in three flavors, all incorporating mango into the chew. There was a plain mango gummy, a mango and yogurt, and a mango and passionfruit. Personally, I would have liked to see a mango chili as well. The molding was decent and did a good job at mimicking the rough shape of a mango. The texture wasn’t filmy or overly oily, but slick and smooth. Each flavor replicated the flavor of a mango, with a tangy, creamy, somewhat mild peachy flavor. They were quite jammy, with a richness similar to fruit leather with the sweetness coming mainly from the fruit without relying on too much extra sugar. The yogurt flavor added a sweet creaminess to its gummy, but didn’t really taste like yogurt. Of the three, our favorite was probably the passionfruit and mango as the tartness from the passionfruit complimented the mango beautifully. Unfortunately, there were very few of these in the bag. It was roughly 60% plain mango and 20% each of the yogurt and passionfruit gummies.

These were phenomenal and very well made. The chew of these was enough to tire our jaws out after half the bag and we finished the bag over the course of an afternoon. For a mere $1.99, these were not only an excellent value, but were a sophisticated way to enjoy a classic childhood treat. I’ll definitely get these again, and am hoping that Trader Joe’s continues to tinker with gummies.

Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade, Original and Cranberry

I saved Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade for a warm summer day when I needed some mild afternoon refreshment. In photographing the bottles before drinking (a charming ritual to which I have become accustomed chez Foodette), I pondered how Mike’s brought the calorie count down from 220 in the original version to a mere 109 in the Lite. These two factors appear to be mainly in play: Truvia, and reduced alcohol volume. They are evident in the taste and effect, respectively.

If you’ve ever tried reduced calorie versions of your favorite beverages featuring stevia sweeteners, you’ll have a sense of that slightly different, not-quite-like-sugar taste and mouthfeel which are noticeable in Mike’s Lite drinks. The regular lemonade was a little truer to the taste of the original than the cranberry, where that weird Jello-like Truvia taste was on display.

Also important to note, the alcohol volume in the Lite lemonades is 3.2%, down from 5% in the original Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It doesn’t even rank in the “alcopop” range (4-7% alcohol content) of beverages, an ignoble variety that includes Smirnoff Ice, most bottom shelf Chardonnays, and Juicy Juice. Seriously, who is the intended customer for this beverage? Yes, I’m a calorie-conscious pretty lady, but I am not willing to trade off this much in the buzz department! I was literally not feeling it.

If I wished to ingest 100+ calories and not feel the effects of alcohol, I would have had a San Pellegrino Limonata without vodka. The original Mike’s is a summery, refreshing alternative to beer, but unfortunately, the Lite versions have shed calories in a way that defeats the purpose of the brand.

recette, New York, NY

As we rode further downtown in the taxi, I kept asking myself what we were doing on the eve of a huge storm in an area of Manhattan we weren’t familiar with. The wind blew trash around and the street took on a yellowish tinge. New York seemed bare and empty. When we entered the doors of recette, our dinner destination for the evening, I had my answer. It was packed with patrons snaking around the kitchen bar to all the far corners of the room, and in our seat by the window, we could look out into the heart of all the bustle and action. recette was clearly the place to be, as evidenced by the throngs of New Yorkers and tourists alike sitting down for dinner.

Eating at recette is like being at a dinner party at an old friend’s house, that is, if your friend’s names read like a famed culinary rock band, with 27 year old chef Jesse Schenker and his Per Se trained pastry chef, Christina Lee rewriting the definition of centuries-old French cuisine. The outside of recette resembles a classic French bistro that’s been kicked into the 21st century, the inside filled with candles and interesting knick-knacks (as in not TGI Friday’s) dotting the shelves and staircases of the room, giving the impression of being in just one area of the event. We saw first dates, anniversary dates, and dinners with friends and co-workers materialize before our eyes as the storm set in, mere minutes after our arrival. As we tucked in to a couple of cold drinks, our server explained the logistics of the menu to us. I get the impression that everything at recette is done as simply as possible in a way that evokes an Occam’s Santoku knife, but in the best and most creative fashion. For example, the menu was set up in an infographic fashion similar to Alinea, but instead of bubbles of various textures implying the substance and flavor of the item, they were arranged from light to heavy. Although we chose to go for the tasting menu, we were encouraged by our server to pick and choose elements from the regular menu that we wanted to try and also ones that we would rather avoid. I thought this was an ingenious approach to the persistent anxiety I experience as a control freak, as I was able to maintain a certain element of whimsy to the menu yet bypass items that I would rather not eat. What can I say? I’m an infant.

