Adults traversing their entire state chasing down juice boxes is normal right? Who knew we’d be grown ass adults searching feverishly for a tiny box of green juice that we used to bring in our lunch boxes as kids. It makes sense though, it’s sort of similar to finding the fountain of youth. Ecto Cooler hasn’t been on store shelves in so long that having the opportunity to suck that ectoplazmic green elixir out of that beautifully retro Hi-C container is worth going to the ends of the earth for, or in my case, New Jersey. And I pretty much did just that. Those color changing Ecto Cooler cans were procured on a wild goose chase that you can hear on a recent Purple Stuff Podcast, but the elusive juice boxes were still, well…eluding me. By the time you read this, you’ll probably have gulped down 3-4 cases of juice boxes already, but let me tell you about the night that I finally found them.
Purple Stuff Podcast Episode 14: Snacks We Want Back!
Now that the Halloween Season is over for most, (I refuse to accept that) we are back to bring you another nostalgic podcast this week! Unfortunately, there are no ghosts and goblins to be discussed this week, but to ease the pain, we have some old chips, soda, and ice cream for you as we talk about Snacks That We Want Back!
Yes, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula and I have switched gears into a territory that we both know a lot about: OLD SNACKS. I can’t describe to you how much time I’ve spent in my life pining over discontinued junk food, so this show allows us to discuss some of those that have had me desperately dreaming their comeback for many years. And you sure as hell already know that Matt has spent the majority of his life curating old junk food so this is quite a discussion as you can imagine. We talk about the how the country fell in completely in love with Potato Skins which lead to them being turned into their own chips, Ghostbusters getting it’s own ice cream tie-in, and a certain beloved clear soda that might actually be making a comeback. It’s a kick-ass show that will jog your memory into looking back on some of the crap that you ingested while fermenting on your couch watching TV as a kid.
What are some of your favorite snacks from when you were a kid that aren’t around anymore? Let us know in the comments!
If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast, you can do so at iTunes, Podbean, and Stitcher! If you dig what you hear, please leave some positive feedback for us on iTunes! Thanks for listening and supporting the show! Stay tuned for more here at the Sexy Armpit very soon as I slowly get my ass back into gear!
Food Truckin’, Comic Shoppin’, and Antiquin’
After I heard about Just Jersey Fest, a gathering of food trucks coming to Randolph, NJ a couple of weeks back, I figured it might be a fun Sexy Armpit excursion. Food trucks have been enjoying a wave of popularity, especially in cities. I’ve really had no experience with food trucks, unless you want to count the ice cream man who I bought WWF Ice Cream bars from nearly 5 days a week for the span of 4 years in my early teens. Other than that, I’ve never eaten food that I purchased from a truck. I never really felt like I was missing out on anything either, but to have the option of sampling from ALL of them in one place seemed appealing to me since I don’t live in an area with many food truck appearances.
I wasn’t going into this one alone. I coerced friend, author, and co-star of the Sexy Armpit Show, Michael Gary Wirth aka @IdiotAtPlay, and his wife into going. We hopped in the car and headed up Route 287 on a super hot and sunny Saturday.
What started as your typical trip to eat at food trucks snowballed into an extensive trek up and down the Garden State searching for comic stores and ending with a brilliant finale: an unexpected drop-in to the most enormous and well stocked antique store of all time.
First, simply put, Just Jersey Fest was a big wide open lot that had a crazy amount of locally based food trucks parked around the perimeter. No false advertising here: there was a bunch food trucks, a DJ playing an odd array of oldies mixed with tunes you might here at The Colorado Cafe, and tons of people milling around, indecisive about what they should eat. What a perplexing situation. What altered my decision was how long the lines were at each truck. As a personal rule, I prefer not to stand in hideously long lines in the blazing hot sun. I melt very easily.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but judging by the unique and often one of a kind cuisine that many food trucks are offering nowadays, my bar was set pretty high. Judging by some of these Food Network shows, it’s apparent that every food truck has to have their own special gimmick or they won’t last. Since I adore gimmicks, the idea of food trucks appealed to me, and I was pretty geared up to think that we were in for some real treats. Sometimes, my positivity is my weakness, and my friends faith in me is theirs. Sounded clunky, but those shrewd enough might extrapolate the Emperor Palpatine reference buried in there. Regardless, I’ve been bandying around the word extrapolate like I’m 6 years old and I just started working “shit” into my diatribes about how Drake’s Devil Dogs would get stuck to my teeth and the roof of my mouth.
My first mission was to tour around the lot to make sure I knew each and every option I had to choose from. After my stroll, I was convinced there was nothing enticing me. I really wanted to be lured onto a line by a delicious odor or seduced by a superbly crafted stock photo of a shellacked empanada. As always, Mike and his wife were enthusiastic about the whole ordeal and they found a couple of trucks that had selections they wanted to try.
Mike went with a Cajun truck, one that I had mentioned sounded halfway decent moments earlier, but for some reason I opted for the Colombian food truck. I regretted not going with my first instinct. Always go with your first instinct no matter how impulsive – even if your first instinct is to order the 400-piece wing platter next time you’re at Hooters. Not sure if that exists, but you can ask Mandy, your waitress. Make sure she brings you extra napkins.
Lauren got sticky rice from a Thai truck, which, unbeknownst to me, is a freaking dessert! Rice for dessert? I had no clue. I’ve heard of rice pudding, but this thing looked like fancy dessert sushi. Sing this to the tune of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”: “I’m not fancy, I didn’t even kno-ow, that stick-y rice was an actual thing you can order for a Thai food truck.” See, it actually works, but you might have to jam those last 15 words together pretty fast to get it to sound right. Where there’s a will, there’s a way people!
