Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Food by Mail: Happy Birthday from Dixieland

Dark Chocolate Dixies -- Richardson's Candy Kitchen, Deerfield, MA
Richardson's Candy Kitchen

Ginger has started a trend.  Of course, this trend only exists between the two of us, and it has similarly only happened twice, but no matter.  We know a trend when we see one.
Namely Because We Make Up Our Own
This particular trend revolves around the fact that we have taken to bestowing each other with mail order food in honor of our birthdays.  
Whether or Not We Actually Address Each Other as "Vodka and Ginger" in Real Life is Up for Your Interpretation
After all, there are a great deal of shippable Best Thing I Ever Ate items to choose from, and what better reason is there to plunk down $30 in shipping charges than the celebration of your fellow friend in eating's life?
We Appreciate Any Food That Comes with Its Own Ice Pack
As you may recall, for Vodka's birthday (which, of note, is in the middle of the SUMMER), Ginger had an extremely festive if completely inappropriate for the season fruit cake shipped to her door.  
Also, Every Birthday Card We Give Each Other Is Some Variation of This Theme: Don't Be a Drunken Fool
Two months later, when it is time to return the favor, Vodka chooses the slightly more portable and mildly less Christmasy dark chocolate dixies from Richardson's Candy Kitchen in Deerfield, MA.
Of Note, Vodka Shipped Said Dixies to Her OWN Apartment. Control Freak for the Win
In a stroke of luck, the day said dixies arrived, Vodka had experienced a random street encounter with her self-proclaimed soulmate, Josh Groban.  Wishing to rehash this experience moment by moment, she persuades Ginger to leave the borough of Brooklyn for the promise of a tasty cocktail and ridiculous story.  "I'll bring your birthday present.  It's food," she tells Ginger, which gets Ginger off of her booze-soaked couch faster than any other phrase could have.
What Birthday Gifts Are Made Of
However, upon reflection, it seems like a rather awkward idea to haul out a box of candy in the middle of a bar, even for two people who have a rather high threshold for humiliation.  For this reason, Vodka leaves the candy box in her apartment, which we drunkenly stumble back to after a splendid "meal" of salad, soup, and French fries.  
The Folks at the Department of Health Would Really Have a Field Day with Our Eating Habits
Ginger tears open the oversized and deceivingly heavy box and discovers the mail order feast that awaits her: a box of Alex Guarnaschelli's Best Thing I Ever Ate NUTTY favorites.  Three neat rows of large chocolate candies await her, one of almonds, another of pecans, and the last of cashews.  
A Dixie in the Flesh
We bite into each of the flavors one by one, and the dixies are indeed quite pleasing.  The chocolate is perfectly bitter, and caramel gooey and sweet, and the nuts salty and crunchy.  We wouldn't go out of our way to consume these things again, but for the moment, they're making for a fairly solid birthday treat.
And Here We Have the Almonds...
...and Now the Pecans...
...and Last But Not Least, the Cashews
And then, as per usual, we turn into complete idiots.
The Combination of Booze and Sugar Tends to Have This Effect on Us
It seems Richardson's is trying to bask in the glory of Alex featuring them on the program (if they had seen some of her previous food choices, they may reconsider this acclaim), as they provide an "introductary brochure" to their dixies, asking us to enjoy them just as much as Alex did.  And this leaflet, as leaflets tend to do, ends up completely confusing us.
Read This With Some Wine Goggles On, and You'll Have a Better Idea of What We Were Dealing With
"I'm surprised you didn't order the polka-dot ones," Ginger says, pointing to the "hedgehog" dixies from the list, which (apparently, to our pea brains) come with a polka-dot decoration.  

"Ooh, I never say that," Vodka says.  "But I think the hedgehogs are chocolate-covered rice krispie treats -- and we needed to eat nuts."

"I wonder what makes them polka-dot," Ginger persists, and we both stare at the list like two illiterates, STILL not catching on as to the pattern going on within it.

Namely, that there is a color listed next to every Dixie flavor -- gold, white, brown, polka-dot....

Finally -- FINALLY -- Ginger lifts a Dixie from the box, and with a high level of discovery delight, as if she had just figured out how to split the atom, she exclaims, "Ohhhhhh they're telling us the corresponding WRAPPERS for each of the flavors."
For the Record, We Produced Empty Wrappers in Three Different Colors Before We Figured This Out
And so, to be clear, the hedgehog dixies come in a polka-dot WRAPPER.  They are not, in and of themselves, POLKA-DOT.

