The Haute Dog at Serendipity 3, New York, NY

Yesterday, Swagger and I took a trip to the city to try the world’s most expensive hot dog, the “haute” dog from Serendipity 3 in New York. This dog was deemed the most expensive by the Guinness Book of World Records last year and features a 12 inch hot dog grilled in truffle oil inside a pretzel bun grilled with truffle butter with duck fois gras on top and three condiments on the side- caramelized Vidalia onions, truffled Dijon mustard, and Heirloom tomato ketchup for the low, low price of $69. Pretty fancy, but was it up to snuff?If you’ve never been to Serendipity, it’s like taking a trip back to your “confirmed bachelor” uncle’s house as a child- you know, the one that bordered on being a hybrid shrine to Chippendale’s and Judy Garland. With a nearly sterile color palate of white, off-white and bright white, it has the feel of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor- one with the occasional homoerotic wall decoration. The menu is preserved in the mid-fifties, with items such as the Virginia Slim Open, a turkey-based sandwich, and the One-Eyed Jack (no explanation needed).But we, that is to say, Swagger and I, had bigger game in mind. Thanks to the magical powers of PR Head Joe Calderone, we headed in at five and got to tackle the beast. We sated our palates with Serendipity’s classic libation, the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. I had tried to prepare myself for this ahead of time, but wasn’t entirely aware of the full threshold of chocolate we were about to endure. This was an extremely rich, refreshing drink served in a receptacle that could have comfortably housed a couple of goldfish, never mind a massive drink. Despite its size, it was easy to slurp down and was mighty quenching during our lunch. It is also apparently easy to replicate, thanks to TEH WUNDERS OF OPRAH. I may not have been able to distinguish the provenance of the FHC’s blend of 14 chocolates from Cote D’Ivoire to Chuao, but the flavor was bold and well-blended. Perfect for yesterday’s gorgeous weather.

Our hot dog arrived swiftly after a pleasant bout of rapport with the staff and Joe, and to the chagrin and hatred of the primarily JAP clientele, we were immediately the center of attention. Finally, I was the apotheosis of all my Jewish American Princess fantasies. The hot dog was here. It is truly the best of its kind, therefore, it cannot be judged on a scale of normal hot dogs. Unfortunately, as a result of its excellence I hold it to a higher standard than the quotidian tube steak. A hot dog’s appeal lies in a careful balance of its ingredients. The rich fattiness of a beef hot dog is cushioned by a bun, and in return, both lubricated and counterbalanced by a cadre of primarily acidic condiments- ketchup, mustard, relish, all things with a high level of vinegar and tang. Even richer condiments can propel a dog onto a higher plane- who hasn’t crushed on a bacon wrapped hot dog?The main issues lay in the composition of the hot dog. While each individual component was expertly prepared- especially the pretzel baguette that I would have been happy to slather with butter and eat alone, eaten together they were not as compatible as I’d have imagined. Everything about this was done on an enormous scale. Fois gras, though decadent, was just overwhelming along with the truffle oil laced hot dog, a savory and slippery delight. The pretzel bread took up 2/3 of each bite. It was truly massive and more suited to a massive hoagie sandwich or two hot dogs at once and really threw off the ratio of each bite. Luckily, the extra bits shaved off each bite made excellent vehicles for the condiments, all tangy, flavorful and very fresh, the most outstanding being the Heirloom tomato ketchup, though it’s more justified to call it jam, with an upfront charred flavor and red pepper accents, it accentuated the saltiness in the bread without adding to it.After three bites, I was stuffed. I’d been bested, but by the best- the smooth, creamy fois gras really did me in. While I can’t say that this was a perfect hot dog, it was certainly exceptional for its category. For the world’s most expensive hot dog, it’s affordable enough to split the cost with friends if only for nostalgic purposes. With crisp and impeccable service and a perfect balance of kitsch and class, this is a place I’d visit again in the future. Again, a huge thanks is in order to Joe Calderone for his hospitality.

