31 August, 2010

Greedy Bastards at Price Chopper

So, I'm at Price Chopper the other day, doing some grocery shopping, and I pay at the register the same way I always do, with my debit card.  The cashier asked me if I wanted any "cash back," and I said "Sure, twenty dollars," figuring that it would save me a stop at the ATM on the way home.

"Okay," she says, "There's going to be a one-dollar fee."


"If you want cash back, it's a one-dollar fee."

"Never mind, then.  No cash back," I replied.

Seriously, Price Chopper, WTF?  No other supermarket in this area - not a single one - charges a fee to get cash back from a debit card transaction.  And there isn't any reason to do so, either.  When you get cash back on an ATM transaction, all you're doing is giving the store more money than required for your purchase and they are giving you the change.  There isn't any additional fee imposed on the store.  Are these assholes going to start charging a fee if you pay for $22 worth of groceries with at fifty-dollar bill?

Piss off, P-Chops.  I've got at least ten other supermarkets and groceries within a seven-minute drive of my house.  You've just managed to bump yourself several notches down on my preferred stores list.

Liederkranz Cheese.

About a week ago, blog reader Alan mentioned in a comment that Liederkranz cheese had been rescued from the brink of extinction by DCI Cheese Company.  I decided I would try to find some - the only thing I knew about it was that it was an American variation of Limburger, and that the last batch had been made by the Fisher Cheese Company in 1985.  Because of a bacterial contamination of the cheese culture that year, Fisher recalled all of that year's Liederkranz production, later selling the factory and remaining cultures to Beatrice Foods (which was later purchased by ConAgra.)

I was surprised to hear that the cheese was back in production, because for at least ten years, the Liederkranz culture was thought to have been allowed to go extinct.  I was pleased and surprised to find small 6-ounce squares of Liederkranz for sale in my local ShopRite supermarket. I picked one up and gave it a sniff. I was half expecting to get knocked out of my shoes, having grown up watching cartoons where "Limburger cheese" was shorthand for "horrible stench."

Sealed inside the package, the distinctive aroma of the cheese is heavily muted, and while I admit that the smell was somewhat flatulent, through the wrapper it wasn't overwhelming or strongly unpleasant.  So I bought it.

That night, I sat at the dining room table and carefully unwrapped it.  Everyone in the house knew as soon as that stinking bastard cheese saw the light of day.  Lynnafred gagged, "Damn it, Dad, this time your food shenanigans have gone too far."  "Pungent" isn't the word for it.  Truly, it smelled like someone squatted over the table and took a steaming dump.  Yet, for all the stench, it was an unremarkable-looking chunk of cheese.  Pale yellow inside with an orangey-tan rind.  But damn is that stuff nasty-smelling. And it didn't get better as the cheese stood out in the air, either.  All it did was attract the dogs.

Seriously.  Within seconds of having the cheese unwrapped, Iris and Zim were by my side looking for a handout.  This should come as no surprise since they are dogs, an animal which actively seeks out the most unpleasant and disgusting things it can find, in order to roll around in them.  I cut off a small piece of the cheese for each of the critters and they joyfully nosed the samples for a minute before gobbling them up.  

Since the sample didn't kill either of the dogs, I cut off another slice, this one for me.  Liederkranz is a semi-soft cheese, and it likes to stick to the knife; it would probably be best cut with a wire rather than a blade.  Ignoring the smell, I popped the slice in my mouth.  It's creamy and surprisingly mild, with a taste profile remarkably similar to an ordinary American cheese.  As everyone knows, though, the senses of smell and taste are intimately entwined, and unfortunately there was no way to prevent the smell of shit from wafting up the back of my mouth into my nose.  So fr, this was not the most pleasant of experiences.

Finally, I tried the cheese in the time-honored traditional way, on a hearty rye bread with sliced onion.  Unfortunately, the onion did nothing to kill the odor, which I still found to be just too overwhelming.  Maybe I should serve it with a spritz of Febreze.

I still have something like 99% of the cheese in the fridge, safely sealed within a plastic deli container so it doesn't make my fridge smell like an outhouse.  I'll probably try it a couple more times at least, to see if there is something - anything - about this scheißkäse I can learn to like.

If you, like Alan, dearly miss your beloved Liederkranz, you have reason to rejoice - it's back and pungent as ever.  As for me, I'll just wish you well and hope you can find a chunk during this initial  rollout period - supplies and distribution of the cheese seem to be somewhat limited right now.

30 August, 2010

Italian Wines...

...like MD 20/20, which is now apparently available in Antifreeze Green Flavor.


29 August, 2010

Welcome, Iris!

Sorry - I never got around to a Vintage Sunday post today, because we've been a little busy acclimating a new dog to the family.  Meet Iris:

Zim has seemed happiest lately in the company of his canine BFFs, so for the past four or five months, I've been keeping an eye open for a likely companion for him.  Iris, abandoned and subsequently incarcerated in a nearby dog pound, fit the bill.

