Sunday, December 20, 2009

Macaroon vs. Macaron

Until very recently, I would have assumed the title of this post "Macaroon vs. Macaron" to be a typo. Some of you reading may actually feel the same way. These are actually two different pastries.

If you're like me, you're probably more familiar with the macaroon. The most common form that I see is the standard coconut macaroon -- a yummy mound of shredded coconut (hopefully moist), sometimes dipped in chocolate. Additional varieties include the almond macaroon -- similar to a meringue with almond paste. And even the amazing pistachio macaroons at Mike's Pastry in Boston.

Macarons, on the other hand, are an amazing creation consisting of flavored ganache sandwiched between two thin meringue-like cookies. I recently discovered these cookies at a yummy restaurant / bakery near my office called Sportello. They have flavors such as pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate. A quick Googling around the Web points to lots of different varieties -- particularly in their country of origin - France. If you like meringue's, you'll love macarons.

For Reference

Macaroons on Wikipedia
Macarons on Wikipedia



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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dill Pickle Cashews

I was cruising through Target looking for stocking stuffers that weren't sugar or chocolate, and happened upon DILL PICKLE CASHEWS. Love pickles, love cashews. 99 cents was quite a deal.

I did a walk-around with this very small bag of the Dill Pickle Cashews and offered them to about 20 people, and half opted to try a few. The other half made funny and/or scared faces.

The lowdown is that they're sweet, they're salty, they're sassy! You get the buttery cashew, and you get the snappy dill pickle, kind of a one-two punch. The bag size (SMALL) is important, this is not something to eat in bulk unless you cut the stock with regular cashews. For the people who tried them, we all liked them.

I think if you had to compare them to a similar snack food cousin, it's kind of like a salt and vinegar or a sour cream and onion potato chip feeling. Give them a try!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Raise your hand - who wants a hard roll with butter... know who you are! Over breakfast today at the workplace, I again discovered that most people in New England have no idea why you'd want a bagel with cold butter on it. I discovered as I was talking to a fellow Jersey expatriot that it is a NJ area thing. We grew up on hard rolls (kaiser bun, bulkie roll) with butter, with many meals (or as a meal).

I would love someone to explain to me what the history of the hard roll with butter is, if you know it, please post! Meanwhile I found a humorous link on wiki highlighting the Cuisine of NJ, listing one of the dishes as a hard roll with butter. Here's another passionate blog post extolling the virtues of this sweet treat, calling it sacred.

Next time you find yourself in Jersey, do me a favor and pick one up somewhere. I promise, you'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Breakfast Billy, and I'm not talking an IKEA bookcase

Every so often you stumble across a bit of culinary genius. While down in Seaside Heights/Midway Beach New Jersey this past summer, we went into this little greasy spoon & bait/tackle shop combination for breakfast called Betty and Nick's. If you haven't noticed by now, I'm a huge fan of diners and little hole-in-the-wall places... Betty and Nick's is PERFECT.

Ambiance = A
The rods and reels hover over the patrons of the restaurant. The restaurant has an entrance to the bait and tackle shop for your day's deep sea fishing needs. We were at the last booth, so what you see here is pretty much the whole place.

Menu = A
This little sandwich from heaven is listed on the menu as The Billy, I believe, named after its creator who should be knighted. It's a hard roll (if you're from the NJ/NY/PA area, you know what this is) with eggs, cheese, pork roll, AND a hash brown. I ate half at breakfast, and half for lunch. Can you believe it, a hash brown on a breakfast sandwich? Now that is a man who knows what good food is. It's also helped me switch associations of "BILLY" from the strangely named IKEA bookcase series (which organizes your passions) over to a little heart attack sandwich (allowing me to eat my passions).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tomato Pie, the God of Pizza

As most of you may know, pizza is my favorite food. I don't know how I managed to get through 40 something years of my life without eating Tomato Pie, especially growing up outside of Trenton NJ where it was invented. Blasphemous.

The first time I ever heard the word Tomato Pie was while I was playing at my Nana's house on Deerwood Drive. The neighbors across the street (The Bell's) asked me if I wanted some Tomato Pie (pronounced"tamayta"). Now, when you're 5 years old and are asked that question, you get this Ren & Stimpy Image of this bubbling deep pie crust with whole tomatoes bobbing up and down in this hot soupy filling. Well, at least that's what I saw, so I turned down the invitation. Maybe it was a good thing, I guess I wasn't ready for it and would never appreciate it like I do now.

Fast forward to my August summer vacation trip... my mother and her friend Lorraine drag me, my husband and my l'il daughter to Palermo's in Bordentown NJ. As DeLorenzo's is the most popular place to get Tomato Pie (Mom is not a fan of waiting or lines), instead we go to this BYOB hole-in-the-mini-strip-mall-wall. We order a plain Tomato Pie, and one with half mushrooms half pepperoni.

