Sunday, April 02, 2017

Hello Fresh

Since the boys moved out and we are two outdoor bath tubs and a convertible from living a life like the people in Cialas Ad anyway, we decided to try Hello Fresh last year.

If you are unaware of Hello Fresh and it's competitors like Blue Apron and Green Chef, these services provide detailed recipes and ingredients for three complete meals in a cooler box delivered once per week.

In the past year, we've found there is a huge variety of fresh fish and meats and I can't recall seeing the same recipe twice. Typically is also a one vegetarian dish per week. The recipes are written so that you need not be a sous chef to follow along nor do they require specialty tools or equipment.The best part is that if a recipe requires a teaspoon of Thai seasoning, Chipolte, or even eye-of-newt, it's included in perfect little portions but they do expect that you'll have basics like Salt, Pepper and butter.

I'm not sure we are saving any money doing this unless of course you compare it to going out to eat. Honestly I've had some meals from Hello Fresh where we've both said it was better than going out.

Some other lessons for trying Hello Fresh:
  • The weakness in the whole plan is delivery. When we first started last year, Hello Fresh must have been using the same package delivery services they had for New York City even though we are some 90 miles from NYC. This was not a service you would know by name since a man in a private car would show up with your box. A fat man whose t-shirt was too small. Sometimes he would be late and sometimes  he wouldn't show at all. It was frustrating dealing with Hello Fresh since all they knew was that he had "until 8 PM" to deliver. I can't tell you how many of the 52 weeks we were credited for non-delivery.  This all got a lot better after we said "Goodbye Fresh" and threatened to leave and they switched to UPS. 
  • Don't pick Monday delivery. It seems like a good idea at first but then you find yourself scrambling to rearrange for all the Monday holidays when they don't deliver. 
  • Buy a zester. Yes, you'll find out all about zesting. By April last year I was CZ - Chief Zester since the Chancellor was a terrible zester. This all went a lot better when I spent $4.95 on a zester. (The other day I was in Kitchen Kapers and was enthralled with the $6.99 model they had. "Look at that thick spongy handle" I said to myself. I was lusting after a zester - unbelievable) 
  • Learn how to mince garlic. Because you will mince garlic - lots and lots of garlic. Everything has garlic. My guess is that if Hello Fresh had cereal for breakfast - it would have garlic. (New Garlic Cheerios!)
  • Follow the directions and prepare everything ahead of cooking. I don't know about you, but I used to prepare something and cook it. Onions? Chop and throw in the pan. Peppers? Chop while the onions are cooking. No. No. No. Chop everything ahead of time and put it in small bowls, ready to go like they say. Otherwise you'll screw up the timing on everything. Besides, it makes it look more like a cooking show if you have lots of little bowls with ingredients ready to go. 
  • Don't be afraid of strange new things.  I can't tell you how many strange grains we've cooked and enjoyed and God-forbid kale can be good with enough spices on it. Quinoa? before this I'd have trouble picking it out of Police line up. Crazy salads? Dig in. Pistachios on chicken? Gobble it up. Cod on Couscous? Mmmmmmmmm. Ground pork hamburgers - It's all good.  
  • Buy some parchment paper. It really does crisp veggies a bit better. 

Other things you can expect: 
  • The portions are right-sized. I don't know about you, but when I cooked I always made too much. Then I ate too much. While these may seem like small portions - they are actually right.
  • We've learned to stay away from the Jamie Oliver recipes. Those recipes are less thorough than the regular Hello  Fresh ones. If they are simple it's OK and they generally are but He tends to skip steps or make assumptions in my opinion.  
  • Just throw those Fake ice things that come in the box away. I kept some for a while but they leak and when they leak it is a mess. 
  • We are also up to our elbows in Hello Fresh boxes. There just always seems to be a stack of them. 
  • Pay attention when making your order. There were a couple of times when we left the default selections and it wasn't good. This led to the great windy Brussels sprouts disaster of 2016 when we accidentally ordered two meals with the cruciferous vegetables in one week. 
  • Don't be afraid to substitute the grill. If it's steak or hamburgers, I'll make it outside. Sometimes you might miss on some of the flavorings they want to leave behind in pan but to me the grill more than makes up for it. Also my grill has a side burner and all fried fish and splashy oily things gets cooked out there too. 
  • We've had some trouble with avocado recently. They haven't been ripe enough to use and so we make a trip to the supermarket and get another. Now we know to check.   

Some of our favorites: 
  • Lobster Ravioli and Shrimp with Heirloom tomatoes and tarragon cream sauce. 
  • Butter Basted Sirloin.
  • Juicy-Lucy Burger. 
  • Fish Tacos
  • Sole Tacos
  • Pan seared chicken with herbs de provence - Only because I like going around the house saying "de provence" in a cheesy french accent for days. The Chancellor was not amused. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017


I first learned where Somerset, PA was in the 5th grade.

Technically, I didn't exactly know where it was. I just knew that STP racing stickers came from there.

From yo-yos to pokemon, every generation of 12 year old boys has their fads and ours happened to be "stickers".

Some enterprising 5th grader had figured out that if you simply knew where to ask, most marketing and promotions departments in companies that produced racing and performance products would simply mail you an adhesive logo. I'm sure the intention was for serious adults to stick these on toolboxes and garages to promote the sale of more product, but the companies didn't seem to care that the requests came in the form of hand written pencil letters that started "Dear Sir".

There were sheets of three hole punch notebook paper with hand written "addresses" that we would dutifully copy from one another with far away places in Michigan or Ohio. Some addresses worked and others were just dead ends.

