Saturday, January 30, 2010

snow leopard

Abby Ham realized the problem right away. She knew some blog readers will mistakenly assume I have a shoe fetish. However her choice of footwear on a cold, slushy day makes it worth the risk.

Abby and her husband stopped by while I was working at the radio station's booth at the Healthy Living Expo. One of the first things she said was that she had worn the wrong shoes for the weather. I told her about the last three times the shoes of local news anchors had appeared on my blog. She agreed that it would still be funny to add her pumps to my online collection.

Of all the supermarkets in Knoxville, it made sense that Earth Fare would be the one with a booth at the Healthy Living Expo. I tried several of their free samples, including coffee from the Vienna Coffee Company in Maryville and chocolate milk from Cruze Farm in Knoxville.

One of the last things you might expect to see at the Healthy Living Expo would be a group of zombies. However when the familiar notes of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" played over the speakers, the zombies literally crawled out from under the tables. One or two of them grabbed my legs as they crawled to the stage where they did an outstanding job of replicating the dance from the music video.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

tuna helper

"Why does this always happen to me?" was the question I posed to my son as we left the grocery store this afternoon. Once again, I had challenged the scanned price of an item and been proven correct by the tag on the shelf. I was also referring to the discontinuation of another product I liked.

When StarKist reduced the size of their tuna cans from 6 ounces to 4½, I stopped buying them. I briefly switched to Bumble Bee until they reduced their can size too. I was happy to discover Crown Prince Natural in 6 ounce cans. Their cost per ounce was less than StarKist.

Food City usually sold Crown Prince Natural Albacore Tuna for $2.45 a can. Today I saw a shelf tag I simultaneously love and dread. It said, "Clearance Item: $1.23." I put all the cans marked "no salt added" into my cart. At that price, I also chose two cans of the regular tuna, figuring that I could occasionally handle the extra 75mg of sodium.

At the checkout, some of the cans scanned at $1.23 but some scanned at $2.45. I held up the line and caused other shoppers to go to another cashier while the store manager went to check the shelf price. It required some override codes on the manager's part but I eventually got my tuna at the lower price. Now I'm in the market for a new tuna supplier while being careful not to break off the pull tab of my remaining cans.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

candy planned

The candy spotted by my friend Keith made no sense for late December. He emailed me on the Second Day of Christmas to report that the Kroger on S. Northshore Drive was selling Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. When I saw him at church the next morning, I asked if he thought they were left over from last Easter. No, a clerk told Keith that the eggs had just arrived.

My family and I stopped at a Sheetz convenience store on New Year's Day. In addition to the Reese's eggs, they had a whole assortment of Easter candy including Almond Joy Eggs, Easter Dots, Jolly Rancher Jelly Beans, Cadbury Creme Eggs and Cadbury Caramel Eggs.

The item that caught my eye and pried 99¢ plus tax from my wallet will be obvious to most readers of this blog. In fact, I had recently mentioned that I was anxious to try a chocolate-covered Marshmallow Peep. In my excitement, I hastily purchase a Peep covered with milk chocolate, momentarily forgetting that I had intended to hold out for the dark chocolate variety.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

swine tasting

To get a little publicity for their product or service, companies will sometimes send a free sample to media types like me. Last year I got some different flavors of Fischer & Wieser condiments after I professed my love for their Original Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.

I recently got another condiment in the mail. The name "Baconnaise" made me think it would be too rich for my diet. The nutritional information for Baconnaise Lite convinced me otherwise. It compared favorably to the Hellmann's Light Mayonnaise that I am allowed to have. Hellmann's actually has 5 more calories and 25 more milligrams of sodium.

I found the taste very enjoyable. I sometimes put a dollop of Baconnaise on the chicken I have for breakfast or lunch. It's not an everyday thing but a nice alternative to the cheapo barbecue sauce I get at Food City and the super-expensive raspberry chipotle sauce, which is sold at Earth Fare and Kroger Marketplace.

Along with the Baconnaise, the company sent a sample of their Bacon Salt. While my blood pressure should rise just by saying the name aloud, the product is actually low in sodium. Perhaps most surprising is that Bacon Salt is kosher. The inventors were inspired to share the taste of bacon with some Jewish friends who are prohibited from eating it.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

gorpedo factory

Smart people know not to go food shopping while hungry because of the impulse purchases that happen as a result. Apparently I am not a smart person.

