Category Archives: Vittles

The SliceMan Finisheth

Hi World, it’s ILTTAG’s first post of a brand new, fluffy, sweet-smelling year.  Hope the first half of January has been kind to you and yours. On a blog where the whole idea is to look at the little things which make this world a better place to hang out what is good enough to lead with?  Well, it’s early enough in the month of January that resolutions are still a relevant subject matter. Most of us will be at hat point where we are testing out our New Year’s Resolutions, if indeed you were brave or crazy enough to make any.  To be honest…if you’ve still kept yours by the time I’ll likely be done with this post (I’m guessing mid to end of January) then well done, sir or madame! I salute your willpower.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Today’s entry celebrates both my love of pizza, my love of NYC, and the tenacity of a dedicated blogger.

172. Sliceharvester.com  www.sliceharvester.com

The gist is this: a pizza lover and native New Yorker does a top to bottom appraisal of EVERY by-the-slice pizza joint in Manhattan…and the island is lousy with them. If you consider ALL of NYC’s boroughs you actually get past the thousand mark). I only discovered this blog recently because Huffingtonpost reported that he–the author– had finished his gastronomic odyssey.  What a wonderful idea, eh?  Just when you think there is nothing new under the sun, somebody finds a novel approach. And what perseverance! I envy his willpower…and his geographical location. What this blog says to me is that you CAN see things through…you just have to choose more awesome and delicious goals.

Better, more delicious goal-setting

This guy writes in a style which is very more-ish.  He also knows a lot about music…so if you dig on indie rock you’ll probably enjoy reading it on more than one level. I think he’s ALMOST a hipster but he comes across as earnest enough to pass my instantaneous and totally unwarranted judgment.  I mean, I think you can be someone who appreciates kitsch and pop references and mom jokes and still NOT be a hipster douchebag.  Plus, here’s his criticism of someone’s ‘smug’ attitude on a blog he was reading a pizza article from: “I am now 100% certain that whoever is involved with this blog is a total boneroni and needs to get run through a cycle in the douchewasher. I am seriously so pissed.”  So, this guy, who mostly remains anonymous throughout his blogs…but is reported to be Colin Hagendorf…checks out, I reckon. Here’s a big old news article celebrating his reaching of the finish line:  WSJ

I like Mr. Slice Harvester because I can relate. In an early post, he mentions he’s got a band, two jobs (including one where he waits tables at a diner–I was in restaurants for ages!), several side projects AND he was running his blog and printing a zine. Well, shut my mouth next time I gripe about not having enough down time between my day job, my sketch troupe, my stand-up gigs, my wife-being, and my blog-writing to play Arkham City. But, I think an important point to take from his success is also to make your side projects FUN. It’s bad enough working to make a living. But, if you want to exercise your creative impulses too, make sure you’re having a good time.

Immediately, upon starting to read this blog, I had questions.  How does one realistically plan out a task that involves that much chewing and metro-card use, I wondered.  Well, I found that Mr. Harvester started at the northernmost tip of Manhattan and then gradually worked his way down both the east and west sides. Usually, he had one day of the week dedicated to pizza eating.  In fact, he ate 7-9 pieces a day once a week on average.  He also changed up the friends he met every week–which I’m sure helped to keep it interesting and fun. I’m curious about whether or not other foods were consumed that day or if did a sort of Man VS Food style approach of water only…maybe even consumed the day before.

Anyway, back to the SUBJECT contained within the pages of sliceharvester. Pizza.  This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about pizza in this blog.  See here: Pizza Boy and here: Artichoke  I love it. Pizza is always the answer to the question: If you could only ever eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pizza is delicious, potentially nutritous, the ideal fix for a meal at teenage slumber parties.  It’s just fun!  What other meal gets its own game? (Ok…mabye besides Hamburger Time).  The commercial jingle for this has been in my head all week.

Whilst I am enjoying my daily journey through the backlogs of his blog, it is horribly painful in some ways too.  Each blog post has at least one centerfold of a pic. They are literally mouth-watering these pics..this photographic journalism…this pizza porn.  Even when the review is a bad one, the pictures still look pretty damn good.  Here is a sample. I should mention that this isn’t my pic and is property of sliceharvester.  Speaking of which…a LOT of the pics I swipe to decorate this blog aren’t mine.  I need to sort that out. Do I need to credit photogs or what?  Who  knows this info? What if no credit is listed? Does it matter at all that I make zero cash money from this blog? Help me Google, you’re my only hope.  Anyway, here’s the pictorial equivalent of my own personal longing:

Gah!

I can sympathize with the onus for this quest as I am oft-praising NYC-style pizza and bemoaning the fact that it only seems to exist in NYC.   Though there are some US cities where locally owned pizzerias (non chain) can create a reasonable facsimile to that crispy yet chewy, zesty-saucy, melty-cheesy perfect slice…I have yet to see anything close to resembling the stuff in the UK. I swear, the good people of Manchester must find me to be the most annoyingly patriotic chump.

