Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Food by Mail: Happy Birthday, Here's a Fruit Cake

Fruit Cake -- Collin Street Bakery, Corsicana, TX
Collin Street Bakery

To say we give each other "interesting" birthday gifts would be an understatement.  Some years, they include an aptly-punned wine cozy and a year's supply of Skinnygirl vodka.  Other years, they feature a book filled with fake quotes by our hero in Gin O'Clock, the Queen of England.

This year, Ginger gave Vodka a fruit cake.
Interesting Tidbit: Vodka's Birthday Is No Where Near Christmas
Now, before you think Ginger has really begun scraping the bottom of the barrel in gift creativity, there is a method to her madness.  Said fruit cake, from the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, was featured by Marc Murphy on the SEASON'S EATINGS episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate.  And being that we have yet to procure a single mail-order item in  an effort to complete our eating mission, a fruit cake seemed like a good place to start.
Overeating Via Mail
In a feat of timing, the fruit cake arrived on Vodka's doorstep a mere couple of days before the two of us were to venture down the shore for a weekend of eating, drinking, and generally avoiding the sun.  For this reason, without opening the package, Vodka packed it in her belongings, along with other necessary items like Elaine Stritch's documentary (may she and her vodka stingers rest in peace).
"I'm Packed for the Shore" --Picture Text Sent to Ginger
For the record, carting a fruit cake up and down the eastern seaboard is not exactly a stellar plan.
This Thing Weighs Two Tons
In a way that seems quite impossible based on the size of the box, this fruit cake is beyond heavy -- if it were 30 pounds, we wouldn't be surprised.  By the time we reach our destination, Vodka is convinced her shoulder will never work again, and we are afraid of what we will find once we open the box.
Merry Christmas to Us
Fear strikes us yet again when we see not one, but two sets of nutrition facts plastered on the sides.  One side (the Texas side, presumably) states that this fruit cake contains 8 servings at 410 calories each.  The other side (the Rest of the Country side) says that there are 20 servings at 160 calories each.

What?!
Proof of This Madness -- 20 Servings...
...Versus 8?!
Unfortunately, this is just the first bit of confusion that strikes us about the cake, as when we finally open the package (after a bus ride filled with cups of contraband vodka and a tipsy run around Wawa which resulted in the purchase of cheese slices, ice cream, soft pretzels, hoagies, and at least 14 types of chips), we find an entire booklet of instructions about how to consume the thing.
"Guide to Collin Street Bakery Products" -- They Require a GUIDE
Call us crazy, Collin Street Bakery, but we think by this age, we know how to eat cake.
We've Had Ample Practice.  For Examples, Please See This Blog
Among the plethora of directions, Collin Street includes the fact that freezing or refrigerating the cake makes it easier to slice (up to and including what type of knife to use in both circumstances), and they also specify that the fruit cake can be toasted for breakfast and topped with a pat of butter.

In other words, "Here is how to give our cake some flavor."
Way to Have Faith In Your Own Products
Forever diligent, we refrigerate the cake, and the next day, we attempt to consume it for breakfast.

And let's just say it's a good thing we have pretzels and Doritos to eat as backup.
Somebody Help Us
The cake is dense -- denser than any cake should ever be, in our opinion, and packed with dried fruits and nuts in nearly every cranny.  
We See the Fruit -- Now Where Is the Cake?
Now granted, we are not exactly connoisseurs of fruit cake, being that we've never tried the stuff, but if Marc Murphy thinks this one is special, it must be pretty good, right?

It is not.  
Not Worth the Weight
Instead, this fruit cake is sweet.  Overwhelmingly sweet.  So sweet that we can barely discern any other flavor.  But even beyond the sweet taste, what really puts us off is the texture, which manages to be both slimy and sticky at the same time.

