after dinner sneeze

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The Truth … about Wegman’s Wine, Liquors & Beer

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t says:  Wegman’s is a force to be reckoned with, as I can’t even count the number of people who claim to “save a bundle” because the generic Wegman-branded items are “so good”.  While I slightly disagree with the “saving a bundle” statement (everything not Wegman’s brand is pricey indeed), I’ll acquiesce that for the most part, Wegman’s items are “ok” (with a few noteworthy highlights – g loves their version of Cheerios).

Well, now Wegman’s has gone and opened up a liquor store just across the river in Cherry Hill.  Actually, it’s interesting how they do this, as the parent entity is only allowed a certain number of stores in Jersey (i.e. 2), and Wegman’s clearly has more than these.  To circumvent the rules, they rely on family members to open the stores.  Cool, right?  No?  “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Ok, let’s focus on the Cherry Hill store that just opened:

Wegman's newest EtOH outpost

This new store is directly caddy-corner to a longtime favorite of mine (WineLegend) which is conveniently located between Wegman’s and HMart just down the road.  Furthermore, WineLegend’s website, although crappy, allows me to FREELY ship wine to the Cherry Hill location for convenient pickup.  I imagine that the WineLegend folk are pretty pissed that Wegman’s is so nearby, and very convenient for the Wegman’s grocery shopper.

g and I busted up into there to investigate the new digs …  It was kind of disappointing …  WHAT?  Yep.  It’s true.  The shelves were stocked with a whole lot of nothing special.  Yea, there are a lot of common wines in there, but it’s not like you’re going to find a bottle that’s particularly noteworthy.  What was weird was that even though the store, itself, is small, the selection seemed even smaller than the store’s size would suggest – they had a whole lot of a fairly limited selection.  Maybe as they get up and running they’ll increase the variety and cut down on the billion bottles of Yellowtail?

The upside is that it’s clean and bright in there … and, of course, it’s convenient as all hell.  I suspect that for most people, this will be the place to go to pick up a few last-minute drinks needed for a party or something … meaning that this place will probably make a killing from the droves and droves of Wegman’s shoppers.  But not me.  I’m sticking with WineLegend.  WineLegend’s got a guy named Phil in there that really knows good wine (that said, he’s not a particularly “friendly” guy – but who cares if he nails a good selection or two, right?).  Furthermore, I don’t mind WineLegend’s selection – it’s at least better than Wegman’s.  Actually, if only WineLegend cleaned up their store to make it bright/beautiful like Wegman’s – that’d be awesome.  But I doubt they will.  Oh well.  I better enjoy them while they’re still here.

One thing I did find that was particularly funny (I’m not sure why I find it so funny) was this:

"Du Pin" ... that's Le Pin's second bottling, right? Riiiiiight.

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15 November 2011 at 12:55am

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The Truth … about Locatelli.

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t says:  I’m a huge fan of Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese.  It started way-back-when, when I first met g and her family used “Locatelli” as their cheese on top of their pasta.  It was salty and cheesy and really added something fun/different to tomato sauce (or crab pasta).  So now, with any pasta g and I make at home, it’s our cheese of choice – even before Parmigiano Reggiano.  The problem – it’s a little pricey.  Check it out:

$12.99 per pound!

We fly through Locatellia pretty quickly – especially when I get the Microplane going (it makes it way too easy to just keep-on-grating).  But now all that’s changed.  I’ll tell you why …

One day I found myself in Whole Foods (likely picking up granola) standing near the cheese counter, ready to pick up some Locatelli.  Then the cheesemonger-girl saw me contemplating the choices and offered some advice.  “Why don’t you try this other Pecorino Romano – it’s like Locatelli, but creamier, has more of a peppery kick, and is a few bucks cheaper.  And, of all the Pecorino Romano, it’s the only one actually made in Rome.”  My interest was peaked:

Some "other" Pecorino Romano.

Cheeeeeeeese.

Now, I’m not one to normally follow the advice of the Whole Foods cheesemonger – I always get the sneaking suspicion they’re trying to sell me something I don’t want.  But hey – this was a recommendation for a cheaper cheese – so why not?  I brought it home, put a slab in my mouth … and proceeded to be quite impressed!  It really was like a creamier, more peppery Locatelli, but still with that salty-cheesey Locatelli background.  It … is … awesome.

