27 October, 2011

Ed Hardy Rocks: Highly Caffeinated Chocolates

Have you ever had chocolate-covered coffee beans?  Starbucks sells them, and so do a lot of other, smaller coffee shops.  Pop one in your mouth and you get delicious smooth chocolate, ability-enhancing caffeine, and a mouthful of nasty-assed coffee grinds, homemade by your very own teeth, which find their way to every nook and cranny of your mouth, providing you with endless opportunities to spit out cruddy black granules all day.  It's a great idea - directly-ingestible chocolate-flavored coffee nuggets - but a horrible execution.  (But feel free to tell me in the comments how much you love them and what an asshole I am.)

But there is a BETTER WAY:  Ed Hardy Highly Caffeinated Chocolates.  

Not too long ago, I got an email from Eat Hardy LLC, asking if I'd like a sample of their Ed Hardy Rocks caffeinated candy to try.  Soon, there were small boxes of little round nuggets in my mailbox.  Lynnafred, who is able to detect chocolate the way a bloodhound can detect a chain gang escapee, had placed the package on the dining room table and was still circling it when I got home from work.

"What are THESE?" she demanded in her Chocolate Voice.

"Chocolate Rocks and Coffee Rocks, caffeinated chocolates," I said. "Wanna try 'em?" Well, of course she wanted to try them, and so did I.

The Chocolate Rocks are smooth delicious chocolate, covered with a dark brown candy coating, and spiked with caffeine. Although firm enough to crunch when bitten, there's no graininess to the chocolate, which melts deliciously in the mouth with a rich flavor somewhere between milk and dark chocolate.  Coffee Rocks are similar, but with a flavor more like mocha-tinged espresso, deep and slightly bitter.  Lynnafred chose the Chocolate as her favorite; I was more partial to the coffee. Either way, they're high-quality confectionary, and you can enjoy them without filling your mouth with coffee grounds like some old percolator basket.

And what about the caffeine, you ask?  Well, five Rocks carry the gentle eye-opening properties of a single cup of Joe, but there are more than five Rocks in a box.  I forget just how many, unfortunately, but let's just say it's a good-sized handful.  And the people at Eat Hardy LLC are refreshingly up-front with their nutritional information.  They know that most people aren't going to stop at five candies, especially when using them as a delicious way to pull an all-nighter, so they come right out and say that the serving size is "1 box."  Good for them, it's about time there was some common sense out there.

Yes, these are totally eye-opening and awesome. You can find them, I presume, at any of the Ed Hardy stores sprinkled around the country, or you can order them online (click here.)

21 October, 2011

McDonald's Sausage McMuffin with Egg AND BACON

I noticed a smallish sign dangling from the menu display at my local McDonald's last week:  Add Bacon To Any Sandwich: 99 Cents. That has some serious potential for dietary abuse. Imagine, if you will, a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Bacon.

Though I rarely eat anything other than breakfast at McDonald's, that sign was still highly relevant to my interests.  So this morning, when I stopped to pick up the best breakfast sandwich on the planet, a Sausage McMuffin With Egg, I decided to BACONIZE IT.  

"Sausage McMuffin with Egg, please.  And add bacon to it."

The woman behind the counter looked a little surprised.  "You want to add bacon to that? Really?"

"Yes," I replied. "I'm crazy. Please do it or I will stand here and bark like a dog."

She laughed and keyed the order in.

I did not think it possible to improve upon a Sausage McMuffin with Egg.  I was wrong. This sandwich was BORN TO BEAR BACON. The smoky umami of the bacon pairs perfectly with the egg, of course, but also highlights and enriches the already-outstanding flavor of the sausage.  If you already like Sausage McMuffins with Egg, you should add bacon to it at least once to experience this awesomeness for yourself.

And McDonald's, I say to you: Offer a Sausage McMuffin With Bacon And Egg as a regular menu item. It's amazing (and I don't ever use that word lightly because it's trite and overplayed.) Just remember it was my idea and I'll expect at least a sweetly-loaded Arch Card for my troubles.

20 October, 2011

Chef's Cupboard Canned Broths by ALDI

I'm not a big fan of canned broths - most of them taste like salty, flavorless water.  Nevertheless, there are times when I don't have the time or enthusiasm to make broth or stock from scratch and have to use a prepared product.  For the past few months, that product has been Chef's Cupboard, the house brand sold by ALDI.