I have never eaten so much pizza in one sitting (a personal record!), with such enjoyment, marveling at every bite how amazingly sweet, salty, and perfect this food is. I am instantly transported back to the island of Capri, which was the only time I had ever eaten a "margarita" pizza THAT good, the best in my whole life. Words fail me, I'm reduced to tears in my eyes joy with a lot of "mmm"ing in all vocal scales. The crust is round, thin, cheese on first, tomatoes in chunks on top, then topping if necessary (not). I think the topping hides the sweet flavor of the Tomato Pie. I had to force myself to stop eating, it was THAT good.

The definition of Tomato Pie (why it's not exactly Pizza) is best represented from the City Dictionary (Trenton specific) as "Trenton's unique vision of a pizza pie, light on the cheese and heavy with big chunks of tomato drizzled with olive oil." A more in-depth story is posted in the last story of this blog for those who want to know the subtleties.

Next time you have the chance to order a Tomato Pie (there are several varieties depending on the state/city you get it in), please give it a shot. I welcome any references or stories about this deletable food that you have - please comment!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do not view this site if you are currently hungry:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You Know It's A Bad Idea, But Somehow That's Not Enough

So... I'm at the supermarket looking for ice cream and I saw THIS: Edy's Limited Edition Root Beer Float ice cream. Essentially, I know it's going to be a mistake, but I NEED to get it. I figured there was about a 90% that I would be unable to finish a complete bowl without regretting it... yet I still bought it. (It actually turned out to be pretty good!)

It's like when you frequent the same place for lunch and no matter how many times you have to be reminded that you don't like the steak sub there, you find yourself ordering it again and again because you WANT it to be good. Or when you see a commercial for food that you don't even like, but somehow your brain begins to crave it.

Your brain may lie to you, but
your taste buds will not.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Dear John letter to Dark Chocolate

Dear Dark Chocolate,

How many years has it been? I think my love for you started back as a kid, when I had the easter basket with all kinds of chocolates in it. Pirate coins, cadbury eggs, bunnies, Pez, you name it. At some point though, you stood out, you caught my eye, teased my palette. Wrapped around coconut, flavored with orange, straight up, it was always so sinfully divine.

Granted, there is that long-standing agreement you and I have with WHITE chocolate which I'm so glad you're OK with, but honestly I did not see this one coming. I have fallen in love. I don't know how it started, maybe because you weren't available and I had no other option. Then when I had the option, I chose Milk Chocolate over you.

I have been in denial for months. I thought maybe it was a phase? So, I went back to you - and you know what? You're bitter. I think I need someone sweeter right now.

I know you're upset, but you know what? I don't know how long this will last. Life is funny that way. There will always be a special part in my heart for you. I hope to see you around again.

Love always,

Friday, July 31, 2009

Vendo-Food, A Little Slice o'Heaven

It was a dark and stormy day around 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Rain had been pounding all day, and it was definitely the hot coffee, macaroni and cheese, comfort food type of day.

I lamented aloud for a pop-tart, when Dana (one of the producers here) said (snap!) there was a vending machine in the next building. Laden with change we dialed in the right letter and number for the vendo-treat.

The cherry pop tart (toasted) was DELICIOUS! The super sweetness punches through once it's been toasted. I don't know how I only ate one. For those of you who like a more Pastry-Taste, eat it straight no heat.

I love food out of vending machines. There is something magical about it - I don't know if it's the wide array of choices at your fingertips, or feeling like a big kid who can just pick something naughty to eat and Mom won't know. On the pop-tart trip, next to the traditional snack food machine, was the MEAL vending machine.

Maybe I'm sheltered or something, but I've never really seen a vending machine with real food in it. Sure, I adore the spinning desserts at the diner, but this was approaching the 8th wonder of the world status to me. I just kept pushing the arrow button to see what would spin around on the multiple levels. White Castle Burgers, Easy Mac, Ham and Cheddar Lunchables, Chicken Tender sandwich, Ramen noodles, Corn Flakes, yogurt, YooHoo, stuffed sandwiches. I've never even had a real White Castle Burger (yet), but heck, there was one here in this machine.

I'd love to know what the coolest thing you got out of a vending machine was. : )

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Original Flavor

Every good product eventually reaches a point of such success that its makers are faced with the question: Do we create additional versions of the product or do we continue with our current offering alone. Like a sequel to a movie, adding additional variations rarely improves upon the original. As a result, it's usually the original flavor that's the best. ... but that doesn't seem to be enough to prevent companies from continuing to try to improve on perfection.

