Thursday, October 18, 2012

.FOOrD BLOrG. Don't fear the Chocolatier.

October is one of my truly favorite months. I love the fall and I love the onslaught of horror films everywhere. Ever since I was little (but not too little) I have enjoyed creature features and other scary tales. As we all know, one of the things that make a really effective spooky film is that it taps into a specific fear.You know, like nuclear fallout turning people into zombies or wanting to be like the people on Keeping up with the Kardashians turning people into zombies or zombies turing people into zombies.....or well, just zombies. 

There are some scenes in films that shock and disgust us. Scenes that we instantly put ourselves in the "What would that feel like? AHHHHH!" situation. For instance the ankle scene in Pet Sematary or the entire last quarter of the film Audition. (shudder.) However horrific a scene is though, if we can't imagine it being real or edit ourselves into the scene than it isn't going to work. That being said, allow me to regale you with a very true scene from my life just a few days ago...

Four months ago I has a minor odd feeling in my right ear. It didn't hurt but it felt like a mild pressure. (Are you nervous where this is going yet?) After much deliberation I made an appointment to see a doctor. Long story short, he knew nothing of what it was and could see no visible problem. He prescribed me drops for both ears and sent me on my way. The drops were a real treat and after a week of my loving wife putting drops in my ears for me nothing changed for the better. So I returned again and this time the doctor (different one) prescribed me antibiotics which as we all know come with their own horrors. So for ten days I took my punishment and it helped me with nothing but perhaps drop a few pounds. I returned again and this time the doctor referred me to a specialist. (*Cue The Dead Milkmen song "Take me to the Specialist")

This problem had lingered for months now in varying stages of displeasure. Sometimes I wanted to bang my head into the desk in an effort to alleviate pressure or simply scream at the top of my lungs for some kind of release. After a while I had become accustomed to the situation but I still didn't want to go deaf if that was a side effect to whatever was happening in my ear. Prior to the specialist I had to have a hearing test. Now this is the part of the film where the main character sits in a strange room with someone on the other side of a tinted window. The unseen person makes bleep sounds and I would press a clicker when I would hear it. Then the person would say words and ask that I would repeat them as their voice would become quieter and quieter. In my cold padded room I'd hear a voice "Bedroom" and I'd say "Bedroom." The a quieter voice "Cowboy" and again I would repeat "Cowboy" until I would hear nothing and be left to wonder what had become of said bedroom cowboy.  I had tested above average all across the board and was sent to another area to wait.

Once admitted into the room I sat for a moment before in walked a beast of a woman. She had a wide face that was devoid of expression and stringy hair like that girl who crawled out of the t.v. in The Ring (The original not the bs remake.) She dragged her legs across the floor like she was a zombie and her voice was monotone at best. Now I'd just like to pause and say that in a patient care situation "care" is an important word and an even more appreciated feeling to have when something is wrong with you. This lady was giving up none of that. She turned my chair and and asked what was the problem. So I told her the whole ordeal which she took in without blinking or moving a muscle at all. This lady was really freaking me out now. She shined a light into my ear and reached over for a long metal stick about 4 inches in length. "What is that even here for?" I thought. "Don't look at her....Don't look at anything she picks up. She is rummaging around for things to stick into your ear!"

It was at this point I decided to look forward. That would be a good point to focus on  and then all I have to do is go to my happy place and wait for this to all be over. A great plan. Except for one thing. As she pressed my head into my left shoulder I realized that she had turned my chair so that I was facing myself. I had nowhere else to look as she placed a small metal cone on my ear and lifted the small metal rod and slid it along the cone and slowly into my ear. (Do you understand what I am saying? I have the pristine image of somebody slowly lowering a surgical implement into the confines of my head. That is so f*cked up. Nobody should have that.) What happened? It hurt and I shook and somehow made my squished-into-my-neck face look even more worse. She was displeased. She told me not to move or I might get hurt. Yes those are her words. The same words a kidnapper uses or a bank robber. I thought, "This has to be the first time she has done this on a living person." She tried again by squishing my face further into my neck. My eyes filled with fear as she again lowered a different but still metal pick into my skull. Same results. She huffed like Dahmer probably did after ever failed lobotomy. By this point I figured that this is either a hidden camera show with really good lawyers or that she is an escaped patient from a torture institution. (They still have those right? That is where toothbrushes are made of sand paper and their t.v.s only show those "real housewife" shows.)