Talk about 410 wasted calories.
We Ate All 20 Servings -- Or Minus-Zero
We decide that we also dislike that the cake is cold (again, Collin Street's suggestion, what with the refrigeration and all), and because it is a mail-order item, it lacks an atmosphere that restaurants naturally provide (Ginger quips that perhaps we should save it and haul it out again at Christmas).
Oh, There's Nothing Like Six-Month-Old Fruit Cake for the Holidays
As we debate whether to give this monstrosity of 1 or 2 stars, Ginger suggests that we leave it in the kitchen, and if we go back for more, it will get 2 stars, and if we don't, it will get 1 star.

Well, we returned to the kitchen many a time over the course of the weekend, and we placed just about every food or drink item that was in there into our mouths.

Every food or drink item -- except the fruit cake.

1 star for you.
In Your Tin, You Arrived, and In Your Tin, You Shall Remain
The Collin Street Bakery fruit cake seems like a clear example that any food that comes with a pamphlet full of instructions is inherently fraught with peril.  

And it also proves that come Ginger's birthday, she should look to receive an equally seasonally inappropriate item in her mailbox.
Plus, Of Course, These Napkins
Collin Street Bakery's Fruit Cake: 1 star

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We Looked Like We Needed 9am Cocktails

Whole Wheat Pancakes -- The Little Owl
The Little Owl

If there is one time we generally hate to eat, it is Sunday at 9:30am.  Not because it is relatively early, but because due to some outdated prohibition-era law, New York City restaurants are not supposed to serve booze before noon on Sundays.  Needless to say, this is not a policy that sits well with us.
You Expect Us to Leave Our Hermit Caves and You Won't Even Give Us a Drink, NYC?
However, being that we've been at this blog for over three years, and until now, we have never before been able to secure a convenient reservation at The Little Owl -- the place we have to go in order to consume Alton Brown's favorite whole wheat pancakes from the CAKE WALK episode -- we decide to suck it up and deal with the fact that we might be forced to have a sober breakfast.  
We Won't Be Happy About It, But We'll Do It
Of note, forty-five minutes before our reservation time, Vodka receives a text from a Little Owl employee, "confirming" our reservation.  Naturally, Vodka's instant response to this happenstance is contempt, immediately forwarding the screenshot to Ginger with the caption, "Don't text me, Little Owl.  We are not friends."
Every Restaurant Should Be Placed on a Nationwide DO NOT TEXT List
"They want to see how early they have to show up for work," Ginger quips by way of response, and less than an hour later, as she approaches the corner where the restaurant is located and sees Vodka hightailing it in the opposite direction, she assumes something must have already gone down with the waitstaff.

"Where you going?" she yells from thirty feet away through the silence of the West Village.  Vodka, somehow correctly surmising that this question is meant for her, does not break stride as she calls back, without affect, "Instagram."  It seems rather than doing anything blog-related for the past six months, Vodka has preferred to wile away her energies on her new favorite photo app, and she sees some ivy-covered townhouses across the street that she is eager to capture.  When Vodka turns back around to take a picture of Little Owl's exterior, she finds Ginger hovering in the doorway peering at the menu.

"Get out of my frame!" she yells at her, and Ginger stumbles back into the street obediently. 
Because, You Know, Heaven Forbid We Reveal Our Identities
It is only at this point, after squawking back and forth at each other three times, that we deign to greet one another and enter the restaurant.
THIS Is the Place Where We Couldn't Get a Reservation for Three Years?
The completely empty restaurant.  Thanks for texting the confirmation, Little Owl, or else we don't know how you would have spared the table.
Quick, Go Steal a Bottle of Wine Before They Prevent Us from Having One
We settle into the corner by the windows, completely content that we have the place to ourselves.  And then, like something out of a cartoon, the front door opens, two more brunchers enter, and are told to sit wherever they like... and they sit DIRECTLY NEXT TO US.  Like, within spitting distance.  
Please Note the Stray Arm Getting in the Way of EVERY ONE OF OUR PICTURES
Now, please keep in mind that the entire place is DESERTED.  There is another window-view table one over from where they have chosen -- SIT THERE.  But no, instead, these two feel the need to figuratively settle directly in our laps.
Would You Like to Sample Our Coffees While You're At It?
We are annoyed, because of course.  But mostly, we are perturbed because we now think there is no way we will be able to sweet-talk our waiter into supplying us with some under-the-table pre-noon booze.