Really, it's a wonder we manage to function in the world at all.
Our Blood Type is Essentially Cocktails, Salt, and Stupidity
And with that, another year older but certainly no wiser, Ginger packs up her dixies and begins the long haul back to Brooklyn, content only in the knowledge that should we ever reach old age, we can't possibly end up any more senile than we already are. 

Richardson's Candy Kitchen's Dark Chocolate Dixies: 4 stars

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Into the Boroughs: Harriet the Spy, Pizza Edition

Arugula and Parmesan Pizza -- Graziella's, Brooklyn, NY

As previously mentioned, Di Fara lost their privileges regarding having us rate their allegedly 5 star pizza with a poorly timed "oven malfunction."  Because by the time we arrived back at their subway station from Brighton Beach, the door to the place was STILL not open, and there was a line stretching halfway down the block.
Watching the Di Fara Metal Grates from the Safety of a Shaded Subway Platform
And heaven forbid we wait in any line whatsoever.  It is perhaps time for Di Fara to invest in a Disney World-esque FastPass system.
Your Wait Time Is....
Still in the mood for pizza, but without the patience to wait for one at the restaurant right in front of us, Ginger discovers that Graziella's, home of Ted Allen's chosen Best Thing I Ever Ate arugula and parmesan PIZZA, is a mere 15 minute walk from a Q-line stop.  Could this Brooklyn adventure be saved yet?

Yeah, probably not.  Remember, we are a crabby people.
And Plus, This is Our Life Philosophy
Vodka quickly secures us a reservation at Graziella's while we are en route, under the supposition that all pizza places in Brooklyn feature crowds with whom we won't want to deal.
OpenTable Reservations = Our Own Personal Version of a FastPass
Luckily for us, Graziella's is apparently not one of the chosen ones, as by the time we arrive for our 2:00pm hastily made reservation, we are two of five customers in the entire place.

Which is just the way we like it.
Empty Chairs and Empty Tables
We ask for a table on the roof deck, and not only because children under 12 aren't permitted up there ("Well, isn't that a lovely bonus").
Although If They Don't Trust Children to Not Fall Off the Roof, We're Not Sure They Should Trust Our Clumsy Selves
We are told to choose whatever table we like, and so we pick one under a shady umbrella... directly next to the roof deck's only other patron.
Said Table Also Features a Gigantic Pole in the Middle Which Prevents Us from Looking at Each Other
"Just call us Little Owl right now," Ginger mumbles, though in our defense, our choice seat is one of only two other tables featuring an umbrella, and either of them would have placed us within spitting distance of the other customer.  After all, she's the one who chose to sit in the middle of the roof, rather than in a dark corner, which is always our top choice.  So obviously, the fact that she will now have to listen to our inane conversation is HER fault.
Blame the Victim
First things first, we get ourselves two hefty glasses of wine, as it is now hours past our preferred day-drinking kickoff time.
Two Large Pours, Please, and Make It Snappy
While we peruse the menu, it becomes abundantly clear why there are so many tables open on the roof deck -- the place provides a front row seat to the loudest church sermon ever being broadcast from next door.  We manage to talk over the various blessings enough to order both the arugula and parmesan pizza, along with another pizza with caramelized onions and mushrooms.  ("Do we want small or large?" "There are only two of us -- you want to get two LARGE pizzas?!").
Good Thing We Didn't Go for the Larges....
Excuse Our Over-Consumption, Graziella's -- All We've Had to Eat Today is Stale Cake 
As we sip our wine, Ginger tries to regale Vodka about the injustice of the fact that there isn't a bread basket on our table, a rant Vodka is clearly not paying attention to.

"Sorry, I'm just taking notes," she finally explains.

"You say that as if that is a normal excuse in the real world," Ginger points out.  "You're like Harriet the Spy."
If Harriet Did Nothing But Eat and Drink All Day
Nearly before Vodka can jot down this gem of an exchange, our pizzas arrive, and we stare at the pile of fresh arugula skeptically.
What Is the Meaning of All of This GREENERY?
"You know, I really hate arugula," Vodka says.

"We should've ordered the arugula and parmesan pizza, hold the arugula," Ginger agrees.
Yes, Hi, Could Someone Come Serve Us? We Don't Know How to Slice This Thing
While Vodka takes at least three dozen photos of the proceedings, Ginger all but polishes off her first slice of Ted Allen's Best Thing I Ever Ate pick.
It's Scary That Ginger Is Actually the MORE Patient of the Two of Us
"Well?  How is it?" Vodka asks.

