Mystery Flavor

Some Dum-Dums appeared by the fifth floor coffee station on Friday. I don’t like candy so I wasn’t tempted, but as I was waiting for my coffee I idly noted that some of the suckers were described as a “mystery flavor,” with a bunch of question marks on the wrapper.

That seemed weird to me. When I mentioned it to Kish that night, she patiently explained that Dum-Dums always have a mystery flavor, and that trying one is part of the fun.

Well, I guess you learn something every day. As for me, “mystery flavor” sounds uncomfortably close to the gray, formless “mystery meat” that we used to complain about at the high school cafeteria. I didn’t eat it because I didn’t know what it was. Similarly, not knowing what flavor you’re going to be tasting until you put a sucker in your mouth doesn’t seem very enticing to me.

Who knows? Maybe, like Dumbledore as he tried a Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean, I might draw earwax.

Baking Day — 2019

We’ve been baking all day and making good progress on this year’s batch of holiday cookies. So far we’ve baked the cranberry hootycreeks, the peanut butter and almond cookies, the Dutch spice cookies, the sugar cookie cutouts, and the lemon ricotta cookies. I’m having some fun experimenting with some new toppings– like maraschino cherries — and have managed to resist spoon-licking temptation (for the most part, anyway).

Tomorrow we’ll tackle this year’s new cookies, make some fudge and bar cookies, and try to show some decoration flair with icing the sugar cookies.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019 (II)

The internet is a wonderful thing — at least, some of the time — but sometimes sifting through the mass of available information seems overwhelming.  Run a search for Christmas cookie recipes and you will get an avalanche of hits that leaves you no method, aside from random chance, to pick which website to review.  They all promise to offer favorite recipes that people will love.

That’s where the use of finer search terms become necessary.  I realized this when I happened across a website post that featured the best soft Christmas cookie recipes — just in case you’re baking for the toothless among us who must gum their holiday delicacies.  So this year I did a search for Christmas cookie recipes from the 1960s and ran across a treasure trove of options, including this gem, which is described on yellowed print as “Easy-to-make cookies for those who like a not-too-sweet dessert” that are “good keepers and shippers.”  I’m pretty sure Mom made these, by the way.

Swirl cookies

2017-11-18-holiday-pinwheel-cookies-coloradjusted-7Ingredients:  1 cup soft butter; 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 2 1/2 cups unsifted flour; 1/4 teaspoon salt; red and yellow food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until light.  Stir in flour and salt until well blended, then divide dough in half.

Color one half with 1/4 teaspoon of red food coloring and 7 drops of yellow food coloring.  Leave other half uncolored.  Chill the dough.

Press together one level teaspoon of each color.  Roll into a pencil shape, then form in a coil on the baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019

The Flu Shot Factor

This year I got my first flu shot ever.  I hadn’t really thought about doing it before this year, because in the past — admittedly, probably about 10 years ago, or maybe more — I’d read somewhere that flu shots were in short supply and really should be reserved for the very young and the elderly.  So I’d forget about it, go through the flu season without a problem, and sympathize with those folks who were suffering through the flu, which always sounded pretty bad.

qjpgvmypc7pycbp7xu9cp8This year, though, the flu shot factor was seemingly inescapable.  First Kish brought it up and said I should get one, and I always heed her counsel.  Then the Red Sox Fan, no doubt in coordination with Kish, started bombarding me with news articles and opinion pieces saying that unless everyone got a flu shot, the flu shots wouldn’t be as effective in preventing the spread of the condition.  The Red Sox Fan knew that the “civic obligation” card hadn’t been played before and was likely to have some resonance with a presumably responsible member of the community.

And finally, when I went to the doctor for a check-up recently, he said I should get a flu shot.  “Shouldn’t those be reserved for the very young and the elderly?” I asked earnestly, hoping to be relieved of the civic obligation guilt.  He looked at me doubtfully in response, no doubt wondering by what definition I was not falling into the “elderly” category, then said:  “Don’t worry, we’ve got enough.”  He also added, reassuringly, that this year’s flu shot is based on a dead virus, rather than a live one, and therefore is safer.  With the unanimous agreement of Kish, my doctor, and the Red Sox Fan, and to address the crushing sense of civic obligation, the choice was inescapable.  I told the doctor I was fine with getting one, he promptly darted out of the room and summoned his nurse, who came immediately to give me a shot in the shoulder before I could change my mind.  The whole process was over before I knew it.