"What are you going to do?" Vodka whispers to Ginger when she sees her reading over the cocktail list.

"I'm going to order a bellini and and play dumb," Ginger answers.  And when our waiter comes back with his notepad in hand, that is exactly what she does.  And guess what?  Instead of relaying the usual answer of "We can't serve alcohol before noon on Sundays," our waiter merely nods and jots down "bellini," along with Vodka's prosecco and grapefruit lemonade.

This is our new favorite place in the universe.
We Take It Back, Little Owl -- You Can Text Us All You Like
Along with our alcohol, Ginger asks for an iced coffee, and Vodka, a regular black coffee.  When said caffeine arrives, Ginger insists that Vodka take a picture of her pouring the cream into her concoction.  Vodka does so as quickly as possible... and then Ginger proceeds to pour practically the entire container of cream into the glass.
And Two Days Later, She's Still Pouring
"I like the sense of urgency you created about the picture prior to dumping in all of the cream," Vodka tells her.  "I had hours to take that shot."  Our cocktails arrive soon after, and we are so giddy from their mere presence that we temporarily grow less hostile toward our dining "companions" (of note: restaurant still empty).
Perhaps We Can Move This Party Outside So We Will At Least Have Some Elbow Room
For brunch, we order the whole wheat pancakes and the bacon cheeseburger, because if we're going to drink alcohol before 10AM, we might as well wash it down with some ground beef and French fries. 
Totally Normal Breakfast
Let's Just Pretend These Are Hashbrowns
While we wait, we supply our next-door table neighbors with some gems of entertainment ("Well, how good of friends are you?"  "We're good friends.  I don't like her, but we spend a lot of time together.")  Luckily for them, our mouths soon become occupied by our food, and of the two choices, one is a clear standout over the other.

And unfortunately, it's not Alton Brown's choice.
Nice Try, Alton
The whole wheat pancakes, which come in a stack sprinkled with powdered sugar and a smattering of fresh berries, along with bourbon maple syrup on the side, are good.  I mean, they're pancakes -- even we can make pancakes, so we're not overly impressed.  
They're Also Fourth of July-Appropriate
These patties are dense in texture but manage to stay light, with a certain melt-in-your-mouth quality about them.  They're good, definitely.  But for the most part, they're just pancakes.
Also, We Don't Usually Eat Pancakes in a Stack, but We'll Try Our Best
The burger, however, is about ten-times more interesting -- juicy and smothered in a generous helping of cheese, along with a couple slices of bacon.  
We Have a Future in Cheeseburger Photography
Portrait of a Pickle
The French fries are crispy and mildly spicy, and we all but lick the entire platter clean (to be fair, we also completely decimate the pancake platter, but more because we don't like to be wasteful).  
Not to Be Outdone, Vodka Takes Four Days to Pour the Syrup
However, the thing we are most taken by is the individual containers of ketchup and mayonnaise The Little Owl has supplied us with, along with a tiny bowl of sea salt -- after all, we always have a soft spot in our hearts for some condiments.
We Did Not, Though We Were Tempted, Salt Our Pancakes
We each down another cocktail while deciding that we will be generous in our debate over whether these pancakes deserve 3 or 4 stars, allowing The Little Owl to benefit from the fact that they got us tipsy.  
Double the Breakfast Pleasure
As we leave, we continue to be flummoxed as to why this place so willingly handed us spiked beverages, while so many other locales have refused to do so.

"I think we just looked like we needed it," Ginger surmises, and indeed The Little Owl has just brought a whole new meaning to the phrase "It's not even noon [on Sunday] somewhere."

The Little Owl's Whole Wheat Pancakes: 4 stars

Friday, February 7, 2014

The 200th Post Round-Up: Vodka and Ginger's Favorite Cocktails

Well, here it is.  Forging through bouts of indigestion, tipsy stumbling, and frequently-lost-forays to other states (up to and including a couple of boroughs), we have reached our 200th post.  Rather than putting together another list of our Best of Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes, as we did to mark our 100th post anniversary, we have instead decided to concentrate on the important things: the cocktails we drank alongside our Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes.  Which ones did we love the most?  From what we can remember (ahem), here they are:

1. Buena Vista Cafe -- Irish Coffee
The Best Part of Waking Up
We love an excuse to drink whiskey at 9:00 in the morning -- don't you?  Only trouble is, we have to haul ourselves all the way to San Francisco in order to do so.

