Saturday, March 30, 2013

10 Things You Should Be Shoving In Your Mouth Right Now

  Well, I suppose you don’t actually have to shove things, if that seems especially violent and unsocial to you. We all have our own preferred methods of delivering cargo to our pie-holes, so feel free to do what you must, as long as it’s relatively legal and no one is injured in the process. Anyway, the following delicacies should be placed on your tongue as soon as humanly possible, unless there are religious or self-confidence issues holding you back:

1. Ghiradelli Intense Dark Cabernet Matinee

  That’s right, folks. Chocolate with a hint of wine flavoring. Now, maybe such a pairing is a widely-known treat that has been around forever, and I’m just late to the game. (It wouldn’t be the first time, I don’t get out all that much.) But when I walked around the corner and came upon this staring at me in the candy section, I was stunned. It was all I could do to keep from ripping the package open right then. The only thing that kept me from doing so was the fear that I might make extremely-satisfied noises that would send small children scurrying to their parents with reports that a strange man had just gone into heat in aisle 4.

  I realize that some people are not fond of dark chocolate, convinced that the slightly bitter taste is somewhat of the devil and should be avoided entirely. (I don’t know why these people think that, but I suspect that it is a reflection of a poorly-supervised upbringing or some maladjustment in their DNA.) I also understand that some folks are not cray-cray about the vino, and I’ll admit that wine is usually not my first choice in any given alcohol-involved situation. But there are certainly times when a nice glass of wine or seven can be quite satisfying, or at least give you the appearance of being sophisticated and refined, until you forget to point your pinky whilst drinking, and then you are shunned and excommunicated by people who have more money than you.

  In any case, the wine aspect of this little treat is not overpowering, fighting to get your attention like those annoying children in restaurants who scream and throw things because their parents are idiots who “don’t believe in discipline” and let their offspring completely dominate them. There’s no actual alcohol in this chocolate (dang it!), just a blackberry/dark grape essence  that is quite satisfying and makes one think of evenings in Paris. (Or at least watching a movie where cute couples are falling in love in Paris, before one of them does something stupid that causes a breakup and results in Adele singing a sad ballad while the end credits roll.)

2. Hidden Valley Smoked Bacon Ranch Sandwich Spread

  My absolute favorite condiment to put on a sandwich is actually Hellmann’s mayo. Love it, can’t get enough of it, would gladly marry it if the Supreme Court would make it legal. But my lover has a terrible secret, in that there’s enough fat in just one tablespoon of that stuff to block the arteries of half the population of Idaho. (Which, granted, is only three people, but still, that’s three people with blockage and the related medical bills. Not good.) So I’m always desperately searching for something to go on my sandwiches that is almost as pleasing but not nearly as life-threatening.

  Okay, maybe “desperately searching” is a bit of a stretch. It’s more along the lines of “every once in a while I remember that I’m supposed to be eating things that will help keep my cholesterol numbers from being higher than the Gross National Product, and I’ll walk past the Hellman’s in the grocery store and grudgingly review the lighter-fat options, pouting the entire time because eating healthy completely sucks”.

  Then this little guy recently made his debut on the shelves, and I’m happy to report that it’s rather tasty, especially when compared to other “low fat” spreads that always seem to have a chemical tang to them that I don’t appreciate at all, like I’m smearing nuclear waste on my buns. (This stuff is also good as a dip for fried chicken nuggets and mozzarella cheese sticks, which sort of negates the low-fat objective, but you know I had to try it.) And if the bacon and ranch theme is not your thing, this guys has three siblings with intriguing names like “roasted garlic and parmesan” and “chipotle pepper”. (I haven’t slept with the rest of the family yet, but I plan to do so, because I’m a food whore.)

3. Kansas City Prime Steak Flavor Chips

  Now, I’ve never been a super big fan of steak. (Much to the shock and dismay of the rest of my family in Oklahoma, giving them yet another item on their spreadsheet entitled “why does Brian have to be so difficult and opinionated about crap”.) I actually like the flavor, but there’s something about the commitment to extensive chewing that puts me off. And the random, surprise bits of gristle. (Ugh.) So you won’t see me eating steak unless it’s the only thing on the menu or a court order has been issued.

  So why would I even throw something like this in my shopping cart? Because it’s different. I’ll try anything once, just to see what it’s like, sometimes out of simple respect for the person who had the courage, vision and/or mental illness to come up with the product in the first place. This means there are times when something gets one bite taken out of it, then it goes in the trash, forever banished and scorned. (Some dreams should be killed before incurring production and development costs.) Other times it’s a spiffy little success, like with these chips, which have the flavor of steak without the need for jaw-muscle fatigue or allowing rednecks to have access to steak knives.

4. Chobani Greek Yogurt – Coffee with Dark Chocolate Chips

  Yogurt is one of those things that you either love or hate, sort of like Ben Stiller movies. After all, it’s basically a dairy product that has been fermented, which sounds like something nasty that you would hurl out of your refrigerator and never speak of again. On the other hand, cheese is a fermented dairy product, and most people can’t get enough of that, so I don’t understand what all the fuss is about with people turning up their noses at the thought of eating something with bacteria in it. (These same people will happily French kiss their boyfriends, sticking their tongue in a far more unhealthy environment. Go figure.)