In short – the truth about Locatelli: Fulvi Pecorino Romano is way better and cheaper.

g's grandpa's ravioli (with some elbow pasta) and cheeeeeeeese.

Yea, it’s good on pasta, too!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 October 2011 at 9:57pm

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The Truth … about the “Best” Granola

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t says: So I read the other day that Metropolitan Bakery makes the “best” granola as determined by a blind taste test (at least according to epicurious.com’s review).  Intrigued, as I had my own favorite brand in mind (that was not included in the test), I bought a bag.  This is what it looked like …

The Champion

The truth about the “Best” granola:  It tastes “ok”.  But that’s it.  Actually, it kind of tastes “healthy”, having little sugar, a lot of nuts, and some sesame seeds to add a meaty flavor.  Maybe this is why people like it.  Not me.  This is my favorite:

Better-than-the-champion.

Ok, so I will be the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth.  And yes, the above granola does have chocolate in it.  BUT – it’s not just about the chocolate, as there are other flavors of Michele’s that do NOT (including plain), and I still prefer them to Metropolitan Bakery.  It’s about the texture – Michele’s has a better texture in every way.  With Metropolitan, I feel like I’m eating some kind of chex mix – it’s a lot of components that are distinct, but just happen to be put in the same bag.  With Michele’s, the components are stuck together better, so it’s chunkier, and it feels more cohesive.  It’s way better.  So if you happen to see a bag of this stuff, give it a whirl.  I find mine at Whole Foods.  Actually – I don’t even like shopping at Whole Foods, but if I find myself near one, I’ll go in just to grab a bag of this – it’s worth it.

And I totally agree with Epicurious’s review – Bear Naked brand granola totally blows.

smn says:  Michele’s is THE BEST granola. I keep trying to find a healthier and/or less expensive brand but nothing compares (and now I just have a bunch of half-eaten bags of granola lying around). No need to go to Whole Foods for your granola fix- Di Bruno’s carries it!

t says:  YEA!!  I had half-eaten bags lying around too! (but then I threw them away when g wasn’t looking – she hates throwing away any kind of food … but I guess the cat’s out of the bag now …)

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8 October 2011 at 8:30pm

The Truth … about Pretzel m&m’s

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t says: One of my recent purchases was Pretzel m&m’s.  But when I got home, I opened the bag and was kind of distraught.  Maybe you’ll see what I mean …

Count my m&m's.

That’s right.  A bag of m&m’s, and I get a total of … 14.  That’s it.  Now maybe I’ve grown in size a lot since my last bag of m&m’s, but doesn’t this seem kind of puny?  Well, in any case, I really don’t have much else to say about these guys (they taste only ok – I much prefer the dark chocolate m&m’s to these – and my second most favorite were those crisped rice ones from a while ago).  I guess I just wanted to vent that I feel that the truth about pretzel m&m’s is this: they’re kind of a rip-off.

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27 March 2011 at 7:44pm

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The Truth … about Kitchen Knives

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t says: I’ve done some spring cleaning/updating/editing of our kitchen knives page and realized that some of the info deserves to be put in one of our “The Truth” posts …  So get ready to have some knowledge dropped on you …  Welcome to my five truths (or maybe they’re like commandments?) of owning kitchen cutlery.

I) All knives need sharpening. No matter what knife you buy, it will eventually need to be re-sharpened.  It is an unrealistic expectation to believe that a knife will be sharp forever – no matter how much you pay for it, no matter how much the infomercial or Williams Sonoma salesperson swears by it, and no matter how many corkscrew-pennies your Cutco rep is making for you …  Just like every car in the world has wear-and-tear as you use it – every knife will get dull.  What can you do about it?  Well, I mention two useless and three useful things you can do on the knife shopping page

2)  “Stainless” knives are not “stain-free” knives. Knives “stain less” if the alloy of the blade contains above a certain amount of chromium.  Who cares?  You might, because a “stainless” knife is merely stain-resistant – not stain-proof!  Heck – they may even rust – especially if you’re cutting acidic foods like tomatoes, lemons, and onions.  So leaving your knives around with water and food particles on them until the end of your meal is not the greatest idea.  And waiting until the next day to clean your knife  is an unforgivable travesty.

