Friday, April 18, 2014

WHAT THE PEEP?

Happy Friday, LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

My name is Lily and I love sugar.

I am a huge fan of candy.  I love candy and refined sugar so much, that I want to dress it up in a little tuxedo and invite all my friends and family to watch me marry it.  

I also love holidays that have a candy-related tie-in, like Halloween and the upcoming Easter.  Any holiday that gives me a basket with a hollow chocolate rabbit bigger than my head is a good holiday in my book.  And frankly, other holidays need to step it up.  (I'm looking at YOU, Arbor Day!)

Once upon a time in another lifetime, my co-workers gave me a Marshmallow Peep making kit.  Even though I am 9000 years old (which is pretty old even for an emotional vampire like me), I have the maturity of a five year old.  I like Hello Kitty, Marshmallow Peeps and shiny, sparkly things.  I have no idea what happened to that Marshmallow Peep making kit …but I am pretty sure an alien abduction occurred.

A PEEP CORNER! Dylan's Candy Bar - The Grove - Los Angeles

Lately, I have been trying to limit my refined sugar; which has been hell.  No more can I have my nightly snack of 80 oatmeal raisin cookies with a 16 ounce glass of maple syrup.  No more can I eat my body weight in Hot Tamales candies until my teeth snap at the roots.  Life is so unfair.

But even though I can no longer eat myself silly when it comes to candy, I can still look!  So when I was at the store the other day, I went for a stroll in the Easter candy aisles (yes aisles plural - four aisles of sweet, sweet candy and big Easter baskets!)  It was like visiting a long lost love who was now tragically dying of a disease that leaves them still super hot and healthy-looking, but emotionally weak and really appreciative.  I was torn between sadness and sugar lust.

But what was this?  My old love had had some plastic surgery performed!  For my entire life, Peeps have come in one flavor - sugary marshmallow.  Yet here amongst the racks of sweet decadence were FLAVORED PEEPS!





Lemonade, Blue Raspberry, Bubble Gum and Sour Watermelon?  WHAT?  WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?  I texted a friend who replied back that of course she knew about flavored Peeps.  WHY HADN'T ANYONE INFORMED ME?  WHY ARE YOU ALL TRYING TO KEEP ME IN THE DARK?  WHY AM I SCREAMING?    

Because I am limiting my sugar, I have not tried any of the flavors … which is killing me inside, a little bit more every single day.  Have any of you tried these flavored Peeps?  Are they delicious or nasty?  PLEASE SOMEONE TELL ME!

When I was in Los Angeles, I went to SWEET! - the candy store at the Hollywood and Highland Complex.  

Side Note:  I used to work with a woman who legally changed her name to include an Exclamation Point at the end of it.  Because of this, I felt punctuationally obligated to emphasize her name with a "beavers are eating my toes"-like intensity whenever I said it.  

My joke was that I was going to legally add an umlaut and an ampersand to my name.  Of course there is always the traditional "Lily?" version as well.  Oh punctuation is fun in the hands of crazy people.  Not that I am saying my former co-worker is crazy.  She's a visionary!!!!

At SWEET!, on a lower shelf, tucked away were these little beauties …


Chocolate Mousse-flavored Marshmallow Peeps!!  Like the true addict I am, I wanted to buy these soooo sooooooo badly.  I did not, but I will now live in constant wonder … were these the best tasting Peeps ever … or?  I may never, ever know.  Someone please buy these and tell me if they are any good!

DARN YOU SUGAR- YOU SEDUCTIVE TEMPTRESS!

P.S.  Happy Early Easter for those who celebrate it - or Happy Early Sunday for those who do not!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's Time To Put "The Slut" Back in Breakfast: Eggslut Los Angeles

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

About a month ago, I was in Los Angeles for a five day weekend to see several events at the 2014 spring Paley Fest.    Since I used to live in Hollywood, I had wanted to stop at many of my favorite eateries.  Because of this, I really didn't do any research on new restaurants.  Because I was poor as a church mouse on a budget when I lived in Hollywood, most of my favorite eateries are very inexpensive ones.

I do still subscribe to Los Angeles magazine … and perhaps that is how I first heard of Eggslut.

Yes, that's not a typo.  Eggslut.  Egg plus slut equals Eggslut.

From what I have heard, once upon a time there was a food truck called Eggslut.  They served breakfast sandwiches and a dish called "The Slut."  This dish became so popular (as many sluts tend to be), that the owners were able to set up a small diner-style stand at the downtown Los Angeles Grand Central Market.




