TCS: JC’s Pie Bites

In honor of March’s meaningless holiday, Pi Day, today I will be reviewing the absolute insanity that is JC’s Pie Bites.

My JC’s Pie Bites experience occurred in three equally memoral parts, and they will be reviewed accordingly:

Part I: The Valentine’s Day Massacre

I first discovered Pie Bites on February’s meaningless holiday, Valentine’s Day, where I, a 36-year-old woman, continued my annual tradition of rushing to the grocery store after work to grab flowers, candy and a card. Ladies, FYI, when you do this on Valentine’s Day after work, you get to stand in a Line of Shame with literally dozens of middle-aged men who are doing the same, helped by a single cashier because it is 7PM on a Tuesday. It is one of my favorite things to do all year. They stare at their toes, literally oozing guilt, but I don’t know why. If they planned ahead and took care of this in advance, the flowers would die!

I meet every slightly confused look with a gentle smile that says “It’s ok, dude. Don’t worry about it. If she were in your shoes, she’d be doing this right now too. The flowers would die! I know that you totally didn’t forget about this up until about 20 minutes ago. Ignore the cashier’s judging stare, she doesn’t understand.”

So this year, while standing in the Line of Shame, I saw a display for these curious things called Pie Bites. My wife loves sweets, so I tossed three bags into my basket, one of each flavor, along with my card, flowers, a heart-shaped box of truly terrible chocolates, and the world’s dryest and most flavorless sheet cake, iced to look like long stem roses, sitting in a white flower box.

So, the pie bites. There were three flavors:

Chocolate Cherry Pistachio Coated Truffles

As the name would imply, these are chocolate truffles, coated in soft crumbs. Other than the fact that some of the crumbs were neon green, there was nothing suggestive of pistacios in the entire situation. They were not particualrly good truffles, and I could not, for the life of me, figure out where pie was at all involved. I suppose chocolate pies exist, as do cherry pies. Once again, the pistachos. Where are they, and why were they even supposed to be here in the first place? Moving on to the next bag….

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Coated Truffles

Indistinguishable from the truffles above. AGAIN, WHAT THE FIZ-FUCK DO THESE THINGS HAVE TO DO WITH PIE?!


Strawberry Cream

Man, these things were not good either. In contrast to the chocolate truffles above they were a white chocolatey/strawberry truffle, coated in what was essentially the soft crumb that you’d find on a strawberry shortcake ice cream pop. Ah yes, the strawberry shortcake ice cream pop: a tasty dessert, designed to resemble another tasty dessert. BUT NEITHER OF THESE TASTY DESSERTS ARE PIES.


In case you couldn’t tell, after sampling each of these pie bites plus the terrible chocolates plus the dry sheet cake plus the candy my wife bought me I was WIRED and I was INCREDULOUS. I was all, “Hey JC, what’s good? Do you even know what a pie is, bro?”

I was particularly perturbed with JC and his (I later learned JC is possibly a her) obvious lack of honesty because over Thanksgiving, my wife and I created what I feel ACTUALLY WERE Pie Bites during the process of assembling a Piecaken. If you are not aware, a Piecaken is a layer cake-like dessert assembled by stacking pies and/or cakes.


Piecaken update

A post shared by @laurbrown1 on

We made an epic Piecaken, inspired by this one and crafted entirely out of sub-desserts from Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook: her Super Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie, her Southern Pecan Pie, her Nutmeg Spice Cake with Rum Merengue Buttercream, and her apple Pop Tart filling. It took us three days, and it was mega delicious.

Piecaken…final post. Happy Thanksgiving!

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For the assembly, after baking each individual component, we cut uniformly-sized smaller discs from their centers. This left behind a tasty outer ring of what is obviously the best part of any slice of pie, the back half. We then sliced these rings into small pieces that we called, you guessed it, PIE BITES. You see, JC, the name “pie bites” makes sense here because they are bite-sized pieces of PIE.


The piecaken was too, too much and we wound up giving it away to my wife’s students. But those pie bites? Man, they were tasty and we snacked on them out of the freezer for weeks. Eat your heart out, JC. Eat your heart out.


Part II: Pie Bites Redemption

A few weeks later, in a completely different section of the grocery store, we stumbled upon ANOTHER JC’s Pie Bites display.


This time, the flavors were completely different:

Key Lime Coated Truffles, Banana Cream Coated Truffles and Coconut Cream Coated Truffles.





JC is quite obviously trolling me and/or trying to kill me.

You know what was even worse?

THESE ONES WERE GOOD. Instead of a soft mealy crumble, these truffles, deliciously flavored like three classic and venerable all-American pies, were coated in crunchy bits that actually tasted like pie crust. Magnificent.


These were so good we went back to the store and bought more, I kid you not. I’m eating one right now.

Part III: The Pie Bites Strike Back

I did not realize this was post was going to have a Part 3, until I just went to do some background research/name checking on these goddamn Pie Bites and I typed JC’s Pie Bites into the old Google box and was taken to the JC’s Pie Bites website where, I shit you not:


There is no record of these Pie Bites anywhere on the site. And so, I apologize for the lack of photos in Part I but I didn’t take any of my own and there were none to steal from the website.