Today I went to Walmart to buy some excellent peaches at 98¢ per pound. I saw an endcap display of trail mix that made me want some. I thought back to a year ago when we were filming "Fish Bait," which was the last time I had any trail mix. I also thought ahead to the two upcoming road trips to Virginia that my wife and I will be taking. It would be nice to have a treat for the car that was still deliciously decadent while better than the junk food available at convenience stores along the route.

The mixes were labeled Great Value, which I assume is a Walmart brand. I wanted something with lots of pineapple but the tropical mix also had coconut, which my wife can't eat. Another bag had white chocolate chips, which I reject totally. Even the real chocolate chips would be a bad choice in a hot car. The mix containing regular M&Ms gave me an idea. Why not make my own trail mix?

I wandered over to the dried fruit aisle and starting grabbing Great Value products. Raisins, banana slices and apricots were obvious choices. The only dried pineapple on the shelf was from Mariani. I took two bags of that. I tossed some apple slices, dried cherries and mixed berries into my basket. Next it was off to the snack aisle to get some mixed nuts and the only M&Ms worth their calories. I picked up a bag of peanut and a bag of regular Dark Chocolate M&Ms.

When I got home and combined all the ingredients, they filled two one-gallon Ziploc bags. Then I looked at the receipt and realized I not only had some of the best tasting trail mix of all time, I had some of the most expensive trail mix of all time.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

thanks for noticin'

A couple of things struck me as weird on store shelves in St. Louis. My wife and I went to Lowe's to make a copy of the key to Aunt Dee's apartment. It was the first time we had seen Disney's latest effort to reach the latchkey kid market. Several characters were represented but we felt that Eeyore was the most appropriate.

At a Shop 'n Save, we saw another product targeted toward children. The bottled water label must have said "Aquapod," however it looked worse. You tell me what you think it says. I was reminded of the Clean Smart sign and of the brave Alcoa lifeguards that I wrote about last year.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

shop around

There's a particular brand of fat-free salad dressing that I have been buying at Food City for the past few years. I have made a point of only shopping at the specific locations (Bearden and Morrell Road) that stock Henri's. The cost per ounce made it more affordable than smaller bottle's of Ken's fat-free dressings.

Food City recently raised the price of my favorite dressing to well over $4 a bottle, which gave me reason to try another brand. The honey mustard variety of Eating Right Salad Dressing looks watery but for the price, I'm willing to put up with it. The current sale price is $2.50 a bottle. It's flavor is more mustard than honey, whereas Henri's is more honey than mustard. Eating Right dressing has ten fewer calories and 135 fewer mg of sodium than Henri's.

It's a little odd to me that Food City carries products from Eating Right, which is a Safeway brand. Food City recently denied rumors that they might be sold to Publix.

I've also tried a cheaper barbecue sauce, hoping my family will like it. I had been paying over $3 a bottle for Sticky Fingers Memphis Original Barbecue Sauce. It tastes great but to save some money, I bought a one-gallon jug of Corky's Bar-B-Q sauce at Sam's Club. When we finally finished the jug, I went to Sam's to buy a new one. As is their habit, they had discontinued the item.

While at Food City, I started comparing labels and prices of the different BBQ sauces on the shelf. Some had too many calories. Others had too much sodium. Most cost too much. Sticky Fingers has only 35 calories and 240 mg of sodium but the price is high. Corky's had 40 calories and 310 mg of sodium. After considering the Jack Daniel's sauces, I finally picked up a bottle of a store brand and was surprised by what I saw. The Valu Time BBQ sauce has 45 calories per serving and only 190 mg of sodium. Best of all, it cost 96 cents. Although my wife and son still prefer the name brands, the taste of Valu Time is completely satisfactory to me. I should have tried buying it a lot sooner.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

balancing act

At church parties and other functions, I often find myself trying to hold a cup or bottle of water and a paper plate of food in one hand while using a plastic fork or spoon with the other hand. I saw a clever invention at Kroger yesterday that would theoretically solve the problem. The Go Plate sits on top of your beverage can, bottle or cup. The side of the package warns that the Go Plate should not be microwaved and that "extremely hot food will deform plate." The best part is the reminder to "remove beverage from the Go Plate to drink."

I thought about buying some but resisted when I thought about how weird it might be for me to bring my own plate to somebody's party. Am I wrong?

P.S. Yes, that is Old Yeller dog food in the background.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

kid in a candy shop

The folks at Earth Fare invited me over for pre-opening tour of their new Bearden store. It's across Kingston Pike from Mayo Garden Center in a building that has been vacant since Bi-Lo moved out several years ago. The "healthy supermarket" opens Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. The first 100 shoppers will get a goodie bag. 5% of store sales and the proceeds from one dollar hot dog and burger sales will go to the Beardsley Community Farm.

