Neelys Divorced Food Network

Plate It or Hate It: Fall 2014

Recent food world discoveries the ES crew is loving and hating…

Hate it: Overpriced Food & Drink Festivals

We LOVE that Oktoberfest is sweeping the nation, bacon festivals are occurring on the east coast, and people are excited to experience food. However, some of these prices are ridiculous. For instance, the Philly fest is asking $25 for general admission and THREE samples. C’mon now!

Plate it: Whiskey Wedge

The makers of corkcicle bring us a new and improved way to drink our whiskey without diluting the drink. Review to come!

Hate it: Christmas-Themed Food in OCTOBER

Peppermint Mocha Liquid (seasonal)

Somehow gingerbread flavored creamer ended up in my fridge. We’ve seen candy canes and chocolate oranges in the grocery stores. Apparently the supermarkets and the food corps want to push Christmas on us already. Well… we are not ready. Put the holiday foods/drinks/scents away! At least let us get through Halloween!

Plate it: BOOK IT! Alumni Program

Join the Alumni Program

Remember those buttons we would get in school with the purpose of filling it with stickers to earn your personal pan pizza? As we realize the Book It! program is 30 years old, we all realize that we’re not as young as we think we are. Now you can re-enroll online as an alumni and get a free pizza!. Nostalgia awaits you.

Plate It? The Olive Garden Foodie Strikes Again

Grand Forks Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty is seen in an undated portrait. Hagerty, a North Dakota newspaper columnist, focuses on local food and...

Merilyn Hagerty strikes again as she reviews Applebee’s and their ground breaking Oriental Chicken Salad. While “lunching” with a friend, she helps us determine whether or not to go with the half or full size salad, and “regular customers know how to order two full sized entrees and one appetizer to share.” While insulting at one level, it’s pretty damn hilarious on another. We give the woman credit for getting by on these pieces. The publication – not so sure.

Hate It: The Neelys are Getting Divorced?!

Neelys Divorced Food Network

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!?!?! Love is officially dead. Bye forever, everyone. (Image credit: internet ruiner of dreams, TMZ.com)

Pumpkin Spice M&Ms Flavor Taste Test

Just Give In: A Pumpkin Spice M&Ms Review

Pumpkin Spice M&Ms Flavor Taste Test

So, the internet has collectively decided that liking pumpkin and pumpkin spiced flavored things makes you a basic white girl. There have been many online thought (well, “thought”) pieces written about this, including one fairly accurate Buzzfeed list. If you’re really interested in the history of being basic, the truth is that everyone has taken a phrase coined a few years ago and twisted it into something completely different meaning ordinary/boring. New York Mag has a pretty good piece on it, and over on The Awl they have an interesting 2013 read about the fetishization of pumpkin and pumpkin flavor. If you’re interested into delving into this weirdly specific trend/topic.

Anyway, whatever. If liking pumpkin shit and football and boots makes me basic, then basic it is. Pumpkin is delicious, football is an amazing justification for day drinking, and boots keep your feet warm and dry.

All that being said, what up with all the pumpkin-flavored stuff in stores these days! It’s getting borderline ridiculous. Apparently these limited-edition Pumpkin Spice M&Ms debuted last year, but I never experienced them in-person until this year, the year of our lord 2014. SUPPOSEDLY there are also Pumpkin Spice Oreos out there now, but I have yet to see them in stores them despite a semi-intense search at Target last week. But let’s rewind a sec to the M&Ms.

I was in said Target purchasing my new Crock Pot (one more step in my quest to be the most basic white girl in the fall, I guess) when a garish display of seasonal M&Ms caught my eye. Nestled among the Halloween-themed regular flavors were Pumpkin Spice and White Chocolate Candy Corn varieties. Clearly the powers above were sending me a message, and that message was: you must sacrifice your pre-vacation crash diet and sense of pride. You must taste test these cheap, bandwagon-y limited edition candies.

I decided to save the candy corn flavor for a later unfortunate date, but purchased the pumpkin spice kind and tore into them in the car ride home (obv, why would I delay this flavor experience longer than necessary?) To the disappointment of my friend and myself, they were barely pumpkin-tasting at all. If anything, I would describe these M&Ms as “Mexican chocolate,” that is, regular milk chocolate infused with a tiny bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and generic “spice.”