There's an age difference - Zim, at almost seven years old, is approaching doggie middle age, and Iris is barely a year old judging by her build and her teeth - and sometimes her youthful exuberance makes him a bit grumpy.  But when they're out in the back yard running around together, it doesn't take more than a playful pounce by Iris to get the two of them romping and tumbling about together.

Anyway, we brought her home yesterday and for the past couple of days we've been pretty busy doing all the stuff we need to do to help a new dog feel welcome and an old dog know he's not being replaced.  Iris seems to be housetrained, so that's been pretty cool.  She's adapting pretty well to the feeding and bedtime schedule, too.  And it took less than a day to figure out how to open the screen door to the back yard to let herself out.

I'm glad we found her, with her wonky right ear that always kind of stands up, and her pale green eyes and her happy, goofy personality that reminds us of Dug from the movie Up.  She's definitely a keeper.

28 August, 2010

Dogs of Summer 6: G&A Restaurant, Baltimore MD

We were in Baltimore at the beginning of the month.  Lynnafred was attending Otakon, and Maryanne and I were exploring the city and visiting with our friends Dale and Gail, who suggested a visit to G & A Restaurant.  G & A is a little hole-in-the-wall diner on Eastern Avenue in Baltimore.  Its nondescript storefront is easy to miss, sandwiched in among the other nondescript storefronts, and we had to pay close attention as we approached to avoid missing it.

This end of Eastern Avenue is not really a "touristy" area of Baltimore.  It's not close by the Inner Harbor, and it's beyond Little Italy.  I'd describe the neighborhood as "comfortably run-down" i.e. an older slice of a big city that has a small-city feel to it; gentrification is passing it by but it's like your favorite pair of jeans - there are holes and frays and sometimes the zipper on the fly gets stuck, but you're happy and at ease wearing them.

G & A Restaurant is like that, too.  When our party of five (Dale and Gail, our friend Michael, Maryanne and I) walked in the door, we were met by a friendly waitress who showed us to a booth, and by the owner who was busily cooking hot dogs but who smiled and nodded a greeting to us as we walked by.  We took a booth towards the back of the restaurant and ordered delicious ice-cold beers to enjoy as we checked out the menu.

The menu, in typical diner style, is pretty extensive, but because we were there specifically for the dogs, we pretty much stuck to the basics:  hot dogs, polish dogs, burgers, and wet fries.  And Yuengling Lager. 

The burgers were very good - Dale ordered mini-burgers, which G & A had on the menu as "sliders."  They were nicely seared and made of high-quality ground beef, served on grilled buns, with caramelized onions right off the griddle.  they were sided with decent hand-cut fries which seemed to go over pretty well with the group, though I prefer my fries somewhat crunchier.

But the fires just as they are go great with the brown gravy, which was rich and flavorful.  Everyone at the table enjoyed it, and at the end of the meal, although some of the plain fries were left over, none of the wet fries were left at all.

We were really there for the hot dogs, though, so I ordered one dog and one Polish dog, each with G & A's Coney Island sauce, mustard, and minced raw onions.  The hot dogs are good quality beef and pork franks, decently seasoned and with a good flavor.  The Coney Island sauce is very good.  Slightly spicy without being overpowering, it went well with the dog and was complimented by the onion and mustard.  I thought it was a good, solid dog, certainly a worthy addition the the Dogs of Summer series, but not really exceptional.

The Polish dog was a different story.  The Polish seasonings used gave a wiener a robust kielbasa flavor that shined through and was completely bitchin' with the Coney Island sauce and onion.  This dog was worth a drive for its own sake, and was really the star of the meal.

We had a few more beers as we ate and chatted; the waitress was attentive and friendly from beginning to end, and never got short with us or tried to rush us out of the booth (much appreciated.)  Towards the end of our lunch, owner Andy Farantos stopped by to say hello and make sure everything was okay.  It was a nice touch.  We left satisfied and happy, and Maryanne and I are looking forward to our next trip to the Baltimore area, because we plan to go back to G & A again (this time to try out some of the other items on the menu.)

G&A Restaurant
3802 Eastern Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 276-9422



27 August, 2010

Dr. Pepper Throwback

There are certain advantages to being an old fart.  I've been drinking legally since I was 18, for one thing.  And I was lucky enough to have owned a 1970 Mustang Mach I which was still new enough not to have needed restoration and which I purchased from the original owner for $1000.  I had a lot of fun in that car.  And I remember what soda pop tasted like in the days before high fructose corn syrup took the place of sugar as the primary beverage sweetener.

That's why when PepsiCo releases limited-edition "throwback" sodas, I always try to buy a few cases.  Like the recent limited-edition 125th-anniversary formulation of Dr. Pepper, made with real sugar as it's creator Charles Alderton intended.