A sign in the produce section spells out Earth Fare's food philosophy. Of all the things they prohibit, I'm most pleased by the bans on high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. If they slip up and you catch them, you get a $50 gift card for every banned ingredient you spot. Clerks stocked the shelves and workmen adjusted the fixtures while I was there. Once the store opens, I can picture myself getting lunch at the salad bar or even at the sushi counter.

The bulk foods section offers a variety of trail mixes, snacks and unusual grains. My tour guides, Troy DeGroff and Nicole St. Charles suggested I taste the Carob Peanut Clusters, which were excellent. Later when they left me alone to take pictures and try some other snacks, I was blown away by the Chocolate English Toffee. No wonder it's $20 a pound. Both products come from SunRidge Farms.

Troy offered me samples of some organic foods and the opportunity to compare their labels with popular mainstream brands. Earth Fare's organic peanut butter was good, their organic blueberry conserves were outstanding. I was very pleasantly surprised by an Oreo alternative. The stuff inside Country Choice Organic Sandwich Cremes was soft and delicious. Best of all, there was enough of it. I didn't feel shortchanged.

One of the managers (based on his name tag, it might have even been the CEO) told me that photography is not normally allowed in their stores. Because I was there for a media preview, I was permitted to take pictures. I was reminded of both an upscale grocery store in St. Louis and a downscale store in Knoxville where I was asked me to put my camera away. Fortunately I was able to take a picture of an interesting dispenser for first cold press extra virgin olive oil. I didn't notice until I got home that the "Fresh Grassy Overtones" qualify for

I was thrilled to see my all-time favorite condiment, Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, on the shelf. A brand of spaghetti sauce made me wish my dad was still around. I would have liked to ask him if Rao's Homemade has any connection to the Mr. Rao who lived across the street from us in Crestwood, New York. If there isn't already a band named Hot Pickled Okra & Dilly Beans, there certainly ought to be. I should call WDVX and ask them.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

take a look at that centerpiece

Chef Walter is celebrating his 20th anniversary at WVLT. I happened to be doing some grocery shopping at the same time as he was returning that day's featured arrangement to the floral department at Food City Bearden the other day. When I said hello, he said it had been a while since he saw me last. It was at a March of Dimes gala last fall.

I was pretty happy about my shopping that day. I wanted to get as much food as I could without going over a certain amount. It's like my own private game of "The Price Is Right." On Sunday I had purchased a Community Cash card worth $50. My total spent at the store was $49.63. Woo hoo!

Chef Walter wasn't familiar with the Community Cash cards. I suggested that he give them a plug during his daily cooking segment. The cards are sold at many area churches, including All Saints. The churches buy the cards at a discount from the grocery stores and sell them at face value to their parishioners. All Saints makes a 5% profit on their sales of Food City, Kroger and Fresh Market gift cards. It's a painless way to help support the parish.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

piercing wit

People of my grandparents' generation had a joke about a brand of pipe tobacco. They would call a store and ask if they had Prince Albert in a can. The clerk would say "yes" and the prankster would say "well, you better let him out!"

With the passing of time, that joke has run its course. I may have found a product at Publix that could take up the slack. An Arnold Palmer is a lemonade and iced tea drink named after the famous golfer. The country club staple is now available in cans.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

stew in your own juice

Because we were directed around to the back of the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum on Saturday, my son and I found ourselves in the entertainers and vendors parking area of a local street festival. Before heading into the museum, we made a quick tour of the various tents and booths at the Jupiter Jazz & Art Festival.

In one tent, a man and his wife were offering tastes of their barbeque sauce on tortilla chips and small pieces of rice cake. I tried both the mild and hot varieties of Rodney’s Backyard Barbeque Sauce and ultimately bought a bottle as much for the story behind it as for the taste of it.

Rodney had been making his own sauce at home for years. He got hooked up with a Florida company called IPAC, which bottles products for dreamers like him to sell for themselves whether online, at festivals or door-to-door. Rodney said that the head of IPAC was some sort of well-educated genius who got tired of the corporate rat race. I found an article about another guy who uses IPAC to bottle his comically-but-crudely-named hot sauce.