I had to do Advanced Googling just to remember the names of these things. It’s like on January 21. According to JC’s most recent executive order, as of tonight, there are but four flavors of Pie Bites, and those four flavors are:

Caramel Turtle
Chocolate Silk
Milk Chocolate Cookie




Are you fucking kidding me with this JC? We were finally getting somewhere! I will give you Caramel Turtle and Chocolate Silk, but S’MORES and MILK CHOCOLATE COOKIES ARE THEIR OWN INDEPENDENTLY OWNED AND OPERATING DESSERT PRODUCTS. THEY ARE NOT PIES, THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PIES, AND…

…wait, did that say “Pie Pops?” What are “Pie Pops?” <<click>>



So ok, let’s recap what we have learned so far: Pie bites are miniature pie pops which are fucked up panna cottas coated with crumbs and jabbed on to a stick? Ok. EARTH TO JC, PANNA COTTA IS NOT PIE, AND…


…oh god. I don’t even want to know what “nudies” are. But I clicked anyways. They are Pie Pops, but without the crumbs, meaning they are fucked up panna cottas jabbed on to a stick, meaning they are ICE CREAM CUSTARD POPS.


I’m done.

Yes, “ask jc” is in fact an FAQ, and let me tell you just to save you some time, that none of the questions are “what the fuck does any of this have to do with pie?

The answer is NOTHING.

TCS: Country Kitchen Donuts and the Late, Great Danjumbo

I promised one post per month, and this one is going to be a tough one. Last week we said goodbye to my cat of 14 years, Danjumbo. I feel obligated to note her passing here, obviously, because my website is named after her. She also never got quite the coverage that she probably deserved, and so I would like to say more than a few words about her here before getting to the February food review.


Even if you hate cats, I can assure you that you still might have loved Danjumbo if you had met her. Jum was quite possibly the sweetest and kindest living creature I have ever encountered on this planet. When she was scared or nervous she purred, and if you were doing something annoying she would angrily…lick you. I mean, she also purred when she was happy and she licked pretty much everything all the time…

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(Christmas trees)

…but my point here is that I don’t think she has ever expressed any hostility toward any human, ever. Everyone who ever met her loved her, and you would have too. Deal with it.

Danjumbo’s Backstory


Fourteen years ago when my sister and I were roommates, we originally adopted Danjumbo along with Elphie. Elphie was another kindhearted beauty who, sadly, also passed away in this past year. Danjumbo and Elphie were inseparable and adorable. Just look:


They are probably chilling like that together somewhere in Cat Heaven right now, if you believe in that sort of thing.

As life moved on I moved in with my future wife and her cat Ezra, and my sister and I split up our two cats. Jums wound up with me because she was tougher and could hold her own with the wildly aggressive Ezra better than timid Elphie could.


(although you probably wouldn’t think so from this gif)


Ez and Jum battled a lot at first, and I have been known to perpetuate a longstanding narrative that they hated each other. In reality, over the course of 10 years they grew to be best pals.


I truly believe that she was solely responsible for softening his rough edges, minimizing his worst tendencies, and even teaching him how to purr.


A few years ago we first realized Danjumbo was sick and starting to lose weight because Ezra began patiently waiting to start eating his dinner until she was finished. I probably don’t need to tell readers of this blog that this sort of behavior caught our attention immediately.


Ez, my wife and I were all enamored with Danjumbo, and we miss her terribly.


Danjumbo was magic

There was something about Danjumbo, to me, that always seemed a bit larger than life.

  • When we adopted her, she first got my attention in a shelter full of cats by reaching through the bars of her cage and tapping me on the shoulder as I passed by.
  • She had a 3.5+-foot vertical jump we described as “spring loaded.”
  • She was SO SOFT. It did not seem possible for a cat to be so soft.
  • She used different actions and vocalizations when she wanted to communicate different things. For example, “mow wow” meant “I need your attention right fucking now, this is important.” Placing a newspaper, magazine, or, in one instance, an uncashed paycheck on the floor beside our bed and methodically tearing it up a-la Craig Toomey meant “my food bowl is empty and for some reason you are sleeping, please correct this.”
  • While she was always loving, annoyances were generally met with a facial expression that we called “Flatmouth.”

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To us, Flatmouth usually said “I am not mad at you, just disappointed.”


“Shape up and get your shit together. You’re better than this.” – Flatmouth


“I can’t make you believe in yourself. I can only show you the path and hope you continue down it.” – Flatmouth


“You can get the same point across without all the cursing.” – Flatmouth


“You’re probably going to regret that tomorrow.” – Flatmouth

  • She once took a paper bag containing empty shoeboxes and turned it into a cat sofa. I REPEAT, SHE CRAFTED A CAT SOFA.


All that aside, our most memorable “holy shit what the fuck is up with this magical cat” moment was when Ezra (who, if you have not met him, has a 420° triangularly-curled tail that we call his Nub) became entangled in a stringed feather cat toy. We make every effort to avoid this, but coathangers and twisted paper handles are a part of life and Nubcidents do still occur from time to time.

When something gets caught in Ezra’s Nub, he freaks out and runs around in a terrified rage making godawful noises. If you are a human, extracting an item from the Nub generally requires two people, each donning a few layers of PPE.

Well, on this occasion, Jumji ran right over to him, whipped her little paws around his Nub like some kind of feline ninja, and within about 3 seconds she had him untangled. I still don’t know how she did this. SHE DID NOT HAVE OPPOSABLE THUMBS.

Plus, that sort of speed and dexterity implied she probably had prior practice. My wife and I work very long hours. How many times over their 10 years living together did she save him from himself? Should we even be leaving him home alone right now? I’m stressed out just thinking about it.


Any time Ezra howled in pain or fear or boredom, Danjambles’ immediate reaction was not to run away, but to bolt over to him to try to help. This was Jummy Jam in a nutshell.


