Thursday, February 26, 2009

Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream

As a male, I've never understood the whole "curled up on the couch with a pint of Häagen-Dazs" method to cheering oneself up. If you haven't noticed by reading through these expositions on gustatory experimentation, I haven't much of a sweet tooth, in fact I can be quite sensitive to sugar, and I am prone to freak outs about nutrition. Ergo, ice cream and other desserts are not at all comfort food for me, quite the opposite. This means I can walk down the ice cream aisle with nary a fear of temptation... well, except when it comes to the coffee varieties but I've been burned too many times to fall for that again.

cocunut sesame ice cream

But a few weeks ago I was grocery shopping and found myself in a mighty struggle against the gods of girth. Breezing past the frozen sweets my eyes briefly scanned the word sesame, forcing a double take and a halt for further investigation. Toasted coconut and sesame brittle ice cream? Upon first seeing this tub of [very expensive] frozen dairy dessert amongst a small collection of other [very expensive] exotic varieties in the Häagen-Dazs Reserve Series, I was immediately enthralled. Sesame seeds have long been an ingredient in deserts throughout Asian and Middle Eastern cultures but as far as us Western folk are concerned, they're what gets sprinkled on top of hamburger buns or, if you're looking to be adventurous, fried chicken at Chinese restaurants. That's it, end of story.

cocunut sesame ice cream

Being slightly unfamiliar with the ways of the sesame, I was very eager to try this odd indulgence but slightly afraid of the horrors detailed in the nutritional information. Sugars and fats galore with 300 whopping calories per serving but in the end my curiosity won out over my health concerns and I purchased the tub of [very expensive] ice cream.

Häagen-Dazs says that their inspiration for the Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle flavor is drawn from "the lush islands of Thailand, where coconut trees line white beaches and the local markets are filled with exotic Asian spices like ginger and sesame." However, due to the hot climate and lack of beach-side refrigeration, the Thai people were prevented from coming up with the brilliant idea of mixing this all together in a tub of ice cream.

Looking at commodity prices, sesame seeds are far less expensive than I had imagined. I mean, you never really see them for sale in Western supermarkets except in the aforementioned form of a hamburger bum adornment so I figured they were a luxury of sorts. At approximately $2.50 per pound for the consumer, it's cheaper than many other seeds and grains. But what I did have prior knowledge of was their great nutritional profile, particularly when unhulled. While incredibly high in fat, the fats are primarily of the monounsaturated variety which has been shown to lower LDL [bad] cholesterol levels. Sesame seeds are also high in copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and iron and have significant amounts of zinc, vitamin B1, and vitamin E.

Not only are they super nutritious, sesame seeds are also super delicious. There's a lot of flavor packed into these tiny little seeds. However, I have no idea what one would compare said flavor to.

cocunut sesame ice cream

But anyway, onto the ice cream itself; this stuff is simply too good. The sesame brittle is reminiscent of the tiny, meatless artifacts found within a helping of fresh, good quality sesame chicken but with a hint of ginger to spice it up. The toasted coconut pieces themselves would have made a great singular ingredient in this creamy confection but the sesame brittle gives a welcome kick of exoticism, transforming a dessert into a delicacy.

As with any food of this kind, a few bites are enough to satisfy me, too much sweetness can put me off for a while, but I found myself visiting the tub more frequently than usual throughout the week so that by the time I got around to taking pictures it was almost all gone. Had I waited any longer, would have been forced to purchase another tub and that would have put me in a very, very bad situation. I don't want to buy new pants. Like a woman in the midst of a personal tragedy, I think I'll have to avoid the ice cream aisle from now on... I don't know if my will is strong enough to resist further temptation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thai Guava

The thai guava is one ugly fruit. Not ugly in the same grotesque vein of an Ugli Fruit or a Cherimoya, just an "if I found this in the wild I would not be tempted to stick this in my mouth" way; mottled green and brown with an odor that gives no indication of edibility. But given that it reminded me in that sense of a Fieoja, I was optimistic that the flesh contained some secret delight.

thai guava

Nutritionally speaking, guavas are pretty good food. Packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, antioxidants, and fiber, this is something that you should want to eat, right? Even the seeds contain a healthy dose of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. So I should definitely want to eat this... right?