My son and I used Rodney’s sauce to season some boneless, skinless chicken breasts that we bought on sale at Publix. We’ll have to try to finish the bottle while we’re in Florida because I don’t think the TSA will let me bring more than three ounces of it on the plane.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

fat Tuesday

Comedian Pat Godwin wrote a note on my wall Sunday that asked "who is that thin guy in your profile photo?" It was a callback to our conversation at the old Comedy Zone a year and a half ago. I wrote back that I might dare to post a "before" photo that he would recognize. The inspiration to do so came during lunch today when I chose a sauce for my chicken.

When my wife and I went to the fancy Kroger this weekend, I noticed that they carry the delicious Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce that I love. They sell the 15.75 ounce bottles for $7.49, which is more than the $6.87 I used to pay for a 40 ounce bottle at Sam's Club.

The word chipotle caught my eye on another label I knew. Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q has a new Spicy Chipotle B-B-Q Sauce that I wanted to try. I bought a 16 ounce bottle for $2.99. It's noticeably spicier than their regular sauce, which I've used in the past.

The message from Pat and the bottle of sauce combined to make me flashback to a trip my family took to Atlanta in May, 2005. We ate at the Williamson Bros. restaurant in nearby Marietta. It was still four months before I started the weight loss program that changed my life.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

that would have me as a member

Over the holidays, the rest of my family climbed aboard the Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce bandwagon that I have been riding since last April. My wife poured some over cream cheese and served it to us with crackers. My daughter liked it so much that she asked if she could take one of the two 40-ounce bottles I had in the pantry. I was happy to give it to her, since I could just pick up a replacement bottle at Sam's Club, right? Wrong.

As usual, the cashier at Sam's asked "did you find everything okay?" I had to honestly respond, "no." I couldn't find the sauce that they had gotten me hooked on, then taken away, then brought back. Now it was gone again. The cashier said I wasn't the only one who had been asking about it. She said that a married couple had been buying the sauce regularly to serve in their restaurant. Apparently they had built a menu item around the magical condiment.

In mid-February, my wife has to bring an appetizer to a pot luck luncheon at her job. She plans to serve Raspberry Chipotle Sauce over cream cheese. She might want to try it with Ginger Snaps instead of crackers. I have been conserving whatever sauce is left in my bottle so she will have enough. Otherwise I can suggest that she try using the bottle of Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce or the bottle of Granny's Peach 'n' Pepper Pourin' Sauce that I have in the pantry. Granny says it's the easiest snack ever.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

fa ra ra ra ra

Are you thinking about Valentine's Day? Let me explain. Dave and Melanie, the full-time RVing married couple who work at the See's Candies kiosk in West Town Mall, told me something interesting yesterday. They will work here until the day after Christmas, then they will hop in their RV and head to Florida for January. The big news is that they will be back in Knoxville in time to reopen the kiosk and sell you some Valentine's chocolates for your sweetheart. In past years, the kiosk was only open for the month prior to Christmas.

I also went to Dollar General Market yesterday to get some River Ranch Garden Salad. At $1.25 a pound, it costs less than the so-called gourmet salad at Sam's Club. Last week, it was on sale for only $1 a pound, which is cheaper than even the bland, shredded lettuce I've been buying at Sam's. As I was leaving, I passed a guy delivering several cases of Valentine's Day cards from American Greetings. I will have to go back and find out if they put the cards on display before or after Christmas.

In other food store news, today was opening day for a new Asian supermarket on Kingston Pike. The first thing I saw as I walked in the door at the Sunrise Supermarket was a refrigerator case with fully cooked whole ducks, not far from some stacks of preserved duck eggs.

As I passed through the produce section I noticed that they had three kinds of apples: red, green and Fuji. They also had a sign warning "Caution Spiny Fruit" for something called frozen Durian. It's known for its foul odor, which must be why they keep it frozen.


Beyond the produce, I saw plenty of various pork parts. They had ears, feet, kidneys, livers, tongues and stomachs. I also saw large containers of pork blood, trays of beef honeycomb, fresh goat meat and individual chicken feet on ice. Over in the seafood section they had many fresh and frozen varieties of fish. I was fascinated by the things that were still alive. They had live blue crabs, lobsters, Dungeness crabs, catfish and Tilapia.

On my way out, I spied a stack of books in a rack near the door. Who knew there was such a thing as the Chinese Yellow Pages for the Southeast U.S.A?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

mother-flunking shame

Fluffernutters were the topic of conversation when our friend Mary called from California the other day. She thought of me as she and her son were spreading Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter onto graham crackers. I told her that I put a piece of paper in the suggestion box at The Cupcakery on Friday with my requests for Fluffernutter, S'mores and Rocky Road cupcakes.