Danjumbo was such a force of good and kindness in our lives that our atheist/agnostic household’s version of “thoughts and prayers” was asking Danny-J to send “Jummy Vibes” into the universe when loved ones were struggling or in pain. If you are a friend or family to us and have gone through a rough spot, chances are you have had Jummy Vibes sent your way. I hope they helped.

About those donuts…

Danjumbo had a complete obsession with three things: cardboard boxes, licking our Christmas tree (vide supra), and as I will soon get to, Country Kitchen Donuts.

But first, the cardboard boxes. I know, I know. “Lots of cats love cardboard boxes,” you are saying, “there is nothing special about your cat loving cardboard boxes.”

But seriously,



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Lastly, before we get to the donuts, because I know you are wondering, my sister and I named Danjumbo after the impossibly handsome British Nigerian carpenter Andrew Dan Jumbo of the TLC classic reality home improvement series from the aughts called “While You Were Out.” Just take a second to look at him and then try not to name your next cat or firstborn child after him:

Image result for andrew dan jumbo

If you are not familiar with “While You Were Out,” it was sort of like Trading Spaces, except instead of passive-aggressively destroying their neighbor’s living spaces with particle board built-ins and burlap wall treatments, the people on While You Were Out did this TO THEIR OWN (purported) LOVE ONES in THEIR OWN HOMES. It was an incredible show and I would pay great sums to access it on DVD or Amazon streaming. Do you hear that, Amazon? Also, Filthy Rich Cattle Drive. I need it. Where is it?


Andrew Dan Jumbo created this atrocity in someone’s garage

Now, really, I promise, the donuts

Anyways, Danjumbo, much like her namesake, was a magestic beauty, and I am shamelessly filling this post with pictures of her because I do regret that she did not receive a proportional share of attention on this blog.


Ezra is featured frequently, because this is a food blog and Ezra is an incurable food addict. Keeping Ezra away from our meals is a constant and unending battle, and he basically inserts himself in every Curious Shopper tasting, whether I want him to or not. His desire to steal food often eclipses his own intelligence; anticipating our discipline he will often pre-emptively growl at us as he licks whatever bits or crumbs he has found left on a plate. Eating and growling simultaneously, the sound comes out as a loud “NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM,” alerting us to misbehavior that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. He is so dumb, this guy.

Jummish, on the other hand, was far more intelligent and had a more discriminating palate, focused mainly on foods that were actually intended for cats. She had an impressive ability to open any sealed food or treat bag. These had to be aggressively hidden – more than once Ezra stole Greenie bags from the top of the fridge or a high shelf to lay in front of Dannity-Jane for dissection (teamwork makes the dream work).

Jumbity’s interest in human food, on the other hand, was fairly limited. She did occasionally try to steal pepperoni or salami – the yin to cheeseloving Ezra’s yang. Outside of charcuterie, the one, single human food item that Dannish von Jumbypants went completely bonkers for was Country Kitchen Donuts.

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You may be fully familiar with Country Kitchen Donuts, and even if you are not I realize that on first glance you might not think they are very strange. You will just have to believe me that there is nothing weirder than having an otherwise totally-uninterested-in-human-food cat run in from the other room and aggressively climb up on your shoulders because she heard and/or smelled you opening the plastic wrapper on a particular brand of donut. She would literally try to intercept a Country Kitchen donut on its way into your mouth. She was fucking nuts for these donuts.

So, for my February post, I am going to review Country Kitchen donuts here, in Princess Jum’s honor:

Country Kitchen Classic Plain Donuts

Sweetie Jum and I agree that Country Kitchen Donuts are fucking delicious. Donuts in general are obviously really delicious, but I am personally not crazy about the prepackaged store-bought kinds. Store-bought donuts are often dry and mealy and encapsulated with either a brown polymer coating or some form of choking powder.

I mean, if some alien species were to visit this planet and encounter Hostess powdered sugar mini donuts in nature, I would certainly think that they would at least entertain the hypothesis that the donuts are living creatures and that their coating is an evolved defense mechanism. I am not really excited about anything that requires me to actively stifle my breathing as I eat it.

Country Kitchen does offer both sugar and cinnamon choking powder donuts in their repertoire, but the star in their lineup is definitely the Classic Plain.

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First off, it does not taste like a donut. It tastes way better than a donut. It’s technically a cake donut, but it’s neither sickeningly dense nor sugar glazed. There is something familiar about the texture and flavor that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I believe it’s somewhere in the family of really good supermarket muffins. Do you feel me? It’s like a Costco muffin but it’s in a donut shape, and it’s fried.

If you look closely it’s soaked about 1/4″ deep with oil, and that oil stays right fucking there because each donut is individually wrapped in plastic.


Fuck, these donuts are so good. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you try them. Danjumbo had excellent taste.

2012-09-15 00.37.00

TCS: A PSA about PSL

I posted a photo of the peppermint goat cheese on Facebook/Instagram and I won’t ignore that 3 or 4 of my dear readers astutely noted that alongside the peppermint goat cheese there was pumpkin goat cheese. So, yes, I purchased the pumpkin goat cheese and the review will follow below but I first need to make a special announcement about pumpkin spice.

This would probably be a more appropriate post for September or October, but as I alluded to in my last post there is about to be a new pumpkin in charge and who knows if we’ll even make it that far. I’m just going to get this out now:

I, the Curious Shopper, am wholly and completely uncurious about pumpkin spice products, and am generally reluctant to blog about this disturbing trend in seasonal foods. This is not to say it could never happen – I’ve certainly posted on pumpkin pie flavored potato chips and pumpkin spice Holidrizzle popcorn in the past. But in the time since I have made a serious decision: if I start purchasing and tasting and blogging about strange pumpkin spice products for no other reason that they are strange pumpkin spice products, it will simply never end. And it will slowly destroy me, both emotionally and financially.

