Southport Brewing Company, Branford, CT

Keepitcoming and I are back on my home turf for a brief spell and decided to meet up with Swagger for an ALL BLOGGER, ALL EXCLUSIVE POWER DINNER. Actually, it was just a regular dinner, albeit baller as hell, and we didn’t talk about blogging.

Our original plans to go to Caseus fell through, due to a disorganized staff, and after enduring that degree of pretension, we all needed a drink. Off we went to SBC. A local favorite in Branford, SBC is standard bar fare with a few exciting twists and an impressive selection of house brewed beers.We were all in the mood for sandwiches and burgers, as it was a cold and dreary night, and started off the meal with the slightly lewd “sticky” calamari. This was really perfect. A giant platter of squid rings with a few tentacles thrown in for good measure, all coated with a sticky sweet chili glaze and topped with sesame seeds. The calamari rings were tender and coated with just the right amount of batter, and were tossed in sauce in time to be brought out and eaten before getting soggy. With the slightly spicy glaze reminiscent of orange chicken, it was a fun and tasty appetizer to share and filled three of us easily.Swagger had the pub burger, with bacon, cheese, and caramelized onions. He said it was a good burger and that it was cooked well, but that the bun was of a low quality and fell apart too easily. The flavor was too overpowering and would have been better with a different bread. The sogginess wasn’t helped by the grilled onions, which were too wet and tore apart the bun. The other toppings were fresh and plentiful, though. Seeing the bacon on Swagger’s burger made me realize how badly I wanted bacon! It looked hearty and generously portioned.My burger was on a bun I’d been trying to find all over since reading about its popularity in the New York Times- a pretzel bun. God, those are good. So when I saw a pretzel burger with swiss cheese and honey mustard, I had to have it. The bun was cute and shaped like a little pretzel and had that smooth, thick brioche texture, but was extremely bland, aside from a slightly yeasty flavor, and lacked that rock salt on top. It didn’t seem to taste like a pretzel and could have stood to be crispier on top. The egginess worked well with the burger, though.The burger itself was not done enough and leaked out juices all over the sandwich, rendering the bottom pretzel bun soggy and hard to maneuver. It was not seasoned at all, aside from its outer char, and had more of a burnt meat flavor than anything else. This completely overpowered the honey mustard, which was already evaporated from the heat of the burger, and mixed with the cheese. Ideally, this would have had more sauce, maybe a mayo or more mustard, and would have been thinner and less charred.Keepitcoming had a grilled chicken sandwich with avocado, brie, and bacon on a whole wheat ciabatta roll and she really loved it. Who doesn’t like melty brie? The chicken was tender and moist and grilled perfectly on the outside, with a ripe and creamy avocado studding the inside and constructed on top of the brie so the cheese melted evenly. The bacon had a nice smoky flavor and was perfectly crisped. The bun, like ours, wasn’t anything special and tasted more like a standard whole grain bread than a ciabatta roll, but the inner core of flavors were worth it.With these meals were two kinds of fries. Keepitcoming and I got pub fries and sweet potato fries, respectively, and I think we each liked the opposite better, because we kept sneaking off each others’ plates! The pub fries were crispy and thickly battered with a nice rock salt coating and a good seasoning. My only complaint was that they were lukewarm when they came out on our plates. Piping hot, I could have eaten more of these.My plate was full of crispy, thin sweet potato fries. These were also fantastic and had the perfect amount of salt. I would have eaten these on their own with a little dipping sauce. They were soft on the inside and naturally sweet.Since SBC’s dessert menu looked interesting, we decided to give a few things a try. Swagger opted for the cinnamon creme brulee, and Keepitcoming and I shared a red velvet cupcake. Unfortunately, we should have asked about the desserts being made in house. They were not very good representations of their genre.The creme brulee was cold and had a mushy, yielding layer of sugar on top. The pastry cream was clumpy and tasted more like custard, and we tasted literally no cinnamon at all. The portion was definitely too large for one person to enjoy. I feel that this could have been heavily elaborated on and improved, especially with such a warm, comforting flavor like cinnamon and such a versatile dessert base.To add insult to injury, Keepitcoming and I were served a cupcake that was extremely small. This was a boon in our consumption, though, because the end product was dry, crumbly, and dense. Not at all moist and fluffy like a cupcake ought to be. From the texture and temperature of the cupcake and density of the frosting, it was clear that this was simply thawed out of the refrigerator when ordered.For such an illustrious flavor, the red velvet was bland and not chocolatey or rich. We picked idly at this and didn’t bother to finish. A disappointing end to an average dinner, unfortunately. I’d try this again, but at my own risk and at a time with less patronage to ensure more care on my meal. It still beats base treatment at Caseus, though.