How shit is this? I live near a take-away that is actually called ‘By the Slice’. By. The. Slice. These humps DO NOT SELL PIZZA BY THE SLICE. They sell terrible terrible terrible whole pizzas…often ordered by the locals with the abomination of tuna and sweet corn as toppings (this is common in England–if you can find it a can, you can dump it on your pizza). Furthermore, they’re  more of a burger shop and fried chicken joint anyway. Sliceharvester has opinions about joints that spread themselves too thin like that.  If you are putting burgers on your menu, you are NOT giving your pizza enough attention. Anything further removed than a calzone at a pizza house is not a good sign.  Anyway, this joint, By The Slice, is a cruel tease.

Recently, I read a glowing review of the place on yelp.com.  The reviewer actually called it the most NYC-like pizza in Manchester.  So, I ordered one.  Here’s what it looked like:

Here it is...

The only thing that reminds me of home about this pizza is the little plastic dollhouse table that they have stuck in the middle of it.

The pizza took over an hour to come–let me remind you, this place is a block away from me–, it was lukewarm, had too much cheese and  not enough sauce, and a spongey moist crust. Heartbreaking.

The only purpose that I can think of for this pizza is if someone had to force feed you something of caloric value because you had so much to drink that you blacked out…they saw that you were barfing even in your black-out state and that you needed something to line your stomach and hence prevent your death. Only then…and if administered in the smallest does possible.

I’m currently reading these blog posts in order and haven’t come across some of my fave shops yet. (I mostly hung out in lower Manhattan when I lived there and I’m only at the Upper East Side part of his journey right now.)  So, I’m hoping we have a mutual appreciation of both Artichoke and Pizza Mercato. I’m curious how much we overlap in what makes a good slice.  We shall see.  At any rate, next time I pay New York a visit, I will hit the travelogue of sliceharvester up again. Maybe I’ll try somewhere new.

In non-pizza related news.  I just HATE HATE HATE people who kick my seat in the movie theatre. I hate it so much I started a FaceBook page. If you don’t like that either–getting kicked repeatedly when you’re trying to watch the latest Pixar film…or chatty morons, or people who leave their phones on…or who smell really bad…or any other level of ill-mannered movie-going behaviour, join up! You are welcome here… https://www.facebook.com/pages/Society-Against-Chair-Kickers-SACK/262865050442950

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Filed under People, Vittles, website

Best-O-Ween 2011!

It’s not too late to throw out a wee post about some of Halloween’s best offerings this year, is it?

Nah…let’s go for it.

170. Best-O-Ween 2011

Here’s a compilation blog featuring some of the best Halloween-related stuff that I have seen this year.

If you read this blog regularly you know that I love me some Halloween.  I had complained a year or two ago that the UK simply didn’t do it up large like the Americans do.  But, I think that’s changing.  Maybe businesses finally see how easy it is to cash in on Halloween-related crap, theme nights at bars, fancy dress parties, etc…

I have to say, one of the best thing about Kraft Foods (an American company) taking over Cadbury’s has to be that we now have THESE fine foodstuffs:

Americans! Bringing you chocolate covered gore! Hooray!

Really, England, I don’t know what you were kicking up such a fuss about.  When the takeover happened everyone was all worried that the quality of the chocolate would suffer…traditions would crumble…we’d shit it all up with our tackiness.  Obviously you were wrong.  We just added some awesome.  You’re welcome, Britain.

Ok, so what else is worthy of our attention this year?  The doggy dress up competition in NYC is always worth a chuckle.  Here’s the link to some of the best:

Dogs in NYC

Nothing tops that bulldog, for me.

Well…maybe THIS Staffy does.  I lifted this from Pedestrian TV. (All credit due)

You won't like me when I'm growly.

 

In the human costume category, I have to give it up to my cousin, Emily Heinrich.  When I was a kid, I was spoilt by a mother who made costumes herself–amazing constructions.  With the help of patterns from JoAnn Fabrics, I was often the best-dressed kid on my street.  My Mom must’ve lost her nut the year I chose the ‘elephant’ pattern.  It was pretty complicated.  She did a great job with those ears and tusks and trunk though.  Love you, Mom.  Emily is carrying on that tradition…perhaps even a bit further…as her creations don’t look like you could even buy a pattern for them.  Check out how she dressed her boys this year:

Emily Heinrich is crafty

World War II Ace! Sopwith Camel!

 

The Loony Toons monster AND Snoopy’s Red Baron-chasing Sopwith Camel?  That’s just ace, Em.  Well done.

Speaking of crafty people, here’s a little gem that someone forwarded me…allow me to give it a proper introduction:

“Hey lady…looking to throw a kicking Halloween bash this year but CAN’T afford fancy store-bought decorations?  Well, look no further than your bathroom cupboard.  As long as you’re still menstruating, you’ll never be without the potential to terrorize folks!  Check out our new tampon ghost project!

 

Hee Hee--ewwwwww

Don’t like wearing tampons?  I’m pretty sure you could do something similar with this.  It has wings which could resemble ghostly arms!

Boo!