You can check out more on our food truck cuisine sampling in the video above, but I will tell you a little bit about the fries. Affectionately referred to as Disco Fries, (at least here in New Jersey) they are known to the rest of the country (apparently) as New Jersey Poutine. I don’t know what the F poutine is, but I think Paxton Holley likes it. Disco Fries aren’t fries soaked in the sweat that has dripped onto the dance floor, nor are they possessed by the spirit of Barry F’n Gibb, but they are staples of a New Jersey diner menu. Freaking French Fries doused with gravy and melted mozzarella cheese.
We placed an order for Disco Fries at Romano’s Fries Truck, a truck who has an exclusive deal with C&C Cola. Depending on where you’re from you may have never heard of this soda, but it was always a reasonable alternative to the mainstream soft drinks in the grocery store. That didn’t swerve my opinion on this truck though. We waited patiently for what felt like 14 years for these stupid fries. Minus the exaggeration and I think we waited nearly 30 minutes, no joke. These were fries we were waiting for mind you, not a sizzling Kobe strip steak cooked to perfection. Finally, we received the equivalent of the fries you might get at the snack bar at your nephews Little League game, but drizzled with a little bit of gravy and some cheese. Meh. Nothing beats an NJ diner for these.
The ice pops were by far my favorite selection and the only thing I gravitated to immediately. Peace. Love. POPS are all natural, handcrafted ice pops made in New Jersey. The creative flavors are so dead on balls accurate and refreshing that I am 100% recommending that you try them if you are ever in the North Jersey area. Their cart is often seen around the streets of Hoboken. The pops are little pricey, but it’s worth it. Considering the care that is taken in their preparation and the fact that a good chunk of the money you pay for one goes to charity, these ice pops are well worth the purchase. Eventually the company wants to get these into a few local supermarkets and I hope they succeed! Check out their official Facebook page at this link.
A list of flavor options were detailed on their chalk board. The decision was easy for me. Without hesitation I chose Honeydew Ginger Mint because I love honeydew and mint, but F the ginger. Mike and Lauren got the Pineapple Mojito and Strawberry Lemonade. All of these were awesome. You can watch us inhale them in the video. They hit the spot on a hot, swamp-assy Saturday.
We just about had our fill with the food truck fest and we decided we still had some motivation left in the tank. “Why don’t we see if there’s any comic book stores around here?” Lauren said, and we concurred that it was a great idea. Sitting in the back of the Mikemobile, I started searching on my phone for the zip codes of each town we passed through to cross check them on the comic locator site. God, that might be the geekiest sentence I’ve written in 10 years of this blog.
In total, we stopped at 3 comic book shops, all of which I’d never been to before. Now we are entering critical territory because this damn post should really be two parts, but I wouldn’t do that to you…the waiting is the hardest part so said Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. F*ck it, let the Comic Book Store Tour commence!
I am always supportive of local stores and independent business, but I’ve been wrapped up in Comixology since day one because I wanted in on digital comics in a bad way, mostly because of the lack of storage space in my condo. Don’t get me wrong, I still own all the comics I’ve had since I was a kid, but I have no need for physical comics anymore. Plus, I am crazy about the guided reading style of the digital format. If you’ve never experienced it, try it out, I think you’ll dig it.
Our first stop was literally across the street from the food truck fest. All in One Collectibles in Randolph was filled with tables with some hardcore gaming going down. The large shop was stocked with 9 million Heroclix, comics, a few toys, and a ton of sports and non-sports trading cards. I was getting antsy. Onto the next one.
Next stop: Madison, NJ, a quaint, movie-set type town where we arrived at Dewey’s Comic City. The interior was nice and it was like the Barnes and Noble of comic shops, only smaller. It was neatly filled to the brim with every type of comic and graphic novel you can think of. The concentration was on new releases rather than old, but they still had a sizable collection of back issues as well as some random collectibles and t-shirts.
I think Mike saved the best for last. He hinted earlier that we should go to COMIC FORTRESS in Somerville, NJ and I was game. I always say YES to going anywhere that has Fortress in it’s name (i.e Fortress of Fangs, Fortress of Steele.) This place was seriously as incredible as Mike mentioned, (read Stop #6 on his Free Comic Book Day Tour log.) Not only do they have quite a huge selection of comics stocked on the shelves, but they also have the largest inventory of DC and Marvel statues, busts, and action figure collector sets that I’ve ever seen in a comic/collectible shop. If it was the early ’90s I’d probably be begging my Dad to bring me to this vast emporium every week after we made our stop at Steve’s Comic Relief.
I’m proud of myself. As much as I was tempted, I bought nothing all day except 2 giant sized Red Bulls.
As if all the previous excitement on this day wasn’t enough, I didn’t think it could get any more fantastical, but, IT DID! We inadvertently extended our little adventure even more. While walking back to the car we stumbled upon the Somerville Antique store. This place pulled me in like I was in a tractor beam. With zero expectations of the enchanted land of tchotchkes, we entered. Before us was the most insanely huge antique store I’ve ever set foot in. Two expansive floors with nooks and crannies of non-stop antique absurdity.
If I described all of what I saw at the antique store we’d be here for another 37 paragraphs and I don’t want to do that to you. It would be a violation of common decency. To see the contents of this wondrous, albeit pricey place, go watch the video!