So the "dr?" calls for the nurse and then drips fluid in my ear and tells me to "sit still and wait." The nurse walks in and the "dr" says "I need to put something in his ear to numb it because he is so jumpy." I didn't have a problem with this at first. Until she said "An eye dropper OR a syringe." PROBLEM. I can't explain nor should I have to how much I am on team eye dropper in any situation where the two option of what will be put into my ear canal is A. eyedropper or B. A SYRINGE!!! (Now let's just take a moment and acknowledge that this lady doesn't seem to know her way around this room. Anybody else concerned by this? I was.) Nonetheless, what did they go with? Syringe. (FMLx1000) 

The nurse then leaves after doing nothing but silently agreeing that the dr.'s crazy idea is a good one and she leaves the door open. So now the lady presses my already squished face into my shoulder. My eyes dart from the mirror, where I can see her filling the syringe, to the open door as people are passing and NOT HELPING. Then I see what will forever be my horror moment. I literally see this person slowly lowering a dripping syringe into my ear canal. Like she is flying a spoonful of food into a babies mouth. You know what? If she had made a crazy airplane noise that would have somehow made it better. Listen to my words: I have fleeting images of seeing a syringe be inserted into where my eardrum is. If that doesn't creep you out. Then you aren't human. 

(What happened? She then dug around with a tool in my numbed ear and removed some debris that she said was the problem. The problem was caused by the ear drops from the first dr. I know. FML.)

Now lets talk chocolate!!!!

I know that in the past I haven't given chocolate the highest of praise. So this time I have a team of friends who will weigh in on each snack! Welcome to the fold: Tara, Kurt, Beverly and returning awesome wife Sarah.

Well first up we have Magic Fingers. I believe we purchased this at a russian grocery but judging by the title you might think it came from an adult store.You know, the kind where nobody dresses like that chef guy on the packaging. (Maybe one guy but rest assured he has no magic fingers. The only thing he has on his hands is too much time and calluses. You know, from baking...)

Well it appears to just be a biscuit-like Twix kind of deal. Lets see the breakdown:

S- I don't like it. 0-out of-5 I like the gold wrapper for each MF but the outside wrapper is crap so no style points. (*Side note: She literally just started giving out style points. This has never been a part of the judging so let's all welcome STYLE POINTS!)

T- It is a little bland. 1.5-out of-5 because it isn't horrible. Nothing to turn to for a treat of quality in either biscuit or chocolate.

K- It is kinda like a Whopper and kind of like not eating anything. Not bad. 2-out of-5

B-This is stupid. It isn't gross but who cares. At least try to wrap it nicely. It looks like it has been previously unwrapped. 1-out of 5.

D- This is cheap and the biscuit part is powdery. The chocolate is super cheap and has more in common with candle wax. Cheap candle wax. I give this a 1-If you hated the ankle scene in Pet Symatary than you should watch Sympathy for Mr. Vengence-out of 5.

So there are literally hundreds of chocolate companies in Portland it seems. We hadn't seen this one before so we bought two different kinds from The Meadow in North Portland or maybe New Seasons somewhere....You know what? Doesn't matter. What does matter is that the buzz words on the cute little packaging matches with the flavors inside.

Here we can see all of the special ingredients. Yep. Ok everything seems to be in order here. This seems to be looking good.

So I screwed up and didn't take a picture before I cut it up but I did with the next one. Don't worry.

S-Tastes like chocolate. That is it. My throat is a little burning but that is probably from the habanero sauce at dinner. I give it a 1and a half-outof 5 Also 3 style points for the packaging. (*we still don't know how many possible style pints there are so maybe that isn't even good.)

T- I just taste chocolate. Wait, there was a small chunk of something in it. No nothing. 2.5-out of 5. It is ok but really nothing special.

K-SAME. I agree with everything that is being said.

Bev-This is just dark chocolate. Bummer. NBD. I guess if you hit those ingredients really hard though it maybe gross. I give it a 4-out of 5.

d- I get dark chocolate. No ginger or anything promised on the front. This doesn't seem balanced or impressive. Disappointing. 2-The most intense french horror film is titled INSIDE and it will murder your brain-out of 5.

Well, after that warm response who wouldn't want to try another one? Show of hands? (You can't see this but it is all hands in here.) I selected this one because it has hazelnuts and fernet. Sarah loves both of those things. So I thought that this was really going to be something special. Maybe it might become her new favorite thing. Only time and mouths will tell. (That sounded weird.)

So here we can see more fantastical blah blah blah. Chocolates do this SO much. It is like a book on the back. In fact I expect sometime to pick up a book and turn it over only to find out that it is a chocolate and all the literature is just their food mission statement. Look if you need a paragraph to win over a consumer maybe focus more on what your product is and make it approachable and less like you are so smart and unique. Just an idea. Your whimsical hoopla just makes you seems like a stuffy a-hole. (Not exclusively this snack just most high end chocolates. I just want the snack. I already have a library card if i need anything else. Thanks.)