 

If you can’t get enough of making things out of tampons, you’re in luck.  Here’s a web-site devoted to the art.  Thanks internet!  tamponcrafts

Let’s close out this Halloween love fest with a modern classic, shall we?  Werewolf Barmitzvah, anyone?

See you in November!!!!

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Filed under Hobbies, Nature, People, Uncategorized, Vittles

One Of Your Five Froots A Day

I sure spend a lot of time on this blog wailing on about the junk food I miss from America.  Some of the longing comes as little surprise…NY pizza, sourdough pretzels, Pepperidge Farm cookies, for instance; whilst other foodstuffs totally take you off guard.  For instance, who knew that I’d wake up one morning really craving the salty, fibrous, crunch of Triscuits?  Similarly, it was only recently that I was overcome by a yearning for Froot Loops.  Who was it that famously sang ‘you don’t know whatchoo got til it’s gone’ ?  Probably someone who had to move away from the US and couldn’t get Froot Loops anymore.  Them’s the blues.  Froot Loops perfectly exemplify the sort of craving that sneaks up on you.  I wouldn’t have put this on the ‘US care package’ line-up a year ago.  But, when I learned that I could order a box from my local grocery deliver for the coocoobananas fee of £7.50 (approximately $11!!!), I decided that I’d treat myself to an expensive walk down memory lane. That’s why today’s great thing is:

162. Froot Loops

The box arrived at my workplace and immediately garnered the attention of my associates.   First off, everyone looks to see what’s in the package when things get delivered to work.  My office is open plan and people are, understandably, nosey.  I cracked open the box and they were really taken with the smell and confused by the mascot.  Many questions ensued.  What the hell are these?  Why is there a Toucan?  Why do you spell fibre that way?  It looks like ‘fibber’.  (Naturally, I rebuffed those assaults by explaining the rules of English–consonant vowel consonant makes for a long vowel.  FIIIIIIIIber, I said, condescendingly, I might add.) By the way, the reason that issue even came up is because the box proudly proclaimed that now it was fortified with fiber.  Thank God for that.  I’d hate for those delicious sugary torii to be lingering for too long in my colon.

I would also like to congratulate the product on its truth in advertising.  Fruit is never mentioned.  Froot, however, is.  And it’s chock full of FROOT, believe you me.
Someone equated the smell of the loops to candy lavender.  I wouldn’t give it that much foodie prestige…But, beyond even the strange marketing behind it, I must say that the associative nostalgia that exploded across my mind when I first opened the box was astounding.  There’s nothing over here that tastes like it (probably because the taste doesn’t exist in nature.)

What alternative reality is this from?

Though my Mom generally wasn’t a fan of sugary cereals, we were allowed the occasional box.  Cereals that straddled a respectable middle-ground were usually attained without much of a fight; that’s your Frosted Flakes, your Froot Loops, and your Corn Pops.  Cereals that were so brazen in their marketing as to essentially give a middle-finger to health-conscious Moms–your Captain Crunch, your Cookie Crisp, and your Smurfberry Crunch were harder fought battles…though we did occasionally emerge victorious.  I was a sucker for the toy-tie-in cereals.  I really loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one.  The mix was marshmallow turtle heads and frosted rice-chex like bits…those were supposed to be ninja nets or something.  Anyway, Yumabunga, Dude.

Back to the cereal in question:  In 1963, segregationist George Wallace became the governor of Alabama, John F. Kennedy gives his famous Berlin speech, Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique was published and Iron Man debuted in Marvel’s  Tales of Suspense. All in all it was a year of great importance.  It was also the year that Kellogg’s introduced Froot Loops to a nation of bleary-eyed children…children hungry for candy flavored cereal as brought to them by a cartoon toucan mascot.

Ah, Toucan Sam.  I do love the Kellogg’s mascots.  My sister and I had Kellogg’s sleeping bags when we were kids.  Tony the Tiger, Snap, Crackle, and Pop, Dig ‘Em the Frog, and Toucan Sam were all there, dancing across the fabric…lulling us to sleep with promises of delicious breakfasts in the morning.
I have tried Google Image searching that particular sleeping bag and have come up empty.  However, the search terms “Kellog’s sleeping bag” did turn up this delight.  Enjoy:

Will this do?

Anyway…just delving into Toucan Sam’s background, what’s immediately noticeable is the change-up in voice characterization between modern Sam and Sam of the 60’s. And I don’t mean just that it’s apparent that Sam’s got a new voice actor…but his accent and persona is also completely different.  Impressive fact here…did you know that he was originally voiced by the late, great Mel Blanc?  Here’s a look at Blanc’s street-savvy and playful characterization:

This commercial is a full minute!  Is that how long they used to be?  Anyway, you can see how Toucan Sam used to sort of sound like Bugs Bunny.

They later gave Sam a sort of English explorer makeover and cast Paul Frees to do the voice acting.  Frees read Sam in the style of British actor Ronald Coleman.  Coleman was a kind of Douglas Fairbanks type.  That characterization has remained consistent to this day even though Frees is no longer on the mic.

I totally see it...

