Tuesday, November 30, 2010

R.I.P. Fmung

I am sad to report that my turtle Fmung passed away on November 30th. Some of you might remember that he picked the winner of our second Campbell's Soup giveaway contest.

Yes, I know, he was just a freaking turtle, for crying out loud. A cold blooded animal with a tiny, primitive brain about the size of a mustard seed. As such, he was no more capable of feeling affection for me than he was of composing a sonata. Believe me, I am well aware of that. But, as any pet owner knows, none of that matters. Fmung is gone. There's an empty silent corner in the room where he used to dwell, and there's a fresh hole in my heart that won't be patched over in an instant.

My pets are my kids (largely because I am both unwilling and unable to have actual flesh monkeys...and I am perfectly happy with furry and/or reptilian kids, thank you very much), and like any pet parent, I had become attached to him. I admit turtles aren't much fun as far as pets go. They pass through a "cute" phase that lasts for a few months, and then they grow up to become...well, not quite so cute anymore. And I won't lie: Fmung's "cute" days were well behind him. His youthful playfulness and inquisitiveness (yes, baby turtles are both playful and inquisitive, believe it or not) fell by the wayside as he grew up, to be replaced with...well, with what one would expect of a reptile. In fact there's no nice way to put it -- as an adult he was just plain mean as hell. And no matter how clean you kept his tank, he always managed to smell bad. Nonetheless, he will be missed.

We got Fmung -- pronounced like the word "among," with an "f" sound in place of the "a" -- in Los Angeles's Chinatown many years ago. An old woman was selling baby turtles out of a tank on the sidewalk for a couple dollars apiece (no doubt illegally, but hey, that's Los Angeles), and he was both the smallest and the most hyper one in the tank. He was so young he still had his egg tooth, and so tiny that he was only the diameter of a U.S. half dollar coin. He was just too cute not to get. Yes, it was an impulse buy -- and not until we got to Petco a little later did we realize how much upkeep is involved in keeping the little guys healthy and happy. (A word to parents: if you are thinking of a low maintenance first pet for your kids, don't go turtle!)

He quickly became the most spoiled red eared slider in the San Fernando Valley. By the end of his first night he had the turtle version of a penthouse, complete with a large glass tank, plenty of water to swim in and a filter pump to keep the water sparkling clean, gravel and rocks to climb on, a lamp that mimicked sunlight, you name it. During his baby period -- before he became aggressive and developed a fierce bite, that is -- he was quite cute and loved to walk along your hand (and yes, because of the salmonella risk, you must wash up well immediately after). It was also fun watching him get bigger and keep outgrowing his tanks. He always loved to swim and climb on his rocks.

For a turtle he was quite the traveler. He made the cross country road trip from Los Angeles to Atlanta, and then back again years later. That is probably some kind of record for a turtle! He eventually grew to be as large as a salad plate. In his later years on a nice warm day he liked to go out on the balcony with us and run (well, maybe not quite run, but turtles can move faster on land than they get credit for) back and forth on the warm concrete (not to worry -- it's completely enclosed, and unless he could have learned to jump close to four feet straight up, he was in no danger of falling off) or just sit and bask in the sun.

Fmung, I hope you are in Turtle Heaven munching on all of your favorite foods. (He loved those little dried shrimps and worms -- specifically, live earthworms.) I hope that you have a nice big rock to bask in the sun on and lots of water to swim in, and that you now have more time to brush up on your ninja skills. Yes, you may have combined the warmth and charm of Rosie O'Donnell with the look of a green, reptilian Abe Vigoda. But that's OK. You were always loved and you are greatly missed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Broguiere's Egg Nog

It's not often that I dedicate a review -- but with this one, I have to give a special shout out to Doug who runs the the O.K. Corral Ostrich Farm. You might have seen Doug on Dirty Jobs or Modern Marvels. Or perhaps you've even been lucky enough to try some of his ostrich meat or eggs. The reason this review this is dedicated to Doug is because he and I have been email pals for about the last year, and one of the things we've talked about a lot is our shared love of Broguiere's products.

Anyway, I have been looking forward to trying this since last year when Doug -- along with many other readers, as well as literally hundreds of online mini-reviews -- proclaimed Broguiere's to be quite possibly the best egg nog in the world. Really, how could I possibly not want to try that? Unfortunately for me, by the time I decided to, it was so late in the season that there was simply no more of the egg nog on the shelves. Broguiere's only produces egg nog for a brief, seasonal production run each year...and when its gone for the year, it's gone. In my area there are few stores that even carry it. I also live 34 miles from the location of their own drive-thru store; which, with Southern California traffic, is more than just a bit of a nuisance. However, if you are close to Montebello, California (in the greater Los Angeles area) it is possible to get it directly from them in greater quantities than you can from a typical retail location.