So here you can see how pretty it looks in it's little plastic sleeve.  Let's just move on to what the team thought.

S-This one is a bit waxy. It seems lighter than the last one. They get a 1-out of 5 for no Fernet. Ugh. So disappointed. However I like the packaging. I like that each flavor has a different colored wax seal. So 5 style points. (That is the most style points since the style points have been added.)

T-I like this chocolate better. 2-out of 5. (She must have said more but that is literally all I wrote down.

K-I like this one much better. Smooth chocolate. Not too flavory. 3-out of 5.

B-Bummer again. There is nothing to it. I might taste fernet but it might be psychosymatic. It tastes like fernet farted. 4-out of 5. Good chocolate. (Swear to god that is what I wrote down. In that order. That is what she said. The weirdest highest rating for that snack.)

d-Eh.... Where do you start with something that gives you so little to remark on. This is like being a kid on that last day of school and the other kid that you like offers to sign your yearbook and you are so excited to see what it says. You get your book and open it and notice that they wrote "stay cool this summer" which would be exciting if Joey and Heath and Karl hadn't also written the exact same thing. Unremarkable. 2-The spanish film [REC] should be the only found footage film. Period.-out of 5.

This was a gift I received for my birthday from our good pals Caleb and Natasha. Now I have had many chocolate snacks and many bacon snacks. Bacon donuts, bacon beer, bacon water, bacon gum etc....... I have had one chocolate bacon before and it wasn't my favorite thing ever. However that didn't make it to the blog as it was on vacation. Here is a close up of the actual product.

S- I am giving it a zero for just being here. Negative style points.

T-Uh. It tastes stale. I am really not into the bacon. Ugh. 0-I am finding it...hard to swallow..gross.

B-No problem. It is kinda interesting. Home made would be way better than sitting on a shelf. I am not upset about it. 3. NBD.

K-This is disgusting. Is this real bacon? This can't be real. Ugh. 0-out of 5.

d-This smells like if a shoe had a basement where bad things happened. This is like the worst of two worlds. I feel like the oily fat from the bacon has leeched into the chocolate. The texture is a waxy fatty affair. Nobody wants that. Why would somebody want to share this with people? 0-The Innkeepers is one of the best old style ghost stories of the last decade-out of 5.

B -{round 2} I get more bacon. Ugh. It is way worse this time. That three is fading fast. Ultimately resting at 1-out of 5.

So there you have it. Yet another chocolate chapter closed. As always I encourage you to try these or any of the other snacks on this blog and find out if it is delicious or not. I am always surprised at what people like that I don't and vice versa. See you next time. Happy Halloween.

Yes I realized it is odd to put a terrifying ear experience before a food blog.

('*side note: Once the lady removed the dried chemical from the drops and the experience was over I felt like she was the best person in the world. That being said, she had just dumped a bunch of numbing things into my brains.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

.FOOrD BLOrG. Weird convenience

Well, hello there. I guess if we are both here it means that it is time for another season of FOASP. (Fear of a Snack Planet)....Or would it be FSP. Hmmm... Either way, it is nice to see you. First of all let me just say that the break since the last post was not due to a snack shortage. Rest assured, the back stock for this blog is bloated with things from around this floating rock we call home. Back in June I went on break from my day job and was helping my wife and her hot sauce business do farmers markets etc... This quickly became more encompassing than anticipated. For 3 months we had very little down time. This brought to mind how the old model of television will create a certain number of episodes and then take a break. So taking that blueprint, I have scheduled this season of FOASP/FSP with a few open bonus episodes for the oddity unexpectedly encountered. Otherwise every post is packed with some of the most original and possibly awful snacks we could find. I really hope that you enjoy it and come back every week.

Nuff said.

This summer was so busy that my wife and I were literally making sauce until 3-3:30 am and getting up to market at 6-7 am then napping between 3-5pm and back at the sauce. This left little time to eat. We found that the best mode for sustenance was small snacks. (Especially, since in the framework of exhaustion, you can't tell if you are tired, hungry, awake, nauseous, etc..) There is a lot to be said about how quickly we need food sometimes. Like despite some form of planning, we have to eat right then and there. Whatever we can get our grubby little mits on. (P.s. Wash your mits.)

So today our three snacks are focussed on one thing: Convenience.