First, the mental cost: I have already wasted an embarrassing amount of time either standing the grocery store or reading Buzzfeed posts, internally debating whether certain pumpkin spice products were truly strange to begin with. For example, contrary to what every Trader Joe’s hater out there would have you believe, it is impossible for seasonal pumpkin spiced bakery items to be odd or strange or even a problem. Gourds are seasonal produce, and pumpkin is a valid baked good flavor! Chocolate, vanilla, lemon, strawberry, pumpkin…nothing is weird about any of these things showing up in a dessert.

Here is another rule of thumb that is sure to be controversial in the blogosphere: if it isn’t weird to put butternut squash in it, it isn’t weird to put pumpkin in it. Pumpkin fettucine, pumpkin lasagna and pumpkin ravioli are not weird. Pumpkin soup is not weird. Stop adding them to your “20 photos that prove pumpkins have truly gone to far” listicles.

But even if I hard-stop filtered out all of the cakes, pastas, cookies, candies, breads, bagels, muffins, etc., I would still likely go broke trying to purchase all of the genuinely strange pumpkin spice products. The idea of a “slippery slope” is a logical fallacy everywhere in the universe EXCEPT for the realm of pumpkin spice products. When dealing with pumpkin spice products, the slippery slope is, in fact, a logical certainty.

Let me explain:

Sweet, innocuous pumpkin spice lattes led to pumpkin spice non-dairy creamer, which we then decided would be fine to drink straight up, without coffee, bringing us pumpkin spice soy-, almond- coconut- and cow milks, which then led to pumpkin spice yogurt. These are all seemingly acceptable things, as a corollary to the baked good rule above. However, pumpkin spice yogurt then beget pumpkin spice hummus, begetting pumpkin spice salsa. Pumpkin spice salsa clearly requires pumpkin spice tortilla chips, which beget pumpkin spice Pringles, which beget pumpkin spice Triscuits, which, naturally, brings us to pumpkin spice goat cheese.

Pumpkin spiced dog treats, you ask? Why they were brought to you by pumpkin spice chicken sausage. It’s likely that all of the pumpkin spiced meats, jerkys, dry-rubs, what have you, originated from pumpkin spice butter (a direct sibling of the yogurt).

The disease has spread to drug stores, where pumpkin spice soda beget pumpkin spice seltzer, which inevitably brought us pumpkin spice gum.

None of these things need to exist. I also don’t need to taste them, because I am pretty freaking sure they taste like cloves and cinnamon. Guess what? Cloves and cinnamon taste good with fucking everything, a phenomenon discovered somewhere on the Indian subcontinent approximately four thousand fucking years ago. I just don’t have any curiosity about the practice of adding cloves and cinnamon to random foodstuffs, and any post about it would be so boring.

Here is an example of some pumpkin flavored non-desserts I have tried:

Pumpkin Triscuits – these were really tasty. They tasted like Triscuits but with cloves and cinnamon.

Pumpkin goat cheese – this was really tasty. It tasted like goat cheese but with cloves and cinnamon.

So while I will always eagerly take any suggestions or donations for things to try from all of my beloved blog readers, I hope you will all understand that it is exceedingly unlikely that there will ever be any more pumpkin spice posts in the future.


TCS: Peppermint Goat Cheese

Forgive me, it has been a while. The Year 2016, in addition to rapturing away all of our  favorite artists in exchange for a plague of frogs that most surely is a harbinger of the
impending nuclear apocalypse, was utterly devoid of new and exciting snacks. Well, either that or none of the new and exciting snacks have been able to penetrate my coastal elitist bubble.

I mean, some snacks snuck through. I have a blank blog post, drafted from the frontlines of the War on Christmas: “PETITION TO MAKE LIMITED-EDITION CHEETOS SWEETOS PERMANENT DURING THESE DIFFICULT GEOPOLITICAL TIMES” but I could never get past the title. My heart wasn’t in it. The whole world was such a bummer, and if I can’t find anything fun or clever to say about a snack that is essentially Cinnamon Toast Crunch-Funyun hybrid, which I realize sounds awful but hear me out it’s actually the most delicious thing I have ever tasted…


…maybe I shouldn’t be blogging at all.

The magic, the inspiration, the curiosity, they were gone.

Nothing mattered.

Until yesterday, when I discovered motherfucking PEPPERMINT GOAT CHEESE.


Holy fucking shit. What the fuck even is this? Ahh this is so horrible.

I have to try it.

Peppermint flavored goat cheese has given me life and The Curious Shopper is back in business.


And then my heart abruptly sank when I picked up this ridiculous pink cheese and noticed that it was speckled with white spots.

“Oh no. The peppermint-flavored goat cheese has gone moldy. I am too late. My blog is truly doomed, and 2017 is already shaping up to be worse than last.”

“Cheer up, Chuck!”

To my astonishment Peppermint Patty appeared, right there in the middle of the Stop & Shop deli section. For some reason she insisted on calling me Chuck, I just went with it.

“Read the label more closely, Chuck. Those aren’t mold spots – they’re white chocolate chunks!”

“Good grief!”

It’s not clear to me which of the two – mold or white chocolate chunks – is more unsettling to find your goat cheese, but this is the world we live in now and we might as well get used to it.