3)  [Almost] Never store knives in a drawer. Unless you have edge-guards on your knives (of which the best are like this, while those like this kind of suck), don’t put them in a drawer where they can slide around and smack into each other – that’ll ruin their cutting edges.  Plus, who wants to stick their hand into a drawer of sharp things like knives?  You wouldn’t stick your hand in a sharps box (i.e. that thing they put used needles in) at the hospital, would you?  Don’t do it at home, either.

4)  Never put knives in the dishwasher … unless you hate them.  Washing your knives via dishwasher potentially lets them clang against other things (ruining their edges) and promotes spot/rust formation (and dramatically warps the handles on some knives).  For the love of all that is holy and good: wash them by hand, dry them by hand.

5)  Use a proper cutting board. Glass or ceramic cutting boards are awful on all knives.  And that sound they make as your knife blade strikes the surface makes me cringe every time.  Plastic boards are also horrendous for knives – I don’t care how many people justify their use with, “well, they’re more sanitary – you can stick them in the dishwasher!” (I have a better solution than plastic – keep reading).  Bamboo is gaining popularity, but those flat-grain bamboo boards (i.e. the ones that look like they’re made of long strips of bamboo) are very hard and brutal on knife edges.  And don’t get me started on those silly roll-up cutting “mats” or those times I’ve seen Real Housewives cutting directly on their fancy granite countertops …  ugh.  So what should someone use?  Wood.  That’s right – old school.  It worked for your mom and your mom’s mom and your mom’s mom’s mom (or your dads – I don’t want to be sexist).  And if you really love your knives, use end-grain boards – the fibers of the wood will microscopically split as you slice down, absorbing some of the impact, and slowing down how fast you dull your knives.  For those who are squeamish about wooden cutting boards and food safety (e.g. bacterial cross-contamination), it’s advisable to have a separate cutting board for meat … or if you’re really really squeamish, then go for Sani-tuff boards, which are super-safe on knife edges (probably even better than wood!) and super-sanitary.  Now if only they came in cool colors …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

4 March 2011 at 12:27am

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The Truth … about Samoas

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t says: When it comes to Girl Scout cookies, everyone loves Thin Mints. Thin-Mint-this and Thin-Mint-that. Well you know what? I think Thin Mints are mediocre. Shazam. I went there.

Are you still reading? I hope you are – there’s a chance that with the above statement, I have angered about 75% of readers to the point of immediately closing down their browser windows never to return to adsz again … thanks for your continued patronage through these dark times …

Back to the story at hand … I will admit that there is one cookie that I attempt to stockpile every Girl Scout cookie season but fail miserably as they are so good that if they are in the house, I will consume them five-at-a-time: Samoas.

(As an aside, I want to note that these are sometimes called Caramel deLites as well, and the different name is determined by whichever bakery is licensed to manufacture the cookies (or so wiki claims). Personally, I prefer to call them Samoas because the name for some reason makes me think of tiny little animated characters … that I get to eat. Where this thought comes from, or why it would make me happy to eat a tiny little animated character … I have no idea.)

Ok, so back to Samoas … They are incredibly delicious, featuring a cookie covered with caramel, coconut, and chocolate. There really is not a thing I’d change about them … and I’m not even that huge a fan of coconut! And when Edy’s releases the Girl Scout Cookie ice creams – the Samoas themed one is also oh-so-delicious! But the one thing that cheeses me off about Samoas is this: the limited availability.  Once a year!  Come on Girl Scouts – would it kill you to peddle your cookies more often?  Alternatively, why hasn’t anyone else ever made a successful Samoa clone?  I mean, yes, in general, clones of cookies suck (e.g. look at every knock-off of an Oreo, ever – yuck!).  Consequently, I have no other conclusion to reach than thinking that they must be made utilizing some sort of super-secret ingredient that only the Girl Scouts had access to (e.g. Girl Scouts). Until now …

So, I’m not sure why/how the Keebler Elves are allowed to straight-up rip off the Samoa, but they most certainly did. There isn’t even the tiniest bit of trying to hide the similarity … orange coconut, fudge stripes, ring-shaped … There really is no reason for me to put up a pic of a Samoa because it’d look the same …

