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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

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January 2008

January 31, 2008

Boing Boing Delicious!

It's time (actually, it's past time) for a round-up of all of the fun, weird and wacky food-related items that have shown up on Boing Boing. Is it strange to post a collection of items from a site that collects items? Perhaps. But so many  neat-o things show up there on a daily basis that it can prove useful to narrow 'em down.

Think you're a smart shopper? You're less likely to be if the store you're frequenting smells like chocolate chip cookies.

One big category this time around is food that's shaped like other stuff. For example, there are fried eggs that look like firearms and burgers shaped like Mickey Mouse ("eat your mouse head or you won't get any dessert!"). Speaking of dessert, BB also has posts about Japanese chocolates shaped like larvae and a cake based on a strange, Japanese video game called Katamari Damacy. Want more video game cake? There are also cupcakes decorated to look like Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man.

But the crown jewel of all the strangely-shaped food is a model of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields -- from Tolkien's Return of the King -- made entirely out of candy. I think it's the best thing ever and I want to be friends with the people who made it (make sure to click through for lots of great pics). I once made a model of a paramecium out of sweets -- I used whip licorice for the flagellum -- but it lacked the grandeur of Minas Tirith. I was only 11 at the time.

There's also a collection of nifty gadgets. Exercise and coffee fanatics won't want to miss the bike -pump-style espresso maker which doesn't require electricity, and a generator powered by sugar and yeast. You can't actually buy it in stores -- it's just a prototype -- but I think the sub-dividable cooking pot is pretty neat.

Last, but not least, is a bit of scientific information: Beet juice can help keep streets ice-free. Apparently, the stuff has a low freezing point. And it's pretty.  I was planning to make a bunch of borscht with my extra roots, but maybe I could just grate them and spread them in the driveway, instead.

My list includes a bunch of others, but I don't want to overdo it. More soon.

January 30, 2008

More Virtual Cooking: "Chocolatier 2" and others

What game blends "greed, deceit and backstabbing" with luscious, chocolate-y goodness? It's called Chocolatier 2: Secret Ingredients and was made by the fun folks at Flashbang Studios.

Flashbang is also responsible for games called "Hot Dish" -- in which you may be called upon to stir up spaghetti marinara or chicken Alfredo -- "Pizza Chef" and "Farm Frenzy," for those who want to actually grow imaginary food as well as cook it.

I'm not sure how I missed these games when I was writing my article on virtual cooking, Good to the Last Byte, but I did. None of my interviewees mentioned them, and I had plenty of other games to write about. I still think it's neat, and weird, when people who don't actually like to cook spend their time chopping chicken for digital Parmigiana. But I guess it's good that gamers' online activities don't always translate to real life. After all, I know plenty of people who spend their spare time killing aliens, beating people with crowbars and turning random strangers into vampires.

Because I want to be a thorough and accurate researcher, I spent some time playing "Hot Dish," this morning. The game is very similar to "Cooking Mama" in that the player actually performs steps that simulate following a recipe. I made pasta marinara, lasagna Bolognese and pizza by mincing garlic, grating cheese, rolling dough and simmering sauces. After each "meal" was completed, a smiling food critic analyzed the quality of the dishes. If I finished one too early and it got a little cold, she could be rather scathing.

The game had a couple of flaws. One is that you cant see how many steps it takes to make each dish, so it's hard to manage them carefully enough to get 'em all done at the same time. Another is that without a mouse, it's really difficult to complete the "stirring" task successfully. I could chop and add ingredients like nobody's business, but when I had to take a wooden spoon to a pot of gently simmering tomatoes, I failed nearly every time. And the bitchy critic let me know that she was disappointed. Critics.

"Hot Dish" got rather repetitive after a while -- do I really have to make another damned lasagna? I sometimes wondered -- but it's probably much more fun if one purchases the full version rather than playing the limited trial -- then you get to make French and Japanese dishes, too.

In any case, I can't wait to try the next food-tastic computer game...deceit and backstabbing, here I come!

P.S. I'm a few posts behind on my goal of 366 delicious blogs in 366 days, so I'll be posting a lot for the next few days in an effort to get caught up.

January 28, 2008

I'm Twittering!

I feel so 21st century! In December I made a Facebook page, and a couple weeks ago I started Twittering my meals. Wanna check it out? Move your eyes slightly to the right...see?

It seems a little weird, and possibly egotistical, to write down my choice of breakfast cereals and where I'm having dinner, but in my defense, people have been keeping track of their nourishment since written language began. If Samuel Pepys did it, so can I. It's just a lot more up-to-the-minute, nowadays.

And people often ask me which restaurants I frequent and what I eat for dinner. If you're so inclined, now it's easy to find out.

January 25, 2008

Chocolate Troubles (and a poll!)

Since my recent confession that I'm not as passionately entranced with chocolate as others seem to be, I've realized that I'm being punished by the chocolate gods. How do I know that there are chocolate gods? Because the Latin name for chocolate is Theobroma cacao, and Theobroma translates as "food of the gods. Duh!

I guess these sadistic deities are mad because I talked smack about their sustenance of choice, so they're punishing me by making sure that lots of diet-crushing, chocolate-y goodness comes my way.

Yesterday, I discovered a confection called a "peanut butter lust bar" at a local health-food store. How could I resist an item named after two of my favorite things? I couldn't. And the bar just happened to be drenched in...chocolate. (More on this when I actually eat it).

Then, this morning, a co-worker showed up with a lovely box of treats from Laughing Moon Chocolates of Stowe. I had a small piece of peppermint bark and a chocolate-covered caramel sprinkled with salt. Mmm. And that was before breakfast. Who knows what might appear this afternoon? Or how long this torture will last?

