Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our 100th Post - The Scary Side of Food

I thought for Fun Food Fight's 100th blog post in the pre-Halloween spirit, I'd re-share a frightening food story that youse all (as they say in my hometown) might find fascinating.

A New York photographer started The Happy Meal Project to prove a friend wrong on the claim that someone had a McDonalds burger for 12 years and it was relatively unscathed by time. In this experiment, it's been 6 months so far, and not a fleck of mold has grown on it.

I'm the hugest junk food fried food cholesterol laden bakery goods buff, but after watching Super Size Me, I cut down my fast food consumption to one or two times a year only when quickly pulling over for a rest stop dinner on road trips.

Food is fun, and with most fun things we must enjoy it in moderation. My doctor tells me the same thing, so I guess it's fair to put equal time in for the opposing team in the 1 to 100 ratio... it is, afterall, a Fun Food Fight.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lunchtime FAIL

In an effort to give the kids a fun meal (and reuse some leftover breakfast) I served up the:

Peanut Butter and Jelly on Chocolate Chip Pancakes:

Peanut Butter Nuttella and Fluff on Waffles:

While, in concept this could've worked, it really didn't. I'm thinking it's mostly due to the dryness of the 'buns'. Next time I'll slice the pancakes and waffles ahead of time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

He Said :: Donuts

Dear Dawn,

Thanks for the lovely posting on Donuts. I just wanted to share a few local, independent donut joints (i.e. not Dunkins) that have particularly tasty offerings:

Best Jelly Donut - Betty Ann Food Shop
The next time you need to go to the airport, leave an extra hour (if your flight happens to fall during their hours of operation) to stop by this hole-in-the wall. When Johnny, my local barber told me about this place, I had to admit I was skeptical -- but it's the real deal. The other donuts I tried were pretty average, but the Jelly Donuts here are amazing. They're chewy balls, covered in sugar, and filled with a generous serving of jelly.

Best Glazed Donut - Mike's Donuts
While their donuts, as a whole, are on par with Dunkin Donuts, they excel in one particular category -- their glazed donuts. I, like Dawn, appreciate the way in which a Krispy Kreme donut melts in your mouth. Mike's does a great job delivering a comparable experience with their glazed donuts. Luckily, these guys are in striking distance from my house.

Best Everything Else Donuts - Kane's Donuts
If you haven't yet made the trek out to Saugus for Kane's donuts you're missing out. The donuts are fantastic and the place has a great vibe -- a true old school donut shop. They've definitely gotten a bunch of hype, but it's well deserved. Oh, and their coffee rolls are disturbingly humongous.

It's National Cream-Filled Donut Day!

I already posted today, but how could 21 hours of the day go by and me not knowing that it's my favorite donut's own holiday? Who knew that there are American Food Holidays? Only in America can we celebrate the eating of food every day of the year, and have only 3 listed "health holidays".

Back to the topic of honor, cream-filled donuts. God's own creation, I'm sure of it, the perfect ratio of cream to donut to powdered sugar or glaze. My favorite chain donut is the Krispy Kreme glazed Kreme filled one. As I hail from the East Coast, my first exposure was by happenstance... I was setting up for an educational conference in Anaheim and one of the teamsters walked by with a box of donuts and offered me one. After the first bite, it was a true 'When Harry Met Sally' diner scene moment in my life.

As far as bakeries go, lots of folks can do a cream-filled donut justice. My tops is from Eet Gud Bakery in Hamilton, NJ. The cream donuts are long like a jelly stick. I have no photos of these donuts handy because they don't last long enough for me to get my camera out.

Of course, there is a Dunkin Donuts at the end of my street. After a customer feedback form online complaining they didn't offer the vanilla cream donut, they were diligent and began to offer it, I'm sure out of fear of retribution had they not added it to the rack. DD does a good job at the donut, and I enjoy taking a long walk around the block so that I can eat one afterwards.

Enjoy your favorite food on its own special holiday, or if you're like me, any day!