First up we have POWER BEEF! Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. Those dreary dog days of dragging your heels over to a meat sack and just wasting SO many minutes chewing jerky BEFORE having an energy drink are over. Finally somebody has answered our prayers and combined the two and in doing so has saved us valuable.......seconds? Minutes? Anything? Okay, let us address the elephant (made of POWER BEEF) in the room. This is a weird idea. I am not judging and saying it is a bad idea but you can't deny that it is weird. You also can't deny that by calling it POWER BEEF with a lightning bolt behind that and stating "Get your move on!" that this might make you poop your pants.

Alright. We get it. I found the back paragraph so extreme that I wanted to try it more than words. (Eh? See what I did there?....(sigh)) Seriously? "..slam a bag of POWER BEEF"? Don't get me wrong, I love a good beef bag slamming as much as the next person but this whole Guarana flavored meat snack just has me worried a tad. For instance, is that "flavored with.." portion of the bag a sticker? Is that a good sign? Was this some sort of rush snack job? This is 2012 maybe the limelight belongs to POWER BEEF.?. (If you get that last sentence than either you listen to way to much Rush or you are my high school drama teacher...Or both.) What was under the mysterious sticker? I had to know. So I peeled and scraped it off and under "FLAVORED WITH GUARANA" was "This product contains Guarana seed and Green Tea extracts scientifically designed to boost your energy level." I am dead serious. That is what it said. I suppose the figured that the person buying anything called POWER BEEF (in all caps) would not take kindly to word wizadry messing with their minds. Plus clapping out the syllables to "scientifically" could really burn all that energy received by slamming that beef bag in the first place.

Well, there it is. It doesn't look too powerful. It sort of looks like ordinary unpowered beef. I thought it might smell like an energy drink. Maybe that is next RED BULL BEEF or MONSTER MEAT. Uh, no thanks. I don't want either of those. Although just imagine making your thanksgiving gravy with a 5 hour energy drink. You'd beat that post dinner slump and the dishes would get done lickity split. (That is a gross saying.) (Also I do not endorse POWER GRAVY in any way. I am sure there are health risks and maybe a baby heart would explode or something else hellish. So do not do that. Wait, did that baby just have a bottle of POWER GRAVY? Who is it's parents? Ugh. Some people...)

This was another one of those strange snack encounters where you fear the worse and when it isn't the devil in jerky form you kinda are a bit sad. I say this because POWER BEEF is actually fine. It smells like middle of the road jerky. It just tastes like jerky. Like a mildly smoked and ever so slightly sweet meat treat. S and I both tried it and had braced for bad but instead got what could only be described as totally fine jerky. Is that a good thing? I guess. I mean you want it to be edible. It costs 3 dollars. See, I don't mean to sound let down because it wasn't gross. I am glad that this Oregon company has made an edible product. This is just a case of an extreme package to sell the same ole meat sack. Neither of us felt the "POWER" part of the beef and I am pretty sure neither of us pooped our pants.

So all in all, you can do far worse in the jerky world for far more money. As always I recommend that you slam a meat sack and find out for yourself. I give this snack a 3.5- brushing your teeth in the shower is a time saver, brushing on the toilet is gross-out of 5.

Now if meat isn't your thing than maybe you might need this Fruit Cake on the go. Uh, my first concern here is that this doesn't look at all like fruit cake. Is that a picture of a carrot? Wait. Is carrot a fruit? I am pretty sure NOBODY has ever argued that a carrot is a fruit. I am also confident that nobody ever wanted fruit cake on the go. What else is in this snack?

Oh man, LOOK AT ALL THAT FRUIT!!!! See, just imagine, you just put some of these fruit cakes in your purse and when you want to snack on carrot, whet flower, and honey then you can just reach in and snack away. Doesn't that sound soooooooo good?

Oh yes, it looks EVEN better than any of us could have imagined. It smells like if a candle thought that it was really fancy only to realize that it is a dollar store candle in a cheap piece of pottery shaped like a shell with a baby climbing up one side and the candle shed a tear and you bottled that sadness. You know? No? Well, it smells like if a fruit rollup got a perm. Part of that could be because the "fruit cake" is wrapped in rice paper. Yeah, the same kind that is wrapped around "rice candy" which is not candy. I am sorry but I bought some as a child and was never more disappointed.

How does it taste? Like drinking my first explanation of how it smelled. I mean first lets address the texture. It feels pretty firm like jello with rigor mortis. Once in your mouth the rice paper clings to everything so that once the revolting sense of dread sets in that you won't be able to escape the death that is any mouth fun for you for the next 20-15 minutes. The taste is a thick sweetness. Like if you licked Winnie the Poohs back as he was gorging on honey all wedged in that tree. Where he is just so full and his sweaty bear back is just oozing honey sweat. Yeah, it tastes like that. So hopefully that isn't your thing but if it is then here is a snack for you. I can't honestly tell you if there is carrot in there as I just wanted it out of my mouth. I know that this is not a snack designed for me and that it is great for some bear licker just not me. Thanks but this little black rain cloud is going to stick to Sweetarts. I give this snack a .5-Why not do yoga in the elevator? If you do downward dog someone will make room. (Besides elevators and yoga studios have equal square footage to passed gas ratios. That is a scientific fact.)-out of 5.

