California Pizza Kitchen Original Restaurant Style Crust BBQ Chicken

We’ve begrudgingly reached a compromise, Keepitcoming and I. We’ve come to realize that we both have drastically different eating habits. While we maintain the code that all things mushy, crunchy, spicy, and condiment-y are good in the hood, we still tend to butt heads around stranger things. Actually, the problem is entirely mine. I instinctively gravitate towards shiny, new foods that proclaim to be limited edition, plastering my face against the grocery freezer door as though they will disappear in my hands. This category usually includes Hot Pockets, frozen waffles, and pizza rolls, all of which Keepitcoming is sworn against.Tonight, though, we decided to eat a dish that was both normal and “new,” that dish being California Pizza Kitchen’s “restaurant style crust” in their ever-popular flavor, barbecued chicken. Restaurant style at CPK makes me think of overpriced pizzas, reluctant waitresses, and screaming children, all of which we lack at home, so if we could combine the quality with the quiet, we’d be in a good place.Frozen, the pizza appeared to be promising. The frozen crust was soft and doughy, and there was a semblance of freshness in the form of herbs on top. But the toppings were scattered and patchy in places with hacksawed chunks of onion ranging from fingernail sized to finger sized, and the sauce looked to be sparse and buried under the cheese. After it cooked, it didn’t look much better. What was advertised as plump and soft crust was crunchy looking- the exact trait that made us avoid CPK in the first place after their rising crust pizza was yanked off our grocery shelves.It was an average pizza. The crust was overly floured- that “restaurant touch” rearing its ugly head, I can only assume, and left a powdery, strange texture that lingered on the lips. It was solid and didn’t get soggy underneath the berth of toppings, though. There was more barbecue sauce than I’d originally imagined, but after the cheese melted, it was visible that the sauce was dotted on the pizza in a precise, mechanical shape, which certainly belied the emphasis on restaurant style. It was an inoffensive sauce, though erring toward the sweet side. The cheese was unnoticeable but held everything together, and it was a pleasant touch to have the herbs flavoring the top. What really irked me was the infrequency of the toppings- often we’d get bites of just cheese and sauce, or just onions on the crust. Never chicken and onions. At the end, the crust was as crackery and airy as the thin crusted pizza.There was nothing about this that made me want to get it again, as it did not refresh my faith in the CPK frozen pizzas, or bring out new flavors that seemed interesting and different to other brands. We’re still on our hunt for another brand of frozen pizza that mirrors the flavor and quality of Amy’s.

Polar Natural Pomegranate Seltzer

I feel like seltzer really toes the line of drink preferences. Soda is obvious, you either like it or you don’t, and then you’re a giant pussy. Juice is great until you’re six, and after that, it’s just a mixer. Albeit a BITCHTASTIC mixer, but still. Energy drinks are only appropriate if you’re 14 and raging at the world or in college and studying for finals. Milk is all across the board because everyone has different preferences of fat content, and everyone over the age of 10 in most countries has a glass of wine with dinner, but seltzer is a wild card. Like Mr. T. It’s pushed aside for more palatable beverages, but can be a tasty addition to beverages or a decent stand-alone drink.

I’ve always seen it as a cop-out to a real beverage- not enough fruit flavoring and/or artificial colors to warrant being an alternative to juice, and not enough excitement to be lumped into the soda conglomerate. But then the PR department of seltzer decided to revamp that shit for the 21st century, yo, so now the good citizens of America are faced with difficult flavor choices such as Georgia peach, triple berry, watermelon-basil, or vanilla.One of my phabulous suitemates, Ptaradactyl, was kind enough to let me borrow not only one of her Polar Springs pomegranate seltzers, but also a shot glass to photograph it in and drink out of because I am Classy Spice in this crib. The seltzer is noncaloric and boasts luscious pomegranates on the front of the can. That is literally all I can say about this, and that’s coming from someone who regularly composes 1,000 word write-ups about limited edition hamburgers.

