Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff

What kind of vile hypothetical is this? Are we counting just traditional American-style belly bacon, or does this extend to jowl bacon and back bacon as well? And do I get to choose which pinky?

Depends on the deal, but I’m probably severing the pinky. I might ask for a grace period to try life without bacon for a year or so to consider how frequently I use my pinky versus how often I want bacon.

But outside of typing, I really don’t have much all that use for my right pinky. I need the left for playing the guitar even though I don’t use it as much as I should when I do. The right one is sometimes useful for little grace-note flourishes on the bass, but those are hardly worth bacon. I bat and throw right-handed in baseball, but I’m pretty certain I could do both just as terribly with one fewer digit.

I’m glad someone asked about Hostess. This can’t really be it for the Hostess line of products, right? The way I figure, the Twinkie and HoHo are too valuable for those products to disappear entirely. So we just need to hope whatever company purchases the brands maintains the same standards that Hostess did, and, ideally, the same bakeries. I also suspect that there are probably enough extant Twinkies to keep the world well-stocked until long after oil production peaks and society crumbles, at which point the lack of Twinkies will be the least of our problems. Though I suppose they’d be at their most useful then, since they’ll never, ever go bad.

All that said, it’s Hostess Cupcakes. So good. One time, for some occasion or another, I gave my wife a kit to make homemade Hostess-style cupcakes. They were delicious, but not as good as the Hostess Cupcakes we could have purchased at the supermarket with far less hassle.

Seems that way, huh? I’ve had, to date, three food items that I know of “named” for me, mostly due to my own prodding. The first was an ice cream sandwich on cookies at the freshman cafeteria in college, “The Berg.” People would argue that ice cream sandwiches existed long before I arrived on campus, but I countered that the idea to construct ice cream sandwiches from the cafeteria’s cookies and ice cream — which were, for whatever reason, pretty far from each other — was my original concept. Oh, the naivete of youth! Some of my friends took to calling it that, but I think only when I was around to humor me.

The second was “Berg’s Pepper Barge” at the deli where I worked. Pepper ham, pepper turkey and fresh mozzarella with optional roasted red peppers and oil and balsamic vinegar on a hero. It’s delicious.

The third is “The Ted Berg,” a drink inspired by the green tea and whiskey combination I enjoyed in China and, of course, the Arnold Palmer. It’s roughly three parts unsweetened green tea, one part lemonade and one part whiskey. It’s delicious and refreshing and it gets you drunk. Order it by name at your favorite local watering hole. Be prepared to then explain what it is and be disappointed when they don’t have unsweetened green tea. But keep ordering it by name anyway. I’d really like this to catch on. The Ted Berg.

As for the “OG” in my Twitter handle, I never expected it to remain there this long. I ripped it off from Chad Johnson (ne Ochocinco), who was @OGOchocinco until whoever had @ochocinco relinquished it. But I do keep it real on there, and the construction’s still pretty funny to me.

What would be on The OGTedBerger, though? That’s the important thing. I don’t like my burgers too buried in toppings, so some degree of topping austerity is paramount. I’ll have to think on this more, but it might be bacon, cheddar, barbecue sauce and fresh jalapenos.

You’re blowing my mind right now, Michael. Oreos are by far my favorite mass-produced dessert, nuts to the Hostess products discussed above. But on a sandwich? I don’t know. I’d try anything once, but I’d be concerned you’re ruining a good sandwich or ruining some good Oreos? It’s aesthetically unsettling, for sure.

Follow the two-fold path: Is the sandwich appreciably better for having the Oreos? Are the Oreos better on the sandwich than they would be on their own? Tell me.