We were warned that the plates veered toward the small side, but that with the tasting menu, people tended to get full fairly quickly, so we opted for the five-course tasting menu and a couple of cocktails to start off. I started with the poivre noire, a minimal yet delectable combination of Hendrick’s gin, black pepper, and cucumber spirals. This was an incredibly well-prepared cocktail with a complex flavor infused with black pepper in both large flakes and something else, perhaps black pepper vodka, that peppered (pun intended) the entire drink with piquant bursts of freshness and spice in a smooth, sweet way. It had a restrained sweetness and fruitiness to its flavor. The texture of this drink was harmoniously balanced between solid and liquid as the cucumber pieces dissolved from little turgid morsels in the glass. I was tempted to order another one of these shortly after I finished the first.

My companion went for a fruitier concoction, recette’s citron et menthe cocktail with a summery mixture of Ketel One, lemon, and mint. Another refreshing cocktail, the offspring of unsweetened iced tea and lemonade. From the start, it’s nice to see that the bustle and excitement of recette’s atmosphere balances a very delicate subtlety in the flavors of their food. No one element was over the top in our drinks.

Our tasting menu started with an amuse bouche of uni, marinated hamachi, sea beans, and a harissa cream. This was a lovely, briney bite that I scooped up and ate in one piece. The texture was soft with a bit of crunch from the sea beans and each element was complimentary to another. The hemisphere of harissa cream mimicked the spongy, soft texture of the uni and the hamachi’s velvety bite cradled the softness of the heads of the sea bean. This was a dish I could see Rodzilla relishing! It was an excellent start to our meal.

Our salad course consisted of a mixture of heirloom tomatoes, Peekytoe crab, hearts of palm, tarragon, and aged balsamic vinegar. This was a wet, succulent example of a salad that even a die-hard meat and potato lover like myself relished down to the last bite. The tomatoes were slightly warm, which gave them the sensation of tasting like they’d been recently picked after sitting in the sun that day, and were salted perfectly with a dollop of balsamic vinegar. They were sweet, much like the crab, and with the crunchy hearts of palm adding an element of spice and grassiness, made a perfectly seasoned salad to start the meal. Not a whole lot of tarragon could be tasted in the melange of flavors, but that wasn’t a big deal.

Our first main course was absolutely stunning. One of the most magical components of the tasting menu that we realized quite early on is that recette was pairing foods we wouldn’t normally order under the standard three course constraints of a meal and preparing them so perfectly so as to alter our preferences completely. This was the case of the sea scallops with artichoke, carrots, asparagus, and caviar beurre blanc. None of the elements were particularly strange, and scallops aren’t a dish I generally choose to order, yet these were prepared so perfectly, with a crisp, thick outer crust yielding to a translucent, soft interior and pops of salty flavor from the caviar bobbing in the beurre blanc that I was almost inclined to lick the plate. Even the vegetal element, which initially appeared to be a toss-away to maximize filling the plate, was covered in a slick coating of this sauce and made even the most lowly of ground roots salty and as poppable as a potato chip. Butter and sturgeon can do that to food, but this was just stunning.

We moved on to our second savory course, ocean trout with spaetzle, cockles, hummus, cilantro pistou, and pickled onion. Despite spending most of my childhood growing up on a marina where the definition of fresh fish was whether or not it was moving while on the hot grill, I’ve never quite enjoyed the flavor or texture. This, like the scallops, proved to be in a tier above the rest. As you can see, the trout was so soft that in the ten foot distance it took to carry it across the room, it fell apart. It was prepared with a slight poach on the outside with a rare, jewel-like inner core. Each of the complimentary elements added a new level of texture and flavor to the blank canvas of the trout, which, on its own, was very minimally seasoned. The cilantro pistou seeped into every cranny of the flaky trout, with a fresh, creamy flavor and texture. The spaetzle and cockles, which we originally thought were whole chickpeas, were prepared with a char on the bottom and a smoky, buttery flavor, and the hummus bound each bite together. This was a daring dish with multiple elements designed to cut through the monolithic structure of the fish. No one component outshone the other, though I’d be hard pressed to admit that I didn’t want an entire bowl of that spaetzle laced with the pistou.