The soda is harshly carbonated with a nicely prominent pomegranate flavor. The scent is stronger than the flavor, which is a little disappointing. It’s not sweet, but is tart and is a much less pungent than pomegranate juice. This is a good selling point, as I tend to get tired of the sour flavor of that particular libation. The aftertaste tastes a bit saccharine, less like fruit and more like Fruit 2 O.If I were to have this again, I’d probably use it to dilute some juice, but as a stand-alone beverage, I’m not very inclined to keep drinking it. I suppose I need a little more flavor in my drinks, because this just feels a little too unsatisfying for regular consumption. Mad props to staying true to the fruit, though.

Archer Farms Strawberry Mango Real Fruit Twists

I’m always a little skeptical of foods that have the disclaimer “real” in front of them. Does it need to be stated in print? I mean, that stripper told me she had a real penis. But that’s a different story. On a whole, I tend to enjoy grocery store food lines, like Archer Farms and Nature’s Promise, so when Keepitcoming and I saw these Sharkies-esque fruit snacks in Target, (or Tar-Jay for the socialites) we were immediately intrigued. Could these take the place of our beloved, though difficult to procure, shark-shaped fruit snacks?

The answer is yes. A thousand Great Whites screaming “yes” before they tear into their victim’s hapless, vulnerable flesh. These are delicious.They’re bite-sized tiny braids of intertwining flavors- strawberry and mango. Two flavors I’d expected to be distinctive of each other, but in most applications, may have been muddled. Separating the flavors was a smart move, as they really melded perfectly. The tartness of the berries and the sweet mango tastes completely natural and jammy. The fruit snacks themselves are the perfect size and have a nice, pulpy chew to them with a resistance similar to fruit leather.The best part about these is that fifteen of them is only one hundred calories. And they’re all natural and good for you, at least in comparison to other fruit snacks you could be consuming. We nommed these quickly and are excited to have found such an accessible alternative to Sharkies. Highly recommend these to those who can handle them. Infants and crying babies not included.

Vosges La Parisienne Haut Chocolat

It’s called “haut” chocolat. And that should have been my first warning. But there it sat, in my hot little hands, and I paid the $3.59, went on my merry way, and thought none the better of it.

It was finally cold enough to drink this, though, so Keepitcoming and I decided to snuggle up with Elf, thinking that a mug of hot chocolate would be the perfect pairing. But this, Vosges will assure you, is so much more than just a mug of hot chocolate, like futilely trying to see the pipe in a Magritte painting or the penis in the Rorschash blot.

It starts out with an obnoxious amount of preparation and tools. While you’re waiting for your obnoxious four ounces of milk to heat up, you can read the obnoxious background text, with helpful additions one can use if you have them leftover from your last gala or gallery opening- farmer’s cheese to make it “authentically Columbian” or serving it with brioche and a fresh orange peel. This is verbatim from the back of the packet and makes me feel gayer than five penises touching.
After letting the cocoa steep for five minutes, an absurdly asinine task adding onto the ten minutes we’d already spent letting the milk boil and then reduce, we were finally able to serve it. Note the drippy decadence on the front of the package. That’s no aesthetic nuance- that’s because it’s very hard to scrape all the thick hot chocolate from the pan in order to eke your $3.59’s worth and get your paltry four ounces.Unfortunately, our Limoges demitasse cups (Marie Antoinette’s, who else?) were at the cleaner’s, so we were forced to use a bulky pedestrian mug. All the haut chocolat, including that which we scraped off with our spatula (bringing our equipment count to four items) filled about a third of the way up. This was not conveyed on the package, and because we were so caught up in the allure of finally being able to prepare things like the French do, we looked over the fact that it yields far less than the average person will wish to consume.Because this chocolate is so rich and thick, it is extremely hot when it comes out and maintains the texture and heat-retaining properties of napalm. After a slight detour to the burn ward, we returned with our tongues fully scraped, ready to embrace the complexity of this captivating treat. It’s like drinking liquid pudding with occasional textural inconsistencies from the cooled bits of skin on top. The chocolate is very rich, very chalky, and a little bitter. It feels like something I could easily make with my own high-quality dark chocolate. Now, worldly readers may accuse me of being gauche- “Foodette, haven’t you heard of Europe? Their hot chocolate is like pudding!” Well, I have heard of Europe, and what’s more, I’ve been there, and I’ve gotten a lot more hot chocolate for my two Euro. That being said, there is a bright side to this tired tirade. After finishing half of this and having no stomach for any more, Keepitcoming suggested mixing some cold milk into the remains.The result was much better. The chalkiness was completely tempered out, and the creamy milk made it feel a lot richer without having that unpleasant clotted feel. I had a feeling this would be a better option- at the Fancy Food Show, we tried the white chocolate equivalent of this as a cold beverage and fell in love. So that’s what I’d suggest doing with this. It doesn’t soothe the soul in the same way as a hot mug of cocoa does on a cold night, but that’s where Swiss Miss comes in. Gal may be cheap, but she’s easy, doesn’t require half the stove to prepare, and keeps you warm on a chilly winter’s eve.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