I discovered it completely by accident.  Last winter, I went on a make-my-own-doggie-treat kick.  Most recipes for homemade dog treats are basically low-sugar cookies that use beef or chicken broth for flavoring.  As much as I love my dogs, there was no way I was going to use expensive Wolfgang Puck organic roasted chicken broth to make dog treats.  So I started looking for a cheap alternative, and that led me to ALDI, because virtually every time I've bought an ALDI brand of anything, it's been great.  And there, right by the soups at the local ALDI, was Chef's Cupboard chicken broth and beef broth.  I picked up a couple cans of each and went home to make the dog biscuits.

And of course, I couldn't resist taking a sip of each of the broths as I used them.  

Damn.  They were good.

Since then, I've used both the chicken and the beef broths a few times, always with good results. You can use them straight up to make a quick soup, or pour them into a dutch oven for three hours of braising a batch of short ribs (the broths don't have so much salt that a long cooking time makes your dish too salty to eat.)

So, I guess you could call this a combination review and recommendation.  It's yet another good, solid, inexpensive product from ALDI.

19 October, 2011

McDonald's Brings Back The McRib

Pining for the pseudoporky deliciousness that is the McDonald's McRib sandwich? You can now satisfy that longing: McDonald's has announced that the McRib is coming back for another limited engagement. It will be available from now until December 31, which is pretty cool because that means McRIBS FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER.

Props to Leeanne Griffin at ctnow.com's A LaCarte page for the initial heads-up.

Correction:  My original information was incorrect - McRibs will only be around until mid-November.  Sadly, that means you'll be stuck making turkey again for Thanksgiving.  Sorry for getting your hopes up.

17 October, 2011

Assorted Mexican Candy

Left to right: Duvalin, Pica Fresa, Mangopers lollipops
So, the other day I made this huge mistake and bought an assortment of Mexican candy from T J Maxx.  It didn't seem like it would be such a bad idea - didn't look all that bad, and the ingredients promised spicy chile peppers!  (Yes, I have a weakness for hot spice, and the spice/sweet combo was just very appealing.)

Unfortunately, the three candies I brought home became the Trifecta of Disappointment.

Duvalin Bi Sabor Strawberry-Vanilla is advertised as a "cream candy." It comes in little tubs, with little plastic sticks to aid consumption.  The closest I can come to describing it is "cheap frosting."  It was exactly as if I had bought little sample containers of pre-made cake frosting.  This, of course, is not unheard of in North American supermarkets (Betty Crocker makes Dunkaroos, which are nothing but a small serving of cookies and a tiny tub of frosting to dunk them in. But at least there are cookies there to somewhat cut the frosting jolt.)  Knowing that Duvalin Bi Sabor is so frostingesque should tell you just about all you need to know about it.  I can't really condemn it - there are plenty of people who would just love the stuff - but I kind of expected something more along the lines of a taffy, so there ya go.

Pica Fresa are little balls of individually wrapped starch gum rolled in "hot" chili powder. They taste kind of like what you'd get if you coated Twizzlers in cayenne pepper (but took away much of the heat.)  They would have been better if they were hotter. And a little chewier.

Mangopers mango flavored lollipops were the absolute worst of the bunch, by a huge margin, given their utter horridness. They appeared to be made of mango-flavored hard candy coated in ground chile pepper, but honestly, I'll never know. The coating was so nasty - the stalest possible chile powder seemingly blended with a heavy dose of salt - that I never even made it to the candy within.  Truly bad stuff.

Never again.

Cascal Sample Pack Winners!

We have chosen the three winners of our Cascal Fermented Soda giveaway, which was sponsored by the good folks at Cascal.  Each winner will receive a selection of Cascal's delicious fermented sodas to try out, as well as an insulated lunchbag cooler in which to transport them to the winner's preferred Beverage Consumption Event.

The Winners Are:

Jodi Henley
Elle from Elle's New England Kitchen
Meg Erwin

Each of them will receive their prize package directly from Cascal!

About the Drawing:

There were 30 entries, via email and Facebook comment.  Winners were chosen by the "Third Party Draw Service" at RANDOM.ORG to ensure a truly blind and random draw.  If you entered the drawing, you may confirm that your entry was actually in participation by following this link. You will need to enter your "identifier" for confirmation.  If you entered via email, your identifier will be your email address. If you entered via Facebook, it will be your Facebook name.

Thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the three winners!

15 October, 2011


This was in the markdown bin at Stop & Shop - presumably because one of them was missing, and not because textured cock-shaped rubber toys are slow sellers.

The illustration on the box doesn't even make an attempt at subtlety.

