I never thought I had much in common with Lindsay Lohan.
She’s a young Hollywood starlet and pop star, better known for her hard-partying, relapses into rehab, ever-changing breast size, spectacular rise and fall, and for showing her birth canal to pretty much every actor, athlete and paprazzi in California. I’m more of a brokedown former disc jockey and comedian who couldn’t wait to sell out to Corporate America for a stable paycheck. As far as I know, she’s done more drugs than a Rick James’ groupie, and the hardest thing I’ve smoked is turkey. But her song “Me vs. The World” from the Freaky Friday soundtrack speaks to me. Well, it doesn’t technically speak because I’ve never heard it, and couldn’t pick it out in a police lineup. I just found the lyrics online, and thought “I had no idea I could relate to young Lindsay’s plight.”
See, “The World” in my case is Reese’s. The loveable brand from our friendly neighbors to the North, Hershey (if not the best corporate citizens), has finally released a limited edition Elvis tribute Reese’s Cup – Peanut Butter and Banana Creme. One of his favorite treats was fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. As I have resolved to eat healthier and exercise more, and been doing a fine job of it, these little chocolatey bastards could be my undoing. As a kid, my mom preferred that I ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches, getting at least some vitamins and potassium from the banana slices, benefits absent in most jellies. When mom found these new Elvis cups, she thought it would be nice reminder of my childhood. They’re not bad, either, as I was afraid the banana would be too artificial, too overpowering. But the banana flavor is just enough to complement the traditional chocolate/peanut butter balance of a Reese’s. One of the few “Limited Editions” that I like.
Plus, this has a picture of Elvis on the package. And it’s not like that cop-out Young Elvis versus Old Elvis stamp debacle, either. You can find these with Young Athletic Elvis, Hawaiian Shirt Elvis, and, my favorite, Old Elvis. It’s clearly Fat Elvis in all his early 1970s Vegas coked-out jumpsuit glory, maybe not quite as bloated and rambling, but it’s clear he’s baked… much like Mlle. Lohan.
This limited edition run is hitting stores throughout the region now. Dollar General Stores seem to be a reliable place to find them, though they seem to be allergic to putting a store within the Beltway. If you see them, please share in the comments. Let others find their inner Elvis. Hopefully, Mojo Nixon’s vision of Elvis being everywhere can be realized.
Elvis Reese’s Cups get 18 Whammies!, one for each of The King’s U.S. number one hits on the pop singles chart.
Thanks to The Junk Food Blog and Candyblog.
Seriously. The printers were down at my work today, which pretty much meant I had nothing to do; so I was surfing the internet. And I found many magical things, many horrible things, and many things that really looked delicious. One in particular, but I think my current vague attempt at a diet may also contribute to how strongly it appeals to me.
Chuao Chocolatier’s ChocoPod Picante. I mean, seriously: chocolate, Cabernet, caramel, and chilies…yes please! Sadly, I am currently short one (or more) wealthy benefactor(s) who would buy me such delicacies (that whole make a billion dollars as a public health researcher plan has *so* not panned out). Has anyone tried them? Does anyone want to fly me out to California so I can try them in their native habitat?
Back in the days of Reaganomics, console televisions and acid-washed jeans, a young comic by the name of Eddie Murphy entertained crowds with his hilarious bit about “Uncle Gus” taking over the family’s summer cookout. Many of our younger readers may know Eddie Murphy as the loveable star of such family-friendly, mostly unfunny films like The Nutty Professor and Doctor Doolittle, or as the voice of the plucky sidekick “Donkey” in the Shrek trilogy. But back in those early years, Eddie Murphy was a potty-mouthed smart aleck who dropped more f-bombs than a “Big Lebowski/Pulp Fiction” double feature in an unfortunately-named Austrian town catered by a wonderfully-named Vietnamese restaurant in Del Ray. In Murphy’s star-making concert film “Delirious,” Eddie’s Uncle Gus knows how to start a fire, not with lighter fluid, but with gasoline. He instructs his young nephew to go chop down that tree in lieu of charcoal. Stand back. Mushroom cloud. Roll around in the dirt, Eddie, those flames will go out. Uncle Gus then gets chewed out by Eddie’s dad for giving the poor kid 30-degree burns after making a fire large enough to cook brontosaurus burgers. Shortly thereafter, Aunt Bunny fell down the steps, and Uncle Gus’s grill mistakes are forgotten.
Most of us are not blessed with a huge backyard to host cookouts in the summer or nephews to cut down trees, and few get the practice needed to get reliable results from the grill. So, much like Jim in American Pie, you’ve only got once chance with the hot foreign exchange student. Don’t blow it. Here are some tips to work a solid grill, using song titles to help you out.
1) “This Fire” – Franz Ferdinand – A charcoal grill can be harder to use than an auctioneer with a hair lip. Step one: Don’t be Uncle Gus. Gas is for cars, not cows. When using charcoal, read the specific instructions for the brand you purchased. Burn-in-bags don’t need additional starter fluid, and your food will taste like you grilled on the Exxon Valdez if you add some. Most charcoal briquettes need 15 to 30 minutes of soaking in fluid, though some require a little more. Arranging the coals in a small pyramid not only salutes our Mayan and Egyptian ancestors, but allows for the briquettes to get hot enough to ensure a long-lasting fire. Once the coals have been burning for 15 to 20 minutes, you can rearrange the coals with long metal tongs to make a flatter heating surface.
And for the love of Pete, use a long-stem match or wick to light the fire. Countless 3rd-degree burns are caused every year by somebody trying to start a grill using a Zippo and bad reflexes.