I’d say I’ve been indulged in ice cream for most of my life, especially because of my childhood in Southern Connecticut. Having a lot of dairy farms and local creameries has made it extremely easy to get a scoop of something good at any given moment. So with that experience in mind, I’d consider myself a good judge of ice cream.

Of course, upon seeing the flavors at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, I had no doubt in my mind that I needed to try them. Blackstrap praline? Young Gouda with vodka and cranberries? Essential to my well-being. But the moral of this short story is, of course, to be careful what you wish for. Nine pints were whisked to my doorstep today and Keepitcoming and I spent an eventful evening tasting all the flavors.

I got the Foggy Mountain Collection, which seemed the most diverse, and three bonus pints of blackcurrant sorbet, Riesling poached pear sorbet, and dark chocolate peppermint ice cream. The Foggy Mountain Collection, comprised of Ohio-inspired flavors, consisted of six flavors: Blackstrap praline, young Gouda with vodka-plumped cranberries, Spicebush apple butter, sweet cream with Appalachian elderberries, sweet potato with torched marshmallows, and brown butter almond brittle.

The ice cream was delicious. Even the flavors we weren’t really enthused about had the markings of high-quality, small batch ice cream. It was downright unctuous and creamy, with a rich, velvety texture. Good stuff.And then we had the flavors. Some were so good I gladly licked them off the countertop- the blackstrap praline was one of them, with a flavor identical to gooey, dark molasses with crunchy bits of pecan studded throughout. This is an ice cream you could eat for breakfast. This is an ice cream that begs for experimentation- with waffles. With toast. With bacon. Glistening, salty, crunchy strips of bacon with molasses ice cream- but I digress.
The Appalachian sweet cream and elderberry was a visually appealing, dizzying dish with nebulae of berries swirled around the sweet cream. I know it’s often said that sweet cream is vanilla by another name, but this tastes just as sweet, if not better. It was wonderfully milky and sweet, cut by the jammy elberberries. It takes a lot to elevate something simple to a high level, and this was certainly achieved.

The Cinderella story of this selection was clearly the Spicebush apple butter. Expecting it to be identical to its pulpy inspiration, I wrote it off at first because I didn’t think it tasted enough like apples to warrant notice. But upon further inspection, I came to realize that it really wasn’t about the apples- the flavor lay in the spices. The ice cream itself had a ripened, cheesy flavor, but not in a bad way. It was mellow and made the perfect vessel for the spices, a blend of fresh peppercorns, cinnamon, and citrus fruits, a lemony flavor almost like a cheesecake base.