Our last savory course was the only one that we found missed the mark. Missing the mark for recette would normally be the best meal of another restaurant. Had I been served this at Paragon or The Suburban, I may have been singing a different tune. This dish had an element that I’d requested, sherry caramel, glazing a piece of Berkshire pork belly (proving that we always end up where we started, no matter how far we go!) paired with a salt cod fritter, turnips, and a grainy romesco sauce. None of these elements really came together in a complimentary way. The romesco, which I suspect was an attempt at adding an acidic element to the otherwise rich piece of meat, came across a little too jammy with overachieving umami-laden notes to really settle on the pork belly, with a whipped, light texture more characteristic of dessert than of dinner. While the sherry caramel was decadent as expected, it was applied in a very light coating on the pork, more reminiscent of a regular sugar glaze on a ham than a caramel, so to speak. The pork belly was a tad too undercooked and gelatinous in places, stringy in others, and left too much up to fate in each bite. More consistency would have been preferable. Don’t get the idea that I didn’t enjoy this, though. For a “subpar” dish at recette, I ended up wolfing down both mine and most of my companion’s.

After our savory courses, we ordered another round of drinks. This time I chose the exquisite-sounding Le Figure, consisting of prosecco, agave nectar, and marinated figs. The agave added a thickness to the drink and a syrupy consistency, yet imparted very little sweetness to the beverage on a whole. The figs sat sullenly at the bottom of the drink, releasing their earthy sugars only when consumed at the end of the drink. The first 80% was bready in that typical Processo manner but unfortunately, no different from one until the end.

Our other drink was somewhat conventional, but tasty. It wasn’t memorable enough for us to want to get it again or even finish it. It had raspberries, lemon, and Ketel One, but suffered from the same tempered lack of sweetness of Le Figure. The lemon overpowered the raspberries, whose natural sugar wasn’t enough to tame the tartness of the citrine elements. It wasn’t as well-balanced as either of our previous cocktails.

To get us ready for dessert, we received a small palate cleanser after our pork. But this was no paltry spoonful of granita or melting ball of sorbet. This was a fluffy spice and ginger cake topped with an olive oil foam and a juicy piece of plum. Honestly, even though I’m not too big on fruity desserts, if I’d seen this on the menu I probably would have ordered it. It smoothly transported our tastebuds from savory to sweet with the spiciness of the ginger and olive oil and the sweetness of the fruit and cake. On a rainy, cold night, it reminded me of eating gingerbread in the winter. Easily one of the highlights of the meal.

We received two different desserts that we switched back and forth. The first dessert was an interpretation on hot chocolate, with graham cracker ice cream, toasted marshmallow accents, and a dark chocolate ganache and swirl on top. This was a warm, comforting flavor whose cozy feeling was accentuated by a surprise ingredient our server hadn’t mentioned- chili pepper and cinnamon! We liked that these were omitted from the description for us to discover ourselves, as it made the sensation of being warmed from the inside out even more palpable.

Our other dessert was a deconstructed Snickers bar parfait. A block of salted chocolate mousse topped what tasted like a Rice Krispie treat with a garnish of peanut nougatine and chocolate sauce, flanked by salted caramel gelato. This was perfectly seasoned in all of its elements, the delicate salt flakes cutting through the creaminess of the mousse and gelato. The mousse tasted disturbingly like a Snickers, without the stringiness of its characteristic texture. I appreciated the bits of crunch to give texture to the otherwise mushy dessert. A wonderfully executed piece to finish a decadent dinner.

Toward the end of our meal, the woman to our left turned to us and asked us how the pork belly was. The man sitting to our right inquired as to which desserts we’d gotten. As the night drew on, each party grew more curious and more communal. That was the crux of recette’s offerings, to entice and coax you to curiosity- a noble feat for some New Yorkers. (It is worth noting that I dispelled this hopeful conclusion in an elevated state of inebriation and shouted my answers six inches away. Dear anonymous diners, the cocktails were that good.) Although recette’s tasting menu did not offer completely customized offerings, instead utilizing smaller versions of what was already on the menu, it was an excellent way to get an idea of what the full plates and snacks are like without ordering every plate on the menu or bringing all of your friends. I’m looking forward to coming back to recette and hopefully trying the special Mondays with Jesse tasting menu as well.