While on the topic of sweets, Mary asked if I had heard the sad news about Mother's Cookies going out of business. I told her yes, and that I had also heard about their sister brand Archway Cookies biting the dust. I was a big fan of their soft oatmeal cookies before my weight loss. Unfortunately for one fan, the company's closing has made her Halloween costume obsolete.

My wife had forwarded a Slashfood post about Mother's Cookies to me with a note wondering what snack parents would send to school with their kids. She served as Head Room Mother for several years while our kids were at St. Finbar School and remembered that most events with refreshments involved a big platter of the circus animal cookies that Mother's made.

Maybe fans of the frosted animal cookies need not despair. I saw a bag of a similar product made by Keebler while at Food City yesterday.

When I told our friend what my wife had said about Mother's Cookies, she informed me how things have changed since we moved away from Burbank. Mary and her family recently moved from Orange County to Riverside County. In both jurisdictions, the school system prohibits parents from sending in any cookies, cakes or cupcakes to share with the class for student birthdays. No wonder Mother's went out of business! Instead parents may send granola bars or non-food items like pencils. That will last until someone gets hurt. Be careful, you'll put an eye out kid!

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

sorry Charlie

Doug McCaughan used to have a picture on his site of a t-shirt that said "Don't Make Me Blog You." That was exactly my thought today when I was buying a can of tuna fish at Food City.

The shopping trip had started out well. I saw the Tennessee Traveler vehicle parked out front of the supermarket and knew that Alan Williams must be inside. He was just getting in the checkout line and paused to say hi. He said it had been a while since he had seen me. I mentioned that I had recently seen him on stage at the Tennessee Theatre when WVLT did their local upfront presentation. On the way home, I thought about the time I invited Alan, Gene Patterson and Ted Hall to judge a turkey cooking contest. I was with a now-defunct oldies station at the time. Each anchorman judged a different day of the three-day competition leading up to Thanksgiving.

I had driven over to Bearden to patronize one of the few Food City stores that still carries my favorite fat-free salad dressing. During my weight loss, I also switched brands of chicken and tuna. I only buy cans of StarKist that are marked not just "Low Sodium" but "Very Low Sodium." Tuna was a good choice for me on days I felt especially hungry. My serving size for chicken is five ounces. For turkey and most types of fresh fish, it's four ounces. For beef, it's only three ounces. However, I am allowed to eat a whole six-ounce can of low sodium tuna. That's why I got so mad at StarKist today when I took a can off the shelf and realized it had been downsized to four-and-a-half ounces. Boo StarKist! Now I have to look for a store that carries the very low sodium variety of Bumble Bee or Chicken of the Sea in six-ounce cans.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

it felt so wrong, it felt so right

First my local Sam's Club gets me hooked on Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce by offering free samples of it with cream cheese on a cracker. Then they run out of it and don't restock. Same with my bottled water. Now they have replaced the salad I eat every day with a more expensive gourmet version.

Because of all this, I have a confession to make. I cheated on my regular Sam's with the Sam's Club on the other side of town. We were over that way on Friday to see an ABBA/Batman double feature at the theatre inside Knoxville Center Mall. It didn't take long to discover that the other Sam's also carries Taylor Farms Garden Gourmet Salad (now with green leaf lettuce and radicchio) instead of the more affordable stuff I had hoped for. Things got better fast when I found plenty of Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and Deer Park one liter bottles. I put three bottles of one and two cases of the other in my cart. The different Sam's had done well by me.

No sooner had I gotten home from stocking up on my current favorite condiment when an email arrived from Fischer & Wieser. They are offering one free bottle of their newest flavor, Roasted Blackberry Chipotle Sauce, with any online purchase until July 31. Maybe I can make a little more room in the pantry.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

wherehouse store

Based on the big crowds at Sam's Club today you would have thought that a blizzard was coming. Despite the economy, people were stocking up for the Fourth of July. I was there just to get my regular groceries. They didn't have any of the one liter bottles of Deer Park water. The clerks told me they haven't had them for a while and probably never will again. Boo! I always take one of the bottles with me to the Einstein Simplified show on Tuesday nights.

It was no surprise that Sam's had run out of Jennie-O ground turkey again. That happens all the time. However the lack of Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce was a big disappointment. I hope it gets restocked soon. The sauce recently appeared out of nowhere to become my new favorite condiment. I wrote about it here when I bought my first bottle back in April. I just finished my second bottle of it this afternoon before heading out to Sam's.

