So what's a poor food, drink, travel and fun blog/zine/website to do?
Why, start our own checklist of the things we love, of course!
Welcome to the first installment of THG's Six Pack, a weekly roundup of a half-dozen things we love from the worlds of food, drink, travel and fun. Reality cooking shows, snacks, recipes, new items, restaurants and more are all fair game. Who knows? We might even throw in – as we did below – a Dishonorable Mention or two. Got something you want us to check out? E-mail me or see the sidebar for our PO Box address.
Let's get started...
- The Dapper Don of Reality Cooking Shows – I may have started watching FOX's Master Chef (a home cook version of Top Chef) because of Gordon Ramsey... but after a season and a half I'll gladly admit that it's restaurateur/judge Joe Bastianich (aka Joey Polka Dots) who brings me back week after week. Whether he's arriving at a challenge on a European scooter, questioning a contestant's ingredient choices or fixing a cook with his steely, withering glare, Bastianich has emerged as a household fave who – like Ramsey – should have three or four shows on the network. All Joe! All the time!
- Boxed Wine is OK! – I was drinking boxed wine back in the 80s, though more out of convenience than any desire to blaze trails. Frankly, it cut down on trips to the liquor store and meant that a White Trash Cooler (half Mountain Dew, half boxed white wine) was just a refrigerator away. But now it appears that oenophiles are learning what I already knew – it's okay to drink boxed wine! Sure, you might have to put a paper bag over your head or pay some college kid to grab a box of some table plonk you don't want your wine snob friends seeing you hoist into the car, but isn't fresh wine without the hassle of a corkscrew totally worth it? And if you don't have a corkscrew you don't have to worry about this happening.
- Halloween Candy Makes an Early Appearance – It won't be long before Facebook and Twitter will be filled with people complaining about cold weather and the fact that Christmas decorations are in stores. Sensing this ever-shorter window of opportunity, Halloween candy makers have already started stocking convenience stores and supermarkets I frequent. Though I doubt anything will beat last year's "Candy Blood Bag" I did get a kick out of the Gummy Werewolves being sold at Wawa. As old pal and fellow Joey Polka Dots fan Joe McNulty quipped, "Full supply of daily vitamins and gypsy curse".
- Fast Food Wine Pairings – I'm not sure what I enjoy most about Snooth's series of articles in which they pair wine with takeout from the likes of McDonald's and Burger King. Maybe it's the tongue-in-cheek, yet serious, approach they take to the subject. Maybe it's the useful information I can use during my next Filet-O-Fish craving. Or maybe I just like the horrified comments from humorless wine snobs. Eh, it's probably a little bit of each. Keep it up Snooth, but please tell me what I should serve with the hammy, cheesy, burger-tastic Double R Bar Burger!
- Tostitos Hint of Pepper Jack Tortilla Chips – I'm usually pretty change averse, so when I find something I like I tend to beat it into the ground. Like tortilla chips. Lately (and when I say "lately" I mean since they were introduced) I've been buying the Tostitos Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips, which have a slightly over-the-top blend of lime and salt that goes great with sitting on the patio drinking beer and shooting the breeze with friends. But when I discovered that our latest bag had gone stale I found myself digging in to a bag of Hint of Pepper Jack flavored chips that my wife bought while I was out of town. Oh, Pepper Jack Tortilla Chips... where have you been all my life?! These are a crunchy, creamy, cheesy, spicy taste sensation.
- Five Ingredient Fish Tacos – Fish tacos have been a somewhat recent addition to my culinary maturation. I was introduced to them when my wife and I were first dating and I accompanied her on a trip to Cabo for a friend's wedding. That trip was one great food find after another, but I really fell in love with fish tacos. And why not? I love fish, I love tacos. Marrying the two – whether the fish is grilled, seared or battered, the toppings spicy or cool and creamy – has been an ongoing adventure. Our newest fave is – like many of our go-to recipes – torn screaming from the pages of Cooking Light. Though I felt they could have used something cool and creamy like a little sour cream or guacamole on top, this was an easy weeknight dinner that gave us a chance to use some fresh jalapenos from our summer garden.
Dishonorable Mentions: I love the bright, cheery and tasty (usually) sodas from Jarritos, but their "Jamaica" variety was a complete bust. The hibiscus flavoring made it taste like red prune juice and gave the drink an aroma that can only be described as "musty" or maybe "old person's garage" ... Our local SuperFresh recently closed its doors and re-opened as a ShopRite. Let's just say that my first trip was not overly positive. The layout is familiar but the store seems claustrophobic and exceedingly bright, checkout clerks were overly aggressive in trying to rush me out the door, and the produce section was both poorly stocked (no strawberries on a Friday afternoon in August?!) and off-putting (I picked up at least three containers of "fresh" fruit that were significantly moldy). I'll have more about the area Supermarket Wars in the weeks to come.