AD JERSEUM: Shannon Rose – Ireland in New Jersey
While you may be recuperating from a weekend of St. Patrick’s Day parades and imbibing enough liquor to get 3 of Jabba the Hutt’s drunk uncles even drunker, why not enjoy the latest installment of Ad Jerseum? It’s been a while, so here it goes!
Unless there’s some free food in it for me, giving free plugs to chain restaurants is not something I do. I really contemplated posting about this billboard solely for that reason, but ultimately it’s too Jersey too pass it up. I’d much rather give the plug to a local mom and pop restaurant, but today’s billboard literally jumped out at me several months ago.
I took this photo a while back and rather than just sit on it until next year, it would probably be best if I actually posted this before St. Patrick’s Day 2014 comes to an end, wouldn’t you say?
This billboard ad resides on Route 1 South in the Rahway area. It caught my eye thanks to its usage of the state. The comparison is very persuasive. If you’re a fan of Irish pubs/restaurants and you’re cruising down Route 1, I think it would entice you to turn off.
As offensive it might be to some, the fact is, I’m not really a big fan of Irish pubs. It’s more because I prefer Italian and Mexican food over basically any other cuisine, but I have to admit, nothing beats beer, burgers, and those giant fries at an Irish pub.
Shannon Rose, an Irish pub/restaurant chain, has 3 locations and they’ re all in New Jersey. I’ve eaten there many times and I’ve never been disappointed, although I will say that it gets extremely packed, and it’s pretty loud, especially on Sundays during football season. It’s definitely not a spot to go if you’re trying to be incognito, but the beer is cold and the appetizers are great.
Flea Market Fiasco!
The flea market is not far away and I always heard friends mention that they tend to find cool stuff there, so I really had no justification for never going there. Who better to join me on my first visit to this place than Dino Drac? Partners in crime is really an appropriate moniker for all the calamity and misadventures we’ve inadvertently entangled ourselves in. Matt’s been there several times and he kept mentioning a pretty awesome vintage toy shop that he found in one of the buildings. That was literally all I needed to hear to get me to want to go.
Also encouraging me was the forecast, Saturday was going to be partly sunny and reach the low 50s. Since most of us in the Tri-State area have been cooped up at home for the last month or so battling all these ridiculous snow storms, it was about time that we had a nice sunny day that we could go outside and enjoy rather than breaking our backs shoveling snow and freezing our asses off. Parts of this flea market are indoors while many of the vendors are outdoors, so either way it was a win.
Matt, Ms.X, and myself took a laid back drive down Route 9 as I sipped a Monster and we bullshitted. None of us knew what we could encounter on this day. The possibilities were endless. How many useless things would I come home with? I was feeling really confident that going to Englishtown was the right decision. It was the perfect thing to do on the first sunny and mild Saturday we had in forever. Spending it with good friends and having a few laughs was the right move. It’s almost like therapy after the mind numbing grind of a long work week. It all made sense…for a little while.
Finding parking is one aspect of my life that I don’t like to spend too much time on. I’m not sure it’s an actual pet peeve, but for instance, I have absolutely no time in my life to waste on searching for the perfect parking spot at a mall during the holidays. I’d just as soon park 2 miles away and walk. I was pleased to find that the parking scene at the Englishtown Flea Market wasn’t even bad at all. Considering there were two huge lots to park in, I didn’t have to stress about it.
The first lot was literally made of mud. The entire ground was all mud. I started into some My Cousin Vinny lines while we all made the conscious decision NOT to park in the lot that was all mud because my car might sink into the mud and we’d be stranded there. I pulled right out of there and drove into the adjacent lot which, oddly enough, only had about 7 cars in it. Fortunately, this lot wasn’t all mud, it was ALL ice and slush. Much of the ice and snow started melting in the past few days but we figured it would be wiser to park on ice and melted snow than…mud. I walked away with the positivity that we made a very clear headed decision that would benefit us in the long run.
Hopping over puddles and snow, into the flea market we went. At first, it reminded me of any other outdoor flea market. Lots of vendors, lots of similar crap. Discounted drinks in bulk. Women’s bags. Cheap fragrances. Insanely huge Rey Mysterio blankets. You know, all that kind of stuff. Flea Market stuff.
I knew not to really expect much from a flea market because they’re usually inundated with aisle after aisle of the same crap. As you walk through the rows of vendors you’ll notice every 3 of them offer bootleg action figures. You know them – the multi-pack where Batman looks like he’s a repainted Frankenstein and Superman has blue hair and a very scared look on his face. Then always right beside those are bootleg Marvel and Power Rangers figures.
Down each aisle we ventured to see the real garage sale type fare. These people offered the kind of items you might see at a local yard sale or out on the curb in your neighborhood. Piles of used clothes, old cassette tapes, old stereo equipment, random packs of gum, and that was all the high end shit. Down one of these aisles of doom is where I made my first of two purchases of the day.
A couple of sellers had random piles of old records. If you know me, I need more records like I need a hole in my head, but for those who aren’t aware, I don’t need more music options at home. I’m inundated as it is. But to me, when it comes to vinyl, I completely grasp the sound differences, but it’s more about discovering a record I would enjoy in a big pile of them and then appreciating the front and back cover art, that’s what really grabs me. Out of piles from two different sellers, I found Blondie’s Parallel Lines and the Flashdance Soundtrack. Although I’ve never even seen Flashdance, it’s got a pretty legendary soundtrack and a great cover, so I went with it. A buck each!