Here is an example of a recent commercial:

He’s gotten himself in quite a pickle, as you can see.  It’s a mistake to let sugar-addled children decide your fate, Sam!  Don’t you know what happened to Robin in the great comic book vote?  You get made dead! Thats what happens!

Anyway, if–like me– you were worried about how this all turned out, you can catch up on Toucan Sam’s latest exploits on his Wikipedia page.  God bless you hard-working Wiki editors.

I like Toucan Sam because his main purpose is to LEAD people to food and not steal it from you like some thieving seagull!: Bastard!!!

Now, in closing, please enjoy this clip of Ronald Coleman reading a Shakespearean sonnet.  Close your eyes and picture Toucan Sam.

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Filed under Characters, Vittles

Hot Chips!

Well, I’m back from Ecuador. I’ve been to Quito, (the capital city high in the Andes), the Amazon rain forest, and horseback riding in a volcanic crater. Though the holiday started exceedingly well, Karey and I both wound up with a terrible, weight-blitzing, barf-geyser-making bout of food poisoning…or stomach flu…who can say when you can’t fluently speak the language that the doctor who’s come to your hotel room is speaking to you in. (Yes, I know…bad American…I did try…we learned a bit of Spanish…just not much…and certainly not pharmaceutical Spanish.) Anyway, I’m back after a hellish 18 hour plane journey and I’m eager to share with you some of the great great things I learned about on my travels (NOT the insides of toilet bowls or what regurgitated plantains look like…I promise). But first, in honor of my slowly returning appetite, I’m revisiting Tyrrell’s potato chips–a topic I covered very recently.

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Why am I doing this? I already dedicated a few hundred words to how much I love their new butter and mint ‘chips nouveau’ flavor. Well…don’t get jealous potato chip lovers…but they’ve sent me a couple of their new flavors to try. That’s right! They found my glowing review and wanted to know what I thought of some of their new products. Little old me!!! Sent samples by a PR company!  To eat!!!  Imagine that…

Anyway, when I first started this blog, I had a mixture of low and high ambitions.  On the low-end of the scale, I’d at least hoped that I’d become a more disciplined writer (updating the blog daily at first…then realizing weekly was more likely and more achievable and took less time away from reading comic books and playing video games).  I also hoped I’d get a few readers (thanks to Mom and my hilarious regular commenter Andrew Caveman).  And, most ambitiously, I’d hoped that I’d eventually be recruited by someone somewhere somehow to write silly things for big money.  This last one hasn’t happened yet.  I can’t understand why not…This is the stuff of Oprah book clubs!!!  I’m the Jonathan Franzen of useless minutiae!  Or, at least the John Grisham of useless minutiae.  OK…maybe the Jim Davis…but without the ability to draw such good pictures of fat orange cats.  But, I did get one step closer to that goal when I blogged about Tyrrell’s.  Because, although they’re not paying me in actual currency, they have treated to me to some free bags of  two new varieties  so that I can weigh in and obviously…hopefully…say nice things about them.

Now, dear reader, I want to make a promise to you.  I will never say something is great in this blog if it isn’t.  It’s not I Love Things That Are Good…nor I Love Things That Are Reasonably Tasty nor I Love Things That Are Great:  Pysch, It’s Opposite Day!  I’m here to talk about crap that I like!  That’s a promise.  And, since this is sort of an out-of-character kind of review instead of a genuinely inspired ‘gee what do I love today?’ sort of post, I’m not numbering today’s entry either as technically, I’ve already covered my love affair with Tyrrell’s.  If I don’t like either of these new flavors, trust that I will say so…if I only like one, I’ll say so…and if I eat both in their entirety within minutes like an animal who hasn’t had a good chip since succumbing to horrible horrible food poisoning in Ecuador, I will also cop to that.

The new flavors are part of Tyrrell’s ‘Best of British’ campaign:  Tyrrell’s The campaign encourages consumers to put forth their own suggestion for favourite ‘British’ taste sensations.  Don’t spew out your Snapple-brand iced-tea, incredulous Americans!  I’ve learned that the UK is more than stewed veggies and jellied eels…there’s actually some fab cuisine over here.  You haven’t had strawberries, for instance, until you’ve had wild Scottish strawberries.  You could even win prizes whilst helping to invent more delicious potato chips for us all.  Walker’s brand ran a similar campaign a year or two ago but released the rather disgusting ‘Cajun squirrel’ flavor along with ‘Builder’s Breakfast’ (which tasted like egg…ew…).  Luckily, the typical Tyrrell’s consumer is a bit more savvy when it comes to what to put into one’s mouth.  The two that are currently available are “Salt Marsh Lamb and Mint” and “Stilton and Grape”.  I’ll taste and say a bit about each.

What marsh what?