At a recent trip to the supermarket, I found two such examples:

While the 'Double Stuf' comes pretty close to being as good as the original, Nabisco seems to have taken things to a whole new level with this wide assortment of products. (I know there are lots of folks who prefer Double Stuf, but I still favor the original.)

Oreos are a classic which are hard to improve upon. I've tried a number of these product variations and none comes close to the original snack.

Like the Oreo, the original Cheez-Its approximate perfection. Cheez-Its and a can of Coke is one of my favorite ways to binge.

While, in theory, there are lots of great options in terms of cheeses to use, the original cheese flavor seems to work the best. The White Cheddar tastes pretty good, but is far too messy. And the new Pepper Jack has a nice aftertaste -- but not a great during-taste.

Additionally, along with different flavors, the Sunshine Company added variety by creating different sizes of the product. The Big Cheez-It is like the original Cheez-It, only bigger. While, in theory, this should result in an even better experience, more often than not, a larger version results in poor eating ergonomics or a disruption in the delicate balance of flavors in the product.

So remember, aside from Cool Ranch Doritos and maybe Hint of Lime Tostitos, it's always best to go with the original flavor.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Finally a way to eat Hot Dogs and Spaghetti simultaneously cont'd

Multi-lingual pudding

It's not often that a product design makes me smile, even one as simple as this. I'm not sure if it's the happy spoon, but the one-two punch is the spoon PLUS all the language options on how to spell pudding. Now, the questions is, what languages are they?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Finally a way to eat Hot Dogs and Spaghetti simultaneously

Being a fan of strange, alien looking things and also food, this link courtesy of boingboing is complete heaven to me.

I can't wait to get home and make this. : )

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Milk and Cream! How Supreme!

How many times have you ordered coffee or tea in a restaurant, and one of you wants milk and the other wants cream? Usually, they come back to the table once or twice with either 2 pitchers or 1 pitcher of milk and a bowl of plastic creamer shots.

Major props to the Park West Diner out in Wayne, NJ. My friend Gary and I ordered hot tea and - without asking - the lady brought one small saucer with a Milk vessel surrounded by little Creamers. Just like a NJ diner to do it right - eliminated a conversation and one trip to the table. Go Jersey!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Girl Scout Cookies Eating Tip #1 - Thin Mints and Milk

This was an ancient history trick I learned from my pal John Haley, and for a Fun Food Fight foodie it's awesome. You take your newly acquired box of Thin Mints and some milk. You need a glass that is more shallow - wide enough for you to get a cookie and some of your finger into it.

Bite a tiny bit off at the twelve o'clock and six o'clock positions (top and bottom) as seen here on the right. Lower the cookie so that the bottom of the cookie is in the milk, and the top of the cookie is up. Lean in and suck the milk THROUGH the thin mint cookie, like you're syphoning a gas tank. Once the milk has passed all the way through for one or two rounds, pull the cookie out of the milk and eat it.

The chocolate cookie casing holds the milk and cookie in without breaking apart or getting wet chunks in your milk (like oreos). It brings the taste of a Thin Mint cookie to a great height... the minty chocolate infused with cool creamy milk is extremely delightful and carries this decadent weight of goodness to it like an $8 restaurant dessert. I highly encourage you to try this. If anyone has comments to this, or other tips and tricks for snacking on your favorite girl scout cookies (in small amounts or eating them by the row) please tell us!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shout out to some Brilliantly Foul Creations

Thanks to the here and now world of facebook and some twisted friends, I came across this website called Here is a photo of Sandwich Cake which consists of a layer of deviled ham, chicken salad and olive-nut spread between a whole loaf white bread surrounded by four packages of strawberry cream cheese. This is one of the prettier concoctions, there are several that will make you gag and others that are seemingly do-able (especially for someone like me who likes any strange things fried).

The one posting I like the best was a deep fried cupcake, mmmm. Browse and add your own heinous combos if you have them to the site. Bon Apetit!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Liquid Thanksgiving, anyone?

Yes, there has been that bug in our house lately, but fortunately I'm referring to the Jones Soda Holiday Pack 2006. This was a belated Christmas gift from Dr. Gary Stager, purveyor of insane gifts for friends. As I operate a food blog, this is probably one of the finest things ever sent to me.

As there is safety in numbers, I decided to open it up for a taste test at a work event. Not many people were brave, barely anything had been sampled. I had a short sip of each soda, and here's some initial thoughts (as much as you can get in a sip)

Turkey and Gravy Soda: not a good color, a mystifying taste (as expected)
Pea Soda: Pea green and pasty tasting (should have Linda Blair on the label)
Sweet Potato Soda: bright orange and pretty good as far as food flavored beverages go (mmm)
Dinner Roll Soda: Light Beer colored and a big let down (bland)
Antacid Soda: bright pink and way too sharp a taste (accurately so)

Overall there is this bizarre sweetener in each drink that leaves such an aftertaste it's nearly impossible to separate it from the bouquet of liquid Thanksgiving aromas. In my opinion, my favorite was Sweet Potato Soda, least favorite Pea Soda.