Lemon Pepper Chicken Nachos

Spring is officially in the air, but due do a cantankerous vehicle, I don’t have a car to enjoy it in. With the Toyota in the shop, I’ve been landlocked in an untimely fashion and have had no chance to drive around, walk to the beach, or do one of my favorite springtime passions- eat outside!That doesn’t mean I didn’t get creative, though. With a slew of ingredients in the house, I put together a healthy warm-weather plate of nachos that had even my famously fastidious sister asking for more! I present to you, lemon pepper chicken nachos, combining the best of grilled chicken and nachos with the best of summery flavors. Eat them outside with some peach juice and have a fantastic and easy picnic for one. It features a few brand-unique ingredients, but they can be swapped out if needed.Ingredients (serves 1)
9 yellow corn chip rounds- I used On The Border’s premium rounds
1/3 cup tomato and basil cheddar cheese- Cabot makes a really good one
1 chicken breast, pounded to an even thickness
1 tablespoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of dill
All the juice from half a lemon
1 tablespoon of flour for thickening
2 tablespoons of salsa1. Arrange your chips in a flat, even layer on your plate. Start heating up your grill pan or grill, depending on your patience and weather forecast. Make the marinade for your chicken with the salt, pepper, dill, lemon juice, and flour for thickening and be sure to cover all surfaces of the chicken with an even coating. It doesn’t yield a lot of liquid so it is easy to cover.
2. Lay your chicken on the grill and start grating your cheese. Once the chicken is fully cooked with grill marks on both sides and no pink in the middle, take it off and cut it into small chucks, covering each chip with one or two pieces of chicken.
3. Cover the surface with cheese and microwave for 30 seconds or until all cheese is melted. Top with salsa and consume while hot.Man, I loved these. I couldn’t get over how fresh and zesty the flavors were. It was a real deviation from my standard loaded nachos with more of an emphasis on spicy and savory ingredients. I’ll definitely be making more of these when the weather is nicer out!

Diner, Brooklyn, NY

It’s Spring Break! I’ve been MIA for a few days because I’ve been too busy drinking mojitos on the beach and showing my tits to strangers with cameras. Sorry. I’ve met twenty of my most best friends in the last two hours and have not, as far as I know, been date-raped. It’s awesome!While that is a complete lie, I can confirm that I’ve been doing some pretty radical things. Keepitcoming and I went to Brooklyn last night to catch up with some friends and grab some dinner. Since my outfit was too cool for school and apparently, Peter Luger, we- Keepitcoming, Van, Reed, TR, and I, grabbed drinks and dinner at Diner.Diner, owned by renegade former chefs of Balthazar, is a cramped, yet cozy establishment in the center of hipsterville- er, Williamsburg. Featuring a daily rotation of local, fresh food and funky cocktails, it sounded like the perfect choice for a blushing spring evening. Walking in, we were assaulted from every angle by plaid shirts and pencil moustaches on both men and women, but the bar with its cracked tile mafia charm beckoned us to its stools. There, we had a few drinks, the most notable of libations the Touch and Go cocktail, one of their specialties. The combination of scotch, earl grey tea, lime juice, and sage brought a seasonally versatile flavor to the table with a smoky, yet light flavor and a bitter note playing in the citrus as well as the scotch. It had a queer neutral bite, like unsweetened iced tea, with only the natural flavors of each ingredient shining through. No salt rims or sugar crystals here, just the quenching delight that only a ten dollar, organic cocktail can bring.
We were handed a scroll of a menu, written hastily on a roll of receipt paper, and whacked up three appetizers amongst the five of us, heightening the anticipation of strange dishes by starting with stranger ones. Where else but Brooklyn can you find dead on, savory mussels and fries, rabbit consomme, razor clams, and cornbread? Nowhere else I’ve been. The moules were just as good as any I’ve had in France and equally as tender, with a spicy broth that begged for a crusty roll to sop it up in. Leaving the remnants in that dish was one of the bigger tragedies of this year. The smooth, creamy shellfish, best consumed tucked into the side of one’s cheek while piling in Diner’s freshly made french fries, was an absolute sensory overload. Just delicious. Size does matter, in the case of the fries. Though delicious, they were an entirely insufficient carrier for the creamy housemade mayonnaise, and ended up using less than a few dips here and there.Das friiiites…the consomme was consumed pre-photo!

The rabbit consomme was piping hot and savory, with nice chunks of tender bunny floating within. The crisp slices of cabbage, added at just the right moment prior to serving, were a nice touch and fun irregularity in the dish. While it was tame compared to the other two, it was delicious for what it was and would make an excellent quick lunch for an unusual palate- perhaps one not as inclined to tackle its Chinese counterpart, rabbit jaw soup.Our last appetizer was a selection of razor clams, served with a thick wedge of cornbread and spiced greens. Although the tiny clams could hardly be called the focus of the entire dish, they were sweet and delicious on the palate. This was another example of Diner’s impeccable seafood pairings- sweet and spicy are kept in top billing, though certainly less so in this dish. While I was relishing the bitter greens and the crumbly quickbread-like cornbread with the delicate clams, I was missing the jalapeno cream sauce on the side that supposedly brought it all together. Less compelling, but nonetheless quality.

