Monthly Archives: June 2007

Of milkshakes and donuts

Last week I spent a number of days in Portland, Oregon for a day-job-related conference. What a nice city! And what a nice dining scene there!

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The first meal I had in town (and, admittedly, no fewer than 4 subsequent meals) was eaten at Burgerville, the Portland area’s fast-food-with-local-ingredients-and-amazing-milkshakes-restaurant-chain. Luckily for all there was a branch no less than one block from the convention center. I had a fried fish (halibut, I think) basket with fries and a fresh (Oregon-grown) strawberry smoothie to wash it down. I would drink many more of these strawberry drinks in the coming days: another smoothie, a lemonade, and at least two milkshakes. I learned it is not always wise to drink two of these milkshakes in one 24-hour period. But, live and learn, right? Anyway, my dining companion, J, had a bacon cheeseburger with a slice of Tilamook and some pieces of local pepper bacon. Not to mention locally raised beef in the burger. Very nice all around. Even the spicy black bean veggie cheeseburger I had the next day was just the thing.

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The next morning I woke up all refreshed (thanks to the three-hour-jet-lag) and headed off to Chinatown to see the Chinese gardens. It was just one city block stuffed with ponds and koi and gazebos and shaded walkways like the ones we saw last time we were in Beijing at the Summer Palace. Anyway, there was a tea house there so I sat for a black tea “flight,” supervised by a very zen fellow who showed me how to work the funky tools involved in brewing three mini cups of tea without a (western-style) strainer.

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The next morning I headed over to Voodoo Doughnut because no self-respecting donut lover can go to Portland without trying their very weird flavors. And to be fair, the donuts themselves are very good too, but it’s the strange flavors that I suspect keep the crowds coming. Suffice to say I couldn’t decide on any one of their options so I asked for the random dozen, pictured above. There were donuts in their coated in orange tang, one in grapeade dust, and a couple sprinkled with colorful cereal pieces. Wow! You really can’t eat more than one of any of those at a time. So I shared with my co-workers that day– hope you all enjoyed them (I know you did especially, J!).

My first guest-blogging stint!

While the Bibliophile, my friend R, is away, I am blogging for her… so check it out for the next two weeks on her website. Bon voyage… (evil laugh here)…

From pickles to Prego

You wouldn’t think that the feelings of happiness brought about by the search for the perfect pickles and spaghetti sauces would last through an eighteen-minute lecture, at least, one that belongs in an academic conference instead of a stand-up comedy tour… but this guy found a way to do it. The video is not much to see– a guy who looks remarkably like my dad (and his hair) as a young lad walking around on a stage– but he manages to entertain for the duration. The presentation is based around the life’s work of a food industry consultant who managed to work with giants like Pepsi, Nescafe, Prego, Ragu, and others, helping them transform their products to suit more consumers by diversifying. It is this consultant we can blame for the 79 kinds of tomato sauce and 38 types of granola bars on our shelves today, so listen up.

Meat for vegetarians

Before I get into this, let’s get one thing straight right away: I eat meat (in fact, as I’ve mentioned, I’ll eat nearly anything besides canned tuna, shrimp cocktails, and weird organ meats) but I don’t looooove meat. I leave that for the folks who frequent steak houses and sign up as barbeque competition groupies. Well, at least the first group. Maybe when I have time someday I’ll do a barbeque roadie tour one summer. Immediately following the cross-country baseball food tour of my fantasies. One can dream…

If I had to pick one meat (okay, wait, two) I do love, it would be anything from Blue Ribbon or anything involving Thanksgiving turkey. But really, that’s more about the stuffing, the potatoes, and the cranberry sauce.

So, back to the point– I’m not a big meat fan, but these are really cool! I like the hambone in particular even though I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually eaten one. It even comes in individual and family sizes. They might as well say “adult” and “toddler” sizes. These would be great for omnivores-in-training.