Upon close inspection, I will say that there are some subtle differences between this Keebler clone and the original.  The cookie is slightly thicker than a traditional Samoa, but it is also smaller in diameter. The result is a slightly higher cookie:caramel ratio. Also, there seems to be a slightly less coconut flakes (i.e. a lower density of larger flakes) on the Keebler version, and the intensity of the orange color is toned down.  How does it taste?  Keeping in mind that I only have memory to work off of (although I have probably consumed around 50 boxes of these in the past 6 years), the Keebler one tastes pretty damn similar. Texturally, these are a a little less “chewy” than the original (i.e. more crunchy/crumbly cookie-esque) and the quantity of chocolate is toned down, but if I close my eyes, it might as well be January, already (i.e. Girl Scout cookie season).  Unlike all of those nasty Oreo clones, this one is a winner!  It might not be perfect, but it’ll keep me satisfied for the other 10 months of the year when I don’t have Samoas …

So if Keebler could have done this – why now, after all these years?  Maybe those elves have also been experiencing tough times recently and decided to stop playing Mr. Nice Elf … Girl Scouts be damned!  The result: 15 cookies for under $3!!  And I even think there are some online coupons for these floating around, making it less than $2!!  For this price, it took a lot of willpower to not just buy two [or twenty] more bags than the one that I did buy – but I exhibited enormous self-restraint, much to g’s surprise.

But wait!  What about the title of the post!  What is the truth about Samoas? The truth is that they are sadly not magical, mystical cookies that only the Girl Scouts can sell – the Keebler Elves have managed to put out a very respectable copy of my favorite Girl Scout Cookie. This means only one thing – they obviously must be sharing a common secret ingredient! Are the Keebler Elves using 100% real Girl Scouts? Or perhaps the Girl Scouts were actually using tree-dwelling elves this entire time? Or maybe the Keebler Elves, when the cross-dress, are the original Girl Scouts! Why else would Ernie adhere to always donning that less-than-flattering green jackets (i.e. Girls Scout Vest?) at all times?

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11 November 2010 at 5:12pm

The Truth … about Chocolate Cheerios

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t says:

The truth about Chocolate Cheerios: they suck.

There.  I went there.  I can’t help it.  They’re not good.  In a world with original cheerios (which has an inexplicable cult following) and sweeter versions include apple cinnamon, multi-grain (delicious! my fave!), and honey nut … why does this taste so bad?  To their credit, they don’t taste as bad as Fruity Cheerios.  And actually, not everyone thinks they’re bad, as I’ve seen some bloggers showering praise upon these tiny O’s, as they satisfy a chocolate craving while maintaining that they are just as healthy as normal Cheerios (it says so on the box!).  Not me.  The chocolate’s gross.  I’d rather eat grass.  I’m sure that lowers cholesterol, too.

BUT, fret not loyal readers.  This is not just a bunch of pointless ranting and raving and complaining.  I also come bearing a solution … a solution that actually is quite delicious:

That’s right … chocolate milk and cheerios.   Shazam.  I went there.  Again.

Before you put on a “That’s disgusting!” face (I know who you are: g, g’s older sister, my parents, anyone who loves original cheerios), I suggest you try it before knocking it.  But don’t think of it as a “this is as healthy as cheerios” thing, because it’s certainly not.  Think of it as a healthier version of chocolate milk for breakfast (as you now get all of the vitamins and minerals in the cereal).  Oh, and a tip is that the milk must be cold and not watery (“fat free” chocolate milk should be avoided, as should Yoohoo brand and all chocolate “drinks” – but these should be avoided at all times, anyways).  By the way – the brand of chocolate milk pictured, by “Byrne Dairy”, is quite a good chocolate milk – and I got it out of a vending machine!  I haven’t been able to find it anywhere else, though …

And just so you know that it’s not solely an effect of the milk and independent of the Cheerios (e.g. maybe grass would be good with chocolate milk?), I have tried two other combinations of this milk with cereal.  It still worked well for the Multigrain Cheerios (not that they need it), but not so much for the Frosted Flakes, which ended up being an oversweetened, textural nightmare.

v says: a is in the Cult. Only eats Cheerios – even has a cheerios T-shirt…. loves them… we buy them in super duper bulk!

t says: g is also a huge fan of the original, but she was kicked out of the cult.  Recently, the Wegmans brand O’s seduced her with their fluffier texture and cheaper price.  She professed her newfound love for this “generic” toasted oat cereal and her cult membership was revoked immediately, indefinitely.

Credit: first pic sourced from here.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 August 2010 at 8:51am