Monday, May 27, 2013

Slush Puppie Fruity Tubes

Known in the Midwest by children of the '80's for their delicious, colorful frozen slush beverages, the Cincinnati company is now owned by ICEE, and are currently producing several different varieties of candies under the Slush Puppie name and accompanying mascot. On this review we sample their Fruity Tubes, long, unwieldy candy-filled candy tubes. Do they warm our nostalgic hearts? Taste any good? Find out!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

China Max - Cincinnati Premium Outlets

The Cincinnati Premium Outlets is sort of like an outdoor mall that wears its fanciness like a badge of honor.  Only a few years old now I've always had a bit of a grudge with it personally.  See, the owners original presence in this area was buying one of my all-time favorite places on Earth the Forest Fair Mall while it was on its deathbed and gave it life again in 2004 as Cincinnati Mills.  After a couple years it deteriorated and lost most of its tenants and instead of trying to keep it afloat they sold it off (to a group that's now sold it yet again, but I digress) and started from scratch building this brand new shopping enterprise in Monroe, OH.  I had only been here once before and it was cold and windy so not an ideal time to shop at an outdoor destination but I did recall seeing a quaint food court that caught my eye and knew one day I'd be back.  That leads us to this review!

The food court is tiny, there's the eateries above and maybe 2-3 more tops.  But given its newness it is very clean, bright, and as such accommodating.  Now, before I get into my review proper I need to say I made a mistake.  I should have ate at Steak It Out.  Now, that's not a knock per se on where I did dine, by any means, but I'm a sucker for a Philly cheesesteak, as well as eating at spots that are new to me, so that would have been a win-win and a bit more off the beaten path which I welcome.  But, I'd had a fairly heavy dinner late the night prior, with fries and all, and felt a change of style would be welcomed and opted for Chinese.

Now, "food court Chinese" is a term my wife and I coined and it's not a positive one.  We go to a lot of malls and we dubbed this term as you often order the stuff then regret it.  They yell at you to try a sample, you get pulled in, find it hard to escape, get the food, then many times feel remorseful.  Not always the case but in the realm of Chinese dining (takeout, buffets, sit-down, etc.) food courts easily ranks last.  China Max struck me similar to Max Orient which I reviewed back in 2005 (!) and not just in name.  Max Orient at Kenwood Towne Center mall is probably the leader of the pack when it comes to "food court Chinese" so I adjusted my expectations accordingly.

This is my daughter Yukari and I right as I made my decision where to get my grub on.

Here's my spread!  I did the pick three entrĂ©e plate with fried rice.  I went with Orange Chicken, I believe they called the middle one BBQ Chicken, and then General Tso's to add a little spice to my life.

A meeting of the minds!  My son Owen and I post-lunch.

The food was pretty good and I'd safely put it in the B range.  It wasn't extraordinary or surprising enough to get up to an A but I wouldn't really expect "food court Chinese" to.  Given my somewhat reserved expectations it was satisfying.  The chicken entrees were all hot and fresh (we were there fairly early so I likely got this out of the first batch of the day -- eat there at say 7:45PM and it might be a different story).  The rice was a bit deceptive as it looked better than the norm up at the counter almost as if it was cooked just a little long developing some crust and character but it actually was a bit dry and bland and given my son's love of noodles I definitely regretted not going with the lo mein to share.  I had my customary water to drink and finished the whole plate happily.

A predictable but enjoyable lunch and now I have a reason to return so I can try out Steak It Out!  I still have mixed feelings on the Outlets.  Seems more like a place to be seen then to shop or hang.  I like traditional malls because if you desire you can blend in finding nooks and crannies to just chill.  Given the high-end retailers and outdoors element it seemed many here were just excited at the first warm Ohio day post-Winter and wanted to see or be seen.  I did score a large fresh-made lemonade at a stand which is refillable for the season at $5 and $2 on return trips so I'll be sure to get some use out of that this Summer.  They've also got a Disney Store and on this visit they had a lot of close-out specials and we got a few things including something I'll be writing about down the road.

Overall Grade: B

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sonic the Hedgehog Loves Chili Dogs!

Growing up I was more of a Mario guy but my love for Sonic grew as I got immersed in some of his other non-video game areas such as the various cartoon spin-offs he starred in and the long-running comic book series.  One particular peculiar quirk about Sonic also always struck a chord with me personally -- he loves chili dogs!