There is such an amazing difference between sugar-sweetened and HFCS-sweetened Dr. Pepper that one can hardly believe that it's supposed to be the "same" drink.  Gone is the overpowering, cloying sweetness of the corn syrup; instead the complex flavor profile of Dr. Pepper shines through and you can actually taste the root-beer-like base, vanilla notes, and stone fruit elements.  I realize that it's a little ridiculous to be describing a soft drink as though it were being served at a wine tasting, but there ya go.  This product is true Dr. Pepper.  The corn syrup version is an imitation.

If you're too young to have had real Dr. Pepper from yesteryear, you should at least pick up a single can at a convenience store and try it out.  Even better, buy a can of both the Throwback and today's standard Pepper and taste them side by side.  I think you'll be astonished as well.

Pasta Week, Day 4 (Thursday)

Man, am I getting sick of pasta. I'm also running out of ideas on what to use this stuff for, so bear with me as I just kind of make stuff up as I go along.
Mmm, bacon mac.

Breakfast this morning was Bacon Mac & Cheese. Penne, homemade cheese sauce, and bacon. My cheese sauce was severely lacking in flavor because I didn't have a variety of cheeses to use, I only had American.  All in all, it wasn't bad, but I think that from now on I'll stick to either Dave's cheese sauce recipe, or rip open a box of Kraft Dinner.

Lunch wasn't anything special. I had repeats of the Turkey, Bacon and Pasta from Day 3. I used penne for it again, because I thought that it fits better than angel hair does.

So, if anyone has any suggestions on what I can do with even more pasta, I'd appreciate some suggestions on what I could possibly do with it.  I'd be eternally grateful, and you'd most likely save me from eating the same pasta dishes over and over again.


26 August, 2010

Pasta Week, Days 2 & 3 (Tuesday and Wednesday)

What's better than a breakfast made of pasta?
Tuesday was kind of an unadventurous pasta day. In fact, it wasn't even really a pasta day at all.

When I finally decided to get up on Tuesday morning, I wasn't feeling all that adventurous or hungry, so I had a few fistfuls of cold pasta that morning for a makeshift breakfast instead. For lunch later on in the day, I still wasn't really feeling all too hot, so I decided to have the rest of that awesome sauce from the night before with even more pasta. So, nothing really special was done.

I told myself I had to make up for it on Wednesday, and when I woke up this morning, I had an idea of some cool things I could make with each of them that would probably still be tasty while I experimented in the kitchen.

I ended up starting today off with a bang because I decided to play a quick game of "Who Let You Cook" with my breakfast. Taking a lump of angel hair, two eggs, peas, and some salt and pepper, I stir fried the pasta in a little bit of butter, added the peas, and then added the eggs - scrambled style - to the entire mix and waited for the eggs to set. I didn't season it with anything other than salt and pepper, but in retrospect, putting some five spice powder in it probably would have been a good idea. And while I'll admit that it's not really all that pretty to look at, it tasted pretty good. This was actually a pretty versatile one-pan wonder that would've been pretty good if I'd added some chicken or something to it, too. If I'm ever so inclined, I might make it again.

Later on that day, for dinner, Dave and I made a repeat of something I've made before: take a simple white sauce and season it to compliment bacon and turkey, and pour it over some sort of noodle. In this case, we had penne. It was kind of like a "Turkey peas on Toast" thing, but better. Because it had bacon in it.

Hint Water Giveaway

Back in June, I wrote a review of Hint, the naturally-flavored unsweetened bottled water.  If you've tried it and liked it, you might be interested to find out that they're running a promotion now through September 13 on Facebook.  

To enter, go to Hint's Facebook page and click to Like it.  Once they reach 5000 "Likes" one lucky fan will win a six-month supply of Hint water.  And if they make the 5000 target by September 13, all fans will receive a "special surprise offer" just for joining.

25 August, 2010

Another Awesome Blog

If you haven't yet discovered Foodette Reviews, here's your heads-up.  

You know how movie posters always have those short one-liners from critics that are supposed to make you want to see the movie?  Well, if Foodette Reviews had a poster, I'd put this on it:  "Holy shit this blog is awesome."


24 August, 2010

The Beggin' Bacon Bash on International Bacon Day

This is my dog, Zim. He would do just about anything for
bacon, including pose for fhis ridiculous photo.

International Bacon Day falls on September 4 this year  It's a whimsically ridiculous holiday, but it's gained momentum over the years because - let's face it - virtually everyone loves bacon.  As a dog owner, I can attest to the fact that dogs love bacon just as much as people do.