First up, Salt Marsh Lamb and Mint.  You may find yourself asking, as I was, what is salt marsh lamb?  Well, it’s not a cloven-hooved swamp monster (dang!), but they are simply lambs that graze on the salty marshes near the British coast lines.  (The grazing will obviously have an effect on their flavor.  This type of lamb is also popular in France).  Admission:  I’m not a huge consumer of lamb.  I’ve probably had it, as a meat, a dozen times in my whole aged life.  However, I know that when it’s done right, it’s gamey, tender, and quite good.  Of the chip, I’d say that the first note to hit your tongue is plain old fried potato…then you meet a wave of the seasoning herbs and mint…then finally, after you’ve swallowed the chip, you’re left with the satisfaction of the cooked lamb taste.  It’s good.  It really is.  It’s crunchy, salty, and slightly meaty.  Would I choose it as my favorite?  No…Tyrrell’s has too many good varieties out there for this to scoop top billing.  But, like so many Tyrrell’s flavors, it is Wonka-esque in giving you what it says on the packet.  For living up to its label?  10/10,  For my personal taste? 6.5/10.  ***Veggies take note…you can’t have this…there’s lamb fat in the making…

The other thing about the Salt Marsh Lamb flavour, is that though it might be an exemplary example of a lamb flavoured crisp…it’s hardly the only one out there.  Other makers have their own version of the lamb and mint pairing.  So, whilst it gets best of breed…it can’t match the yummy novelty of the other brand-spanking new Tyrrell’s flavour:  Stilton and Grape.  This combo worried me a bit when I read it on the packet.  Nothing wrong with the taste combination of Stilton and grape, mind you…I’m in my thirties…my palate is mature enough to love a good cheeseboard…but I just feared that a ‘chip’ was not the best platform for the duo.  Sweet and savory can be great together…but you need a good middleman if you’re going to introduce  them to each other.  Pancake is the perfect middleman for syrup and bacon, for instance.  I fretted that the stodgy saltiness of the chip would curdle with the grape flavor.  Worst case scenario?  This would taste like a cheese crisp that somebody spilled a juice box on…taking this from a grown-up party, to a child’s roller-skating party…maybe with a scary clown.

Cheeseboards...one of the GOOD things about being a grown-up.

I needn’t have feared.  Tyrrell’s got the balance right.  The sweetness of the grape is present but subtle…the dominating flavor is that of the delicious, blue-molded Stilton.  Mmmm…beautiful, lip-smacking, blue-mold.  Gorgeous…definitely the winner of the two new bags not only for me but for the rest of my office (who I heroically shared the chips with).  I don’t know if the Stilton and grape variety could ever TOTALLY replace a cheddar-laced chip when it comes to the cheese/chip family, but it certainly makes an interesting and satisfying occasional substitute.  I would pick them up again…especially to serve at fancy parties and to impress visiting royalty. This one get’s a 9/10 for taste accuracy (one point off because I could’ve stood for even MORE of the cheese flavor) and an 8.5/10 for personal taste enjoyment.  Top tier.

Purportedly, one of the suggestions for an additional “Best of British” flavor is that of baked beans and cheese.  Bring it on, Tyrrell’s.  I think my discerning palate can handle another bag.  Anybody else got good ideas for creations?  Send them to me….and then I’ll send them on and hopefully win a prize…and…um…share half with you.

Spider-Man shares chip-flavor prize-money with no one, villain!

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Bestoween 2010!!!

Halloween is my second favorite holiday.  It sits in an elite position right behind the almighty mega- post Black Friday event that is Christmas (to be fair–nothing comes close…Santa doesn’t play fair).  But, I truly look forward to Halloween every year and I’m excited to blog about some of the best Halloween-related things I’ve seen recently.  So, for today’s entry, it’s a sort of All Hallow’s Eve spoooooky potpourri….

153.  Best-o-Ween 2010

First up, costumes!

In the Best Costume for a Pet category, the best I’ve seen this year is:

Pug dressed as Teen Wolf!  Yes, giving the pug the award for the year is a bit like giving the British period piece The Oscar, easy and predictable, but look at that picture of that mildly embarrassed pet dog and tell me that’s not genius.  Also, you can tell that this dog lives in a house that loves Halloween.

For more dogs in costumes, here’s a slide show from this year’s Tompkins Square Park Dog Parade.  I’m loving the Tron dog.

Tompkins Square Park

We have a highly impressive winner in the Custom-Made Costume Category this year.  It’s an amazing home-made Iron Man costume.  Man, I WISH I had the ability to put something like this together.  I’m sort of piecing my own Green Lantern costume together this year.  But my novice coupling of black leggings and a superhero tee-shirt looks like a clogged toilet by comparison.  You’re going to have to click here to see it.  But, the snaps are beee-yoootiful:  mydisguises.com (Iron Man Pics

In fact, the mydisguises blog is chockablock with amazing costumes/ideas.  If you love a creative costume idea, click and go to town! (Find the Darth Vader in a wheelchair pic…so cool!)  mydisguises.com

Now, onto:

Best Appearance By an American Icon in a Halloween-Related Political Sketch Which Also Advertises a B-Movie Program

Well, this was a tough category this year…so many to choose from…but it has to go Elvira and her fun little jabs at The Worst Witch, Christine O’Donnell.  Enjoy!

