Stuffed Silly

Growing up, I was occasionally drawn to the “deep dish” options in various pizzerias, only to find them relatively dull and not all that different from the traditional fare. At one point, Pizza Hut started advertising something called “Priazzo Italian Pie” which looked a lot more interesting, but at the time Pizza Huts were almost non-existant in Massachusetts. It looked so good on TV…one day I would have to try it. At last, on a family vacation, I convinced my parents to stop for lunch at the Hut. There it was, on the menu…at last the Priazzo would be mine. When the waitress arrived, I proudly declared my selection, only to have my hopes dashed when I was told it was no longer being offered.

Fast forward to early June, 2008 on a brief trip to Chicago. Having attended a wedding here 12 years earlier, I remembered watching the hotel information channel and hearing about a place called “Gino’s East” which served deep dish pizza that looked much like my beloved Priazzo. Somehow I managed to convince my wife to stop there for dinner. And by stop I mean wait for the nearly 45 minutes it took to prepare the deep dish classic. Note to self: never go to a place where you have to wait the better part of an hour for the food to be cooked when you’ve got a hungry, irritable 17-month old who is ready to terrorize the restaurant. Luckily there wasn’t a line when we arrived. The pizza looked impressive and was really served in a deep dish (or what looks like a small cake pan). We had ordered a medium but barely managed to devour half of it even after taking turns taking our son for walks to maintain some semblance of order at our table. My impression? If you like cheese, you’ll love this pizza. It must have taken mountains of mozzarella to to make this thing. The crust itself was quite thick and buttery – almost biscuit-like. Even though we had only managed to reduce the pizza to half its size, it was still followed by the requisite reclining on the hotel bed proclaiming “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”

Deep dish pizza from Chicago\'s Giordano\'s

Yet only two days later I built up enough courage to try again. This time, I learned lessons from my prior mistakes: get take out, order a small. We hit up Giordano’s a local favorite many seemed to prefer to Gino’s. The take out made managing the little one a lot easier, but the pizza was also better. Unlike Gino’s which is basically a cylindrical bowl filled with cheese, sauce, and the occasional additional item (they’re not really “toppings”), Giordano’s covers the top of their pizza with a second crust, making it much more like a pie. The crust is a seems a bit thinner and lighter than Gino’s, so the net impression is about the same amount of bread. Still, there’s not the overwhelming mass of cheese that the Gino’s experience bring with it, and overall Giordano offers a better experience (yes, it is an experience). Despite ordering the size targeted at “1-2 people”, we weren’t able to do much better than we had with Gino’s. Still, it was worth it. Not something to eat every day, but definitely worth a taste if you are in the windy city.

I think I feel like some pizza tonight.

Bulking up

I remember seeing a spot on a news show in past years regarding the growing popularity of buyng in bulk. The focus was on the buying habits of those who frequented the warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. I remember chuckling to myself as I watched the customers pile the gallon-sized mayonnaise and ketchup jars, multipacks of frozen foods, and other oversized packages onto the conveyor belt at the checkout line, commenting to my wife how ridiculous the whole process was. The narrator agreed. According to the show, most people who go this route end up with one of two problems:

  1. They end up throwing food because they can’t possibly eat it all.
  2. They force themselves to eat it all and gain massive amounts of weight

I get some sense of satisfaction from watching people do this, knowing that I would never do the same myself. It’s the same sense of satisfaction I get from using a Mac. Or from driving a Prius. Some call it elitisim. I call it acceptance of my superiority. Or so I thought…

I discovered there were some people I respected who shopped at Costco who didn’t seem to fall into the common traps. Though I initially bristled at the thought of joining myself, I soon found myself in line for a membership. It would be a great way to save some money on non-perishable items like toilet paper, aluminum foil, or paper towels (never mind that I didn’t really consume these products at a particularly impressive rate). Soon I found more uses, but I’ve stayed on target, eschewing the 1 pound packages of smoked salmon for dried goods that can last for months. (Okay, in all fairness, I did buy the 1 pound of smoked salmon once…and yes, I had to throw some of it out).