Purina, the makers of Beggin’® brand dog snacks, knows it too. To help dogs and their owners celebrate International Bacon Day together, they've invited renowned chef Kevin Gillespie to host a bacon-themed party in Cincinnati, which will also include an attempt at the Guinness World Record for "loudest group bark." Sounds pretty awesome, yes?   Check out this press release I got today.  What a hoot:

ST. LOUIS (Aug. 23, 2010) – The day dogs have been waiting for has finally arrived – a day to celebrate their passion for bacon! On Saturday, Sept. 4, in observance of International Bacon Day, Beggin’® is inviting all the four-legged, pork-loving maniacs to attend the Beggin’® Bacon Bash and declare their obsession for bacon.

This dog-friendly family event will take place from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Blue Ash Recreation Center, 4433 Cooper Rd., in Cincinnati, which is one of the largest pork-producing cities in the United States. The Beggin’ Bacon Bash will feature special cooking demonstrationsby Kevin Gillespie, a finalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef” reality show known for incorporating pork into almost every signature dish.

“I’m a huge fan of the pig, and I’m crazy about bacon in particular, so I couldn’t be more excited to be hosting this event with Beggin’®,” said Gillespie, who is currently the co-owner and executive chef at The Woodfire Grill in his native Atlanta. “I’ll be sharing some of my favorite pork dishes with other bacon-lovers and hope to inspire them to embrace pork within their own cooking. Let’s get the party started!”

Beggin’® Bacon Bash will feature live music and activities for both two-legged and four-legged bacon lovers. For the humans, All Pro Eating will sanction a bacon-eating contest as well as other hands on activities such as a Beggin'® Canadian Cuts toss. For the furry friends, there will be a canine costume contest for the most bacon-inspired costume and a bacon maze and bacon race. In addition, the Purina® Incredible Dog Team will perform canine agility and dock diving presentations. Local dog owners are also invited to bring their dogs to participate in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the “loudest group bark” to officially declare their love for bacon.

“Because dogs – and their owners – share a hilarious obsession for bacon, Beggin’ wanted to create an exciting, dog-friendly event for the entire family that’s all about bacon,” said Stephen Trammell, assistant brand manager, Nestlé Purina Dog Snacks brand pet food. “There’s no better way to celebrate International Bacon Day.”

For additional information about the events and attractions at the Beggin’ Bacon Bash, visit www.beggintime.com.

That sounds like a great time, and even if you can't get to Cincinnati for the fun you can still have a good time with Beggin' dog snacks.  The friendly folks at Purina are sending me three coupons for Beggin' snacks, and I'm going to give them away to YOU.  Just send an email to me - daves.cupboard [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line "Beggin" and your name in the body of the email, and you'll be entered to win.  I'll hold the drawing on Saturday, September 4 - International Bacon Day - at RANDOM.ORG and three lucky entrants will each win a coupon.

Note:  The press release and coupons are provided by Purina.  I am receiving no compensation for this post or the coupon giveaway - all expenses involved are coming out of my pocket.

Pasta Week, Day 1 (Monday)

Between Dave and myself, I'm sure we're going to be able to use this delicious pasta by the end of the week. He and I both have different things in mind for today, for example.

Penne with butter and a touch of Aromat seasoning.
Today for lunch, I did one of my favorite things ever to do with plain, cold leftover penne: chuck some of it in a bowl, put a little butter on it, and put in it the microwave for a minute. When it comes out of the microwave, I sprinkle a little Knorr Aromat seasoning on it for extra amounts of awesome (though according to the package, it's mostly salt and MSG,) sit down somewhere cozy, and nom away.

There's things you can do with that above method to make it a little more exciting, though, like putting some chicken or turkey in it, or better yet, some frozen peas or fresh corn. But even just snacking on it in all of its starchy, carbohydrate glory is enough to keep me happy.

Angel hair with Dave's amazing sauce.

Dave, on the other hand, found something to do with the angel hair that never goes wrong, and it's name is good old fashoned tomato sauce. Using tomatoes from our garden and fresh herbs, he made a super-amazing sauce that went really well with a package of pork stew bits that I'd prepped earlier in the day. He cooked the pork bits in a pressure cooker for about 20 minutes while he made the sauce in another pot, heated up some of the pasta, and then added the cooked pork to the sauce just before serving.

The end result was nothing short of awesome, and was perfect for an eerily cold August night like tonight.

23 August, 2010

Lynnafred's Pasta Week!

A quick glimpse of the pasta you'll be seeing me talk about.
Thanks to my absolute hatred of seeing food go to waste, I'm now the proud owner of about eight pounds of pre-cooked pasta.

So, this week, I'll be posting things I'm doing with this pasta. Some of it might be simple, some of it, more detailed and involved. So, I'm cordially inviting you to walk down a weeklong path of madness with me as I figure out what to do with eight pounds of angel hair pasta and pene.

Here's to hoping I don't get sick of pasta by Day 3.

22 August, 2010

Vintage Sunday: A Baking Contest!