The sun was beaming down and we were enjoying the day as we continued scanning each table. “Let’s check in one of these buildings to see if we can find that toy shop,” Matt said in a very Jay is probably going to write about this so I will make this sentence sound very generic sort of way. The interior definitely reminded me of the types of flea markets that I’ve been to in the past, so I was in familiar territory now. The giant drums of pickles, airbrushed t-shirts, the faint scent of leather, it was all present.
We couldn’t find the toy shop in the first building we went into, but the day was young. Matt and Mrs.X bought some fresh spicy nuts imported from TOMS RIVER, NJ, which I guess is the spicy nut capital of New Jersey. You’d think I would’ve known this tidbit, but I had no clue!
We stopped into a few decent shops, but couldn’t find the one Matt was describing to me.
There was an action figure shop that had tons of wrestling figures, G.I Joe’s, and TMNT figures, so we were guided by the scent of old plastic and dust. This is where my second purchase comes in. Total impulse buy. At one time I owned every WWF Hasbro figure ever and eventually I sold them on eBay like a chump for no good reason. For a while now I had the original Macho Man Randy Savage back on my radar. This was not the Macho King or the later Macho Man release with the white jacket and hat – this was the original with the star trunks. $10. So worth it, wouldn’t you agree?
We did manage to find one shop that housed everything for your army/navy surplus needs all the way to a Ben Cooper style Jake Lloyd costume from Phantom Menace. There’s four dealers in the world who specialize in young Anakin collectibles and this guy must be one of them. This store looked like someone’s basement. 50 years worth of dusty junk packed into this tiny little store. Hanging from the ceiling and stuffed into shelves were a couple of TV trays that caught my eye. One was Batman Returns and the other was E.T. I can’t remember the exact price the guy quoted me for the used Batman Returns tray, but I believe he said he couldn’t accept less than $20 – $30 dollars because “these TV trays are really hot right now.”
At this point, I was almost happy that we didn’t find the toy shop yet because knowing me I would’ve found something that I desperately wanted for some exorbitant amount of money. The same moment that thought crossed my mind is the exact same moment Matt found the toy shop. He wasn’t joking, this place is the crown jewel of the Englishtown Auction. Matt and Ms.X had me close my eyes as I walked in. Opened them up and was immediately in awe.
From a vintage Strawberry Shortcake bake shop to about 200 original Kenner Star Wars figures in varying degrees of condition, this place was definitely worth the trip. You’re not going to get yard sale prices here though, prices here basically mirror what’s on eBay. Nothing stood out for me specifically, but I think this is where Matt came into contact with his latest toy “adoptions” as it were. More on that in a bit.
Next, I needed to find a bathroom to pee out all the energy drink from earlier. We found one and I cautiously entered. I saw a bathroom greeter, the type of greeter you might see at a swank restaurant. Sometimes they hold the towel for you as you wash your hands. Well, this guy was the absolute greatest men’s room greeter OF ALL TIME. This was his schpeel word for word or as accurate as I can remember it: “WELCOME TO THE BATHROOM MY GOOD MAN, I HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR STAY, THIS BATHROOM IS VERY CLEAN AND SMELLS OF FINE, FRESH CITRUS FRUITS, IF YOU SO CHOOSE PLEASE LEAVE A SMALL TOKEN OF YOUR APPRECIATION AND YOU WILL BE GRANTED ONE WISH – THE CHOICE OF ANY CANDY OUT OF THE 8 RANDOM PIECES ON THIS MAGICAL PLATE THAT I FOUND OUTSIDE. PLEASE COME BACK AGAIN VERY SOON.”
We needed to get on the road so this day didn’t start to deteriorate even more rapidly. With some parts of the undercarriage dangling onto the road we hightailed it out of there. After a few miles, Ms.X and I saw a Mexican place on route 9 that reminded us of Jose Tejas. Formerly Damon’s Grill, this place took on a Mexican gimmick back in October. I’d been interested in going there, but haven’t had the chance. As we came upon it, I abruptly made an executive decision and turned into the parking lot. We needed some Mexican beer, Patron, Mexican food, and of course, guacamole power – in that order. It saved the day…for a little while. Name of the place is Rosalita’s Roadside Cantina in Manalapan, NJ if you’re ever in the area or want to replicate this debacle of a trip.
Thanks to Matt and Ms.X for all their help and their patience. We were all soaked and full of mud, but they persevered! Once we got home, I brought down the mood once again by losing an eBay auction on an item that I wanted more than you can imagine for the better part of my life. What a day! Thank God Miss Sexy Armpit brought snacks.
*I urge you to read about Matt’s finds from this experience. Being the benevolent guy he is, he found “5 Misfit Toys” that needed a home, and he paid the adoption fees and signed all the paper work so he could give them a good home. READ ALL ABOUT IT AT THIS LINK OVER AT DINOSAUR DRACULA!!
Sick To Be Square: Reuniting with Entenmann’s Almond Squares
A chef I am not. A food reviewer? Far from it. But, like most of you, I’m a devourer of food. I enjoy the eating experience. Some people I know like to get it over with as quickly as possible. They’d rather open a compartment in their stomach and just place the food right inside than sit for an hour laboring over a delicious home cooked meal. Not me, I think eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. To be so familiar with that kind of indulgence and then to have it randomly ripped away from you by a stupid sore throat is not cool. Do I sound over dramatic? Well, it was a severe sore throat, OK?