Big round of applause for Elvira, everybody.  Still looking good.  I think next year, there needs to be an all-Elvira post on this blog…

Best Lists from Other Websites

Though some of them sound a little less than tasty or tempting, I’m intrigued by this list of Halloween shots.  They certainly LOOK good and you’re guaranteed to be barfing up some pretty colors the next day: The Intoxicologist

HuffingtonPost brought us the Creepiest Vintage Costume list this year, if you haven’t had a peek…there is indeed some macabre looking stuff…made even worse because some aren’t supposed to be scary:  HuffPost

Best Pumpkin Categories

Best pumpkin inspiration/model…this LolCat…Come on everybody, you STILL have to love a good LolCat.

Best funk-pumpkin.  I’m loving this Bootsy Collins look

Best Scary Pumpkin…hands down has to be this disgusting Predator carving.  Amazing details…but yeah…all those feminist theory classes were right.  That mouth does resemble a vajayjay.  Not mine…but…um…someone else’s crazy vagina dentata.  Use protection, kids!

Best Thing I Wish I Could Go To This Year:

New York’s Steampunk Haunted House.  Talk about putting your back into it!  This looks like quite an affair and something well worth the ticket price.  Plus, steampunk is so hot right now.  Damn that steampunk!  It’s so hot right now!  (Name that film!)  Here is footage from last year’s house followed by a weblink:

Steampunkhauntedhouse

 

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to try and find the perfect mask to compliment my stirrup pants and store-bought mask.  Trick or treat, y’all!  May your bags be full of rich neighborhood candy…

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That’s Mint.

When I choose a food-related topic for a blog post, I often use it as an opportunity to harp on about comfort foods that I miss from The States–pizza, Cheetos, Stove Top Stuffing…you know, all that healthful stuff.  Well, I’ll make this a rare post today and give it up to something that The UK does very well.  Crisps.  (Or potato chips to us Yanks).  Not only is the standard of quality high over here, but  Great Britain has a staggering assortment of flavors.  Or flavours.

They range from the bog-standard salt and vinegar to the exciting roast chicken dinner flavor to the American-influenced Texas barbecue to disgusting (yet popular) prawn cocktail.  The varieties are almost endless and the gourmet-brands of crisps offer even more unusual and interesting flavor combos.  The whole fervor for crisps over here almost mirrors  the mania that Japan has for Kit Kats.  (In case you didn’t know, Japan goes nuts for Kit Kats).  One of my co-workers had a brother living in Japan and he’d send her care-packages full of the weirdest ones.  Some were hugely successful and others were spit-out-in-the-garbage terrible.  Green tea and Kit Kats, for instance, don’t mix well–but I didn’t know that until the coupling had poisoned my mouth.  Here’s a blog dedicated to the madness:   wikipedia

Anyway, as I was saying, the flavors of potato chips get even more gastronomically impressive when you look at the smaller and more gourmet oriented crisp companies.  Just today when purchasing a sandwich at lunch I was tempted by a bag of spare rib flavor.  I resisted.  (Well, I didn’t have enough change on me.)

I'll have 'blue' flavor, please.

Did you know that potato crisps were actually invented by an American?  And a real American at that, a native American, not some boring-ass white person!  More on that contained here:

Bubblegun

Tyrrell’s is one of my favorite gourmet brands–especially because they really really really taste like the flavor that is written on the bag…like in a scary Willy Wonka sort of way.  If it says ‘thyme’ on the bag…you better expect to taste some thyme.  Their sixteen varieties include:  Chicken with Tarragon and Ludlow Sausage with Wholegrain Mustard alongside more standard bags like Sea Salt.  They also have dynamite seasonal flavors like Beef with Horseradish and Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing.  Yum.  By the way, lots of these meaty types are actually veggie friendly.  It’s all about the seasoning.  Today’s great thing is a varietal that I believe is one of the top three crisps I have ever eaten in my life and sadly have not been able to locate again.  I’m hoping it comes back next summer:

148.  Tyrrell’s Chips Nouveau Potato Crisps (Chips if I’m Keeping it Real).

The ‘new potato’ season is a bit of a foodie occasion over here.  I don’t know if it’s that big in The States.  Anyone clue me in?  I don’t think we celebrate our potato varietals with quite the same enthusiasm.  They sure know one potato from another over here.  Anyway, the ultimate way to eat new potatoes is with butter and a bit of mint.  And that’s precisely what these crisps taste like.  Deliciously buttery but with a bit of the pick-me-up freshness of the mint.  They truly are a thing of beauty.  The taste was absolutely astonishing.

All that and a bag of...well...chips.

The thing is, I’ve only had them once and the bag wasn’t even mine.  I was performing in Keighley (Yorkshire-way) at Chris Brooker’s fantastic comedy room.  Chris is not only the booker, promoter, and MC for the night but he also happened to be my lift home.  So, after the gig, Chris stuck around for one innocent pint and a packet of crisps.  Mostly, it was an opportunity for him to unwind in the room that he built.  I was glad to enjoy a beer and a bag of chips myself.  After all, they stocked Tyrrell’s.  I selected the Ludlow Sausage and Wholegrain Mustard varietal.  I scoffed the whole thing before I was even three sips into my lager.  Chris, on the other hand, had purchased the Chips Nouveau.  He offered me a sampling.  Whoah.  Big mistake, on his part.  I’m pretty sure I wound up eating 3/4 of the bag.  I was in love.

