Starbucks found themselves a Unicorn this week 


In the hunt for the ultimate drink, Starbucks has struck gold this week with its introduction of the Unicorn Frappuccino.      In the words of the Barista at our local Oconomowoc Starbucks yesterday, “sorry, but the whole country is out”.   This is one day earlier than advertised, making the craze for this unique creation, even that much more successful.  

The drink takes a break from the normal hum drum latte and transforms the drinker to a magical world of pink and purple.  The sour and sweet combination makes the tongue sing with fantastical excitement.  This magical mixture of sour mango and sweet blue raspberry provide a perfect melody of deliciousness.  Like my favorite candy, Sour Patch Kids, it gives you a quick hit of sour, but finishes sweet,  like the naughty little creatures they are.  

When you look at the hysteria and happiness that this drink has created over the past five days, I would say that Starbucks has again successfully made many people happy and hyper.  With a mere 59 grams of sugar, it may not be the healthiest of treats, but it may be the most fun!

13 Things to Consume Before the Next End of the World

mayan_calendar

Photo: www.uta.edu/planetarium/astronomy-101/articles/doomsday-2012.php

 

Since we all lived through the Mayan apocalypse of 12/21/12 and made it to 2013, here is a list of 13 things you must consume before the next end of the world prediction.  These are a few of my favorite things on earth and begging for someone else to discover if you haven’t done so already.


1) Pork belly (or at least settle for some bacon) – either one of these belly busters (no pun intended) will provide a heavenly experience in how delicious fat can taste.  Yes, fat does have flavor.  Slightly sweet, oily, mouth coating with a hint of vanilla; pork belly can be an interesting addition to any dinner plate or appetizer tray.

Bacon of any type, flavor, shape or form is always a crowd pleaser.  This perfect marriage of fat, smoke and protein is simply delicious and can be put on or in anything to make it taste better.  Smokey notes with hints of applewood, hickory or cherry provide the perfect compliment to bacon’s fatty yumminess.

2) Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale – an English ale with a lot of character.  A fresh nose, nutty and sweet middle and a lasting hoppy finish that doesn’t leave you parched by bitterness, but refreshed.  This delicious beverage is consumed best at room temperature and in a classic English ale style provides a masterpiece of malt and hops.

3) Sushi – preferably not from a gas station like in Bentonville, AR, but an actual Japanese restaurant.  I am not talking about a California roll, but real sushi.  The raw stuff.  Eel, tuna, salmon, squid, roe, anything that is slimy and gushy and makes you queasy in the knees.  Its unique texture is intriguingly disgusting, yet enjoyable.  The artistry that goes into most rolls is worth the price, even if you just plan to stare at it.

4) $7.50 cup of coffee (Sun-Dried Sumatra Rasuna) – I know it sounds ridiculous, but this $7.50 cup of coffee was well worth the wait and price.  It was gently massaged by hand through the one of a kind Clover machine at the Starbucks on Pike Street and turned out to be a truly romantic experience.  This fruity bouquet of cherry and dried fruit made my nose happily dance while a subtly strong hit of spiciness blew me away.

Coffee is one of those vices of mine that cries for me to satisfy every morning.  Some days are for the Keurig when in a hurry, but most days the French press is king.  Move over Maxwell House because I would trade an entire pound packed in your metal can for one sip of this delicious nectar.

5) Chicken & Dumplings (my Grandma Jewels recipe) – this was always a staple at the Sunday feast that my grandmother prepared.  It was a subtle bribe to all of us to visit knowing that we would see a stove of buttered corn, green beans and ham, corn bread, carrots and chicken and dumplings.  This all being cooked in bacon grease of course.  On top of the savory goodies was a fully functional orchestra of fudge, red velvet cake, chocolate cake with caramel icing and cookies galore, but nothing could compare to the dumplings.

Typically it involved butchering a fresh hen from the backyard and a morning worth of work, but it was a treat I will never forget and regret not learning how to make.  The soft and chewy, but fluffy buttermilk squares of heaven sitting in a bath of gravy and slow cooked chicken is a smell and taste that will always be embedded into my reptilian brain as the ultimate comfort food.

