Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ice Cream News

This probably isn't exciting or new to most people, but Turkey Hill makes a line of light ice cream that surpasses Edy's and (I hate to say it) Breyer's varieties. I tried the Light Recipe Extreme Cookies 'N Cream over the weekend and it is rich and chocolatey. It's chocolate ice cream with pieces of chocolate cookies and a fudgy cookie swirl. That was essentially what was written on the carton, and the ice cream definitely lived up to its description.

A Ben & Jerry's is slowly being built in Carytown, just a few doors down from my beloved Bev's in a former laundromat. The laundromat went out of business months ago, so I'm not sure why Ben & Jerry's didn't get moving and convert the building in time for prime ice cream months. Maybe they're afraid. And they should be - a Ben & Jerry's shop used to reside in a different Carytown location, but it couldn't stand up to Bev's back then. With any luck, it won't be able to now either.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Got Crabs?

Believe it or not, I am now the proud owner of a turquoise colored t-shirt with these words on the front and back. Saturday afternoon I went to my first Annual Hanover Firefighters' Crab Feast (it was their sixteenth). Tickets for the event, which took place in a park in Mechanicsville, cost $25, and had to be purchased ahead of time. Finding the tickets wasn't the easiest task considering they were sold at limited Mechanicsville locations, but I was so excited at the prospect of all-you-can-eat crabs that I wasn't going to let any of the details ruin my enthusiasm.

The weather was beautiful, the directions were easy to follow, and the festival was in full swing when Davy and I walked through the admission area. There were about 2000 people there, so it was a little overwhelming at first. Tables and chairs were set up under several tents, and there were long tables filled with people enjoying their share of 240 bushels of crabs. I could hardly contain myself.

It seemed that the plastic yellow cups we were given in exchange for our tickets were designated for beer, and we quickly found a Budweiser truck near the entrance. You can imagine our shock when we realized that people were serving themselves - unlimited beer was included in the $25 ticket price! Information about the feast mentioned only "beverages," which I'd assumed were only sodas and water. Even without the beer, I think that all-you-can-consume crabs, hot dogs, Saltines could be considered the bargain of the century.

When we found spots at a long table and had eaten a hot dog each, we started working on a pile of crabs. Firefighters came around occasionally to dump more on the table or clear away the empty shells. The second round was from the top of a bucket, and the crabs were encrusted with a healthy amount of Old Bay Seasoning.
I ate for two hours straight and didn't mind standing. Our table never got crowded, and the spots around us were empty after a short amount of time - some people were more dedicated to their Bud Lights than the crabs.

The entire afternoon was surreal and close to perfect. As hard as it was to believe that the feast actually happened, I was left with a hungover feeling unique to eating copious amounts of crabmeat, and spent much of the evening lying on the couch. My lethargy was a very real reminder that the feast actually happened, and that it was extraordinary.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Going to the beach often means coping with the repetitive t-shirt and sandal shops, and the endless offerings for salt water taffy, fudge, ice cream, and other treats. Normally I opt for ice cream alone, but last week I got an amazing tip about a chain called The Fudgery.

The geniuses behind this establishment offer various combinations of Edy's ice cream, their own fudge, and candy. I was so excited to try it that I can't remember the exact name of my order, but it was something like "You Put Ice Cream in my Peanut Butter." Brilliant.

It started with chocolate ice cream on a marble slab (think Coldstone's mashing technique) and then a large chunk of chocolate peanut butter fudge was broken into it. The ice cream, which was soft but not runny, just how I like it, was then topped with Reeses Pieces. Amazing and decadent, I know. It was almost too much for me to handle, and I ordered the smallest size. I may have to recreate this spectacular concoction over the winter to remind me of the beach.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Victory is Mine

Unilever pulled through. When I checked my mail on Saturday, I found an apology letter and coupon from the company that produces Breyer's ice cream. I guess I wasn't angry enough when I complained, because the coupon is only for one free item (Good Humor, Klondike, or Breyer's), and not an unlimited supply of ice cream. Better than nothing, I suppose. Now I have to decide what to use the coupon for...

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I never make tiramisu because it can be such an intimidating dessert. Layered and decadent, the full flavor of espresso and the creaminess of mascarpone align to please the tastebuds. This was a sensation I'd forgotten about in the craze of summer ice cream indulgence, but I was having a dinner with homemade gnocchi, pesto and tomato sauce, and tiramisu seemed to be an appropriate dessert route.

The recipe I chose was from a cookbook I used frequently during my semester in Italy (and I won't admit how many times I constructed tiramisu during those four months). It's a fairly simple procedure. Mix espresso, or strong coffee, and rum in a bowl, and dip ladyfingers into the liquid. Line a pan of your choice with the ladyfingers and set aside. Next, using a mixer, beat egg yolks (reserve the whites), a pound of mascarpone cheese, and sugar until blended. Transfer it to a separate container and clean the mixing bowl. Beat the egg whites until they form stuff peaks, and fold them into the creamy mascarpone mixture. Smooth this over the ladyfingers, and then shave three to four ounces of bittersweet chocolate over the top - a simple but impressive finish. My only complaint with this recipe is that the tiramisu has to sit in the fridge overnight, but it is certainly worth the wait.