Dunkin’ Donuts Chicken Salad Sandwich

New England is known for many things- polo shirts, PT Barnum’s freak show, and summer homes, to name a few. We’re not known for our selection of fast food. On a trip to Maryland a few years back, I made it my personal goal to visit no tourist attractions or interesting places, but to eat at every single new fast food restaurant within a five mile radius. The only real regional place New England can claim ownership to is Dunkin’ Donuts. Hardly fast food, but a delightful morning staple or afternoon snack. I personally ate at least sixty thousand buttered bagels and croissants on my morning commute to high school. We had a Dunkin’ next door. Brilliant marketing.

Had I not had a terrible aversion to mayonnaise at the time, I’m sure this sandwich would have seduced me out of my eighth period math class. My nostalgia for Dunkin’ and need for a quick snack before catching a train led to my eventual purchase of the sandwich. The press release for the new chicken salad sandwich tells me that it’s tasty and affordable. I should have known that the emphasis on cost would be its ultimate downfall as far as flavor goes, but with the influence of chicken salad in the fast food market lately, I figured I’d give it the old high school try and eat it while soaring through Connecticut.

Wuddup, Darien?

I was initially skeptical about eating the sandwich on a croissant. Greasy filling and buttery bread did not sound like a palatable combination. And chicken salad on a bagel just seemed inherently wrong, like something I’d make at home in a pathetic, mismatched attempt to avoid buying groceries. You know the type- hot dogs on tortillas, random condiments on Triscuits. The sandwich was average in all respects. You’d think that with the competition from Arby’s and Subway, they’d try to do something to jazz it up, but this salad’s provenance is clearly from the ever-generic ChickTron 92A. It is industrial and plain, a mere step above Elmer’s glue and three steps below school lunches.

The filling was loose and goopy with small pieces of chicken no larger than a penny. There were no vegetables, fruits, or nuts, and while I generally advocate for a meat and condiment only sandwich, chicken salad really needs that extra somethin’ somethin’ to break up the banality of shredded chicken and mayonnaise. Apparently, that somethin’ somethin’ was vinegar, and lots of it. It made the sandwich filling ooze in a gloppy paste out of the croissant, which, with its center hole, looked a lot like a pustulating wound. The vinegar was all I could taste in the sandwich filling. Combined with the butteriness of the croissant, a mediocre specimen yet guilty pleasure of mine, it was astringent and overly salted.

Keepitcoming Love now uses this photo and meticulous arrangement of its subject as evidence of my obsession and insanity. She calls it Exhibit C.

As a recent convert to chicken salad, I’m certain that if this had been my formal introduction to all things mayonnaise I’d have run screaming for the hills and not come back until I’d donned a paper SARS mask and latex gloves. Its blandness and oily, sour flavor doesn’t quite make it offensive, but if I hadn’t been incredibly hungry I’d have had no problem tossing it after a few bites.

Red Velvet and Bacon Chocolate Bars at Dylan’s Candy Bar, New York, NY

One of the things I’m least proud of when it comes to food writing is that I am an absolute sucker for hype and tourist traps. It’s the yenta drag queen in Eileen Fisher in me rearing her perfectly coiffed head and dragging me to places like Serendipity 3 and Katz’s Deli before catching a matinee of fucking Spiderman on Broadway. Luckily, our trip to New York was slightly tempered down, and we managed to entertain ourselves with a minimum of pure, unadulterated tourism. But sadly, my puerile curiosity for the bizarre forced us into Dylan’s Candy Bar on 3rd and 59th, the slutty little sister trailing a noxious odor of sugar and sweat behind stately Bloomie’s.