My friend Bean gets some great responses to his blogs. For example, novelty singer Dr. Elmo recently posted a comment on Christmas Music Everyday and the son of novelty singer Dickie Goodman sent Bean an email. That's all well and good but I got a pretty good email response to my blog entry about the raspberry chipotle sauce. The company that makes it wrote to invite me to sample some of their other products!

My wife and son fooled me into thinking that I had gotten one extra present on Father's Day. They brought forth a large gift bag for me to open. In it was a box from Fischer & Wieser with the three free samples they had sent. I got a jar of Mom's Pasta Sauce, a bottle of Guacamole Starter and a bottle of Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce, which obviously is the first one I opened. Pomegranate and chipotle are two of my favorite tastes. The sauce is very good although I would have preferred a little more pomegranate and a little less mango.

In the accompanying press kit, I learned that the company also makes "The Beverly Hillbillies" brand of sauces. I think Jethro needs to send me a bottle since I'm such a fan.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

could there be a connection?

There were two bottles of Henri's Fat-Free Honey Mustard Salad Dressing on the shelf at the Bearden Food City tonight. As my wife put them in our cart, I realized that they were the same bottles that remained after I bought all but those two last week. One still had their old-style label.

The Food City on Middlebrook Pike put Henri's on a close-out special last week. Does that mean it will be discontinued at all their locations or just that one? Chicken and salad dressing are the two main reasons we switched from Kroger to Food City. I may be looking to switch supermarkets again if I can't continue to get the fat-free Henri's.

Hometown Favorites charges the same price for Henri's as Food City. I have to decide if it's worth paying added cost of shipping and handling. I couldn't find a website for the Henri's brand, just for its parent company, ACH Food Companies in Memphis.

I wish I could buy Henri's dressing as cheaply as the two Chicago-area crooks who got it for only 3¢ a bottle. That wasn't their crime. It was relabeling the bottles to change the expiration date and reselling them to stores. Setting up a toll-free hotline to lie to customers didn't help them either. One of these creative criminal minds is was a movie director.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

h-e-double toothpicks

For a recent birthday celebration, my wife and I bought some Culpitt Party Candles at Food City. As with almost anything nowadays, this product was made in China. Perhaps that explains why the letters that are supposed to spell "over the hill" instead spelled "over the hell." If you look closely at the back of the packages, you can see that one has an "I" while the other has an "E." You just know which one we had to buy.

Later, we played our own version of Jumble with the candles and came up with a few other possibilities, including some not pictured here.

PS: You can't get a fancy cupcake in this town on a Sunday. The three bakeries that I checked were all closed.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

retirement fund

The A&P was synonymous for "grocery store" when I was growing up even though my mother also shopped at Finast, Waldbaum's and Grand Union. In fact, she would usually compare the sales flyers in advance and then go to two or three supermarkets in one trip to get the best deals from each.

The heir to the A&P fortune didn't care too much about getting the best deals. Huntington Hartford's obituaries are the most interesting things I've read all day. According to the reports, he squandered $80 million of his $90 million inheritance. I don't know about you, but I could certainly get by on the leftover $10 million.

Let me share some of the best parts with you. From The New York Times:
Huntington went to Harvard, studying English literature and graduating in 1934. He went to work for his uncles at the company’s headquarters, then housed in the Graybar Building next to Grand Central Terminal, where his job was to keep track of sales of bread and pound cake. But he was often absent. In 1934 he defiantly took a day off to attend the Harvard-Yale football game. That ended his career in the family business. Yale won, 14-0.

In 1940, Mr. Hartford tried being a reporter for the New York newspaper PM, after putting up $100,000 to help get the paper started. If nothing else, the experience produced one of the all-time great excuses for missing deadline: he once sailed his yacht to cover an assignment on Long Island, and upon returning to the city could find no place to tie up and come ashore with the story.

With the start of World War II, he donated the yacht to the Coast Guard. In return he was given the command of a modest supply ship in the Pacific. He ran it aground twice — once, he said later, because his navigational charts were out of date, the other time because "I mistook feet for fathoms."
From The Washington Post:
His excesses cost him financially and personally. He had unexpectedly ascetic habits in some pockets of his life, such as a disinclination to drink alcohol. But his fourth marriage, in the 1970s, marked a turning point. According to a 2004 Vanity Fair magazine report, that last wife, a Fort Lauderdale hairdresser a decade his junior, introduced Mr. Hartford to cocaine, amphetamines and quaaludes.