Lemon Ginger Gnu Bar

The makers of Gnu Bar invite us to smile, because their product promotes “natural regularity.” As I tasted this fibrous granola-esque bar, I was forced to consider whether I ought to, in the words of Gnu Bar’s packaging copy, “Join the Movement.” I chose to take only one small bite, with the aim of not limiting the scope of my whereabouts and activities in the next 24 hours. This small taste was more than enough to establish that there is no reason I would ever voluntarily eat a Gnu Bar again. It tasted like dry, gingery herbal tea, vitamin pills, and cardboard, and had a texture composed of synthesized, round cluster-particles suspended in baked oat slurry.I have written in the past about a bar that unintentionally had the appearance and consistency of the, uhhh, end result of the digestive process, but this is the first product I have reviewed which enthusiastically touts its ability to make you shit. Gnu Bar, you are for old people who can’t taste food yet crave liberal-flavored novelty. Also, force feeding this product to a willing victim is an effective form of hazing. That’s what I call “Food That Works.” In conclusion, suckage.(Author’s note: This was written by Keepitcoming as Foodette is incapacitated from involuntarily consuming this bar.)

Peppered Cheese Jerky

Terrible confession. I kind of like jerky. And not the high class, aged maple smoked Angus type, either. I lean heavily towards the mechanically separated persuasion, if you know what I mean. While it’s not my first choice for a quick snack, I’m always drawn to its strange flavors and unique texture.When I found Cheese Jerky, I was dubious. Cheese as jerky? Dried cheese? With meat? The concept sounded a little dicey. To my surprise, it wasn’t so much “cheese jerky” as it was “cheese with jerky inside.” Made from mozzarella string cheese and little pieces of jerky. Huh. Well, I’m all for a snack, especially one that allows me to seamlessly introduce dried meat to my nachos, so I dove into this with a lusty hunger.Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to my jerky-related expectations of smoky flavors, camping related fantasies, and the South. The cheese was delicious, sharp, and creamy, but overpowered the jerky. Not to mention that the jerky then rendered the whole concept of string cheese useless, making it hard to pull off strips that weren’t marred by the jerky studded inside.In an ideal universe, this would be a lot milder of a cheese with much more spice on the jerky and a more even ratio so all could be enjoyed. I will say the flavor was decent on nachos, but still really wasn’t able to impart that meaty flavor I’d expected before and didn’t melt as well as a plain cheese.

Latkes for Two

Well, it’s fall. We woke up cold and smelled the woodsmoke and we just knew. Of course, the fact that the weather was perfect and almost warm this weekend didn’t quite belie the true nature of the season, but damn it, it was time to pull out the big guns in the food world.Fall is my element. It’s the one season where I can show my prowess by demanding a month-long birthday celebration, where I can dig out my impressive collection of swanky jackets, and cook hot and comforting foods. So yesterday, for both breakfast and dinner, I cooked up a batch of latkes.These are bastardized, but I simply do not care. If my old Jewish relatives tasted these, they’d stop spinning in their graves. They’re that delicious and freakishly simple to make and are hardy enough to carry a boatload of toppings. Nom.