Bold Flavors Snack of the Week

This feature is usually reserved for weekends, but I’m busting it out now because a) I don’t have much to say about R.A. Dickey’s Cy Young candidacy other than that I hope he wins and won’t think his season any less awesome if he doesn’t and b) the New York Times published a scathing review of Guy Fieri’s new Times Square restaurant which was kind of funny but would be way funnier if it were taking its shots at someone who wasn’t such an obvious, glowing target. It’s like the Comedy Central’s roast of Donald Trump of restaurant reviews. Silly man opens silly restaurant in silly place featuring silly food. I’m not here to defend Guy Fieri, but the Times’ was about the seventh similar review I’ve read of the place and not a single one convinced me the reviewer entered with an open mind. It’s Guy Fieri’s new restaurant in Times Square. Do theater reviewers hold The Lion King to the same standards as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Anyway, all that aside, here’s this, for the Guy Fieri in all of us. Bold Flavors Snack of the Week: Srirachia Soy Wings. Come up with a better name if you’d like, that’s what’s on here:

The process is as follows:

1) Eat frozen dumplings for dinner one night (but heat them first), dipping them in soy sauce mixed with Sriracha. Realize that soy sauce and Sriracha taste great together, and set that observation aside for a later date.

2) Have a dozen wings in your freezer but not enough Frank’s left in your fridge to make Buffalo wings. Thaw the wings. Be really lazy, and know that the Jets are coming in a little while. Remember about the soy and the Sriracha.

3) Melt about a half a stick of butter in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Sautee a clove of garlic, minced, in the butter, because why not add garlic to practically everything?

4) Reduce heat to as low as your stove will go and still be heating. Add roughly five tablespoons of Sriracha, a tablespoon of soy sauce and two teaspoons of honey to the saucepan. You might want to play around with the proportions, depending on how spicy, salty or sweet you like your food. Stir.

5) Cook wings however you might cook wings. I recommend frying them, because hey. Toss wings in sauce.

6) Get container of sour cream out of fridge, for dipping. Taste-test sour cream and realize it has become yogurt. Discard sour cream. Serve wings with ranch.

7) Turn on the Jets. Why?

They’re good. Not better than regular Buffalo wings, I’d say, but a fine alternative if you’re looking to serve multiple styles of wings. Spicy in a different way than the traditional wing, with a hint of the familiar soy flavor and some sweetness from both the Sriracha and the honey. The garlic gets lost a bit, but it’s in there somewhere, and that’s comforting to know.

Twitter Q&A, pt. 3: Food stuff

It’s all vital, and great sandwiches require great contents and great bread. But I think if you have to sacrifice quality somewhere, it has to be in the bread. The contents of the sandwich are more vital than the bread.

The way I see it, if you have really delicious bread and crappy contents — think pre-sliced supermarket deli meat or something — then combining the two just amounts to sullying the bread. I’d rather eat the bread plain or with some butter and discard the rest. And that’s not a sandwich at all.

If you’ve got stale bread but some really delicious salami and ham, you can usually get by with toasting or grilling or slathering the bread with a condiment. Sure, you could eat the salami and ham on their own. But they still probably benefit from the sandwich presentation, what with the even mustard distribution, as long as the bread is palatable.

I’m going to get into this more in a forthcoming Sandwich of the Week post (that’s foreshadowing, brother). But I think a good general guideline to consider when constructing a sandwich is this: Before adding an ingredient, consider both whether it will make the sandwich better and whether it will be better served inside a sandwich than on its own. If it’s yes in both cases, pile it on.

Love it. People seem to assume that because I like Taco Bell I don’t like Chipotle, as if you need to choose one or the other. They’re totally different things, and there’s always room for more great, quick, relatively inexpensive Mexican-style fast foods.

I like Chipotle so much that my friends and I once wrote and shot a short movie in a Chipotle that was partly about Chipotle. The story was to be presented non-sequentially, like Memento, and it was to be called “Burrito, Interrupted.” I got lazy and never edited it. Humanity’s loss, I swear it.

You mean like the four basic food groups? In that case, I’d probably go with tomatoes, cheese, ground beef and brioche buns and just eat cheeseburgers forever.

Friday Q&A, pt. 3: Sandwich stuff

Yes. You’d inevitably end up there anyway, but if by some strange chance you would have skipped it, go to Cafe Du Monde and get beignets. They’re fried dough that for some reason you’re allowed to eat for breakfast. They might very well be my choice for my last meal on Earth.

