Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Leslie's Peanut Patties

A month ago, I was sitting at home and received a text from my sister telling me that she was in Texas and eating a candy that she figured that I wouldn’t like and would I want her to bring me home one. We long ago have established the kind of honesty about the quality of food where one of us bites the restaurant bread from the basket placed on the table and lets the other one know with brutal honesty if the carbs are “worth it”. Not doubting her assessment, but facing the reality that I wasn’t likely going to find myself in Texas in the immediate future, I asked her to bring me back the confectionary anyway.

As it turns out, the offer was for Leslie’s Peanut Pattie. The ingredients list, listed in order of volume is sugar, corn syrup, peanuts, red food coloring and artificial flavor. This candy was really a sight to behold with its vibrant red color and general heft, which could only be the corn syrup.

This candy amazed me to look at and handle, in the way abstract art might strike somebody. I love candy and eat candy all of the time, but I have never ever seen anything even kind of like this.

To be fair, peanuts are generally a real miss for me. While I love peanut butter, I pay extra in all of my snack nut mixes to skip the peanuts. Also, I generally avoid food dye when it’s blaringly obvious, with the exception of anything M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces, so I was excited to have an excuse to get out of my uptight nutritional box.

Boy was this different than my expectations. I thought that this would be extremely sweet and then cut by the presence of the salty peanuts but boy was I wrong. For me, the confectionary where peanuts were not present reminded me more of the taste of wax lips. The texture was crumbly as dried sugar would be, but in the absence of the peanuts being evenly dispersed it was really something different. The peanuts were not salty so they added more in texture than in additional flavor.

Their website says that they have been making these since 1949, so I suspect that there are people out there who truly enjoy this combination. While this candy was fun to try, I have to say that once again, my sister was right. I’m not sure what I expected sugar + food dye + peanuts to taste like, but now I am happy to know. Thank you, Sis!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Stamford Restaurant Chronicles: Hudson Social CT

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to participate in an international training program at my company, which involved three trips to Switzerland during the duration, meaning that it was a good way to try a bunch of different foods and to meet a handful of cool people. Now fast forward to a couple of months ago, my friend Dario from this program reached out to let us know that he was planning a visit to NYC and would be on our side of the pond. After experiencing an incredible amount of hospitality during my travels, it only made sense that it was time to return the favor.

The best part about the entire ordeal? When I asked him what kind of cuisine he would prefer, he told me 1. American, because we were in America and 2. Somewhere that I haven’t been so it could be a blog post. Now this made my whole day. I am pretty sure there are about 3 the readers of this blog, most of whom either are related to me or date me, but if even one reader is in Switzerland then this blog in INTERNATIONAL! Too delightful.

Since I generally go out to eat more often than I cook, it was sheer luck that Hudson Grille on Bedford Street had recently changed hands and rebranded to Hudson Social and DOUBLE luck that it was also Restaurant Week. As learned that evening, Switzerland does not have a “Restaurant Week”, so it’s a real marvel that you can get 3 courses for $28. If you don’t overeat in America, were you even here?

The last point to mention here before I get into the meat of the review is that I generally avoid eating places that become rowdy bars at night. I’ve spent many, many nights enjoying copious amounts of Bud Lights on the dance floor of Hudson, so I was apprehensive that the restaurant would smell too much like stale beer and puke for my esteemed colleague - but read on to find out why this was not the case at all.

After a brief office visit, Dario in addition to a few other colleagues and I headed to dinner at Hudson Social around 5:30PM EST. I was able to make a reservation on Open Table, thinking restaurant week might beef up the attendance, but we were the only seated table in the place. The restaurant still had a great ambiance and service was attentive and alas, no signs of a rowdy previous Saturday night to be seen or smelled.

Their cocktail list was what you’d expect and it was even $1 off each drink for RW, but I went ahead and got a mimosa because it’s cold and flu season. Half Full Lager was on draft, so Dario was able to take a sip of our local beer offerings on his visit as well. In reviewing the Restaurant Week menu, I was really blown away by the options for $28. There are also restaurants doing the same, but for $38 and this seemed like it couldn’t be beat. All 4 of us decided to utilize restaurant week and I don’t believe anybody was sorry.

My appetizer order was the avocado and burrata toast and let me tell you, this was the absolute star of the show. I could have had an additional slice of this and left the happiest camper that you’ve ever seen. Basic or not, I eat a ton of avocados and this toast was superior to most. The toast was topped with marinated tomatoes, balsamic, pistachios and a burrata that made you beg for more. This appetizer was smaller than some of the others that came out to our table, but I would go back just for this on any given Sunday morning given the chance.

