Monday, June 30, 2008

Pat's vs. Geno's

Yesterday I found myself in Philadelphia. While there, I made a special trip to investigate one of the all-time food rivalries: Pat's vs. Geno's Cheesesteaks. On a prior trip to the City of Brotherly Love, someone told me about the two most popular cheesesteak places in the city, which happen to be right across the street from each other.

My wife and I decided to split up and each grab a cheesesteak from one of the restaurants, meet up in neutral territory, and do a taste test. The first thing we noticed was that each of these restaurants had an incredibly long line. In fact, Geno's line spilled right out into the street. Then, as we got closer, we realized that there was a language that has been developed for the sole purpose of ordering cheesesteaks: wit, whiz, provo, etc... One my last trip to Phili, I got a whiz wit from Jim's Steaks on South Street. This time, I decided to stick with provo wit's as the sodium cheese whiz pretty much hijacked the entire sandwich experience.

Prior to tasting the cheesesteaks, I was hoping I would like Pat's better than Geno's. Pat's is the original cheesesteak restaurant. Additionally, Pat's has only an understated blue sign vs. Geno's Vegas-ish neon carnival.

The first thing we realized when we got the steaks was that they were essentially identical. The bread looked the same, as did the meat, cheese and onions. Only after a few bites from each cheesesteak were we able to discern between the two. While there was definitely more meat in Pat's, the meat from Geno's (at least in ours) was significantly more tender. Therefore, even though I wanted to like Pat's, I had to give it to Geno's.

Truth be told, if there's one thing I learned about Phili Cheesesteaks, it's that they're pretty much underwhelming. They definitely could fill the role of solid, comfort food lunch, but they're definitely not packed with flavor and the meat is pretty stringy (even Geno's more tender cheesesteak). From what I heard, the Vietnamese place around the corner is significantly better than both...

Geno's Steaks on Urbanspoon Pat's King of Steaks on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Great Idea - Failed Execution II

Here's another great idea in theory that doesn't quite work in practice -- Blow Pop Minis. I really like Blow Pops (particularly Cherry) and was pretty excited by the prospect of creating a candy that was a Blow Pop without the stick. I always found lollipops to be somewhat cumbersome and will often try to remove the stick and eat it like a sucker.

The Blow Pop Mini just doesn't work. Here's the basic scenario:
  1. Insert a Blow Pop Mini in your mouth
  2. Suck on it for a while (a la that Tootsie Roll Pop owl.... One... Two... Tha-ree... crunch)
  3. Chew it to get at the gum center
  4. Feel unfulfilled with the extremely small amount of gum in your mouth
  5. Insert another Blow Pop Mini
  6. At this point, the gum in your mouth get stuck to the Mini you've just inserted, making the new mini difficult to eat.
Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to wait for the non-mini version as this snack doesn't work for me.

On the Vine

So, here's a dilemma... my little daughter can be pretty stubborn. She sometimes insists on doing things her way. For example, she'll only eat grapes if they're still on the vine. Unfortunately, for a 15-month-old, grapes can be a bit of a choking hazard. That's why we do this:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Things You Eat In A ROW

You can’t have come this far in life and never polished off a “row” of your favorite snack food. Perhaps you don’t want to admit it, because in some packages a row constitutes upwards of 20 items on average. Whether it was in high school or yesterday, it happens to all of us.

Here are a few of my favorite things I could eat by the row (from recent to past history):
- Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies
- Fig Newtons
- Oreos (not Double Stuff)
- Pringles (this means the whole can)
- Vienna Fingers

Those of us who have had our highly indulgent moments can look back on the food fest with a bit of embarrassment or pride. What is YOUR weakness, and more importantly, are you big enough to admit it?

Great Idea - Failed Execution

Everything about these tortilla chip 'Scoops' should be great. The theory of creating a tortilla chip that holds a lot of salsa and doesn't break is a great idea.

Then why, in my opinion, does it fail so completely?

I see a couple of reasons why it doesn't work:
  1. The tortillas are too thick. I assume this is due to the fact that these chips are created to not break, but I feel the thinner the chip the better. These chips are just too thick.
  2. The shape doesn't work. When you put them in your mouth, the sides of the chips stick into the roof of your mouth.
For now, I'll continue to stick with the easily found Hint of Lime Tostitos Tortilla Chips... and continue to be jealous of everyone who lives near a Chevy's -- man I love their chips and salsa.

Anyone know where I can get good chips and salsa in Boston?


Here's a picture of a cool cake that my mother made for Father's Day. It was made using a cupcake pan.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Perfect Topping, But What Can You Put It On?

At the Cambridge River Festival in Cambridge, MA today (6/14/08), found a couple of my favorites that I only seem to eat at Festivals and Farmers' Markets. Along with a big bag of kettle corn, I purchased a jar of Hot Pepper Jelly (I got Tyler's Sweet Revenge - Hot Pepper Jelly).

I truly love this stuff. It's a great mix of sweet and spicy. Somehow the jelly seems to hold on to spice from the peppers and let it linger on your tongue. There's only one rather large problem with this stuff. I haven't figured out how to incorporate it into my day-to-day eating. Serving suggestions usually include using it as a glaze on fish or chicken or spreading it on a turkey sandwich. Unfortunately, I generally don't have these things in my regular diet. Usually, I'll just get a box of Wheat Thins and dig in.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Quick Mango Salsa

My wife and I sometimes like mango salsa on our salmon. The most difficult part of it is definitely doing the shopping.

