Thursday, October 22, 2009

All you can eat diaries #2: A minor complaint

You know what I really love? All you can eat buffets. I love all kinds of them. Indian, Asian, or whatever I love them. I've been to great ones in Vegas and hole in the walls in the Bay Area. I thoroughly enjoyed the hotel buffets that I ate at in Mexico. Love them, love them, love them.

You know what I could do without at buffets though? If you thought, "Other people", that's a good answer, because other people do impede my gluttony. However, I can tolerate other people, heck, at Sweet Tomatoes a lot of the time other people take mostly the broth from the chicken noodle soup, leaving me the chunks of chicken.

I hate young children at buffets. I don't hate just Asian children, although they are the most prevalent ones at the buffets I go to. I hate all young children regardless of sex, size, or race. Here are a list of complaints I have compiled as to why I hate them:

1. They run around everywhere
Young children under let's say 10 or 11 should not be allowed to get their own food at a buffet. They run around everywhere and are a hazard to my enjoyment. Apparently children these age don't think there are people above those legs they run into and around. At a recent outing to a buffet, I was getting a plate of food and a young boy was running around with a cup of soda. Seeing the kid running in my general direction, I stopped so he could get a clear path. HE RAN INTO MY LEG AND SPILLED HIS SODA. There was a large and clear path in front of him and instead he ran straight into my leg. Incidents like these I'm sure are not uncommon for employees at buffets.

2. They're shorter than the sneeze guards
This doesn't really need an explanation. It's a fact that sneeze guards were made for people of a certain height. Small kids though, defy this and are able to get their germs under the sneeze guards. I cringe every time I see a kid sneeze because I know he or she has gotten their grubby germs under the sneeze guards.

3. They look at your food
Now I'm sure that adults look at other people's food, but they do it in a way that's not so in your face.When I'm getting food, I don't want someone leaning over and looking at my plate. Apparently getting their germs under the sneeze guard wasn't enough, now they have to directly put their germs into your food.

What a child normally has on their hands

4. They make a mess of the utensils
Young children can't reach for the tongs or scoops for food sometimes. However, they'll try their hardest to grab them regardless. In the process of trying to grab the utensils they'll knock off other utensils or get food on their clothes or get their clothes on the food.

A typical child

With the grievances I've listed, do I believe that young children should be allowed at buffets? Of course they should. They should just never be allowed to get out of their seat without an accompanying adult. And I mean a REAL accompanying adult that keeps an eye on them and keeps them in check. Not some older sibling who the parents send because they're too busy stuffing their maws with crab legs. You know what, screw the kids, you worked hard to raise them this far. If your child asks you to go to the buffet, you tell them to wait until you're good and ready. Remember, you're the boss, not them. Trust me, I'm an excellent teacher.

So to recap, I don't ever want to see:
Running around here:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Smarties at the bottom of my bag

Next Saturday is Halloween, and I thought it'd only be fitting for me to do at least one entry about a Halloween candy that shows up every year. On good years I'd sometimes get a house that had Twix. On bad years I'd get a lot of White Rabbit candy. I'm sure some people liked White Rabbit candy, not me. You can eat the wax paper outside? Not my thing. White Rabbit candies are like bad, non-chocolate Tootsie Rolls in my estimation.

Anyway, looking back, the one candy I could always count on getting a lot of were Smarties. These American Smarties mind you, not those foreign Smarties that are really just disc shaped M&M's:

Look at those jerks, using grams and foreign words.

After the dust had settled and my candy bag was almost finished, I would find countless rolls of Smarties. Looking back, I don't think I gave them enough respect. I would look at them and think, "Great..." but after all the terrible candies I've been through, I can say that I could have gotten some really bad candy. Smarties aren't something I'd look forward to getting mind you, but it's not something I'd throw away (looking at you hard fruit candies). One could argue that they crumble in your mouth like chalk, but at least they have a pleasant flavor. The problem I think I had with them was that they'd be flavorless if you waited for them to melt in your mouth. M&M's American Smarties are not.