Now, of course, I can’t find them anywhere…and it’s not like I’m around the corner from Keighley…if memory serves right, that was an hour and a half in the car.  So, I can’t just mosey over to that pub again–although not a day passes where I don’t consider it.  I’ve convinced myself that they must be seasonal and am eagerly awaiting their return.  But, if anyone sees any stockpiled anywhere, let me know.  I’ll even lower my grocery standards to shopping at Asda if I must (Wal-Mart owns Asda and I ususally try to avoid it…in my typically self-righteous way).  It’s worth bending my principles for this snack of all snacks, however.

Though this blog post is specifically about the Chips Nouveau flavor, there are many more reasons to love Tyrell’s: Tyrrells

1.  They stood up to the biggest grocery chain in Britain.  You have to love a company that sticks it to the man:

Telegraph

2.  They donate to such charitable causes as community gardens, programs which teach children about agriculture, and the fight against breast cancer.

3.  They make vodka with the potatoes that not suitable for chips (the misshapen ones, in other words).  This pleases me because I’m a vodka purist and as such, I like potato vodka.  So many brands are made from either rye or other grains nowadays…I like Polish brand Chopin, but I’m eager to give Tyrrell’s a try…even if it seems a bit odd purchasing a British-made bottle of the typically Eastern European spirit.

4.  And finally…and somewhat unbelievably, they side with the Americans when it comes to branding!  They call them chips too!  Makes me feel right at home when I’m eating them.  Here, lifted straight from their website, is their explanation as to why they call them chips instead of crisps.

“Why Potato Chips? How are they
different to Crisps?
Potato chips are thick slices of potato that are cooked without removing the starch. This greatly improves the taste of the potato, and reduces the fat content of the chip. The result is a tasty chip full of goodness and flavour. In contrast, crisps are thin slices of potato that have had all the starch, goodness and flavour removed by washing and processing. As a result, when they are cooked they absorb much more oil than chips.”

Now, if they pronounce it as ‘aluminum’ instead of ‘aluminium’…well, I’m in love.  Getting fat on snack foods has never felt quite this rewarding.

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Fine Artichoke

Pizza must be the most perfect food ever devised.  It can satisfy vegans, omnivores, and big fat slobs alike.   It has the potential to capture as many or as few of the food groups as you wish…depending on the toppings you order.  It combines multiple textures in each bite.  It can be enjoyed hot or cold and I could eat it at any point in the day.  It’s even OK when it’s not great.  But, when it’s good it is divine.  It is truly the ambrosia of street-food.  100% of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can’t be wrong.

Splinter better get in there if he wants a piece.

That is why pizza is today’s great thing:

140.  Pizza

Though I’m writing in a sort of general sense about the theme of pizza, a very deep well indeed, the reason that I feel so sparked to do this today specifically is because I just uploaded some pictures from my recent trip to NYC onto my Facebook page.  In that collection was a pic of a slice I had from a hole in the wall called Artichoke on 14th Street between 1st and 2nd Ave.  It was the best piece of pizza I’ve ever had in my life, I believe, and even thinking about it now floods my mouth with saliva.  Disgusting, digestion-prepping saliva.  Before I go into mouth-drenching depth about what this slice was like, let’s discuss OTHER types of pizza that are out there.

First, let’s talk about chain restaurant pizza.  You’ve got Domino’s, Little Caesar’s, Papa John’s, California Pizza Kitchen, and Pizza Hut to name a few.  Now, I’m not one of those haters that’s gonna  proclaim all of these joints as awful.  They serve a need, I suppose.  Their efforts may not be the result of a loving hand, but as I mentioned earlier, even pizza that’s just OK is a treat.  Out of all these national and international pizza-shillers, I’d actually say that I’m most a fan of the HUT!  This is, of course, because it is probably one of the worst of the chain pizzas, fat and calorie-wise.  The magic is in their pan pizza formula– which essentially creates a deep fat fried pizza, since it’s being cooked not simply on an oven tray but in a pan with larded sides.  Superb and deadly.

One thing that used to annoy me about the Personal Pan Pizza, however, is that they would tuck the pepperoni under the cheese.  It is my opinion, that the pepperoni should be on TOP of the cheese, allowing the heat to curl the sulfite-riddled pork disc up to a crispy, penny-sized topping.  If it’s left to its own devices UNDER the cheese, it will never achieve this beautiful second life.

Pizza Hut leaves its mark wherever it lives.  Not just because it increases the average local person’s BMI, but because if a branch should ever go out of business and become say–a used book store…or a burrito joint–it will NEVER stop looking like a Pizza Hut.  Its unique structure–its husk– is the shell husk for hermit-crab business to crawl into.

It's an H & R Block now!

On the other hand, they can’t really compete with the unique deliciousness on offer from locally owned pizzerias.  By ordering from the local joints, you’re also supporting family businesses…I’d like a large pizza with green peppers, jalapenos, and self-righteousness.