When I used to live in Hollywood, I roamed the city pretty freely.  However I will admit that I didn't spend a lot of time in downtown Los Angeles.  Even bright and early on a weekend morning, downtown was a little more seedy than I would like to deal with on a normal basis.  (And this coming from someone who lived next to an alley where the transvestite hookers would turn tricks.)  There is parking at the Grand Central Market, but Lord if I could find it!  I ended up at a paid parking lot down the street from the Angel's Flight funicular.  

As I got out of my rocking Ford Fiesta rental (Don't judge!  I'm not made of money!), I handed the parking attendant some money.  Three men were walking along the sidewalk.  They all looked at me and one yelled out:  "SHE'S SELLING DRUGS!  SHE'S SELLING DRUGS!"  

Probably because of lack of caffeine and abundance of stupidity, I yelled back:  "NOT TODAY!"  The parking attendant didn't even blink.  

(Is it any wonder that I have two posts where I emphatically state that I am not an urban drug lord?  Check them out here and here.)  

I walked a couple blocks over to the Grand Central Market and oohed and ahhed over the inexpensive produce.  I forgot how cheap produce is at the markets in Los Angeles.  I wanted to buy a bunch of ingredients and make something spectacular at my rented studio sublet, but I knew I was too lazy to actually cook while on vacation.

I scanned across the stalls for Eggslut.  I finally spotted it on the other side of the market.  I had heard that Eggslut is very popular and can have very long lines.  There were "only" about 12 people ahead of me ("waiting on the slut"), so I figured that was not too bad.




By now you may be asking yourself, "WHAT IS THE SLUT?" A very good question!  Eggslut is primarily famous for two menu items - The Fairfax and The Slut.  Although their egg-topped hamburger is quickly earning its own large fan base too.

The Fairfax is a breakfast sandwich on a brioche bun.  It is filled with soft scrambled organic eggs, fresh chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and tangy Sriracha mayonnaise. The eggs are so soft and fluffy, it's like eating a spicy, oniony cloud.  It is beyond delicious.  I have never had eggs this soft, ever.  It was like a feat of nature.

Another popular breakfast sandwich is Eggslut's Bacon Egg and Cheese on a Brioche Bun (pictured below).  It has an over easy egg and chipotle ketchup.  Between the chipotle ketchup and the thick, hardwood smoked bacon - this is a smoky, delicious taste sensation.

The brioche buns are firm enough to handle the large, packed sandwiches but light and delicate enough to give a sweet fluffy taste without overpowering.  In other words, the perfect bread for this sandwich.

Because I am a hedonistic glutton, I wish that Eggslut would serve a sandwich called "The Fairfax Slut" that combines the best of the Fairfax with the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. It would be fluffy scrambled eggs, chives, bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, sriracha mayo and chipotle ketchup.  And probably a coronary, but hey it would be a tasty way to go!



But the focus of this post was not supposed to be breakfast sandwiches, now was it?  We were talking about sluts, right?  The Eggslut's signature item "The Slut" is …


Eggslut's "The Slut"

A small glass jar that is filled with the creamiest, dreamiest, silkiest potato puree.  An egg is cracked on top and is "coddled" lightly - the glass jar is put in a hot water bath to cook the egg.  It's somewhat like poaching the egg but the egg itself is never in direct contact with the water.  The soft-yolked coddled egg/potato puree is then served with buttered crostini.  

You can polk the soft egg yolk to flood the potato puree below with yolky, custardy goodness.  You then spoon out the mixture, spread it on the crunchy crostini and you have slutty egg heaven.  

I have read some reviews that said there was too much potato puree in comparison to the amount of egg.  I love potatoes in all forms, but I did agree.  Not enough egg to balance out that much potato puree.  I still ate it anyway!  If your worst problem is that you have too much delicious potato puree, your life is still pretty spectacular.  

I loved "The Slut."  The hot yolky goodness on the silky smooth potato puree was like slipping along satin sheets under the air conditioning on a balmy summer day.  My only complaint was that the potato puree was salty and so was the crostini, so that when I ate the two together it was double salty.  I'm not sure if "The Slut" is always this salty or if I just happened to have a chef that was gung ho on the seasoning that day.  I'd like to go back and check it out.

I love breakfast food.  Sitting at a table amongst the food stands at the downtown Los Angeles Grand Central Market was tranquil and homey.  I felt like the noisy world around me faded from view and it was just me, a girl and her slutty egg having a peaceful breakfast.

If you are in or visiting Los Angeles, I highly recommend you get your promiscuous egg-loving nature on and visit Eggslut.  Your tastebuds will be glad you did!  

P.S.  After writing this post, I was craving eggs.  I wonder why?  I made a breakfast sandwich for dinner - fried soft-yolked egg, slice of Canadian bacon on a whole wheat English muffin.  It was OK, but it was definitely no Eggslut.  Sigh.   I wonder if Eggslut delivers to Florida?        
Eggslut on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Product Wednesdays: The Best Thing Since Sliced Cheese: Trader Joe's Slicing Brie Cheese

Happy New Product Wednesday, LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers!


