Category Archives: Snacks

when food isn’t food


Thanks to Reddit, I stumbled upon the filmmaker PES who creates stop-motion films with everyday objects as stand-ins for other everyday objects. My favorites are the food-related ones, obviously, but he has a beautiful new video called “The Deep” that features old metal objects as sea creatures. He also has one called “Roof Sex,” featuring furniture having sex on a roof, but that is for a different blog. Check them out, though. Hopefully they will whet your creative appetite.

And in food news, I am hosting a Producers & Buyers “Meet and Greet” tomorrow to enable growers to mingle with interested markets for the 2012 season. There have to be snacks at this sort of thing, naturally, so I have spent the past hours in the kitchen making:

  • Caramelized onion focaccia
  • Sweet lavender olive oil crackers (I described these as “romantic” earlier, and I stand by my statement)
  • Popcorn with nutritional yeast
  • Roasted beet salad with lemon vinaigrette and capers

Maybe some of the buyers will want to help me start a brand! A girl can dream.

99 bottles

Kearny Mesa has this little gem called 99 Ranch. It is a chain of supermarkets that carries anything you could want for Taiwanese/Chinese cuisine, with a smattering of other ingredients and specialties from other Asian countries.

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They have quite the assortment of beverages. Pocari Sweat is such a no frills name for  an electrolyte beverage. Gatorade should take some cues from Japan.

At 99 Ranch, I discovered that I hate bitter melon. I decided to pair my whole soy-marinated mackerel (which was absolutely, fabulously dericious) with a side of garlic string beans and a few pieces of bitter melon salad. I thought, oh heck, I’m here, I might as well try something I’d never before had, right?

Bitter melon is horrible. It starts off okay but then overwhelms your entire mouth with the most chemically bitter flavor I could imagine. Ugh. Thankfully I had that strength of the garlic and the fish to compensate, but it was a rough few minutes there with the bitter melon.

the pretzel motif

The headboard of my parents’ bed is made primarily  of (maybe walnut?) wood but a cut-out on either side is filled with wicker. When I was young, I used to scratch on this wicker with my mom’s hairbrush, “playing the pretzel,” as I called it. Even though I am now fully aware of the wickerdom of their headboard, whenever I see it, I think about and crave pretzels. I like pretzels in pretty much every form I’ve ever eaten them: soft or hard; covered in chocolate or that “yogurt” stuff I’m pretty sure is mislabeled white chocolate; dipped in peanut butter, cream cheese, or mustard. Over the past week and a half or so, I have encountered some of the best pretzels:  a couple soft ones from breweries and one crunchy one from Pennsylvania.

Last week, I went to Stone Brewery for a tour, a meal, and a showing of Monty Python & the Holy Grail. The dinner menu is pretty pricey, so my party stuck to a collection of appetizers, one of which were the Stone-Style Soft Pretzels. They were covered in a layer of sea salt but were somehow not overly salty. The salt instead created a wonderful crunch in every bite around the fluffy, warm center. One of the two dips was a cheddar cheese sauce which was entirely whatevs, but the Stone Pale Ale Open Seed Spicy Brown Mustard was otherworldly. The citrusy breadiness (trust me) of Stone’s Pale Ale added such deep flavor dimensions to the mustard that even when the pretzels were long gone, I was left licking every last grain of mustard out of that ramekin.

During the movie, I bought another pretzel at the concession stand to use as a ladle for the quarter-cup of mustard I intended to eat. Before trying this open seed mustard, I had been pretty ‘meh’ on mustards that strayed far from Grey Poupon, but now that I’ve discovered the power of adding beer to spicy mustard, there is no stopping me. My new goal is to create a series of beer mustards to serve with homemade soft pretzels. Maybe I’ll even find some smoked salt to throw on some of the pretzels to pair well with a Stone Smoked Porter mustard or bacon beer mustard. A girl can dream.

This specimen is La Jolla Brew House’s “Perfect Pretzel.” According to my fellow diners, it is the perfect example of a soft German pretzel. I have no idea what a soft German pretzel should taste like, so I cannot vouch for this comment, but I can vouch for the pretzel in general. It had the perfect outer crust and an excellent texture without too much salt. So fresh and warm that its steam burned my hands. Them third-degrees were well worth it, though, especially when the affected hand was headed towards the mustard (a whole grain/dijon mixture) with a big hunka pretzel in tow.

Penny and Jay gave me one of these individually-wrapped pretzels the other night; they had received a 5-lb. box of the gems from a friend who had them shipped from the factory in Lancaster, PA. Hammond’s is the oldest continuously running pretzel factory in the country, alive and thriving since 1931. These dudes know how to make a pretzel. Besides the fabulous chunks of sea salt that grace the surface, there is a fair amount of salt mixed into the dough. Evenly-distributed saltiness throughout prevents those moments of discomfort/temporary dehydration of toomuchsaltonthispartofmypretzel,EEK. It had the kind of freshness that is impossible to find in a bag of Snyder’s where a hundred or more pretzels are all fighting for the same air; this allowed for the pretzel to maintain its ideal, dry crunch. I usually love to eat hard pretzels with dark chocolate, but this pretzel-sesh had a different fate.

I forewent the chocolate this time around because I had a Virgil’s Microbrewed Root Beer that needed drinking.  This beverage,  purchased at Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in Los Angeles (dentist’s nightmare/my dream-come-true), was the perfect accompaniment to the pretzel. The brew contains all natural ingredients and flavorings: anise, licorice, vanilla, cinnamon,  clove, wintergreen, sweet birch, molasses, nutmeg, pimento berry oil, balsam oil and cassia oil. Virgil’s collects ingredients from around the world (Spain, France, Madagascar, Ceylon, Indonesia, China, Jamaica, Peru, and the US), all of which mingle delicately together in the smooth and creamy final product. Globalization!