It’s really not hard to find great food in New Orleans. I’d say to avoid the most touristy parts, but I had a delicious chicken-fried steak at some bar a block off Bourbon St. in the middle of the damn night once. If you’re staying someplace nearby — and a lot of the hotels downtown are pretty close — it’s worth checking out Mother’s for a Ferdi Special sandwich. There’ll be a hell of a line, but the few times I’ve been there it’s been a pretty good scene.

A good one to check out is the Turducken sandwich at Luscious Foods in Park Slope. It’s a seasonal thing and I can’t say for certain they’re selling it this year, but it’s sort of a souped-up version of the traditional Thanksgiving sandwich. I meant to write it up last year around this time, but I ate it at my friends’ bar across the street and the dim lighting prevented me from taking a passable photo. If I remember correctly, they incorporate cornbread stuffing and cranberry mayo.

Also, I might as well put in a plug for people who frequently give me free drinks: If you’re at Luscious Foods, you should probably cross the street and eat it with a drink at Uncle Barry’s.

But that’s a lot of pressure! I think the Buffalo chicken sandwich might be slightly better in concept than it usually is in execution. Alternately, maybe when I’m in the mood for Buffalo-stuff I just order wings and don’t sample enough good Buffalo chicken sandwiches.

The first one that jumps out at me is actually a wrap, also in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, at Wing Wagon on Flatbush Ave. near 7th. Man, do I love Wing Wagon. After the deli where I worked, it’s got to be the non-chain place where I’ve had the most total food in my life.

I don’t know why I sometimes ordered the wrap there, considering how much I enjoyed their wings, but I suspect it had something to do with the wrap’s inexpensiveness and its ability to convince me it was a healthier alternative to wings (even though I always still got it with fried chicken inside). It’s good though. Very spicy.

Beyond that, I don’t know. I’m very open to suggestions here. Anybody? What’s the best Buffalo chicken sandwich in New York City?

Well obviously it depends on the sandwich. If all the ingredients are fresh, though, and it’s not a sandwich that by design needs to be served hot, I generally prefer it cold. If it’s a variety of cold cuts and cheese on a Kaiser roll, for example, heating any part of it up seems unnecessary. They’re not called hot cuts, or something.

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff and randos

Well, I’ve traveled to 41 of the 50 states and enjoyed barbecue in many of them, including Missouri, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas. Sample-size caveats obviously apply: I’ve only sampled barbecue from a couple of places in most of the heralded barbecue hotspots.

But at the same time, I’ve done plenty of barbecue experimentation myself in my home smoker and enough exploration of New York City’s ample barbecue circuit to assert with some confidence that Kansas City offers this nation’s preeminent barbecue style. That’s not to say delicious barbecue cannot be found elsewhere, of course, but Kansas City’s focus on pork and its sauce’s blend of sweet, spicy and tangy flavor make that city’s version the best. It’s also the standard when we think of typical barbecue, but some things become standard for good reasons.

Fun-sized Twix bars. Here at the office, we have free snacks in the kitchen area, including fun-sized candy bars. Whenever it’s restocked, the candy disappears in this order: Twix, then Butterfinger, then Snickers, then Milky Way, then Three Musketeers. (The Starbursts go: red then pink then orange, and then there’s always a big pile of yellow still leftover by the next time they’re restocked.)

So based on that research, I’d say Twix bars will most satisfy your trick-or-treaters. Also, based on empirical evidence, they are delicious. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are also cool.

Honestly, I don’t love Tabasco. I prefer a saucier hot sauce like Cholula, Sriracha or Frank’s. But because I generally employ hot sauce when it’s made available to me, I’ve sampled every variety of Tabasco except their Buffalo and Sweet and Spicy flavors. Off the top of my head, I’d rank them as follows: Chipotle, Habanero, Green Jalapeno, Garlic Pepper, Traditional.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t know that anyone has yet truly nailed the Garlic-Pepper sauce, a shame because it’d be crazy useful if someone could.

