Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Foods Long Gone

I just had to hop on here and make a quick post about something that bugs me. It seems like the things I like are always getting discontinued. Maybe I just have unconventional tastes, but inevitably a new Bath and Body Works fragrance that I really like gets discontinued after a few seasons. And some of my favorite snack foods that I still crave to this day are long gone. The two in particular I am thinking of are Sonic Sour Cream Doritos and Trolli Dino Eggs. These are both junk foods I remember getting at Target when I was in college, so they would have been around in the late '90s.

The Sonic Sour Cream Doritos were really similar to Cool Ranch Doritos, but the flavor was a little sweeter, creamier, and less spicy.

The Dino Eggs were like a jelly bean that was coated in a soft sour shell. It was just the perfect amount of sour, so when you ate the beans and crunched through the shell the sour and sweet flavors melted together perfectly. It wasn't the kind of sour that made your mouth pucker.

I swear I can still taste each of these things and it's driving me crazy. :-)

(and fortunately, it is still possible to order some of my favorite discontinued B&BW products by calling their toll-free number and ordering from the warehouse, even if the products are no longer carried in the stores. but there's no way to do the same thing for my snack foods. I've done plenty of google-ing to no avail.)

Edited to add: There may be hope! I googled a little more and found out who produces Trolli candy in the US. Upon visiting their web site I found a candy that looks promisingly similar to the Dino Eggs... now I just have to find these Sour Brite Crawler Eggs!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Raspberry Cream Cheese Bars

Last week was my friend Sue's birthday. Sue is currently a coworker but I have known her from college when we were both English majors. We both enjoyed editing and took a publishing class together in hopes that it would prepare us for future careers as editors. Instead the class was full of wanna-be writers who complained about editors and generally spent the class discussing other writers, pretentious literary magazines, and strategies for getting published. But it was a memorable experience. The most I remember from that class was a lot of discussion on how Raymond Carver's short stories were so heavily edited that his editor, Gordon Lish, should have taken writing credit for them. That actually was really interesting.

I have to digress for a moment and mention another memorable English class I took in college (but I don't think Sue was in this one). OSU had no sort of 'editor track' for English majors, and most specialties focused on different periods or styles of literature. I knew I wanted to be an editor and as a member of the honors program my advisor was able to craft some kind of customized specialization where I took classes geared towards working in publishing. So one of them was an upper level grammar class. I have a sickness where I actually really like grammar and especially like diagramming sentences. I have liked diagramming sentences since grade school. So one of my favorite and most memorable assignments from this grammar class was to diagram William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Now, Faulkner was the bane of my existence in one of my literature classes, but I do appreciate this speech as one of the most beautiful pieces of literature I have ever read (yet really difficult to diagram!). So if you are in an "English class" frame of mind right now, check out the speech here. It's beautiful.

Anyway, Sue and I lost touch for a little while after college but eventually she joined me in the world of publishing and now we get to commiserate about deadlines, page proofs, comp houses, project-worker versus full-time positions, deadlines, authors, PMP, and deadlines. But aside from talking about work, Sue is someone I feel I just 'click' with and I consider her a dear friend. She has always been really supportive and she and her husband even helped Jason and me move into our home. So on her birthday, I wanted to do something to celebrate it at work and I planned to bake. (I also took her a card and a potted plant. I'm not that sure of myself that I think my baking is a gift unto itself.)

I had a recipe for some Raspberry Hazelnut Linzer cookies that I had been wanting to make for a long time, but was waiting for a special occasion because they looked so time consuming. I had been wanting to make this type of cookie since I saw it on the February 2007 cover of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

So on the night before Sue's birthday, I started making the cookies. I made the dough, and it had to refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before I rolled it out. While the dough chilled, I boiled the raspberry jelly and then strained it to remove the seeds. I had the cookie cutters all picked out. When the time came, I started rolling out the dough to cut out the cookies, and it just crumbled everywhere. It was sticking to the rolling pin but even when I could prevent it from sticking it was falling all over the place, to the point that it just wouldn't work. I don't know what went wrong, and I fought with it for awhile, but eventually had to give up and pitch the dough in the trash.

There I was with a bowlful of strained raspberry jelly, and trying to figure out how to salvage it. I searched and found a recipe for Raspberry Cream Cheese Bars that I happened to have all the ingredients for. I only made half the recipe, and instead of slivered almonds I used some mixed-nut ice cream-topping I had. They actually came out like a raspberry version of the oatmeal carmelitas I love to make. I'm not a big fan of fruit, so I probably wouldn't make them again, but I thought they were okay, and the recipe definitely came to the rescue. [Oh, and as a somewhat ironic side note, I wasn't able to give them to Sue on her actual birthday anyway. We had a really bad snowstorm so I decided to work from home that day rather than risk the commute.]