The Hot Dog is the new Cupcake

As cupcake shops open up in every town and city across the US responding to that sweet demand of MORE CUPCAKES, I've noticed something very peculiar. At every turn, large hot dogs are appearing. I did some interwebs peeping and confirmed my suspicions that it's a 2010 trend.

I'm a personal convert, the large hot dogs are sub roll sized and you can eat just one, as compared to 2 small dogs with 2 buns and fixins. Over the summer, I had the Loeffler's hot dogs purchased right from the manufacturer's store in Trenton NJ, and they were AMAZING. Once my eyes were opened to the large hot dog, I noticed that they were popping up at clam shacks, family grills, roach coaches, and specialty stores are starting to appear. The guys at work even took a lunch road trip downtown to Speed's to pick some dogs up.

My first hot dog restaurant love affair began via introduction by my trusted food advisor Gary Stager with Rutt's Hutt in Clifton NJ. The place is a true throw-back to 1971, especially the bar on the other side of the restaurant... a must-see if you're in northern Jersey.

Where's your favorite hot dog place?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fig Almond Anise Dark Chocolate

When my co-worker and ace snack-finder Dana announced she had a bar of chocolate with figs, anise, and almonds, I jumped up for the challenge. She found it at Chase's Farm Stand in Wells Maine, which by law farm stands are usually loaded with interesting food and other goodies.

The first bite was mostly anise, which was quite disconcerting. The second bite was anise and fig, which was better because one balanced the other (strong/sweet). Third was the almond and anise, which was OK. The almond pretty much got lost, and the only real interest the almond has is to go along for the ride with the chocolate.

I have to say if offered another piece, I would politely decline. To echo Dana's sentiment, if the stuff was INSIDE the chocolate, it might be better, or less tactile (specifically the anise). But I think I might have to do some farm stand exploration, word on the street is that they also had a pomegranate seed bar too.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sweets Map of Boston

Have you ever eaten lunch at a place just because you love their dessert? Have you ever walked 20 minutes out of your way, just to get a particular cookie?

There are a few places I've found around town that I'll always go out of my way for. Check out my personal map of Sweets in Boston.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oreos Versus Snackwells - the Vanilla Cookie Standoff

As the summer approached, my palate abandoned my post-lunch chocolate ache for a refreshing vanilla cookie craving. Having Vanilla Creme Snackwells in the snack machine was bad for two reasons, 1) I used up my stash of change for meters, and 2) my nutritionist would not approve. Then I get home last night and found that my adorable husband brought home a bag of Vanilla aka Golden Oreos. This brings me to my posting, a comparison between the two.

Snackwells are kind of like the Vienna Finger, the slightly more bland cookie, like an off-brand animal cracker can be. However, I think they put some kind of little kick (chemical probably) that gives it a nice boost and gives it an addicting quality. Because it's not completely sweet, I find it perfect.

Vanilla Oreos are pretty amazing. The creme is heavier, the cookie is fab, but I got that OUCH from my teeth on sugar overload.

As Nabisco corners the market here (they own both Oreos and Snackwells), it's difficult to compare the two labels side by side for an easy determination of what is better for you by serving size or grams.
At first glance, it almost looks like Oreos (right) are better, however, you have to rely on the daily value % to give you some kind of comparable scale. Snackwells (left) are better for you, well, as better as cookies can be for you. So good in fact they sell them in 4 packs. If anyone knows how to do the math to figure out 4 snackwells VS 4 vanilla oreos, you win!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer of Love with or without Iced Tea?

As I stand on the brink of voluntarily going off of caffeine in less than two weeks, it turns 88 degrees outside and my body is screaming for an Iced Tea. If I cram it all in and drink Iced Tea every day until June 1st, I'll probably NEED to go off of caffeine for health reasons. This time I'm hopping off the Buzz Bus because I've done it before and LOVED the way I felt. Nice and even-keeled, no highs, no lows.

I'm drinking an Iced Tea RIGHT NOW, my all-natural Snapple Lemon Tea that they stock at work in the 16 oz bottles. I like their Real Facts inside the cap (today's is "Alaska was bought from Russia for about 2 cents an acre"). It tastes SO good.