Reading and Complaining

I am almost finished with Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which she documents her family's experiences with growing most of the food they ate for a year. It is packed with information about local farming and scary facts about the present and future state of the human race. However, there are also recipes, courtesy of her college-aged daughter, and vivid descriptions of fresh produce and the meals made with it. I'd be lying if I said the book inspired me to start producing my own food (raising chickens and turkeys doesn't sound easy) but I have learned a ton and am much more conscious about my groceries.

Speaking of groceries, a few weeks ago I purchased a half gallon of delicious Breyer's ice cream. Eagerly I took it home, waiting patiently to open it until after dinner. Much to my dismay, the carton was only filled about three quarters of the way to the top! I've been eating Breyer's for many years, and while I have seen containers not completely stuffed to the brim, this was quite drastic. I took a picture, meaning to write a disappointed letter, but I have been incredibly lazy about my camera so I decided just to submit a complaint online. So far I've gotten an auto-email saying that usually these types of comments are answered with a letter and "replacement coupon." I've heard some encouraging stories about free stuff, so I was hoping for a lifetime supply of Breyer's, but I guess that will do. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Fun in Beantown

Pleasing a large crowd can be challenging when it comes to food. Last weekend I visited several friends in Boston, and everybody did a good job of coming up with ideas for places to eat. We were able to accommodate tastes, location and schedules without too much difficulty, and managed to have fun at the same time.

Boston Beer Works has a few different venues in Boston, but we met at the one in Fenway, which is large and has industrial decor. I had a large Beantown Nut Brown Ale, which was thick but not heavy, and had a smooth, rich flavor. The appetizers were pretty standard - mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and cheese fries - but they hit the spot before a late dinner.

One of Boston's only BYO restaurants, Greek Isles in Fenway was perfect for our group of ten. After ordering from a menu on the wall and paying individually, we moved a few tables together to eat outside. We got cups for wine and water at no extra charge (of which I was aware), and our food came out quickly considering how much we ordered. The restaurant's casual atmosphere was deceiving; the food at Greek Isles is tasty and authentic. I had the privilege of trying the stuffed grape leaves, which were excellent, and I shared a humongous gyro plate. With enough meat for two, plentiful baskets of pita, and two side dishes, the meal was a major bargain for $11.95.

Zaftig's, a popular deli and brunch spot in Coolidge Corner, was quite a different experience from Greek Isles. Our group of seven waited for an hour (maybe more) for a table, but when we sat, there were two baskets of bagel chips with a cream cheese dip. Excellent touch, considering we were almost starving by that point. The brunch menu is slightly overwhelming - everything sounds good, and watching all the food pass assures you that it is good. Challah french toast, granola pancakes, a fried egg BLT and San Francisco Joe's Special (turkey sausage, mushrooms, spinach and eggs) were all contenders in my final decision. I ultimately chose to create my own omelet, with ham, spinach and sharp cheddar cheese. Wheat toast and homefries rounded out my meal, and the omelet did not disappoint. Fresh spinach, large chunks of meat and oozing cheese satisfied my long-endured hunger. It even kept me going until an afternoon snack of frozen yogurt topped with hot fudge at J.P. Licks.

On Saturday night we wandered toward Harvard Square, again with seven people, and decided to try Mr. Bartley's House of Burgers. A neighborhood landmark, the place was the epitome of "no fuss, no muss." While we waited outside for a table, the waitress gave us menus and took our orders before we even sat down. All of the party must be present to sit, no exceptions, and there is no bathroom. Inside, Bartley's is reminiscent of a camp dining hall, with its long wooden tables and open kitchen bordering the room. Numerous posters and entertaining signs adorn the walls, matching the witty menu.

Each of the cleverly named hamburgers (mostly political) can be made with turkey or veggie patties, and the rest of the menu highlights comfort food and thick frappes. I happened to not be in the mood for a burger, so I ordered the baked macaroni and cheese with a salad. I'm not sure if the mac and cheese was actually baked, but it was flavored with garlic and some herbs, and was very comforting. By a stroke of luck, friends on both sides of me ordered onion rings with their burgers. Sweet potato fries were another option, which I would have considered if I hadn't gotten mac and cheese, but the onion rings turned out to be a fantastic choice. Thin and crispy, yet pliable, the huge mounds tempted me several times throughout dinner. It's possible I could have consumed just onion rings for dinner.

Eating your way through a city is a great way to explore it, and I was lucky enough to do so in Boston, surrounded by friends. I can recall dining experiences with a big party that haven't gone so smoothly, but those incidents seem distant compared to my delicious memories from the weekend.