Now, I can say quite honestly that this is the strangest thing I have ever purchased and tried for this blog, but on top of that there is an extra wrinkle of excitement/terror for me here because peppermint and I do not have a very good track record.

To illustrate, below are some representative peppermint- flavored things, ranked according to how I feel about them:


Can you make sense of this? I can’t. Where was peppermint goat cheese going to fall on this bizarre spectrum? And oh god, goat cheese is so good with wine. Mint is so bad with wine. HOW IS THIS GOING TO TASTE WITH WINE? Gah, so many questions!

I was so overwhelmed with these thoughts swirling through my head that at the point of tasting I did something somewhat unprecedented for this blog: I asked my wife to take down some bullet point notes, just so I didn’t forget anything. I am looking her notes over now and honestly, they are much more thorough than I expected or asked for. There is no summary I can write that is better than this, so here it is, unedited:

  • what is the point of it
  • what would you put it on
  • is it a dessert? an appetizer?
  • google “can cats eat peppermint”
  • omg it’s sort of like peppermint stick ice cream
  • what kind of a fucking crazy person came up with this shit
  • Ez ate it!
  • it’s good with a cookie
  • it’s a dessert cheese
  • expected this to be horrible but it’s actually good
  • Ez wants more
  • it’s not even bad (with red wine). it’s not good.
  • what is this?!
  • it tastes like cheesecake
  • i can’t believe this is good
  • the mint is not evenly distributed
  • just hit a mint pocket

The only two things I feel the need to elaborate on are:


1) Vehicle selection: we just got back from a trip so it is slim pickings in our pantry, and it took a while to figure out how the hell to even eat this stuff. The two things could find that seemed possibly appropriate for this tasting were pretzels and animal crackers. It was good with the animal crackers but not with the pretzels. In particular, the parts that were more heavily minted when combined with a very salty pretzel bite gave a very unpleasant, unnerving taste sensation.

2) The white chocolate bits were weird and completely unnecessary and the bites without them tasted better. I can accept that they are there, but I refuse to ever normalize them.

At this point, I was convinced that what I was eating was basically a ruse. A charlatan cheese. It was not peppermint flavored goat cheese. The flavor profile was more like that of a
peppermint flavored cream cheese or cheesecake, two things that I can accept, conceptually, as normal foods.

Thankfully I had a secret weapon to settle this question – my wife, who I’m sure you can tell by now has gone above and beyond in service of this blog post, absolutely HATES goat cheese. I think she hates goat cheese more than I hate York Peppermint Patties, if that is even possible. So what better person to test my hypothesis on than her? I was so convinced that I had been possibly cheated, and that this peppermint goat cheese tasted like peppermint but did not taste like goat cheese, that I somehow managed to get her to eat it.

She almost threw up. So goat-y, was how she described it. So, so goat-y. No matter how much we try to mask its funky, gamy musk with peppermint extract and red dye No. 5, at the end of the day goat cheese is still goat cheese. It’s an important lesson for all of us.

The final assessment, if you are keeping score is:

Flavor: Pretty good, like peppermint ice cream or cheesecake
Goat-y? Yes.
Good on a cookie? Yes.
Good on a pretzel? No.
Did Ez like it? Ez loved it.*
Does it do that weird flavor thing that toothpaste does with wine? No.
What about those white chocolate chunks? NOT MY WHITE CHOCOLATE CHUNKS.

Ok, that wasn’t so hard. This year, I will make it a goal to try to check in here at least once in each of the months we have remaining on this planet. So one down, here’s hoping there will be 11 more to go!

*Our Google search did reveal that cats love peppermint. However, an important disclaimer is that Ezra transformed from his former svelte self to a massive chunkster last year, and he is on strict vet’s orders not to eat any more cheese. I made an exception for this, the most exceptional of cheeses. With that in mind, it is entirely possible that his crazed excitement to eat this weird peppermint cheese was just excitement to be getting any cheese at all.

GGP: Season 1, Episode 7: Kiss and Tell

L: 2 Stars

J: 5 stars


L‘s Review:

Hi, I’m Dean Forester.

I’m dreamy. I stock groceries. I rock a white t-shirt and leather jacket like ANOTHER Dean you may have heard of. I am on top of the world because I just had my first date with you, Rory Gilmore, the girl I’ve been following around and watching for months. I know I sort of sound like a stalker, but I should come off more like a smitten puppy dog because this is the WB.

Granted, our first date was with your mother and, yeah, so maybe your mother initiated it, but it that was all part of my master plan. It doesn’t matter “who asked who out.” It was a date. With me and you. And your mom. And it was terrific.

Except for one thing. The date was great and all, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. I am a pure blooded, Chicago-born American man. Tonight I treaded into the Estrodome, and came out unscathed. I am basically invincible. But I need you to know that despite how much I enjoyed our first date that your mother arranged for us and also attended, I did NOT care for your movie selection. I need to know ASAP when you and your mom accept date movie suggestions. I’m not leaving until I get an answer.