Well, I think I left my Thai Guava too long before getting around to the eating business. This could partially account for the abominable appearance of the skin and a slight brown region in the flesh. Undeterred by the slight decay I prepared to consume the sparkling white regions untouched by rot. Moving my face towards the fruit, the aroma still didn't shout "eat me" but I continued my mission and took the first bite.

thai guava cut

Soap. It tasted like soap. So maybe that was just the first nibble or maybe there are some complex secondary flavors that explode forth after the enzymes in my saliva set about breaking down the chemicals left in my mouth. No, still tasted like soap. I couldn't finish and hastily threw the rest of the fruit away.

Was I missing something?

Some sites liken the taste to a pear but I wasn't experiencing anything like that. Ideally I'd sample some more in order to make my observations more scientific in a sense. But this isn't science, dammit! This is self-righteous, opinionated, babble. However, the judgment isn't final as there are some other strange varieties of guava that I will certainly try if I ever happen to find them available commercially.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fritos Chili Cheese Wrap

What has this world come to where something like the Fritos Chili Cheese Wrap can be suffered to exist? The shock of seeing this abomination parading as food in a local circular had me journeying to Sonic in a matter of minutes. Being completely out of touch with popular culture (and reality in general), I have no idea how long this crime against nutrition has been perpetrated but the sheer indecency of it left me completely dumbfounded.

chili cheese frito wrap

Sparing myself a couple dollars and few hundred calories, I bought the junior version of this foul beat. There's no need to tell you that it bears no resemblance the depiction in the menu in terms of, shall we say, rotundness. I want to move to the alternate dimension where fast-food menu pictures are taken. Even if they serve crap like this at least it's big, warm, and inviting as opposed to the tepid, sloppy, grease cakes you always end up with. There will be no obesity-epidemic finger pointing, multinational corporation condemnations, or questions concerning food quality standards here; but having worked in fast-food during high school, I should know enough about the realities of the food to stay away. However, without any sliver of shame I can attest to the fact that it really does serve its purpose in times of great need and frugality. Regardless, even in times of desperation, I don't think I could stomach the likes of this.

chili cheese frito wrap

So, back to the meat of this post: The Fritos Chili Cheese Wrap. Wait, where the hell is the meat? Unfolding the thick layers of tortilla I am confronted with a bunch of corn chips slathered in a sloppy brown sauce with a few small flecks of something that I assume used to belong to a mammal. Okay, I know what you're thinking: diarrhea. Yeah, I was thinking that too.

chili cheese frito wrap

However, it wasn't the defecatory resemblance that prevented me from finishing it. One mere bite set my salivary glands off in pre-vomit state but I still proceeded to go back for a second taste. Now, I must admit that I really don't like Fritos at all so that did factor into my disgusted and disgusting reaction to this monstrosity but honestly, it was mostly the starch and grease overload that brought me close to bringing it all back up. One must assume that there are people out there who actually enjoy this kind of garbage and, sadly, they probably outnumber those of us who think the very idea of it is vile; how depressing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Passion Fruit

One day I was walking the dog with the wife and happened upon a strange green fruit growing on a vine. "Hmmm... what's this? I wonder if I can eat it," I remarked but was summarily warned that I would not be transported to the hospital in the event of any poisoning. The orb was about the size of a racquetball ball and had the same flexible, hollow feel. This oddity puzzled me for weeks every time I saw it. What on Earth could it be?

Here's the kicker: I had seen flowers on that same vine before. I knew was these flowers were called yet, in an extreme and prolonged case of idiocy, my feeble mind refused to make the connection. What was this flower, you ask? The passion flower:

Passiflora incarnata

And the fruit, of course, was a passion fruit. Get your iodine lest you end up a cretin like me.

passion fruit hangs

Ever present as a flavoring in fruit drinks, candies, and confections, I was slightly puzzled to find that many people I asked had never eaten a passion fruit. Strange, since they are actually grown commercially (and wildly) in Florida, where I currently reside. When I lived in Australia, another big producer, they were in all grocers. But I can't remember having seen them in any local supermarkets for years and only just recently found a few on the Island of Misfit Produce at Whole Foods.

