Wednesday, July 29, 2015

McDonald's Lobster Roll: NEW ENGLAND EXCLUSIVE!


McDonald's USA serves a fast food lobster roll? Indeed! But you'll have to travel to a participating location in New England to savor this oceanic treat. McDonald's Lobster Roll uses 100% real North Atlantic lobster and the amount of meat you get for only $7.99 is super impressive.

We ordered a lobster roll at a McDonald's in Milford, CT, and it had a claw piece of lobster the size of a baby doll arm! The sandwich tasted pretty darn tasty too. The meaty lobster had a nice flavor and it tasted great alongside some of McDonald's signature fries. We do think the roll could have been even better, though. This is a cold lobster salad roll, not the hot butter style of roll, which is fine. We love a cold lobster roll, but McDonald's lobster could use some mayo, and the toasted roll needs a generous slathering of melted, salted butter. Those suggestions aside, this McDonald's product is a winner and we recommend you seek one out if you happen to be in New England.


Monday, July 27, 2015

McDonald's Redondo Glaseado: GLAZED SPANISH DONUT


You're not going to find this glazed donut at your local McDonald's, you'll have to travel to Spain! McDonald's España's Redondo Glaseado (glazed round) is offered for breakfast alongside the Redondo Bombón (chocolate round). We tried one in Madrid and found the donut to be fresh, soft and sticky sweet. The glazed treat had a nice yeast flavor and it really reminded us of the delicious glazed donuts offered here in the USA at 7-Eleven. We didn't try the chocolate one but we can imagine that it was just as scrumptious.



FACTOID!
In Spain, baking giant Panrico owns the trademark to the term "donut" which is why McDonald's Spain must name their donut a "redondo." For the same reason, Dunkin Donuts is called Dunkin Coffee in Spain!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"The Gallows" Review: SNAXTIME AT THE MOVIES

      image via flicknation.net

"The Gallows" (2015)  
RATING: TURKEY

The found footage genre of horror gets a new entry with the recently released "The Gallows." Twenty years after a tragic accident happens during a high school play, a group of friends record themselves as the school plans to revive the show as a tribute. They break into the school the night before the play only to find themselves locked inside as they are relentlessly pursued by a maleficent force. Will the teens make it out alive or will they succumb to the disastrous fate of The Gallows? Lucky for us, their footage was "found" and we get to experience their terrifying ordeal firsthand.


We are not the biggest fans of found footage horror as it tends to forego aesthetics for realism. Gone are beautifully crafted sets and camerawork, imaginative makeup effects, atmospheric lighting and dynamic musical compositions. Instead, we witness thrilling scenarios unfold as we watch "actual" video footage taken by "real" people. Movies like "The Blair Witch Project," and to some extent "Paranormal Activity," do this effectively well. But "The Gallows" (which is made by the same producers of the "Paranormal Activity" franchise) falls short in just about every way.


The movie attempts to convey a very tangible experience of fear by never straying from the found footage formula of presenting the narrative through the lens of the characters' video recording devices. "The Gallows" takes it a step further by naming the characters after the actual actors themselves, Pfeifer Brown plays a character named Pfeifer, Reese Mishler plays Reese, Ryan Shoos plays Ryan, etc. But none of this really matters because the plot is so thin and the scares are few and far between. Aside from the occasional spook, there is nothing really rewarding or imaginative about this movie.  Mostly, we're treated to over an hour of nauseating camera work and loud, screechy sound effects.


The best parts of the movie come courtesy of Cassidy Gifford and Reese Mishler. Both possess movie star good looks and believable acting skills so it is all the more gratifying watching them be chased and tormented. It is especially fun watching Cassidy Gifford, daughter of TV mega-personality Kathie Lee Gifford, as she is scared witless. The characters overall, however, are so vapid and unsympathetic that we found ourselves wishing they would all die already. Luckily, we only had to suffer for an excruciatingly long 80 minutes. We give this flick an honorary TURKEY. It's so bad that we could see somebody enjoying it years down the road as a glaringly lousy and formulaic example of the now dated found footage genre of horror.



SNAX TIP!
After pouring on the butter, toss your popcorn with Peanut M&M's for some added color, depth of flavor and texture. This sweet 'n' salty mix tastes extra delicious with a bubbly movie theater soda!



RATING KEY
TURKEY - BAD

* (1) - POOR
** (2) - FAIR
*** (3) - GOOD
**** (4) - VERY GOOD
***** (5) - EXCELLENT

Monday, July 20, 2015

TOP 10 SPANISH FOODS: Eating Your Way Through Madrid


Madrid is Spain's most vibrant and exciting city and its rich culinary scene is one of the most delicious on the planet. The capital city is vastly popular right now, very affordable and the perfect getaway location to get your eat on. Yes, make certain you enjoy paella while you're there (a rice dish typically mixed with seafood and meats), but there are so many other delectable offerings in this tasty destination that you may not be aware of. Here are our TOP 10 snacking tips to eating your way through Madrid!