"Meh," Ginger responds with a shrug.  Before tasting her own, Vodka dumps some salt onto her slice ("You should live in Houston.  My mom says they salt Chinese food there."  "I salt Chinese food."). 
Let's Quadruple Our Daily Recommended Dose of Sodium, Shall We?
The pizza -- the pizza which we have traipsed over half of Brooklyn and to two different pizzerias in order to eat -- is good enough.  The arugula is blessedly rather muted in flavor, and the crust, while extremely thin, isn't crunchy (we hate crunchy crust).  In fact, the dough is somehow pita-like in texture, which is not a bad thing -- it is just rather... odd.
We're Going to Start a New Television Program Called 'Things We Ate That Were Fine'
We wolf down both pizzas, along with two glasses of wine each, at rapid-fire pace, undeterred even when a huge glob of cheese is found (by our own doing) floating in Vodka's chardonnay ("There is parmesan in my wine, of note").
A True Wine and Cheese Mash-Up
In truth, we are essentially so happy to be a) sitting, b) eating, and c) drinking, that we're rather jolly about the whole experience.
After All, They DID Give Us Carbs and Wine -- What More Should We Want?
And then the bill comes, and an 18% tip is pre-added in.
Is It Because We Made Them Walk Up and Down a Staircase?!
Um, is Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the new Times Square?!  What is the meaning of this madness?
Clearly, the Creepy Doll Who Hangs Out by the Cash Register Is Behind This
Now, would we have given an 18% tip or higher anyway?  Yes.  Believe it or not, as long as things don't come to major blows with the waitstaff, we are rather generous tippers.  But the principle of the fact that Graziella's would add this in preemptively has put us in a mood.

A mood that has resulted in our inability to do math.
How Ginger's Bill Looked for a Solid Ten Minutes
It seems that despite the fact that Graziella's has dictated what we should tip, when it comes down to signing our actual credit card bills, they have not deigned to do the addition for us.  And based on our current two-pizza-and-two-glasses-of-wine-in state, this happenstance has us flummoxed so completely that our respective second grade math teachers should be ashamed.
This Is Why We Majored in Food and Not Mathematics
We eventually manage to utilize our elementary school math skills and add up the totals before stumbling back down the stairs and out onto the sidewalks of Brooklyn, feelings of unwarranted accomplishment in our chests.

Or, as our friends at the church next door would say, "Glory, hallelujah!"

Graziella's Arugula and Parmesan Pizza: 3 stars

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Into the Boroughs: WHAT Is Alex Guarnaschelli Doing In All of These Places?!

Smetannik -- Bakery La Brioche Cafe, Brooklyn, NY
Bakery La Brioche Cafe

We're pretty sure that Alex Guarnaschelli has it out for us.
And If She Didn't Before, She Definitely Will Now
Granted, 90% of her Best Thing I Ever Ate choices were made before we even began writing this blog, but still -- the woman seems hellbent on sending us to the farthest ends of the earth in order to procure some culinary "delicacy" (we use the term loosely), and for what purpose?  
See? The Literal End of the Earth
Her picks are random at best (miso soup in Portland, ME, anyone?), terrible at worst (the caramel apple of Charleston, SC, which shan't be spoken of again), and just plain NOT WORTH THE EFFORT in so many cases (you know, Alex, they also serve stuffed grape leaves IN MANHATTAN).
Manhattan -- So Close, and Yet So Very, Very Far
In this vein, we are hauling ourselves all the way to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, in order to procure some smetannik (sour cream cake) from Bakery La Brioche Cafe, which Alex spoke of on the SLICED episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate (keep this SLICED theme in mind, please -- it comes back again later).  
Never Have We Ever Been to Brighton Beach -- Oh Wait
In theory, we came up with a very solid plan for this outing -- Vodka would meet Ginger in Brooklyn Heights in order to take a jaunt on Jane's Carousel (we have an odd obsession with carousels; it's pretty much our only way of pretending we live in Disney World), followed by venturing, together, lest we die, to the Q train in time for Di Fara pizza to open at noon.  
Honestly, the Things We Do In the Name of Blog Completion....
After we avoided Di Fara's monstrous lines and consumed Sunny Anderson's favorite pizza, we would hop back on the Q to Brighton Beach for Alex's silly cake.  Needless to say, this plan blew up in our faces.
Brooklyn Is, Generally Speaking, Not Our Friend
The trouble began when we reached Di Fara at 11:59am on the dot and found barely six people waiting in line outside.  Great news, right?  WRONG.  In a stroke of just-our-kind-of-luck, there is a cardboard sign plastered on the door stating that they are having "oven mechanical issues" and "might" be opening at 1:00pm.

