Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thank the God of Candy

These look like regular "holiday" m&m's, don't they?

Well, praise the Lord of All Tooth Decay, they are NOT! They are the famous and notoriously rare MINT m&m's, and I found them this week at my local Ralph's grocery store.

I love these m&m's so much I called Mars a few years ago to ask where the heck they were since I hadn't been able to get my hands on a bag for a 3-year stretch. Here is the transcript:

Operator (chuckling): Ah yes, Mint m&m's. Loads of people always call around this time of year looking for them.
Me: I can certainly imagine. Well, then... SHOULD THEY NOT BE ON STORE SHELVES AROUND THE NATION?!
Operator (slightly scared): Well, uh, probably... I like them too.
Me: Sorry. I'm on a sugar-low. Is there anything I can do to get some in my area?
Operator: No.

(Pause here for another handful of chocolatey-minty goodness...) My communication with Mars today revealed:

1989 - Mint m&m's introduced during December holiday season only (in green, red, white holiday colors)
1990 - Mint m&m's added during Easter season (white)
1991 - Mint m&m's available year round (This is right around when I became a cult member.)
1994 - Mint m&m's phased out (DEAR GOD, NOOOOOOOOooooooooo!)
1995 onwards - Mint m&m's available only during Dec holiday season and only in random limited areas

Be sure to look for the Mark of Mint! You will not be sorry!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In the Jungle... the Tofurky Sleeps Tonight!

It's getting close to Thanksgiving, which means you can get lots of yummy things in the grocery store right now. Fresh cranberries, chestnuts, pumpkin pie fixin's, and... TOFURKEYs!

What the furkey? Tofurkey! Yep it's basically a turkey roast made of tofu. It comes in a box with a container of gravy to go along side.

See? There are even "giblits" in the gravy which is perhaps the cutest word in the world for something actually pretty gross.

Ok, so I forgot to take a photo of it before unwrapping and cooking. It's wrapped a lot like a giant bulbous sausage, in a plastic sheath with two metal clips on the gathered ends. I have to admit, even to a vegetarian with a sense of humor, it's pretty Tofurkin' scary.

But I basted and cooked according to instructions (olive oil, soy sauce and fresh rosemary). I put it on a bed of yuca (no potatoes or carrots on hand) and onions. I also poured a little of the gravy on there because I was worried about things drying out.

This is what the 'Furkey looks like when "carved". It's got stuffing/wild rice in the center! Unlike having to shove your fist up a real turkey, the Tofurkey is born this way and needs no degrading abuse.

All in all, we thought Tofurkey was quite tasty. It kinda squeaks when you chew it. Bonus, dude. Multimedia! The gravy even got gelatinous when cold, just like "real" gravy. Ain't life grand?


Email your best artist's rendering of what a wild Tofurkey looks like before it's captured and packaged for sale. I will post the best entries on this site. The winner (judged by me) will win their very own Tofurkey roast!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Delicious Booty... Perhaps A Bit Too Literally

It's olive season, so I bought some freshly cured olives at the Farmer's Market. I had heard about these particular olives on the local NPR station - people were raving about them. The olive man himself told me that people were waiting for him before Market even opened to buy buckets of his "water-cured" olives.

They look good, don't they? Funny... because they TASTE LIKE ASS!

I'm not kidding. I sampled one at the market and paused. "These taste like... a horse," I said to the olive man. He laughed. I said, "No, really, these taste like a barn smells, do you know what I mean?" He shrugged and said "Yeah."

Um... ok. So, because I know next to nothing about olives but wanted to be down with the early-morning olive hunters, I bought a small container.

And anyhow, I like things that taste barnyard-ish: like all sorts of goat cheeses. I love the goaty flavor! And I like things that people often say smell bad - like very moldy cheese and uber fishy things. So I figured I just needed to acquire a taste.

I'm still working on it. The olives still taste like the stink of a cow patty on a hot day. If there's anyone out there who can confirm that water-cured olives are SUPPOSED to taste like this, I would feel a whole heck of a lot better about continuing to try to eat them.

Luckily, I also bought these...

These are dry-cured olives (cured with salt), jarred with garlic slices and chili peppers. Friggin divine. The opposite of ass.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Delicious Booty II

This is a lemon cucumber! Pretty, huh? It'a about the size of a lemon but perfectly round. When I bought it at the Farmer's Market I asked the fellow if it tasted lemony. He said no - that it was just called that because of its shape and color.

WRONG! Send that dude back to produce skool. It DOES taste sour and citrusy, sort of like cucumber with a squeeze of lemon on top. It has big crunchy seeds and is very nice on a sandwich. The skin (at least on the one I bought) is a bit woodier than regular cuckes, so you really do have to remove it, even if you're one of those people who think all fruit and vegetable skins are meant to be eaten (ahem, you know who you are).

And lo... just in time for the end of Ramadan... (or, since I do not happen to be Muslim, just in time for lunch...)

Fresh dates, still beautifully clinging to their stem! Bite into one and it's crispy like an apple. And so, so sweet - they are (quite literally) the sweetest fruit. The man at the Farmer's Market had dates in all stages of drying. Fresh are my fave.