This might have been the first time that I realized that I was taking food for granted. Not only was I used to savoring my mom’s home cooking on an almost nightly basis, but, after dinner I usually liked to have something sweet. I was never a huge cake person, but if there was a box of anything Entenmann’s in the house, that shit wouldn’t last more than a couple of days. The variety pack of donuts (the one they’ve been selling forever) would be dead meat if it came within a few feet of my radar. Nowadays I don’t crave sweets anywhere near as much, but back then, an Entenmann’s box knew that its days were numbered as soon as it was removed from the plastic A&P bag and set off to the side on the kitchen counter. It was saying Hail Marys and making last minute alterations to its living will. What do you pass down to your niece, the sweet cheese danish?
So, that bout of strep throat brought my appreciation of eating to an abrupt halt. Rather than savoring the delicious dinner that my mother slaved over that evening, I was swallowing what could only be described as a meal of razorblades chased with a tall glass of Everclear. Damn strep throat. Consider yourself very lucky if you’ve never had to deal with this illness. An irritated and throbbing throat is never a welcome feeling, but strangely, it didn’t effect everything I ate.
Obviously, you don’t want to be eating hot buffalo wings with strep throat. Of course, chicken soup and tea with honey and lemon soothes your throat, but not many other meals can be considered good strep throat foods. It was that night that I inadvertently discovered that I was still able to eat and thoroughly enjoy a certain dessert.
My mom went grocery shopping earlier that day. She picked me up some throat lozenges and a few other things to make dinner. She also bought a dessert that she thought I’d like.
The classy white and blue Entenmann’s box was such a tease. The box sat on a slim stretch of counter between the stove and the wall, it couldn’t have been more than a foot wide, and the box nestled into it’s home quite perfectly. For the rest of the day, and through dinner time, my mouth watered desperately for the contents of the Entemann’s box. Why would I even bother indulging in dessert when I could barely eat or drink anything?
These Almond Squares looked so damn good that it was worth risking the most intense throat pain for them. I’m not talking about Hollywood Squares, or Quaker Oatmeal Squares, these were Entenmann’s f’n Almond Squares. Their mystique was legendary. While not as mainstream as their “Crumb Coffee Cake” or their “All Butter Loaf Cake,” I would not be denying myself these evenly cut squares of moist cake, doused in almond flavoring with powdered sugar on top, even if they were considered a mid-card offering.
I was in need of some comfort food. Besides, there was no rule in the house that said because I was sick that I couldn’t eat these. They were fair game and somehow I had it in my head that these wouldn’t annihilate my throat like the rest of the stuff I was ingesting like chicken parm. In fact, a part of me (the batshit insane part of me) thought they might actually heal my throat.
After dinner, I waited until my shows were on, and I switched the black and white TV on that we had in the kitchen, grabbed the box and plopped my sick ass down at the table. I started going to town on these delectably moist and heavenly squares of powdered perfection and all seemed right in the universe. I had almost forgotten that I was even sick. In fact, several squares into my session, I forgot I even had a sore throat!
Could it be? Could these Almond Squares have powers beyond my knowledge that weren’t listed in the ingredients? Shouldn’t Entenmann’s be required by the FDA to list that type of thing on the box? “Enjoy this delicious treat…also, our Almond Squares WILL CURE STREP THROAT.”
Several years later I recalled how much I loved these Almond Squares. It wasn’t just because I was sick and they provided me with some temporary relief. It was because they were actually awesome. I couldn’t imagine a world without them. Every single time my mom went food shopping I asked her to pick them up for me. I guess it wasn’t meant to be though, because the Squares and I never reunited. My mom broke it to me that she was never able to find them again after that.
Not too long after I got my license I was able to drive around on my own to several local grocery stores and even the Entenmanns outlet store in Edison, NJ to see if they had them. Of course, they were nowhere to be found. At that time, the Internet wasn’t even a valuable enough tool to even consider trying to get a straight answer about them, so I just called Entenmanns. The first rep told me they had no idea what I was referring to. The next rep I spoke to later put me on hold and when she returned she explained to me that they haven’t been made in nearly 4 or 5 years and there were no plans for them to return any time soon.
I never gave up my quest. Every time I passed the Entenmann’s display in the grocery store I would check for those tasty little square bastards. Never found them. Then, back in 2007, I decided to give it another shot. I called and e-mailed Entenmann’s. Again the rep told me they no longer made them, which was a piece of info which I had already known for many years. My last hope was the e-mail I sent to them. I waited several weeks, but never received a reply.
On one random day, I checked my mailbox and noticed a letter from Entenmanns. I felt like Clark Griswold in anticipation of opening up the envelope with his Christmas bonus. Would it be a certificate telling me that they were giving me a lifetime supply of Almond Squares for my undying support of their products? Was it an official Entenmann’s Almond Squares Ribbon that I could wear proudly on my jacket lapel? Was it the secret recipe from their vault so I can make them at home? WHAT WAS IT? I tore it open to find out.
What kind of witchcraft was this? A mysterious letter? I actually held it in my hands, it wasn’t an e-mail. It was made if paper and the coupons they slipped into the envelope were obviously made from pure rhodium. The coupons were worth well more than the savings it leads you to believe. Each one weighs 3 lbs.
I could’ve easily expressed my thoughts about this back in 2007, but if I felt like it would be a waste of time because there was no way anyone else would have the same passion as I did to make this into an actual thing. I’m not saying I was going to be orchestrating a campaign or picketing outside Entenmann’s Headquarters to get these squares back on store shelves, but I was absolutely making more noise about these damn Almond Squares than anyone else on the freaking planet, especially nearly 15 years since the last time I remember eating them.