Don’t take offense! Charlie and the Chocolate Facory is fine, but it’s simply not my taste. The movie is for children. We just recently became teenagers. I am almost old enough to figure out how to ask a real girl out. I’m too old for Oompa Loompas. Is candy supposed to excite me? A chocolate river? Snozzberries? Please. And it’s not so much what it had – my real gripe is was what was missing. Not enough cocaine. Not enough bare boobs. Not enough suicide. Not enough Burt Reynolds. Not enough Sister Christian. Not enough gay male prostitution in Denny’s parking lots. And certainly not enough prosthetic genitalia. No, not nearly enough of any of these things for Dean Forester’s liking. If you think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a good movie, I actually feel bad for you both. I have so much to teach you, and also your mother, about film.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a great time. But I just need you to know, that had I my choice, I, Dean Forester, would have STRONGLY preferred Boogie Nights. On my first date with you, the high school sophomore I have a crush on, plus also your mom. Boogie Nights would have been the most appropriate film for the moment. By far. Take it from me, Dean Forester, film connoisseur. It should have been Boogie Nights.

Listen, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but am Dean fucking Forester. It doesn’t get much better than me. I work for Doosey’s fucking Market. I call soda “pop.” I’ll kiss you in the cornstarch aisle, IDGAF. I will make you a bracelet out of strips of leather and drop a full bus fare to chat with you for one stop like it’s chump change. I am a star. I’m a star I’m a star. I am a big bright shining star.  I don’t ask for much. But Jesus Christ Rory, just let me watch Boogie Nights with you and your mother. This is important to me. For the love of God, when does the guest get to pick the movie?

Dean Forester is the worst. He is an absolute a monster, which you should EASILY realize after this episode, Season 1 Episode 7, in which he ends his first date with Rory (and Lorelai) by making it clear that he much would have preferred to have watched Boogie Nights. Spoiler alert: he never redeems himself.

Delighted By Dessert Hummus


It’s been a while since anything new graced the shelves that was worth blogging about (I’m looking at you, craptastic recent Lays flavors).

Finally, we have something new and weird: I’ve tried all four dessert hummuses. (Dessert hummusses? Dessert hummi?)

First off a quick pro tip. You may, like me, consider buying a dessert hummus for several weeks but not do so because you have no idea how to eat it. I have tried all of the suggestions on the lid (cinnamon pitas, fruit, vegetables, pretzels, graham crackers, spoon) and the only answer is pretzels. More specifically, the squarey kind of pretzels. Good for dipping.

Here is the rundown:

Brownie Batter: I feel kind of sorry for Brownie Batter dessert hummus because it tastes pretty decent, but it does not really do a good job of tasting like brownie batter. The problem is, you can’t just go around throwing claim to tasting like brownie batter. Our collective love for brownie batter is not something to be trifled with. So let’s get real and drop these delusions of garbanzo grandeur – this is chocolate hummus. It’s terrific chocolate hummus. But it’s chocolate hummus.

Orange Dreamsicle: This one is just weird. Does the name imply that it is supposed to taste like a creamsicle? It doesn’t, but would I really want it to? It is not good, but could it ever be better? Should it ever be better? Or should we just not even be trying to flavor a bean dip like an already strange combination of citrus and dairy that for some weird voodoo reason doesn’t curdle? Let’s all just back away from this one, slowly.

Snickerdoodle: I have to rewind and quickly share that when I first noticed dessert hummus the only two options on the shelf were Brownie Batter and Orange Dreamsicle. I tried them both, and I was unimpressed and I said “OK, did my civic duty. Nice try, ‘Delighted By.’ Thanks for playing.” And since that moment every week there has been a new freaking dessert hummus on the shelf! I just checked their website and there are only four listed, so I am assuming the coast is clear and it is safe to post now.

So Snickerdoodle was the first of the two new ones, and although I had resigned myself to the fact that dessert hummus was maybe not that good, I took a risk and went for it anyway.


Vanilla Bean: (appeared on the shelves the next week) SO IS THE VANILLA BEAN.

For starters, the most striking thing is that they both really actually do taste like cake batters. It makes sense when you think about it – cake batters pose far less of a textural challenge to a humble hummus than do brownie batter and orange creamsicles.

I think maybe Delighted By is marketing this stuff all ass-backwards. Why aren’t these ones named Coffee Cake Batter and Birthday Cake Batter? Little things like this drive me crazy. I need an explanation. I craft one in my head, imagining that the creator of dessert hummus must die a little inside every time they’ve given some random asshole (like me) a sample of their life’s work and heard “yeah pretty good I guess but it doesn’t reealllly taste like brownie batter. It tastes like chocolate hummus.” Yeah, that’s it – maybe the creator of dessert hummus is timidly holding back on a product name that would totally capitalize on the current cake batter fad, causing her products literally to fly off the shelves, because she is broken inside because of assholes like me. That’s the ticket.

And then I made the mistake of reading too far on the Delighted By Dessert Hummus website and my theory came crashing down.

An excerpt:

One year later, I went to Sedona AZ for a soul-searching weekend….I wanted to know what is my purpose?? I heard a message loud and clear that my purpose is to spread my glitter. In other words, be the Light that I am. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing necessarily, but that I simply show up – and bring my presence, my light, to the world. The night after hearing this simple but enlightening message, I was blissfully making my dessert hummus. I knew in that moment that this was how I was going to spread my glitter.

This type of person cannot be broken by the likes of me. Believe me. I’ve tried.

I will also add one final note that I am a little bit of a hummus skeptic, because it is one of those “healthy” foods that I don’t think is really all that healthy. At least not in the context in which it is usually eaten (by me). So I wondered, is dipping my pretzels in this sugar-laden Vanilla Bean hummus healthier than dipping my pretzels in actual vanilla cake batter? Is this dessert hummus really “packed with protein (their words)?” Well, no need to wonder – I’ve crunched the numbers, and I’ve got your macros right here!