More dangerous, however, has been my discovery that bulk goods are just a click of a button away. Fully aware of the convenient, albeit minor, health benefits of eating dark chocolate, I happened upon a 12-pack of a dark chocolate version of Toberone, complete with the requisite honey and almond nougat (maybe one of these days I’ll actually understand what “nougat” is). Inexpensive. Good for my health. Delicious. What more could I want?

Delivering it to the home seemed like a bad idea. My wife, already suspicious of my excesses, was sure to use this as evidence against me in the future, despite my confidence that I could rationalize the purchase. So I had it sent to work. I could have a piece or two each day in the office to give me a little boost. The 12-pack should last a long time. I clicked. 

Two days later (thanks to Amazon Prime’s free shipping), the goods arrived. I cleared out a privileged space in my desk drawer alongside some pens and a stapler and went back to work. 

I’ve never been one to hear voices per se, but there seemed to be an unknown force pulling me toward the drawer. Like a “spidey-sense,” but for chocolate. I opened the first package and tried to break off two pieces, but three ended up coming off. Close enough, I thought. It’s time for a morning snack, anyway. 

A 12-pack of Toberone, courtesy of

They seemed to disappear so quickly. I was still hungry, maybe even hungrier. A few more couldn’t hurt. 

The thing about this stuff is that it tricks you. The little triangles seem so small. They don’t fill you up right away. Soon, you end up eating the whole bar. Then, about 20 minutes or so later, the effects come over you like a tidal wave. You feel a little queazy. There is a distinct message from your brain saying, “stop whatever you’re doing…you’ve already done too much of it!” But it’s too late. The damage is done.

I realized the only solution was to get rid of this black magic. I tried parlaying some off on my office-mate, Carl. Usually, Carl will eagerly agree to consume anything I passed over the desk, but he happened to pick this month to start watching what he was eating a little more closely. I could get a few triangles a day rerouted to his workspace, but the rest remained close by. I felt my energy drained, as if it were kryptonite rather than chocolate. The only treatment for my fatigue, of course, was to give in to the impulse to bite into yet another bar.

After several weeks (fewer than I care to admit), I’m finally done with the stuff. Never again will I give in to such foolishness.

Unless, of course, it’s a really good deal on really good chocolate. 

Making the best of organic waffles

In an attempt to find a simultaneously palatable and nutritious breakfast for my son, I intently scanned the frozen foods section of the local Whole Foods. Ah…organic whole grain waffles. All the right buzzwords. Organic…always a good thing, right? In truth I’ve never been much of an organomaniac. I’m fine loading my body with preservatives, but somehow it’s different when you are responsible for someone else’s nutrition. Whole grain? How can you go wrong with that? Grain is all American, and it’s certainly better to have the “whole” of something than only part of it, no?

Organic Whole Grain Waffles

Seriously, just adding the words “whole grain” to any food somehow justify its consumption. You could have whole grain egg nog with whipped cream and some how it would be okay (I hope you noggers realize that it’s basically eggs with cream). Waffles to me are the quintessential breakfast foods. They are to pancakes what espresso is to regular coffee. First, they add an element of class. I’m still not sure what makes Belgian waffles different from other waffles, but I would rather say I’m eating Belgian waffles. It’s more likely to elicit an “oooh!” Second, they require a (potentially) expensive piece of a equipment to make, which is always a plus in my book.

Well, that equipment is required when you make them yourself. Which isn’t what I was doing. I was just picking the pre-pressed variety off the shelf from the frozen goods aisle. I should have given Owen more credit. He saw right through the “feel good about your health” label and rejected the cardboard-tasting discus outright. Which of course left me with the burden of consuming the surprisingly large number of waffles contained in the box.

What to do with dry, uninspired waffles? Waffles…waffles…waffle cones, of course! My mind was racing and soon I was hastily scooping coffee-flavored ice cream onto a freshly toasted waffle. Surprisingly delicious. And nutritious, of course (whole wheat, you remember). We’ll see if I can keep this up and still fit into my pants. Two waffles to go.

