Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Only Kind of Vegetables You Ever Really Need

For a someone with a junk food jones, the arrival of spring is heralded not by the blooming of flowers and the budding of trees but by an explosion of fresh, new, colorful life somewhere else: The grocery store candy isle. Yep, it’s that magical time of year when the Easter candy is in bloom. Take this from the Lindt company, for example:

At no other point in the year are you going to get chocolate carrots!

Carrot shaped and foil wrapped, the Lindt Chocolate Carrots are a solid mix of milk chocolate and hazelnut. It’s the taste combo that has made Nutella so popular lately and Ferrero Rocher a Christmas holiday seasonal favorite.

Also, you kind of pull each carrot from the box like you pull carrots from the ground and they come on little sticks so you can eat them without the chocolate melting all over your hands. Nice touches.

Okay, the bottom line is that if you’re craving  the chocolate/hazelnut taste, stick with the other guys. I mean, Lindt’s Chocolate Carrots are okay but you’re going to find better candy snacks out there. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something fun for your kid’s Easter basket you could do a whole lot worse. Chocolate carrots are just kind of cool. They’re like chocolate bunny food!

Wait, chocolate carrots and chocolate bunnies are both made of chocolate so is feeding chocolate carrots to a chocolate bunny actually forced cannibalism? I guess Easter candy shopping isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes you have to grapple with the tough questions.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's Day!

Ever since that time back in the Middle Ages when a guy named Saint Valentine figured out that he could trick women into pressuring their significant others (or dudes who wanted to have a significant encounter with them) into buying more stuff from Valentine’s Ye Olde Combination Florist Jewelry Greeting Card Candy Shoppe, we’ve celebrated February 14th by shelling out big piles of cash for tons of heart-shaped crap. I don’t care about the flowers, the cards, or the over-priced gemstones but you know I love me some special seasonal junk food. Here’s the stuff I dug into this year. Rest assured that what I lacked in variety I more than made up for in volume.

Russell Stover probably rakes in most of its money this time of year and I certainly contributed my share to their bottom line by eating a pile of Russell Stover Hearts.

Biting through the milk chocolate shell into either strawberry, chocolate truffle or marshmallow filling always makes me thankful for holiday over-commercialization.

I’ve sung the praises of special holiday Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in these pages many times in the past so I won’t go into a lot of detail about why Old Man Reese makes the top candy out there but I will say that his Valentine’s stuff is the best of the best. This season I consumed all three sizes of Reese’s Valentine Hearts.

The small ones have a prettier shape (which apparently matters to some people), thicker chocolate and less peanut butter.

 I liked them a lot but I prefer the middle size (which I found two to a King Size pack):

They might be a little uglier... 

… but the peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio is much better for me.

And then there’s this big boy, the best of the best:

The King Hell Giant Reese’s Heart (at least that’s what I call it) is probably my favorite single candy item of all time. Saint Valentine should be worshiped for giving us this chunk of chocolate-peanut butter heaven-on-earth. All hail Saint Valentine!

And, finally, the weirdest grab for my seasonal dollar that I saw all year was this:

Jack Links Beef Jerky in a fur-ringed heart-shaped box. Despite the fact that fur on a box of meat snacks kind of grossed me out a little – not to mention that I generally don’t like to eat food that sheds on my sweatshirt when I handle it – 

-- I couldn’t wait to open this thing up and behold the glory inside. I imagined a Whitman’s Sampler-style layout: Many varieties of jerky in their own little compartments just waiting for me to dig in and try each one. Then I popped the top and found this:

Yep. They just put a regular old bag of jerky into a fancy box and charged more. If that isn’t true to the original Valentine’s Day spirit, I don’t know what is.

February 14th might be the second best candy holiday of the year. The first best is today, February 15th. All the same candy but now its on sale! Let’s go shopping!

BONUS HISTORICAL FACT: Cupid became an official part of the holiday in 1588 when a demented, winged baby archer went on a rampage, shooting arrows into the hearts of random passers-by. This was known as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. And now you know. Who needs school when you've got Junk Food Jones?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken and a Cold Bottle of Dew

I don’t know which is more embarrassing, the fact that the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporate headquarters is only 175 miles from Nashville and they’ve just now gotten around to putting Nashville Hot Chicken on their menu or the fact that I was born and raised only 145 miles from Nashville and KFC had to finally put Nashville Hot Chicken on their menu before I ever tried it.

The traditional Nashville style is to sauce the fried chicken with a cayenne pepper-based paste then serve it with pickle chips on a piece of white bread. Because of the shameful truth to which I’ve already admitted, I can’t compare the Colonel’s attempt with the “real” thing but I can tell you that the KFC stuff is mighty tasty.

At first I was a little worried that they were wimping out on the spice but after a couple of bites a good burn began to set in. The vinegary-peppery sauce tastes great with just the right amount of heat. For mainstream fast food fare, it’s strong.

KFC doesn’t use the standard Nashville slice of white bread but the biscuit they include with the meal is even better. And I needed it to sop up all the extra sauce in the to-go box (which I’m sure is the reason behind the bread in the first place.)

The pickles are a nice touch and, ideally, I’d like one with each bite. Unfortunately my meal came with only three little dill slices. I don’t know why the Col. was being a cheap bastard and skimping on the pickles but since I was eating at home I grabbed a jar from the refrigerator and made it rain. I got pickles for days, man. That’s just how I roll.

KFC also offers coleslaw with the meal and the cool creaminess pairs well with the hot and spicy chicken. You can substitute another side but why? Cole slaw is where it’s at.

Ol’ man Sanders is also cool enough to supply you with a special wet wipe. 

You’re going to need it. The KFC Nashville Hot Chicken is messy business. Ignore the strong chemical lemon smell and thoroughly wipe yourself down after eating. You wouldn’t want to inadvertently scratch an eye or pick a nose with cayenne-covered fingers. This meal is too damned good to end in tragedy.

On a side note, you’re going to need something to drink with this stuff. The science-minded junk food aficionado would choose a milk-based beverage. That’s because (at least supposedly) the casein in milk binds with the stingy capsaicin in the peppers and floats that stuff away. Water-based beverages don’t beat the burn, they just spread it around.

Even knowing that, I chose Mountain Dew. The stuff was invented in Tennessee so why not pair it with my first taste of Nashville Hot Chicken. Besides I had a brand new Mountain Dew product chilling in the fridge just waiting for me to sample. It's called Dew Shine. Traditional Mountain Dew is a radioactive green color. This stuff is clear. And the regular Dew is sweetened with corn syrup. Dew Shine uses real cane sugar like Mountain Dew used to.

The real sugar part is fine but Dew Shine tastes like you’re drinking the squeezings from a bunch of those KFC Industrial Chemical Lemon Scented Hand Wipes. No thanks. I’d rather just suffer through the Nashville Hot Chicken burn sans beverage than drink this stuff. Grab yourself some chicken but forget the fancy Dew. Yuck.

Of course, it is entirely possible that all that hot chicken sauce just screwed up my taste buds and Dew Shine is totally fine. As always, feel free to take what I say with a grain of salt. I know I do.