Now, it’s been over 20 years, and as a goof, I figured I’d do a Google search for them. What do you know? A new “Ultimate” version of the squares are available miraculously and nobody from Entenmann’s notified me. I checked the product locator on their site and immediately drove to the nearest store they listed. I picked up 2 packs.
I’m about to eat one now.
They are little different. I can’t officially say for sure, but I don’t remember the original having a layer of raspberry filling in them, but these are now referred to as “Ultimate Almond Squares.” The word Ultimate is possibly there to indicate the inclusion of the raspberry. The almond flavor and the moist consistency is all I remember though. They are still good, but I’m thinking this raspberry filling is an added feature to appeal to the newer, edgier dessert buying crowd. I’m just thankful they’re not Red Velvet Almond Squares. That would be a major sellout.
I have to say that this is the euphoric culmination of a 20 year chase that I had hoped for. Naturally, compared to when I was 13, I’m now able to deal with getting a sore throat better than when I was a kid. I’m forever thankful to Entenmanns Almond Squares for being there by my side to make my first battle with strep throat slightly less torturous.
* Entenamnn’s has been a tradition in the Northeast since 1898 and is now owned by Bimbo Bakeries, USA, the American arm of Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo. http://www.entenmanns.com/
Chao Down With Me at The Menlo Park Mall Food Court
Once home, I rushed into the apartment and grabbed the message from Sludgey’s barrel. “You are selected to win a million dollars a year, FOREVER, sincerely, Publisher’s Clearing House” clearly it was the wrong piece of paper. I shuffled through the other messages and finally found the correct one.
TO: Sexy Armpit
We are enlisting you for a mission. Review Chinese food restaurant at your local Mall food court. Go. Now.
And that was all it said. In the case that you ever receive a cryptic message like this, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I hopped right back into the Corsica and sped off to the world renowned Menlo Park Mall. If you never get the chance to visit Epcot Center, you could do some mind altering drugs and just head to the food court at Menlo. There’s always something for everyone. All types of cuisine are offered, and most notably, Chick-Fil-A. But I couldn’t get distracted by spicy chicken sandwiches and sweet tea right now, I needed to stay focused.
The beauty part about Menlo Park being “My mall” is that I can often use one of my favorite lines from Mallrats, alter it a bit and sub out the Easter Bunny part, like so: “All I said was the Chinese food at the Menlo Park Mall was not appealing and she just threw her tray of chicken and toothpicks up in the air and knocked me down.”
Of course, I’m referring to the sample girl, standing in front of ASIAN CHAO. She was offering everyone meat, but she wasn’t at all enthusiastic about it. In fact, I don’t think this girl could’ve been angrier about the thought of brightening the day of passerby with free food samples. She reminded me of Nicole Bass. She was brutish and imposing. Her fiery visage seemed to harness the flames from that Bourbon Chicken sign behind her directly toward me. I wasn’t sure what I was in for by declining her free sample, but walking up to the counter probably gave me immunity from whatever sort of weirdly uncomfortable beat down that I would’ve received from Nicole.
At first I thought Asian Chao was a really bad ethnic sounding stereotypical name, but after some investigative bloggerism I discovered that the term Chao does indeed refer to a Chinese stir-frying technique.
As I leaned up against a pillar waiting on line to order, I momentarily zoned out. My mind took a trip back in time. Ever since Henry P. Mall (I’m sure that’s his name) came up with the idea to put a roof on the good old outdoor strip mall, malls have been these magnificent structures with endless opportunities to buy all kinds of crap, provide a place for teenagers to get each others phone numbers, or in my case lend its catacombs as a setting for a couple of films I made. I even worked at the movie theater at Menlo for about 6 years of my life. I have some great memories there, a place that feels like my backyard.
I remembered how years ago, on any given weekend, the mall food court was absolutely theeee place to be. It was usually mobbed with people. Although I’ve lived mere seconds from two of the most popular malls in New Jersey for my entire life, a mall outing used to be a pretty big deal. When I wasn’t working at the theater adjacent to the food court, I used to spend all day there sometimes with my friend Sgt. E. We’d get lunch at the food court and then some Icees. We’d pick up some comics and stop in the arcade to play a few games.
My local malls are in a sad state of affairs now. What once existed as the only logical solution to everyone’s shopping dilemma, is now more of a place people go to do something when it’s shitty weather. If you needed to buy 27 gifts during the holidays, without hesitation you’d go to the mall, whereas now you can go to Target or WalMart. The financial crunch is sucking the life out of these malls. For instance, all the fountains have been removed from Woodbridge Center, fountains that I tossed thousands of pennies and nickels into during the course of my entire life, and all the trees have been removed from the food court in Menlo Park Mall. Those damn trees provided such ambiance. Now the food court has been castrated. Maybe too many birds were making homes in them? Maybe they were real trees and their roots were about to crack the floor open and suck everyone into the abyss? It’s sad, both my malls are decomposing.
Oh shit. I forgot that I needed to decide what I wanted to order. Now the pressure was on. I had the ultimate booking power for this plate and if I didn’t get my shit together it seemed like the aggravated woman was just going to start tossing random food onto it for me. I wasted all that time reminiscing about mall memories and now I was being harassed by the server behind the counter about what I wanted. I was on a Chipotle-like assembly line and I needed to be part of the flow or get kicked off the line.