Mix to taste:
  • chopped mango (hard to find a good one in Boston)
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • pickled jalapeƱo
  • chopped red onion
  • olive oil (just a little)
  • lime juice (careful not to overdo)
  • sugar (if you put in too much lime juice)
We'll serve the salmon over rice and throw some salsa on it. I then proceed to mix it up and eat it with a spoon, my wife prefers it more civilized.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

New Tastes

I'm constantly seeking new foods -- hoping I'll taste something truly unique that I've never had before (see the previous post on the durian). At this point in my life, it seems to be quite difficult to find a flavor that truly catches me off guard. I'm therefore jealous of my kids.

The other night, I had the pleasure of giving fried dough and fried oreos to my kids for the first time (see Dawn's post last year). My son's face lit up like he just got the elusive Lego Sponge Bob set that he only asks for about three time a day.

Yet another reason to want to be a kid again. :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The King of Fruits

So, I was watching 'Bizarre Foods' on the Travel Channel and the host, Andrew Zimmern, (who eats everything from blowfish to snake penis) admits that he has trouble eating a particular fruit called the Durian. Apparently, this fruit smells so bad, and has such a gross texture, that even though it actually tastes decent, many people cannot bring themselves to eat it.

After seeing this on TV, I asked a number of people if they'd heard of the Durian. Everyone who had heard of it seemed to have a response like: "I've heard it is putrid" or "Isn't the the fruit that smells like sweaty socks" or "I think it's banned on the subway in Singapore" -- but no one had ever actually smelled or tasted it. At this point, I was pretty intrigued and had to find out for myself.

A friend of mine from the office, Jonah, and I went to Chinatown here in Boston to an Asian Market called Super 88. It didn't take long to find the Durians. The fruits are very large, about the size of a pineapple, and very spikey. In fact, Jonah's hand was impaled when one rolled on top of it. We bought a Durian and brought it back to the office to let it defrost and ripen for a day.

The following day, the Durian was soft, but still pretty spikey. A group of folks from the office brought the Durian outside (just in case in really smelled like sweaty socks) for an official tasting. It definitely didn't disappoint.

Smells included Grandma's Basement, Chinatown, A Trash Can Sprayed with Potpourri, and Butt. Upon slicing open the fruit, we were instantly hit with a strong scent of formaldehyde. The inside of the fruit had four separate sections, each yellow and fleshing resembling raw chicken. The taste was compared to Onions, Custard, and House Paint. The texture was surprisingly slimey. There is no denying that the smell and taste of the Durian is incredibly complex.

Overall, while I'm glad I tasted the Durian, it's definitely not a favorite of mine. Like others, I would agree that the problem with the Durian comes from the smell and texture rather than the taste. If you have a Durian story, please share it with me.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mr Shrimp, Please Remove Your Feet at the Door

Shrimp is one of the easiest seafoods to eat - most folks who aren't 'seafood people' can eat shrimp without making too many faces. This could be due to the fact that shrimp is usually battered, fried, dipped, or marinated and grilled into a mere vehicle to carry the coating to your belly. I'm classifying shrimp into two ways to eat it - appetizer mode and meal mode.

In appetizer mode, shrimp is great. It comes cooked and delivered to you with a built in handle, and you can tell which end you hold and which end you eat. If it's 'naked shrimp', as in shrimp cocktail, it's even easy to pinch the tail to get the whole piece out into your mouth. Love the shrimp!

Here's where the joyride ends on shrimp... you go to a restaurant, skim the menu and choose the MEAL... baked stuffed shrimp, shrimp scampi, the list goes on. It arrives steaming and hey, there's the shrimp with the feet still on. Now, what are you supposed to do? Here's a photo of my friend John's shrimp feet. He ordered Shrimp Fra Diavolo, which is loaded with tomato sauce over a bed of angel hair pasta. John is an architect, even architects don't know how to carefully, delicately, or smoothly extricate the shrimp from their feet as they slide around on a bed of pasta. Unless they have made a foot extractor in recent history (like a nutcracker, or an apple corer), this unnecessary surgery has to be done with a lot of consternation before you can enjoy your meal. Since you're using a fork and knife, you have to cut it, losing a portion of the foot meat inside the shell. Or, you have to reach into your bowl or dish and use your hands, which is nasty in public. Regardless of how you take them off, you have the unsightly "feet on the butter plate" thing going (as pictured here).

I'd like to think that I'm an average restaurant customer, I've eaten at all different levels of industry service and quality. I really think I can count on one hand the amount of times the feet have been removed from shrimp dishes that need to be eaten with a fork and knife. Is it a presentation thing? Is the food preparer afraid to touch the shrimp - are they using it as a sanitary handle? In Seinfeld's words, What's the Deal? Hey Chef - if anyone can actually answer why the majority of shrimp main courses MUST have the feet on them, please enlighten me and all of my Fun Food Fight friends who shout out their shrimp feet frustrations.