Ocean Spray Cranberry Orange Muffin Oatmeal

The storm is over, I have seen the light! And yea, I have passed thirty two hours in sin, wandering distant lands in mine bathrobe, clutching a lone box of oatmeal amidst the dim backup generator lighting of the Stop and Shop. And let this oatmeal be my salvation, look for your critic, for she has not forgotten your hunger, and let this review be my command.

Holy crap, guys. Turn off the power for a day and a half and watch an upper middle class town in New England go insane. Seriously. Last thing I remember is buying this oatmeal in a coffee withdrawal daze and next thing I know, it’s six at night, pitch black, and I’m crying under the covers and screaming at the general concept of candles, wondering if Yankee Candle has power or if they have to burn their remaining stock for heat and light.
And now everything is okay. And I have oatmeal to show you. Today’s treat features the greatest collaboration this side of Lazy Town and Lil’ Jon, Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Orange Muffin Oatmeal! This stuff is delicious, but I say this with the disclaimer that at the time, I ate four packets of it lukewarm to build up strength and bulk in the hopes that it would aid me in hibernation through difficult times. Its flavor scarily mimics St. Joseph’s Baby Aspirin, down to the creamy, medicinal tang. Luckily, that happens to be one of the best things ever, and helps wean me of my dangerous Flintstones Chewables kick in the process. Aside from the strange flavor, it’s like regular oatmeal in consistency.
The tastiest thing here is the cranberries. These are honest-to-god dehydrated pieces of cranberries that rehydrate surprisingly well in the cooking process. They have pieces of skin and ample amounts of pulp, with each packet containing a fairly generous portion. Unfortunately, the amount just isn’t enough to balance the overpowering glutenous surge of oatmeal intensity, and ends up getting lost in each bite, unless you’re OCD enough to pick out each individual berry slice and eat it separately. It should go without saying that the Ocean Spray scientists have not managed to make this mimic a muffin, and for good reason. I was bracing myself for a fake-butter, “freshly baked” aftertaste that never came. While I did buy it in the hopes that it would deliver that baked good charm (another lost George Harrison hit, CC) I felt better knowing that it stuck to a simpler formula and delivered good, if not great, results. Oh, and Happy Halloween.

McDonald’s Peppermint Mocha Hot Chocolate

Quick! Scream the first thing that reminds you of October out loud!

Was it Halloween? Was it? Was it?
You’re wrong! The correct answer was “snow.” More appropriately, metric asstons of it, in my backyard. And frankly, I’m tired of all of this anxiety over Halloween. I’m not even dressing up. I’ve decided to skip the entire affair, screw this Halloween noise, and go right ahead to the generic winter festivities that have popped up in town over night. You’d think New England would be used to these weatherly shenanigans by now, but here we are and here’s the new hot chocolate from McDonald’s.
Much like Martha Stewart and her stock portfolio, McDonald’s seems to have a pretty uncanny sense of timing. Why else would they release these blatantly wintry libations at the end of October? I sense a conspiracy theory for the 11 o’clock local news! Well, men, I’ve gone to McDonald’s and back in this freak blizzard, I’ve tasted their peppermint mocha hot chocolate, and I’ve heard the good word of the Lord himself, Mr. McDonald, and the word is this. This hot chocolate is fairly heinous.
While the regular McCafe hot chocolate is passable with a creamy consistency and “eh” chocolate flavor, this is not the best representation of winter. In fact, it’s freaking strange. I just
don’t see how throwing around mint and coffee automatically denotes winter in the world of advertising. Peanut butter hot chocolate? Chili hot chocolate? All flavors I can get behind. I consider myself a fairly adept Googler, and though my search terms tell me that peppermint-flavored objets around Christmas just for the hell of it are merely piggybacking off the popularity of the candy cane, it still ain’t right.
And that’s the case with this hot chocolate. No matter which way you swing it, certain flavors aren’t meant to be mixed together like some sort of nontoxic chemistry set. Those flavors include chocolate, coffee, and mint. If I were to make a diagram I’d begrudgingly admit that chocolate and mint go well together, as do chocolate and coffee, but the three together are unpalatable. In this particular beverage, all three flavors are fighting for top billing, with the bitterness from the coffee clashing horribly with the crisp, herbal flavors of the peppermint. There’s a reason why people don’t brush their teeth and then drink their coffee- it’s pretty gross. Unfortunately, that’s what this drink mimics to a t.