For all the veterans of combat who read this website, please accept my sincere respect and admiration for what you do. Only yesterday did I get a true taste of what it is to be in an honest-to-goodness war zone, replacing foreign enemies with tiny terrorists from boroughs far and wide. Never in my life did I imagine I’d witness the mental breakdown of an eleven year old girl who has just witnessed the largest Hershey bar in the world, but damn it, I never imagined I’d be playing the role of Pvt. Augustus Gloop on private assignment, either. I skirted throngs of peeved nannies and dodged manchildren to reach my goal: the red velvet chocolate bar. The listless employees, desensitized to the shrill screams of nascent shitheads and blaring juxtaposition of Aaron Carter and Shirley Temple, merely blinked when I shouted my DTs and prepared my foo gas for the Lower Zone.

I found my man, plus a limited edition bacon bonus bar. But only when I witnessed Keepitcoming Love shriek at a cute candy-studded tank top and leap into a bathtub full of dirty gumballs did I realize, too late, that we’d gone too far. The jelly bean eyes of Dylan Lauren herself bored holes into our backs as we beat a hasty retreat. Dylan’s Candy Bar is a self-contained, biohazardous circle of Hell. Once we scraped the memories of sticky floors and $13/lb gummies out of our heads, we tried the chocolates. I have no qualms paying $5-$10 for a good chocolate bar because I am generally confident that the premium is an example of the quality of the bar itself. At the risk of losing my escort demographic as a result of using two hooker jokes in one night, the chocolates of Mistress Dylan are unequivocally the prostitutes who leave you with a hole in your pocket and a burning sensation when you pee. They may just be the worst chocolates I have ever consumed.

The red velvet cake bar, one of three in the dessert bar series, had a strange combination of ingredients that resembled a basket on Chopped with the red velvet cake as the end interpretation. Artificial cookie dough flavor and miniature marshmallows have no place in a red velvet cake, but as far as Dylan Lauren is concerned, the brightly colored, dyed sky is the limit.

The bar apparently contains premium Belgian milk chocolate, but apparently the neutral Belgian variety from the Phony War. The end result on the chocolate front was a waxy, strangely greasy crumble with a bright red menstrual smear carrying the unmistakable reek and pre-engineered, factory canned flavor of a Yankee Candle. The dye lingered on the finish and left a bitter, chalky, strangely fruity aftertaste. Runts and Yankee Candle is what your $2.95 buys you. Dylan’s demonic laugh echoed in the back of my head and I had to go take a walk around the block to clear my head and vomit.

Add a “U” for “Ummy” where the apostrophe is!

At the time, I thought my second purchase was a bonus that I’d simply not seen on the website, a limited edition offering dropped from heaven itself. But when I looked closer, I realized the cruelty in the typeface. The bar wasn’t bacon. It was bacon-flavored to accommodate Schuyler’s allergies and probiotic diet, and thusly contained Bac-O’s. I forged on. As I slipped a morsel of the chocolate into my mouth, my brain’s primordial instincts kicked in in one last valiant attempt to prevent me from expelling this from my mouth on impact. By telling me that I was simply eating a Krackel Bar, which accounted for the crispy texture, I was able to finish the bite. That is, until the liquid smoke and sugar came in. The unmistakable flavor of Bac-O’s flooded my mouth along with the mediocre, overly sweet chocolate, and I could no longer go on.

Note the angry jutting of an elbow in the upper left sector as some poor bystander loses an eye.

Dylan’s Candy Bar bested me. I was defeated. I was scared. I was swayed by the promise of exoticism and for that, I have paid with the ultimate price: my soul. It was horrifying. If I were to go back, it would only to be to torch the wretched mess and never look back. I’ve paid my dues.

Momofuku Milk Bar, New York, NY

In my mind, I’ve had an ever-expanding bucket list of restaurants and products I’ve been dying to try or purchase. It spans from the 500 bottle EuroCave, complete with a 30 year Donnhoff and Yquem vertical for my tasting, to a dinner for two at wd-50 or French Laundry to a MetroKane Rabbit. One of the more attainable goals on my list was to check out David Chang’s Momofuku Milk Bar, one of five of his restaurants around New York City. Milk Bar is most known for its rotating selection of unusually flavored soft serve ice creams, the skill of its founding pastry chef, Christina Tosi, and David Chang’s hatred of bloggers. I was hoping that Milk Bar would impress me so that I would not end up on this seemingly persnickety shit list. Unfortunately, I was not dazzled by the hype.