All of the other flavors were delicious, but didn’t stir up as much enthusiasm like these- the sweet potato didn’t really emulate the noble tuber outside of a somewhat generic blend of pumpkin pie spices, (though the chewy frozen marshmallows were a nice touch. Could have used more char, but I’m a fan of all things well-done and smoky.) the sorbets had a strange, frothy airiness to them more appropriately condoned to Valley girls, hair mousse, and Cool Whip than to sorbet, but were smoothly crystallized. The Riesling poached pear was deliciously identical to a ripe, juicy pear, but unfortunately lacked the Riesling note I so craved- and I’m a stickler for that. The brown butter almond brittle, like the others, clearly had the hallmarks of a high-craft ice cream, but was rather one-noted, and that note was marzipan. If you like that, you’re in luck. If you’re looking for more flavoral depth, go elsewhere.The last one that we tried was truly unique, and that was the young Gouda with vodka and cranberries. Again, lacking on the vodka, another note that I typically find easy to detect if present and prominent, but the Gouda was spot on, with a ripeness to the flavor and a bit of a tang, and the cranberries added a tasty sweetness to the overall flavor. If this was smokier, I’d have eaten the entire thing.

These are fantastic for gifts, food geeks, family members, or Christmas Eve parties/Christmas afterparties. And that’s not even their entire range of flavors- for more, visit www.jenisicecreams.com and check them out. It’s worth it if you’ve a discerning palate and an eye for the luxurious.
(Also, kudos for dry ice…lots of amusement for curious adults.)

Thomas Kemper Blood Orange Soda

I know this is more a propos to Halloween festivities rather than Christmas/Hanukkah times, but WHATEVA, I DO WHAT I WANT.

I’m an out of control teen.

What we have here is Thomas Kemper soda, of the blood orange variety. I’m a serious beverage hipster. If I drank beer, I’m sure I’d only want microbrews. Like beer, I tend to favor the obscure and smaller soda companies with more unique flavors. This was a pretty vivacious looking soda, with all the energy of the drink focused on the color with minimal labeling in colors that either matched or accented it.I took this in my laboratory. It’s pronounced lahbohratoree.

Naturally, I expected this to be vibrant and sunny, like its namesake fruit, with a twinge of a macabre pucker thrown in for good measure. After all, it is a blood orange. But instead, it was a flavor concentrating heavily on the acerbic with little homage paid to the fruit it represented. What should have been casually tart was bitterly acidic, and if anything, it tasted more like orange-flavored Jell-O (“with carrots inside,” said Keepitcoming) with a tang at the end. A slightly herbal, cloying flavor, perhaps from the honey, provided the base sweetness in this soda.I wish this hadn’t proposed so much in its appearance. We’d left it in the fridge as a treat because it was so pretty and fire-colored, and quaffing it just seemed like a letdown. This goes squarely into the category of “things that look pretty but are not good to eat,” and joins an ignoble list of animal shaped marshmallows, marzipan fruit hunks, gigantic lollipops, and mockolate rabbits.

Vitamin Water Stur-D

Oooh, the new Vitamin Water comes with promises to make me strong like bull- and that shit’s blue to boot.

Unfortunately, I cannot successfully implement this in my fetish-related dog training repertoire, as the ensuing libation is not toilet water blue, but more of a petrichor, stormy steel blue. You read me, Crayola? I swallow words and shit gold.

I decided to drink this during a lull of working through a collection of archives for one of my classes (making sure the cap was fully secured!) to see if it did make me more resilient and strong to onerous tribulations like professorial criticism, poor organizational skills, and rusted paper clips. It did not do so, and when I later tripped down a short flight of stairs, I was surprised to find that I felt actual pain from the fall.Vitamin Water, is this all a lie?

So with feeling sturdy clearly not in this drink’s agenda, I opted to focus on the flavor. Vitamin Water calls Stur-D blue agave, passion fruit, and citrus, but I’d call it a tasteless melange of flavors best allocated to the teenage girl drugstore perfume section than the beverage chambers, because this is absolutely rank. I started drinking it with the assumption that it tasted a little herbal, like tea or a poorly made Arnold Palmer, with some passionfruit thrown in for effort, but it seemed to combine the worst of all possible flavors. The “herbal” agave part was honeyed and sickly sweet. And for the record, agave doesn’t seem like a good ingredient for resistance and strength. I mean, come on- one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor? And the passionfruit had that fake floral, musky lingering taste that a person experiences when they’ve had one too many dates with a girl named Princess. Sigh.Basically, what we had at the end was an overly sweet, weirdly floral, fake tasting “tropical” beverage in a strange color and little to no appeal. I finished half of this and then kept looking at it in my hand. I just had no will or desire to finish this- and you know what that means. This was disappointing. I was really jazzed to try this and told all of my friends, and now I have to rescind my excitement and stop writing “Mrs. Stur-D” on my notebooks in Sharpie marker.