As Halloween quickly approaches, I think I'll have a few more posts about Halloween thoughts and memories (Hershey's Cookies n Mint anyone?) Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Much like getting my Facebook account stolen, Violet Mints suck

Before getting to the candy, I must state that I awoke to a very unwelcome text message stating that someone had taken over my Facebook account. Apparently the perpetrator who was impersonating me claimed that I had been mugged and that I needed money in order to get out of the United Kingdom:

am in a deep shit at the moment

5:15am x
im online D:

what happened

i went to visit a resort in uk,unfortunately for me i got mugged at gun point

5:16am x
oh no!
yuoer int eh UK?

it was a brutal expoerience
all cash credit card were taking off me

5:17am x
..when did you go to the UK

will brief you in full as soon as i return
really need your help at the moment

5:18am x
sure hwat is it

my flight leaves in 3 hours,but am having problem settling the hotel bills,need you to loan me few bucks so i can sort the hotel bills and get a cab to the airport
will def refund you as soon as i return tomorrow

5:19am x
i think ur facebook is hacked

Those of you that regularly IM me over AIM or read my messages, wall posts, etc. on Facebook may be full aware that I am a stickler for good grammar, and if not, for proper spelling and capitalization. If I sent a message with a typo, especially while chatting or IMing, I quickly follow it up with an asterisk (this thing *) with the correct spelling or word.

Don't be alarmed because I am not stranded in the United Kingdom, nor was I ever mugged at gunpoint at a resort there. I think there are more violent crimes involving knives than guns over there anyway, due to their gun control laws. What followed was my original Facebook account getting disabled and the Facebook security team telling me that I could re-activate my account if I answered the security question. The question was, "What was the name of your first stuffed animal?" and frankly I don't think I ever set up one of those questions. If I did, it was probably because this question was on the first on the list or the most convenient to click on. Regardless, I gave up and decided to make a new Facebook.

Anyway, back to lighter, but equally as disgusting, matters. I'm not sure if everyone here has access to C. Howard's (which I initially pronounced Chowards) Violet Mints because I've only seen them at two candy shops. Seeing them in one candy shop is reason enough for alarm. These mints rank up there with some of the worst candy I've ever had. Violet Mints are like the American Smarties' disgusting cousin; they're just as crumbly and they are far worse. A few minutes before writing this entry, I decided to look them up on Wikipedia, and Wikipedia reaffirmed what my friend and I had said, Violet Mints are soap candy. If someone were to take Irish Spring or Dove and decide to make a candy with that flavor this is what they'd get. C. Howard's claims that these are Violet flavored mints, but it may as well just say Lever 2000 flavored.

Smell is an integral part of the tasting experience. For instance, the one time I've had stinky tofu it didn't taste bad, but if you opened your nostrils and took a big whiff it would have made you think twice. Likewise let's take fried pork intestines. This dish is very rich and unctuous (thanks to Anthony Bourdain for using that word so much) flavor. However, it has a very pungent odor that I'm sure would detract some people from even touching the dish. The same goes for candy. You can't have candy that smells like this and expect to enjoy it. I eat mints to get bad flavors or smells out of my mouth, not to make me find another mint to replace the flavor of what I just ate. Like I've said before, they are like American Smarties because they have all the qualities of their more appetizing counterparts, except they have a very off-putting smell that makes it seem like you're eating soap candy. This is what makes certain jelly beans disgusting by the way, which I may or may not get to later. I don't do promises.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Amateur eating tips part 1: Olive Garden's Never Ending Pasta Bowl

Well, as seasons change, so do menu selections. As mid-October arrives, I am all too aware that my beloved "Never Ending Pasta Bowl" event at Olive Garden is coming to an end. This year was a year where I truly took advantage of it, going a total of four times. Going there that many times has taught me many things about human limitations and what professional eaters must endure to be such champions. Hopefully, I will be able to go to Olive Garden tomorrow one last time before I have to wait another year for the "Never Ending Pasta Bowl" to come back. Listed below are a few of the tips that my companions and I have learned on our several trips there:

1. Choose orechiette or penne as your first pasta

To get the most bang for your buck, get either of these two pastas . Orechiette takes up very little volume and penne's tube like structure takes up very little volume as well. If you're trying to eat as many bowls of pasta as you can, you'd be wise to, at the very least, start off with orechiette or penne as your starting pasta. If you have a preference for spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine, or angel hair pasta, save that for at least your second bowl. It is a very big mistake to start off with any other pasta beside the two recommended pastas if you are trying to get through as many bowl as possible.