San Matteo Panuozzo, New York, New York

I know most of you already know this, but to some, it may come as a bit of a culture shock. Olive Garden is not Italian cuisine. I’m a quarter Italian. Keepitcoming is half. True to my blasphemous self, I’m admittedly quite happy when I’m noshing on pasta laden with thirty kinds of cheeses or a thick piece of reheated pizza oozing with oil, but Miss Love is harder to please. When Birra Moretti offered us the chance to enjoy pizza and beer in Manhattan, we couldn’t help but oblige. We chose a small cafe on the Upper East Side, San Matteo Panuozzo, a squat cafe filled with wine bottles, speakers blaring Raphael Gualazzi (Italy’s answer to Michael Buble) and housing a massive wood-fire pizza oven in the back- no small feat for a restaurant the size of your average Manhattan studio. Owned by brothers Ciro and Fabio Casella, the restaurant is just over a year old.

In the vast, dense world of New York pizza, I can proudly say this is some of the tastiest I’ve had the pleasure to sample. Then again, I’m a Connecticut native, so take my words at face value. But I’ve traveled around Italy, and eating this brought back memories of the flat, fragrant, chewy pizzettes offered in cafes all around the country. This is definitely the closest to authentic Italian pizza I’ve had since voyaging abroad, where the toppings are applied in an almost scientific sense, in moderate and careful doses across the dough- a personal favorite with a charred, chewy crust and moist interior. Despite taking a back seat to the restaurant’s signature specialty, the panuozzo, the pizzas are not to be ignored. We tried two, the Arechi, with roasted butternut squash and smoked buffalo mozzarella, and the Salsiccia e Friarielli with broccoli rabe, Italian sausage, and mozzarella made fresh daily by Fabio himself. Each pizza carried an ample amount of toppings, yet not so much that the crust was overwhelmed, and was crispy and charred on the undercarriage, a cross between my beloved New Haven pizza and the soft Manhattan slices, and were cut into four pieces. Personally, I found these a hair too large and deceptively filling, but hearty and rustic to behold.
We ate all of these with Birra Moretti, an Italian pale lager dating back to 1859. For me, an ever-ambivalent beer taster, this was a fantastic choice to pair with our pizzas. It transitioned seamlessly from the smoky pizza to the sweet, rich panuozzo, with a strong, forward flavor and a clean finish. And with that, I have exhausted my knowledge and capacity to describe beer.
Of these two pizzas, we were smitten with the Arechi, with its host of comforting, autumnal flavors. I was initially afraid that this would be a drier pizza with chunks of cheese and pieces of squash scattered haphazardly, but the comingling of flavors was so much more complex than that. Acting in lieu of sauce, the squash was pureed on top, absorbing a dual layer of charred smokiness from the natural smoke in the cheese and the crispy crust below, with rich natural sugars from the vegetable and a sweet, underlying smokiness. The cheese provided even more meaty flavor, with a creamy texture and stringy consistency. Speaking as a self-proclaimed meatatarian, I’d give up pepperoni for this any day of the week. It executed the perfect combination of flavors typically associated with the season of fall and left a lingering, sweet flavor in the mouth long after each bite.
Our second pizza was a more classic favorite, sausage and broccoli rabe. Compared to the slew of flavors represented in the Arechi, this was a more understated and seemed to lack the delicate balance of proportions of the former. The homemade mozzarella was an absolute joy to eat, with a creamy, firm texture and a slight salinity. This was a good pizza, but didn’t strike me as artful as the first. There were a few textural components that didn’t seem to work as well with the crisp crust- the broccoli rabe was plentiful, yet exuded a significant amount of moisture that soaked through the crust. The sausage was also tender, yet moist, which contributed to the somewhat slippery nature of the slices. The flavor was tasty, with the earthy, bitter greens cutting through the spices in the sausage, but was subdued overall, and left us longing for a small shake of red pepper flakes or a few slices of hot pepperocini to remove some of the flatness.
We also had the pleasure to sample one of San Matteo’s flagship entrees, a pork panuozzo. The panuozzo is a sandwich native to the town of Gragnano, near Napoli, and is a beautifully executed cross between a plump panino and a calzone, made from a loaf of fresh pizza dough quickly baked in their pizza oven, whisked out immediately after cooking, and stuffed with fresh toppings. Ours included house-roasted pork, more homemade mozzarella, and arugula microgreens.
This is no ordinary sandwich. For starters, it weighs about three pounds and contains roughly four regular sandwiches’ worth of filling. The pork slices are massive and put Boar’s Head to shame, with a thick, tender middle and addictively crispy strings of skin curling around the outside of each piece. The tender greens added an element of crispy bitterness to the sandwich and the mozzarella bound the entire sandwich together around the crispy, fluffy sandwich dough. What a phenomenal thing to eat. We each finished one of the four slices and took the rest home. Speaking from the point of view of the person who ate the remaining two slices for both lunch and dinner yesterday, this panuozzo got better each time I bit into a thick, savory slice. If I had my druthers and my stocks tied up in Hathaway A, I’d have one of these shipped in every day for lunch.
We ended our meal with two fresh cheeses imported from Italy and a delicious espresso. Fabio, who also works as an Italian foods importer, assured us that these cheeses, a fresh ricotta and burrata, were as fresh as we could get. Nobody doubted him. The burrata released a creamy midsection out of a firm outer shell of chewy cheese with a salty, creamy flavor and a tender consistency. The ricotta stole the show, though, molded and densely packed into an upright shape far different from its wet, calzone-filled counterpart. This ricotta was our favorite, and with its light, crumbly texture, made a tempting proposition as a stand-alone meal spread atop our pizza crusts. After, we were simply too full to partake in any additional confection, but if a treat had been offered with this ricotta as a key component, I would have found some room in my stomach.
With a traditional espresso bidding us farewell into the balmy night, we left San Matteo Panuozzo with full stomachs and beaming smiles, dreaming of the leftovers of the present and dinners of the future. Again, I know I’m not the be all, end all word on New York pizza, but trust me on this one, this is the place to go when you want to feel like you’re eating in a gentler, kinder city. It doesn’t get friendlier or more intimate than this.