2) “Cooking with Gas” – Nation of Ulysses – You don’t need to be post-punk or Hank Hill to understand the benefits of propane and propane accessories. Most gas grills have automatic lighters, and you can adjust the temperature with a handy dial. However, many people don’t pay attention to tank maintenance and the condition of the hose. Those should be adjusted before starting a cookout, or else your place could burn down faster than the Alpha Beta house at Adams College.
3) “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”- Various Artists – Like anybody who’s been to a Jimmy Buffett concert, there’s all sorts of smoke, and that smoke can change your mood. You can use smoke to change the flavors of your food. Adding some water-soaked mesquite chips to your charcoal can give your food a hearty southwestern flavor, and some hickory chips can give you a taste straight from the hills of Tennessee. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a smoker (the cooking equipment, not some dude with Marlboros), you can make some traditional barbecue by using the indirect heat to slow-cook anything into a delicious state of tenderness and flavor.
4) “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” – Louis Armstrong – Satchmo looked a man who enjoyed his barbecue. Your guests will enjoy yours if keep a check on that temperature. A fire that’s too hot will burn the outside of your food while the inside’s raw. If you don’t have a thermometer, try this technique: hold your hand about six inches over the fire. If you can hold it there for 3 to 4 seconds, you and your fire should be fine. That’s about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Any less than 3 seconds indicates the flame is too hot, so you can just let it burn itself down a bit, or spray some water mist on the coals. Any more than 4 seconds means the flame is too cool, and your food will take a long time to cook.
Just like regular indoor cooking, the less you touch the food, the more flavor it retains. Steaks, burgers, ribs, chops – those should be flipped once or twice tops. Chicken, turkey, game – those can only be flipped once or twice, but I prefer to err on the side of caution with them. Potatoes, corn, eggplant, squash, pineapple – all taste great on the grill, and can give a simple, yet unique touch to your cookout. A brick oven isn’t much different than a grill. Both can be used to make fantastic pizzas.
Also, don’t use any chemically-treated wood, like firestarter logs or plywood for a cookout. Some of that is treated with arsenic, handy for killing bugs and French generals. Stick with bags of hickory, mesquite or applewood from your local grocery, hardware or barbecue store. Do not use leftover wood from your new deck. Also, don’t use your old deck, either.
5) “Hot Sauce” – Thomas Dolby – Those roadside barbecue shacks sell ribs, brisket and pulled meats, and never filets, sirloins or prime ribs. Many of them sell bottles of their sauce and spices. That’s because the best barbecue is generally made from the cheapest meats, and a fair amount of seasoning and sauce helps bring out the flavor. I prefer to get sauces and spice rubs that are affiliated with restaurants – Rockland’s sauce is much better than any store brand, and most stores in the area carry some products from Stubb’s in Austin, Texas; Sticky Fingers from Memphis, Tennessee, or even Gates in Kansas City, Missouri. A good rub and sauce combo from one of these places is a guaranteed home run.
Hope this helps you tap your inner Raichlen.
As if I don’t talk your e-ears off about this already: Gourmet Girls is my collective dinner party group. Every month, we gather in one of our kitchens and cook a complicated, multi-course meal together, learning how to prepare each dish in between sips (and sometimes glugs) of wine. (That was us in the Washington
Post a few weeks ago.) If this sounds like fun to you, and you’re interested in being a part of a Gourmet Girls group in DC, come to Happy Hour at Ceiba (701 14th Street NW) from 6-8 on Tuesday, June 12th. (Look in the bar, hee. )
I tend to think of myself as a pretty well-rounded eater (commentary on my waistline aside), but somehow Afghan cooking hadn’t yet made it into my repertoire. That changed a few Sundays ago, when I stopped by Bamian Restaurant in Falls Church.
Expecting a casual atmosphere, my guest and I were surprised to open the door of the stark, unassuming-looking restaurant on Leesburg Pike and be greeted by the sight of waiters in tuxedos, white tablecloths and a live musician. We actually headed right back out the door, feeling underdressed and underfunded, but a kind, cajoling host convinced us to give the place a try.
Good thing we took his advice – we were lead to an intimate table that was almost a room in itself; it reminded me of the more private alcoves in places like The Melting Pot, without giving off the kind of forced romantic vibe the chain can create. A friendly waiter gave us a few helpful suggestions, and our food was on its way within moments.
It can be challenging finding the combination of classy atmosphere, affordable prices and delicious cuisine, but I wasn’t disappointed with any element at Bamian. Mantu, a dumpling of sorts with spiced meat, yogurt and mint, was a savory way to start the meal. I was impressed with my guest’s order of Chef Carrayee, an assertively-flavored chicken dish that tasted vaguely of cilantro. But the night’s crowning achievement was the Quabili Palau, which I ordered. Whether it be the perfectly cooked rice, the rich meat sauce on the side, the impossibly tender pieces of lamb, or the heaping, sweet addition of carrots and raisins, it was a wonderful combination of flavors I’d never experienced before. The Afghan nan (very similar to the Indian bread) was also first rate.
Bamian’s prices seem almost shockingly reasonable when taking into account the food and setting – for two entrees, two (non-alcoholic) beverages and an appetizer, the bill totaled around $40. I’d almost like to keep the place a secret, but considering I opened my Washingtonian this month and saw it mentioned in the lead of the Cheap Eats article, I doubt it will remain empty for long. For a first taste of Afghan cuisine, I couldn’t have hoped for a better initiation.
5634 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, Virginia 22041
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