Latkes for Two
Ingredients (serves two, makes eight or nine largeish latkes)
1 1/2 large potatoes
1/8 cup of chopped parsley
1/8 cup of Parmesan cheese
3 eggs
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoky paprika to taste
Canola oil
Various toppings- sour cream, applesauce, bacon jam, hot sauce

1. Start by peeling and grating your potatoes. For me, this is the most satisfying part of this recipe. Grate them with a hand grater into a large bowl. Add your parsley and Parmesan.
2. Lay out three or four paper towels or a clean dish towel and pour on the potatoes. This might be the most important part, as it will get out a lot of excess moisture. Potatoes have a ton of water, and that will splatter as you fry them and burn your face off. So lay the potatoes out and squeeze the water out until they are dry and can be stirred in pieces instead of a lump.
3. Add your eggs and remaining spices and mix together. Heat your oil in a saucepan, roughly a half inch deep.
4. When the oil is hot and has small bubbles on the bottom of the pan, take a spoonful of potato and gently lay it in the pan, spreading it in an even, flat layer. Add as many as your pan can fit. I found that three at a time made it easier to flip. Flip when one side is brown.
5. When the latkes are golden brown and crispy on both sides, let them cool on a paper towel lined plate and serve immediately with toppings.We opted for a savory route last night, with flavored sour cream, Indian ketchup (soon to be covered) regular sour cream, and bacon hot sauce, quenching our thirsts with apple cider. It was so delicious.

Sweet’s Port Wine Gels

On our aforementioned Vermont outing yesterday, Keepitcoming and I found these unusual wine-related candies. I love wine flavored oddities, especially if they’re accurate. I saw these on Gigi Reviews a while back and nearly levitated with glee. In addition to the fact that they’re smart and sophisticated enough for a dinner party, they’re versatile enough to be savored with a candy cigar in silk footie pajamas while reading a leather-bound edition of Pat the Bunny in one’s study. They’re fun and they’re mature. I feel like a real adult!So these wine gems were port, but came in three flavors. This looked like the most promising variety. They’re covered in dark chocolate and come in little batons. For the size of the box, which looks like one of those fancy wine cylinders, the amount of candy isn’t nearly proportionate to the amount of packaging. It’s completely superfluous, but very snazzy, so I forgave them that. The inside of the box reminds me that it “pairs well with good friends.” To me, port pairs better with more port, but that’s neither here nor there.The gel is soft and gelatinous, rather than gummy, and melts quickly in the mouth. Immediately, I was hit with a rather heady, substantial port flavor. This surprised me a lot, as I was not expecting these to fully deliver. They actually tasted quite boozy and smoky, which I loved. Unfortunately, the flavor is really diminished by the coating of dark chocolate. It could have been a boon had it been of a better quality, but it was chalky and waxy tasting and melted irregularly.

I’d love to try more of these. I wish more companies were bold enough to utilize wines in their flavorings and accurately portray the flavor, because I see it as a fantastic ingredient to complete a meal, a candy, or dessert. Or breakfast. Or midnight snack. It’s essential and really elevates the feeling and sensations of a meal to a higher plane, and would be so much fun to eat in less traditional applications. This definitely made me hopeful for finding more wine snacks and candies.

Vermont Country Deli, Brattleboro, VT

Sorry for the lapse in posts. Keepitcoming and I had a huge day yesterday, spending most of the day across the border in Vermont, and culminating the night with a fantastic concert.

We’d been wanting to check out Vermont for a while. I’d never really hung around to see what was going on there, and being a mere 30 miles from the border, wanted to see what cool things we could find there.

Most of our day was spent driving and checking out the awesome weirdness at the Vermont Country Store, but we walked around Brattleboro later on and got some fantastic sandwiches, too. The Vermont Country Deli is famous for great sandwiches, desserts, and strange groceries- three things I happen to fancy myself. While they’re most notorious for their pulled pork sandwich, we were looking for something a little more portable to enjoy on the ride home.