The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst MA is holding an awesome baking  contest for the next month - a contest which just so happens to fit right in with our usual Vintage Sunday feature.

The basic idea of the baking contest is simple:  Choose one of four period baked goods that Emily Dickinson is known to have made - Gingerbread, Black Cake, Coconut Cake, or Rye and Indian Bread - and, using Ms. Dickinson's own recipes (provided as part of the rules) develop a modern recipe suitable for today's kitchen.

There's a catch, of course.  Cookbooks in Emily Dickinson's day assumed that the reader knew her way around the kitchen and were familiar with the proper techniques and methods needed to produce edible food.  Therefore, recipes were usually little more than lists of ingredients.  Take, for example, Dickinson's own recipe for gingerbread:

1 Quart Flour
1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Cream
1 Table Spoon Ginger
1 Tea Spoon Soda
1 [Teas Spoon] Salt
Make up with molasses.

Using only these ingredients (measurements may be varied) you would need not only to make delicious gingerbread, but to document your process in order to submit - along with samples of the gingerbread to be tasted by judges - a modern recipe with quantities, ingredients, and full instructions including oven temperature, size of pan, and baking time.

Entrants must preregister by submitting an Intention-to-Enter Form by September 21 and deliver the completed recipe as well as a sample of the baked good itself on Saturday September 25th at the museum between 11:00 am and 1:30 pm.

This sounds like a lot of fun.  Full recipe rules and more information may be found HERE.  Good luck!

Special thanks to reader Zoe for passing along news of this contest to me.

20 August, 2010

Cambozola Cheese

Lately, the ShopRite in my town has been making their own fresh mozzarella cheese, displaying it on ice by the specialty cheese display near the deli.  I went to pick some up at the beginning of the week and was disappointed to find that, because they were having a sale on some nationally-distributed mass-market fresh mozz, they hadn't made any of their own.  Bummer.

But I was hell-bent on buying cheese anyway, so I started poking around the display to see if there was anything interesting.  And that's when I found a lovely wedge of Cambozola; it was mad ripe and just this side of runny, and I guess the ripeness was a little too scary for the deli guys, who had it marked down at half off.  Pretty awesome, because Cambozola is an excellent cheese when it hits the shelves, but I swear it gets even better as it approaches and sometimes exceeds the cautiously-labeled "sell by" date stamped on the wrap.

Cambozola has a relatively short history as cheeses go. It was originally invented in the early 1900's, and since 1970 has been made by huge German cheesemaker Champignon.  It's a soft-ripened triple-cream cheese made with the same Penicillin roqueforti mold also used in Gorgonzola, the taste profile is very complex:  imagine a good Italian Gorgonzola with the sharp edges filed off, combined with a decent triple-cream Brie.  The nutty characteristics of Brie are there, and the mild "mushroomy" flavor of the rind, but they're well-balanced with the blue.

It was great served with sliced peaches and salty smoked almonds for lunch.  Also, because I'm a damned cheese heathen, I mashed up some fresh wild blueberries and blended them into a chunk of Cambozola to make a blueberry/blue cheese spread which was also very good despite what you might think.


Champignon Cheese's US website.

18 August, 2010

Sardine Cannery To Reopen Processing Lobster

Back in February, I wrote about the closing of the last remaining sardine cannery in the US.  Bumble Bee Foods, citing a reduction in US herring catch limits, shut the former Stinson Cannery in April.  It was a big blow to the town of Prospect Harbor, where unemployment is high.  It was big news at the time - sardine canneries were once a huge part of the New England economy, especially in Maine - and the story was widely reported at the time.

The former Stinson cannery is in the news again, although this time it's not attracting nearly as much attention (probably because it's good news this time.)  Live Lobster Company of Chelsea MA has agreed to purchase the plant with an eye toward expanding its operations into processed lobster.

For now,  the company wants to use the plant as a purchasing station for locally-caught bugs, and they want to begin operations as soon as possible with lobster buying and bait sales.  The company's primary business is live lobster wholesaling to customers in Europe, Asia, and the United States, but the availability of the cannery has presented them with an opportunity to expand into processed lobster sales.

Eventually, Live Lobster Co. expects to have about 130 employees at the Prospect Harbor plant (the same number of jobs lost when Bumble Bee moved out.)  And because the lobster catch is seasonal (June through November) they plan to expand into shrimp and crab canning as well, to keep their employees working year-round.


17 August, 2010

Why Is Canned Tuna So Crappy?

When I was a kid, my mom would buy two kinds of canned tuna:  Chunk Light, and Solid White.  The difference between them was obvious - "solid white" was a thick, solid piece of fish; flaky and white, and obviously a whole cut placed into the can, while "chunk light" was a can full of smaller bits which were darker in color.  Chunk Light was cheaper, and that's the kind Mom used for tuna salad sandwiches.  After all, if you're going to be breaking the tuna down with a fork and mixing it with mayo and stuff anyway, why start with the expensive stuff?  she saved the Solid White tuna for casseroles and pasta salads where large flaked pieces would be more appreciated.  When I went off on my own, I pretty much followed the same reasoning.

