Monthly Archives: August 2015

Frozen Week: Celebrating the last week of summer with an objective taste-test

IMG_4490So, um, Labor Day’s next week.

Summer’s always too short! You turn around and it’s gone! However did this happen? #lovesummer

As a chronic sweater and autumn’s #1 fan, I’ve never felt particularly aligned with the widespread sadness that comes the end of the 3-4 hottest months of the year. But, as I’ve gotten older and better understood the despair that comes along with hoofing it to work on a 3-degree day in March, I’ve grown to appreciate the various joys of summer.

Beer gardens. The smell of sunscreen. Shorts, tank tops, sundresses and seersucker. Iced coffee. One of my two annual dental checkups.

Frozen candy bars.

They really aren’t as satisfying during the rest of the year, are they? I have fond memories of gnawing on frozen Snickers bars with my dad while playing golf on family vacation, or of throwing melting, near-death Reese’s from the freezer and not waiting for them to thaw. That shit doesn’t fly in November.

To celebrate the last week of summer, I’m throwing [Ed. note: Holding? Declaring? Embarking upon?] Breaking Off A Piece’s newest theme week: Frozen Week.

Let’s let it go, guys.

To kick things off, I wanted to take a serious damn look at frozen candy bars. Earlier in the month, one of my favorite Twitter follows — Grantland’s Bill Barnwell — posed a great question.

I replied to him, but given my self-assigned authority on the subject, I felt pretty silly not having a more scienticically informed answer.

I asked Abby and Alex Bar to help me fix that.

We met for dinner at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, them bringing their smiles and me bringing a large, insulated bag with frozen and room-temperatured versions of the five most popular answers to Barnwell’s question.

After the meal [Ed. note: Splendid, always. If you’re in Chicago, pay them a visit.], I laid out my wares on our pic-a-nic table and took the picture you see at the top of this post. As a brisk wind picked up and we drew a small amount of attention (Alex/Abby: “She wants to give you money for your basketball team.), we decided to pack things up and head back to the #BSMT (my small, garden-level den of an apartment) for the actual taste-test, which would feature a bite of room-temp candy bar and then a bite of frozen, to determine:

1) Which candy bar improved the most in its frozen state?
2) Which candy bar tasted the best frozen?

Up first …

IMG_4491Charleston Chew Minis
[Ed. note: I fully intended to buy full-sized Charleston Chews, but the closest Walgreens, CVS and grocery stores didn’t carry it and I wasn’t going to drive to the next town. If that makes me a half-assed candy bar blogger than so be it.]

Room temperature

Abby: “These have the texture of deflated packing peanuts. Or deflated marshmallows.”

Alex: “There is … very little flavor.”

Me: I’d grown up enjoying Charleston Chews, but only when frozen (bias revealed and admitted). The minis are a more palatable eating experience, but at room temperature both the full- and mini-sized are … laborious to chew.

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Frozen Charleston Chews what?

Frozen

Alex: “Hmm … There’s a pop that’s pretty deliberate, then it sort of melts into a gummi.” “It crunches, then it sticks to your teeth.”

Abby: [Ed. note: Unintelligible notes holy wow my handwriting is bad. Sorry, Abby.] … “These melt; the others didn’t.”

Me: Damn, that crunch makes all the difference. They’re definitely a little blander than I remember, but the stark difference from frozen to room temperature is so welcome. They almost shatter upon first bite, then melt into a comfortable chewiness until only the last remnants stick to your teeth. I’m a fan.

Preference

Alex: Room temperature
Abby: Neither
Me: Frozen Continue reading

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Tops, Twirl and the United Arab Emirates

IMG_4437Full forewarning: This is going to be one of my longer posts. It’s going to end with me hunched over a public granite sittin’ place, grateful for my life, blowing on a toy and realizing there is a very attractive woman in a pantsuit observing me as though I was a science project.

If that is not your cup of ginger ale, you might as well stop reading here.

The story begins, well shoot, probably back in college, where I met two women who would end up having a profound impact on the person I’ve become today. One of those, Marin Bar, had as much to do with me sticking on the Missouri club rowing team as anyone short of my coach and my doofus partner-in-crime; that team grew me right up and taught me the meaning of dedication, camaraderie and responsibility … all things I learned through osmosis trying to follow Marin’s lead. The other, McBarsney? She only stuck her neck out and taught me the basic job functions and knowledge base to successfully attain an open position at her newspaper — a position for which I was woefully underqualified and a position upon which I was able to build a middling career.