California Pizza Kitchen Limited Edition Chicken and Bacon Ranch

Ah, legal loopholes. That simple twist of the tongue that leads to so many Homer Simpson “d’oh!” moments during checkout at the grocery store. Personal favorites include chocolate flavored, Chick’n, and as we’ve seen with the Taco Bell Chicken Bacon Ranch flatbread, “baconranch” the ex dolo malo of the food world, hated by all and loved by the toothless. When I brought this pizza home, I slapped my forehead in disgust, worrying that when I opened the box, I’d see a smattering of bacon-flavored ranch sauce covered with anemic tomatoes and little else. I sometimes feel like the abused child of the CPK industry. I’ve been burnt too many times.
This time was different, though. I can’t say that CPK will stay this good, but this time, they were pretty decent. Much like my inherent weakness for small succulent plants, roadside tacos, and tight pants, I feel the compulsive need to purchase every single new pizza they’ve put out, despite their failure time and time again. Then again, it could be because they keep slapping “limited edition” on all their freaking pizzas. Not this time, Roasted 15 Veggie. Not this time.
I liked this pizza. It seemed as though with every misconception I had about this came a rebuttal of the finest form that blew my argument right out of the water. There will be no bacon! Oh, wait, actually, there’s a metric asston (not to be confused with the hogshead) of bacon and it’s all ground up and crispy and delicious. Oh. Okay, well, the tomatoes will suck? Mmm, wrong again, they’re actually pretty juicy, some are yellow, and they’re cut up in small enough pieces to get a bunch in every bite.
This was the point in the consumption where I furrowed my brow. Might I have actually gone out and purchased a pizza from a store and tried to trick myself using magical thinking to pretend this was from CPK? But the box was in the trash. It’s not like this was a perfect, magical pizza. The crust was, as always damningly thin and crispy, but worked better with this combination of flavors than it had in the past. It created a crisped open-faced panini effect on the pie and lent itself to sandwiching quite well. The main drawback with this was that it was incredibly salty, no doubt aided in part by the gluey ranch sauce adhering its components together. Thankfully, the chicken wasn’t seasoned and was strangely quiet throughout the entire lunch. I don’t think I’ve ever had a prepackaged food item, pizza or otherwise, where the amount of bacon outweighed the amount of other proteins. It was strange. And yet, so epic.
But damn it, CPK, your website still looks like a Geocities reject. Why is that? Y U no change that? And so upsettingly sparse in places. I want wine recommendations for my chicken bacon ranchathon, please.