I also have the Trader Joe's Kettle Brewed Black Tea Gallon at home in the fridge. Perhaps I should work on drinking that up, I usually only partake on weekends when it's hot. Last year, it took me all summer to drink one gallon, and I need to polish it off in less than 2 weeks?

I am in the process of investigating DECAF options, so if anyone has quality decaf iced tea options by the gallon, or other suggestions, please share. Oh, and hurry, June 1st is coming up fast!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Art of The Waffle

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in an Art Show that my Studio (FableVision) was hosting. Given the fact that most of the folks in the Studio are amazingly talented, I decided to stick with the medium that I know best -- food. After a little brainstorming, I decided to create art with waffles. The concept of my piece was:

To create software that when given a photo and number of servings would generate instructions for creating waffles with that approximate that image and serve that many people. (Play with it)

My first task was to generate an edible color palette that could be used to color the waffles. Initially, I was hoping to keep it to standard toppings like peanut butter, jams and Nutella, but I quickly learned that I would need additional colors. I then started recording colors for whipped cream mixed with different amounts of food coloring. With a little work, I was able to create a color palette of about 50 colors:

Once the palette was established, I got to work writing the software to generate the instructions. The basic concept was to break up the image into the appropriate number of waffle squares based on the number of servings the user entered in the software.

For each square, I then computed the average color and matched it to the closest color from the 50-color palette I had created. Below are two examples of the output of the software. Note that each square has a designated 'recipe' for creating the appropriate color (e.g. strawberry jam or Nutella).

In my experimentation, I realized that it required a lot of waffles to create a complex image. Therefore for the Art Show, my friend Ryan found a relatively simple picture of Mario from the Mario Brothers video games. It was made using approximately 25 waffles.

If you'd like to play with the software, click here. Click the Load button to create waffle art from a preselected set of images. Roll over each square of the waffle to see what it's made of. You can control the number of servings using the slider.

Special thanks to Gary Goldberger, Kate Cotter, Ryan McNulty, Sarah Reynolds, Tami Wicinas and Taryn Johnson for helping assemble the final piece. And thanks to Matt Bargar for some of the photos in this posting.

Monday, March 29, 2010

His and Hers Salmon

There are times in a relationship, when no matter how well you communicate, you just can't come to an agreement. There are times when, even though it will win you martyr points, you don't feel like you can compromise. Here is a story of such an occasion, but this time it has a happy ending.

You see, last Tuesday my wife and I decided to make salmon for dinner. When discussing how it should be prepared, we couldn't reach an agreement. Fortunately for us, the recipes were simple enough that we could split the fillet in half and make both.

Here are two simple recipes for enjoying salmon:

His : Maple Soy Salmon
with Maple Soy soaked rice... yum!

Combine ingredients, bring to a boil until it just starts to thicken. Brush onto salmon to coat, pour the remainder of the glaze over medium grain white rice. Bake the fish at 425. Break up fish into pieces and serve 'His Style' in bowl over sauced rice with chopsticks.

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

  • 2 cloves crushed garlic

Hers: Sweet and Spicy Rubbed Salmon

First referenced April 2008

Brush salmon with olive oil. Combine equal parts chili powder and brown sugar. Rub over salmon. Bake at 425. Serve over medium grain white rice.

  • olive oil

  • chili powder

  • brown sugar

Hopefully this tip will serve you well the next time you have a disagreement about how to prepare the salmon...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sweet and Sour... and SPICY

Wikipedia will tell you that scientists describe five basic tastes:
  • bitter
  • salty
  • savory
  • sour
  • sweet
and you may even recall learning about the anatomy of the tongue and where the specific taste buds are for each of these tastes.

Some people attempt to create dishes that deliver combinations of these tastes. These days, you'll hear folks talk about how they really enjoy the combination of sweet and salty. Examples can be found in chocolate-covered pretzels, many trail mixes and the addition of sea salt to items in bakeries like chocolate cookies.

Sweet and sour is popular as well -- and always has been. This is evidenced by the classic sweet and sour chicken that so many of our parents order in Chinese restaurants. Additionally, many fruits could be considered both sweet and sour. For example, oranges and mangoes.