Tucked cozily into the front of Ma Peche, customers must navigate like lab hamsters through the walls of low-lit pastries and chalkboard-written specials to find their lunch, but those looking for Milk Bar will find the decor and layout fairly easy to understand. Specialties include the Compost Cookie and Crack Pie, which former addicts will be pleased to know, does not contain actual crack, and the cereal milk milkshake. We tried all three, plus a pack of cake truffles and a few more cookies.

The best treat of the day was undoubtedly the cereal milk milkshake, and not simply because we were parched from the heat and screeches of teenage girls at Prada for the first time. While $6 buys you a squat, small cup and the promise of organic whole milk, the result is incredibly refreshing and not too sweet. The cereal milk manifests itself in a slurry of Corn Flakes and gelatin, strained out into a smooth milk and frozen. The result is a malty, neutral flavor with a cool, smooth texture that didn’t require the fellation of the straw to extract the goods. On a hot day, it was perfectly sweet with no sugar high and eventual crash.

I expected the cake truffles to be luscious, and they were. The pistachio truffle was well prepared with large chunks of pistachio nuts, a moist texture, and a nice hint of lemon zest in the white chocolate coating. It was slightly saccharine on the way down, but I chalked it up to the frosting glaze.

Next, we tried the cookies. Of the five cookies offered on the menu, we sampled three. After tasting those, I did not regret passing on the other two. The first selection, the corn cookie, seemed like it would be a pleasant follow-up to the neutrality of the milkshake. The vegetal flavors were well incorporated into the composition of the cookie. It tasted like an ear of fresh corn with butter and salt, but its excessive sweetness and flaccid break literally left a bad taste in my mouth. The texture was especially noticeable as a result of its flat, pancake shape. I found it disorienting to have such a light, fresh flavor combined with such a heavy mouthfeel. It had a texture absolutely saturated with oil, to the point where it made an audibly gooey squelch with each bite, and there was too much sugar to compliment the Willy Wonka-esque combination of vegetable and dessert. The texture was uniform with no corn pieces or salt crystals, and in the glow of natural light, the oil seeped out and glistened on our fingers.

This was not an aberration from the norm at Milk Bar. This super-sweet, unctuous quality was present in each dessert we tried, including the infamous Crack Pie. We wanted the Crack Pie to be our ironic saving grace, our narcotic Jesus in a world of greasy slickness, but it fell short of its name’s promise. (If I weren’t committed to keeping this website classy, I’d comment that I could have stayed home and eaten better crack pie free of charge).

The blueberry and cream cookie came across as a slightly-luxe version of the cloying $4 per dozen supermarket cookie. There was nothing outstanding about it that made me want to eat more, or frankly, eat it at all. The compost cookie had a uniform crunch with little balance between salty and sweet. The chunks of whole pretzels and nuts were reduced to a fine grain and the flavor was predominantly nutty and chocolatey.

Trying Milk Bar as a David Chang test-run doesn’t make me want to pony up for a full dinner, especially considering the sketchy, pretentious reservation system and ban on photography. Badass doesn’t have to mean bad-tempered, and in this case, Chang’s “do it or shut the fuck up” method comes across in the mediocrity of the cuisine.

Momofuku Milk Bar (Midtown) on Urbanspoon

Cawy Watermelon Soda

Outside of food writing, I wouldn’t say that I indulge in the most normal of hobbies. I’m an amateur moped tinkerer, an ex-guitarist, French history buff, and occasional organic chef. I take my wines in quality over quantity and I drink my scotch neat. My ultimate goals for life are to proceed living in a hedonistic, yet annoyingly successful manner similar to Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Cameron from Modern Family, and the butt of all lawyer jokes. As I’m writing this opening paragraph cum witty personal ad, perhaps the one hobby I’ve kept most under wraps over the last few years is my propensity for collecting weird sodas and potato chips. My favorites include freaky international flavors, and wacky racial stereotypes.

That’s right. The photo we didn’t take.

Looks like Hatermelon, son.