Serving Size: 2 tbsp


  • Dessert Hummus: 60
  • Cake Batter: 79


  • Dessert Hummus: 2 g
  • Cake Batter: 3.3 g


  • Dessert Hummus: 0 mg
  • Cake Batter: 20 mg


  • Dessert Hummus: 45 mg
  • Cake Batter: 7 mg


  • Dessert Hummus: 9 g
  • Cake Batter: 11 g

Dietary Fiber

  • Dessert Hummus: 0 g
  • Cake Batter: 0 g


  • Dessert Hummus: 4 g
  • Cake Batter: 6.5 g


  • Dessert Hummus: 2 g
  • Cake Batter 1 g

Vitamin A / Vitamin C / Calcium / Iron

  • Dessert Hummus: 0% / 0% / 0% / 0%
  • Cake Batter: 2% / 0% / 2% / 0%

I will concede that Dessert Hummus obviously wins, but I reserve my right to remain skeptical.

And as for “Packed with protein?” I’ll let the Countess close this one out.

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Bismuth Crystals

When I was little I collected rocks and crystals. I loved them. My favorite museum (The Museum of Science in Boston) used to have glass-front cases where you could buy rocks and gems, nestled in little white jewelry boxes with a small card indicating what they were. My mom let me buy one rock every visit. Science museums don’t have these anymore. They just have bullshit wooden bins of tumble-polished generic stones you’re supposed to scoop into a bullshit little leather satchel, without learning anything educational i.e. what the freaking stones are. I hate that.

Anyways, I grew up and my rock collection sat in a Ziploc bags in a Rubbermaid container on the top shelf of various closets for several decades, until last year when we found ourselves moving and interrogating every last possession for its potential to Spark Joy. The rocks Sparked Joy, for sure, mostly after my wife suggested we arrange them all nicely in a vase. Great idea! But first I dug through the bags looking for my favorite rock, the Supreme Joy Sparker, a bismuth crystal colored like the rainbow sheen of an oil slick, with a crazy infinite stairshape structure that looked like something out of an MC Escher painting from outer space. So cool.

But the bismuth crystal wasn’t there! Joy Extinguished. To this day I have no idea what happened to it. I have every geode, every agate slice, every shard of quartz, every chunk of pyrite (Fool’s Gold). No bismuth. Such a bummer. Obviously I immediately Googled to figure out where I could get a replacement, and I learned something amazing: you can grow your own bismuth crystals! Yourself! Kitchen science!!!


So three pounds of 99.99% pure bismuth ingots and three stainless steel butter warmers  from later, I was in my kitchen, ready for smelting (Note: what I did here is not really at all smelting but I like the word b/c it reminds me of one of the best lines from the cinematic classic that is Goldmember).

Which, in turn, reminds me: this is a dangerous activity. If you do this at home you should have all of your arms/legs/members covered with clothing and wear close toed shoes and eye protection and heat proof gloves. I also laid some tin foil around the work area in case of accidental molten bismuth spillage. In fact, I would probably not do this in my kitchen again – the small pots were pretty precarious on my style of burner tops and my wife did not appreciate the smell. If I were to ever do this again, my Coleman stove outside would probably work just as well and might be a better idea.

The pots:



The ingots:




The ingots in the pot, starting to melt:


The initial melt took a while…


Just another warning, this stuff, and the headspace above it, gets really freaking hot. Bismuth melts at 520.6°F / 271.4°C. I was not able to even stir the stuff without oven mitts on. Be very, very careful if you decide to do this.

When it is fully melted it is time for pouring! I basically followed instructions from the following sites:


In summary, I:

  • Heated the bismuth to melting in Pot #1
  • Simultaneously heated empty Pot #2 on another burner
  • Poured the molten bismuth from Pot #1 to Pot #2, leaving the sludgy top skin behind
  • Left Pot #2 on the (turned off) burner to cool, sort of jiggling it from time to time to check the cooling
  • When my jiggles revealed nice crystals had formed around the edges, I poured the remainder bismuth into Pot #3, which I probably should not have done because I just wound up wrecking a perfectly clean pot. More on that later.
  • Let the crystals in Pot #2 cool a bit then chipped them out of the pan


My first crystals were awesome! I am so happy with them!




After the first crystallization I had quite a bit of bismuth remaining, and wanted more. I made several attempts to redo this, although I did need to get creative due to the lack of a perfectly clean receiving vessel. I got a couple of good tiny crystals, in different (more red) colors than the first time. The colors come from bismuth oxides on the surface. That oxidation is good at first, but I suspect became problematic later…


…because after these little babies, all subsequent attempts were a dud. This is really important because all of the websites above are like “don’t worry if you mess up the first time you can just re-melt and try again!” Well, I am here to put tons of pressure on you because you best not mess up the first time. If your experience is anything like mine it’s the only chance you get.

I can think of several  possible reasons the crystals didn’t materialize the next five times I tried:

  • Factors affecting cooling/crystallization rate:
    • I probably never heated the receiver vessel as long as I did the very first time, when the ingots took forever to melt. Cooler receiver would mean faster cooling.
    • Although I did my best to clean/chip/scour the bismuth residue out, the receiving vessels were not very clean, and that may have induced the crystallization of large globs rather than individual crystals
    • For every crystal I removed there was less molten bismuth, which likely led to a slightly faster rate of cooling, which is not great for crystal size
  • Factors affecting purity:
    • The first crystals were highly pure and the residual bismuth I was working with was, in turn, less pure
    • The stuff was just getting disastrously oxidized the more I handled it, which became an increasing problem as I went along
  • Probably other things I am not thinking of

Anyways, the final question is why do these crystals form this way? I don’t know! I’m an organic chemist. But I am a pretty good Googler. Apparently these types of crystals are called “Hopper crystals,” with the stairstep pattern occurring because the rate of crystallization at the edge of the forming crystal is faster than the rate of crystallization on the faces. They also often have cool fractals, which is apparently caused by a phenomenon called “screw dislocation.” Screw dislocation, like many things related to crystal science and inorganic chemistry, is something that I guess if you explain it to me I kind of sort of understand enough satisfy my curiosity, but would never be capable of explaining to someone else. Ever. So don’t ask.

