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.

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