2. The Modern -- Kina and The Heights
Our Favorite Kind of Modern Art
In what will become a running pattern, we tend to enjoy our own beverages and not the other one's.  But we loved our respective gin cocktails at The Modern so much that they now enjoy equally high placement on our list.

3. Barrio Chino -- Grapefruit Margarita
The Lower East Side's Greatest Invention
We are notoriously hard on the Lower East Side, but Barrio Chino's grapefruit margarita is one thing that had us singing the neighborhood's praises.

4. Employees Only -- The Vesper and Ginger Smash
Mood Lighting Courtesy of Bar's "Secret" Ambiance
We're not fond of speakeasy-type locales (we have no shame drinking our booze out in the open), but even we have to admit that Employees Only serves up a rather delicious cocktail.

5. Wassail -- City Tavern
Ben Franklin Would Be So Proud
Undisputed proof that we were meant to live in the 1700s: our deep and undying love of heated wine.  Thanks, Philadelphia.

6. Dandelion -- Tartanka and Pimm's Deluxe
The Brits Do Booze Right
We Do Love a Decorative Garnish
In contradictory news, besides being members of the Continental Congress, we also apparently should have been born British, as we love an English pub.  Once again, these drinks are highly worth the train ride to Philly.

7. Clover Club -- Gin Blossom
We Like Any Drink That Comes with Free Refills
Early on, it was not easy to get us to Brooklyn (and to get us around once we were there), but if we are promised gin at the end of our venture, we'll make the trek over the East River.

8. Stanton Social Club -- Martinis
The Drink That Launched 200 Blog Posts
Admittedly, we have no memory of what we drank here, and our usually thorough blog notes fail to provide any insight.  But these cocktails gave birth to our catchphrase, "It's Not Even Noon Somewhere," so they must have been doing something right.

9. Caffe Dante -- Americano and Cappuccino with Kahlua
Starbucks Could Learn a Thing or Two
The cannolis in this place were not great, and their cappuccinos and americanos probably weren't much to write home about either.  But add a burst of kahlua to anything?  Instant improvement.

10. Hill Country Chicken -- Bandit Boxed Wine
High Class on a Tray
It's wine.  It's in a box.  It's hilarious.  And it is the best way, as we see fit, to cap off our Top 10 drinks.

Happy 200th post to us.  May many a calorie and many a cocktail lie ahead.

Yours in Best Thing I Ever Eating,
Vodka and Ginger

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let's Eat the Stupid Soup and Then Go Drink

Soondubu Jjigae Soup -- Cho Dang Gol
Cho Dang Gol

"I'm concerned about the drink options at this place."

This, ladies and gentlemen is the perpetual story of our lives.
Our Booze Choices Always Remain Our Number One Concern
We are on our way to Cho Dang Gol to consume something we don't know how to pronounce (soondubu jjigae soup), which Judy Joo featured on the AS GOOD AS MOM'S episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, and we are preemptively hostile.  Generally speaking, Asian restaurants are the homes of some things we love (namely noodles) and other things we hate (a terrible cocktail menu, if such a menu exists at all).

Upon arriving at the restaurant, Ginger texts Vodka a picture of Cho Dang Gol's drink menu, featuring such gems as "plum wine," and even worse, the highly dreaded "rice wine."
Well, THIS Will Never Do
"Let's eat the stupid soup and then go drink," is all Vodka texts back, and minutes later, when she is lost in Koreatown, she is heartened to find an Irish Pub located just down the street, a place that she is certain will ply us with gin, or at the very least, normal wine.

When she finally manages to stumble into the correct restaurant, Vodka finds a solitary figure in the corner, drinking stoically out of a large wine glass.