6) A Real Bagel (from a good Jewish deli) – The only place that I have been able to enjoy a truly authentic bagel is with my roommate in college from Long Island.  On multiple occasions I had the pleasure of being exposed at a young adult age to a New York bagel.  Not those imitations that are frozen or come from Ohio, but a chewy center, crusty tough outside that blends together in a doughy paradise.  When ordering, make sure to get the everything bagel with the rye seed to push it over the top of all time favorites.  Throw on some cream cheese and lox and now you are really ready to party.

7) Asian food – it doesn’t matter the region or culture, bring it on.  When I was growing up my idea of Chinese was the restaurant in my hometown that served sweet and sour chicken and wonton soup.  Luckily, with the emergence of Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean and other regional types popping up around the US we are able to enjoy lots of spices, recipes and traditions never imagined twenty years ago. They say that food is the spice of life, but I feel that spice is the food of life.  It supercharges the olfactory system, wakes up the taste buds and excites the palette for a worldwide journey with the lift of a fork.

Thai is probably my favorite Asian food with an amazing marriage of sweet heat, rich creamy coconut milk and subtle fishiness in many dishes is the perfect combination of exotic and amazing.  The umami bomb that is created by the Tom Kha Gai soup makes you yearn to understand what the hell kokumi is all about.  The multiple layers of never ending flavors created from the coconut milk, ginger, kefir limes and lemongrass finished with fresh hits of cilantro and basil make even the dead taste buds come alive.  As it appears that Thai has become the new Chinese food in it shouldn’t be that difficult to find.

8) German bratwurst and pretzels (preferably from Munich) – pretzels as big as your head, a crusty outside, soft chewy inside and yeasty finish make this the ultimate snack.  In addition to the enormously large twisted treasure the bratwurst needs to be too large to handle with one hand as well.  Mellowly seasoned and stuffed into a natural casing with the distinct bite and sound as you pierce into it with your teeth. Throw some seedy brown mustard on the side and some kraut on the top and now you are in business.

9) Garbage Plate (Rochester, NY’s famous Nick Tahou Hots) – I don’t even know what the hell is on this thing, but the standard fare involves something like this – a bed of french fries or home fries, baked beans and Cole slaw, topped with hamburgers, cheese burgers, fish filet, white hots, red hots, Italian sausage, fried ham, grilled cheese, eggs and beautifully covered in some type of weird spicy beef gravy sauce, onions and mustard  This is traditionally served after 1:00 am and consumed when intoxicated.  At least that is how I enjoyed it the first time.  Amazingly enough, this masterpiece even tastes good after a long day of work and is high on the list of must have’s  before you die.

10) Cadbury Creme Egg- I am not sure how they can keep that creamy white filling with just a hint of yellow for the yolk as a liquid for like three years without it getting hard.  It’s a food scientist’s masterpiece.  This is my favorite candy on the planet.  This is because of the fact that it is probably the sweetest candy in the world.  I am scared to think about the calories or grams of sugar packed into this beauty, but it puts me in a joyous diabetic shock every Easter.

11) Scotch Egg- yet another egg, much different, but equally racking up the calories.  The scotch egg is also known as an egg devil and for those not aware it consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, coated in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried.  Only the Brits could have provided such a culinary delight that would be placed into the deep fired hall of fame.  This is a strong competitor to the fried Twinkie which glorified proudly at every county fair from Hamilton to Des Moines.  The sausage and breadcrumb combo is an excellent accent to hard boiled egg and the mild spiciness finished with a good brown mustard makes it all come alive.

12) KimChi – This stuff will tease your taste buds and confuse your stomach.  A traditional Korean staple made up of fermented vegetables and random ingredients such as napa cabbage, radish, scallion, ginger, red peppers, and cucumber to name a few.  There are hundreds of different recipes for this stuff and even has seasonal varieties, but it is a disgustingly amazing culinary treat.  Sourness, sweetness, heat, and crunchiness in a side dish that has literally been buried and fermented.  All I can say is, wow.

