Category Archives: Product Review

loot

The pharmacy at Rady Children’s Hospital (one of my places of employment this summer) has incredible prices, so when I started feeling ill the other day I stopped by for some Motrin and Ricola, a total of $4.27. I just lurrrve those natural herb cough drops; they taste like winter.

While waiting in line, I was confronted with this large poster covered in medicine flavor options that absolutely blew me away. I didn’t get to take a picture because cameras/cell phones are not allowed inside to ensure patient privacy, but they offered everything from lime to root beer (!) to pineapple. There were a good 30 flavors or so. I’d probably sit next to the sick kids on the rug during story time if I could get a different flavor for every medicine. Geez.

Anyway, the best part about this pharmacy was the lollipop selection. It was as you would imagine a children’s hospital lollipop selection should be. Luckily, they had one of my favorites, the Caramel Apple Pops from Tootsie1 To my childhood self, this was about as good as it got. Green apple Jolly Ranchers were always my go-to flavor when the bucket got passed around after my 3rd grade class was well-behaved, and caramel was…well…let’s just say that caramel is the first thing for which I sought out a recipe. I wanted to know how this slice glob of heaven was made.

I thought it was going to be great. I thought it would taste exactly the same. I thought the culinary enjoyment would match the nostalgia. But eating this pop was not fun. I guess kids like eating hardened nuggets of pure sugar enrobed in almost hardened sugar goop more than I do.

The puresugarblitz of this confection led me to drink two tall glasses of water in the process of eating it just so my mouth could continue to feel like a mouth and not the inside of a jelly doughnut. Not to mention the stubborn caramel that lodged itself so securely on my top left molars that I swore it’d never leave. Added some sugar stalactites to my jelly doughnut.

The funny thing is, though, that I kept eating it. I held out hope that the pop was going to get better. The funny thing is, though, that I kept eating it. When it didn’t, I just bit the rest off, chewed it up (much to the chagrin of my teeth), and swallowed down the ground-up bits with the last swig of water. Pretty gross, I know, but now my stomach can deal with the sugar. Out of mouth, out of mind.

n., that part of a plant or tree which is normally below the earth’s surface

Root beer is my favorite soda. I can live without most carbonated sugarbombs, to be honest, but once I start drinking root beer, I will only stop when there’s none left in my vicinity. The bubbles and spiciness of an ice cold root beer (preferably from a glass bottle) leave this warm tingle on the tongue that gets me every time.

Root beer as we know it actually started off as “root tea,” made with sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch bark, and other roots and herbs. But at the onset of Prohibition, a Philadelphia pharmacist named Charles Hires removed the alcohol from this beverage and repackaged it as root beer (haha) so that the residents of PA would have something delicious to drink the place of wine and spirits.

A Philadelphia-based company called Art in the Age (taken from “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) has created a wonderful alcoholic complement to the flavors in root beer called ROOT. I first heard of it one evening while dining at Supper on South Street, where we had one of those waiters that loves answering questions and catering to your every preference. He even went to the kitchen to check if they had Romanesco broccoli in stock for one of the dishes that called for locally grown cauliflower. Whaddaguy! I’m pretty sure his name was Kenrick.

ROOT appeared in several of the cocktails on the menu, so we asked him what it was. He described it as what root beer would have been had Prohibition never happened. Indeed, Art in the Age has recreated the pre-temperance alcoholic root tea. And it’s organic! Organic booze is obviously the way to go, right? Apparently, the FDA banned sassafras root in 1960, but a combination of citrus, wintergreen, and spearmint round out their “special essence of sassafras.” Kenrick made us ROOT floats for dessert: two small scoops of vanilla bean ice cream, one shot of ROOT, and half a bottle of Rogue Chocolate Stout. I have been talking about them like a broken record ever since, and finally, on the 4th of July, I recreated the greatness.

Anyway, this entry was brought on by a discovery via GoogleReader. I consider myself much more of a cook than a baker, especially when it comes to from-scratch cake. This morning, though, I found a recipe for root beer cake topped with root cream. I am going to make this for the next special occasion that merits a cake, and depending on the result, it will likely be my go-to cake in the future. Yummmm.

P.S. Art in the Age is having a birthday party for Walter Benjamin on July 15th in Philly, for those of your who are in Philly/interested/interesting. I wish I could go!