"They have red," Ginger says by way of greeting.  "It's just labeled as 'red.'  But it serves the purpose."
If Nothing Else, We Appreciate the Relatively Large Pour
We quickly become overwhelmed by the menu, and set our sights on words we understand ("dumplings" and "noodles").  
They Spend A Lot of Time "Distressing" The Menus at This Place....
There is some confusion about the soup we're supposed to be consuming, as it is called by a different name on the menu, but we are assured that it is the soft tofu stew we are after (and we order the seafood variety, because, why not?).  
In Truth, This Decision Was Made Like This: "Fish?" "Sure."
We also choose the dumpling appetizer and the jap chae (again, merely because it has the word "noodles" in it).  
Look, We Know What We Like
All of our food arrives within minutes (we know this only because our wine is barely gone), and it is all hot.  Not just spicy hot (although it is that, too), but HOT.  So hot that the soup is actually boiling.  Never one for patience, however, we dive in.

And are promptly spitting out our food onto our plates while fanning our tongues.
Sorry, We Forgot to Mention, Cho Dang Gol, That We Like Our Food COOLED OFF
First things first, the tofu stew is, besides being scalding, quite spicy.  "Unbearable," in the words of Ginger, until we decide to stop eating it as a soup at all, and begin ladling it on top of white rice as if it is General Tso's Chicken.  
We Make Korea So Proud
With the rice cutting down both the temperature and the spice level, we find the flavors of the stew itself rather pleasing -- the tofu itself, which neither of us is a particular fan of, is especially appealing.  Soft and mushy in texture, it has succeeded in taking on every taste inherent in the soup.  
In Truth, This Is Just About the Only Tofu Vodka Has Ever Enjoyed
The seafood in this cauldron is a bit of an afterthought, and when we are halfway through the serving, Vodka asks Ginger what she would rank it.

"4 stars?"
"We didn't even eat it like a soup."
"But it tasted good with rice."
"I would never order this again."
"Right, me neither."
"3 stars."

Sorry, Cho Dang Gol, but we really prefer our food "tepid" to "lukewarm."
Excellent Rice Though. Truly Superb
The dumplings, which are among the largest varieties we have ever seen, are good if unremarkable (and come with barely a thimble-full of accompanying sauce.  Look, people, we only eat for the condiments -- you're going to have to serve up more than that).
How Exactly Are We Supposed to Fit THESE...
...in THAT?!
The jap chae is by far our favorite item on the table, featuring a large pile of glass noodles sprinkled with assorted vegetables and beef.  
In General, Stuff Noodles In Our Mouths, and We'll Stop Complaining
Our entrees also come with an array of assorted side dishes, which the waitstaff does not bother to explain to us (they're obviously quite aware that all such descriptions would be lost on two fools whose main concern in this place is how high their wine glasses are filled).
So Many Sides, So Little Idea What We're Eating
When our table is cleared, we are presented with two (paltry servings of) ginger tea, which may just be our favorite thing on the menu, meaning it is a shame that there is so little of it.  
One Swallow's Worth of Tea
By the time we each make our way to the walk-through-the-kitchen bathroom (note: not the best restroom set-up we've ever seen, being that we are almost run over by various trays of boiling stew), the place is a flurry of activity with each and every table full, and a few guests lingering at the door.
Maybe We Could Ask Some of THEM to Explain the Side Dishes to Us
And at this point, Cho Dang Gol has clearly decided it is time for us to go.  As Ginger spends all of thirty seconds tapping at her phone in order to determine where her train is, we are accosted by a host mumbling something about "needing the table."

"Yeah, yeah, we're going," Ginger dismisses him, still poking at her phone, and we make not-so-pleasant faces at the waitstaff as we mosey out on our own terms.

"I believe we were just kicked out," Vodka says to Ginger when we hit the sidewalk, and for this reason alone, we have no plans to make a return trip to Cho Dang Gol any time soon.  Instead, we'll frequent the places that will serve us gin, blow on our soup, and allow us to linger at our bar stools for however long we please.

Cho Dang Gol's Soondubu Jjigae Soup: 3 stars