2. Minestrone is the lightest soup, if you're going to have a soup, order this

For those of you who don't need any extra roughage in your diet, and have chosen soup over salad, minestrone is the soup you should choose. I understand that because it is a vegetarian soup, it will deter many would-be diners. However, though it lacks the protein sources provided in the other soups, consider that it is not only light, but delicious as well. Yes, it is a full flavored soup that won't fill you up unlike the other options. The other choices you have are Zuppa Toscana, Pasta e Fagioli, and Chicken and Gnocchi. Let's break down the faults of the other choices:

- Zuppa Toscana: This soup has sausage, potatoes, and greens in a creamy broth. This is more or less what's on the description on their website by the way. Anyway, in all actuality, despite it having seemingly heavy ingredients, this soup wouldn't be a bad second choice if you weren't into minestrone. Every time that I've had this soup, it was more like there were bits of sausage and potatoes rather than huge pieces. Even though I rank it lower than minestrone, it's still head and shoulders better than the other choices.

- Pasta e Fagioli: This soup consists of beans, pasta, and ground beef in a tomato broth. When you order this you're basically ordering an extra bowl of pasta. They may describe it to you as something like chili, but don't be fooled, the bits of pasta will get to you. This is not unlike when I go to Sweet Tomatoes and I put their chili over a bowl of mac and cheese.

- Chicken and Gnocchi: I'm not really sure which is worse, this soup or the Pasta e Fagioli. This soup is basically Chicken and Dumplings, which is extremely heavy. Even on their nutritional menu this soup is way up there in calories compared to the other soups. However, our point at issue is not calorie counting, but it is how heavy things are. The gnocchi here are little balls of dough that will try their best to destroy you. Again, ordering this soup is like having a bowl of pasta before you've even received your first bowl of pasta.

3. TRY not to fill up on breadsticks

An obvious tip, if you can't resist the breadsticks, try having only one. Think about it this way, when you finish your bowl of pasta you can dip 1/4 or 1/2 of your breadstick in the sauce to soak up all the flavor. Before your pasta arrives though, try to not touch them at all.

4. Don't order sausages or meatballs

Seriously, even though you get unlimited sausages or meatballs for $1.95, they will decimate you. Let me tell you, on my second trip to Olive Garden this year, I had just finished five bowls of pasta. I felt pretty good, but I still had a meatball left. I decided to rip out the insides of a breadstick and fill it with smashed meatball. I bit into my makeshift meatball sub and that was the end of the night for me. Meatballs and sausages, no matter how tempting, will always feel like you're eating an extra bowl or two of pasta.

5. Don't eat too heavily before going there

Again, an obvious tip and this is another tip from personal experience. On my third trip this year, a friend and I decided to grab lunch. Knowing that I had an engagement with a group of friends at Olive Garden, I still foolishly ordered a chimichanga at the Mexican restaurant we were at. What were the sides that came with the chimichanga? Rice and beans. After finishing this I knew I had only two hours to try and get hungry again. Unfortunately, when I got to Olive Garden, I was only able to finish two bowls. TWO BOWLS. That was a bad evening for me. However, it doesn't help that I arrived late and my friends ordered for me Pasta e Fagioli, just so that they could say the word Fagioli, and they ordered me Fettuccine as my first pasta. It was the perfect storm for failure.

6. Know how heavy the sauces are

Here's my ranking for how heavy the sauces are:

1. Roasted Parmesan Florentine - Extremely creamy and rich, just like its friend the Alfredo sauce
2. Alfredo - A cream based sauce that is extremely rich, first and second places are interchangeable
3. Meat Sauce - A simple marinara sauce is turned into a beast when ground beef is added to it. Definitely a killer
4. Five Cheese Marinara - A sauce that's in-between rich and acidic. At times reminiscent of something Chef Boyardee would serve. Probably my favorite sauce
5. Roasted Portobello Pomodoro - A very acidic sauce that has a nice flavor to it, thanks to the mushrooms in it
6. Marinara - Simple and a sauce everyone knows. An excellent sauce to have when you're trying to get your second wind