I chose one of their specialty sandwiches, the Route 9 Roast Beef. It was roast beef, American cheese, horseradish mayonnaise, mustard, and lettuce on my choice of bread. At the recommendation of Keepitcoming, I chose the hard roll. It was very good and cushioned the sandwich well without getting overly bready or crumbly. It was like an individual challah without the egginess. I was a little disappointed that, this being Vermont, they did not offer the option of cheddar cheese. It seemed like a no-brainer, especially with roast beef.They gave a decent portion of roast beef on the sandwich, enough to spill over the edges and still lay thickly on the bread. The mustard was a little overpowering, but the horseradish in the mayo made a definite impression on the overall flavor. I really, really enjoy the combination of horseradish and roast beef. The cheese was unimpressive, and I stick to my opinion that cheddar would be fantastic in this sandwich. The butter lettuce gave a nice bitterness to the melange of salty flavors going on, and accentuated the horseradish.Keepitcoming’s sandwich was on the same challah-like roll with chicken salad, lettuce, tomatoes, and alfalfa sprouts. All the vegetables were fresh and crisp. The chicken salad was a very good quality and had a nice texture, but came out tasting rather bland.The addition of dill in the salad was helpful, but did not add a lot to the overall flavor. We’re spoiled by the State Street Deli, I suppose.For dessert, we shared a face-sized oatmeal raisin cookie. It was tasty, but Keepitcoming swore that they were normally much more fresh and was surprised that it was so average, especially on a holiday weekend with many patrons.It was studded with raisins and had a mildly spicy flavor, but aside from that, was a regular cookie with not a whole lot to stand upon.

American Flatbread Three Cheese and Tomato

There is so much to make fun of about hipsters. It’s almost overwhelming. I don’t even know where to start. Likewise, there’s a lot to make fun of about American Flatbread, starting with the $10.99 price tag at Whole Foods.Thankfully, this was free, so Keepitcoming and I brought it home and popped it in the oven for dinner. The package was kind enough to include cooking instructions for us fire pit owners, an admittedly small demographic, and also gave directions for using the “Neolithic method” over an open fire. How quaint. (Note: I do not own a fire pit.) It also tells a cheerful anecdote about burn victims, something I love to recall when I am leaning over a hot oven, and delineates itself as “pizza with integrity”.
Dinosaurs also have integrity.

With the pizza heating instructions came a terrifying, ominous warning. If we let this bake for more than seven or eight minutes, it would turn tough and leathery. Luckily, we didn’t, so the end result was thankfully soft and mushy in a reconstituted texture, new for geriatrics! On this variety, three cheese and tomato, there happened to be much more cheese than some of the other frozen pizzas we’ve had. It came out of the oven smelling like a rock star and very crispy, so we expected the best.The overall result was, unfortunately, just extremely bland. It smelled and felt like high quality ingredients. The ingredient list even had “good mountain water”, just like Ina Garten wants us to use. But when we ate it, there was no feeling of “Sweet Jesus, this is so good that I need to eat as much as I can physically stomach, and then more.” The crust was crispy on the outside and gummy on the inside. There was no sharpness or creaminess from the cheese. It was certainly not “the best frozen pizza money can buy,” but that’s the New York Times we’re quoting from, and all jest aside, we can get a better pizza from Amy’s at around 75% of the price.

Smith Island Baking Company Coconut Cake

The object that is now on my desk is probably the closest I will ever come to having a live infant. Chances are, I am also taking better care of it. I’ve never seen a food object this big. It weighs about as much as a normal baby. This object is wrapped in protective cardboard and plastic and enclosed in a firm tin. It takes two hands to lift and is fragrant and sweet. Later on, I will stab it with a knife and consume its tender flesh.This happens to be the ten layer coconut cake from Smith Island Baking Company. Put your phone down. I’ve extended my birthday to a two-week extravaganza just so that I can say that this is another really excellent birthday cake. The cake company has an extensive history with drama and murder and lobsters, none of which actually happen, but the part that I was excited to hear more about had to do with the composition of the cake. Apparently, the frosting is not buttercream, but cooked fudge, rendering it preserved and able to hang out unrefrigerated underneath its protective dome for up to weeks at a time.This is good news for college students. We love to leave edibles out in the open for weeks at a time, and with a cake of this size and heft, I can’t see us finishing it anytime soon. The nine inch cake serves at least sixteen people, and that’s with extremely generous slices. Keepitcoming and I chipped away at small slivers of cake, because not only is the cake tall, it’s very, very dense.