There’s a specific part of your id that compels you to get Chinese food. You know how it is. Sometimes you just get that craving. When it happens to me, I go to Ling’s Kitchen in Fords. It’s a legend around these parts. I’m a bit spoiled in that respect, so I have a hard time settling for any Chinese food that’s too much of a departure from how Ling’s prepares their food. When it comes to Chinese cuisine, I’m a total creature of habit. I order the same thing every time: General Tso’s Chicken with brown rice and broccoli. Sometimes places are stingy with the broccoli though.
At Asian Chao I had the option for rice and two of the main items. I went with Sesame Chicken because I felt that was a safe bet. Then I added in Chicken and Broccoli. Some of the usual offerings weren’t available, or should I say they weren’t even cooked and/or put out in the serving trays. I’m not a fan of orange chicken or sweet and sour chicken, so those were off the table. I also never order beef or pork if I’m doing Chinese, so my choices were as limited as sample girls angry facial expressions.
First, the Sesame Chicken. The sauce was pretty weak, and to me, that’s a vital component. Aside from a spicy kick, there wasn’t much flavor otherwise. Completely absent was the bold flavor that its rich appearance conned me into believing it had. The chicken itself tasted like the turkey in Christmas Vacation, overcooked, dry, and tough to chew.
Next on the plate was many peoples old standby, Chicken and Broccoli. To best describe this one, imagine a beige rubber car mat from the floor of a 1986 Buick, cut up, soaked in soy sauce, and cooked with broccoli that had been steamed in elementary school water fountain water. Not so good.
I took the liberty of adding a side dish. I’m not a big fan of egg rolls and they’re so common, so I opted for something I never ordered from a Chinese food place before: Crab Rangoon. No idea why I bothered, but I wanted to sample something sort of offbeat and I remembered that I tried this once 10 years ago with Miss Sexy Armpit, which was the first time in my life I had ever actually heard of it. Even when she mentioned it, I thought she was referring to a prequel to 1995’s Beyond Rangoon. I don’t usually eat crab either, but I figured what the hell, I was on a special mission.
If you notice the pattern here, you’ll have an idea of just how underwhelming the Crab Rangoon was. I didn’t think it was possible for this to suck so bad, but the outer shell tasted like two damp, dustless Doritos fused together and stuffed with a tiny ball of cream cheese and crab meat. For some reason, I think the two specific rangoons they served me were the same ones that the manager laid out on the ledge of an open window in his apartment when it was drizzling. Then he realized he was late for his shift and he shoved them in his pocket and brought them to the serving area once he arrived at work.
Even the rice was average at best. How do you screw up RICE?
It probably seems like I’m exaggerating for effect, or being too picky, but it was all so laughably sub-par. Actually, maybe it is on par with what mall food court Chinese food is supposed to be like? Either way, Asian Chao isn’t doing the food court in Menlo any favors. If malls want to come back in a big way, they need a damn good Chinese place that makes mouths water. Everyone has their own concept of what their Chinese food needs taste like, and mine is definitely not at Asian Chao.
I didn’t even eat the majority of the meal and wound up going home unfulfilled. All wasn’t lost though, because this experience caused my mind to replay a line from one of my major all-time crushes, Marisa Tomei.
Make sure you stop by all my friends sites to read their reviews of Chinese food places at their local mall food courts:
Matt at Dinosaur Dracula
Brian at Review The World
Will at Veggie Macabre
Molly at Swaggermom Tales
Brock Lesnar Inhales $500 Dollars Worth of Food at Montclair NJ Restaurant
I hate reading TMZ and all the tabloid/gossip sites, but this relates to 2 of my favorite things – New Jersey and Pro-Wrestling!
Brock Lesnar, the monstrous pro-wrestler turned UFC fighter turned pro-wrestler, was just a little bit hungry after Monday Night Raw this week. After tossing CM Punk around the ring area to kickoff a feud between them leading to Summerslam, Brock took his wife, former WWE Diva Sable, to Fresco, an Italian restaurant in Montclair, NJ. The gigantic feast he partook in cost him over $500 dollars, and he supposedly shared only two items with his wife. Below you can read what he ordered.
- Ahi tuna with asparagus (shared)
- Margherita pizza (shared)
- Chicken Parm.with triple-extra chicken
- Full bowl of parpadelle bolognese
- Slice of cheesecake for himself
GREAT GEEK GORGE #8: Eating Katy Perry, Chiller Theatre, and 12″ Action Dolls!
First I ran into my buddy Jessica Rajs from Gorgeous and Gory. Each year, Jess and her crew create a fantastic calendar featuring zombified pinup models. This year’s theme is mermaids. The photography and effects are incredible and the makeup is superb, so head over to Gorgeous and Gory to get one for yourself!
The two malls in my vicinity no longer even have comic book shops, but back in the day there were a couple that I frequented like Heroes World and Comic Attitudes, among others. In addition to the comic shops, I always had to stop at music stores like Record Town and Sam Goody, and eventually I’d start browsing videos at Suncoast Motion Picture Company. There was also the Warner Brothers Studio Store which usually came through with some cool DC Super Hero swag that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
GREAT GEEK GORGE #7
I can’t claim that I’ve read every single OZ book like our friend Pax at Cavalcade of Awesome, but I’ve been a huge fan of the OZ films since I was a little kid. The Wizard of OZ and Return to OZ have always been a couple of my favorite films of all time. I was also fortunate enough to see Return to OZ at Radio City Music Hall when it first came out for a Disney Summer Magic Spectacular which was an incredible day at Radio City in New York. So, I was pumped when I heard a prequel was coming out. I fought the wintry weather in Jersey and headed to theater with great anticipation.