Moving on to my main course, I decided on the pan roasted branzino, which came with roasted fennel, tabbouleh, orange segments and gremolata. Now I had already read reviews on Yelp, so I wasn’t too shocked by how incredibly small and thin the fish was – but there was barely any tabbouleh and absolutely no orange slices to be found. I don’t like fruit, so I wasn’t disappointed but I also don’t generally eat fish skin but was forced to just because I was afraid I would otherwise be leaving the dinner quite hungry. The picture here looks big, but it is an illusion. It’s probably a lot to ask for fresh fish at such a low price, but the fish was truly very dry and fried being so thin. I would not order this again here, Restaurant week or otherwise.

Following that fish fiasco, the brownie sundae was delivered and all negative memories of the entrée were erased from my mind. The brownie was soft in the center and the ice cream was cool and creamy. Lately most desserts have been a real letdown at restaurants for whatever reason, but this brownie sundae was decent.

The owner came over twice to check on things and seemed really eager to ensure that we all had a good time, which I absolutely did. As we were leaving, the place was really filling up for dinner on a Tuesday night I am hopeful that this guy will have a lot of success in the location. Overall it seems restaurant week was the best way to get to know this restaurant to be clear on what’s good to order at brunch and what’s better to skip. If being social is your focus, this place is the spot.

Hudson Social CT
128 Bedford St, Stamford, CT 06901

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Review: "The Most Stuff"ed Oreos

As a person who is consistent in only eating the frosting layer of cakes and saving the tops of cupcakes for last, you can imagine my delight when I heard that Nabisco was coming out with their “Most Stuffed” version of the classic cookie. When I was a mere tot, I would twist the Oreo cookies apart and push the crème sides of two cookies together, discarding the plain wafers, maintaining the notion that one good cookie beats out two mediocre cookies any day.

On an errand run, while we were adulting so hard, the clouds of responsibility parted and the sun shined down on our cart in Walmart as my boyfriend pulled the blue familiar package off of the display shelf for us to purchase. Not lost from sight in the sea of paper towels, tissues and cold medicine, we instantly had something to look forward to. A store filled with an abundance of degenerates with no space to push your shopping cart? No problem. From that moment on, life was going to be okay. Sugar and its healing effects, I’ll tell you.

Looking at the packaging, the only real difference here is the graphic and the promise that it will never get any better than this. I’ve never really been a huge fan of their “convenient” pull down opening as it never seals quite right, but that only matters if your cookies are going to hang around for a particularly long time.

In opening the package up, it was clear that there are a lot less cookies on offer here. Each row seems to have an abundance of unfilled space, as though some cookies simply disappeared from the packaging. At the 110 calories PER cookie and 22% of daily sugar allotment for just one, maybe the disappearing cookies were for our own benefit.

These cookies are simply amazing. You bite into them and the crème filling just oozes out. The wafers are harder than they normally are, but they have a big job to do here. You don’t build Hoover Dam with veneer. 

The proportion is perfect and the only thing I am left wanting for is a lower calorie count. As you eat these cookies, the frosting oozes out of the other side, so I imagine these cookies wouldn’t be great to eat in the car, etc.

Unless you’re the kind of person who tells everyone that Biscotti is your favorite cookie, get out and try these amazing limited time dreams come true. Your inner 8 year old will thank you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Review: Lay's New England Lobster Roll Potato Chips

Old friends are good for so many things; they can pick you up at the airport, be a shoulder to cry on or even give you some tough love when you’re busy feeling a little too sorry for yourself. Some embroidered pillows even propose the notion that “Friends are the chocolate chips of life”, but somehow, I have it one better than that. Since starting my food blog a few years ago, I have been blessed with a few thoughtful folks picking up truly interesting snacks for me to try. Well lightening has struck once again and a few months ago, my friend Scott who was mainly working out of Boston at the time told me that he snagged me a bag of Lay's New England Lobster Roll Potato Chips.

A few years ago, I made the interesting decision to move one hour Northeast of where I used to live to Connecticut for work. And no, that doesn’t sound like a big move but it’s a little bit colder with a bit more traffic and a ton more Patriot fans to deal with. The only payout of moving out of the Mid-Atlantic and into New England is the more accessible lobster roll, which people of Connecticut are wildly obsessed with. Being candid, I am not immune to the aforementioned obsession myself. In hearing that Lay's would venture into this space, I couldn’t contain my excitement!