Among many of the fantastic products you can find on the shelves at Trader Joe's, consider the photo above of Chile Spiced Mango. This snack consists of dried mango (a favorite of mine as is) dusted with a generous amount of chili powder mix. These take sweet and sour one step further by introducing 'spicy' to the mix. While 'spicy' isn't one of the five flavors, it's definitely a great addition. After eating the first piece, the spice sticks with you and leaves you craving another.

A great, healthy snack.

Note that these are relatively spicy and may not be appropriate for everyone. But if you like them, you'll love them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coconut M and M's, Easter Candy or not?

If I were ten years old, I would stick out my tongue at this package of Coconut M&M's. Adult Candy, blech! My co-worker Dana who manages to find interesting food often asked if I wanted to try these treats, to which I replied 'Hells Yeah' or something equally zealous.

The M's themselves have different artwork on them, palm trees, flowers, making it interesting to look at them one at a time instead of inhaling a palm full. The first one I ate was shockingly interesting - first you got the SWEET blast which resonated into "oh yeah that's the coconut part". The second one I ate almost tasted normal, kind of like your 2nd or 3rd beer becomes unnoticeable. By the third one, I could appreciate the ratio - a really good amount of coconut to chocolate for that size.

I liked them. I'm not sure I'd eat too many of them in one sitting, but they're definitely worth a shot.

On an aside, does anyone else associate coconut/chocolate candy with Easter? Where I grew up in Central NJ, we always got this big eggs that were filled with coconut (pictured here is a 1 pound egg!). I was assuming Coconut M&Ms are heralding the approach of Easter, and maybe trying to elbow their way into the Cadbury Mini-Egg market. My co-workers have no association between Easter and coconut. How about you?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An American Standard Up for Discussion

Being the parent of a toddler, this big news flash certainly caught my attention,
"Pediatricians Want Redesign of Hot Dogs, Candy to Curb Kids' Choking". Great idea, it's really hard to cut up a steaming hot dog easily, and not giving in and buying some weird As Seen On TV hot dog dicer. As my Mama Bear Protector Genes go, someone finally figured out how dangerous these meat tubes really are. As a foodie who has specific tastes and preferences on how hot dogs should be prepared and condimentized, this is almost as unsettling as having Scott Brown elected to the Senate. New territory, could be bad, could be good, it certainly ain't like the Old Standard we've had for years.

The glorious social networking site allowed one of my super-talented designer friends to find this article from Fast Company, and how they approached the challenge of hot dog design. I share this here, friends, as they put great care into the inside/outside ratio of a hot dog.

I find this debate far more interesting than politics, at least for now. I sense major backlash in the world!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Addiction: Cranberry Raisinets

If you bump into me in a movie theatre lobby and ask me what kind of candy I was totin', my answer would be (in preferential order) Raisinets, Sno-caps, Junior Mints, or Kit Kats. Raisinets were always the best because they were sweet, sugary, chocolately, and a tiny bit moist. Oh yeah, since they are raisins, they are HEALTHY.

Last week my boss Dave introduced me to Cranberry Raisinets, and I have fallen into line behind him extolling the sweet praises of the little new millennium treat that boasts "anti-oxidants and free radicals". The love of cranberry rises and falls with the decades, and still conveniently fits into the HEALTHY candy category. How could you possibly improve Raisinets? Someone is a marketing genius, since these treats have no raisins in them.

Dave gave me my own whole bag of Cranberry Raisinets, so it took me (an amazingly long time thank you) three days to eat them (and share them). My very first taste was quite skeptical, having my memory banks programmed for that very sweet raisin when in fact I got something slightly more tart. The next few bites made me forget all about raisinets, in fact, I think these are slightly more "adult" and dare I say savory, not as sugary as the mothership raisin flavor but still sweet from the chocolate.

If you're as old as me, you're probably singing the 70's commercial jingle song for the candy (Goobers, Raisinets, chocolate covered treats, Raisinets and Goobers, mighty good to eat). I can't find it online, yell if you can spot the link.

This is one treat worth picking up, give it a go and please share your thoughts here.