The dish is amazingly difficult and time intensive to make, but luckily for us it is starting to find its way into the mainstream American culture.  I even saw it being carried at Wal-Mart so you should be able to enjoy this with very little effort to find it.  I recommend a good Korean restaurant to fully emerge yourself in the side dish dining experience, but I guess you can settle for the jar at Wal-Mart.  It can be eaten as a compliment to any Asian dish or even added to a thick chicken or veggie sandwich for a little exotic flare to a classically boring lunch or dinner.

Lucky #13) Cincinnati Chili – for those of you out there that have never had the pleasure of a three way, please read on.  We have our own way of eating chili in southwest Ohio and it involves noodles, sweet meaty chili and lots of Wisconsin cheddar.  This Greek inspired sweet meat combination of beef, cinnamon, allspice and even chocolate creates a savory sauce to sit proudly upon a hot dog or bed of pasta and huge mound of cheese.  For the typical chili consumer this unique delicacy will scare you slightly, but don’t worry it works in complete culinary harmony.

Cincinnati once was a battleground of rival chili houses all having their own unique ingredient and style.  Recipe wars were raged from Price Hill to Blue Ash, but only one is king in my book and worthy of the one time experience – Skyline.  Appropriately named after the beautiful view you get from the cut in the hill as you cross the Ohio river from Kentucky will provide the Cincinnati chili virgin with a three, four or five way they will never forget.

If you have a bucket list, hurry up, it is 2013.   The fact that unlucky #13 is in the date is not a good sign for the future, so eat up!

Coffee = Awesomeness

I love to start my day like millions of other Americans with a steaming hot cup of coffee. What is it about coffee that makes us all feel like our day cannot start without it?

Coffee has an image. It’s cool, hip, fun. It mysterious and exotic. It comes from far away places and has fancy names like robusta and arabica. That just sounds foreign and high class.

For some, it’s the aroma. Aroma is a critical part of the tasting experience, but there is something deeper with coffee. It gives us the energy and confidence to go out and take on the world. It provides us that wake up call that the day has begun and I am ready.

For others, it all about the ritual. Some cannot even start the day without their daily cup. We are ritualistic creatures by nature. By having our daily tasks and procedures we feel like we are ready for the world and all of it’s challenges. Me, being one of those fortunate souls, finds the “reason for living” in each cup of Joe.

Some like the taste. There are a tremendous amount of flavor notes that live in the coffee bean that our noses and taste buds pick up -nutty, sweet, ash tray, spicy, flowery, fruity, sour. We even go so far as to call out it’s phenolic, alliaceous and turpeny notes. Entire languages and wheels have been developed to help us describe our favorite variety with the same level of sophistication and class as a Sommelier does with a bottle of Bordeaux. We classify by roasting type, region, altitude, soil and bean type and with over 1,000 chemicals being found in roasted coffee there is no question as to why are able to talk about it in such great depth.

Let’s not forget the most important reason, image. It’s become very cool to drink coffee. It’s a badge to have that $4 green and white cup in your hand. It proves that you are hip, knowledgeable and in the know. Starbucks has built an empire on this premise and made it as cool in the 21st century to have a bean cellar as it was to have a wine cellar in the 20th. We have trained our kids on it and many are dreaming to become the next top barista or latte artist in the country at Coffeefest in Seattle.

Regardless of how you look at it, coffee is here to stay. It’s the second largest traded commodity in the world next to oil raking in over $7B in US retail sales in 2011.

To end your morning, here are few facts about coffee that you need to know so as you sit back and enjoy your cup(s) today, you can feel confident that it doesn’t only taste great, but it’s also fairly good for you.

1) Recent studies have shown that coffee may have health benefits to protect against Parkison’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer.

2) Coffee has been proven to increase dopamine levels in the body, which essentially makes you happier.

3) Coffee increases short term recall and improves reaction time.

4) Coffee can increase sex drive – researchers have long known that drinking coffee can make you frisky by increasing blood flow to the genitals

Happy Cupping!

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