Soaring on the wings of unique appetizers that, for once, didn’t include- well, wings, (though I’d love to see their interpretation) we wrangled a table and focused our sights toward our entrees. In my ever-expanding attempts to forge human relationships, I decided against sticking my camera in my friends’ Hake and Heirloom tomato, but did snap a few of my own and Keepitcoming’s. The lighting, mere tea candles in holders, could be seen as advantageous to say, a hipster poseur on a first date hoping to conceal that awkward Kenny Chesney quote tattooed in Comic Sans on their forearm, but unfortunately brought a cavernous, dim atmosphere to my photos. And so I apologize. Because I’m on a steak frites kick, I ordered their bistro steak and fries (with beets, but the only beets I care about are THE Beets, AMIRITE?), while Keepitcoming chose their fettuccini with roasted cauliflower and garlic.My steak frites was served with a healthy scoop of the aforementioned frites, still averaging at an inch to two inches long. I ended up spearing six or seven at a time with a fork, dipping them into a little of the mayo, and awkwardly maneuvering them into my mouth with a shred of steak. It was then that I revisited the advantages of candlelit dining once more, glad my compatriots could not view my gluttony. I asked for a medium rare steak, but was presented with a plump, soft rare with a delightfully crispy crust, glistening with truffle marrow butter. The steak was a little on the tough side, but the chewy crust was expertly done. For the first time in my life, I wished that there had been just a little less butter. Truffle butter is rich, and marrow butter is rich, but truffled marrow butter is almost queasy in its decadence, and the underlying result made the steak flavorful, but too salty.Luckily, we found ourselves heartily enjoying our bottle of 08 Bonard “Le Ginglet” Trousseau- Bastardo for the cool kids- a wine with a robustly organic presence and intensely sharp, clinical aroma that kept getting harder, better, faster, and stronger. It worked the palate like an experienced streetwalker, toeing the line between tarry, molasses brassiness with a twinge of uric acidity and musky spices- cumin making a big splash. I can’t exhaust any more wine terms describing what I need to say- (sorry, mom and dad) this wine tasted like the aftermath of a good night in bed with a gorgeous woman. For its age, a flight 2008, its port(ly) origins really come out- it’s hard as nails and massively satisfying.Keepitcoming’s fettuccini was textured to perfection with a homemade pasta and delicately roasted pieces of cauliflower, but she found that the base sauce, an alfredo bastardization, was overly salted and one-dimensonal in its execution.We went all out and ordered all three of Diner’s desserts to share and nom off, their olive oil pound cake with coffee cream and sauteed kumquats, a flourless chocolate cake with unsweetened whipped cream, and lemon pie on a pine nut crust with candied pine nuts and whipped cream on top. To my surprise, I found myself going back to the flourless chocolate cake again and again. Having grown up genuinely detesting the Passover tradition of a dearth of leavening agents, I was none too excited to try this one. It was utterly decadent and exactly what a flourless cake should be. With the subtraction of dense crumbs from the flour, it added in a truffled, gooey flavor with healthy amounts of dark chocolate. None of the dessert was too sweet as a result of the neutral whipped cream, and it was addictive and indulgent. Definitely something I’d order an entire cake of.The lemon pie benefited from the toasted pine nuts, removing it from the purgatorial category of Pine-Sol and Lemon Pledge-esque artificiality and imparting a nutty, buttery quality to the citrus that, with the whipped cream, really created a pudding like texture and gave a pleasant array of flavors on the palate. I liked the two-way preparation of the pine nuts, both crushed in the thick, grahamy crust and candied on top as a garnish.Our last dessert, and at this point, we were quite full, was an olive oil pound cake with aforementioned garnishes that bore a striking and scary resemblance to our razor clam appetizer, cornbread and all. Fortunately, this was not a fishy dessert in the slightest. The olive oil cake was moist with a hint of salinity, but whose overall flavor was more reminiscent of a pound cake than anything else, albeit a really good pound cake. The kumquat garnishes had a distinct, yet fleeting flavor, but what really pushed this over the edge for me was the addition of unsweetened espresso whipped cream. The bitterness and coffee ground crunch spread out the sweetness of the other elements and really heightened the experience of eating cake and whipped cream. Definitely a good choice.