Over the years, however,  I've noticed that the quality of affordable canned tuna has dropped amazingly.  I completely avoid tuna labeled "chunk" now, because the product is almost unrecognizable.  Take, for example, this chunk white tuna by Ace of Diamonds.  There are no chunks involved - just a can full of sludgy tunawater with lots of fishy particles suspended in it.  This was really nasty stuff and it was worthless.  Other brands of chunk-style tuna have proven to be just as bad.

But I've also found out I have to be careful about which brand of solid white tuna I buy, too.  Although the quality is generally better with solid white, there is a wide variation between brands and even from can to can within brands as well.

Starkist solid white tuna is usually of decent quality, with big fillets of flaky white tuna, just like I remember as a kid.  It's great for a casserole or a macaroni salad, and it makes delicious tuna salad as well.

Similarly, this can of 3 Diamonds solid white tuna was excellent as well.  Mitsubishi, the corporate overlords of the 3 Diamonds brand, have changed this brand name to "Ace of Diamonds" since then (and they were the folks responsible for the tuna slurry pictured above) so I'm not sure if this older photograph is still representative of the actual product.  I hope so, but I won't find out until the next time it goes on sale.

Bumblebee solid white tuna, on the other hand, is just barely acceptable for a "solid" tuna.  The picture at left is typical of what you'll find in the can:  No solid pieces at all, just chunks.  If the color was darker it would look exactly like the "chunk light" tuna of my youth.  At least I've found Bumblebee to be consistent - every time I open a can of their solid white tuna, I know I'm going to find this - so I don't turn away an opportunity to buy a few cans when they go on sale for less than a dollar a can at the local supermarkets.  I just wouldn't pay full price for it.

And then there are brands which vary from can to can.  Here are two cans of Chicken of the Sea solid white tuna (undrained) side by side.  I purchased them at the same time from the same supermarket.  The one of the left was filled with bits and pieces; the one on the right was what I expected to find when I bought "solid tuna."  Do they have no quality control at the canneries?


15 August, 2010

Vintage Sunday: E. Swasey & Co, Pottery

Pictured at right is a cute little 1-quart beanpot I picked up at a thrift store not too long ago.  It was made sometime in the late 1800's by E. Swasey & Company of Portland ME, a company which at one time was one of New England's most prolific pottery works and today is all but forgotten.

Eban Swasey was a potter who apprenticed in Exeter NH in the mid-1800s.  In 1875 he and his partner, Rufus Lamson, moved to Portland ME and established the Portland Earthen Ware Manufactory, producing redware.  Swasey and Lamson eventually went their separate ways, and in 1890 Swasey established E. Swasey & Co. at 273 Commercial Street in Portland.

In 1897, Swasey's youngest son Perley joined the company, which became a sizeable enterprise by the turn of the century.  Eban  died in 1906, but the business carried on until finally sputtering out of business in the Depression.  The factory buildings are still there on Commercial Street - refurbished and with the "E. Swasey" logos freshly restored on the end of the mill, they serve today as an office park.

During their four decades of operation, Swasey pottery was common and used all over New England.  They made beanpots, crocks, jugs and bottles, jars, creamers, and more.  Their most common pattern was the typical color combination shown in the photo - brown top, cream-colored bottom, with a light brown stripe between them and the characteristic "E. SWASEY & CO - PORTLAND ME" mark on one side - but they also produced contract work and more decorative pieces as well.

Not too long ago, Swasey pottery was easy to collect.  It wasn't considered "old enough" to attract the attention of antiquers, and it was pretty commonly found in rummage and yard sales really inexpensively.  Then, sometime in the early 2000s it was "discovered" and has since become hard to find and kind of costly for old crockery.  Personally, I don't collect any one particular manufacturer, but the little Swasey piece that inspired my essay here made a great addition to my collection of beanpots.

11 August, 2010

Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost

Have you ever had a really good ginger ale?  I'm not talking about a big, mass-market label like Canada Dry or Schweppes, I mean a really good, really flavorful ginger ale like Blenheim's from South Carolina - the kind that has a hot and gingery fire to it because it's made with more than just corn syrup, water, and ginger "flavor."

Well, Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost is one of those really good ones.

For starters, it's made with fresh ginger, not ginger extract or flavoring.  That gives it a number of subtle flavor characteristics; for one thing, that citrusy note that fresh ginger has is in there.  It shouldn't surprise you that a company that uses only fresh ginger in the blend stays all-natural with the rest of the stuff in the bottle, which means no high-fructose corn syrup.  And finally, the soda is unfiltered.  Every bottle has a cloudy layer of sediment at the bottom which is supposed to be brought back to the drink in general by gently agitating the bottle before drinking (I found that just pouring the bottle out completely into a glass does just as good a job of mixing up the sediment, without having to give the bottle a shake.)