Searching for the best donuts in Boston

It’s not that I’m a big donut eater…I’m not. Every once in a while, however, I do enjoy a good donut (or doughnut, if you’re a fan of the less-efficient classic spelling). Perhaps it’s all in my head, but I’ve had the distinct impression that Dunkin Donuts, the standard bearer in Massachusetts, has been slipping in quality for some time. In the past, the donuts were all made in the store, and there were often at least some varieties that were fresh. No more. They are all shipped in from some factory and taste, well, disappointing.

My first stop was the local Verna’s in Cambridge, which had great reviews on many of the popular review sites like Chowhound. To my surprise, the donuts were absolutely terrible. Many of the reviews I read were from 2006, so I wonder if the company changed owners. Maybe it was just a bad day, but I’m not going back to find out.

Another stop was the well-reviewed Demet’s Donuts in Medford. It wasn’t terrible. Marginally better than Dunkin’, but not really worth the extra trip.


To cast a broader net, I looked further out to East Boston and came up with the Betty Ann Food Shop. They opened early and had 4 varieties ready when I showed up: old-fashioned, jelly, lemon-filled, and sugar. The latter 3 were all essentially the same donut, a deep fried greasy blob coated with sugar granules and either filled or not, given the particular variety. The old fashioned variety were the standard cake donut, though a bit on the small side, fried a little too long and crossing a threshold of greasiness that made it tolerable when warm but progressively more unpleasant as it reached room temperature.

Just when I was about to lose hope, I discovered Donuts with a Difference in Medford, MA. These are by far the best donuts I’ve had a long time. Despite the health consequences of frequent donuting, I still find myself returning again and again. There’s plenty of variety, but you must show up in the morning because, at least on the weekends, they close fairly early. In addition, the donuts are generally not ready until about 8 AM, so don’t show up to early.

Magically Deiciious

My affection for Nature’s Path Flax Plus Granola is no secret. I regularly use my blog and Twitter account to share my enthusiasm for the product.

Recently, I’ve discovered a new twist on the usual bowl. Adding some regular Cheerios to the mix adds an additional dimension. The oat-flavored nuttiness of the Cheerios along with the tempered sweetness of the Flax Plus creates a flavor combination that tastes surprisingly like…Lucky Charms! I kid you not. I’m sure this combination much better than eating marshmallows for breakfast, of course.

A great debate is settled

Some time in college, I remember having a somewhat thoughtful conversation with a friend of mine. It was many years ago, and I don’t recall who the discussion was with, but we spent the time exploring an issue that many may wish to consider while formulating a reply to the difficult question: what type of ice cream do you want?

Given the assumption that you have already decided to eat ice cream, not particularly known for its compatibility with maintaining a slim figure, it may seem a bit frivolous to discuss the caloric differences between various flavors. Nonetheless, this was the topic of conversation on this evening during my years of higher education. In particular, the question was whether one could reduce calories by sticking to vanilla instead of the clearly tastier Oreo cookie (or analogous cookies “n” cream variety).

Try to come to your own conclusion. Got it? Okay, read on.

My friend argued that the Oreo cookie flavor would clearly be more caloric since it adds a calorie-rich cookie to the ice cream, whereas the standard fare just has the ice cream. The equation was simple. Cookie + ice cream > ice cream. Q.E.D. Not so fast, I countered. Consider that ice cream is served by the scoop. Given that the volume is likely to be constrained, the cookie would actually be displacing some of the ice cream. So the correct formula would be x = (cookie) – (volume of ice cream equivalent to volume of cookie). If the cookie is less caloric than the same volume of ice cream (which is, after all, made in part from cream), then x will be negative and thus the Oreo flavor would be a virtual diet ice cream (or Ice Cream Zero, following today’s nomenclature).

This weekend was a bit slow, so I began to ponder how to settle this once and for all: figuring out the volume of an Oreo cookie should be pretty easy, and it’s nutritional information should be available online. Once I had the volume, I could look up the equivalent stats on the ice cream and have my answer. As I considered this, I did what I do best: think of an even better strategy to find out answers to questions of dubious importance.