Overall, Diner is a place that I’d go back to with friends for a night that would walk the line between relaxed and regimented. With a diverse, tightly focused menu of nightly, local specialties and a hell of a wine list, this is the place to go out to enjoy a dinner a little more upscale than your local taqueria. (Not that I’m dissing those by a long shot!) If you can blend in with the crowd, there’s no reason you should be hatin’ on Diner- it’s worth the wait.

Vitamin Water Zero Glow

Vitamin Water’s new release, Glow, got my attention with its vibrant, spot-on circa 1985 Barbie-pink hue. Since I can reference this color from my childhood, I think I must be VW’s target audience. Or is there a deeper message than flirty femininity in play here? The typically smarmy packaging copy pulled me in by acknowledging the open secret that “grocery stores double as singles’ “meet” markets.” The Glow bottle goes on to inform me that if I sport this bottle in the supermarket, I should expect a gender-neutral “cart” to be “cruising [my] way” for a “sample.” The striking teal label/pink drink combo will be sure catch the eyes of potential dates, and I’ll be able to communicate my hanky code faves without wearing those stupid circa ’97 pride rally-style bandanas.Now that we’ve got that covered*, let’s address the flavor of this beverage. Perhaps it’s better not to open the bottle if it helps you score the intended piece of ass: its chalky texture and sweet, simplistic, bubble-gum flavor are strongly reminiscent of Kool-Aid. If you poured a little out and added a few ounces of Dubra, you’d capture the exact flavor of a Chris Hansen bust. Uhhh, not that I did that or anything. My advice for CBT aficionados: for best results, just carry it, and leave the actual drinking of this crap to girls who want to feel like Disney princesses.
Why don’t you have a seat over there?

*JK, male subs — Keepitcoming stays busy enough with Foodette.

Taco Bell Pacific Shrimp Burrito

I’ve been unfaithful.

I’m scaring the neighbors.

Keepitcoming and I have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Sometimes I’ll go out in the car for a few hours during odd times of the night, and I may fill up the tank or pick up groceries or just go out and drive, but when I come back, she can always tell where I’ve been. The stank of grease and limp bacon fills the room with my shame.I am leading a double life. I eat fast food in the car. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to cover my tracks. It was no small coincidence that a police car drove by just as I was deep-throating the new Pacific shrimp burrito from Taco Bell in the backseat of my car. Luckily, the promise of Seattle-based hipster crustaceans and Asian cars are two of the things that make me crave burritos the most, so I was rough and ready. It was a sobering experience for me, being booked for first degree overt sexual activity on a once-animate edible and handcuffed to the side of a police cruiser, salsa fresca all over my lips, but now I’ve seen the errors of my ways. I’m just not picking food convenient enough for my addiction.I’ve never been a burrito kind of girl. I like ’em thick and meaty, like a hastily scarfed burger squished in between the driver’s seat and the console, Eddie Money blasting to distract from the heat fogging up the window. Burritos have always struck me as long and hefty, but without a whole lot of substance. They usually get limp midway through and never have enough staying power to keep me interested for the duration of the gorging session. But some of my best meals have consisted of shrimp, crispy object, and avocados in harmony, so I took the plunge.They say that once you go burrito, you’ll never eat incognito. Must be Spanish for burgers, but I don’t think that’s the case for me. This particular specimen is called the Pacific shrimp burrito but might as well be called the Mixed Salad and Topping burrito. The first six bites were all vegetables, sauce, and tortilla strips in a colorful array inside the tortilla. Not terrible, but I didn’t pay close to $4 for that kind of sloppy job, either. When I did encounter a shrimp, I was pretty pumped, because it looked chock full of seasonings. Unfortunately, it was quite bland and tasted like all the shrimpiness had been cooked out of it. Its somewhat disturbing mushiness made it blend into the mixed salad even more.The remaining elements of the burrito were done quite well, with the sauce covering all the vegetables evenly and highlighting their freshness. It could have well as been a vaguely Southwestern salad with the avocado sauce and the addition of crispy-staying tortilla strips. The flavor of the shrimp may have been better highlighted with a less tangy sauce, like a jalapeno mayonnaise or dressing. I was especially pleased that there was no rice in this, my least favorite burrito filling. But overall, it was disappointing to find that the shrimp blended in with everything so well that they basically disappeared. I’m going back to burgers in the back of the car. The fuzz may have discouraged me, but they’ll never stop my craving for cheap, meaty action. Stealth lunches cannot be stopped, merely deterred.