Petits Richart Collection

“To see the world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower,” the poem goes. As we know, great things come in small packages, chocolates among them. Keepitcoming Love bought me a sampler of some beautiful truffles from Richart, and we shared three of their Petits selections on a warm day this summer. Richart makes a number of truffle collections off a singular theme- citrus, fruits, and flowers among them.

These are roughly the diameter of a dime, about as thick as a miniature marshmallow with a thin, dark chocolate shell and a patterned top. Very visually appealing, especially before they are taken from their box. Packaged, they resemble a small piece of art with all of the flavors differently patterned and set on a soft, matte white background box. The chocolate shell and ganache on its own is par excellence, with a dark, complex yet unobtrusive flavor that seamlessly interacts with the additional essences, yet doesn’t contrast or stand out too much. A team player in its own right. I’d have been happy to savor petit pallets of this chocolate. It is cool, with a slow, creamy melt. The size is perfect to grab a small bite of chocolate when the whim strikes.
In three different boxes there were anywhere from six to eight different flavors, with a flavor guide of twelve different types of chocolate for each flavor set. There were quite a few doubles, and it seemed like the boxes were chosen randomly. All the more fun! Although the patterns designated the flavors, we played a guessing game with each one, trying to discern which spice was what. It was easier for some, harder for others. We sampled a spicy set, a floral set, and an herbal set, all with delicious results.
Of the florals, we particularly enjoyed the herbal bouquet and lavender truffles. The lavender had a subtle hint of lavender oil and blended well with the chocolate, and the herbal bouquet (though which herbs, we could not say) tasted like a chocolate covered Ricola with a deep headiness. Some of the others were hit or miss, especially the ones that centered around more of a conceptual flavor, like alpine, than a more centralized flower. The sweeter ones, like violet and chamomile, were particularly pleasurable, striking a delicious balance between bitter and perfumey. These were the most fragrant truffles of the three.
The herbal set had the most wild cards in it, with beautifully executed flavors like rosemary praline and a mystery flavor that tasted like pine and verbena. Keepitcoming Love recognized most of these immediately, with her green thumb. I didn’t expect this to be the crowd favorite, and yet we ate most of these up immediately. Anise and fennel was one of the ones we loved the most- it was spicy, sweet, and earthy all at the same time, the natural tanginess emboldened by the chocolate coating. The rosemary praline was my personal favorite of this set, with strong herbal sweetness and a light, crispy crunch from the feuilletine center. Others included a bittersweet matcha with a gritty, bright green center and eldertree flower, another one we didn’t quite associate with its namesake.

The last box contained a selection of flavors centering around a spicy theme. These were less spicy than they were spiced, though I would definitely say some of them had a kick to them. These were definitely sassy truffles, with aromatic selections of spices that really brought out the natural spices of the chocolate. It made me wonder if this was the same percentage of dark chocolate used in all of the truffles, because each flavor seemed to elicit a different reaction in the outer coating. It was very unique. Some of these were more aromatic than they were flavorful, some vice versa. All delightful. Curry praline was the most unusual of these, with the same crunch as the aforementioned rosemary praline and a pungent bite. Cardamom was the most potently flavored and nearly overwhelmed the chocolate, but had a clean, persistent bite. Pink and red peppercorn and ginger were uniform, but strong with a lingering finish. All of these made phenomenal palate cleansers with a glass of wine after a long day. I particularly enjoyed the fruitiness some of these had, and this collection was a close contender for the overall favorite. This may have been the most whimsical of the patterns, veering toward less of an abstract vision for leopard spots and kissy lips!

The Stockade Tavern, Kingston, NY

Food is wonderful, but old food is better. Not old in the sense of refrigerated cheese of questionable origin, but old in the unattainable, just out of reach allure of time’s fleeting passage. Pre-McRib release old. Original formula Coca-Cola, now with real cocaine. Hershey’s candy bars before chocolate flavoring became the norm. It seems that the foods of yore, simply because they’re no longer around, are so much more desired than what’s in front of us. The same could be said for cocktails, but like classic Jell-O salad recipes, many of them have simply faded away with the times. At Stockade Tavern in Kingston, NY, they’re preserving the essence of these vintage cocktails with a selection of curious drinks spanning over a century’s worth of red cheeks and stumbling, from 1806 to 1938. We checked it out last night with some friends and reported our drunken findings.