Matzo Ball Soup

And yea, I have risen from the dead by means of matzo ball soup.

No, seriously.

It’s a labor of love, matzo ball soup. It requires patience, an early morning, and SO MUCH SCHMALTZ. And in most cases, a woman over 50 to cook it. But there were no grandmothers or relatives in sight, so I had to take it into my own hands. Schmaltz is Jewish for “I love you.”

I spent today shuffling around the house from the nook where I blog to the kitchen, tending the chicken stock and making matzo balls, adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, and after six hours, it was totally worth it. Keepitcoming braved the cold with errands today, and she said that coming home to fresh, hot soup was a real treat.
So here’s the recipe. It’s labor intensive, so you can make it when you have a day free or start the soup overnight, but I found that it was perfect when made in time for dinner. One note: the broth had a tendency to evaporate a lot during simmering, often reducing the liquid by half over a period of an hour, so I had to keep bolstering it with chicken stock. The end result was amazing, though. There’s something about rendering food, like caramelized onions and short ribs, that makes it condensed and rich. This soup falls into that category.

Foodette’s Sick Day Matzo Ball Soup, loosely adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Ingredients (serves 2)

Soup
2 pounds of leftover or raw chicken (we just kept everything from our roast chicken dinner a few nights prior and threw it all in)
2 quarts of water
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Matzo Balls
1 cup of matzo meal
4 eggs
4 tablespoons of cooled schmaltz
4 tablespoons of tonic water
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

1. Okay. Take all of your soup ingredients and place them in a large soup pot. Bring them to a rolling boil and reduce heat to a simmer. A little bubbling is okay. Let it go for three hours and watch Titanic, masturbate, make a few long distance calls, or thwart a Nigerian money scam. Every hour, add some chicken stock to the pot if it looks like it’s getting low. You’ll notice.2. After three hours, pour the whole mess into a fine mesh sieve under a large bowl. The golden nectar will be underneath. You will want to tip the bowl and drink the whole thing, but do not. Instead, let it cool on the counter or in the fridge until the schmaltz* is solid.3. Once the soup is cooled and there are solids on top, mix all of your matzo ball ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate for a half hour. While that’s chilling, start a large pot of salted boiling water on the stove and let it get to a rolling boil. SK advises to wet your hands and roll the balls quickly, into little golf ball sized balls, before dropping them into the water. Next time, I’d make these a little smaller because they really expanded.4. Cover the pot, lower the heat, and let the balls simmer for 40-50 minutes. Once they’re all floating and cooked, about ten minutes before they’re done, heat up your soup. Chop some fresh parsley in your bowls and ladle the soup in, and a few matzo balls. Consume. It is like liquid butter with chicken essence. NOM.Keepitcoming resembles a nomming kitten in the background. The libation of choice paired perfectly- Hermann J. Wiemer 2008 Dry Riesling, of course.

* For teh Gentilez in the group, “schmaltz” is Yiddish for chicken fat. It is utterly essential in a good Bubbi’s kitchen. Technically, because we used the skin and the whole nine yards, it’s Griebenschmaltz, but it’s all good.

Colia Frutta C

If my two favorite Italian brothers, Mario and Luigi have taught me anything, it would be that Italians are a flamboyantly deceiving people. They may seem like cartoon plumbers trying to save the princess in a cartoon world filled with evil mushrooms and evil turtles, but beyond the colorful mushrooms and never ending castles, the deeper message is about tapping that royal ass at the end of the day.