When I got home, I introduced them to Rob in a BLIND TASTE TEST and he thought I was just feeding him regular milk chocolate M&Ms. Another failure.

But… something strange started to happen. The longer the weekend went on, the more we snacked on these little nuggets of dubious seasonality. And the more we snacked on them, the more we liked them. Soon we were saying things like “You know, maybe I CAN taste the pumpkin spice” and “Well, I actually really like these, they taste like fall” until we were full-on making conversation with each other about how we might be borderline addicted to Pumpkin Spice M&Ms.

What does this all mean? I suppose if the summary of my review is “They don’t taste that great at first, but just keep eating them and eventually you’ll think you can taste the difference, start to like them, and eat way more than you meant to in one sitting” that might not be high praise. But, this is kind of how I feel about pumpkin spice and fall in general. You resist at first, you think you’re better than it, but you’re not. Just give in.

Burns My Bacon: Secret Menus

top-secret-stamp

Not sure if you’ve heard, but apparently it’s still cool to be a hipster. I thought now that being hipster is cool, being hipster is no longer cool. But anyway, I digress. I’ve noticed many of the flannel and skinny-jean fashioned patrons at restaurants ordering Starbucks drinks that weren’t listed. I admit, I am a Starbucks snob who knows that they shouldn’t be charging you for “one pump” of syrup, but that’s as far as I go. I looked up “Starbucks secret menu” and realized that Starbucks isn’t the only place that has a supposed secret menu.

Several other chains have “secret menus” published online. I have a problem. Nay, several problems. First off, the publishing of a secret no longer makes it a secret.

Second, why? Why have a secret menu? Who are you helping? Is it really generating enough revenue within that hipster or foodie crowd who really want to know something that everyone else doesn’t? Or is it that the secret menu offering items are too expensive to be on the menu? Well here’s an idea – rotate the menu!

Third, a secret menu defeats the purpose of a regular menu. Patrons look at a regular menu with the understanding that the items listed are the only items available at the time. Now, the regular menu really has little meaning if we are looking online for secret menus, coming to a restaurant, and asking for something that is NOT on the menu. I’m just not seeing the logic. Custom orders are one thing…but even so – STOP IT.

Maybe it is just for the novelty of it all. Maybe there are so many self-righteous people out there that the industry now has to make everyone feel even more special than they already do. If you need to “feel special,” there are plenty of “services” you can purchase to get that special feeling. Or, just get over yourself and realize that restaurants have a select offering of food items that they specialize in. If you are not happy with the offerings of chain restaurants, maybe try something new. We have enough snobbery going around these days; we don’t need secret menus promoting even more snobs.

Fit Foodie 5K Austin Tweet Your Feet

Fit Foodie 5K: The Perfect Balance

Fit Foodie 5K Austin Tweet Your Feet

I obviously love to cook and eat. I mean, I write about food, don’t I? At the same time, I care about fitness and don’t want my love of the culinary world to override my health. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I exercise just so I can eat more, or that I work out to cancel out what I eat, BUT. I mean. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor. If I could genuinely stick to a 1,200 calorie diet of pure vegetables and grass-fed proteins every day, I probably wouldn’t work out an hour a day.

Lucky for me, I do genuinely enjoy running and lifting. I’ve started to appreciate exercise more the older I get – I find it to be a great mental as well as physical release. That’s why I was really excited when I heard about the Fit Foodie 5K – a race series geared around people who love eating and drinking!

The concept of the Fit Foodie was born out of the idea that a healthy lifestyle and delicious culinary experiences don’t have to be separate. Calories burned, calories earned, right?? Life is about balance and working hard so that you can indulge in those things that you are passionate about. When delicious food, working out, and good friends are all combined, it is a beautiful culmination of all that life has to offer.