The STP address always hit jackpot. Some were for products none of us knew anything about. What the heck was an oil filter? None of us knew but we knew you could trade a rare Fram for something you didn't have yet.

Some yielded multiple stickers per brown envelope, some a single but none were as treasured as the multicolored, shiny foiled fiery AC spark plug. 

Most of the stickers were just collected in large brown envelopes and brought to school to be traded. Extras were stuck to bedroom closet doors or to bedposts, much to my fathers annoyance. 

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Wing Bowl 25

What lies at the intersection of the WWE, Sports Radio, Competitive eating and Gentlemen's clubs?

Wing Bowl! 


And how did I get an all access back stage pass to Wing Bowl 25? I'm not really sure.  A friend of a friend (Mr C) has had the confetti concession since Wing Bowl VII. When his regular partner dropped out, Mr C invited me to participate in what may be the possibly be final Wing Bowl as part of the early rising confetti musket brigade. 

What is Wing Bowl? The uniquely Philadelphia tradition was started in 1993 by WIP sports radio as an "alternative" celebration to the Super Bowl, Mostly since the hosts were tired of Philly never being in the Superbowl, a competition was held in the lobby of a local hotel to see who could eat the most chicken wings. A hibachi was given to the winner. Why chicken wings? I believe Buffalo was a contestant that year and WIP was tired of Buffalo being in it - again. Hence "Buffalo Wings" were consumed.

It snowballed from there, eventually being held in the Spectrum and finally the Wells Fargo center. As a measure of how large it's grown, this year's winner was given a Hyundai Sante Fe and $10,000 - far cry from a hibachi.  

There's been talk that this 25th version might be the last.

It starts early. 6 AM. So that meant leaving my suburban home at 4:30. I accidentally woke the Chancellor sometime after 4. She asked if I was going into work and what time was it. No I'm not going to work this morning, I'm going to the Wing Bowl and it's 4 AM.

There was a deep laughter out of the darkness. 

Silly or not, off Mr C and I went, proudly wearing our all access credentials.


It turns out that the Friend of a Friend gets 12 such placards, I guessed he had 12 since it takes a lot of manpower to make the confetti machine run. 

Wrong. He gives out the placards to his friends some of whom make an effort at making it rain confetti and some who disappear into the crowd. 

I figured it was my first time in the confetti brigade so I'd better make an effort of it. Mr C did the same since we seemed to be the only sober members of the squad. 

What's the job? 

Wing Bowl makes a spectacle of the entrance of the Wing eating contestants by having them and their large entourage announced. Then they take a lap around the inside of the hockey glass. As they are announced, we spray confetti ahead of their path from the elevated stage, and thereby allow them a grand entrance. 

How do we do this? 
We use what can only be called a confetti musket. I called it a musket since it fires once and then must be taken "back stage", reloaded with confetti and recharged. The only thing missing is the big stick they ram down the barrel of the musket.

So for all 33 contestants, it's fire once, make your way through the sizable crowd on stage, go down the steps and refill you musket. Hopefully alternating muskets and refills so that each constant has confetti. It's all very loose.

Just look at that marvelous confetti shot.
I'm pretty sure that wasn't mine.

Our crack musket squad started with 3 such muskets and half a dozen active musketeers and half a dozen reserves.  The reserves are there in case one of us goes down and their primary responsibility seems to be taking pictures and getting on stage. Eventually even the active troops were reduced to Mr C, Friend of friend's brother and myself.  One formerly active troop member disappeared only to show up with a selfie with midgets ("look here's me and some midgets!) - all after the confetti had long since been spent on the floor. 

Shortly into the job, it became obvious that we should have drilled more. Or at least drilled some. No one told me one musket shot per entourage since ammunition is scarce and so the first eating contestant  got a double barrel. By the fifth one we were down a musket after one inexperienced soldier somehow shot confetti AND half the musket into the pageantry.  It was quite a scene when he had to retrieve it from the middle of the forming parade. 

Down a musket, things then got a bit frantic as we needed to run back stage, refill three canisters of confetti and replace the CO2 cartridge. In his hast, one inexperienced soldier replaced his CO2 without closing the firing valve, leading to a premature confetti firing backstage. 

Like I said, we should have drilled more.

In the end, I'm not sure anyone noticed or cared that we were less than sharp. They weren't there for the confetti. 

Oh, did I mention that every entourage has a gaggle of "Wingettes" to assist them on their journey around the arena? Well, Wingette is a more of a temporary annual position so many of the ladies are regularly employed in the dancing profession for most of the rest of the year. I'm fairly sure that no self respecting "dancer" stays home for Wing Bowl. Like I said, it is a spectacle.

During the down time, remote Jumbo-tron camera men roam the crowd sticking cameras where no camera should ever go - all to the delight of the crowd.

Backstage there seems to be common consensus that this is all just a little crazy. During my many scrambles to the reload station I can't tell you how many time the security staff and I made eye contact and just gave each other a knowing head shake as if to say, yep this all a little nuts.  

The number of inebriated crowd members isn't all that surprising since the seats are full of the same crowd that attends that other Philadelphia early winter morning  alcohol fueled circus - the Mummer's parade. This just happens to be 34 days later and indoors.

Just to give some further color to the event, one highlight of this year's crowd was a young woman walking back to the parking lot with two male friends. She held a beverage in one hand and a 3 foot trophy in the other. Yes, a three foot, multi-tiered trophy. It was green. 

Mr C and I watched in horror as she walked directly into a metal street pole. 

Beverage spilled up and out but amazingly she held on to the trophy and remained upright, seeming unmarked but woozy. Well more woozy.

Just a guess here, but I'm thinking the trophy was for some other event than "walking back to your car".

NSFW Pictures here.