As with all of Broguiere's products, it comes in an old fashioned heavy glass bottle. The color of the nog is a rich buttery yellow, with little specks of spice sprinkled throughout. And before you even take a sip, you can see it's easily twice as thick as any other egg nog you're likely to have tried.

Tastewise, it lives up to every single bit of hype. It's extremely creamy, and like all the other Broguiere's products that I have tried, it leaves the same fatty, rich film in your mouth that a premium ice cream does. There are notes of vanilla and nutmeg. Maybe a touch of cinnamon too. But what it really tasted like to me was a super quality butterscotch. I'll bet a touch of dark rum added to this nog would make a fantastic adult treat -- but even drunk straight from its 1950's Leave it to Beaver-looking bottle, it's sinfully good.

I think even if you've been a horrible brat throughout the year, if you leave this for Santa, you could bribe your way into getting that new Wii.

Bottom line -- this is simply the Best Egg Nog EVER! It's even better than the Southern Comfort egg nogs I reviewed last year, and make no mistake, I still love those too.

Plagiarizing from myself here, but...I know that for those of you outside of Southern California, this review may be something of a tease. But you ought to search out local dairies in your own area that sell products like this. The difference between this and the highly processed stuff you're probably used to drinking is amazing, and worth whatever it takes to hunt it down.


Vons Supermarket

$5.39 per quart bottle (price includes $2 bottle deposit, which is refundable when empty bottle is returned).


None on the bottle, but the cap advises you to call (323) 726-0524 for nutritional info.

Talk about old school...if they have a web site, I couldn't find it. But they do have a Yelp page here, most of whose reviews are even droolier than mine.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your gobbles be tasty... and hopefully free of cat hair.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Too Haute Cowgirls: The Good, the Bad, and the Peanut Butter Popcorn


Edited on 11/13/10 to add:
This is actually a re-run review of sorts. My original photo's were what could best be described as "melty" looking thanks to the shipping company. The kindly little ladies of Too Haute Cowgirls were nice enough to send along new samples so thanks to them I was able to redo the photo's and give this popcorn the food porn justice it deserves!

The rootin' tootin' ladies of Too Haute Cowgirls have certainly been making quite the impression on me. They have a caramel popcorn base that is to die for, and they have many, many different versions and toppings that they have piled on.

Today's cluster is The Good, the Bad and the Peanut Butter. Which is caramel corn drizzled with white chocolate and peanut butter. Also tossed into the mix are peanuts, cashews, pretzels, and sea salt flakes.

Now, I go into this eager yet scared: I love everything on that list except for white chocolate. And sadly, white chocolate is going to play a major role here. With that admission of bias up front, let's give her a try:


The peanut butter is the first thing you taste. It has that sweeter peanutty taste that seems more common in peanut butter flavored items than in actual peanut butter itself. Think less roasted nuts and more sugary. Kinda like peanut butter flavored cereal. I may not like that taste in a sandwich, but it works really well with the caramel corn.

The sea salt makes both the caramel and the peanut butter pop.

The white chocolate just adds a little extra vanilla-like sweetness. There's a lot of it, but to my delight it didn't make the popcorn oily or distract from the other ingredients. It also adds a little smooth melt.

The nuts are plentiful and very crisp.

I just wish there had been more pretzels! They tasted great along with the caramel corn and the peanut butter. And like the nuts, they were very crispy.

I can't say enough about the caramel corn. Even if they'd packaged plain caramel corn on its own, it would still be good. The caramel is milky and salty. The corn itself is plump and crunchy.

Even as a non-fan of white chocolate I really liked this flavor!


Sample from company

Contains nuts.



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Too Haute Cowgirls: Chili Con Chocolate Popcorn


Edited on 11/11/10 to add:
This is actually a re-run review of sorts. My original photo's were what could best be described as "melty" looking thanks to the shipping company. The kindly little ladies of Too Haute Cowgirls were nice enough to send along new samples so thanks to them I was able to redo the photo's and give this popcorn the food porn justice it deserves!

I have to admit that as soon as I hear or see the words "Chili Con" anything, I immediately think of my favorite episode of South Park, Scott Tenorman Must Die, in which Cartman invites his arch nemesis (for that episode, at least) to a "Chili Con Carnival" that has a rather disturbing, but classic Cartman ending.