Oddly, my wife might be the only person I’ve ever known who does not seem to think I’m that weird. Maybe she’s just too used to me by now. But I mentioned a few weeks ago in conversation how people usually think I’m a pretty weird guy, and she seemed absolutely baffled by it. I think I look pretty normal, so perhaps that throws her. I don’t know; it’s not like I’m trying to be weird.

As for the Taco Bell and the sandwiches: She tolerates the former and appreciates the latter. She’ll go for a Cheesy Gordita Crunch now and then but she doesn’t love Taco Bell in the same giddy way I do. But she frequently benefits from my sandwich experimentation and exploration in the kitchen and around the city, so she’s fully on board with that. She even knew me in my deli-man days, and I’m fairly certain I finally won her over on the strength of my sandwiches. I made really good sandwiches.

Milanos, obviously.

Oddly, I no longer listen to most of the bands I listened to in the 90s, and many of the bands I do listen to now were active in the 90s but not particularly popular then. So for their popularity during the decade, their close association with the music of the decade, the way their music from that decade has held up over time, and their general awesomeness, I’m going with Soundgarden. And for a variety of reasons, I’m choosing to ignore that Soundgarden recently got back together and made an album. Lalalala, I can’t hear you, etc.

It’s funny to me, in retrospect, how I sort of lumped all grunge-rock together at the time when now I listen to it and all the bands sound so completely different. I guess it was a scene, and they all wore plaid shirts and ripped jeans and everything. Anyway, Soundgarden ruled. And look at how thoroughly 90s-ish this video was:

Are we all suddenly too good for gala apples?

Alex Belth passes along this post from Food 52 debating the best variety of apple. Experts queried therein suggest winesap, honeycrisp and mutsu but completely ignoring amazing gala apples. Gala apples are everywhere, so occasionally you’ll get one too thin-skinned or too mealy. But I’ll put up a good gala against any more highbrow cultivar in a blind taste test. It’s gala or GTFO.

Pink ladies are pretty good also.

Bold Flavors Snack of the Week

Remember this series? It’s back for another football season. This technically could have been a Sandwich of the Week as well, but I didn’t want to rate my own sandwich even if I’m pretty proud of how it came out. Also, I reserve the right to make something similar on an upcoming sandwich show.

Bold Flavors Snack of the Week: The following sandwich. Until I come up with a better name, I’m going to call it the Pork Bomb. This is actually only half of one. The pictures I took of the full thing didn’t come out as well. It was dark in my living room by the time we ate.


1) Go home for your nephew’s first birthday party. Enjoy yourself, eating well. Have your mother send you home with a bunch of her delicious pasta sauce (optional) and some tin-can ricotta* (imperative). Enjoy the pasta sauce with some pasta and ricotta the next night. Save the remaining ricotta.

2) Work and frequently discuss sandwiches with Matt Cerrone. Have Cerrone go to Dante’s, an Italian deli in White Plains you never knew about even though you lived 10 minutes away for three years, get a delicious sandwich there, realize you would probably enjoy the peppery eggplant-tomato “bomb” spread used on the sandwich and bring you some. Start thinking of ways to use the spread.

3) Go to the farmer’s market and get a nice heirloom tomato and some basil. Act now, the tomatoes won’t be in season long. I used a yellow tomato but that’s got to be a personal choice.

4) Go to a grocery store with a good deli. Buy hero bread, hot capicola (sliced thin) and the ingredients for this recipe.

5) Follow this recipe and make that delicious rosemary pork tenderloin. Note that it actually took a lot longer to cook than the recipe said it would. Use a thermometer to avoid botulism.

6) While the pork is cooling, split and lightly toast the heroes. Spread ricotta cheese on one side and the bomb spread on the other. Go easy on the bomb spread if you’re sensitive to spice, but coat it on if you love delicious things.

7) Cut the pork tenderloin into thin slices. Sandwich a thin layer of capicola, a few pieces of pork, basil and tomato between the bread. Cut in half if desired.