Because the universe has a fun way of connecting talented and wonderful people, both Marin and McBarsney ended up half a world away in Abu Dhabi, UAE, dropping their brand of bop all upside the Middle Eastern media scene. True Breakers Off of Pieces [Ed. note: There has to be a better name for BOaP fans. It might just be “readers”.], the two of them were kind enough to send a first-care-package-from-Mom-freshman-year-of-college-sized parcel of regional Gift Bars my way featuring a number of the fun sweets they come across on a daily basis in the UAE.

Thank you, gals, for everything. Here are my thoughts on the sweets you encounter on a daily basis:

IMG_4362Twirl

Sometimes you just gotta twirl. A Cadbury product, the Twirl is very similar to a Flake, only instead of having its thin, rippled chocolate exposed to the dangers of the world, it’s encased in another layer of chocolate, which lends to a less-messy eating experience. Thumbs up on that one.

Also, somehow, the entire bar tasted very similar to a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll. Obviously without the cake and the creme and the little white cardboard tray underneath, but a Swiss Cake Roll nonetheless. Top marks. Continue reading

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Wonka gives up, tells it like it is

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I’ve eaten a lot of gummi bears in my day, most of them disguised as fruit snacks.

I’ve eaten sharks [Ed. note: The best of them all and please don’t try to convince me otherwise.], wormsheroes of time, lazy cartoon cats (and their friends), mystery-solving teams and their accompanying psychedelic vans, flotation devicesjuiceboxes, boy bands, video game characters, fruit thieves, gushing volcanoes and Legos.

At the end of the day, they’re all corn syrup and gelatin that’s been poured into a mold to resemble something to stimulate someone to make a purchase. And those molds are usually pretty random.

In related news, the other day at the Walgreens, I ran into a new Wonka bar.

Guess what Wonka decided to call it. [Ed. note: You already know what they called it. Entertain me.]

Randoms.

Part of me wants to make fun of them for how stupid a name that is. The other part wants to give them kudos for being transparent.

But that first part is definitely winning out. Especially after I read this transcript from their gummi originations meeting.

“Guys, guys, guys … All we’ve been doing for the past 3 hours is arguing over what random shit will sell the most. We’re not going to come to a consensus. Let’s narrow down a list of finalists, go back to our families and vote tomorrow.”

“That’s it, sir.”

“What’s it?”

“Random shit.”

“Excuse me?”

“Random shit. Literally. As random as it gets. It’s what the public wants. Let’s give it to them.”

“Go on.”

“A bag of gummis that’s made up of just random shit. No connection among any of it: There can be a bike, and a crown, and a Nokia phone, and a couch, and umm … what the fk, how about a seahorse?”

“Brilliant.”

“That’s our candy bar.”

“What do we call it?”

“Umm …”

“…”

“Randoms, sir. We call them Randoms.”

“MEETING ADJOURNED.”

If this takes off, I look forward to M&M-Mars coming out with Stuff, and Wonka having to issue a cease and desist to Hershey’s for Things.

Tasting notes

They tasted like Gummi Savers. Give me Shark Bites any day.

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I refuse to title this post ‘It’s all Greek to me!’

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The word “turmoil” gets thrown around a lot these days when people talk about Greece.

Which is too bad, because it’s got a lot of other, non-turmoily stuff going on that’s pretty cool: Hercules, the Parthenon, lamb roasted on a spit, sweet characters unpronouncable to the lay American speaker, a plus-level flag, Giannis Antetokounmpo, that one typeface that doesn’t have any curves, culture, beautiful islands.

Due on large account to those last couple items, I’ve had a few friends venture thataway, and because they are wonderful, they sent me some Gift Bars. Much love to Katie Bar and Rebecca Bar for the always appreciated gifts! Here’s what I tried:

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Homemade Almond Sweets from Hydra (my best attempt at pronunciation: Yapeka Topeka)

I was scared about the Yapeka sweets, on account of the Lokumi sweets that I’d tried earlier and you’ll read about later. [Ed. note: Yes, this is chronologically out of order. If you are upset then you can go ahead and start your own candy bar blog that is chronologically taut.] My cousin Rebecca Bar went to great lengths to ensure that these bad boys made the voyage from little Greek sweets shop to my tummy, and I’d hate it if I hated them.

My fears were misguided; these were damn tasty. Somewhat-gelatinous almond pastry cubes covered in powdered sugar, the Yapeka itself reminded me of the inside of an almond danish, only if the almond weren’t so finely pressed and instead had a more earthy taste. They were lightly sweet and a very welcome treat on the palate.

That’s a tough description to get through, but it’s a tough treat to describe: I’ve never had an American treat remotely like it. Continue reading

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