He was hospitalized at least once for an overdose, and his fourth wife remained a destructive presence in his life for years. His apartment at One Beekman Place in New York became the site of violent encounters involving transient visitors. He was once left for hours writhing in pain after falling and breaking a hip.

When he made the news, it was usually for something unsavory, such as the fourth wife's assault on his secretary.
It looks like Hartford had one good idea that could have increased his wealth if he had been able to get a gambling license for Paradise Island. From the Times again:
Costlier still was Mr. Hartford’s makeover of Hog Island, in the Bahamas. After buying four-fifths of the place in 1959 and having it renamed Paradise Island, he set about developing a resort with the construction of the Ocean Club and other amenities. Advisers persuaded him to stop short of exotic attractions like chariot races, but, overextended and unable to get a gambling license, he wound up losing an estimated $25 million to $30 million.
Missed it by that much.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

junior samples

Part of the fun of a trip to Sam's Club is getting the free samples in the food section. The pizza's not bad either. I've noticed that there are more sampling stations on Fridays than on Mondays.

Most of the products being sampled are things I would never buy. I can enjoy a small taste of a fattening food without buying a gigantic package of it. For that reason, I try to slip away before the Sam's staffers do their soft sell. They usually will say "those are only (price) and they're on the shelf right here." Some of the ladies will look right at you and wait for you to put a package of whatever it is in your cart. However the lady who usually serves fresh fruit samples is always pleasantly conversant. On her advice, I've tried a different type of apple and stocked up on navel oranges, which have been especially good this year.

My standard operating procedure changed the other day when I tasted a sample of a spread on a cracker. It was simultaneously sweet and spicy and fruity and smoky, all flavors I love. Without even looking at the price, I grabbed a 40 ounce bottle of Fischer & Wieser Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce. I hesitated just long enough to check the label for the amount of calories and sodium per serving. Only 40 calories and 60 milligrams of sodium. Sold!

Despite the shape of the bottle, its consistency is more like jelly than BBQ sauce. The sample lady had put a dollop of the jelly sauce on top of a schmear of cream cheese on a cracker. I don't bother with any of that. I just pour the sauce directly onto my five ounces of chicken. Next time we have turkey, I will use it instead of cranberry sauce.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

yuck boo yum

Supermarket shelves are currently stocked with a variety of Easter candy, including a couple of items that I hadn't seen before. Sam's Club had a big stack of Edible Easter Grass made by Galerie au Chocolat. If you've ever ended up with plastic grass stuck to your jelly bean, edible grass seems like a fine idea. However if it's made of white chocolate, it could end up as a melted mess in the bottom of your basket. Yuck.

Milk chocolate fans usually want their bunny, whether hollow or solid. The package for Palmer's Too Tall Bunny amused me while I was at Food City the other day. You see, his ears are so big, they don't fit in the box. My enthusiasm quickly waned when I saw some guy with annoying sound effects prove on YouTube that the bunny is not too tall at all. The box has a false bottom. Boo!

I'm more of a dark chocolate and marshmallow fan. The folks at Candy Blog have described a Lindor Truffle Egg that sounds pretty good. I couldn't find any of them but I did see a different holiday treat at the Food City on Morrell Road. Until now, I had always thought that people who keep Kosher were denied the pleasure of eating marshmallows. That includes Marshmallow Peeps which are not Kosher
even if they are "always in season" nowadays. It's because marshmallows are made with gelatin and gelatin is made from animal bones and connective tissues, hence the non-Kosherness. Anyway, this store has a pretty big selection of Passover products. Wedged in among the Manischewitz were packages of Granny's Toasted Marshmallows by Rokeach. So how does a bag of marshmallows get a Pareve insignia on the label? Turns out that these coconut-covered treats are made from "kosher fish gelatine." Yum?

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

hope your day is snappy

The rule of three compels me to write about "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" today. The show, which was a childhood favorite of mine, turned up on my pop culture radar three times in the past few days. Jimmy Kimmel celebrated the 40th anniversary of the classic PBS program with some of his famous Unnecessary Censorship.

Then I saw a news story that Speedy Deliveryman Mr. McFeely is on YouTube urging us to wear a sweater on March 20 because it would have been Fred Rogers' 80th birthday. Mr. McFeely is played by David Newell, another of the people I interviewed for "Where Are They Wednesday?" on the oldies station. Did you know that McFeely was actually Fred Rogers' middle name? It was also the last name of his grandfather. TV's Mr. McFeely says we can send photos or videos of ourselves wearing sweaters via email (the speediest delivery) to

I saw yet another reminder of Mister Rogers while shopping at Food City. They're having a sweater drive that ends this Friday. David Newell was in Knoxville last month to promote it. I missed him on "Live at Five" but thanks to the Internet, I can still see the interview.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

jell-o shots and pillows

Tonight was the first Einstein Simplified show of the year. A larger-than-usual crowd showed up to watch us knock off the cobwebs after a month-long Christmas hiatus. We have to get the audience back in the habit of voting for us in the Improv Top 50. A high school group from Huntington Beach has been challenging our number one position lately.