If you google search for Jones Holiday Soda Pack 2006, there are some great entries including a very long video of some guy trying every one of them. If you have a chance to get one of these later this year, give it hell. If you've already sampled this or another holiday pack, please share your experience here!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Snacks for the Drive Home

For many lucky commuters who get to drive more than a half hour at a time to and from work, you've probably experienced some hunger on the road. Since I drive (on average) an hour each way, I have learned to plan my food accordingly.

When packing my food bag for the day, aside from breakfast, lunch, and afternoon healthy snack (yogurt type thing), I usually have a "transportable fruit". This is the quick healthy snack that you can eat with one hand while driving at high speeds. Granted, you are not supposed to eat and drive (and talk on a cell phone, or take a picture of eating and driving like I did here), but for those days when it's past 6pm, you're not eating dinner till after 8p, and when that one eyed raccoon missing his back half on the side of the road is lookin mighty fine then transportable fruit is the answer!

Transportable fruit are things you can eat with one hand, without really looking at it. Perfect examples are apples, plums, or dried fruit - it needs to be a clean and fairly dry experience. Pears, peaches, strawberries, and other drippy fruits are only for the experienced... or great if you have a paper towel to dry your elbow off and someone to hold the wheel while you do it.

Here are a few cautions for those of you in the transportable fruit club...
1) make sure you peel the damn stickers off the fruit before you get in the car. It's fun eating stickers in the dark, fumbling for the interior lights, trying to figure out how much of the sticker you actually ate. Plus, when you toss them to the floor mat, they usually stay there for several years, or stick to passengers' shoes.
2) eyeball the fruit for possible bruises. Nothing is worse than biting into a bruise or a mealy spot at 65 mph and not having enough hands to safely deal with it. Then your trust is broken and you have to eat the remaining part of the fruit with the light on.
3) grapes seem like an awesome idea until you get the nasty grape, or the fuzzy grape, again while driving fast in the dark. It's best to de-bone the grapes and bring just a bag of loose ones that pass the visual test.

What is your favorite transportable fruit?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

When Chocolate Meets Dinner

My father just returned from a trip to Germany, bearing a medley of quirky snack foods. One item I found to be particularly interesting was a white chocolate bar flavored with curry, coconut and banana.

The first taste instantly reminded me of Thai curry. I imagine this is what it would taste like if you put yellow curry in an ice cube tray and left it in the fridge for a while. While at first, I found this flavor off-putting, it definitely started to grow on me. Always fun to try something new...

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Kit Kat Trio... Why Mess With a Good Thing?

One of my top 10 favorite candy bars has always been Kit Kat. It’s risen and fallen in the standings, but manages to stay in there against some of the biggies and newcomers trying to be different. So even though I’m supposed to be watching what I eat, this blog posting goes against the 15 pounds I’m trying to lose. But heck, I’m doing it for YOU, faithful readers. Ahem.

There are three types of Kit Kats out there, standard Milk Chocolate (classic, if you will), plus White Chocolate and Dark Chocolate. As all three happened to be available in a large candy bowl 20 feet from my desk, my FunFoodFight senses were tingling for a go at it. Here’s what I think in preferential order (best to worst).

Milk Chocolate Kit Kat – why mess with a good thing? The milk chocolate provides a soft chocolatey sea for the wafer to float in, the taste of each main ingredient weighing in equivalently. Perfect ratio of taste and texture, great size and shape for eating. Oh Blessed Kit Kat.

White Chocolate Kit Kat – I was extremely dubious about this one, as I recall the white chocolate peanut butter cups (meh). Upon first bite, though, that same even texture/taste has been achieved, this time with a sweet “crème” taste with the wafer. I think it’s a good close 2nd to the Milk Chocolate Kit Kat, especially if you want something sweet after a meal that isn’t chocolatey tasting.

Dark Chocolate Kit Kat – Boy was I bummed out about this experience. Ironically, my chocolate preferences lead with Dark, then White, then Milk which is the opposite in the case of this taste test. With high hopes I went chomping away, my first reaction being “ack”. It is like a Special Dark with something pulpy and crunchy inside that isn’t supposed to be there. The chocolate is very bitter tasting, and does not play at all well with the wafer – it shoves the wafer aside trying to be top dog. No thank you. The aftertaste lingers, and in that chasm you yearn for your Kit Kat chocolate wafer Yin Yang... and find none.