With a beautiful pressed tin ceiling and a friendly Standard Poodle greeting visitors, we made our way in. The Stockade boasts a selection of crazy drinks, all pre-World War I libations with funky ingredients and even funkier names. We ordered a selection of drinks, as well as a few sweet nibbles after dinner. Special cravings for the next time around included a Guadalajara, which I’d be ordering to work up the nerve to ask my girlfriend if I could take her down to Mexico- tequila, Fernet-Branca, agave syrup, mole bitters, and orange oil, or the Pink Stag, with horseradish vodka and tomato water forming a more masculine, nastier Bloody Mary. Regardless of the era of these drinks, they will really, really, really fuck you up. Honest to god.
We sampled four of these, two from the classic cocktail section and two from the vintage cocktails. Keepitcoming Love tried The Aqueduct, an original invention with vodka, Cointreau, apricot brandy, and lime juice. While booze heavy, it was tasty, but not incredibly lifechanging or mood-altering one way or another. We were hoping it would have more influence from the apricot, but mainly tasted sweet and tart from the lime juice and vaguely citrusy. Our friend D had a classic Mai Tai. One of the tastiest I’ve had, mainly because it was potently strong with a killer bite.
Our vintage cocktails were quite well-prepared, not that we’d tried any to compare it to. I tried their singular egg white cocktail, a Ramos Gin Fizz, from 1888, with a slew of ingredients practically designed to make it easy on the palate. With Beefeater Gin, cream, lemon and lime juice, egg white, orange flower water, and simple syrup, I expected it to be the adult equivalent of a milkshake. It was lighter than I expected, with a frothy texture from the egg white and a feminine set of flavors that I imagined set many a young lady giggling in days of yore, but unfortunately was bogged down with the rich dairy ingredients, masking the floral and citrusy flavors. Our last vintage selection was the Pendennis, from 1883, similar to the Aqueduct in that it utilized apricot brandy and lime juice, but swapped out the vodka for gin and the Cointreau for Peychaud’s bitters. This combination worked in its favor, and the sweet dried stonefruit flavors were much more prominent and deep in the cocktail, aided by the spices in the gin with a natural sweetness. Very seductive.
We nibbled on a few nightly specials, including a grilled apple cider doughnut and a bowl of dark chocolate covered Corn Nuts with jalapeno dust, an addictive bar peanut alternative for sweet teeth. The doughnut wasn’t really affected by the grilling. Its sweet, sugary interior maintained its flavor and didn’t absorb as much smoke as we’d originally anticipated. The outside was crispy and had a nice char from the grilling, but just seized up with a tough crustiness rather than taking on any woodsy or smoky flavors. Still delicious, and it sopped up all the booze we’d been drinking!
The other snack we had blew the standard pub mix right out of the water. Never again will I chomp stale miniature pretzels or salty peanuts again. These corn nuts were covered in dark chocolate and jalapeno dust, a tasty coating that added a bit of sweetness to the corn nut pieces. Unfortunately, the jalapeno dust was merely another layer of salt to contend with, and imparted absolutely no heat even when eaten in succession. The eating multiple corn nuts in a row was purely for experimental purposes, of course. While heat, sweet, and salt would have been ideal, they were quite tasty on their own. It’s a pleasant surprise to see a mignardises-style munchie with a cocktail, and it would be fun to see if there were other flavors to pair together. Candied pieces of jalapeno come to mind as a good snack, as do pieces of sweet candied bacon. Mmm. I wonder if there are any vintage bar snacks that have come and gone with the times? Something I’d be curious to find out. Overall, the drinks and food were more hit or miss than utter bliss, but it was better than a regular bar and made Beefeater fun again.

Introducing Nobly Rotten

Well, we’ve come a long way. While the legitimate, independently hosted Nobly Rotten is still in the design process, I’ve been drinking too well to wait another few months to post.

Ladies and gentlemen, your patience is noted and rewarded. I humbly present to you, Nobly Rotten,the latest and greatest from yours truly, a site that will focus on wine and wine gadget critiques with an emphasis on making all things oenological fascinating and approachable for all. And sexy. Don’t forget sexy. Expect hubris. Expect hedonism. Expect the unexpected.