Zen and the Art of Mantou

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you to know that I’m moderately fixated on food and food preparation. A single dish can seize my spirit and consume it in a gulp, completely pulsing through me until I satisfy my craving. As you might imagine, this can be a difficult habit to maintain. But other times, it’s immensely rewarding- I might chance across a recipe both easy to prepare and utterly delicious, with many permutations and variations so one never bores of it. Lately, my thoughts have turned to steamed bread, steamed buns, anything carby and mushy has struck my fancies, so tonight, I set out to make mantou, or steamed Chinese buns.I used a ridiculously easy recipe from Almost Bourdain, following the ingredients to the letter save the castor sugar, but I substituted confectioner’s and no harm was done. While my dough didn’t quite have the sterile, puffy sheen hers did, they came out just fine texturally, ghetto steamer and all. I ended up using a layer of tin foil and olive-oil rubbed coffee liner on top of a colander and boiling water and it worked just fine, though a bit cramped. The first batch was victim to the claustrophobic environment and turned out a bit squished, but were fluffy and squishy inside.Seeing those gorgeous, fluffy babies turned me into a monster in roughly twenty seconds flat. I went buntastic. I whipped up a chicken teriyaki mix and stuffed it into a few buns. I topped buns with sugar. I ate the plain buns with a blatantly nontraditional, but overwhelmingly delicious smoky mix of soy sauce, olive oil, paprika, and black pepper. Steamed buns are wonderful.
Of course, having a careful sous chef certainly enhances the process.After four batches, I was all bunned out, and so was the pot. Water evaporates quickly, so next time, I’d probably try to refill as I went. But a half batch makes about eight dense buns, so come hungry and bring friends. I’ll be making these again, though with a little recipe tweaking to achieve a fluffier, more absorbent consistency.

Lhasa Cafe, Northampton, MA

It isn’t so much a dream of mine so much as a personal goal to eat at least one animal native or killed in a specific country. So far I’ve tackled boar bushmeat from Africa, though I’m not sure which country, alligator and elk from the US, rabbit from France, and now, the noble yak from Tibet.
Lhasa Cafe has always been on my culinary bucket list, though I haven’t found any dining partners game enough to attend. When two friends suggested an outing to try yak dumplings, Keepitcoming and I were only too excited to go. Depending on whether you’re a glass half full or glass half empty person, Lhasa can be seen as cozy or homey. Either way, it’s tucked into Main Street with colorful peace flags outside and is home to many native Tibetan dishes.
All beverages were house made, so it was only natural that I order the strangest item on the menu- buttered and salted tea. It may have been reaching a little far, because what I received was the liquefied equivalent of brie cheese in a mug, according to Keepitcoming, with a strange buttery thickness and definite salinity. I would liken this to being the Asian equivalent of bouillon cocktails of the 1950’s, where before dinner drinks were the dinner. After a sip of this, I had had about enough.Keepitcoming and I started with an appetizer of jasha alla, spring rolls with chicken, bean thread, carrots, onions, and celery. What attracted me to these was that the display photo resembled not typical spring rolls, but flat, square patties stuffed with colorful fillings and a thicker shell. They came out with two sauces and an onion slaw on top. The base roll was rather bland, with the earthiness of the bean threads primarily dominating the flavor. A quick dip of the sauces solved that, but it was a primarily acidic flavor overall, with the crispiness of the shells comprising the bulk of the texture as well.There are few phrases in the English language more tantalizing than “yak dumplings.” These phrases include “basket of puppies,” “Hunter green MGB,” and “02 Clos Ste. Hune,” but none were to be had at the cafe, save the aforementioned dumplings. Yak is supposedly healthier than beef, pork, or chicken, so I can eat twice the beast for the price of one. Ah, Asia. I went all out and ordered a selection of dumplings with vegetable, chicken, beef, potato, and yak. While the dumplings were mighty tantalizing and cooked to perfection, it was impossible to discern, flavorally, between yak and beef as they were both seasoned with the same quintet of spices and were all ground up in the dumpling.All the dumplings were juicy, but unfortunately underseasoned, and required my heavy handed saucing abilities to make them a little sweeter. The sugar in the orange sauce provided a nice counterbalance to the saltiness of each dumpling. Luckily, K also ordered yak, though in a less processed form, and was gracious enough to give me a taste. It was very tender and toothsome with a nice give and hardly any chew at all! With this new insight in mind, I’d liken it to thinly shaved beef, similar to that found on cheesesteaks. It’s not fatty at all and has a distinct flavor, though not gamey. I could see myself making a stellar yakwich with that meat, given the opportunity.Keepitcoming ordered an eggplant special that came with a lentil soup and rice. Unlike my dish, she found hers to be oversalted and had to keep drinking water throughout the evening. The rice was seasoned like many Indian restaurants with cardamom and butter, and she enjoyed the texture of the soup. She thought the eggplant was perfectly crisped and sauteed on the edges with the correct mush to crunch ratio, but was again, too salty to properly enjoy.K and Fixie both ordered these gorgeous rolls, and I think that if I were to come here again, I’d be satisfied with one of these rolls and a pile of shaved yak meat, but then again, I’m a simple woman. A Tibetan schwarma, if you will. Being that I’m addicted to steamed rolls, this was a dream come true, with piles and folds of fluffy, yet chewy bread dough and a light crisp on top.Two more potato dishes entered the scene as well, but they were not mine so I don’t feel ready to comment on them. However, I can vouch for their looking very appetizing and I’d probably take a chance on my next visit, as well as try their dessert pasta with brown sugar. Lhasa Cafe is definitely the kind of place I’d frequent repeatedly as I’m a sucker for hole-in-the-wall, foreign establishments, but I need to brush up on my exotic game and find my mojo before I take a chance on another strange dish.