Recalling that Brighams was a local favorite purveyor of the sweet stuff, I went to their web site and found what I was looking for. Turns out that, 4 fluid ounces of vanilla has 190 calories, while the equivalent volume of the Oreo flavor has 200 calories. I guess I’ll have to concede this argument, but at least I can take comfort in knowing that I’ve used this blog to share an important fact with my readers.

Take heed, fatties…stick to vanilla.

The best cereal…ever

I’m someone who believes in eating breakfast regularly. As a child, I went through cycles of various cereals. I’d try one for a while, like it, and then get bored and move on to something new. In the past year, however, I’ve discovered a cereal so good that I have had no desire to switch brands. I don’t eat it every day (at least not for breakfast), but I do indulge it in frequently, even as a dessert.

The cereal name sounds rather random. It’s Nature’s Path Organic Pumpkin FlaxPlus Granola. I know it doesn’t sound that appealing, but I encourage everyone to give it a try. It’s got a great crispy texture, just the right amount of sweetness, and it appears to be relatively healthful as well, with plenty of Omega-3’s.

The best part about it is that Amazon both have this otherwise expensive cereal available in bulk quantities. I always have one or two extra boxes around.

People who don’t like coffee

I generally take it for granted that most people are coffee drinkers. After all, why would someone willingly deprive themselves of the rich, aromatic sensory experience that is Coffea arabica?


That’s what I thought: there’s no good reason.

Occasionally, however, I stumble across some misguided soul who claims they don’t like the taste of coffee. After staring at them blankly for a few seconds to ensure this isn’t a poorly formed attempt at humor, I begin the process of bringing them into the fold. The most common error that leads to the perception that coffee is distasteful is the exclusive consumption of low-quality coffee. Most people develop their love of the black beverage when they first have a high quality cup. It’s not an experience that needs to be repeated often, but serves to establish the synapse between the neuron representing “coffee” and the one representing “good” (for you neuroscientists out there, I’m over-simplifying…you get the idea). Thereafter, even mediocre coffee can trigger this same response. With seasoned aficionados like myself, even barely-drinkable coffee is tolerated because of the connection, however distant, with the memory of truly great coffee.

I can’t think of other examples of a beverage which has this effect. The obvious problem here is for those that never have had that good cup. To them, their coffee-good connection in the brain is underdeveloped. Given this limitation in neurological development, some might refer to these individuals as “retarded”, but I find that a little politically incorrect. I prefer to think of them having a “special need” – a need for a good cup of coffee!

If you encounter one of this individuals, please do your civic duty and make them a cup of high quality brew. If you are unable or unwilling to perform this duty, please notify a flight attendant…er…please find someone who can. Life is to short to be spent without an appreciation for coffee.

Overheard at Whole Foods

Customer: Do you have any snapper filets?

Fishmonger: No…well, we have these small whole snapper here.

Customer: No, no. Um, ok…how is the haki?

Fishmonger: The hake*? It’s pretty good.

Customer: Well, what does the haki taste like?

Fishmonger: Hake is kind of like cod. It’s a sweet white fish.

Customer: Would you say that the haki is better than the cod?

Fishmonger: It’s a matter of taste, sir.

Customer (to his wife, who is just arriving): Hon, do you think we should get the haki or the cod?

Fishmonger: It’s pronounced “hake”, sir. Hake.

Customer: Oh, sorry. I guess we’ll take the haki.

*rhyming with “rake”

An AM Masterpiece

A perfect cup with latte art

Latte art: often attempted but rarely mastered. When the barista pours the milk of a cappuccino just so, it winds its way through the espresso, blooming into a silken flower almost too perfect to drink. This is what emerged this morning when I, in my semi-awake state, created my usual morning beverage. If I admire it any longer, it will grow cold and bitter so, after a brief photograph session, I sip it down and head off to work.

I have been working on my latte art for years now, often with limited success. As what I think is a beautiful rose is emerging, my wife looks over my shoulder and comments, ??????oh…a brussel sprout!?????? Such is the pain the struggling latte artist must endure. Still, I persevere, and every now and again, true perfection emerges.