Lastly today we have a product from Japan that costs just under 5 dollars. This hails from a snack line called "happy kitchen" and the whole appeal here is that you make the snack. As in, every element of the snack you create. Including the cute little packaging and all. I chose this for the "convenience" post because it is fast food. However in an ironic turn of events it is the MOST labor intensive and time consuming snack I have ever encountered. I get that is most of the appeal here and if I was a child this may have been magical. One time when my friend Aaron and I were at a beach house (as children) we found a make a cake kit in a box of Lucky Charms. We followed the instructions and made this microwave cake and spread weird frosting goo on it and stuck the "marshmallows" to it and split it. We gobbled it up but neither of us looked pleased about the final outcome. I suppose it really was about the mad scientist angle of creating this weird hybrid snack that was fun.

So by now I am sure that you have put together that this kit makes 2 cheese burgers, one order of french fries, and a small coke like soft drink.

Here you can see the super simple instructions. Right there is the part that tells you Well, there is a stick in some goo. Also a few arrows as to say "this" or "that" and of course the "put someone's finger in this part"

Sure, business as usual.

Here we have the bag that contains an assortment of packets and small plastic bucket type things. It says "hamburger sheet." You know, because it is...the...hamburger sheet?... WTF.

Alright! Now I get this. It says "smoosh some goo on this blue square and cut it into two pieces. Then you should tape stuff to a cup and make something to put fries in." Duh. That all seems way too obvious. Right? I mean, what am I an idiot? (Perchance)  So maybe there was a few steps that I was missing. Luckily I found a tutorial on the ole youtube that walked me thru making my happy kitchen cheese burger meal. Before we get to that though I'd like to point out a few things. First of all, the video is significantly shorter than it took me to make this snack. All in all it took me 30-40 minutes. Secondly,  I didn't know if this was candy or supposed to taste like what it is emulating until I actually put it in my mouth. Thirdly, rhymes with turdly. (Not important. Just skip that last one.)

So here is my finished product. Kinda cute right? However looks can be deceiving. (Especially with food.) My first inkling that this wasn't going to just taste like cookies was that when I microwaved the fries mixture it smelled like potato. Like fake potato or reconstituted to say the least. My heart kind of sank a bit and not just because I knew that the tiny fries were going to be cold in 30 minutes when I finished making my burgers, soda, and ecoutremonts. It was because I really wanted this to be a good experience. Powder that you mix with water and microwave into burgers and fries sounds as tasty as a summer bus seat. Here is the tutorial:

So how was it? Well, I thought that the fry was disgusting. It tasted like a Pringle kept in a freshly jogged in shoe. S however said it tasted fine. The soda was exactly like a powder that you add water to and it fizzes and tastes vaguely of cola. I bet everyone can picture that one accurately. Now the burgers. Pardon me, the cheese burgers. As the video showed, this kit comes with "ketchup/catsup" slime. So for the benefit of really getting the experience I nibbled one burger without the slime. It tasted like a dense bread with almost a pencil eraser texture. For a moment I breathed a sigh of relief. Then the eraser bread took on a finish of cheap burger. Thankfully the cheese was nonexistent as I was really grossed out by that particular powder-sludge transformation. So imagine eating a piece of bread with an eraser texture that seems fine but leaves a cheap burger taste in your mouth. MMMMM.

At that point I really wanted to stop. I knew that the red slime was not going to work in my favor even in the slightest. Nothing good was going to come from this. However I knew what I needed to do. So I closed my eyes and took a nibble all while trying not to gag. As anticipated it tasted like a burger eraser with the sweetest horrid tomato flavor on it. My mouth wanted little to do with it and my throat just said "No friggin' way! You expect me to swallow eraser burgers? Then you better get ready for the big D because stomach has also said no to the processing of said burger bread eraser." I spit it into the garbage which was the one step of this product that I think should be clearly printed on the box.

I give this snack a 1.5-maybe only wear workout pants when you are actually working out.(You might say that isn't convenient but I say that the way people are turning regular public places into a weird shaped butt festival is inconvenient.)-out of 5.

Thanks for your time and I hope to see you next week.

(You know the whole weird cat doll portion of that youtube clip just isn't sitting well with me....  I don't know how you feel about it.)