Remember, all the tips I've laid out come from me, so these tips are amateur eating tips as I have no experience or knowledge of how the pros do it. However, these are tips that have worked for me and have helped me get through six bowls of pasta in one sitting this year. It would have been seven or more if SOMEONE didn't promise me froyo and then take back their offer. Regardless, hopefully I can get out to Olive Garden before this offer ends and beat my personal best. These tips also come from someone who ate an 8 by 3 at In-n-Out and then went to Taco Bell to get two 1/2 lb. Bean Burritos. And also someone who used to order both a half giant potato at BJ's and a sandwich to go along with it. Okay this is basically for people who don't really know that when your ribs start hurting that's when you're supposed to stop eating, but your pride is telling you to still go for it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Let's keep on rolling while I still have ideas

Alright I just thought of something, cinnamon gum. Sugar-free cinnamon gum to be specific. Let's talk about it.

Ah yes, Big Red, the cinnamon flavored gum that every person is first introduced to. Big Red is undoubtedly the king of cinnamon gum. However, like its brothers Juicy Fruit and Double Mint Gum, Big Red has yet to have a sugar-free version of it. Another thing that Big Red has going against it is the fact that, again like its brothers, it starts out strong but the flavor fades rather quickly. It's like watching a movie with a great intro, a mediocre middle, and a bland, chewy end.

So let's get on to the sugar-free varieties:
Orbit was probably my favorite brand of gum not too long ago, but something changed. I'll say it was the packaging. However, this post is about Cinnamon Orbit in particular. So let's start with the positives. It's a cinnamon gum. That's about all I got to say about the positives. The negatives, well, I wouldn't say are really all that negative. It starts off subtle and stay subtle throughout. Unlike that jerk Big Red, there are no promises of intense flavor or anything of that sort. Instead it starts out slow and keeps that same subtle flavor throughout. This gum is like the tortoise in "The Tortoise and The Hare"; it's roll is slow, but it keeps on rolling.
Trident, while not my favorite brand of gum, actually surprised me with their cinnamon gum. When I got this gum for $1.50 for two at Safeway, it only made things that much better. The scent of the gum is quite unique when compared to other cinnamon gums. The scent is a much sweeter scent and the flavor is pleasant, but not great by any stretch of the imagination. The flavor starts out with a nice, sweet flavor and then transitions well as it loses flavor. Something that hurts this gum is the size of the pieces are quite small. Because of this, the pieces of gum tend to lose flavor faster than other brands of gum.

Despite the box saying "Spicy Cinnamon", don't be fooled, this gum is anything but Spicy. A problem I've always had with Dentyne is that they always use this kind of packaging. On occasion I've crushed pieces of gum or popped them into oblivion and have never been able to find them ever again. If you chew the recommended two piece serving Dentyne is alright. It has a nice shell, unlike the other gums, and it has a nice flavor to it. However, I don't remember being able to blow bubbles with it very well. A minor gripe, but that indicates that the gum is a bit too tough or rubbery for my liking. I think Dentyne has finally stepped up their game and made the flavor last longer than it used to. Despite its texture and packaging, I wouldn't mind buying Dentyne "Spicy Cinnamon" again.

Ah, arguably my favorite of the cinnamon gums. Stride and Extra are fighting over my heart as my favorite gum brands. With Stride "Uber Bubble" and Extra "Sweet Watermelon", I just don't know what my favorite gum is anymore. And while all this is happening, Trident decides it wants in on the action and puts out Trident "Layers", "Green Apple + Golden Pineapple", quickly becoming a favorite. Stride "Sweet Cinnamon" is an example of how you do things. Its smell is undoubtedly cinnamon and its flavor is very good. The flavor lasts longer than other gums and the cinnamon smell sticks with you long after the flavor is gone so you know that you're not eating a wad of paper. The texture holds up well after long hours of chewing, unlike Extra which tends to turn overly soft after long periods of chewing.

