Archive for July, 2012


God bless American portions

Haters like to moan about large portions contributing to obesity. But no one ever said you needed to eat the entire thing in one sitting. The more likely culprits of the widening of American backsides are gluttony, mindless eating, and a food pyramid that (only until recently) was stuck in the 50s.

Maggiano's chocolate zuccotto cake = 3-4 normal human portions.

Maggiano’s chocolate zuccotto cake. So big that it’s served with an oversized fork. Photo: Just Last Weekend

Personally, I love having something to take home for the next day. And if you’ve ever ordered a Coke in Europe, you’ll probably agree that bigger portions are better than small.

This chocolate zuccotto cake from Maggiano’s is a fine example of American portions at their best. At first, I balked that the 2-person special made us share a dessert. After the cake came out, I understood why. One slice–actually, more like a hunk of cake–was easily 3 portions (between me, Mr. X-sXe, and Just Last Weekend).

This cake could’ve easily been too rich, but somehow they got the icing-mousse-cake ratio right. BTW, the chocolate mousse is infused with sambuca, which sounds iffy. Chocolate and licorice? Somehow, the pairing works.


Don’t throw away those corn cobs

Jelly made from corn cobs.

Some of the more unusual sweets appearing on Pie V. Cake (Coke and peanuts, orange slice cake) were introduced to us by coworkers. Such is the case for this corn jelly, which came to us by way of Mr. X-sXe’s coworker.

When I first heard about it, I was a bit wigged out–picturing someone boiling the cobs leftover from a grillout. Not so. You boil corncobs after slicing off the corn, then add the thickeners like pectin to turn it into a jelly. No cooties are involved. I’m not sure what recipe was used, but here’s one to try.

The resulting jelly has a flowery, honey-like flavor. We weren’t sure whether it was better eaten like JELL-O, as a jelly, or as a condiment. In retrospect, it would’ve been really good on biscuits.


Funky-flavored shakes: coffee and donuts, Vietnamese coffee

The donuts-and-coffee custard from Shake Shack. Nice concept, poor execution.

One of the rare Krispy Kreme pieces in this coffee-and-donuts custard.

This coffee-and-donuts custard from Shake Shack–ok, not technically a shake–is a total tease. Excited at the prospect of Krispy Kreme pieces in this custard (brought down fresh from the Dupont Circle Krispy Kreme), we bought the largest size and dug into it. But as you can see, it took a lot of squinting to locate the sparse pieces of donut. The coffee flavor was extremely muted. Not sure I would’ve identified it as coffee if you hadn’t told me.

Also, I’m not sure that cold donuts are all that. They get hard and greasy. What works for fried chicken, doesn’t for donuts.

The Vietnamese-coffee shake from Good Stuff Eatery.

This Vietnamese coffee shake is a vanilla-based shake with ground coffee and condensed milk. The grittiness of the coffee detracts from the experience. Stick with the tried-and-true toasted marshmallow shake!

The thing to get at Good Stuff (even more essential than the burgers or rosemary fries) is the toasted marshmallow shake. This time we branched out and tried the Vietnamese coffee. Good flavor, gross texture. Unless you like sand with your shakes. You may need a good flossing afterwards.


We take on Chef Spike’s toasted marshmallow shake–during the power outage

Toasting marshmallows with a blowtorch in 95-degree heat.

We don’t recommend trying this, but if you must, have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Day 3 of the Derecho power outage. It’s about 95 degrees outside. Mr. X-sXe and I are bored, hot, and getting really testy with one another.

Ever since Good Stuff opened in Crystal City, Mr. X-sXe’s been obsessed with getting their toasted marshmallow milkshake–the gold standard of milkshakes. He’s been finding ways to schedule meetings down there just to have an excuse to stop by.

Toasting coconut with a blowtorch isn't the smartest idea, but the power was out.

If your power is working, you’ll get better results browning your coconut flakes in the oven.

Maybe the heat had fried our brains, but we decided that the time was ripe for attempting to make a better shake than Chef Spike’s. We’d do that by adding ingredients to take the flavor over the top: toasted coconut, coconut milk, and vanilla extract, modifying the original recipe.

We couldn’t use the oven, but we had a giant blowtorch and one working outlet in the kitchen (a small generator was powering the fridge). The grocery stores near us were open. All the stars were aligned. So we set out on our quest.

Ingredients for the toasted marshmallow, toasted coconut milkshake.

What went inside.

What we learned:

  • Making a milkshake during a power outage is tricky. When the temperature inside the house is 90+ degrees, everything melts quickly. Your shake could become a casualty, ending up more like a soupy bowl of melted ice cream.
  • While blowtorching marshmallows works alright, it’s doesn’t work well on smaller ingredients like coconut flakes that can blow away and burn quickly. Plus it’s a fire hazard, so prepare accordingly.
  • Toasting ingredients makes everything taste better.
Thanks to our generator, we were able to use a hand blender to mix the shake ingredients.

Hand-blending the shake with the generator-powered outlet. In retrospect, we should’ve used regular, not jumbo marshmallows (more surface area for browning).

So, were we successful in topping Good Stuff’s milkshake masterpiece? It really depends on whether you like coconut. If you do, this milkshake is heaven. If you don’t, then stick with Good Stuff’s version.

Our toasted marshmallow, toasted coconut milkshakes.

Introducing the toasted marshmallow, toasted coconut milkshake. Born of a Derecho power outage. Made possible by a blowtorch and generator.

Recipe: Mr. X-sXe’s toasted marshmallow, toasted coconut milkshake

Serves 2. Measurements are approximated.

  • 4-6 scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons 2% or full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes, toasted medium-brown in the oven
  • 6 jumbo marshmallows (or 8 regular marshmallows would probably work better). Reserve 1-2 for decorating the tops of your shakes.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Use a hand blender to get the mix to the consistency you want, making sure the toasted marshmallows and coconut are incorporated (you should see brown specks throughout your shake). You could also use a regular blender. Pour into 2 glasses and top with the marshmallows. Enjoy while slipping into a sugar-dairy coma.