For the sake of being authentic in my review, with my friend traveling and a few other life commitments taking up some time, it wasn’t until months later that I actually got my hands on the bag of the chips in question. Before opening, I noticed that they were more than a month expired, but if you think that the thought of an expired large crustacean was going to be enough for me not to eat these, then I am positive that we’ve never met.

In the past year, Lay's went on a campaign to pay tribute to regional flavors across America and the Lobster Roll flavored chips were originally released at the Maine Lobster Festival, making me think of a room where there were thousands of people wearing flannel with discerning palettes to whom the chips would have had to hold up their flavor for. The chips are described by the company as having the “flavor of fresh lobster served on a buttery grilled roll”.

The verdict? These chips rocked. I would argue that they are predominantly sour cream and onion flavored, but reading the ingredients it’s not hard to see why - having both sour cream and onion powder as a part of the recipe. Lobster roll seasoning, rather than actual lobster is where the chips derive their flavor from, so it’s not hard to tell why this particular flavor is a bit absent. It should be said that if I had made it a point to snag these chips before they expired, perhaps they would have been a bit fishier, but I can’t say that I would have enjoyed that any more than I did.

Just because these chips don’t taste quite like biting into heaps and heaps of lobster, isn’t to say that they aren’t delicious. These thick cut chips could be enjoyed by nearly anyone, independent of their obsession for the Maine based sandwich.

Between the creaminess of the sour cream and the taste of butter and onion, these are chips that will always be welcome to my party. Be warned, they are highly addictive. Cheers to good friends and great chips.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Stamford Restaurant Chronicles: Mexicue

I’d like to meet the person who invented the 5-day workweek. Anyone with such bad judgement as to think that adults can get through that type of repetition without a break must have the type of terrible judgement of somebody that you’d want to party in Vegas with. Nearly 10 years in the workforce and I still can’t manage. You wake up Monday morning filled with all of the intention of eating healthy, getting your exercise in, sleeping The Full 8 and then life happens. Making it halfway through the week feels as good of a reason to celebrate as any.

Having recently discovered that my gal pal Val works in Stamford, it didn’t take long for us to come to the agreement on the idea of monthly dinners. Being a Harbor Point resident, I was all too happy to walk over to Mexicue for what would by my third visit. 

On the night before the restaurant opened, they invited all Harbor Point Residents to have a sneak peek of the food and when it came time to bring the bill, they announced to us that all drinks and food at the preview were FREE. I will tell you what, at first – I was blown away by that. I immediately took to the restaurant, which is a good thing as my bedroom window is about 10 feet away from the place.

Visit 2 was far less remarkable. My Mom and I sat outside and the weather was the best part of the experience. We managed to rack up a bill over $100 for 3 drinks, 4 tacos and a small guacamole. Here’s the thing about Mexicue though, it has tremendous curb appeal. It’s trendy and I suspect most people who see it want to go at least once.

In sitting down for visit #3, Valerie revealed to me her inspiring habit of ordering menu items denoted as seasonal for the simple fact that they are limited time only and that she likes to mix it up. I thought that was super fun and adventurous and she put her money where her mouth was when she ordered her cucumber margarita. Trying it, I found it to be extremely potent of the green vegetable and viscous. Val said she found it refreshing and from the picture you can see the drink was really something else.

I am a woman with a weakness for a frozen margarita with salt and after seeing it on their menu, I was disappointed to hear that they actually don’t carry frozen margaritas after all. If that’s the case, maybe re-print the menu? I ended up settling on the house margarita with salt on the rocks and it was on the syrupy side. I’d still get it again (re: weakness), but it was more of a sticky dessert than a chance to get my buzz on. Round 2 was Modelo on draft and that was very cold and enjoyable.

Service was attentive, but we had a good laugh because at the start of our meal, the waiter had his button-down shirt unbuttoned to a notable degree. By the end of the meal, he had undone several other buttons as the night went along. No idea what that was all about but Val said it made her think of this and she was spot on:

To start, we kept it spicy and went with an order of jalapeno guacamole. Normally I would shy away from getting anything spicy at a Mexican restaurant, but this place isn’t your “authentic” Mexican cuisine but rather your trendy Tex-Mex. The chips and guacamole were on point. Extra points because they didn’t awkwardly make it table-side. The heat was pleasant and the avocados tasted fresh.

Every time I eat here, I always feel compelled to order the Romaine Lettuce cups instead of the taco shells, after eating the equivalent of a bag of tortilla chips to start and each time I find my meal to be mediocre at best. On this visit, I got one smoky chicken taco which had slaw, creamy chipotle sauce, pico de gallo and cojita cheese and the cheese was the best part;  seemingly sweet and freshly shredded. The chicken was dried out and supplemented by an overabundance of the chipotle sauce. 

