April 23, 2011

Chocolate-Dipped Peeps

As I write this, the Easter Bunny is in his Bahamas candy shop putting the finishing touches on Easter baskets for all the good little girls and boys in the world. His work will bring delight tomorrow morning when chocolate rabbits, cream-filled eggs and jellybeans galore grace living rooms throughout the world.

But what about you, the adults? The ones whose lives aren't touched by the hopping joy brought by this hopping holiday hare? You've seen most of the stalwart Easter candy before, and chances are it's starting to look a little dull.

I'm pleased to report that a few new candies have bounded their way onto shelves for this year's Easter season. Today I'll focus on Peeps, those hunks of marshmallow goodness that turned your childhood into a sticky-fingered mess. Recently I noticed a couple of new-age Peeps at the grocery store: Peeps Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallow Chicks and Peeps Sugar-Free Marshmallow Chicks.

We'll be forgoing an in-depth look at sugar-free Peeps -- making Peeps without sugar is like making liquid without water. It's technically possible, but I doubt you'd want to ingest it. Instead, today's critique will be an examination of the chocolate-dipped Peeps.

The idea's a no-brainer once you hear about it. The execution, however, is a little more nuanced than you might expect. You see, chocolate-dipping Peeps doesn't involve simply dousing them in chocolate. Peeps Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Chicks already have that ground covered. Chocolate-dipped Peeps are only covered in chocolate at the base. The Peep head and body escapes the cocoa vat unaltered.

As a result, the delicious traditional Peep sugar coating is present in abundance, providing plenty of that texture and flavor you remember from your childhood. It's enriched by the chocolate base coating, which adds a Hershey-esque complexity to the taste.

Chocolate dipping the Peeps also blunts the insane sweetness found in the traditional chicks. There's still plenty of confectionery pop in every bite, it's just not as grating. In addition, the chocolate chips in a bit of substance, offering some weight in every nibble. You feel like you actually have something to chew, rather than a phantom mouthful that dissolves after a few seconds.

The downside to the chocolate Peeps is that they come in pared-down packs. Standard Peeps are sold bunched together in packs of five, while Chocolate-Dipped Peeps sit on shelves in packs of three. What's more, they're surrounded by cushioning plastic casing. Apparently the Peep factory doesn't want its fancy-schmancy chocolate damaged.

Half-sized packaging might be a hidden bonus in this case, however. Normally I'm against contracting the size of a product, as it essentially gives the you less for your dollar. In the case of Peeps, though, fewer chicks will probably prevent stomachaches. You don't really need to eat more than three Peeps in a sitting, but it's nearly impossible to keep yourself from eating an entire pack once it's open. This is a case where we need protection from ourselves.

I have to hand it to the chocolate-dipped Peeps, they hit the perfect balance of nostalgic flavor and sugary innovation. I'm naming them this year's must-try Easter candy and handing out a five spork rating out of a possible five. Even if you're not a fan of Peeps, you're bound to find these interesting.

April 18, 2011

Double Bacon, Egg & Cheese at Subway

Hard at work on a sprightly Easter review, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. While counting my jellybeans and cracking into my Cadbury Eggs, an idea kept sprouting in the back of my mind.

I was a little early. There was something I needed to do before preparing an Easter candy extravaganza.

Then it dawned on me. I'd promised you, my loyal readers, a review of Subway's $5 Footlong of the month, the Double Bacon, Egg & Cheese. You may get to try breakfast for lunch all month, but I get to tell you if it's any good.

Omlette you in on the recipe: two fluffy egg patties, four strips of bacon and cheese sit on your choice of bread. While all of Subway's breads are available, there's really only one correct choice, and it's the flatbread. Anything else would swallow up the flavor and texture of the eggs, which would just be silly

This was my first time sampling Subway's flatbread, and it wasn't quite what I expected. It's much more pliant, with a spongy, almost playful texture. I highly recommend it, even if you forgo this particular sub. It's a nice change-up to Subway's usual bread.