LimeRed Teahouse, Amherst, MA

Drop your Subway sandwich.

Toss the rest of that leftover Antonio’s pizza.

Hell, cancel your reservations at Chez Albert. There’s a new sheriff in town and they mean business.

LimeRed started out as a website. Then, as a band. And an email address. But now they’ve settled here in Amherst, occupying the old Newberry Comics location, and we hope they’ll never leave. As an eclectic hangout and a cozy place to eat, LimeRed succeeds on all counts.

The restaurant focuses on building a collection of teas with endless combinations and add-ins. Bumping out Crazy Noodles for boba diversity, they keep coming up with tricks to stimulate and intrigue the palate. I ordered a mango milk tea, seemingly pedestrian, with something strange- popping jelly. I’d never heard of it before, but they make it in house daily. It’s a cross between caviar and boba, definitely the best of both worlds. A thin tapioca skin covers a flavored liquid innard in little balls, then inserted into the tea like boba. If I’m not mistaken, this is classic fruit caviar, a molecular gastronomy technique. And used like this, it’s sublime.I asked for mango-flavored jelly, hoping that the flavor wouldn’t get lost within the milkiness of the drink. I was wrong. Instead, a delightful duet played out in my mouth- a duet of tangy and tart from the jelly and creamy-sweet from the tea. The beverage was so tempting that I kept looking at it hungrily before our food arrived, glad I had the discipline to not suck it all down in one gulp. (TWSS) The jelly was a little sour, but in a citrusy, delicious way. Think of something less like a Warhead and more like a tart, fresh fruit. Coupled with the floral notes in the tea, it was exquisite.