Ain't nobody got time for this nonsense, Brooklyn.
PULL IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE!  We Have Couches to Go Home and Sit On!
Because we were born with the patience of toddlers, we immediately leave the premises and high-tail it for Brighton Beach.  And within minutes of our arrival, we nearly get mowed down by at least four cars.  Thanks for the warm welcome.
Just Try to Cross This Street Unscathed. We Dare You
By default, we don't quite fit in with the Brighton Beach community for a few reasons:

1. we're not in bathing suits,
2. we believe pedestrians have the right of way,
3. we're not speaking Russian.

Without being maimed by vehicular manslaughter, we manage to make our way to Bakery La Brioche Cafe, which looks... nothing like a bakery.  In fact, it takes us a second to even find the baked goods among the plethora of fruit, groceries, and other standard bodega items. 

Why, Alex Guarnaschelli -- WHY???
Is This a Bakery Or the Brighton Beach Branch of Fairway?
Yes, You'll Find the "Bakery" Section on the Shelf Above the Citrus
When we finally stumble upon the two shelves of pastries, we find the smetannik pre-packeged in aluminum sheets all the way to the side.
Um, What Now?
Yes, you read that correctly -- PRE-PACKAGED.  Call us finicky, but wasn't the whole point of this place being featured on the show the fact that the customer could choose how big of a SLICE of cake they wanted?  We call false advertising.
We Demand a Refund on Something We Haven't Even Purchased Yet
We buy one PACKAGE of smetannik, along with a giant meringue contraption (Ginger) and an overblown cheese danish (Vodka).  Our whopping total is -- wait for it -- $.7.74.  $7.74 for two huge pastries AND a cake.  Perhaps we should move to Brighton Beach.
Oh, Who Are We Kidding? We Prefer Throwing Money at Our Problems and Then Complaining About It
Among the growing list of faults concerning La Brioche's cake policy, they also do not have any forks with which we can use to, you know, eat said cake.  
Well, Much As We Enjoy Eating Like Cavewomen....
This results in Vodka clandestinely swiping two from a take-out joint further down the avenue, and then brandishing them in her hand like a weapon as we made our way toward the boardwalk.

"What's wrong with this park?" Ginger calls, pointing to the greenery across the street.

"We're going to look at the water.  I'm giving you the full Brighton Beach experience," Vodka replies.  
Brooklyn, You Are Indeed a Fascinating Place
Unfortunately for us, the "Brighton Beach experience" means settling on one of the only shaded benches in the entire town, while most of Brooklyn's homeless population catches a few Zs around us.  
Would Any of You Care for a Slice of Cake? Oh, Sorry -- It's NOT SLICED
We peel open the cake container and jab our forks into this creation which -- keep in mind -- Alex Guarnaschelli had ventured over an hour out of Manhattan to procure.
No Judgment, Alex, But We Prefer to Waste Our Time in the Company of Our TVs
We chew silently for a few moments, and as we have established, nothing good ever comes from us being quiet.

"It doesn't taste like... anything," Vodka finally pipes up. 

"I like the texture," Ginger tries to be positive.  "You know, relatively."  Dense layers of cake are piled on top of each other, cemented together by what is allegedly sour cream frosting, but which essentially tastes like flavorless glue.  Only because we are starving (thanks a lot, Di Fara) we manage to consume one-third of it, hoping with each stolen forkful that it would get better.

It doesn't.
Our Ability to Consume Food We Don't Even Enjoy Never Ceases to Amaze
Our own respective pastries, while they at least taste like SOMETHING (hazelnut in Ginger's case; cheese in Vodka's) are decidedly fine.  They're at least marginally better than this non-sliced cake, but worth a trip to the edge of Brooklyn, they are not.
They Like Things Large in Brighton Beach
This Doughnut Could Use Some Glaze
"What is that, Staten Island?" Ginger asks, pointing to a hunk of land in the middle of the ocean.

"I thought we were facing England," Vodka replies, and it takes us a second before we sputter into idiotic laughter, realizing how truly moronic our conversations are turning.
Of Note, We Rarely Know Where We Are
"So we're giving this 2 stars, right?" Vodka asks.

"I mean, I don't think it's inedible."

"That's why it's not 1 star.  But would you ever get this again?"

"No.  Never.  But doesn't that mean 3 stars?"

"I feel like they should get a demerit for not being sliced," Vodka explains.  And so it is settled: 2 stars for some vaguely edible cake that we had to travel over half of the eastern seaboard in order to fetch.  
A Sign We Shall Never See Again
We pack up the remainders of our bargain basement purchases and stare out at the ocean one last time, feasting our eyes on Staten Island and/or England.

And grateful, for once in our lives, that Alex Guarnaschelli hasn't sent us there.  At least not yet.

Bakery La Brioche Cafe's Smetannik: 2 stars