And what's a lunch without true artisanal bread?

Have you ever heard of this kind? Me neither, which is why I bought it from a new discovery of mine, Bread Man Bezian. I have to say, the sourdough culture was sour and delish. No yeast, so it was a very dense bread. Very different, extremely lunchtastic.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Delicious Booty

Persimmon season. You can't stop me now. There are few fruits that are this addictively delicious. There are two different main types: astringent and non-astringent. That is to say, one is yummy and sweet no matter when you eat it (new & hard or ripe & soft) and the other is good only, and I stress ONLY, when very mushy and ripe. These are some GIANT Fuyu persimmons of the non-astringent persuasion.

I should have put some sort of object in the photo for scale. They are the size of softballs! The biggest I've ever seen, and de-friggin-licious. I just ate one. It was still a bit hard, but beginning to go soft. Probl'y the only time this decription is a compliment.

A few years back when I didn't know jack about persimmons, I bought the astringent type, Hachiya. I didn't know you had to let them ripen into a nearly-rotten mush before eating with a spoon (or using in baking - yum!). I cut one up and bit into it, expecting sweetness, and got a mouthful of bitterness. Painful and demoralizing.

Another super fruit that's in season right now is the feijoa. I thought they were guavas, they smell like guava and have a similar texture. In fact, they ARE called pineapple guava or guavasteen in English, and they are related.

One of this fruit's best features is its spectacular scent: fowery/fruity. Like some things in the world, the feijoa is yummy but doesn't actually taste quite as good as it smells. Why is that? The nuance just doesn't completely translate into taste.

They have fancy flowers... might help explain the scent. Bee crack.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

How Do You Roll?

When I go to the Farmer's Market, I usually bring a large backpack to carry the booty. But the thing is, you gotta stack it all in there carefully or things get crushed (ie: squash on the bottom, then apples, then pummelos, then greens, then heirlooms, then grapes...). And sometimes things get crushed anyway. That can be a real bummer.

This method, though common, has similar problems, sometimes even worse. Cloth bag rubs against body and arm...

Hanging bags on your bike works ok, but only if you are picking up 3 or 4 things and the market's not too crowded to push your bike through...

I've noticed that some people have have much better ideas. For starters, the traditional wagon...

Or one of those "old lady going to the grocery store" carts...

And this one is for people who don't like to advertise what they're buying (and might have stacking issues similar to backpack)...

This one, I think, is some sort of laundry hamper?

I don't know what you call this - it's like a mini shopping cart with 2 levels for more surface area. Not bad!

Sometimes, aquisition of Farmer's Market Booty leads to child neglect. Note how this boy has lost his ride to a sack of oranges...

And another child displaced by food...

But, by far, the most kickin' Farmer's Market wheels is [sic]...

The Eight Shopping-Bag Caddie from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Damn! So long as you're really at the Market to get food and not pick up (because there's no way to escape looking like a 'tard pushing one of these things unless you're over 60), it really is perfect.

If you hook some re-usable cloth bags on there (or at least recycle some plastics you already have on hand) you're environmentally golden! None of your tender purchases get mushed because they all hang in their individual bags without anything on top.

Conspicuous Consumption Disclaimer: I can't think of anything else you could possibly use this thing for, so better go to the Farmer's Market a LOT to justify the purchase. If I get one, I'm going to re-name it Scroti Toti. "Hang your tender sacks on the steel rod and push... or pull!"

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Snack Attack: Pass the Weed

Now I can finally stop buying rice crackers. Really I was just doing it so I could suck the nori off them. All hail my new favorite snack: Shirakiku Korean Style Seasoned Seaweed.

I bought 'em yesterday at the Japanese grocery in my 'hood. The 3-packs were on special in a bin, and I didn't really pay them much mind until this 11-year-old gringo kid (or whatever you call us in Japanese... gaijin, I guess) walked over with his dad and a shopping cart and piled about 10 of them in. The dad said, "Are you sure?" And the kid was like, "YES, Dad. They're good!" I recognized the look in that kid's eyes. It's the look of the food-obsessed. We're born that way. So I grabbed me a pack.

For all the things that are wrong with schools in California, you gotta like the fact that this kid probably sits by a Korean or Japanese-heritaged kid at lunch and they trade stuff. I wish someone would have given me a delicious seaweed snack back in the day. Nobody wanted to trade with me, though. Because my mom thought sliced sunchoke was a great dessert. But I digress.

So anyway, I had a feeling these would be some sort of nori-like snack and I was right. Each pack contains a little plastic tray of toasty delights! Crispy and seasoned just right. MMMMMM!

Go ahead... lick your monitor!

But be CAREFUL. I was so excited to taste that I slipped one of the... feuilles... in my mouth in its entirety. It immediately adhered to the roof of my mouth as nori is wont to do. I gagged and made like a dog eating peanut butter for a good 15 seconds and finally had to stick my finger in there and dislodge. Gringochoke. But no biggie. All went deliciously well after that. I broke the rest in half before inserting.

Quick, they're on sale here!