3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
18 ounces red raspberry preserves
1/3 cup chopped slivered almonds

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Combine the oats, flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Press three-fourths of the mixture into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 11-13 minutes or until set and edges just begin to brown.
Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Spread over crust. Drop preserves by spoonfuls over cream cheese mixture; carefully spread evenly. Combine almonds and remaining oat mixture; sprinkle over preserves.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set and edges are golden brown. Cool before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Birthday Wine

Apparently the theme of my birthday this year was wine since I chose two wine-themed restaurants for dinners to celebrate. I thought I would write short reviews. This entry is link-happy, so click away (especially you non-Columbus residents)!

The first was a visit to the Burgundy Room in the Short North. A few years ago I had gone to the Burgundy Room in Dublin with Jason's parents and loved it. Despite having a bad experience there with being seated at our table and then not being visited by a server for at least 2o minutes or so—we were too caught up in conversation to notice that we were being neglected at first, and when Sue finally pointed it out to the hostess an embarrassed manager apologized profusely and bought us a bottle of wine—we still had a delicious meal of many small plates, a few large plates, delicious wine and a warm ambiance. This year when we decided to make plans for my birthday dinner before going to a Blue Jackets game, I choose to go to the Short North location of the Burgundy Room since it would put us close to Nationwide Arena.

I should have investigated this option a little more thoroughly though. Apparently the Short North location has a different menu that is much more limited from the menu offered at the Dublin location. And unfortunately it was limited to many things I didn't necessarily want to eat. Even the seemingly 'safe' dishes ended up being a gamble. For instance, the bruschetta was purple (black olives, I decided). So we made do with a few small plates but joked that we would have to buy a hot dog at the hockey game. The ambiance wasn't as great either. It was still a great birthday meal, but just not up to my expectations after our previous visit in Dublin.

Fortunately we had a fantastic wine that Sue picked out. It was a red wine called Rocks and Gravel. I haven't been able to find it at a local store so I may have to have The Andersons fantastic wine department order some for me.

My second wine-themed dinner was to Vino Vino in Grandview later that week. My friend and coworker Carolyn said she wanted to treat me to dinner, and that was my choice. Vino Vino was created by the couple who created Figlio, which I love, so I figured it would be great, and it was! It's a very long and narrow space, and very crowded. If I were a claustrophobic I probably wouldn't have been able to stand how close together the tables were. We could basically hear all the conversations around us, and when the servers walked by I imagined them sucking in their guts to make sure they would fit. But despite the crowded setting, or perhaps because of it, the restaurant had a warm and cozy atmosphere. I should mention that despite how crowded and busy the restaurant was, we had a 7:30 reservation and when I arrived at 7:28 I was seated immediately. I really respect that. (I'll never forget the time my family went to Cap City Diner to celebrate Gretchen's graduation from college, had a 2:30 reservation and arrived around 2:23, and were told "Sorry, but we're going to have to wait to seat you until closer to the actual time of your reservation." We weren't seated for probably 15 to 20 minutes later. Jerks.)

One thing I thought was great about Vino Vino was the wine flights they offered. I had one called "My Fantasy Threesome" that was three 2-oz. glasses of wines from South America. I believe the flight cost around $9.95. The server brought the three glasses, each marked with a number on the base by a grease pen, along with a paper listing each wine and a description of it. When I tasted them one at a time I could tell right away which one was my favorite, which I then ordered a full glass of when I finished the flight. I recycled the paper with the wine descriptions on it so unfortunately I can't tell you what it was. It must have been a really good one though because I noticed that the full glass cost $11.25 (thanks, Carolyn!!).

Carolyn ordered a flight too, so on our tiny little table we had six wine glasses and two water glasses between us, in addition to the food when it arrived. The food at Vino Vino was worth mentioning... we started with a cheese plate with fruit and nuts, and then I had a portabello mushroom ravioli with prosciutto in a brown butter sauce. Carolyn had tilapia in a caper butter sauce with jasmine rice. We finished with the "Chocolate Flight" for dessert, which was chocolate creme brulee, some kind of fudgey chocolate cake, and a tiny chocolate candy mouse that neither of us ate because we couldn't break it in half.

All in all I would recommend the Burgundy Room only if you checked out the menu beforehand and were interested in the offerings. But I would highly recommend Vino Vino (as well as making a table reservation in advance).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I think I'm in Love

It's Valentine's Day, and I think I'm in love... with the idea of these cupcakes!

This bakery is in German Village, and I am going to have to make a point to check it out soon.