Shopping bag purses (part II)

The Trader Joe’s catalog came in the mail this week. Right on the second page was mention of their new shopping bag purse, in bright red flowery pattern– something they are rather dubiously calling “technicolor.” But what mostly interested me was their little spiel about it. They write: “There is a common misconception out there that a tote bag is actually a large purse… And just because it has flowers on it, by no means is it not masculine, because it is. Just in a very tropical, surfer guy kind of way.” Now, I definitely can see some guys pulling off this look, but I have yet to see anyone attempt it. All the red-bag-wearers I’ve seen so far have been women (including one particulary brazen minister toting two at a convention I attended last week). So, we’ll have to wait and see on the will-they-or-won’t-they gender question, I’ll keep you updated. As for now, my bagaholic side is doing battle with my cynical side about whether or not I need one of these for myself… but at 99 cents, can I really refuse? It can hang out with my others, the one WF clementine and the four S&S greenies. But I can tell you one thing, when I bring it home, don’t expect to see Mr. Food with it– he won’t even use the others…

Pomp and pretzels

Mr. Food and I spent the weekend in the Philadelphia homelands of water ice and cheesesteaks. At last little sister L has graduated from high school. Can you believe it? (For those of you who haven’t seen her since she was about this high, you can’t, can you?) Well, she did it, so hip hip hooray for L! So, we spent the morning at my alma mater and capped it off with cake and … not wine, but iced tea. This is a high school graduation, after all. But you know how I like tea, so no complaints here.

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That night we all (parents, siblings, a new wife, a date, and a husband) ate at Karina’s, an Italian-Spanish place in the South Philly-ish area. This is my lovely salad with little tomatoes, walnuts, and goat cheese. Simple, commonplace, but very nicely done. My pasta dish was also great, a homemade gnocchi lookalike (but made without potato) with mushrooms and things like that. I don’t really remember what else was in it but I finished it without a problem.

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Then we zoomed (yes, zoomed, our driver can be a bit of a speedster) past the best known foodie spot in South Philly, the Pat and Geno’s corner. This is a picture of Geno’s cheesesteak empire, I believe. Well, unless it’s Pat’s…

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The next morning was business as usual at the breakfast table. Almost what I’d eat at home, except I do prefer my snowman mug (thanks again, V) and we almost never have strawberries around. Close enough!

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Can’t fly home without a decent soft pretzel. So sue me that I like these mass-marketed, buttered-up, salty, squishy, hot, marvelous wonders. You can even see them being made! It’s genius (get the Original). The best food we found at Philadelphia International– damn Chick-fil-a for being closed on Sundays!

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Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad!

How long does it take a Popsicle to melt?

Answer: More than 20 minutes.

But who would keep a Popsicle around that long? I’m probably the only one– but only in the name of science…

I was curious about the new Popsicles that are supposed to melt slower than the classic varieties. Do they really last longer? So, I bought a box of each and put them to the test.

Time: Last night, 8:53 to 9:13 pm, Eastern time.
Location: My stovetop. Stove was not on nor had it been for at least an hour.
Ambient temperature: 75 degrees (F).
Windspeed: Negligible.
The players: In one corner, Slow Melt Cherry (the favorite) and in the other, Classic Grape (the contender).

Event time-line: The pops were each lowered carefully into a juice glass and photographed at minute zero (and every two minutes for the duration). Within the first minute, each had begun to melt at the contact points with the glass. If anything the “slow melter” was quicker at the melting. At any rate, it melted differently. For this cherry pop, the melting resulted in a slushy, not-quite-liquid, residue while the grape pop melted as expected, directly into a purple puddle. By minute 14 (pictured above), the pops had each melted more, but not enough to call off the experiment just yet. I persevered. At minute 20 they had both melted about the same amount of liquid/slush, that is to say about a half a teaspoon. The experiment ended here and the taste-test began. At this point Grape Contender was more al dente than Cherry Front-Runner which was actually quite softened (though I should mention, easier to eat because of it).

So, what have we learned? It’s not worth the extra 70 cents to buy the slow melters, unless of course you prefer those flavors and/or you like your pops with less of a bite. But, let’s remember we’re talking about ice pops here and you can’t go too far wrong, people! These suckers (haha) are tasty. But tonight I didn’t wait 20 minutes to eat mine. I’m not wasting any more time on these, I’ve got a few dozen burning a hole in my freezer.

(Now I need another experiment. Any ideas?)