Frankford Candy Body Parts Sushi Gummy Candy

October never made me this neurotic. Maybe I freaked out a little when my middle school boyfriend asked if he could French me while I was wearing my borderline sexy borderline “witch” costume, but not like this. Since I started this website, I have been determined not to screw up Halloween. Two years ago, I pretended it didn’t exist and started reviewing marshmallows. Last year, I broadened my spectrum to “fall festivities” and prayed that nobody thought my Booberry escapades on the second day of October came too soon.

But my savior in shrinkwrap has arrived, and I’m not even talking about my deluxe copy of Catwoman on DVD this time. Although seriously, Halle Berry, please return my phone calls. I could write this review on observations alone and never even have to unwrap this sanctimonious sugary sacrifice. From the company that brought you Welch’s filled licorice and Mallo-licious comes Body Parts Sushi Gummy Candy. Three things that God put together for our pleasure.
And Frankford Candy skimps on exactly none of these bullet points. Body parts? Check. The roster includes two lifelike eyeballs sourced from two different bodies, two severed, bloody ears, a bloodless nose, and two fingers with bones exposed. Gummy? Check. They’re pliable and squishy with a dare I say, fleshy chew and a turgid bite. You really have to chomp down on them to fully macerate them. At least that’s what I’ve heard from some Korowaian tribes.
And the sushi. Oh, the sushi! The sushi wonders are unparalleled to all other Halloween sushi-themed candies. All none of them. It’s the sushi angle alone that reassures me, after a quick scan of Frankford’s finest selection, that I have chosen the best candy and don’t have to kick myself from buying Dig ‘n’ Dip Marvel Heroes, one step away from being one of Jerry Falwell’s next targets. For Christ’s sake, there are removable chopsticks. If only they were shaped like femurs. From the amorphous rice globs to the textured pieces of seaweed paper, I’m hard pressed to find anything visually wrong with these. So far.
I’ll cut to the chase- these taste like ass. The generic fermented fruit mash and coconut flavor is strong with this one and the coconut oil slathered all over them tastes like you’re licking a supermodel minus the eroticism of actually licking a supermodel. Regardless, OH MY GOD, IT’S MORBID GUMMY SUSHI. And thus it is beautiful. Haters shalt not hate.

Bissinger’s Apple Ghost Chili Salt Caramels

It’s somewhat of a disconcerting feeling to go to a store the day after Christmas and see all the cheerful Santas in a heap near the spoiled milk and store brand popcorn ball display, discarded in a net of partially broken lights, and see employees diligently setting up the former Christmas aisle for Valentine’s Day on December 26th. Sometimes they’ll even do it on Christmas night when nobody but the absent-minded dads comes in to a Walmart to get Christmas presents.

Whenever I go to a trade show that has these advance holiday specials months before the holiday even makes an impact on your wallet, I get that sad day-after-Christmas feeling burrowing a dark hole into my psyche. And not just because I’m Jewish. Wah waaaaah. Now, imagine Woody Allen repeating everything in the previous paragraph in a fairly nasal voice. “You know, I don’t think I could take a mellow evening because I – I don’t respond well to mellow. You know what I mean? I have a tendency to – if I get too mellow, I – I ripen and then rot, you know.” In any event, that’s my long-winded explanation for why I’ve been saving these Halloween candies and treats. I got these six months ago and they’ve been sitting in my fridge like a time capsule since then. And it makes me sad to envision holidays before they actually come. TL;DR, these are candies that may look unappealing because they’re not as fresh as they were half a year back. SOWWY.
Regardless, these caramels are beautiful. They incorporate sixty of my favorite flavors, which is the number I’m going to give because I don’t feel like counting the flavors. But honestly, this caramel is fairly multi-faceted. Salted caramel on its own can be a beautiful, graceful enigma wrapped in chocolate. Add a note of apple for a twist on the caramel apple and you’ve got a sophisticated holiday treat. But infuse the sea salt with chili and you’re dealing with another breed entirely. Chili and salt are two savory, strong ingredients that add to the depth and umami of a dessert, but when combined have the potential to really overwhelm a sweet confection and render it grainy and choked with spices.
However, that’s the kind of bush league game I’d expect from a worse company. Having enjoyed literally everything I’ve had from Bissinger’s in the past, a company with a few centuries of experience can generally experiment with no harm or ill will. I’m impressed that with a 300 year reputation, they’re willing to step outside the box and try something this wild. These are phenomenal. The outside is redolent with a sweet, unobtrusive and silky milk chocolate with the peppery bite of tangy ghost chili sea salt on top. The ghost chili flavor isn’t as powerful as sauces I’ve had with the same pepper. For hotheads, this will come as a disappointment, but it is for the better as it better maintains the balance when it doesn’t steal the show.
It’s quite a well-balanced caramel. The inside is lush and soft, with a buttery caramel center. The caramel is flavored on the light and milky side, no burnt or salted notes present in the caramel itself. But this is also a plus as it plays nicely with the wonderful apple flavors, a natural, tart, floral essence about as far removed from Jolly Ranchers as they come. All in all, an excellent treat and a fantastic incarnation of a holiday. From the reference to ghosts to the playful version of the classic caramel apple, this is the best tricky treat I’ve had so far. I want to see a pine and peppermint salted caramel for Christmas, a sweet potato cranberry for Thanksgiving, and a rabbit jerky truffle for Easter. I’m smitten with the idea of hyperspecific holiday treats, and with this in my belly, I can no longer go back to the halfhearted pumpkin-shaped candies of yore. (First DSLR food photographs thanks to my wonderful Mom!)