So, I’ve gotten a flu shot, and I’m happy to report that so far I’ve not gotten the flu.  I’ve also been looking at the news to see whether a flu epidemic has been sweeping the nation, and while I’ve seen some indications that the flu has been nasty here and there, it looks like so far Columbus has escaped the worst of it.  I’m feeling pretty good about my decision and the help I’ve given to my fellow citizens in Ohio’s capital city.

There’s no need to thank me, really.

The Random Restaurant Tour — XXXIV

When a neighborhood restaurant closes, you want to see another dining venue move in so ample nearby lunchtime food options remain.  Those of us who toil in downtown Columbus therefore were happy to see that when Oliver’s on Lynn Alley closed its doors, it wasn’t long before another restaurant took its place.

The new restaurant is called Belly Burger, and the B.A. Jersey Girl and I paid it a visit on its opening day.  I’m not sure that Belly Burger is the greatest name — it definitely made me wonder whether, from a fitness, weight, and waistline perspective, I should really be gobbling down another lunchtime burger — but if Pot Belly Sandwiches can be a thriving business, having “Belly” in the name clearly is not a barrier to restaurant success.

Belly Burger offers a limited menu, so you’re not overwhelmed with choices.  There are burgers, and there is a chicken sandwich, and you can get fries — and that’s about it in the food category.  You can also order a Cheerwine slushee (Cheerwine being a southern soft drink that tastes somewhat like a Dr. Pepper), milkshakes, or soft drinks in the beverage category, and Belly Burger has a full bar, too.  In fact, you can combine the slushee or milkshakes with a liquor of your choice to make them “boozy.”

The BAJG and I passed on any boozy beverages and went straight for the burgers and fries.  The Belly Burger burger was large, juicy, cheesy, and excellent in every respect.  I particularly want to give B.B. a hat tip on the bun, which was buttery and soft on top, well-toasted and crunchy next to the meat, and very flavorful in its own right.  The fries similarly were crunchy and well-textured and in a reasonable portion.  And the friendly bartender offered us a taste of the Cheerwine slushee, in its unboozy form, so we could toast Belly Burger’s grand opening.  I’m not a fan of slushees generally, but if you like them I’d guess you’d enjoy the B.B. Cheerwine version.

Welcome to the ‘hood, Belly Burger!  The burger fans among us are glad you’re here.

Facing The Faceless

My recent run of exposure to curious hotel art selections continued this week, during my trip to Washington, D.C.  These pieces were artwork displayed in the interior hallways on my floor of the hotel only a few blocks away from the U.S. Capitol.

What’s the message conveyed by depictions of gangs of silhouetted people moving grimly and silently past government buildings?  Is it that Washington, D.C. is really in the hands of faceless bureaucrats, just as conservatives have long claimed?  Or that, in the political wonderland that is Our Nation’s Capital, you’ll never actually see someone clearly, for who they really are, but only in dim outline?  Or does the artist believe that government buildings, depicted in color and in sunlight, are much more interesting than the people, who are shown only as shadowy forms without any individuality?

Or, perhaps you might initially see the artwork as I did — as suggesting that the people of Washington, D.C. are a bunch of anonymous zombies.

Welcome to Washington, D.C.!  Grab your rollerboard and your shoulder bag and get ready to head out into the Land of the Undead!

Branded Brand

I’m in Washington, D.C. for meetings, staying in the old part of town between the Capitol and the White House.  Last night I had dinner with a colleague.

When my friend reached out to me last week to make arrangements for meeting for dinner, he carefully raised two issues:  first, did I like steak, and second, if I did like steak, would I mind going to the steakhouse in the Trump International Hotel, which is located in the Old Post Office building that is very close to my hotel?

I chuckled a bit at the cautious way in which my colleague approached even the  possibility of eating dinner at a restaurant in a Trump property.  Clearly, he was wary that even though the venue was very convenient and the restaurant had a good reputation, just making such a suggestion might bring an explosion and denunciation in response to the very thought of passing under the Trump name.  And his careful approach was entirely justified, because there is no doubt that a significant segment of the American population has sworn off ever doing anything that involves setting foot on the premises of a Trump property or that might be viewed as acceptance or support of the Trump brand.  Me?  I like steak and especially like being able to walk to a convenient dining venue, so I agreed to have dinner at the Trump International steakhouse — which was very good, by the way.

Still, I found the incident pretty remarkable.  I’m not familiar with the value of the Trump brand prior to his run for the presidency, but it seems pretty clear that it has been affected, and not in a good way, by Trump’s behavior on the campaign trail and as President — to the point where even mentioning the possibility of visiting a Trump property for dinner is a subject to be approached with delicacy and trepidation lest sensibilities be bruised and personal relationships be shattered.

That’s not exactly a good attribute for a brand.