  But I love yogurt. I love Greek yogurt even more, though I must confess that I didn’t even know there was such a thing until the last year or so. When I first saw it on the shelves, I was stymied. Greek yogurt? What makes it Greek? (The easy answer, it was made in Greece, you fool, is proven false by simply checking the production site on the package.) Wait, maybe Greek yogurt is made with ouzo, that wonderfully-strong Greek alcohol that can make you lose your mind, dance energetically in a circle while people clap, and wake up the next morning with a goat in your bed. (Personally, I’ve only experienced two of those things.)

  Sadly, no ouzo. The “Greek” part refers to the method of production, where there’s extra straining and manipulating to create a much thicker yogurt, packed with protein that, along with the digestive-aiding charm of the other ingredients, makes this a very healthy thing to eat. (Unless, of course, you have some type of death-resulting reaction to one of those ingredients, in which case you probably wouldn’t appreciate eating yogurt, since that would be your last meal and all. Then again, a celery stick can kill you if the circumstances are just right, so you have to pick your battles, right?)

  So, if you like Greek yogurt (thick and creamy!), like the taste of coffee (the basic kind of java, not one of those concoctions you get at the trendy coffee shops, where they add so much foo-foo crap that the presence of actual coffee no longer has any relevance), and you like dark chocolate (I know, I know, too items on this list concerning dark chocolate, I clearly have an obsession), then this brand and this flavor is just what you need. I’m sure another company or two have something similar, but I don’t want to know about it, because then I would have to choose between them, torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool…

5. Brown Rice Triscuits – Sea Salt and Black Pepper

  Brown rice is another one of those “supposed to be better for you” kind of things floating around in the culinary ether, with certain people expounding it’s virtues like they’ve just been to an Enya concert and they are still tingling with excitement. I’m sure it’s nice and healthy, but the only real experience I’d had with brown rice, at least that I’m aware of, was at sushi restaurants. Some of the rolls now feature brown rice, probably at the insistence of one of those people who like to circulate petitions on the Internet. But when you compare it to the fluffy brightness of the white rice, which makes the vibrant bits of raw fish pop even more, the brown rice just looks drab and step-child like. Not as pretty. And food really should try to look its best if it wants to win any awards or get a date on Saturday night.

   But I greatly enjoy Triscuits, in almost all of the various flavor forms. (There’s one certain flavor that just doesn’t do it for me, but I refuse to speak its name, because that would just give the flavor more exposure than it really deserves, just like a Kardashian.) So when I noticed this version of Triscuit business lined-up on the store shelf, my immediate reaction was “Hurray! Sea salt and black pepper!”. (My eyes went there first.) This was followed by a slightly-dejected “Uh oh, these are made with brown rice. I bet they’re ugly just like the sushi.”

  And I was right, these things will not place in a beauty pageant, looking like someone took some regular Triscuits, boiled them for a while, and then threw them in the dryer too long, making them smaller than their more-glamorous cousins. (They do have a nice little sheen to them, though. I don’t know where that comes from (bits of ground-up glass?), but it keeps the product design from being completely insulting.) I popped one in my mouth, curious.

  The result was quite pleasing. It’s a different taste from a regular Triscuit, which may startle people who are not quite ready for it, but it’s not a bad taste. And the amount of salt and pepper was just right, not too much of either. But there was a tiny bit of a wang after I had swallowed, a lingering bit of something that needed to be rectified. And I instinctively knew just what the resolution would require.

  Cheese. Specifically, a slice of sharp cheddar. Naturally, we always have some of that around, because cheese is often called in as edible-reinforcements in this house, and I quickly had a baby open-faced sandwich ready to go. It was clearly the right decision, because twenty minutes later half the box of crackers and an entire brick of cheese no longer existed on this planet. Yum.

6. Blue Diamond Almonds – Rosemary and Black Pepper

  Almonds are an evil thing, even more so when it comes to Blue Diamond and their enticing flavored almonds. Almonds have a split personality, containing both the “good” fat (the kind you need for proper digestion, glowing skin, improved social standing, and world peace) and the “bad” fat (the kind we are warned to never eat or the Earth will fall out of the sky, even though 97.8% of all known food items are brimming with this bad fat). This results in a horrible, soul-killing tightrope that we have to walk. Many nutritionists recommend eating a very small handful of almonds every day. A very, very small handful.

  We’re talking 5 almonds. That’s it.

  If you go beyond this miniscule, almost-laughable ration, you destroy the goodness you have done for your body  and thirty years of going to the gym will be instantly destroyed the very second that the sixth almond passes your lips. You have to stop at five. And this is simply impossible to do when there is an open can of Blue Diamond almonds within a five-block radius, especially the more exotic flavors like this Rosemary and Black Pepper combo, the consumption of which is almost sexually-gratifying. I don’t know who this Rosemary is, or what she did to become a snack seasoning, but I’m a much better person for having known her.

  By the way, this flavor is only available at Target. I’m not sure who slept with whom to make this arrangement happen, but that’s how it breaks down. And as is usually the case with these “only at” handshakes, this flavor will probably disappear before too long. So get your ass in the car and set the GPS for Target. And don’t worry about the stop-lights, those things are insignificant in the end. Besides, do you really want to abide by the law and risk never meeting Rosemary? I think not.

  Hmm. I just realized that out of the six entries so far, two involve dark chocolate and two involve black pepper. Very interesting. This probably means that I should seek out some delicacy that involves both of those ingredients, but I’m not sure about that mash-up, dark chocolate and black pepper. Who is going to make something that like that?

  Hold up. What’s this?

  Oh. My. GOD. Dark chocolate with lemon and black pepper!

  Um, I think the rest of this list will have to wait until a later date. Right now I need to find me one of these and go have some quality personal time. I’ll catch up to you later…