My dining partner, Stevie Wonder, went for the taro boba tea. One of my pet peeves when describing foods is using another food, generally an American one, to describe it as I feel like it undermines the integrity of the unique ingredient. However, I can say with confidence and without remorse that this tasted like a liquified PB&J. My experience with taro root is limited to mochi and other candies, and it’s been achingly sweet and bland with a red bean like flavor, but this drink was nutty, fruity, and very creamy. The boba filled the bottom and came up through our straws when we took sips. The flavor database is consistently fluctuating- I wish I’d known about the avocado boba when I’d arrived!LimeRed has an ever-expanding menu of dumplings and buns, not yet made in house but shipped in from New York for now. We whacked up an order of chicken and lemongrass dumplings, pork buns, and red bean buns for dessert. In the back of my head, I was worried that it wouldn’t be enough food- all of the entrees were under $5 apiece. But when those steamers arrived, all thoughts went out the window. All I could see and smell were those fluffy, white steamed buns.We tore into the pork buns. I came up for air after my second and wondered, briefly, if it was possible to hook up a pork bun intravenously. There was something magical about these. Perhaps it’s my isolation from good buns in the Pioneer Valley or simply my lack of experience, but I haven’t had buns like these since my dim sum adventures in San Francisco. With fluffystickysteamysoft interiors and a chewy, crispy filling, these hit all of my senses at once. With a brick. It was a dizzyingly perfect composition of flavors and textures, with a perfect base to roll them in.After recovering from instantaneous depression from eating all the buns, we tucked into the dumplings. Owner Joe Deng, a sharply dressed entrepreneur radiating enthusiasm, reminded us
that because these were artisanal dumplings, they were already seasoned on their own. They did offer soy sauce and sriracha on the side, but chose not to serve them on the plate so as not to mar the authenticity of the dish. I trusted him and it paid off- the lemongrass, rarely making more of an appearance in dishes than an exotic word on a menu, was the star. It was bittersweet and tart, exemplified by the saltiness of the chicken and scallions, with definite hints of lime zest. And yet, it was all balanced. No singular ingredient outshone another and it all wrapped up nicely with the citrus at the end.Savory plates aside, we finished up with three red bean buns. While I didn’t see the same pinpointed execution on these, they were rustic and flavorful, whole beans studding the interior for an extra handmade touch. The dough is just intoxicating, like the softest, moistest white bread, but made far better with the glutenous bean filling. It’s my own lack of exposure talking, but god, I love those buns. They made a savory and sweet neutral dessert to munch on as we were finishing our tea. If they ever made a peanut butter bun, I’d get it for sure.As we were eating, we occasionally encountered Joe Deng. Deng has a unique and practiced way of service- it was timed precisely to give us time to digest, chat, ponder our order, and relax, but was not so slow as to seem negligent. He came to our table throughout the meal, asking questions and answering them in return. It was a relaxed, comforting atmosphere and I left feeling happy and sunny, glad that I had taken a chance on this new establishment. So, patrons- if Starbucks is getting stale, head on over. And LimeRed, please forgo any plans for beginning a career in racecars, used books, or pet stores, because as a teahouse, you don’t need to change a thing.

MiO Liquid Water Enhancer

I’ll be frank- I’m not a very healthy drinker. Despite being pretty indifferent to soda, I like flavored beverages with or without alcohol. I find that it’s easy to make good choices when I’m at home with Keepitcoming, because being able to make a drink yourself enables you to cut calories in different ways, but it’s extremely hard to maintain that at work or on the go.For a while, I used the flavored water packets that suddenly surged in popularity a few years ago. I’d either buy water and tip the packet in, or I’d bring water in a Nalgene and use it, but it just wasn’t doing it for me. I’d open my purse and find that the packet had ripped and gotten grit all over the bottom. Or that there were clumps of undissolved powder in my water bottle. Or that the execution would go perfect, but the overall flavor was just chalky and dry on the tongue.

So I switched to a Vitamin Water habit that I still haven’t quite kicked. What can I say? Ease and flavor have always been priorities for drinking. Around the house, water is known as anti-juice. I wish I could strike a good balance. But when I was given the opportunity to try MiO, a new liquid water enhancer, I was mystified and intrigued. Visions of ketchup packets filled with syrup danced through my head, staining my purse, my pockets, my fingers…the thought of that and the inevitable stickiness triggered my OCD whereupon I hid in my apartment, coming out only to solve complex mathematical problems during my janitorial work hours. Life is hard.MiO, despite its chatspeakesque moniker, is nothing like my bleak expectations. Spoiler alert: It’s good! It comes in an aesthetically pleasing bottle and features a controlled dosage of liquid to squeeze into water. It has a lot of features that may seem simple, but if they weren’t there, you’d be scratching your head and saying, “They could make it better if…” And they did. Back to the controlled dosage- the bottle has a locked seal that releases a certain amount, and only when squeezed rather firmly. The cap has two sections for locking it up tight and two clear clicks so there’s no ambiguity about knowing if it’s closed or not and no risk of sticky, gummy caps. Eugggh. All this is explained on the side of the bottle.
Esportoe gives two thumbs up for this product.

I was sent two flavors by Ketchum PR’s Marissa Beck, in Strawberry Watermelon and Peach Tea. There are four others as well. MiO recommends using two squeezes per eight ounces of water but places a strong emphasis on customization- you can add as many or as little squeezes as you’d like and then store it for later. After squeezing your desired amount, you have to mix it in its receptacle. It mixes together quite smoothly with no particles at the bottom or strange oiliness to the enhancer. It really comes together quite seamlessly. The strawberry watermelon was the one I tried first, and for a non-caloric beverage, I was really impressed with the flavor. It reminded me of a slightly less sweet Vitamin Water, with a quenching melon and berry taste. It erred a little toward the artificial side, but was overall my favorite of the two. The peach tea definitely needed more than the recommended two squirts- it came out tasting a little diluted and bitter, but with another squeeze, mellowed out into a sweet peachy drink.Though MiO savagely advocates customization, perhaps strawberry watermelon peach tea isn’t the best way of demonstrating it. Neither is having a swordfight with the two streams in the mouth of the glass. (Name that film, Dumptruck.)