My second taco was the Wild Rock Shrimp which consisted of slaw, sliced mango, salsa verde, creamy chipotle and cilantro. Marginally, the shrimp taco was the better of the two. Part of Val’s order was the BLT Taco and the bacon was so flavorful and thick cut that it would be on my list to order for my next visit.

The view from the restaurant is gorgeous and sometimes a margarita is exactly the fuel you need to get you over the hump to face the end of the week.

15 Harbor Point Rd
Stamford, CT 06902

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Stamford Restaurant Chronicles: ZAZA Italian Gastrobar

With my new dedication to eat my way through Stamford’s food offerings, it gave me the perfect excuse to go to my second favorite restaurant in this town - Zaza’s. I really love everything about this place and with that lens, I may be a bit biased here – but that’s the beauty of writing my own blog. The devil may care, but I do not.

My friend Ali is always good for a trip to Zaza and half a bottle of red wine, so on a Thursday night without a reservation we arrived at 7:15 and were seated immediately. I remember a few years ago that the restaurant was considerably more packed at dinner, so hopefully this isn’t an indication that it’s falling out of favor.

The atmosphere is generally really trendy and appealing in a way a bistro in NYC would strike me. On this occasion, the weather outside was extremely hot and the temperature was in no way moderated on the inside either. It was fine for a girl’s dinner, but if it was a date situation you might find yourself displeased with how sweaty everyone would be before the entrée was delivered to the table. The other thing that struck us as weird was the abundance of red lighting. You can see in this picture it was on the next level.

We started our meal off with a bottle of wine and the host was very welcoming in discussing the options available. The tables are communal, with only a small divider allowing for communication with other parties if both groups should desire.

As an appetizer, we ordered roasted truffle sprouts which are Brussel sprouts in a honey truffle sauce topped with almond slivers. When I come here, I always order this and it’s such a delectable balance of deeply fried greens with a sweet and savory sauce. To be frank, after my meal I experienced something close to a belly ache and that was likely from the decadence of this app, but almost entirely worth it.

For my meal, I ordered the Rosemary Wild Salmon described as using Lemon and rosemary infused oil, served with sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. I am not a big potato girl, so I asked for double spinach. The spinach itself also struck me as considerably fried so the entire meal tasted delicious. Salmon was cooked perfectly and I ran out of room before I was able to eat as much of the meal as I wanted.

It’s always a homerun at Zaza’s.

Zaza Italian Gastrobar
122 Broad St
Stamford, CT 06901

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Stamford Restaurant Chronicles: Fin II

After 8.5 years of working in the same suburban office park in the northern corner of Stamford, my office has finally moved. Nearly everything about the office’s new location is a pain, with the exception of one thing; the plethora of restaurant options now available to me for lunch. No more being forced into spending $9.50 at the pathetic Riverbend Cafeteria for me, no sir. Also, it really helps that our new office is under construction with no refrigeration available so there’s no guilt to be felt for the additional reckless expense of dining out in the middle of the day.

Walking around downtown, there are dozens of food options to choose from along with plenty of temporary art statues on the street to play around with. At our old location, I would exercise every day during my lunch break, so there’s a real novelty to getting out of the office mid-day for a new experience. All smiles here.

Now working over on Broad Street and not feeling brave enough to endanger myself by going to Curly’s Diner, my colleague and I settled in Fin II because I am preferential to Sushi when I can. We came here on a weekday for their lunch special and I settled on their salmon poke bowl with brown rice and spicy ponzu sauce. I am generally a huge fan of Poke and was surprised to see the long list of ingredients in the dish. I asked that they leave off the kidney beans and tobiko. Honestly, kidney beans at an Asian restaurant? A quick google search and I now know that kidney beans are native to Peru. Very strange.

The salmon itself was actually quite good and the spicy ponzu sauce was on point.. Normally, I am not a big mango fan but the waitress remembered my order in her head, without pen and paper so I was afraid the third omission might have made for some sort of error. Another thing to note is that this dish is not available on their online menu at this time. My coworker, who came with me was given avocado without asking for it and subsequently charged an additional $1.00.

The interior of the restaurant is dark and on the worn side and the restaurant was one notch above feeling grossed out about the cleanliness for me. That being said, the service was efficient and exactly what you would be looking for during a 1 hour lunch break.

The lunch cost $13.99 plus tax and tip, but the portion was on the large side and I had plenty of rice left over when I was done. I would go back because of how convenient the location is, but I'd likely order something different.

Fin II
219 Main St
Stamford, CT 06901