Hopefully you are a regular reader who knows that on select Wednesdays, I post "New Product Wednesdays" product reviews on items that are new or at least new to me.

Today's New Product Wednesday is another Trader Joe's review, in honor of the new South Tampa Trader Joe's that opened in March 2014.

When I was a kid, I went to Europe with my high school French class.  For one week, we lived with a family in Aix-en-Provence.  It is amazing how close you can get to a host family in a week.  I was very sad to leave them, as were my classmates with their host families.  

(Side note:  If you're a normal, awesome American family - please volunteer to host Exchange students.  It means the world to kids!  I still, 8 billion years later, have fond memories of my one week with a host family.)  

Our next leg would be a long train ride that seemed like it took days to get to Geneva, Switzerland.  Unfortunately after the train journey, they put us directly on a two hour tour bus.  God forbid we stretch our legs!  We were only staying overnight in Switzerland and then flying back to the States the next day.  

After spending 902 hours on a train, a two hour "trapped in a bus" tour was not what any of us wanted.  Our tour guide knew we were leaving the next day, so with every monument she pointed out she said "If you ever get back here, you'll have to check this out."  It was six years before I returned to Geneva.  No tour buses for me for that trip!

After the long train ride and the tour bus ride, we were next deposited at some chateau-like place with basically every school group in the world.  We stood in line for what felt like seven months.  At the end of the line we were given one half-melty piece of cheese, 3 small boiled potatoes and a gherkin pickle (actually a cornichon but I was 13 years old and had no idea what a cornichon was!)  

After 30,247 hours trapped on mass transit, my schoolmates and I could not believe our dinner was a piece of cheese, 3 tiny potatoes and the tiniest pickle.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was my introduction to the Swiss traditional meal of raclette.

For those not already familiar, raclette is basically melty cheese.  Its origins supposedly came from some Swiss guy who left his big wheel of cheese too close to the fire.  He cut off the melty bits and ate it with meats, boiled potatoes and bread.  Voila - a food tradition was born.  Usually raclette is always served with boiled potatoes, cornichons and pickled baby onions.

Raclette differs from fondue in that you have melty slices of cheese versus a big pot of molten cheese. 

If you go on YouTube, there are several videos of happy Swiss and French students having raclette parties in their meager apartments.  I swear Europeans can make any simple meal look like the best party ever!

My family later lived in Zurich and had their own favorite raclette restaurant.  It was very good and each person received their own insulated mini sack of boiled potatoes for their raclette.  I personally cannot get enough of Swiss rosti (Swiss Hash Browns).  I don't think I ever met a potato I didn't love at first sight!   

Because I am addicted to buying kitchen gadgets that I then almost never use (I'm looking at you Hong Kong "Egg Waffle" Maker!), I purchased the Swissmar Swivel 8 Person Raclette Maker.  I have wanted a raclette maker for quite sometime now.

Could I put a frying pan on low and achieve the same melty cheese result?  Well yeah, probably.  But click here to see my beautiful raclette maker!  It has a cooking stone, a grill plate and eight raclette cheese trays for melting!  AND IT SWIVELS!  

Can you tell I am enamored by gadgets?  I needed a raclette maker so I could be the Tampa Bay raclette queen!  However now I needed some cheese!

Traditional "raclette cheese" is a semi-firm cow's milk cheese, that reminds me of a mild, soft Emmentaler.  You can order it online and many of the larger cheese shops carry it.  However Trader Joe's has a nifty raclette pack of pre-sliced raclette cheese that fits my raclette cheese melting trays perfectly.  No hassle, no fuss, simply easy!  I love Trader Joe's!

But for my dinner party, I knew not all of my guests would enjoy the flavor of the raclette cheese so I wanted to have a variety of cheeses they could melt.  After all this is Florida, not Switzerland - we're allowed to break some traditional raclette rules.  (Don't tell the Swiss that we melted an aged habanero cheddar - AND IT WAS TERRIFIC!  We also had boiled purple Peruvian potatoes - we're breaking all the rules here!)   

When I went to Trader Joe's to pick up the raclette - I noticed a rectangle of brie in the cheese section.  SQUARE BRIE?  What the heck?  Did I fall into bizarro world?  Brie is ROUND not in a rectangular block.  But then I realized square brie would fit my raclette melting trays … a-ha!  Perhaps there was genius in this odd shape, after all!