Most of the local places near where I grew up in Erie offered a sort of puffy-crusted, stodgy great-lakes style pie.  I imagine that this is what MOST pizzas are like across America, allowing for some taste-variations with types of topping, differences in ingredients used, sauce-to-cheese ratio, how local water supply can taint the flavour of the crust, etc…  Personal favourites of mine in Erie included Barbados, who also made top quality subs, and Mr. Pizza—purveyer of square pizzas with pepperoni so perfectly crisped that you couldn’t help but pick them off to eat first.

Then, there are the famous regional styles of pizza.

Chicago has the scrumptious deep-dish style to its name.   It is so artery-clogging that, delicious as it is, I think I could only eat it if I planned on making that my SOLE meal of the day.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty, but…like KFC’s double down, there’s never any good excuse to eat it.  The guilt would far outweigh the pleasure.  And very few food items could make me feel that way.

The best city for pizza, according to me and my highly informed mozzarella-bloated gut, is New York.  Now, you could pretty much walk into any old hole-in-the-wall and walk out with a satisfying slice of thin, al-dente crusted, grease-pool-laden pizza.  Pizza has never been so easy.  I soooo wish the UK had a NYC-style ‘by the slice’ place.  Alas, it’s all kebabs when you’re drunk and hungry.

Whilst there’s not much chance of you getting a bad slice in NY, there are a few categorizeable varieties:

A.)  Rays–This is your bog-standard slice.  I don’t mean that in a pejorative way, of course.  I mean that it’s this:  The norm…

B.)  Pastsy’s style–Anything that’s sold as coal/brick/or wood-burning oven.  Typically, these places are less ‘by the slice’ establishments and more ‘order a whole pizza with your family’ places.  The notable difference is in the change to the crust.  The ‘burning’ method…whichever it is that they use…typically adds a smokey flavor to the dough and crisps it up a bit more.  Usually, the finished product is a bit thinner too…

C.)  Novelty slices–I can think of a couple of establishments in the city that dare to be different.  Two Boots cooks up pizzas influenced by ‘two boot’ destinations–boot-shaped Louisiana and boot-shaped Italy.  It’s hits the Cajun angle fairly well and has fun specialty pies that are all named after films/movie characters.  (The Mr. Pink has chicken on it, I believe).  Two Boots.  Another angle that seems to be cropping up a bit more is the ‘Pizza Truck’.  NYC has some of the best mobile food vendors in the world.  It’s not all just stale pretzels and lukewarm hot dogs.  If you ever walk by a food cart in the city and notice a long line, it’s worth hopping into the queue.  I grabbed a slice of pizza from this particular vehicle when I was visiting my friend Nikki down by Wall Street.  It was surprisingly awesome.  It was saucey, with a sharp parmesan finish.  Delish:  Grandma\’s Pizza Truck

Well, imagine if all three of those varieties came together in one glorious slice.  What’s that?  You can’t because you don’t want to be disappointed by yet another unachievable dream?  Well, you’re wrong.  It CAN be done.  It HAS been done.  Here’s where we circle back to talking about Artichoke on 14th Street:

Like a kid in some kind of store...

Don't mind my grease-blotting napkin...

On my recent visit, I was lucky enough to be asked to read at a supercool event, Sideshow:  The Queer Literary Carnival Sideshow .  I really have to thank the amazingly talented Cheryl B. and Sinclair Sexmith.  First of all, they put me on the show:  It was super fun, I met some excellent people, and it made me feel smart.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they invited me to take part in their post-show ritual of a visit to Artichoke.  Without them, I may have ended my summer sojourn to NYC without going or even knowing about its existence.  I don’t want to live in the alternate reality where that might have happened.

Artichoke is the best of all three varieties because:

A.  It has a by-the-slice mentality like Rays…complete with orange grease pools on each slice.  But, it uses sauce a bit more liberally than most Rays-style joints.  I like that.  I’m a fan of the sauce.

B.  It’s smoky-crusted like Patsy’s.  It had a delightfully singed but still somewhat chewy consistency.  Plus, just look at that beautiful basil, will ya?

C. It has its own novelty slice (the Artichoke-style looks like it uses artichoke dip INSTEAD of tomato sauce…it’s very popular).  But, it doesn’t spend all of it’s energy trying to be weird or different.  It’s confident and brassy like Debbie Harry.  Not trying too hard, like Ke$ha.

Artichoke's Sicilian style...

Artichoke is slightly more expensive by the slice (by about a buck), but you get what you pay for.  Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed, it’s highly recommended.  Probably the best thing to come out of Staten Island (where it originated), in a long time.  Artichoke

Finally, and back to the general theme of pizza, it’s what I miss most (foodily-speaking) about The States.  When people ask, “Gee, Kate, you’ve been over in England a long-ass time, what do you miss most about home?”,  I normally shout desperately ‘pizza’ before I can even say ‘family and friends’ (even though I  miss them most).  At least they can get on a plane and come over though.  Pizza would never get through security.

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