Frontera Limited Edition Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa

As I’ve mentioned, I’m moderately obsessed with the chill of autumn. Now that it’s getting to be time for gloves and huddling, though, I’m finding out, as I do every year, that I’m only obsessed with the idea of looking moody and lost in thought in the chill of autumn. After that one perfect profile picture is snapped, I’m cursing and looking for the nearest shower to warm up in.

I needed a snack tonight and found myself longing for the salsa and chip appetizer generally accompanying warm, summer nights out in the yard. And then I remembered this crazy salsa we had in the back of the fridge. I grabbed this at a time, mid-July, at the Fancy Food Show when eating it seemed a little blasphemous with all the green and red salsas lying around. But I’m good enough at planning ahead that when I see freaking pumpkin chipotle salsa, I know that come October, I’m going to be nomming for eight because it’s so good. And this was a Rick Bayless creation that seamlessly bridges the gap between summer and fall, a man whose takes on Mexican have been salivated over many an afternoon in Whole Foods. I met chef Bayless, strongarmed a jar of this, and waited four months to write about it. That’s dedication.
You’ll notice this jar is propped up like a taxidermied Anne Geddes baby. I don’t give a crap. Inside that jar, which, mind you, is clearly the more boss of seasonal flavors- eff you, heirloom tomato, is a smoky, sweet combination of chunks of peppers, tomatoes, and pumpkins bathed in a perfectly executed chipotle sauce. Chipotle is incredibly overrated, but when paired well, it’s transcendental. And this is paired very, very well. It’s not so much a smoky flavor as it is charred, with bits of blackened pepper and tomato skin floating around in the sauce, giving it a deep, rich flavor and an intensely smoked bite. At first, there’s no heat, and I didn’t expect there to be with all of the pumpkin spices, like nutmeg, cinnamon, and brown sugar, giving it a rounded, sweet potato-like flavor, but after a few bites, a lingering heat emerged and persisted for quite some time.
Like some of the other pumpkin products I’ve sampled, this manifested its fall colors in the spices it used rather than the ingredients, despite there being actual pumpkin in this. I’ve come to realize that that’s a boon rather than a bust, because the texture of pumpkin could upset the balance of a salsa with its heavy, wet mouthfeel and is pretty flavorless on its own. Though admittedly, a little thickness couldn’t hurt. This separates very easily, even after thoroughly shaking in the jar. If watery salsa annoys you, these are not the droids you’re looking for. With such an emphasis on utilizing pumpkin, this had the thin consistency of a heavily tomatillo based salsa, which it was. It wasn’t very enhanced by the gourd at all.
It’s worth noting, however, that Bayless not only used pumpkin in his salsa, a feat unto itself, but used a special Mexican variety of pumpkin called the calabaza. It’s part melon, part gourd. You know it as the plant that produces the popular squash blossom. It’s still a pumpkin. Don’t say the guy didn’t try. The only element this is missing is the crunch of toasted pepitas on top, an easy hack that will turn this into the perfect fall appetizer. I can’t wait to try this as a heated sauce over pasta or on top of pulled chicken tacos.