Back in February, Rusty at Tampa Bay Food Monster sent a whole box of awesome foods, beverages, alligator jerkies, and a large-ass cigar of unknown provenance. One of the enclosed sodas was this watermelon monstrosity by Cawy, a company based out of Miami producing flavors like Quinabeer, fruity cola, Champ’s cola, and the depressingly named Coco Solo to go with your chili for one. The watermelon soda smells like a potent combination of watermelon-flavored Jolly Ranchers and Calgon bubble bath. Not so oddly enough, it tastes like that, too. It’s predominantly soapy in flavor, with a weird, bitter creaminess. The aftertaste lingers on the tongue like soap, though thankfully without leaving a slick sheen on the inside of the mouth. That doesn’t save it from tasting like absolute ass, though. You’d think 200 calories and 50 grams of sugar would be able to help it along, but no dice. The sweetness was muted in the mixture of chemical flavors and colors. This soda is gross and creepy.

You’ll be pleased to know, though, that in addition to making a fine piece of wall art in your home, the soda can offers a plethora of educational activities along its circumference, much like a cereal box or tattooed penis. For instance, one side of the can will teach you the French translation for “watermelon ass soda,” and the top of the can offers an edifying opportunity to have a real life e-web internet World Wide pen pal by simply emailing cawy@cawy.net! Perfect for little sheltered kids and lonely housewives. There’s even a coloring section provided you choose the non-racial androgynous boy label. Fun for the whole family. I’m done, I can’t do this any more. This soda has literally stabbed me in the throat and watched me bleed. Literally.

Taza Salt and Pepper Chocolate Mexicano

The kind-hearted people who proclaim on their Tweet feeds and Facebook statuses that they are backhandedly spontaneous ’cause they “dance in the rain when noones watchin” are morons. Either that, or they’ve never had the privilege of sitting through a New England summer storm. My point is, the weather was dismal tonight and we spent the night inside grousing and eating chocolate while watching South Park. When I picked up this Taza bar at the Fancy Food Show, I never anticipated a situation where I’d be using it to make a hot chocolate in the middle of August. And yet, it warmed us up and did so much more.

Taza makes some of the more aesthetically pleasing, minimally designed bars on the market, with a South American inspired typeface and a wax-paper wrapped circle scored into wedges. It also comes in flavors more eclectic than the average Hershey bar, like the salt and pepper flavor we tried today. Salt is staid at this stage in the game, but pepper is the new caramel, and they make a phenomenal pairing, but are difficult to combine correctly. The disc shape makes it entertaining to eat and break, and instead of one large, heavy piece, each package contains two thin circles. You will eat both. It’s inevitable. However attractive this bar is, it could resemble the afterproduct of an elephant’s lunch and still bowl us over.

The bar is made from 55% dark chocolate, which is fruity and smooth on its own with a slightly bitter, sweet flavor. The snap is classically waxy and clean. Combined with the sea salt and cracked peppercorns, it is pleasantly grainy, like cold cookie dough, with a gritty melt to each bite. It was incorporated into the entire bar rather than being sprinkled lavishly on top, an extra step that really benefited the bar’s unique texture. It was a genuinely harmonious set of flavors and textures, laid out in a format that was easy to eat and cook with. We also experimented with it in a drink format, and paired with olive oil.

Pairing hard, dark chocolate with olive oil is a pairing that I’ve considered but have always been somewhat indifferent to. With this bar, that game is forever changed. The natural sweetness in the olive oil coaxed out some of the chocolate’s riper, robust organic notes, and the salt and pepper obviously paired well with the savory drizzle. Because the chocolate was not too creamy, the fats in the oil cradled, rather than curdled, the melting confection. It was messy, gooey, and subtly sweet. We’ve given it a permanent place on our imaginary ten course dessert tasting menu.

As a drink, this was also incredibly smooth and rich, but the unanimous decision was that it fared better as a solid chocolate. The bar had an unusually high melting point and shaved into gorgeous curls that had a hard time melting as they hit the warm milk. Eventually, they faded away in waxy brown whorls on the surface. The resulting flavor was chocolatey, but inconsistent in texture. It was smooth for the most part but with that damning Hershey’s syrup effect on the bottom, proving it to be mainly insoluble in the milk.