The cake came covered in coconut with ten layers of moist, soft, pound cake goodness layered with vanilla fudge frosting. The frosting never burnt our throats and was adequately sweet, with a nice vanilla flavor. The cake absorbed all the toppings and ended up staying luscious and buttery. All the flavors mixed perfectly and the coconut was extremely moist.Despite being in thin, thin layers, the pound cake was very filling. It is entirely impossible to eat this in any fashion other than thin, transparent slivers. With the beautiful negligence one can bestow upon this dessert, one could plausibly subside off this for at least a few weeks. It’s a really impressive and flavorful dessert that would make a fantastic gift or addition to a party. It comes in a reusable tin for future events. I plan on presenting dinner to Keepitcoming with flourish from now on.

Boo Berry Fruit Roll-Ups

Holy cow, it’s fucking October. I now have a reason, nay, a motivation, to start breaking out the sweet Halloween snacks. Now that I have a Target a mere five minutes away, temptation beckons with her sweet painted fingernails and shows me a bounty of Halloween themed edibles that need to show up on the blog.

So bear with me for the next month and let’s hearken back to the imaginary filaments of my youth- a Hollywood tainted childhood coupled with Fruit Roll-Ups, Lunchables, Capri Sun, and Hey Arnold. Finding these Boo Berry snacks was a double header for me, because not only did it combine the crushing yearly disappointment of Boo Berry, but also brought me back to the 4th grade.Swagger and I sat in his impossibly adorable car and ate these to an audience of shoppers. They were jealous of our swag and we knew it. Everyone who has passed through elementary school knows the basic composition of a Fruit Roll-Up, so I’ll cut to the chase. Quintessential chemically creamy smell, often printed with pixelated images that put Girls Gone Wild to shame, and flavored with any fruit on a slab of candy resembling linoleum. For the record, I am proud to say that I have never seen acai berry in one of these.Unfortunately for Boo Berry, it fails to deliver any of my completely unrealistic Halloween expectations. I mean, you don’t understand. I opened seven packages to find the best dyed picture of Boo himself and got almost nothing. The flavor was simple, despite acting under the name Razzle Boo Blitz. Pimp or fruit snack? It was like eating the dried remnants of blue raspberry sno-cone syrup, and wasn’t really anything to write home about.If I looked really closely, I saw a slight sparkle, so I’m assuming this was either a small, snappy design snark at Twilight, or the aftermath of a night of watching Big Money Rustlas and eating burritos. Aside from that, it was pretty standard.

Nevertheless, this was a much better start to Halloween than filming myself dancing to The Monster Mash in my dorm room. I hope you agree.

Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Boy, oh, boy, was I excited to write this. That’s my current synapses at this point. Whenever I get hungry, it’s no longer, “Should I eat?” but rather, “Should I write?”

I think my influence for making decisions about what I eat is heavily influenced by this blog. Not necessarily in terms of health or caloric investment, but more in terms of expanding my scope of consumption. I go for the strangest thing on the menu. I’m no longer relying on the good graces of a chicken sandwich. It feels good to try new things and see what I’ve been missing.

Of course, anything with salted caramel is a no-brainer. Fucking salted caramel is one of the most perplexingly good combinations, ever. Seeing this just solidified my affirmations of needing to stay at Starbucks and gawk at the people passing by.The weather was dreary, so I eschewed my preferred iced drink for something hot, in this case, the hot chocolate. I watched my barista pour on salt with glee, like a child awaiting a treat, and eagerly recepted my drink.

Unfortunately, it was not to par with an artisan salted caramel. Shit, this drink couldn’t even give a Werther’s a run for its money. It tasted like the ejaculation of a crappy latte, with an overly sweet, syrupy flavor and texture and very little salt. Only once did I taste the astonishingly simple flavor of burnt sugar. The grains of salt that did not melt were tasted at the end of the drink, in the dregs of chocolate and grainy sips. What little chocolate flavor I did glean from this drink was about as pure as a drug-addled adolescent Swiss Miss.The texture was too thick for a hot drink, like a poor imitation of better, pudding-like European hot chocolates. I found it to be viscous and slimy and definitely not a good representation of its quality combination.