Morris Farm in Agawam MA - The Best-Kept Secret In The Pioneer Valley

If you're one of my local readers - living in the Northern Connecticut / Springfield MA area - and you're a fan of local produce, there's a place you should know about: Morris Farm on Rowley Street.  

Morris Farm is the oldest continually-operating farm in Agawam, set back on a surprisingly rural road in what is now a very suburbanized area.  In the spring, they sell flowers and plants. Through the summer, they offer fresh veggies like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and sweet corn.  And now, with the fall harvest in full swing, they have awesome heads of cabbage, late corn and tomatoes, and a variety of winter squash.

Every year, I like to buy a bigass load of winter squash at local farmstands and put it by for the winter.  Butternut, acorn, and hubbard squash all keep well, and if it starts to look a little iffy (by, oh, January or so) Maryanne and I will process and freeze what we haven't eaten.  Morris Farm is just the place to get your squash if you live around here - they're selling 12-count-em-12 winter squashes, your choice, for $8.00. That is an incredibly good deal.

Morris Farms squashes: From left to right: Butternut, Red Kuri, Spaghetti, and Acorn.
I went a little hogwild here this morning, buying a sugarbaby watermelon, a few plump eggplant, a dozen ear of late-season corn, some cabbage, and of course a dozen assorted squash. Wound up filling the back seat of Maryanne's Explorer for a little over twenty bucks.

I'm sorry I didn't know about the place earlier in the year.  I'll definitely be going back in the spring to see what's on offer, and I think it would make an interesting series to stop in every few weeks during the growing season to check what's for dinner.

How to find them:

Rowley Street runs between Springfield Street (Rte 147) and Suffield Street (Rte 75) in Agawam, MA. The farm is directly at the bend in the road. You can't miss their hand-painted signs, and the greenhouses are visible from the street.

12 October, 2011

Cascal Fermented Soda Revisited

Back in September, I reviewed Cascal Fermented Natural Soda - specifically, the bottled Light Red version, which I enjoyed for it's refreshing fruity dryness. Not too long ago, the folks at Cascal got in touch with me and asked if I'd like to review their new line of fermented sodas, which are being offered in slender 12-ounce cans. I agreed, and they sent along a Cascal Lunch Pack - a five-flavor sampler of Cascal sodas and a cool little lunchbag cooler - for me to try out.

Now, I never really thought I'd say this about a soda, but I admit I'm rather impressed by the depth of flavor and complexity of Cascal's offerings.  Soda pops these days are usually a blend of sticky-sweet syrup and fizzy water and there are few other options.  There are some small-batch crafted root beers out there with rich and interesting flavors, but they're still really sweet. And there are plenty of unsweetened seltzers available, but the flavors are simple and sometimes uninspired.  Cascal does a great job of putting together a soft drink with a decidedly adult appeal - a light, dry, and almost wine-like flavor developed by fermenting the fruit juice ingredients, flavorful without any added sugars, and lightly carbonated.

Here's what I thought of each of Cascal's canned flavors.  Read to the end of the post, and I'll tell you how you can win a Cascal Lunch Pack of your very own!

Crisp White (Pear/Apricot/Magnolia) - A gently floral scent with a snappy pear flavor and just a hint of apricot overtones. Fruity and dry. I found it very refreshing. This was one of three blends that strongly reminded me of wine - Crisp White is kind of like a Riesling. Cascal suggests enjoying it with Brie or strawberry ice cream. I drank it with roasted chicken and it was delicious.

Ripe Rouge (Cherry/Rose/Chocolate) - Distinctively floral nose but with just a hint of rosy flavor.  Cherry and stone fruit flavors yield to a phantom chocolate finish. The flavor profile reminded me of Merlot.  It was great with a grilled cheeseburger.

Fresh Tropical (Mango/Jasmine/Kaffir Lime) - I'd describe this as a "dry mango" soda with a pleasantly tart lime finish. The label mentions jasmine, but I just didn't taste it - perhaps it was too subtle for me. Still, it was deliciously different and it was awesome with the pork rib tips I roasted for kind of an impromptu BBQ snack.

Bright Citrus (Lemongrass/Tangerine/Pineapple) - Probably my favorite of them all.  Dry tangerine/pineapple flavor is well-balanced but leans a bit to the tangerine. Still, both flavors are distinct and distinguishable and I loves me some pineapple soda. Very crisp and quenching. Bright Citrus makes for an awesome rejuvenator after a few hours of early autumn yard work.

