Is There Any Food or Drink That is *Real* Anymore?

For some reason I actually believed that the "Simply" line of juices was one I could trust.  It seemed like the real deal.  I use these for mixers for most cocktails I make.  It tastes great and just seemed like something I could believe in.  Nope.  As is the case with most products, this line of juices is owned by Coca-Cola and is far from real.  Via The Chigagoist:

The batches from different crops and seasons are separated, based on orange type, sweetness, and acidity. Blend technicians follow Black Book instructions, adding natural flavors and fragrances captured during squeezing back into the juice to make up for the flavor lost in processing.

I joke about "flavor scientists" a lot.  The idea that there are scientists working in a lab to make things taste great but just aren't real.  We can joke about it but it is a real thing and it gets worse every day.  

Is there any juice that is real anymore?  Or do I need to start making my own?

Read the whole article here.

 

What the Hell is Xanthan Gum?

Xantan gum is commonly used in cooking

Xantan gum is commonly used in cooking

If you look at food labels of the things you eat, you've seen it.  It is in most of the foods we eat, and it has a funny name.  I've asked myself the question a thousand times: what the hell is xanthan gum?  Well I decided to do a little research for myself and anyone else out there who might be interested.  

So what is it really?  I felt WebMD had the most concise explanation:

Xanthan gum is a sugar-like compound made by mixing aged (fermented) sugars with a certain kind of bacteria.

It is found in tons of things, not just food products.  Wikipedia has a good breakdown of it's uses:

It helps to prevent oil separation by stabilizing the emulsion, although it is not an emulsifier. Xanthan gum also helps suspend solid particles, such as spices. Also used in frozen foods and beverages, xanthan gum helps create the pleasant texture in many ice creams, along with guar gum and locust bean gum. Toothpaste often contains xanthan gum, where it serves as a binder to keep the product uniform. Xanthan gum (when sometimes not made from wheat—see Allergies for gluten-free allergy information) is also used in gluten-free baking. Since the gluten found in wheat must be omitted, xanthan gum is used to give the dough or batter a "stickiness" that would otherwise be achieved with the gluten. