Monday, August 31, 2009

Liver Punisher: War Journal Chicago

With a more traditional work schedule during installation at the museum I was able to sneak away to Chicago for a few days this past weekend. Likely the greatest city in the world, Chicago combines the gritty, urban quality requisite of any major metropolis with a certain heartland charm one finds only in the American Midwest. As a friend of mine once said during a visit to da home of da Bears, “I like Chicago; it’s the only big city where you can see fat people.”

And this is not without reason. A former center of the meat packing industry and situated in America’s ever expanding beltline, Chicago is a city with food in its blood. 24 hour eateries abound, as do 4am bars for those late night carb-load sessions. And for every upscale joint serving mini portions of micro-greens there’s some greasy spoon topping half the menu with bacon and the other half with cheese. Not saying one is better than the other, just saying there’s a lot to eat in Chicago, we just seemed to favor the latter.

Upon our arrival Nicole, my lovely travelling companion, and I were ushered off to Delilah’s. A dive-y little hole-in-the wall with graffiti’d walls, recycled art in the stairwell, and a steady stream of punk on the jukebox, Delilah’s is the kind of place at which I love to drink, but rarely find. Kind of loud, a little dirty, dimly lit, but definitely charming, we wetted our travel weary whistles with Pin-Head Pale Ale (I think), as well as Hop-Goblin and PBR, the old stand-by. As revelers began to disperse we made our way, via cab, to Underbar, a bit nicer, but still understated, Underbar boasted a solid tap and bottle selection, but I continued to drink on the cheap.

Having sufficiently self-medicated our travel aches Nicole and I realized we had neither of us eaten since lunch and it was now in the neighborhood of 3am. We departed Underbar on a mission for food, our destination: Arturo’s. Open 24 hours-a-day, Arturo’s serves simple, delicious Mexican fare low on frills but high on taste. The menu is simple enough, broken down into tacos, burritos, soups, platters, breakfast plates, and so on, even boasting an offal section, brains, tongue, and tripe are all available to fill your tortilla. We were, of course, given a basket of chips and some salsa to fuel our menu perusal; the chips were thick and hearty, at least by tortilla chip standards, accompanied by a chunky pico de gallo and a fiery salsa verde, all delicious. Our waitress, with the patience of a saint, finally took our orders after much hemming and hawing over the menu. Mine: one chorizo taco and a quesadilla, not on the menu, but a must-get if you’re ever there. Nicole’s: an avocado taco and one with barbacoa, a steamed beef with Mexican seasoning topped with cilantro and diced onion; think Mexican pot roast sandwich and you’re close. It was juicy, tender and the perfect mix of great beef flavor, spices, and toppings. All this delectable food came wrapped in some of the most delicious corn tortillas I’ve ever had. Arturo’s was a big win.

Getting some rest after the long drive and a night of carousing we met up with some more of Nicole’s Chicago friends for brunch at Bite. Cute and quirky, Bite seats about forty, max, and has menus hidden in the covers of old children’s books. We ordered coffee and the donut of the day while we waited for our dining companions. The coffee was excellent, rich, dark, flavorful, everything coffee should be, and so good, in fact, that I drank my second cup black and loved every sip as much as the first cup with cream. Oh, the donut of the day? A whole wheat donut. With maple glaze. Oh, and crumbled bacon. Awesome. The menu at bite is short but full of great choices, sure there are the traditional options: omelets, pancakes, egg sandwiches, etc., but when was the last time you had the option of seitan “chorizo” in grilled veggie hash or bacon laced, cornmeal griddlecakes with homemade applesauce and honey-cinnamon butter (hers and his choices respectively)? Hunger sated once again we opted for some mid-afternoon napping before another big night on the town.

Rested and showered, Nicole and I made our way out once again, this time on a search for gift wrap. We thought Quimby’s might have something that works, they didn’t, but the look was worth it. Next time you find yourself in Chicago with a dearth of reading material swing by this bookstore for an amazing selection of graphic novels, artist books, zines, indie mags, and political fare. Undaunted we continued our search for gift wrap with some coffee from a local shop that roasts its own beans on site. The quality and care was evident as our brews were hearty and delicious, as well as the much needed fuel for another long night on the town.

Our first stop was Cleo’s. Nicely appointed and on the classier side of things, Cleo’s certainly wasn’t the normal stop on our tour of Chicago, but as a former employer of Nicole’s it was well worth the stop. The bar boasts a solid draught and bottle selection and some excellent munchies. My first round was New Holland’s Ichabod, a seasonal offering from the Michigan brewery, Ichabod is a great fall choice, brewed with real pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg it was like Thanksgiving in a bottle. Round two: a Liberty Ale from the Anchor Brewing Co., a lightly colored, fully flavored beer, Liberty is always a great choice. Nicole’s libations were a combination of Beamish Stout and Lindeman’s Framboise lambic. I’d heard of this combination before but had never tried it before. It’s amazing! It’s beer and dessert all in one! To sop up some of the sauce we ordered fried cheese cubes which were as delicious as they sound: chunks of cheddar in cornmeal breading served with a side of ranch. Having taken a few steps in the right direction at Cleo’s we walked down the street to the Map Room. Its walls adorned with old maps and bookshelves filled with old National Geographics, the Map Room’s eye for the exotic complemented the bar’s impressive beer selection. I could barely pronounce the name of my beer, I’m pretty sure it was Belgian, so I can’t recall its name at this point and Nicole’s was made with dandelions. Once Sarah and Matt showed up we headed out for food, but with another bar appointment looming we opted for a bite that would be quick: Arturo’s!

Back in what I think was the same table and plied with chips and salsa, the same pico, but partnered with a smokey salsa roja this time, I scoured the menu for something new. Remember how amazing the barbacoa was I knew that was definitely mine, but I needed something else. One of the other taco options was al pastor and was briefly described by the menu as: “Mexican gyros.” This seemed familiar to me and I eventually remembered that a recent viewing for No Reservations had Tony nomming on some tacos al pastor while in la Ciudad de Mexico, D.F. With the Bourdain seal of approval my order was set, this tasty pairing was complimented by another quesadilla—yes, they’re that good! Nicole and Sarah chose pozole and nachos respectively. The nachos looked amazing, a huge pile of chips with melty cheese, avocado hunks, and refried beans. The Pozole, however, was quite impressive! First of all it was a vat of soup. The salad bowl we use at dinner most nights was smaller than the vessel this came in. But luckily it was delicious! A rich, spicy pork broth full of slow cooked chunks of pork and hominy (corn soaked in lye) is presented with limes, avocado, and cabbage for garnish. It was fantastic, the broth was intense and flavorful with lots of garlic and cayenne, the pork was fork tender, with the hominy adding a lot of body and texture.

A firm foundation in place, we were back to the bars. First stop: the California Clipper. When our cab posited us out front we were greeted by about fifty cyclists saddling up for the ride home or to the next bar, Fridays seem to be some sort of bike night. Inside the bar’s décor was sparse but with a vintage flair, catering to a younger, hip crown and leaning towards a country/rockabilly aesthetic, this made sense. There was a solid live band, banging out tunes Carl Perkins and Patsy Cline would’ve dug we tossed back PBRs, chatted with friends that showed up and, of course, cut a rug. As last call neared we considered our options and the decision was made, by the Chicagoans not me, to wander down to the Continental, a 4am bar not far away. My opinion on the place still isn’t clear. On the one hand I walked through the door to the Future of the Left and enjoyed a few PBRs with some more (mostly) great music. On the other hand, it’s a 4am bar, and the parade of desperation was long and miserable. Combining the drunks with the sexually desperate was tragic-comically delicious for a while, but became just plain, old tragic after a while. Fun nonetheless.

Having consumed a sufficient amount of beer for the night we decided to walk it off on the way home. Helping us on our quest for a hangover-less tomorrow was Village Pizza whose massive slices rival the small pizzas at other places. We dined on a stoop and washed it all down with that finest of fizzy lifting drinks, Cherry Coke.

Morning, well afternoon technically, arrived and we found ourselves in further need of sustenance. Brunch was agreed upon; the location was simply called Jam. A new eatery gaining a swell of good press lately, we were asked to wait half-an-hour before sitting. To kill time we walked next door to a little bakery called Sweet Cakes and surveyed their cases. There wasn’t a thing there I didn’t want to eat, but standouts include: carrot-cup-cakes with white chocolate/cream cheese frosting, orange cupcakes with vanilla frosting and candied orange peel, and corn muffins with a hard boiled egg baked into the middle (if anyone out there in the blogosphere knows how to pull this trick off, let me know!). We ordered a few drinks and walked back outside to wait for our table, my lemonade and iced Earl Grey concoction—henceforth known as a Nick Faldo—was just what I needed. Our names were called and Nicole, Julie, Sarah, and I took our seats. The menu at Jam is short in length, but long in ideas. How does malted French toast with macerated stone fruit and whipped cream sound? Maybe an egg sandwich with fried pig cheeks? Or skirt steak with poached eggs? And that’s just the breakfast menu! My dining companions ordered the French toast and steak and eggs, I however, opted for a lunch menu item, the eponymous Jamburger! A Ridiculous Eats contender, the Jamburger is a double cheese burger topped with a fried egg and smokey tomato sauce. The burgers were rich, flavorful slabs of quality beef cooked medium rare and topped with two slices of butterkase cheese—a rich, flavorful white cheese that tastes like cheese mixed with butter—and the homemade tomato sauce they pour on top was phenomenal! Mix in a little cream and you’d have a hell of a tomato soup! Plus the fattiness of the cheese and burger mixed with the sauce’s great sweet/smoked flavor gave the illusion of the burger also having bacon on it. With a side of slightly sweet seasoned fries, lots of cayenne and cinnamon in the mix, this was more than just brunch; it was my meal for the day!

Filled to maximum capacity we decided to walk off our brunch for a bit and set our sites on the Bucktown Arts Fair, we wended our path there by way of yard (stoop?) sales and quirky stores we passed along the way. We wandered around the fair for a bit stopping in and out of stalls as we saw fit, before making our way down the midway of food stalls. Not your grandpa’s fair food, the Bucktown Arts Fair Boasted Indian wraps, gyros, and gourmet pizza. I gulped down a lemonade—of the half lemon, cup of sugar, and hose water variety available at just about ever outdoor event—and shared some fried-in-front-of-us potato chips topped with cheese sauce and bacon bits with the rest of the team.

With sun setting, legs tiring, and a work day looming ahead of one of us, Nicole and I parted ways and made for the land of Moses, Cleaveland that is. Unfortunately the Indiana/Ohio turnpike system is devoid of anything worth eating, or mentioning at least, so our drinking and dining tour of the Windy City ended with fair food, but there are certainly worse ways to end a vacation.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Raffi's Vision Comes to Fruition

And like a sucker, I just got a damn Black Berry. If you are still cool enough to have a regular style phone like the one shown above, then I would head over to Cellfoam as soon as humanly possible, because nothing will make you cooler faster. But make sure you get the holster, otherwise you'd just look silly.

Monday, August 24, 2009


My friend Tim's birthday was last week and he celebrated by way of a cook out. I definitely wanted to bring something to share with the crowd, but what. Tim's wife, Becky, is vegan so i wanted to make sure what I brought appealed to all in attendance both in taste and content. I remembered some drunken conversations I'd had with Tim in the bast regarding a mutual love of Indian food and it hit me: spinach avocado dip with Indian spices!
I love this recipe. It's so simple and easy and it turns out great every time. I originally had this at Justin and Lisa's Indian thanksgiving a few years ago when Kyle's then girlfriend, and current wife, brought it to share. I loved it instantly. I hunted down the recipe and first made it for a vegan thanksgiving feast I attended about two weeks later.

This is one of the easiest things to make, especially if you have a full size food processor and don't have to work in batches:


  1. 4 cups (about 6 oz.) spinach leaves

  2. 1 large avocado, peeled, pit removed

  3. 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

  4. 1/2 tsp seasoned salt

  5. 1 clove garlic, peeled

  6. 1/4 tsp curry powder

  7. 1/8 tsp minced fresh ginger

  8. Dash chili powder

  9. Dash cayenne pepper

  10. Dash cumin

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. And not only is it simple and ridiculously delicious, but it looks amazing too, like a leftover Double Dare substance, making it great for holiday parties, especially Halloween!

Having made this several times, I've done some tinkering with the formula. Some great additions and changes I've made in the past:

  • Lemon juice is fine, but I prefer lime for flavor. An acid is needed to keep the avocado from oxidizing and turning brown.
  • Add in a hand full of cilantro to round out the flavor
  • A few dashes of hot sauce will kick this into authentic Indian territory, I use a sauce made from Scotch Bonnet peppers that adds a ton of heat but doesn't skew the flavor.
  • The smokiness of chipotle is also a welcome addition to the party
  • If you don't have seasoned salt use your favorite herb/spice blend, but if it's sodium free like the Two Brothers' season mix I used you'll definitely need to add some salt
  • If your food processor is bitsy, like mine, you'll need to work in batches and mix thoroughly at the end to incorporate all the flavors

And how does one serve this? Any dippable side will do: chips, crackers, etc. But I like to whip up a batch of home made pita chips thustly:

  • Cut pita rounds into: quarters for small pitas, eighths or sixteenths for full sized
  • Place on baking sheet
  • Brush with a 1:2 mixture of lime juice and water
  • Sprinkle with salt
  • Bake at 350 for about ten minutes, flipping about half way through. They're done when they're crispy, golden-brown and the moisture has baked out

This would also make an interesting pesto if one were to sub olive oil and some sort of nut--traditionally pine nuts--for the avocado!

time for a rhode trip...

KFC finally invented a sandwich just for me.

Yeah, who needs bread when you can have fried chicken instead?!?

They're only test marketing this in Rhode Island and Nebraska. I can get to Providence or Omaha in 12 hours. Anybody up for an adventure?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


After a month of unnecessary panic attacks, two weeks of working overtime, and a full weekend of hard concentrated partying, I finally got one hell of cold. It started Sunday evening, I was at a BBQ eating the standard sad ass veggie burger at the meat party and I could feel something wasn't right. It was that dull scratchy tickle at the back of my throat that didn't hurt quite yet, but it was only a matter of time. I was well aware that later when my head hit the coolness of my pillow and I fell asleep, I'd be giving my body carte blanche to go tear that shit up - Freddy style. Sure enough, I woke up with an aching throat, chills, fever, and a cloudy head of resentment.

Eating when sick is boring and pretty much sucks because everything just tastes like hair. Not to mention swallowing anything not made of liquid or fluff feels like one thousand fiery knives searing down my tender throat. This, however, is where popsicles come in to save the day. The most amazing of all treats, popsicles can somehow magically transform themselves when illness strikes from dessert, to healthy entree. My parents, who did not really believe in things that tasted good to children, would be the first ones to shove a dozen popsicles at me when I was down and out - no solid foods, just frozen sugar juice on a stick. Back then I was one hundred percent for Flintstones Push Pops, they were pure sweetness, mushy to the point that it was impossible to eat, and they always made your hands sticky to the max, yet eating one was to know heaven. As a kid, the only thing better than oddly packaged push pops, was when the ice cream truck would jingle along offering it's goldmine of hard to find novelty treats. The music would float up to my bedroom, and I would practically jump out of my two story window to ensure my ownership of the specialty Pink Panther pop with the bubble gum eyes (!), popsicle royalty.

Now that I live in DC and "Turkey in the Straw" has since become but a whispered memory, I get most of my frozen pops from Trader Joe's. They have a good line of the "real fruit" ones including the more elusive flavors of Mango, Lime, and Coconut. Though nothing beats the Edy's bars with the hunks of actual strawberry buried inside. When I eat those, there's no doubt in my mind that I'm having at least two servings of my daily fruit, and that my weakened body will have no choice but to mend itself.

I guess you know you're getting older when you stop looking for your food to have gumball body parts, and just hope whatever you're eating makes you feel less sickly and with some luck may also contribute to the food pyramid.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ridiculous Eats VII: East vs. West

Ready for another artery clogging round of Ridiculous Eats? Hope you’re hungry, because this is a double portion!

First up is a food anomaly from the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan is already home to scads of bizzar-o eats, including bars that specialize in nothing more than serving the strangest parts of the freshest critters (read as: killed just before being served to you) and fugu, raw puffer fish that must be trimmed in such a way as to remove most—not all—of the fish’s highly toxic flesh. Although prepared by highly trained chefs several people die each year from improperly prepared fugu.

But that’s not why we’re here today. If you want to hear about poison fish and guts go watch Andrew Zimmern. Today is dedicated to that most American of sandwiches, the almighty hamburger. And it seems these days that Japan might be out-America-ing America with this monster: the Mega Tamago! So what would this song sound like? “Three all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, egg, bacon, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun?” Not quite the same ring, but—goddamn!—that’s a serious sandwich. I’m not entirely sure I could even take a bite of the whole thing, let alone want to, but it’s impressive nonetheless. The gauntlet seems to have been thrown, America, and the McZilla stands poised to take the world burger crown, at least in sheer size and ambition.

Ha! As if. Japan may be on the forefront of technological and automotive innovation, but when it comes to killing yourself with food, nobody does it like the good ol’ US!

In fact right here in Ohio an unassuming burger place in Columbus’ German village may have created the ultimate murder-burger. The Thurman, available at the Thurman Café, is a monster mouthful. And how is one of these mastodons of meat assembled? Well, roughly in this fashion: a ¾ pound, all beef patty is topped with ham, mozzarella, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, sautéed onions, pickle, peppers, and mayo. Not enough? It also comes with a pickle spear and a handful of potato chips.

Impressive, no? No?!?? OK, tough guy, you want the big guns? You got `em! The Thurmanator is an off menu specialty whipped up by the folks at the Thurman, and very popular with the attendees of the Arnold Classic Bodybuilding competition held in Columbus every year. Yes that’s Arnold as in Schwarzenegger, get it? The Thurmanator takes everything you thought you knew about restraint and gives it the finger. Essentially a double Thurman, here’s the break down: one-and-a-half pounds of beef , a half pound of bacon and ham, and the rest of the Thurman gang, American, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, sautéed onions, pickle, peppers, and mayo. Again with a pickle spear, but fries instead of chips.

As I recall W.W.E.I.L. contributor Justin Hemminger has tackled the Thurman, perhaps he can elucidate on the experience of eating this epicurean enormity. Or anyone else in Laughableland who has tangled with either of these monsters please, share your tales of gut-busting eats.

Ridiculous Eats will continue with more local heroes just as soon as I can dig them up!

And!!!1!! Now you can follow W.W.E.I.L. on Twitter @laughableblog.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin'...

When I'm not neglecting to write for this food blog, I spend a good amount of time playing in a couple of rock & roll bands. We're pretty far along on the amateur circuit, so we get to visit a lot of places across the country and sample their unique cuisines and vices. Now, we usually tour in a minivan that's packed to the gills with amps, guitars, drums, and stinky band dudes, but we usually leave at least a little space to bring back the plunder of our adventure. Two of our favorite states to play (read: smuggle from) are Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Ah, the Keystone State. Penn's Woods. Your interminable east-west length was designed for snacking while driving, which is probably why you have the greatest potato chips on Earth. Utz, Wise, Herr's, Middleswarth, Martin's, Gibbles... the list goes on and on. How did Pennsylvania become this sort of potato chip Mecca? Simple: PA grows more "chipping" potatoes than any other state. Take that Idaho...

OK, maybe you're not into salty snacks, but everybody's got a sweet tooth. Enter Tastykake. This venerable Philadelphia baker inhabits the Hostess, mass-production sweets market, but you get a different feeling when biting into a moist, sweet Krimpet or Kandy Kake. I'm sure it's all psychological, but it just feels more wholesome, not like a pile of chemicals and preservatives in a Twinkie. For all I know, they're less healthy, but damned if they don't taste good.

"Chips, pastries, dude, WHATEVER. You can mail order that stuff. I thought we were talking about *smuggling*."

OK, hotshot. Check this out. The Yuengling Beer Company operates the oldest brewery in the country, and Yuengling Traditional Lager is known far and wide for it's mild, crisp delicious taste. Hey, it's 5 o'clock - I think I'd like one right now! Hold on, Buckeye: you can't get that here in Ohio. I guess it's a good thing that I bootlegged 8 cases of it back to Columbus on a recent trip...

I also bootlegged some philly steaks home in my stomach. That subject desreves it's own post, maybe even it's own blog.

"Whut about Kentucky, mang? You said they was good smugglin'!"

Hold your horses, Cletus, I'm getting there. Now we're talking good old fashioned whiskey bootlegging. Bourbon whiskey. America's whiskey.

Bourbon is a bona fide, certified product of the United States of America, and no foreign whiskeys may use the name "bourbon." Bourbon is made from a corn mash, often cut with wheat, rye, and/or barley. The corn base is what gives bourbon its distinctive sweetness. Bourbon was named for Bourbon County, Kentucky, but at that time it was much larger: there are no major whiskey distilleries in modern Bourbon county. The generally accepted "capital" of bourbon is Bardstown, Kentucky, home to several distilleries such as Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Tom Moore, and Heaven Hill (makers of Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and other brands).

Now here's the deal: you can get Beam, Maker's and a lot of these other brands just about anywhere. What you can't usually get at your local liquor store are the hand-crafted, single barrel, small batch offerings, which is exactly why we schedule a little extra time on our trips to Kentucky. We want to bring back the good stuff to stock our liquor cabinets with; let the plebians have their Wild Turkey.

A funny aside: Knob Creek, a bourbon aged for 9 years before being put on the market, apparently does not have enough stock to keep up with demand. Rather than cut their bourbon loose too soon (the next batch won't be delivered until November), Knob Creek has started running ads saying "Thanks for nothing" and showing an empty bottle. They're also selling t-shirts that say "I survived the drought of 2009." I know some of you are thinking of getting me one of these for Christmas...

I can't be the only smuggler out there. What's the best local/regional food or drink you've ever bought just to bring home? I'll see you in the comments...

Monday, August 10, 2009

he ate/she ate

If men really are from Mars, and women from Venus, then it stands to reason out dietary needs will be, at least a little bit, different. Where as men prefer to suck the brains from unsuspecting victims, women enjoy liquefying the viscera of their victims and extracting the mixture via the navel... or not.

Here, from MSN, are two articles examining a handful of foods with added dietary benefits for the sexes:

For the guys:

For the dolls:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Introducing Our First Food Dude and Dudette of the Month!

I am happy to announce a new monthly feature for WWEIL, the start of our Food Dude and Dudette of the Month Contest. If you would like to be featured on our blog please send a unique picture of you eating or a pic of some creative food that you made (don't forget to add a description of what's going on) to with Food Dude or Food Dudette in the subject line and make sure to get it in before the 1st of the month you're vying for. If you get picked we will send you a survey about your food related interests and then post it and the picture up the first week of that month. We hope to feature a new dude and dudette every month!

Our August winners are below. Congrats on your astounding food preparation and consumption abilities!

August's Food Dude:
Alex, Chicago Illinois, eating ribs

Last thing you ate?
Last night I had a burrito the size of your head from La Pasadita. It was the infamous "Super Burrito." This place is hilarious- there are three different La Pasadita's all within the block, and on the same street.

Best thing you’ve eaten recently?
Ribs, cornbread, mac and cheese, and baked beans from Hickory's BBQ in Chicago. It's BYOB and connected to a gas station.

All time favorite food?
Enchiladas, no meat...I'm definitely no vegetarian, but cheese, rice and beans only need to be in the center of these bad boys.

Favorite dessert?
Cappuccino's are a great way to end a great meal.

Favorite local restaurant?
Kuma's Corner. Infamous for being a Heavy Metal bar that serves huge burgers with absurd toppings on them. All the burgers are named after metal bands. I recommend "The Slayer," "The Pantera," and "The Neurosis."

Favorite chain restaurant?
Qdoba makes a great Queso Burrito. They often end up larger than Chipotle burritos too.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
Goose Island Orange Cream Soda.

Favorite alcoholic beverage?
Anything made by Lagunita's brewery.

Ultimate food day? And/or best breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack?
I've never done this, but it's called "The Meat Wave." You go to Hot Doug's (Anthony Bourdain loves this place) for lunch. They close at 4pm and have strange hours and the strangest hot dogs on the planet. The last time I went you could get a Rattlesnake hot dog. Once you get your obscure meat from Hot Doug's, you head to Kuma's Corner for a nice dinner. Hence, The Meat Wave.

Favorite food to make yourself?
I thoroughly enjoy making my own pizzas and enchiladas.

What do you bring to a pot luck?
Potato Salad, and Orange Sorbet.

What's your least favorite food?
Everyone hates me for this, but I can't do Italian. Too much garlic is my enemy.

What do you do when you're not eating or drinking?
That is a big part of my day, but I am also writer and graduate student in Chicago. I enjoy riding bikes, baseball, making music, and a good game of bowling.

August's Food Dudette:
Eryn, Balitmore Maryland, prego cupcakes she made for the season finale of "16 and Pregnant"

Last thing you ate?

oreo pudding pie!

Best thing you’ve eaten recently?
the best thing i ever eat is cheesebread with sauce on the side from luna bella

All time favorite food?
french fries, bagels, boca burgers, pizza, brownies. i love fooder.

Favorite dessert?
all of them. specifically, things with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and a chocolate cakey base.

Favorite local restaurant?
luna bella

Favorite chain restaurant?
red robin!!!!

Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
water. i also like cranberry juice, coke, raspberry lemonade, shirley temples and hot chocolate.

Favorite alcoholic beverage?
vodka, warm and cheap.

Ultimate food day? And/or best breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack?
cheddar omelette, wheat toast, potatoes and fresh oj from eggspectations.

i never eat lunch so i dont know. :( sometimes i eat bagels in the middle of the day though.

chips and salsa for a snack.

for dinner i would have a boca burger and fries from red robin with a chocolate and peanut butter milkshake.

dessert would be a hot fudge cake with whipped cream and vanilla bean ice cream.

Favorite food to make yourself?
i hate making food myself and i believe that when others make you food, it tastes better.

What do you bring to a pot luck?
oreo pie.

What's your least favorite food?
meat. any and all meat.

What do you do when you're not eating or drinking?
break hearts and crush skulls.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Food Atrocities, or, the Terrible Things I Put in my Body While Working at McDonald's

I suppose the short entry for this would be, well, everything.

At the time I worked at McDonald's, the summer between junior and senior year in high school, they were still fighting the good fight against health and nutrition. It seemed, at the time, that McDonald's was waging war against the nation's waistline and arteries. Not that things are much different today, but they, and the rest of their fast food cabal, at least put up a good everything's-great-we're-all-gonna-be-healthy-from-now-on facade.

Anyways, one of the few, more likely only, perk of working at a fast food joint is the freedom to tinker with the ingredients at hand. Unlike messing around in your own kitchen where your creativity is limited only by the ingredients at hand and your imagination, fast food inventing is an exercise in working with in certain boundaries. You have to use what you've got, basically.

While I was never on the food prep line, thankfully, come break time I'd do my best to throw something together. At first just grabbing what was at hand was fine, but with such a limited menu one must change and grow. Man can not live on McNuggets alone!

My favorite meal at McDonald's was, is, and always will be breakfast. They easily have the best in the biz and thankfully my time there didn't spoil that for me. While I worked breakfast shifts from time to time it was never a break time option. So, unlike the rest of the menu, it was never ruined for me by eating it 3-5 times a week on break, and, on the rare occasion that I'm up and near a McDonald's in the morning it's a nice treat.

At work one morning, towards the end of my McTenure, I was given my lunch break just at the end of the breakfast run. All the leftovers had just been pulled and were still in their warming trays. By this time in my short but illustrious career I'd exhausted myself on any and everything from the lunch menu. I did a quick scan of the breakfast remainders and spotted a Sausage McMuffin(!) without egg (opposite of exclamation point). Further searching yielded an Egg McMuffin and the possibility of building my own Sausage McMuffin w/Egg, the crown jewel of the the McBreakfast. But, oh-no!, the ham on the Egg McMuffin was stuck fast by the cheese, not a ham fan it seemed my dream was over before it began, until, that is, I decided to just let it slide. I put my super McMuffin together and had at. And let me tell you, this terrible Frankenstein of a breakfast sandwich was amazing! The saltiness and fattiness of the ham mixed with the spicy sausage patty, two pieces of cheese and that perfectly round egg? Shazam! said the sandwich to my taste buds. Freeze! it said to my pulse. Tingle! it said to my left arm. I haven't tried this since, nor do I plan to, and I must admit I felt fairly awful for the rest of the day, but for a one time thing it was totz worth it.

As I've said a few times so far, working at McDonald's does wonders for killing your desire to ever eat there again. Whether it's seeing how things are made or what they're made from or who's making it, the overkill of a daily diet of the stuff, or a combination after you thrown your hat down in disgust and walk out chances are you'll never want to walk back in. Chances are good, too, that this will happen before you quit, which was the case for me. The last month or so I worked there, I could barely look at the food I was serving, let alone think about eating it. This meant getting creative come break time. Probably the largest canvas to explore at the golden arches, outside of the sandwich realm, is ice cream. I invented a few pretty great McFlurry combinations that weren't on the menu. The biggest boon to this endeavour was the discovery of frozen cookie dough in the freezer. So, if you know someone who works at McDonald's or a just a charmer ask for this: cookie dough, Oreos, and hot fudge mixed with 3/4 a cup of soft serve and 1/4 vanilla milkshake.

And there were drinks, too! Besides the endless variations on floats and shakes that could be concocted we had just gotten a "cappuccino" machine put in. A drink we invented, and something I still concoct at gas stations from time to time, is as follows: fill a large coffee cup half-way with coffee and 8-10 creams and sugars, fill remaining half with French Vanilla "cappuccino." Hot Cocoa is also a good topper, and if you have access to flavored creamer so much the better, just half the sugar you add to it.

I feel a little sick just thinking about this, but at seventeen you think you're indestructible. I'm sure I'll pay for all of this some day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Coffee Taste Test

A post on today's Slate blog on MSN detailed a chain coffee taste testing done by some of the Slate staff. The results were interesting, and a little surprising at times (see here: for yourself), but it got me thinking about that most beloved of beverages. The kick start to most days: coffee.

I've been drinking coffee for years, since I was probably about six. I saw my parents drinking it most weekends and wanted to be more grown up so of course I wanted to try it. My early forays into the world of coffee were mostly a splash of coffee in a mug of milk with about three spoon fulls of sugar, or a splash of coffee in my McDonald's hot chocolate. But, over the years the amounts of mixers dwindled and I became a full fledged coffee-holic.

The height of this was high school, starting each day with a cup of triple strength instant coffee and loads of cream and sugar. This would last me through, maybe, third period before I crashed, and with no pop or coffee available to me I spent the rest of the day in a zombie-like stupor--it didn't help, I'm sure, that I was also staying up until about 1am most nights and getting up around 7. This was also at a time when I would drink coffee at every opportunity I had, cups upon cups at weekend breakfast, in the evenings after dinner, right after school. It didn't matter what, when, or where: I didn't just want it, I needed it.

Sometime around the end of high school my taste buds kicked in and I could no longer consume any old swill posing as coffee, it had to have some taste, some body, just something other than a high temperature and a brownish hue (I subscribe wholeheartedly to the age old idiom: "if you can see through it, it ain't coffee). This was also around the time that I discovered Starbucks. Sure, I'd had it a few times, but it wasn't until my senior year in high school that Starbucks moved into the eastern suburbs of Cleveland in any significant number. The bracing strength of their brew really did a number on my palette. For the first time ever I discovered that coffee can taste good all the time.

My early coffee drinking days were also skewed somewhat by my time working at McDonald's (I hope that bit of information doesn't get me kicked off this blog...). As I said before, some of my earliest coffee drinking experiences were at McDonald's, so there was always a soft spot for their coffee on my tongue (it also happened to be the spot that was blistered and scalded by their lava-hot brew). But during the brief six months I was employed there, the McD's corporation decided to reformulate their coffee. It was meant to be a time saving device, as the new coffee came in pre-measured filter bags--this as opposed to the pre-measured bags of grounds that were emptied by us wage slaves into filters, thanks McDonald's, you saved me three seconds! For whatever reason this new filter bag tasted different and, oh!, did people complain about it. And, truth be told, it really did taste different. Say what you will about their food, and I could say a lot, for a while there McDonald's made a helluva cup of coffee, leagues beyond any other fast food joint. (Aside: my favorite coffee story from my summer at the Deez is: one morning during the breakfast rush a woman ordered a cup of decaf, I poured and handed to her a cup i thought had come from the orange handled pot--btw, how did orange become the default decaf demarcation?--about five minutes later the aforementioned lady comes to the counter demanding a new cup since I had given her regular. Looking down at the steaming cup of nondescript brown liquid set before me on the counter I asked, "are you sure?" "Of course!" she replied, "it tastes too good to be decaf!")

Somehow, in college I managed to drink less coffee than I had in high school. Sure there were nights at the Corner Grill (pretty decent coffee) or Big Boy's (really terrible coffee) where I'd put away a pot or so, but these nights were few and far between. There was rarely a time or place on campus to get a decent cup with any regularity, and walking to Cosmo's once a day wasn't really an option (I'll get to Grounds in a minute) so I went without. Best thing I could've done. this really allowed my coffee palette to refine and repair itself after the years of damage I had done prior.

Now, I know there's a lot of fuss to be made about Grounds for Thought in BG. Aside from their tired, tired name it was a pretty decent hang out. Their waitstaff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the coffee was nothing if not consistent. Plus, they knew how to run a business! Unlike Cosmo's who, despite a cozier atmosphere and superior coffee, had difficulty bringing in customers and therefore paying their employees, Grounds thrived, due at least partly to the second-hand-books biz they were running. But we're talking about coffee here, not used books, and Cosmo's had the coffee making down, it wasn't until their closing that Grounds emerged as a great cup of coffee. Whether this is due to the lack of competition or a change in the roasting or brewing, I'm not sure, but the last year or so I was there I found myself drinking it much more frequently, this despite the addition of a Starbucks to the union dining hall.

Back in Cleveland I've found a wellspring of great coffee choices. A trip to almost any neighborhood in Cleveland will yield a Phoenix. Locally owned and operated, as well as roasting their beans here in Cleveland, Phoenix is definitely the place to go. When in Akron I get my coffee from Angel Falls. Their light roast is everything a cup of coffee should be, a great balance of bitterness and acidity, great roast flavor, and a boatload of caffine (try their Volcans in the winter, woah!). But avoid Arabica, despite being a favorite hang-out in high school the quality of their roast has gone way, way, way down over their years. And there are actually a few decent local coffee shops in my home town of Chardon, neither of whose names I can recall, but the shop on the square make a perfectly drinkable cup as I recall. The other, Center Perk maybe, also boasts a delicious ice cream shop.

Now, most days I drink Dunkin Donuts coffee. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, DD brews up a pretty tasty cup of coffee. It's frills-free coffee, the way it should be. No fancy roasts or exotic regions, just good, old coffee. Hot, dark, and a just bitter enough, DD's coffee is the perfect anytime coffee. That said, I have serious reservations about the new "Dunkin Beats Starbucks" campaign. Both are good, I like them a lot, and as far as readily available coffees go, these are probably the two best. But Dunkin' over Starbucks? This feels similar to Justin's earlier gripe about Pizza Hut passing off their pasta at restaurants in Italy. Sure, if you ask just any-old-one to compare, most people are going to favor the simpler flavor, but any real pasta fan or coffee drinker is going to recognize a richer, fuller, more complex flavor when they taste it. What next: 9 out of 10 people surveyed prefer Arbor Mist to real wine? Of course, people like sweet, people like simple. It's the "Pepsi Challenge" all over again.

Back in those turbulent times we now call "The Cola Wars!" the young upstarts at Pepsi-Cola issued a mighty challenge to reigning soda-gods Coca-Cola. Pepsi believed in their product so strongly that they believed just one taste was enough to make people change their minds. They set out around the country with a truckload of both sodas and whole lot of cups labeled "a" and "b." A few states later many, including Coke, were surprised to discover that Pepsi wasn't just doing a little better but were, in fact, dominating the polls. This sent Coke into a tizzy that eventually yielded a reformulated, and ill-conceived, "New Coke." New Coke was about as successful as other novelty beverage brethren like Holiday Spice Pepsi, Clear Pepsi, and Big Red. Was this the end of Coke? Had Pepsi, this David of soft drinks, usurped soda's would-be Goliath? It seemed so until Coke took the taste testing a little farther and it was discovered that while Pepsi does test better on single tastings Coke fares better in the long haul. This has been largely attributed to the fact that Pepsi has an overall sweeter taste than Coke, which is more appealing to most at first sip, but can become too overpowering during the course of a full can or bottle, and, let's face it, who out there is really drinking just one sip of their pop? This also explains people's revulsion towards New Coke, whose new formula was designed to be sweeter, like Pepsi's. For more on this and other endlessly fascinating subjects read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

Anyways, I still find if difficult to believe that Dunkin' tests better than Starbucks, but it seems that may be true if their data and link posted above have anything to say about it.

Jeez, this is way longer than I had anticipated. And I would kind of like a cup now after all this, but all we brew here is barely palatable so I think I'll skip it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What Doesn't Kill You Only Makes You Fatter...

Good glord.

As fair season continues on for another month or so the non-stop parade of killer foods continues. While this Chicken Fried Bacon is what first lured me to this article, it was the Deep Fried Coke(!) that really fascinated me.


Full article with pictures here:

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