passion fruit skin

There are two main varieties of passion fruit. The purple passion fruit is the most commonly known and has the characteristic wrinkly purple skin. It only grows to about the size of a lemon whereas its cousin, the yellow passion fruit, can grow to the size of a grapefruit. Both varieties have a tough, outer rind that contains a clutch of seeds coated with a gelatinous, yellow/orange substance. The skin of mine was actually a mottled white/purple, something I had not seen before and I can only make the logical assumption that it is a cultivar of the purple variety. Regardless, just as our mothers told us, it's what's inside that matters.

passion fruit seeds and flesh

Juices containing passion fruit really do the fresh fruit no justice. The aroma is sublimely sweet and floral with hints of mango. One whiff and you'll be incapable of resisting the temptation of the sweet flesh. The flavor is far more incredible than I had remembered; delectably rich and sweet but with a refreshing quality that can't be found in equally rich foods. Like a pomegranate, you scoop the innards out and consume both flesh and seed. Unlike a pomegranate, the seeds contribute favorably to the flavor, adding a slight dash of bitterness and sourness to counteract the intense sweetness of the flesh.

passion fruit weeps

Unfortunately, there's a meager amount of edible matter and, at a dollar or more a pop, there are economic deterrents from just grabbing another for a repeat experience. Still, this salacious fruit is one you can quite happily take your time to savor.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hemp Milk

Hippies of the world rejoice, you can now legally imbibe the nectar of your gods... somewhat. It seems as though hemp has been [justifiably] making inroads into the food market, particularly in health food stores, and not solely as a ploy to capitalize on the break-up of Phish and the resultant spike in the hippie population's disposable income. Who am I kidding? Hippies don't have any money to spare. But no need to worry as Hemp Dream, a hemp seed based milk substitute, doesn't cost all too much and also comes in a sweet tie-dyed container that can double as a decorative piece.

hemp dream

Hemp seed is a great source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids which are, as their name implies, essential for maintaining bodily well-being and have an integral link to cardiac health. Essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body from other components and therefore must be obtained via the diet. Hemp seeds are also said to contain all essential amino acids, the very building blocks of life, and significant levels of Manganese and Magnesium. In addition to the nutrients supplied by the hemp seed itself, Hemp Dream is fortified with Vitamins A, B12, D, and Calcium.

As with other milk substitutes, one of the main selling points of hemp milk is that it contains no lactose, for the lactose intolerant individuals amongst us. (But really, what do you find so intolerable about lactose anyway? Don't you think you're being a little too biased? It's the year 2009, we're all about tolerance. What did lactose ever do to you? Bloating, gas, and cramps? Ok, fair enough, but try to be a little more forgiving in the future.) Additionally, for those with other allergies or dietary restrictions, hemp milk is free of soy, gluten, and cholesterol.

I really enjoyed my carton of Oat Milk and was looking forward to trying the Hemp Dream out, hoping that it could match the Oatly in terms of its taste and refreshing quality. Visually the two drinks are very similar. Cloudy, off-white, and slightly less opaque than skim milk. The scent is hard to pin down. There is a slight vegetative or grainy quality but overall it's fairly weak and can only be aptly described as smelling wet.

I'm torn by the taste. I got the unflavored kind in order to better experience the true nature of hemp milk but it is also available in chocolate and vanilla. It's not drastically different from soy milk, rice milk, or oat milk and has a slight nutty flavor. Sometimes I enjoy it, other times I struggle to swallow my mouthful. I can't quite discern what quality it possesses that occasionally makes me want to retch but I do strongly recommend drinking it chilled. As the liquid warms it becomes unpalatable and I assume this is primarily a factor of the texture rather than the taste. Cold, cloudy water? Should be fine. Tepid, cloudy water? That's a no-go.

hemp dream junkie

As far as milk substitutes go, oat milk gets my firm backing but this one has some great nutritional advantages. Strongly recommended for lactose intolerant hippies and vegetarians looking for a good source of essential fatty acids. However, I urge you to drink with caution. Hemp milk is a gateway beverage and can end up ruining your life and causing undue harm to your loved ones. But in all seriousness, the greater adoption of hemp as a viable food, material, and fuel crop would really be in the best interest of us all. Negative associations and potential misuse aside, this truly is one incredible plant and it's a shame it has been so vilified for its uses as an intoxicant.