These strange candies I found in the mystery box of goodies acquired from Foodette was no exception to this strange Italian custom. From box they were contained in, it looked rather safe and even a child can enjoy them. Boasting the fact that these candies were enhanced with vitamin c, they seemed like they would be a rather fun and delicious way to fight off scurvy. Based on the fruity (pun intended) pictures on the box, I was able to figure out that in the center of each of these little candies was a liquid center of scurvy combating goodness. And with no more further speculation to the contents of the mystery center, I popped one of these candies in my mouth to find out what the mystery center is.The hard outer shell of the candy was just what one could expect from a candy that boasts it to contain a high value of vitamin c. It tastes like a vitamin c rich supplement hard candy. Much like the kind that Halls makes and can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy. It has a rather bitter citrus flavor like an orange peel. It wasn’t sweet like a Jolly Rancher like the box would have me to believe with its vibrant colors and flashy Italian words.

The mystery center of this candy was something that no one would expect from the colorful and kiddy packaging. The mystery center was just fucking cough syrup. The mystery center to this candy was just a tiny liquid filled center of fucking Robitussin citrus flavored cough syrup. It was as a welcomed surprise as being woken up by a punch to the testicles.

The thought of why anyone would put cough syrup in the middle of a candy baffles me to no end. Could this be a cough drop type candy where one would consume when they have a cough and sore throat? If that is indeed the case, then why is the box so colorful and flashy that it would suggest normal everyday consumption? Maybe the box clearly states that the delicious mystery center was actually just over the counter cough syrup. I don’t know, I can’t read Italian, I’ll probably never find out. This is probably going to be one of life’s little mysteries that will never be solved. Fucking magnets, how do they work? It’s a miracle.

Yumnuts Slow Roasted Cashews

Oh boy oh boy there’s nothing better and nothing more satisfying to me than putting a fistful of nuts in my mouth every now and then. The only problem is that most of the nuts I come across either tend to be too dry and leave me with a bad taste in my mouth, or they are just way over seasoned one can’t taste the nuts but is instead eating flavoured salt with a hint of nuts. In my opinion, the perfect handful of nuts is both flavourful on the outside without compromising the original taste of the nuts.

I found these two sacks of nuts and decided to give them a go. With a bag advertising “YUMNUTS” I hoped it would be exactly how I feel after having some of these nuts. Having had led quite a relatively white bread lifestyle, where all my nuts came in very few flavours, either salted or honey roasted. These exciting flavours really piqued my interest, even though the thought of putting a bunch of black chocolate nuts or even spicy Deep South Cajun in my mouth would bring years of dishonour to both me and my family for years. Eventually, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and shove a few handfuls of exotic nuts into my mouth.
If the nuts are touching, it must be gay.

In all my years of chomping on nuts, there nuts were probably one of the best nuts that have ever been in my mouth. There was such a perfect balance of added flavour and spice and the original flavour of the nuts, that you can’t help but to put another one in your mouth and another one after that.

The chocolate nuts were nice and sweet without compromising the original saltiness of the nuts. There was a light crunchy chocolate sugar shell on the outside of each nut that was much like the M&M shell but with more chocolate flavour. The chocolate nuts would have been ones that would be safe to handle without fearing of leaving traces of sticky chocolate all over your hands. Each of the individual chocolate nuts would have a very nice crunch when chomped on. The sweet chocolate wasn’t too sweet and was just prefect in flavour for a quick snack. Finishing a handful did not make you feel like you’ve just eaten a Snickers bar but rather a few M&Ms with a handful of cashews. It was a nice alternative to trail mix and much healthier alternative than a candy bar.The Cajun nuts were also a great mix of spice and original nutty flavour. The Cajun spices on the nuts were of a good smoky flavour. Much like how one would expect a good Cajun mix of spices would taste. I personally don’t know the secret to making a good blend of Cajun spices but the people at Yumnuts sure do. The spices were not too spicy at first but had a nice heat in its after taste. It’s definitely something that is desired from a good batch of nuts.

The people at Yumnuts were right, after putting a bunch of their nuts in and around my mouth; they sure do have me saying “YUM! NUTS!” Sadly both of these bags ran out quickly and left me yearning for more of Yumnuts’ delicious nuts in my mouth.

AND FOR THE RECORD EVERYONE, NO HOMO!