Given the episode's outcome, I should maybe be more wary than I am of trying anything marked "Chili Con (insert random food)." But we all know I am a little twisted myself, so in reality it only made the product seem more awesome to me.


Too Haute Cowgirls' Chili Con Chocolate is made up of caramel coated popcorn that's been covered in dark chocolate, mixed with pecans, and then everything is covered in a special chili coating. And I think we all know once you put the words "chili" and "chocolate" together, I am there.

So, we know I love the idea of this popcorn...but did I love the popcorn itself?

It's definitely an unusual mix. First, I have to give Too Haute Cowgirls props: this popcorn actually does pack some serious heat. I am frequently disappointed by the lack of heat in supposedly "hot" products. But this one really does bring it.

Just as with their Fluer de Sel Popcorn, the actual corn itself is light and fluffy. The caramel is sweet and buttery. The chocolate coating is thick enough to completely enrobe the popcorn, but not so thick that it forms a hard crust (which is good).


The nuts are whole pecans, and they were crunchy and fresh. They are also covered in chocolate, but are caramel free.

The spice blend that covers everything does indeed bring the heat it promises to the table. I am not sure what is in the chili blend, but for the most part it really compliments the popcorn, the caramel, the chocolate and the nuts. The only thing that sort of got me is that some bites seemed to have a lot of cumin flavor to them (I don't know for sure that the mix actually contains cumin, but most chili blends do). I didn't care for the cumin taste with the chocolate and the caramel. But I loved the pieces that were all chocolate and heat.

This is an interesting mix that's well worth rustlin' up.


Sample from company


Sample from company


Contains nuts.



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stone Ridge Creamery: Polar Bursts Mint Chocolate Chip

Polar Bursts are actually a knockoff version of Dippin' Dots -- which, believe it or not, I have never tried. Back in the late 80's and early 90's, Dippin' Dots would easily be found at malls or arcades/fun centers -- but even as teenager I was an ice cream snob, and I had already created my much-repeated mantra: If I am going to suffer for eating dairy, I will do it only for the best. And in those situations where the choice was Dippin' Dots or something by, say, Haagen-Dazs...which do you think was going to win? Besides, Dippin' Dots proudly proclaimed that theirs was the "ice cream of the future," and I personally liked things the old school way.

Well, here we are, well into the Twenty-First Century, and old school ice cream is still alive and well (and, to be fair, Dippin' Dots is still alive and kicking also). But now we have supermarket versions of the Dots. I will be honest; while I have long thought of giving this style of ice cream a try, it was really the fact that it was on sale for fifty cents that was the final motivator.

Stone Ridge apparently makes several flavors of Polar Burst, but my store only had Neapolitan and Mint Chocolate Chip. The ice cream is packaged as a single serving in its own little plastic bowl. While it is a generous portion, the only thing I did not like about the packaging is that it has a "yogurt style" foil lid, which means that it is not resealable. (Yes, of course you could always plastic-wrap the top or transfer the dots to a sealable package, but that is not the point.)

Even if I remain skeptical about the ice cream and its packaging, I have to admit that there is something cool about eating something whose original version was created by a microbiologist. I dunno, I guess it's my inner Alton Brown coming out.

So after all of this, how did it taste?

Well, it is a fun way to eat ice cream. The familiar flavor of Mint Chocolate Chips is there. But instead of a creamy (well, hopefully creamy) mouthfeel, there are these cold, melty little beads. It is like eating no other ice cream or ice cream type product I have ever had. The orbs vary a bit in size and that keeps it interesting.

Flavor-wise, the bursts are almost a little too cold. It's not cold enough to cause ice burn in your mouth, but it does numb the taste down. The orbs separated easily, so I don't think it was from being in my freezer, but I could be wrong.

When they do melt down enough to taste them, the ice cream tastes like every other store-brand level Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream on the planet. It's not the most complex chocolate nor brightest mint you will have ever tasted -- but there's nothing particularly wrong with it either.

Once the bursts have melted in your mouth to the point they are no longer as cold (or as orb-shaped), the texture, like the flavor, is like every store-brand level of ice cream out there. It's not super fatty or rich, and it seems as if it is overly aerated. It's serviceable, but entirely forgettable.

It really is all about the shapes and the texture. This has, if nothing else, inspired me to try to track down some of the name-brand version to see if I feel the same way. I can definitely see why kids love these. Try them for the texture novelty, but hard core ice cream fans be warned: you are not going to be knocked out by the ice cream itself.

I rated it at a 6 because of the texture. If it had been only for the ice cream quality, I would place it at a 3.

Albertsons Supermarket




160 calories per 5 fluid ounce container.