The egg patties are enormous in diameter. Seriously, I've seen smaller Frisbees. They're also slightly better than your typical fast-food egg patties: fluffy in their own right and flavorful. They are, however, a bit watery. Still, it's not unpleasant. Don't confuse "watery" with "runny."

My bacon could have used a little more crunch. It was limp rather than crisp. Toasting the sub picked things up a bit, fortunately.

If ever a peppers and onions made a sandwich, this was the one. I topped mine with my personal favorite cocktail of jalapenos, banana peppers and red onions, which added a delicious crispness and captivating level of heat. The vegetables contribute just enough texture to every mouthful, taking what could be a bland bit of biting and turning it into something very satisfying.

It's pretty obvious what Subway's trying to do with the $5 Double Bacon, Egg & Cheese: promote its fledgling breakfast menu. And I recommend taking them up on the offer. At very least it's a good excuse to try the flatbread. At most it will have you leaving the restaurant with your sunny side up. Four sporks out of five.

April 13, 2011

Moe's Spicy Trio Burrito

Bear with me, foodies, as I share a lengthy story about burritos. Trust me when I say it will be worthwhile in the end.

Two weeks ago I visited my local Moe's franchise in hopes of sampling a burrito off of the new Spicy Trio Menu, which is anchored by special jalapeno sour cream and spicy queso. As you may guess, the Spicy Trio is made up of three selections: burrito, quesadilla and rice bowl. The burrito -- what anyone in their right mind would try first -- is stuffed with chicken, rice, black beans and pico de gallo, plus the aforementioned spicy queso and jalapeno sour cream.

Alas, when I walked through the door of Moe's I knew all was not right. The workers behind the counter, who typically greet patrons with a semi-enthusiastic "Welcome to Moe's," were silent, their voices lost in feverish concentration as they busily prepared food. I'm willing to forgive this slight oversight of Moe's etiquette -- they were working hard, after all -- but this slip was definitely foreshadowing things to come.

I reached the counter and placed my order, only to be met with devastating news: there was no more spicy sour cream. The worker behind the counter offered to build my burrito with spicy queso, standard sour cream, jalapenos and cilantro instead. Brokenhearted, I accepted.

Fast forward nine days and I stood back at the same Moe's placing the same order after the workers again failed to greet me -- not that I'm complaining. The restaurant was extremely busy.

But being a food critic is tough work. My return to Moe's in the face of no greetings stands as a shining example of the fact that I'm willing to doggedly pursue the subjects of my reviews for the sake of you, my loyal readers. I'm proud to report the dedication paid off. The restaurant had both jalapeno sour cream and spicy queso for my burrito the second time around.

All this back story basically means I'm able to evaluate the individual impacts of the spicy queso and jalapeno sour cream -- a position I wouldn't be in if I hadn't tasted the burrito with and without said sour cream. Burritos are great at mashing up ingredients and confusing flavors, after all.

For starters, I can tell you that the jalapeno sour cream is good but not earth-shattering. Being both a sour cream and jalapeno enthusiast, I was ready for the worker building my meal to spoon on gobs of the sour cream to smother my burrito in a creamy-yet-hot symphony. Instead she picked up a bottle -- the kind they keep ketchup in -- and squirted some sour cream on my burrito. That spread out the cream and left me wanting more densely packed areas.

The spicy queso, on the other hand, is positively glorious. It's cheesy, hot and gooey, leaving every bite slathered in fantastic flavor. I could rave about it for paragraph upon paragraph, but I'll spare you from any long-winded odes. Just go out and try some for yourself.

In the end, I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that the spicy queso is stronger than jalapeno sour cream. After all, queso and heat go together like peas and carrots. And you can't run away from a match made in heaven.

Four sporks out of five for the Spicy Burrito. If I'd been able to get both jalapeno sour cream and spicy queso on my first visit, this could easily have been a five-spork item.

To be honest a little welcome as I walked in the door wouldn't have hurt matters, either.