While Stride "Sweet Cinnamon" would be my top choice if I were to pick a sugar-free cinnamon gum, it would be hard to rank the rest. They all have their pros and cons, so based on what I have put forward you can make your decision. Now let me tell you about the absolute WORST SUGAR-FREE CINNAMON GUM I HAVE EVER HAD. Well, it seems as if the gum I'm referring to doesn't have its picture on Google Image Search, or rather one I'd want to use, I'll just tell you what it is. Starbuck's Sugar-Free Cinnamon Gum is bar none, the worst cinnamon gum I've ever had. The smell isn't the typical cinnamon we're all used to, it's a minty cinnamon. Think about it, minty cinnamon. The pieces are...round discs that aren't crunchy, they're just hard. The flavor isn't right at all. It's like someone put peppermint gum in the tins and sprinkled cinnamon over the gum. Also it is BY FAR the most expensive gum, coming at over $2 for a tin. The gum is bad, but the tin is nice...until you realize you can't fit ANYTHING in that thing. You're paying $2 to be trendy I guess.

Blog #1: Baby Ruth, why?

Sorry to start off this blog with a downer, but this is what inspired me to write this blog. Those of you that know me well, know that I love food in general, but that I also like candy very much. So I was sitting around one day and I was reading an issue of FLEX magazine. In it there was a part where former Mr. Olympia, Dexter Jackson, gave his thoughts on what candy he liked. One of the bullet points read, "Baby Ruth sucks." and I was thinking, "I agree with this man."

I can't imagine a candy bar that I've disliked as much as the Baby Ruth. Hell, Paydays, which I used to think were terrible, have grown on me. Baby Ruth seems like it has all the elements to be a winner. As from my own experience of eating it, from reading the wrapper, and from Wikipedia, Baby Ruth consists of chocolate, peanuts, caramel, and nougat. You know what else has all those things? Snickers, but I actually like Snickers. Where in the process did the Nestle go wrong? It's like if you told two chefs to make a particular dish, you gave them the exact same ingredients, and you gave them the same kitchen appliance. You know what happened? One of them gave you the dish done perfectly, and one of them went off in a corner and started diddling themselves (Snickers is the one that did it perfectly by the way).

Let's explore where Baby Ruth goes wrong. For one, the peanuts are far too pronounced. Within a Snickers bar the peanuts are subtle and the flow well with the rest of the bar. In a Baby Ruth they're like bumps on a what could have been a delicious candy bar. The peanuts don't even add any flavor. In a Baby Ruth they're the candy bar equivalent of one of my least favorite foods, water chestnuts. They're there for texture purposes only, and it's like chewing pebbles with no reward. If you're going to have peanuts that are that pronounced in a candy bar, please have the decency to flavor them at least.

It can't be just the fault of the peanuts though; some candy bars, like Pay Day are just salted peanuts and caramel. Let's take a look at another candy bar, Mr. Goodbar. A Halloween favorite of my brother, Mr. Goodbar is just peanuts and chocolate. Despite being so simple, it manages to be a delicious part of the Hershey collection. In a Baby Ruth the chocolate seems like an afterthought. It's as if they were trying to make Paydays and they realized that the peanuts were unsalted so they lightly coated it with chocolate. No way Kimosabe. When I eat a candy bar that has chocolate I want the chocolate to be a key component of the candy bar. I don't want to eat a candy bar with chocolate on it and think, "Oh, there's chocolate..." Same goes for the nougat.

Despite listing the faults of the Baby Ruth candy bar, words can't truly express the disappointment I have when I see or even think of a Baby Ruth. It's the equivalent of drafting a highly coveted player, with all his silver wrapping and false promises on the wrapper, as your first pick and then he turns out to be a dud. I think it could also be comparable to Edward James Olmos' character in "Stand And Deliver". Let me tell you something, as "Stand And Deliver" has taught us, you can teach innercity kids calculus, but you can't teach a candy bar how to taste good. I can't imagine why this candy bar is more prevalent than Whatchamacallits, Mr. Goodbars, or even Krackel. I'm going to say that Krackel doesn't get as much attention because it's the ricier enemy of a Nestle Crunch Bar. So when you go out and buy candy for Halloween, if you really want them to take only one or play a cruel joke on them, get them fun-sized Baby Ruths. And for kids, if one person in your Trick or Treating group really likes Baby Ruth, you know who to shun for the rest of the night.