Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Fourth Annual Pumpkin Challenge!

My apologies for the lateness of this message, since the official start of the 4th Annual Pumpkin Challenge was September 15th.* If you are hearing of this blessed event for the first time, consider your life changed. Every year, from mid-September through Halloween, my beloved readers are enabled, er, invited to consume as many pumpkin foods as possible. Here are the rules:

  • The item consumed must be a food.
  • The only beverage allowed is the milkshake.
  • Food items may not be doubled. (Two slices of pumpkin cheesecake count as one item. The only way it could count for two different items is if the second item has a distinct enough difference of flavor that it warrants a different name AND the item comes from a different source than the first item.)
This year is your best chance for winning. I may have won every year until now--last year, I set the new record at 30 items--but I have a number of distractions this year that could increase your chances. Or try to be this year's MVPP (Most Valuable Pumpkin Provider) by sending me recipes or, better yet, pumpkin products!

Why have was the Pumpkin Challenge created?
Because pumpkin foods are delicious, yet mostly only offered around Halloween and Thanksgiving. The short-term goal is simple: By starting pumpkin consumption in mid-September, we are increasing demand for pumpkin items earlier than most pumpkin seasons starts. The long-term goal is for pumpkin products year round! Hopefully, like me, you are active in the off-season of the Pumpkin Challenge, too.

*If you feel like whining, you may handicap yourself one pumpkin item if you had not already started. Shamefully, that is all I have eaten so far. Last year, I had around 5 at this point.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gelato italiano in Inghilterra (Italian ice cream in England)

If Fortnum & Mason is a great ice cream experience (see previous post), Oddono's is simply great ice cream. Making the finest gelato in London, it is normal to hear Italian being spoken here by the staff and customers, which is sure sign you are in the right place! The finest ingredients and care are used in their gelato and, like those found in Italy, nearly every flavor is uniform without mix-ins.

Their Valrhona Chocolate is the darkest, most explosive chocolate I've had in frozen dessert outside of Italy. (It actually was better than many of the chocolate gelati I had in Italy! ) you just don't get this chocolate flavor in American ice cream where they use more fat and less of the actual ingredients that give the flavors their names. Their Nocciola Piemonte (Hazelnut from Piedmont) was also incredible--easily the best hazelnut ANYTHING I've had in my life. I was also impressed by their Mandarin Sorbet. One of my friends I brought along remarked that Oddono's was truly the best ice cream she had ever had in her life. No small statement!

Oddono's Gelati Italiani is located in South Kensington, south of the Royal Albert Hall, the Natural History Museum and the V&A. You can also find their gelato being sold in Selfridges and Whiteleys.

Friday, September 4, 2009

London Licks

To get to the Parlour Restaurant at Fortnum & Mason, you must first make it through the ever-tempting ground floor. Big enough to contain a football field this floor only sells tea (Bleh!) and chocolate (Huzzah!). To observe the displays under glass, the carpeted floors and the quiet reverence of the customers, one would think they were selling jewelry. There's nothing wrong with a little appetizer dessert before the main course--I can tell you that each of the chocolates I tried were delicate, demanding an instant reaction to chew, salivate and swallow slowly--but don't lose your focus or spend all your money on the fancy chocolate. March on!

Somehow I made it up the stairs with my appetite intact and enough money to afford the decadent desserts that awaited me in the Parlour Restaurant. (It is expensive. Actually, expensive may not be a bold enough term, but it is an experience worth treating yourself to.) Fortnum & Mason had made it onto every "Best of London Ice Cream" list I found online, so I knew I was really in for a high-quality experience. They did not disappoint, dishing up in a fancy goblet with the utmost class. And despite the expense, I went there a total of three times.

The first time, I tried three scoops (Strawberry with 12-year-old Balsamic, Chocolate Macadamia Biscuit and Toffee) with warm, melted Amedei Chocolate on the side. All were very tasty, if not accurately named: I didn't taste any Balsamic or Macadamia Biscuit. The chocolate sauce confirmed Amedei as being the best chocolate money can buy. The Toffee ice cream may have been my favorite of all of their ice cream flavors.

On my second visit, I tried the Beekeeper Sundae (pictured, center): Stem Ginger & Honey, Vanilla Bean and Praline ice creams topped with Fortnum's honey and honeycomb chunks. Ginger is not in my top 10 ice cream flavors, but this was the finest one I've had: not too much spice, but not a diluted flavor.

The third visit--I won't say last, because I will return again--I tried the Rosa Plaustri sundae: R&P (chocolate ice cream with strawberry, marshmallow and biscuit), Frosted Strawberry & Shortbread and Amedei Chocolate ice cream topped with marshmallows and biscuits. Served with warm Amedei chocolate.

Do they sound like the best sundaes imaginable? Try 'em for yourself: Fortnum & Mason is located in Central London's Picadilly Circus, across from the Royal Academy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The first openly cream?

"A wedding-themed Ben & Jerry’s truck will hand out free Hubby Hubby across Vermont today."