Cold and eventually frozen, it was embarrassingly better than most chocolate ice creams I’ve had. The salt and pepper flavors were subdued, but still tangy enough to provide a distinct depth to the flavor. It was the best testimony of all to know that at 11:30 at night, we were researching 24 hour bodegas and groceries in the tri-state area to find some more of these bars, as we’d completely decimated our sample. This was a phenomenal example of how to do salt and pepper correctly and in a graceful, bold manner.

YummyEarth Organic Chili Lime Lambada and Chili Mango Mambo Hot Chili Pops

I always consider it a serendipitous stroke of fate when I’m able to purchase something I love for an incredibly cheap price. I’m often able to do so at TJ Maxx, which, despite its selection of heinously unfortunate women’s wear, has quite a few end-bin and discontinued varieties of organic food and candy. None of my visits have carried the bounty of last year’s Sharkies attack, where I came across four boxes for $2 apiece, but I have picked up a few odds and ends on my visits. Cheap organic saffron for $7 for a gram, sauces and dips from Robert Rothschild, and tiny glass bottles of Voss have only been a few bucks spent to get me closer to my goal of ULTIMATE SUDDEN DEATH PRETENSION YUPPY ATTACK, and today’s find was a perfect example of that.

YummyEarth’s core philosophy is eliminating “yucky chemical colors and artificial flavors- for the kids.” Well, call me Chad and stick me in a customized Ralph Lauren visor and pair of deck shoes. That reeks of an annoyingly self-righteous arrogance almost as much as a light misting of Lacoste Essential on your latest linen Brioni blazer. This flavor seemed unique enough to warrant a spot on the Foodette roster, featuring two hot lollipop flavors for any palate.

The first thing that struck us about these was how completely inappropriate for children these were. The packaging was brightly colored, as were the lollipops, but the flavor was quite spicy and neutrally sweet. The heat was hotter than Tabasco hot sauce, but not as hot as the ogling sesh Roger Mooking was giving Aaron Sanchez’s wrapped burrito on last night’s episode of Meat- er, Heat Seekers. (“My identity is wrapped inside that little taco.” True quote.) Yowza, I felt like I was watching the Oxygen channel, but I digress. This is not a flavor a child would enjoy, but comes wrapped in a package and in a form that would attract and eventually traumatize a child. It’s a breach of trust of the fundamental appeal of candy is for a kid. Again, just like Heat Seekers. I’m a pro at this. Not that I care, but it’s like wrapping a small loaded handgun in a limited-edition strawberry scented Squinkles package and a $500 gift card to a candy store taped on top.

The Chili Lime Lambada (a traditional South American dance, obvs) was the better paired flavor of the two. I was expecting a slightly more rustic, rugged texture, but the consistency had a glassy smoothness with no pits or bubbles. The lime flavor was sweet, with a sterile flavor lacking in acidity. Very similar to the slightly overripe flavor of Rose’s Lime Juice. It blended well with the chili, but was eventually overwhelmed by the sweet sting of the spices later on. Despite only having 22 calories, I lost interest after a few licks and wasn’t compelled to consume the other 20 I’d left behind. Neither of us found that the Chili Mango Mambo was a very convincing incarnation of the fleshiness and floral, acidic tang of mango. This was also overwhelmed by the chili, but tasted alone, offered a sweet, creamy flavor that was tasty, but in no way resembling the fruit it intended to emulate. Mango is a very difficult flavor to pin down in a candy or drink without using the actual nectar, and even using that in the lollipop couldn’t save it from the heat of the pepper. It was less spiked so much as it was slathered, and unfortunately turned us off both lollipops well before they were done.

Even the weird-assness of the flavors wasn’t enough to convince me to eat more of these. Since I’d bought them at $1.50 for fifteen, I wasn’t too upset, but if I’d paid full price for them, I may have been slightly peeved. These were just too average and mismatched to elicit any emotion from either of us, other than vague disappointment at the unusually strong heat of the chili peppers. It is also worth noting that YummyEarth tells us that these are “only in limited distribution in places like Miami, Los Angeles, South Texas, and Zingerman’s Deli in Michigan.” Places with primarily urban demographics, and a deli with customers who wish they lived in the romanticized ideal of an urban area. Nevertheless, these found their way to the frigid shopping plazas of Connecticut, created by yuppies, abandoned by real Mexican flavor aficionados and passed on to the yuppies. And the circle of life goes on.