8) Eat sandwich.

So to recap, that’s a rosemary pork tenderloin and hot capicola sandwich with tomato, basil, ricotta and Italian spread. And it’s awesome. It’s spicy from the spread, creamy from the ricotta, sweet from the tomato, tasty from the rosemary and basil, salty from the capicola, and porky from the pork.

*- I don’t think tin-can ricotta necessarily comes in a tin can anymore so much as the term refers to high-end ricotta cheese. Maybe there is a distinction in how it’s made, but I don’t know it. They definitely sell it in Fairway, but it’s in the section near the fancier soft cheeses, not by the Sorrento and Polly-O ricottas. No disrespect to Sorrento or Polly-O ricottas, which are also delicious. It’s just that good ricotta cheese is so amazing you could pretty much eat it from the thing with a spoon, and you probably will.

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff and randos

Beans, most definitely. Actually, when I make chili I typically use five 15 oz. cans of beans and go for the broadest variety I can — black, dark kidney, light kidney, pinto. This seems like as good a time as any to point people to my very easy chili recipe, which I revisited just a couple of weeks ago to delicious results.

So is El Hefe from NOFX out for not really being their lead singer proper, even if he does vocals? Because then we could all run wild with the Bad News Bears rumor. Plus he does good impressions. Assuming Zombie Sid Vicious is also not an option, I’ll go with Glenn Danzig. Is that a copout? Sorry if it is, but basically the very concept of Glenn Danzig makes me chuckle a little, so I’d definitely watch any TV show he showed up in. Hopefully it’d be a courtroom procedural with Danzig as the maverick lawyer who plays by his own rules.

As long as it keeps benefiting me, I’m cool with it. I hang out in Brooklyn a lot because I play baseball there and a lot of my friends live there, so if a trend of Manhattanites or anyone else traveling to Brooklyn to eat delicious food means more delicious food available near where I hang out, great.  For that matter, if anyone wants to start convincing people that the Rockefeller Center region or the East 80s along 1st and 2nd avenues are new hotbeds of foodie activity, I’d appreciate that.

I actually work very hard every day to make sure I am never reduced to a situation wherein I need to become a professional slamball player. Don’t get me wrong: It looks amazingly fun, and I don’t fault anyone who pursues a career in slamball for that reason. It’s the type of thing I’d really love to try one time. But it also seems like a particularly terrifying way to make a living, given how dangerous I’m guessing it is. Is slamball dangerous? Do slamball players even get guaranteed contracts, or are they in it for the love of the game?

Of the major national chains, it’s Wendy’s, with a slight nod to White Castle for its once-every-three-years deliciousness. That’s assuming you’re not counting the high-end fast-food places like Five Guys and Shake Shack, though, and regional must-tastes like Culver’s, Good Times, Bojangles and Cookout. Oh man, I disgust myself sometimes. Whatever. I regret nothing.

25 foods you’ll never eat again

Via Brian Erni comes Buzzfeed’s list of discontinued foods, well worth a click if you’re interested in a sugar rush down memory lane.

A couple of notes:

– I was in high school when Surge first came out and I guess as some sort of promotion they inserted into vending machines bottles that contained a tightly wrapped Surge t-shirt and $1.25 in quarters so you could buy another Surge. Only one time, I left class to get a Surge and made it all the way back to my desk before I realized I didn’t have delicious sugary Surge but a crappy t-shirt and some change. Then when I went back to the vending machine, it was all out of Surge.


– That colored ketchup grossed me out. I know ketchup’s colored to be the red that it is, but that’s the color that ketchup is now coded to be. One of my college roommates thought the idea of green ketchup was hilarious and kept buying it, so I had to keep a private stash of the original stuff in the mini fridge in my room. He’s finally going to find out about it now.

– LOL Orbitz.

– I’m pretty certain that the gum formerly known as Gatorgum is now sold as Quench Gum at Modell’s. If it’s not the same exact stuff in a different wrapper, it at least tastes the same: Weird and unpleasantly tangy, but somehow addictive.