The taste is assertively gingery, with a good firey bite to it (about equivalent to Blenheim's Medium.)  Hints of citrus give way to a warm, clean finish.  There are three flavors:  Original, Pomegranate, and Jasmine Green Tea.  We tried Original and Pomegranate, purchasing two bottles of each at H Mart in Ellicott City, Maryland.

So it was delicious, and wicked pricey - a four-pack was on sale for $5.49.  That's soda pop at beer prices,  putting it quite squarely out of my price range beyond my initial purchase for a taste test.  (Really, I don't care how good a soda pop is, $1.60 for a 12-ounce bottle is way over the top.)



10 August, 2010

Quick Cold-Pack Pickles

Right now, I am just about up to my ass in cucumbers.  Although my vines are dying back because of bacterial wilt carried by cucumber beetles (damn them) Over the past few weeks we've been harvesting far more pickling cukes than we can possibly eat fresh.  We've already made a couple of batches of Maryanne's Bread and Butter pickles, and now we are starting to make cold-packed Polish Dill pickles.

These are really easy.  All you need to do is put some aromatics like dill, garlic, and mustard seed on the bottom of a big jar, fill the jar up with freshly pickeld and cut cucumbers, and pour the jar to the top with a prepared brine.  Then cap the jar off and stash it in the back of the fridge for a week or so to mature.  It's simple, and delicious,

The recipe I'm going to share here, like many of the other recipes I've developed over the years, has been swiped and copied into recipe databases all over the internet, often without attribution.  But you can be sure that wherever you find this recipe, it originated in my kitchen regardless of whether or not I'm credited.

As written, the recipe will make a gallon of dill spears.  Feel free to adjust it as necessary and tweak the seasonings if you like.  (Some people like to reduce the amount of mustard seed, for example - my recipe makes a traditional New England-style mustard-flavored dill pickle.

Dave's Cold Packed Polish Dills
1 gallon
4 pounds Pickling cucumbers
8  Dill heads
6  Cloves of garlic (or possibly more)
8 cups Water
2 cups White vinegar
1/2 cup Pickling salt (or 3.5 oz by weight)
1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
4 teaspoon Whole mustard seed

Wash and dry the cucumbers; prick a few holes in each with a fork, or possibly quarter them lengthwise. Peel and break the garlic cloves.

Place half of the dill heads in the bottom of a clean 1-gallon jar. Add in the garlic, crushed red pepper, and mustard seed. Pack loosely with cucumbers and top with the remaining dill. Chill while preparing brine.

Combine water, vinegar, and salt in a saucepan. Heat to boiling, then cool to room temperature. Pour the cooled brine over the cucumbers, making sure they are covered. Screw a lid on the jar and store in the fridge for about 4 weeks before serving. If you've quartered the cucumbers instead of leaving them whole, they will be ready somewhat sooner (two weeks instead).

Ingredients can also be divided between four 1-qt widemouth jars. It is it more convenient to make a gallon jar batch (takes less of a footprint in the refrigerator) and then divide up the pickles later into separate jars when they're ready to eat. (Which frees up the jar for the next batch, too) 

09 August, 2010

Nong Shim Onion Rings

Nong Shim Onion Flavored Rings are a Korean product available in many Asian markets.  They have a much lighter and delicate texture than Funyuns - puffier and airy.  The flavor is lighter and a bit "sweeter" than Funyuns, but still deliciously oniony.

The label says that they contain "bacon powder," which sounds totally awesome but which, in fact, imparts very little flavor of it's own.

Still, they're quite tasty, not too salty for a chip-like snack, and they don't leave your fingers greasy or coated with some strangely-colored powder.  Good stuff.

08 August, 2010

Vintage Sunday: Call for Entries!

Do you have an antique or vintage kitchen item that's been in your family forever and you  want to show it off?  Do you have something old in your kitchen that maybe you got from your Mom or grandmother and you just don't know what it is and you'd like to find out more about it?  Do you have a favorite food or product that just doesn't seem to be around any more and you wonder whatever happened to it?

If you do, I'd like to hear about it, and perhaps blog about it on Vintage Sunday.  Click the "Contact Me" tab just under the blog banner to get in touch.  Thanks!


Lynnafred's Who Let YOU Cook?! Volume Two

So, what do you get when you have nothing appealing in your fridge, a handful of eggs, and some leftover cheese and bacon from cheeseburgers the night before? If you answered "Who Let You Cook?" you were right!