To appease my tormentors, I will say that I really enjoy chocolate. It's a delightful substance, and those who make truffles, bark and bars are lovely people. All I meant was that given a choice between chocolate and salty, fatty pork products, I'd take the pork. Perhaps I'm in the minority?

January 23, 2008

I Love Blackflower Chocolates

ImagesI have to confess that I like chocolate, but I'm not a chocolate fiend -- most likely because I don't have much of a sweet tooth (I do, however, have a fat, salty tooth).

However, I've been loving everything I can get my hands on from Blackflower Chocolates of Charlotte. Why? The chocolate is dark, smooth and complex without being bitter; the flavors are exciting; and the packaging is eye catching. Plus, I live in Charlotte, so buying the stuff makes me feel all warm and localvore-y.

Right now, I'm eating the subtle curry + coconut bar. I highly recommend that you go find one immediately. I've never tried the truffles, but as soon as I spy them at a store I frequent, you can be sure that I will.

* Photo from the Blackflower website

January 22, 2008

Noshin' on "The Onion"

It's time once again for a fun round-up of food-related stories from The Onion.

1) Historians Discover Children's Menu on the Back of U.S. Constitution
2) All Seven Deadly Sins Committed at Church Bake Sale
3) What Kind of Powdered Chocolate Drink Mix Have We Unleashed Upon the World?
4) Kraft Introduces New Kraft Doubles For Couples
5) Very Specific Food Pyramid Recommends Two to Three Shrimp Scampis Per Year
6) Denny's Comment-Card Archive Offers Glimpse Into Decades of Poor, Fair and Excellent Service

Try not to laugh too hard...your boss might notice!

January 21, 2008

Calabrian Tasting Menu at L'Amante

Last Thursday, D. and I went to the first of L'Amante's special regional dinners. Here's a snippet about these dinners from my Side Dishes column:

"It's a good time for lovers of Italian cuisine. For the fifth year in a row, the well-traveled folks at L'Amante will help diners survive the coldest weeks of winter by offering them samples of food from sunnier climes. Each week, from January 14 through February 21, Chef Kevin Cleary will create a three-course menu to showcase the specialties of a particular Italian region. This year he's featuring Calabria, Trentino, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Tuscany. Dinners are $35 a person, with optional wine pairing, and are only available on week nights. Valentine's Day week is an exception: L'Amante will revert to its regular menu for the occasion."

The meal began with a trio of crisp, deep-fried eggplant balls in a spicy tomato sauce (tomatoes are used in many Calabrian dishes). The sauce was an excellent accompaniment, and the whole was lovely and flavorful.

Next up: orecchiette with broccoli rabe. Bitter foods are tough for me to handle, and broccoli rabe is pretty bitter. However, the pasta had a great texture and the rabe was a fetching bright green. And I still managed to eat the whole thing.

Our final dish was roast pork with fennel stuffing served with mashed potatoes and spinach. The pork was perfect: amazingly brown and crisp on the outside but cooked just right in the middle. The sides were delicious, too. This one definitely blew us away!

Can't wait 'til the next one!

January 20, 2008

Millborne Farm Drinkable Yogurt

Images My lovely friend Devon clued me in about these tasty and nutritious yogurt drinks. I'd seen them on the grocery store fridges near the Odwalla juices and Nantucket Nectars, and hadn't realized that Millborne Farm is in Vermont: Shoreham, to be exact. The little bottles are everywhere...I've seen them at gas stations, health food stores and mom 'n' pop places.

What's so healthy about 'em? First of all, they're made from cultured whole milk that is free of rBST. Always a good start. Then, in addition to the cultures that actually turn the milk into yogurt, MF adds a few more strains that are particularly good for digestion. And they add inulin, a type of soluble fiber stored in the roots and rhizomes of plants (such as chicory and dandelion).  The end result is high in fiber -- but you'd never know it -- and has lots of vitamins and minerals.

Until recently, I'd only seen four flavors: vanilla, strawberry, pomegranate and orange. But yesterday, D. came home with peach, which was nice, too. Although I think the pomegranate may be my favorite.

* Pic is from the Millborne Farm website 

January 17, 2008

Fun with Bacon

Bacon. Sometimes called "the gateway meat" because when a vegetarian starts eating bacon, you know what'll happen next. Sometimes just called "the best thing ever" because, well, it's pretty damn delightful.

Here's a collection of bacon-y treats:

~ A meaty scarf.
~ Another scarf.
~ A wallet that lets you bring home the bacon, no matter how much you earn
~ Gummy, strawberry flavored "bacon" strip candy
~ BLT-scented candles.
~ Bandages. You know how some people put a slab of steak on a black eye? Apparently it's good to put bacon on a cut!
~ Blog.
~ Air Freshener. 'Cuz there's nothing like a bacon-scented room with no bacon in it to drive you crazy!
~ Crafts, and lots of 'em.

And finally, a stand-up comedy routine in which all the jokes are guessed it...bacon!

January 16, 2008

Bove's vs. Bobby Flay: Lasagna Throwdown (Updated)

I mentioned this before the holidays, but thought I'd "throw" it out there again...

The Food Network will air its lasagna throwdown, in which Bobby Flay is pitted against Mark Bove of Bove's, a few more times over the next couple weeks. They are:

February 2 at 4 p.m.
February 14 at 8:30 p.m.
February 15 at 3:30 a.m.
March 15 at 9:30 p.m.
March 16 at 12:30 a.m.

Watch 'em sling sauce and nosh on noodles as they crown the king of lasagna...Fun stuff. If you want to make the pasta dish yourself, Bove's has Nonna Victoria's Lasagna recipe on their website, but you'll need to purchase a couple bags of Bove's brand meatballs and two jars of their sauce to follow it. Clever, eh?

You can also read more about the Throwdown on the Bove's Blog.

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