10. CLASSIC SPANISH DESSERT

You can't leave Madrid without trying the classic Spanish dessert, flan. This creamy egg custard is baked with sweet, syrupy caramel that runs down the sides when inverted onto a serving dish. We found flan at La Barraca, one of Spain's most well known paella restaurants. La Barraca puts a modern twist on its flan by serving it with vanilla ice cream and a candied orange slice.

Another classic dessert is Tarta de Santiago. This simple, moist almond cake is beautifully dusted with powdered sugar. Grab a slice for merienda (afternoon snack) after a few hours of museum gazing. We ordered a slice at an outdoor cafe close to The Museo del Prado.



9. PASTA, PIZZA & MEATBALLS!

Yes, we know we're not talking about Italy, but Spain serves up a lot of pasta and pizza that is quite delicious. And albóndigas de ternera (veal meatballs) have been served for generations and are one of the most popular and prevalent tapas (appetizer or snack sized foods that can be combined to make a meal). The albóndigas from Taberna La Tía Cebolla are packed with flavor and very tender. They're cooked with carrots in the sauce which lends a subtle sweetness to the otherwise salty dish.

When walking around, you will notice many Spanish restaurants serving espagetis a la boloñesa (spaghetti w/ meat sauce). This typical Spanish dish is sure to be rich and flavorful. We ate a plate at Bodeguita Los Rotos on Calle Huertas, 74, and it did not disappoint.

Spanish pizza is a tad different from American pizza, but it's just as tasty and worth giving a try. A lot of pizza places are open until the wee hours of the night and offer interesting varieties like tuna or gorgonzola cheese. We tried a pepperoni slice from Pizzòlu Madrid and the crust was crisp yet bubbly, and the cheese and meat tasted fresh and hot.

For a more hip, upscale (yet reasonable) and modern take on Spanish/Italian, head over to Bosco de Lobos. This trendy restaurant has been making waves in the Spanish culinary world. The staff is very friendly and the food is just divine. We recommend the tuna sashimi w/ chipotle mayonnaise, and avocado on corn tortillas, the eggplant and parmiggiana croquetas and the pizza with Porchetta, eggplant and honey mustard sauce.




8. DON'T FORGET THE JUNK FOOD!

Just because you're visiting a foreign country doesn't mean you should cut out junk food. In fact, prepackaged snack foods and candy are often some of the most interesting aspects of a culinary culture. We recommend you take a stroll through one of the expansive supermarkets at a El Corte Inglés, Spain's main department superstore, and get acquainted with the local munchies. That's where we found Ruffles York'eso and Lay's Mix. The Ruffles are jamón York (cooked ham) and cheese flavored and the Lay's are a mix of pizza and queso queijo (white cheese) flavored potato chips.

We also found some Martínez magdalenas (small sweet cakes) in cool packaging. These popular muffin-like cakes are great for breakfast or for a light snack. And these Pantera Rosa (Pink Panther) by Bimbo are super fun, unique and delicious.

Keep an eye out for gomis (gummies). There are a lot of quaint candy shops right off La Plaza Mayor where you can find tons of toothsome treats in neat flavors.




7. FRIED SEAFOOD

While not close to the ocean, Madrid is always serving fresh seafood and their fried offerings are some of the best we've had. Buñuelos de bacalao (codfish fritters) are a sure bet when ordering a small bite. These pillowy fried fritters are filled with delicate codfish and the flavors are just phenomenal. We found some great buñuelos at La Barraca.

When doing tapas, be sure to try some fried boquerones (anchovies). Fresh anchovies are not as fishy as the ones we're used to finding on pizzas and caesar salads, and when fried they're something special. Squeeze some lemon on 'em and don't be afraid to eat them whole, tail and all. We had some nice boquerones at Taberna La Fragua de Vulcano. This is the same spot we ordered cazón (shark). If you've never had fried shark, you're missing out. This delicacy melts in your mouth and has a tangy quality to it that is akin to lemony chicken! SO GOOD!




6. CAÑAS Y PINCHOS

When you order a caña at a bar in Spain, you're ordering a small glass of the house tap cerveza (beer). This is the perfect way to bar hop as you can enjoy a small sampling of what the establishment has to offer before moving on to the next place. At some places, cañas will run you only €1 (about $1) and bartenders will more than likely serve your cervezas with a complimentary pincho or pintxo (small bite). We ordered up some cañas at Mesón de la Cerveza on Calle Cuchilleros, 2, and they came with a small plate piled with fried potatoes in tomato sauce, sliced chorizo (sausage) and fried pimientos (peppers). It's mind boggling that the three small beers and delicious pincho cost only €3 but that's exactly what it came to.

Pinchos are often gifted at restaurants too while you peruse the menu. At Taberna La Tía Cebolla, we were served some tasty grilled chorizo bites and crackers with our Pepsi Lights.