With the aforementioned eggs, cheese, and bacon, as well as about a half teaspoon of milk, I made myself a bacon and cheese omelette. For most people, this wouldn't be really "Who Let You Cook" worthy, but it definitely is for me. For as long as I've been making simple things in the kitchen, I've never once successfully made either a fried egg or an omelet. My fried eggs always come out busted and vastly overcooked; my omelets come out either vastly undercooked and crumbled to bits, or vastly overcooked and crumbled to bits. Either way, it's never been successful.

How did I make it?:  So after preparing my egg and milk mixture (I used no salt, figuring that the bacon and cheese would have more than enough) or pepper (because I forgot about it), I started to heat up a small amount of butter in a pan over low heat. When it was just starting to bubble at the edges, I poured in my eggs and let it start to set. When the bottom layer was fully cooked, I used a spatula to push some of it over and let the top layer of uncooked egg take its place. Then I did the same thing on the opposite side. When there was nothing but a thin layer of sticky egg inside, I dumped in my roughly cut bacon and cheese mixture, carefully folded it over, and let it finish cooking, flipping it once. It never split apart on me. I added a little bit of extra cheese on top before I ate it, because I love cheese.

So how was it?: Very good, actually. I've always enjoyed the flavors of bacon, egg, and cheese together, so this was definitely something I'd try making again. It needed a bit of pepper, but that was easily added afterwards, so it was nothing that was a meal destroyer. I'll do this again, for sure, but maybe I'll experiment with different cheeses next time.

07 August, 2010

The Dogs of Summer 5 - Mucke's Kielbasa Links

Mucke's is a local Connecticut processor which makes great natural casing franks.  But they also make a pretty decent kielbasa link.  While not as authentic a Polish sausage as the truly real thing (such as Enfield's own Janik brand) Mucke's kielbasa dogs have a good balance of spices, a touch of smokiness, and are a heartily-textured link that stands up well to grilling.  They make a nice change of pace from standard dogs.  I highly recommend them.


06 August, 2010


Seen at H Mart in Ellicott City, MD:  Giant Pocky.  Pictured next to a box of regular Pocky for comparison's sake.

05 August, 2010

The One Thing I Like About Summer.

Out of all the seasons, I dislike summer the most. I hate feeling hot and sticky, and that's the one thing that summer's really, really good at. During the summer, I spend more time than usual indoors, trying desperately to hide out from the hot heat outside. On the other hand, my favorite non-weather-related season happens during the summer: fresh fruit and veggie season. It turns me into some sort of "seasonal vegan"; I can happily eat nothing but fresh fruits and vegetables as long as things in the back yard are producing fruit and we can get other things from farmer's markets and local farmstands.

Fresh wild blueberries, golden cherries, small peaches, and fresh sliced cucumbers.
And lucky for me, Dave's garden is booming with fresh veggies. As long as summer's upon us, I'll be able to eat a lot of fresh foods that I really long for in the winter, when we can't grow anything at all. We also get to sourse things we can't or don't grow from local sources, like getting wild blueberries from Sussman's Blueberries in Granville, Massachusetts and fresh peaches from Johnny Appleseed's Orchard in Ellington, Connecticut. Like Dave, I prefer to get fruits and veggies fresh from local farmstands than to get them from the supermarket, where the quality is signifigantly less than a local farm or orchard, even if it costs me a little bit extra.

04 August, 2010

Lynnafred's Who Let YOU Cook?! - Volume One

Welcome to the very first edition of "Who Let YOU Cook?!" - the online game show where I make up a recipe on the fly and then share the results. Winning is easy - eat my food and live. Die, or get sick, and you lose. *audience applause*

So, for the first edition, we have something presumably easy: pork loin bits pan fried with onions, red bell pepper, and zucchini.

How did I make it?: I took the pork and browned it on all sides in a pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil, then dumped in the peppers and onions. I seasoned it with some of Dave's own Pork Salt - just a touch. Stirring occasionally, and when I thought it was about ready, I added the zucchini and tossed everything around. When I figured everything was good, I turned off the heat and served.

So how was it?: This failed hard, and it's all because of human error on my part. I'd never cooked pork before, to start, so I'd figured that if I cut the three or so thickest pieces in half and they were cooked through, everything else would be. That was only semi-right. Some of the pieces were done really well; others were so dry and tough they were hard to chew. The next problem was the pork salt. It seems that "just a touch" was a touch too much, because while the pork seemed bland, the zucchini and peppers absorbed all the saltiness and made them unbearable to eat. Oh well, live and learn, eh?

Conclusion:  This is not something that I'd want again. Unfortunately, I have leftovers, so that means I'll be having it at least once more. When I heat it up, I'll have rice with it or something to cut down the vast amount of salt.

01 August, 2010


They're kind of like a macaroon - a cookie base with spongy "creme" on top - and I found them in a Hispanic market in Baltimore.  Love the name.

More posts starting tomorrow.