Berry Cassis (Black currant/Tangerine/Lemon) - Slightly citrus nose with rich black currant, cherry, and blackberry flavors. This was the third of the "winey" flavors, reminding me of Cabernet sauvignon. It held up well to a grilled steak.

It's easy for me to recommend Cascal Fermented Sodas. Despite my somewhat snarky first review of them last time, I really do think they have a good product, and one that there is a definite need for: An adult-oriented beverage that's a little more complicated than high-fructose corn syrup and water.  Cascal has done it, and done a good job of it.

You don't have to take my word for it, you know.  Cascal has generously offered to sponsor a giveaway here at the Cupboard.



Three lucky winners will each receive a Cascal insulated lunch bag and a five-can sampler of Cascal Fermented Soda.

There are two ways you can enter:

  1. Use the Contact Me tab near the top of the page and send me a message telling me you'd like to win some Cascal. 
  2. Go to Dave's Cupboard on Facebook and comment on the status update that mentions the contest.
THREE WINNERS will be selected at random on MONDAY, OCTOBER 17 2011.  Your entry must be received by 11:59 PM, Sunday October 16th 2011 in order to qualify. Don't wait for the last minute - I'm not responsible for misdirected or unreceived email.  ONE ENTRY per person, please.

Should you win, your prize will be sent to you directly from Cascal.

Dat Lunchbag

05 October, 2011

Shameless Plug

If you ask my daughter Lynnafred what her earliest memory is, she'll tell you, "The time Dad was locked in the freezer."

She was about two years old, and we were grocery shopping at Edwards, a now-defunct store in Enfield.  At the end of one of the frozen food gondolas, they had a large stand-up freezer case for bagged ice.  It happened to be empty the day that we were there.  I was walking on ahead of the wimmins - Lynnafred in the toddler seat of the shopping carriage Maryanne was pushing.  I stepped into the freezer and waited, and as they came around the corner I pressed my hands and face to the glass and called out, "Maryanne!  Help! Help me!"

Maryanne (briefly) looked surprised, but Lynnafred's reaction was awesome - an initial look of shock and then total, uncontrollable laughter - an "I BROKE YOU!" kind of laughter.

All of her life, I've tried to give her unique, challenging, and - most of all - stupidly funny experiences. She's grown into a exceptional human: confident, adventurous, curious, creative, and with a rare outlook on life that's part wonder and part cynical.  She's been a writer since she could hold a pencil, and you've read some of her food and pop culture reviews here on Dave's Cupboard.

She's got a blog of her own:  A Porchful of Geezers, where she's been posting book and video game reviews and, most recently, some of her more general writing.  Check it out.

04 October, 2011

Vintage Marshmallow Fluff Jar

On weekends, I haunt estate sales. Some people look for jewelry, others go for rare books or vintage clothing. I usually check out the kitchen first and then head for the cellar or garage - wherever there might be a workshop. I have an old house, and I love discovering a handyman's cache of old repair/maintenance supplies that I can buy for use here.  Most of the time, no one else is ever interested in that kind of stuff, and there is a significant quality difference in switches, light sockets, and other hardware that was made fifty or sixty years ago in the factories of Connecticut and New York over the flimsier stuff that now flows from overseas.

Anyway, last Saturday, down in the workshop of a house in Longmeadow, I found this awesome old 1940's Fluff jar (filled with pushbutton and toggle switches.)  Too cool.

02 October, 2011

Burger King Onion Rings

Burger King's onion rings are on their "value menu" for a buck. They'd be too expensive at half of that.

Right out of the fryer, they're tolerable I guess, but the second they start cooling down the quality starts dropping sharply. They have a slippery mouthfeel, they have an artificial salt/onion powder flavor, and the grease coats the inside of the mouth.  

I can't figure out why they're so damn bad.  They're made from real sliced onions as far as I can tell, and they've got a fairly standard crumb coating. And yet, they're far and away the worst thing on the menu.

What's worse, I already knew all of that when I ordered them, so I have no one but myself to blame for giving them a second chance.

01 October, 2011

Because You Don't Poop Correctly

"Digestive Health" products are everywhere.  The most famous, I guess, is Dannon's Activia brand yogurt, with ads starring Jamie Lee Curtis as The Poop Lady.  And now the Jolly Green Giant jumps in the shit with DIGESTIVE HEALTH VEGETABLES.  

"I'm so proud of that last one that
I left it in the bowl for you to admire."
Yeah, that's definitely the smile of someone who takes regularly-scheduled dumps. I bet when he pinches one off, it's the size of a redwood.