One of the bigger tables at tonight's performance was occupied by a singles group who had organized their night out on Two of the singles told me they would get the group to come to our show again.

When I'm downtown, I'm more likely to get recognized from the improv stage than from the radio. It happened about a month ago at Regas Restaurant when we had a waiter who used to work at Patrick Sullivan's. That's not to say I don't sometimes get recognized from being on the air. On the day after Christmas, a sales clerk at the Eddie Bauer outlet in Pigeon Forge told my wife that she knew it was me from my voice. She listens enough to know my wife's name too. My favorite story about being recognized happened the other day at Sam's Club. Neither my job nor my hobby meant anything to the lady who serves fresh fruit samples. She just knew that I was a regular shopper and sampler.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

flavor fave

As popular as "American Idol" is, I shouldn't have been so surprised to see the familiar logo filling an ice cream case at my local Wal-Mart. The punsters at Edy's / Dreyer's must have worked overtime to come up with five new flavor names: One Split Wonder, Mint Karaoke Cookie, Cookies 'n Dreamz, Cheesecake Diva and one that Vols fans will love, Most Orange-inal.

For the uninitiated, Edy's is the brand name they use in the East. It's known as Dreyer's out West. Kind of like Hellmann's mayonnaise, which is called Best Foods west of the Rockies.

My extensive research shows that Dreyer's did this last year too, with five different flavors that had names not quite as clever as this year's. Did you try Take the Cake, Choc 'n Roll Caramel, Hollywood Cheesecake, Soulful Sundae Cone or Triple Talent?

Season 6 Idol contestant Melinda Doolittle and another guy I barely remember host a website where you can vote for your favorite new slow-churned flavor. I wonder who was on the Edy's website last year? Melissa McGhee and Kevin Covais? How about Scott Savol?

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

too many nogs, not enough time

They were offering samples of egg nog in tiny Dixie cups at Sam's Club today. It was not thick enough or sweet enough for my taste. Instead I stopped off at Weigel's on the way home and bought two small containers of their egg nog, which went directly into my freezer.

This past August, I finally drank the Weigel's egg nog I had frozen in 2005. At four ounces per serving, it took me four days to finish the pint. It still tasted great, which is why I decided to freeze two pints this year. Like two years ago, I wanted to find bottles with an expiration date of 12-25. They only had 12-20, 12-22 and 12-29. I almost didn't buy any. Fortunately I got over my little obsessive moment and bought the 12-29 since it would be freshest.

I know that I will have to watch my calories for the rest of my life. It's tough this time of year because of the abundance of treats to tempt my sweet tooth. I would love to have a scoop of egg nog ice cream at Baskin-Robbins but I'm not sure if I'll get around to it. My starchy dance card has been filled lately with things like the slice of pie I had at the company Christmas party tonight, the piece of cake I had after Tuesday's improv show or the Christmas cookies our family will bake in the week ahead.

Another treat I'm curious to try but probably won't is boiled custard. I'm not exactly sure what it would taste like, although I did find a recipe on a blog that described it as egg nog without the nog. Does that mean it tastes like just egg? I saw some boiled custard at Kroger the other day, alongside some pumpkin egg nog. That's something else I would like to try but I won't buy a half gallon container. I might be tempted to drink the whole thing.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

have yourself a meery little Christmas

How can you get a five dollar discount on a delicious sheet cake at the supermarket bakery? I found out tonight at the last Einstein Simplified show of the year (we're now off until January 15). Loyal audience member Tom brought the cake to share with us after the performance. He had inadvertently placed the order with an employee whose English wasn't quite as good as that of the rest of the staff. Or maybe she's just a huge fan of Meerkat Manor.

Joann Dunkle used to come to the Einstein Simplified shows and expressed an interest in joining the group before she moved to Chicago. Now that she's living in the improv Mecca, she's taking a class at ComedySportz. I got an email from her this morning with a link to a local news story about the class. She wrote that you can see her briefly near the end of the story playing two games with reporter Mark Saxenmeyer.

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