This event started in San Diego in 2013 but it’s making three stops this year – Fairfax, Austin, and San Diego. Hosted by Cooking Light and Health, and featuring slogans like “Run. Eat. Drink.” and “Calories Burned, Calories Earned” I knew this was a run I could get behind. Plus, they have cool events surrounding the race itself, like a VIP cocktail party the night before and a rad-sounding finisher’s village complete with celebrity chef demos and beer & wine tastings. If you’re going to reward me with early morning wine, I will DEFINITELY run for you. I was planning on registering for the Austin run no matter what, but then Fit Foodie reached out and asked if I was interested in being an ambassador for the program – heck yes!

As an ambassador, I’m just spreading the word about this awesome race series annnd I also have a small bit of power – I have a discount code to share! If you use the code “ENDLESSSUMMER” (yes, summer, not simmer) when registering for the Austin 5K, you’ll get 10% off fees! And yes, there’s still time to register. For my fellow Austinites, the race is this Saturday, September 13. Or if you’re one of our Southern California ESers, you can register for the San Diego leg, which is happening in November.

ALSO! If you want to run this upcoming Saturday, I’m giving away two free registrations, good for the 5K itself (plus the finishers village etc.) and a Sunday morning yoga or bootcamp class! Keep your eyes on @endlesssimmer on Twitter to win. I’ll choose two people on Thursday morning. Cheers!

For more healthy recipes, cocktails, food travel, and restaurant reviews, check out ES Emily’s individual blog, A Time to Kale, or tweet her @emilyteachout.

Ramen Noodle Recipe Magazine

Ramen Noodle-Based Recipes: Officially Jumping the Shark

Why would I make such a pronouncement?

Well…

Ramen Noodle Recipe Magazine

One of those cheapy publishing houses took this idea and ran with it… right over a cliff. I saw this recipe “book” or “magazine” or… “leaflet” (?) in the impulse magazine holders right by the check-out at a small town grocery store in Texas. Move aside ramen taco and ramen burger, we now have 55 recipes featuring ramen noodles. From the looks of this publication, we can now learn how to make anything, even a cheesecake crust, out of packaged ramen noodles.

Sorry guys… at this point I don’t think any creative new ramen noodle recipe is going to go viral. The trend is over. Ramen noodles are totally normcore. Onto the next food blog craze!

Mag Melon Sign

New Melon Alert: Mag-nificent Mag Melon

Mag Melon Sign

It wouldn’t be springtime at Endless Simmer without at least one weird melon post from yours truly! We all know they’re my specialty. Seriously. Anyway, I was shopping at my beloved Central Market last weekend when I stumbled upon samples of what I thought were cantaloupe. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But! Rob pointed out the sign next to the display. “It’s not cantaloupe, it’s mag melon,” he told me. Mag melon?! I thought he was misreading. Turns out I was underestimating his reading comprehension; this was indeed mag melon.

Here’s what that little orange sign up there has to tell us.

Mag melon has a relatively short growing cycle and is grown in temperate climates. Its small seed cavity provides more value per purchase. It contains higher fiber, protein, carotene, and Vitamin C than that of a traditional cantaloupe.

So what did the sample taste like? Well, a lot like cantaloupe. It was very dense and sweet, not mealy at all (I can’t stand mealy melon, ugh) and we brought one home with us! If you see one at your local market, you should do the same. Can’t hate on an extra dose of fiber, protein, and Vitamin C.

Mag Melon Samples

Burns My Bacon: Dessert Gimmicks

Dominique-Ansel-Cronuts-SXSW-Coookie-Milk-Shots

So the food porn-obsessed Internet is going crazy this week with news that Dominique Ansel, he of the great cronut craze of 2013, is back with his latest trademark creation: a chocolate chip cookie shot “glass” with a shot of milk. It’s beautiful. It’s mouthwatering. It’s waste-free.

It’s also stupid.

Why? Because, um…who wants to drink a shot of milk and THEN eat a cookie? It’s cute, yes. But the order is just all wrong. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer here but there are some things I just have to take seriously and this concoction is NOT practical. I feel like I would end up with milk and crumbs drizzling down my face as I tried to get the perfect last bite.

This gimmick is just not an improvement on the traditional milk and cookie. Cookie first, then milk. It doesn’t work the other way.  Design me a shot glass made of milk with a cookie contained inside it, and then I might be impressed, Dominique.