The full haul:


Anyways, the ingots certainly weren’t cheap – if you want a bismuth crystal it’s a lot cheaper and easier to buy one, but also less fun!

References I used:

Crystal growing:

Materials used:

Hopper Crystals:

Screw dislocation:




TCS: Oreo Churros

As I mentioned previously, I recently found a food item I have been looking for for a long, long time. Oreo Churros. I read about them on Twitter at some point forever ago. It was a very exciting moment for me. I love Oreos. I love Oreo-flavored anything. I particularly like Oreos in softened form. Lastly, I love Churros. This item was a match made in heaven for me. I check the Wegmans freezer cases for them every week (never sure what section they might be found in) was so excited when I found them at Shaw’s (near the frozen cakes, in case anyone was wondering), and made a special trip back to the store a week later to buy them. So exciting!


I should learn never to get too excited. Things went downhill from there.

First of all, the three options for preparing these fuckers are conventional oven, toaster oven, and DEEP FRYING. Why in God’s name do people think anyone is going to deep fry anything they found in a freezer aisle? If I am going to go to the trouble of deep frying, I’d rather make it myself, for fuck’s sake. Your processed shit is gross. But it’s also supposed to be easy. That’s the tradeoff. On no planet is deep frying easy.

So now I’m in a funk where in the back of my mind, I know that clearly this food I am half-assedly preparing would be better if I DEEP FRIED it. Everything tastes good if you DEEP FRY it. But  I have a moral opposition to doing so. Fine. Toaster oven it is. I do, now, have a toaster oven. Having not had one for 10+ years, I know some others aren’t so lucky. Sucks to be you. Have fun keeping these delicate morsels from full-on vaporizing in your oven.


Pulling out the churros from the box, I see there is a packet enclosed. This packet contains Oreo crumbs and sugar. Great. More shit to do. Terrific.


When the baked churro bites emerge from the toaster oven I dutifully toss them in the Oreo detritus. The detritus is not sticking. I bet the detritus would stick if I DEEP FRIED the churros. I am drowning in self doubt. This is the most work I’ve put into a snack in months. It’s the most emotional involvement I have put into a snack in years.

I place the churros on two plates. I pour the unstuck Oreo sugar detritus on top. I present to my wife. “Smells delicious! Oooh, these are tasty!”


For the record, they smelled like burnt chocolate. I am pretty sure the “cream filling” was marshmallow fluff, which is good in it’s own right but should not be allowed anywhere near even the mention of Oreos. They didn’t taste bad, but they were for sure not worth the effort. Avoid.





TCS: Off the Eaten Path Cranberry Granola Kettle Corn

It has been a rough few months.

Put simply, I ran out of foods to try. I had tried every weird thing in my normal triad of Wegmans/Trader Joes/Whole Foods and there was just nothing else to taste without demeaning the purpose of this blog.

I fell into a rut. I started reviewing Gilmore Girls, but it wasn’t the same. I have been sad about it.

Until recently. This all started when I got a bike. As it turns out, there is a bike path that runs directly from my house to my work. Six miles, the entire way alongside a scenic river lined with parks. You hate me, I know. Temper that hate, I still can’t bike to work on weekdays because I am a disgusting sweatmonster, but the Saturday bike to work (and Sunday bike wherever) is my new jam. More recently, I have learned that if I bike in the other direction, I’m a few minutes away from Russo’s, a local fresh produce market that has amazing rare ingredients for everything I want to cook like green papaya for Thai papaya salad and Maplebrook Farm burrata. But even more excitingly, last week I learned that on the way to work there is a Shaw’s, and there is a bridge from the bike path to the Shaw’s, and the Shaw’s has the Oreo Churros that I have been looking for at Wegmans FOR A YEAR.

We will get to the Oreo Churros later, but first I would like to discuss another item I found at Shaw’s, called Off the Eaten Path Cranberry Granola Kettle Corn. The nice/awful thing about riding a bike to a grocery store is that you feel healthy and active and empowered to buy all kinds of crap you should never buy. So I bought this. And many, many other things. More reviews to follow, but this particular snack spoke to me.


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What is that you say?



Snacks for the curious? Don’t mind if I do.

I hope you can tell by the photo that this popcorn is completely shellacked in sugar. This isn’t “Holidrizzle,” it’s about a thousand times worse. Calling this “kettle corn” is like if  someone set a crème brulee in front of you and you were like “ah yes, a lightly sugar-dusted custard! Delicious!” It tastes good, but all candy-coated popcorn should taste good. I wouldn’t brag about it, Off the Beaten Path.

I frequently make what I like to call “Gourmet Chex Mix” which is basically multiple snack foods mixed together. Some cashews, some popcorn, some ricotta salata, some croutons….most of the ingredients vary but a constant is dried cranberries. So, as a result I know that dried cranberries plus popcorn (or anything else, really) tastes better and more cranberrylicious than the dried cranberry flakes on this popcorn. I am satisfied but unimpressed.