I think that there are aspects of these that need improvement, but for a newly released products, it has the makings and potential of solid workmanship and ease of usage. I’ve had experience with products that ignore some of the smaller features and let me tell you, it makes a huge difference in quality. If Kraft came out with a cherry limeade flavor, I think I’d get “MiO” tattooed on my forehead. Also any product that uses Sassy Gay Friend to advertise is a winner in my book. I’m confident that this is something that will save me money and disappointment the next time I reach for a beverage.

Beecher’s Handmade Macaroni and Cheese

Many people are devout followers of the religion known as Oprahism. I, myself, have been exposed to the deity that is Oprah, along with demi-gods Gaga and The Bieber, by second-hand devotion via means of television, the internet, even going as far as to watch my own girlfriend pen a salacious letter to the Oprah Show. Truly, it has been a spiritual awakening!

Oprah bestows her heavenly, Southern wisdom on those unfit to lead their own lives. I lump myself into this conglomerate at times, and when I heard that Oprah granted Beecher’s Handmade Cheese the prestigious award of “Oprah’s Best” to their macaroni and cheese, I had to get my hands on some. I went about this in a few different ways. I first attempted to get a hold of Oprah’s producers and media team. I prepped for this letter for five months, going as far as to delving into the depths of forums and women’s health magazines to learn the correct dialect Oprians speak in, so that I may mask as one of them and slip inside. This is what I wrote:HELLO IS THIS OPRAH I AM LOOKING FOR THE BEECHER MACARONI AND CHEESE PLEASE SEND IT TO ME IF YOU CAN MY ADDRESS IS XXXXX XXXX, AND BY THE WAY MY COUSIN HAS ERECTILE DISFUNCTION CAN YOU DO A SHOW ABOUT HIM GODBLESS!!!!!! XOXO FOODETTE

Needless to say, the response I received was punctual, though dismally perfunctory. Oprah is busy, blah blah, sacrificing minions, blah blah, preparing for her Ultimate One Time Ascension to the Sky, blah blah, and couldn’t personally send me macaroni and cheese. Luckily, the kind folks at Beecher’s were friendly enough to send some over, along with some delicious cheese.
A serving of Beecher’s Macaroni and Cheese will set you back one Ulysses S. Grant. I’ve had good macaroni and cheese before- it’s not very hard to whip up yourself and is often enhanced and priced up at restaurants as a result of fancy additions, like truffle oil or frizzled leeks. However, this was far more expensive than any mac I’d ever macked and lacked the enhancements most seem to have. This was starting to confuse me and enter Stedman-Oprah territory. Where would I find the truth?The macaroni took fifty minutes to make and yielded a fairly large pan. Twenty ounces was enough to make us two meals’ worth of food. The problem was, it just had too much cheese and too little of anything else. I appreciated the penne pasta touch, as the sauce really got into the lines and extra surface area the tube offered. That and the liberal usage of paprika were about all that piqued my interest, unfortunately. While this wasn’t as bad as being on the level of a James Frey Alert, it certainly wasn’t at the level of an Elton John or a “I didn’t know I had a parent and I just found them through the magic of Twitter” moments. It was pretty average. My main gripe with this was that it was just a little too rich. The copious amounts of cheese ended up congealing and clumping along the bottom of the plate, turning grainy if not consumed within seconds of taking it out of the pan- a feat that proves impossible as it’s a thousand degrees after baking.

Even with the tons of cheese, a feature I don’t normally eschew, something about it seemed one dimensional. Macaroni and cheese can be seen as a blank canvas or a purist’s delight. Personally, I think something needs to exist, whether in the sauce or as a topping, to counteract the creaminess and cut the dairy content- a little spice, some fresh garlic, as well as a textural component to offset the mush factor. But this was pretty Plain Jane, and for what it was, it was clear that the ingredients were high quality, but assembled in such a way that it just didn’t impress and left us feeling weighted down and craving fresh greens. I could barely wait fifty minutes for this, much less pay fifty dollars. With all the bluster and boasting from The Big O, all it proved to me was that Oprah is incapable of making her own macaroni and cheese. No mortal is perfect.