5. VIPS

VIPS is a Spanish chain cafeteria with an American inspired menu. From burgers to milkshakes, VIPS is Americana done Spanish style and it has been wildly popular for decades with tons of locations throughout Spain. But don't be mistaken by the menu offerings, this restaurant is quintessentially Spanish and loved by locals. We especially adore the location on Calle de José Ortega y Gasset, 29, for its retro architectural design and for its impressive book store, which carries a fun selection of novelty items, magazines, comics and snack food. When asking for a table, ask to sit inside and start with the Croquetas de Jamón (ham and cheese croquettes -- we'll talk about these later!). Then try their signature VIPS Club. This is one of the tastiest club sandwiches we've ever eaten. It comes piled high with grilled chicken, ham, bacon, 2 cheeses, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. It's truly V.I.P.! And take note, Spaniards love to eat their sandwiches with a fork and knife.




4. CHURROS Y CHOCOLATE

The Spanish love churros (fried-dough pastry) and you can get them at all hours of the day. They are typically paired with Spanish style hot chocolate, which is super rich and thick, like hot pudding. We had some for breakfast at a small cafe on Calle del Príncipe de Vergara. There are some popular churros places in the La Latina neighborhood in the center of Madrid so keep an eye out for people lining up late into the night.




3. POTATOES!

Spain really knows how to do potatoes and the flavor and texture of these potatoes is different from what we get in the USA. Spanish potatoes are more yellow in color and are super creamy. They fry beautifully and you will see fresh potato chips served at many bars.

The perfect way to enjoy potatoes is in a Tortilla Española (potato and egg frittata), perhaps Spain's most signature dish alongside paella. We had a delectable tortilla served with tomato toast at Restaurante Ana la Santa in Plaza de Santa Ana.

To get to the true essence of the Spanish potato, look for patatas bravas or patatas alioli (spicy potatoes or potatoes with garlic aioli). Just about every bar/restaurant serves these deep fried potato chunks smothered in savory sauce. Restaurante Ana la Santa serves a luxurious version that is both spicy and creamy with loads of fresh garlic aioli.




2. TURRÓN

Our favorite Spanish sweet treat has to be turrón. Turrón is a nougat confection made with toasted almonds, honey and sugar. It comes in different variations like soft, crunchy and "de yema," which is made extra rich and creamy with the addition of egg yolk. If you forget to try it while in Spain, you can always grab a box at the airport. But do make sure you try helado de turrón (turrón ice cream). It's a flavor you won't find readily in the USA and unless you've had it, it's hard to explain how special the taste it!




1. CROQUETAS

You may have been wondering what those fried things were in the first picture. It just so happens to be our favorite Spanish food which tops the list at number one -- CROQUETAS! Spanish croquetas (croquettes) start out with a béchamel base (butter, flour and milk) that is mixed with various fillings like ham, cheese, chicken, vegetables or fish. They are then rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried until golden and crisp. Croquetas de jamón (ham) are the most popular variety of this quintessential tapa, but Spanish chefs are always coming up with creative versions, like the parmesan eggplant croquetas we mentioned from Bosco de Lobos.

Cafetería Magerit in La Plaza Major serves a beautiful example of the classic Spanish ham croquette (the first picture of the article). The outside is crusty and the inside is buttery, velvety goodness with savory ham bits. The croquetas de jamón at VIPS are standout as well and come served with capers, fried onions and two dipping sauces.

Bodeguita Los Rotos on Calle Huertas, 74, serves a vegetable and goat cheese version for those who are looking for a meatless croqueta, and they are presented in a cute fry basket. We also enjoyed the croquetas at Restaurante Ana la Santa, which were super creamy on the inside and extra crispy on the outside because of the use of panko crumbs.

You must savor croquetas while in Madrid. Just about every menu has them. So don't be shy, go ahead and order them at every meal!



There are so many other mouthwatering products to seek out in Madrid, like the refreshing tomato soup, gazpacho, or the sweet, fruity wine beverage, sangria. Spain is also known for its fine cheeses and pork products like jamón ibérico, jamón serrano, morcilla (blood sausage) and manchego cheese. Sherry, cava and other wines are popular too so make sure you get out there and try as many as you can. When visiting Madrid, arrive hungry and with an open mind. ¡Olé!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Charms Candy Sour Balls: BEST OF AMERICA'S SNACKS


We are taking a bite out of America's best snack foods!

The Charms Candy Company has been making fruity candy for decades right here in the USA. Although they are most well known for their Charms Blow Pops lollipops, we especially love their Charms Candy Sour Balls. Charms Candy Sour Balls come in 6 juicy flavors: orange, cherry, lemon, lime, grape and pineapple. The balls are indeed a bit sour but they are more sweet than anything and we absolutely adore their old-timey fruit flavor. For us, the standout flavor is pineapple, but there is certainly a favorite flavor for everyone.

There is something so simple and almost industrial that makes Charms Candy Sour Balls beautiful and distinctly American. The candy tin has an attractive retro/vintage design and makes for a wonderful, decorative container once the candy is long gone. And the candies themselves are truly charms, like round magical gems that instantly put smiles on faces when eaten.


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