I was looking forward to seeing if this talented cast could pull of some magic of their own. They did indeed. With the directorial efforts of Sam Raimi, they did what I never thought was possible by bringing an awesome OZ film to the big screen.The key aspect that was a major element for me is if they could make me feel like I was watching a movie that was presented on a grand scale. During the film I was truly sucked into the world of OZ, albeit one that was fully fleshed out with CGI and not made up of painted backdrops. The effects were fantastic and they weren’t overdone to the point where everything looked fake. There was fantasy, scares, and a lot of jokes. There was also many nods to the original film, most importantly for me was to see how the movie would transition from B&W to color. They didn’t go for the sepia tone that is used early on in The Wizard of Oz, but the B&W contrasted even better with the vibrant world of OZ.
The cast was strong and each actor brought an authentic performance. *Spoiler* I wanted to love Mila Kunis in the role of the Wicked Witch, but I had a hard time buying her as a demonic looking evil witch since we are used to seeing her as a sweetheart as in movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and even when she’s a materialistic airhead like Jackie in That ’70s Show. I felt like her role would’ve had more impact if she didn’t look like a demon. Apparently, from what I’ve read, they weren’t allowed to use the specific green color makeup used on Margaret Hamilton, but if Kunis’ makeup was a little more natural looking, it may have worked better, but I’m still satisfied with the result. Also, I’m not sure if Kunis recorded the Witch’s cackle or not, but it was pretty dead on.
Aside from the standout performances by James Franco as Oz himself and Michelle Williams as Glinda, the highlights of the film is the Garden Stater Zach Braff as Frank and OZ’s sidekick Finley the flying monkey and Joey King as China Girl. Also mentioned prominently is that OTHER Wizard who Oz admired…”The Wizard of Menlo Park, NJ,” Thomas Edison! New Jersey was represented well in this film and that was genuinely cool since I didn’t expect there to be any NJ love coming from the magical land of OZ. Even better news is that thanks to a strong opening weekend, supposedly a sequel is already being formulated at Disney.
Marvel Alliance Action Figures
In past installments of this sporadic column, I’ve warned myself not to get into collecting another series of collectibles, but in this case I was powerless. Many of you know me as a DC guy, but I’m not against Marvel in any way. As a kid I was a huge fan of the Secret Wars figure line. Come to think of it, I always use Secret Wars, Star Wars, and Super Powers as the measuring stick for all other action figures.
I haven’t been collecting toys and figures as much as I used to since it’s all getting too expensive. But on a recent trip to Target for my niece’s birthday I ran into a sweet Punisher figure from the Marvel Alliance series. Also, for my birthday Miss Sexy Armpit got me Black Widow and Ghost Rider from this line.
These 3.75 inch figures are way overpriced at around $9.99, but the whole series is sculpted with much detail and they are meticulously painted, so they didn’t give me much of choice. We’ve come a long way from the Secret Wars line in terms of detail, but there was a sleekness and simplicity in those Mattel figures. Considering the size of these it feels like they were reaching out to me telepathically claiming “We’re the modern day equivalent to Secret Wars…COME PLAY WITH US!”
Cracker Jack’d “Snacks With Impact”
Has anyone ever told you that you have a serious impulse control problem? Why yes Riddler, I’ve been told that many times. In fact, I told myself that at Hess Express on Saturday when I bought two bags of new Cracker Jack’d snacks. I must say, the branding is what made me curious enough to take the shot at buying them. If I didn’t have fond memories as a kid of eating Cracker Jacks that my Dad bought me I don’t think I would’ve give these new Jacks a second thought.
After tearing into the Chocolate Mocha bites first, I really enjoyed the flavor. These are little chocolate covered nuggets of what almost has the interior texture of chocolate crunchies from an ice cream cake or some wafer-like cookie, but with a flavor of strong coffee, like an espresso. These little bites also contain real coffee beans and are caffeinated. The problem with them is that due to the chocolate they are pretty high in fat. If you don’t care about that then I recommend these because they are tasty. I actually did feel the effects from the caffeine whereas a few other reviewers around the Internet claimed they didn’t get even a minor caffeine buzz. There’s also a vanilla mocha flavor which I didn’t see at the store or else I would’ve picked it up.
As for the other bag, the Spicy Pizzeria flavor (Intense Mix) were pretty mundane. There’s a bunch of pretzel type bits in the bag along with a bunch of other random and nondescript pieces of other snacks or nuts dusted with Pizza flavoring. The flavoring is questionable. It’s definitely not reminiscent of pizza flavoring from Combos or Keebler Pizzarias unfortunately. Pass on this one.
Doritos Jacked Ranch Dipped Hot Wings
Skip these. Just skip them as furiously as possible. If I had the time traveling means of Bill & Ted I would’ve had my past self to visit me in the present day at the local Target to warn me NOT to buy these silly things. They “Jacked” Doritos are masquerading as real Doritos when in fact they are a completely different and extremely less enjoyable tortilla chip. The flavor varieties are great, but they don’t pull them off well. I didn’t find the ranch dipped hot wings to taste authentic at all. The hot wings OR ranch flavor didn’t really hit me. As I stated in my last post about these, they are too large. I always find myself having to break them into pieces to actually eat them. In addition, they are too hard and too crunchy. If you’re the type of person who loves snacks that have the potential to break your teeth, then get these, but they should not exist as Doritos. You can never go wrong with the regular line of Doritos. The Jacked should cease to exist.