Are you familiar with chili dogs?  They're known locally as coneys and I've heard them sometimes referred to by the more generic catchall name chili cheese dogs.  By locally I mean the Midwest or more specifically here in the Cincinnati area where both chili spaghetti and chili dogs are absolute staples of our culinary scene.  I won't go into detail on the history of these dishes but will say I've encountered people from other parts of the country who look at me like I'm crazy when I say we Ohioans regularly put chili on our spaghetti or hot dogs.  I can assure you here it's as normal as hamburgers, pizza, or any other American edible staple.

I should also talk about Sonic and his own history with this delicious food item.  He's known most popularly for indulging in his favorite food in several of the animated series' he's in including Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog (know by fans as SatAM), and Sonic Underground.  Earliest canonical reference to Sonic's love of chili dogs appears to be in Sonic the Comic #5 from July of '93 and later in Sonic the Hedgehog #0 they added some backstory seeing Sonic and an uncle operating a chili dog stand.  Sonic's infatuation with chili dogs also bleeds into many of the video games including the ability to purchase various types of hot dogs in Sonic Unleashed as power-ups, in cutscenes in Sonic and the Black Knight, as a birthday present in Sonic Generations, and in smaller shout-outs in titles such as Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, and in the Japanese manual for Sonic Advance 3.  Heck, there was even a children's audio book that ended up having Sonic's passion for chili dogs as a major plot point!

One night I was hungry late and knew my buddy Sonic was speeding into town to watch the odd double-header of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and Red Hook Summer with me.  I ran to Gold Star Chili (usually I'm a Skyline guy and with the threat of being too insider here I know my fellow Ohioans and transplants know what I'm talking about!) and got some chili dogs.  The one on the right is "firehouse" style meaning it's got a spicy seasoning mix sprinkled on it and some signature hot sauce blend inside.

I presented Sonic with his chili dog!  I could literally see his mouth watering.

He proved nice enough to even share a bite with me.  What a swell hedgehog!

And the only proof I have of this visit is a rancid stain on my hard to replace collectible plush doll.

And here's a random assortment of images featuring Sonic getting his chili dog on:

The official recipe for Sonic's chili dogs originally appeared printed in the first issue of Archie Sonic the Hedgehog.  Had I, I don't know, possibly planned this out at all in advance I could have taken a crack at making them myself.  But alas I urge you all to make Sonic's patented recipe and share your results in the comments and/or RtW Facebook page.  Enjoy!

Chili Dog a la Sonic
  • Brown 1 lb ground beef
  • Add ½ cup each of chopped onions, peppers and mushrooms (brown lightly)
  • Add 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • Add 8 oz barbecue sauce
  • Simmer ½ hour
  • Add 1 teaspoon each of chili powder, cumin, oregano
  • Add 1 large can red kidney beans (drained)
  • Simmer 1 hour
  • Add hot dogs
  • Cook 15 minutes in sauce
  • Put on toasted roll
  • (melted cheese optional)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Five for $5 Dollar Store Challenge feat. RtW, Dino Drac, & VM

Wow!  So, this is actually happening.  I'm getting to from a team with the creator of my all-time favorite website and also one of my best Internet buddies.  Together we make a sort of super-heroic all-star team of the Internet pop culture set -- as unplanned as your last pregnancy but arguably as fun!

Our mission?  Spend $5 at a dilapidated dollar store.  Share your finds.  We all went into this boldly and bravely.  Let's see what we got!

My video!

At 18 min. mine is the epic but I'm placing it here first so as not to The Godfather III myself.

Matt's (Dinosaur Dracula) video!

This is crazy.  This would be like, say, a young songwriter getting to make a cameo on his favorite musician's new record.  Or an aspiring basketball player being asked to shoot hoops with Lebron.  Just doesn't happen.  Matt's X-Entertainment and now Dinosaur Dracula are as big as part of my life as Alf and Super Mario Bros. and the pop culture stuff he so richly covers on his site.  It's an honor, privilege, and strangely arousing situation I find myself in working alongside one of my idols.  Thanks, Matt!

Will's (VeggieMacabre) video!

Will is one of my best buddies and he brings it in this video.  Also admire his amazing room decor as that wall of horror and pop culture inspired artwork is to kill for.  We've teamed up on some stuff in the past and as always it was my pleasure.

We all had so much fun working together on this oddball project.  Please comment here on this post and on the RtW Facebook and join in on chatter over on Matt's post and Will's too.  Thanks so much for the support!  Now I've got some clam juice to go clean up.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ice Age Sour Gummies

Brian and Eddie of RtW give musings on the Ice Age film franchise and officially licensed sour gummies!  Should these movie theater castoff candies go extinct or be preserved by edible archeologists for generations to come to admire and ponder?