The brie was creamy, rich and mild and two rectangle slices fit perfectly in each of my raclette cheese melting trays.  It melted deliciously with the "skin" of the cheese helping it hold its shape.  I would definitely buy this brie again - both for eating regularly with fruit and crackers, as well as in my raclette maker. 

My dinner party was a HUGE success.  My friends had never heard of raclette and were eager to try "as long as it isn't something like haggis" they warned.

I will be having another raclette dinner party this summer so that I can say "see, I needed this expensive raclette maker - I have used it twice!"

(Confession:  To be even more ridiculous, not only did I buy the swivel-tastic raclette maker for 8, I bought the mini raclette maker for two for when I am just making raclette for myself or myself and a friend and I don't want to bust out the big raclette maker.  I am considering using the mini raclette maker as a seduction tool.  "Hey there, tall dark and handsome - do you want to come back to my place for some melty cheese?"  I'll be the talk of the town!)

To sum up - Trader Joe's Slicing Brie Cheese is delicious and in a versatile shape.  And I need to keep my credit card away from kitchen gadget stores.

What is your favorite cheese from Trader Joe's?  Mine is their Unexpected Cheddar.  Tell me your favorite in the comments section below.    

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Smoky Deliciousness: Cantina Laredo (Wiregrass Mall, Wesley Chapel, FL)

Happy Tuesday, LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

This is my 24th consecutive daily blog post and 345th blog post on LilyOnTheLam.  Posting twenty-four days in a row has to be a personal best, because I am not the most punctual blogger.  

For whatever reason I have been on a writing frenzy.  So far my episode recaps that I have been writing for AllAboutTheTea.Com have not had a negative impact on my own personal blog writing time.  

I do anticipate that some changes at work in the next few weeks will dramatically increase my business hours and hence have a dramatic decrease on my free time going forward for many months to come, so I guess I am trying to write while I can!  Only time will tell.

Two weekends ago, I assisted at the Wiregrass Mall Fresh Market's Kids Market.  What a bleary-eyed, cussing like a sailor fool like me was doing selling products at a kids market is beyond me.  However I managed to "pull it together" to be respectable.  

After a day of trying to make sure I never left the shade of the vendor tent in the 84 degree weather, my friend (and CEO/creator/inventor/developer of an organic personal care line) and I needed air conditioning, fluids and food!  

I am a fan of Primebar at Wiregrass, but I have been hearing consistently great things about Cantina Laredo Mexican Restaurant - so we decided we needed to go south of the border for lunch.

For me, dehydration and alcohol are not a good combination. I went with a virgin tamarind margarita.  According to Cephas Gilbert (a.k.a. The Guru of My Colon), tamarind is supposed to be good for detoxifying the liver.  So an alcohol-based tamarind margarita would do what?  Null itself out?  The virgin version was delicious.


Tamarind Margarita on the Rocks

My friend Ms. CEO ordered a passionfruit margarita.  We also ordered the mini ahi tacos to start since we were STARVING!  Talking to parents and patrons about organic personal care products in the hot sun takes the energy right out of me!  Sustenance, please!
  

The mini ahí tunas were fantastic and I could have eaten several platters of them.  The tuna was fresh and flavorful.  The tacos sat next to a healthy sized scoop of savory guacamole.  Each table is also given a small bowl of tortilla chips with two salsas.  The hotter of the two salsas had this incredible smoky deliciousness.  I could have drank it by the glass, it was so yummy.  I would come back to Cantina Laredo just for the tortilla chips and the smoky salsa!

My friend does not eat dairy, so she ordered the avocado enchiladas with no dairy products.  She had them also add chicken to the enchiladas for an additional $3.  They came with a jicama slaw.  My friend raved over the freshness, the savoriness and the over all great taste of her entree.



If you read my blog post "I Am Not An Urban Drug Lord" and its sequel "I Am Not An Urban Drug Lord, Part Two", you will know that the aforementioned Guru of My Colon recommends avoiding shrimp, pork, tuna, shellfish … and basically any other food I love.  While I stayed away from alcohol in this meal, I couldn't stay away from PORK.

I ordered the pork carnitas tacos and they were SO DELICIOUS.  Savory, spicy, kick of heat, tender … if you're going to break the Guru's rules, you better do it with something incredibly tasty.  These tacos fit the bill!



I really enjoyed the food at Cantina Laredo.  Our waiter was very cordial, very attentive and overall provided great service. I am pretty sure he refilled my water glass 8734 times.  Did I mention I was a little dehydrated from the sun?

I wish Wiregrass Mall was closer to me - but then again if it was, I'd probably be eating at Cantina Laredo every night and my waistline can't handle daily tortilla chips!

I will definitely be headed back to Cantina Laredo!


Cantina Laredo on Urbanspoon
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