I’m only including Larvets here as a “bar food” because of the possibility they will come up as a bar bet: Will you eat something that lists “larva” as its first ingredient?
Rest assured, these mealworms are long-dead, dried, and utterly flavorless. Even the addition of cheddar cheese flavoring (there are also BBQ and Mexican spice flavors available) and MSG does little to make Larvets taste like anything. They’re crunchy, a bit like a rice cracker, but really, wholly harmless.
Someone slaps a box of these down on the bar and lays down a gastronomic challenge, feel free to take them up on this one. Just cringe along the way as you crunch down on the suckers — you know, for effect. You gotta earn those bar bets, even the easy ones.
Freeze-dry anything and you can’t really go wrong.
I’ve tried several of Crispy Green’s dried fruit products. Crispy Banana is the company’s sixth fruit to go through the drying chamber and come out in foil-wrapped nuggets. (0.53 oz., the size of one packet, equals the fruit from one full, pre-frozen banana.)
Bananas are a tricky fruit to freeze-dry due to their high moisture. But pop one in your mouth and they explode with banana flavor, with that pleasant, crunchy, popcorn-like texture. The problem comes right around bite #3, once the bananas take on a lot of moisture from your mouth and turn from crispy treat to soggy mess that bonds amazingly well with your molars.
It’s not a total loss (the goo comes out eventually) but it’s not my favorite Crispy Green product (that’d probably be the Crispy Apples). Give them a whirl next time your adventures take you out of the atmosphere.
Brandied cherries are essential for a proper Casino, but finding them is surprisingly difficult.
The normal variety I use are quite large and though they taste great, they can get mushy, which is hardly the way you want to cap off a quality cocktail. Griottines are smaller, and quite tart. Macerated in Kirsch liqueuer, these wild Morello cherries are different than other brandied cherries and — of course — miles away from cloyingly sweet Maraschino cherries. Keep the sourness in mind if you use them in cocktails, but I found them quite delightful in the aforementioned cocktail and as a garnish to a Kir Royale.
Proof that you can turn just about any ingredient into a cocktail: The folks at Grey Poupon (yes, that Grey Poupon) have come up with a quintet of mustard-based cocktails.
While Monday morning may be a little too early for a concoction of honey mustard, pomegranate juice, and gin, maybe when I get really adventurous I’ll have to give one of these a try. Perhaps most intriguing is the idea of drinking coarse-ground mustard in a cocktail. To wit:
Tequila Maria 1 teaspoon GREY POUPON Harvest Coarse Ground Mustard
¾ cup (6 oz.) tomato juice
¾ cup (6 oz.) beer
2 tablespoons tequila
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 CLAUSSEN Kosher Dill Pickle Spear
Mix all ingredients except pickle. Serve over ice. Garnish with pickle.
They’re putting caffeine in just about everything these days, so why not a snack chip, too? Engobi takes the energy-boosting concept into the world of chips.
Now one would not think that you could get that much caffeine in to a chip, but according to the company, a tiny, 1.5-ounce bag of Engobi chips has 70 percent more caffeine than a Red Bull or similar. Now that’s energy!
Made from corn, wheat, and rice flours, Engobi chips are puffy semi-spheres, something akin to a cross between a Muncho and a pork rind. I like the texture a lot.
The flavor is something else, though. You might be expecting traditional nacho cheese, sour cream & chive, or salt & vinegar flavor… but what you get is two alternatives: Lemon Lift and Cinnamon Surge. Both flavors are exactly what they sound like: Very sweet and designed more for a palate that can deal with overpowering sugariness. For what its worth, I found the cinnamon version far, far better (the lemon is just too tart), but I could never finish off an entire bag myself. (That’s ~66 chips!)
Then again, I think Red Bull is nasty, too.
C (lemon); B (cinnamon) / $1.29 per 1.5-oz. bag / engobi.com
For three years now, the good folks at Gallo have hunted for the best artisan foodstuffs to pair with their wines. This year, seven winners were chosen, and the company was good enough to send some samples along with a bottle of their 2006 Gallo Family Sonoma Reserve Pinot Gris as a pairing.
Both snacks were a hit, with or without the wine.
Anjou Bakery’s Fruit Nut Crostini ($11.50 per bag) is unlike any cracker you’ve had before, a crisp, thick, multigrain slab chock full of nuts and dried fruits and sprinkled with visible, coarse sugar crystals. Really good and unique if you’re into raisin bread and the like.
Lake Erie Creamery’s Blomma cheese was a huge contrast, a tart, lightly sour, creamy raw goat milk cheese with a very smooth consistency and very little in common with the usual, crumbly goat cheeses you get. Straight outta Cleveland, it’s not at all what you’d expect, and though it didn’t go well with the sweet Crostini, most of my visitors to whom I served it had no trouble eating it on its own.
Gallo Family’s Pinot Gris (B, $11) isn’t out of this world, but it was a nice accompaniment to both foods. The honey and apricot notes are simple, and my first glass was marred by a slight weediness. Surprisingly, that faded with some time exposed to air. Its fruitiness was far more encompassing after a few hours. Very pale and crisp, this is a nice little summer wine. Might I suggest you try it with some snacks?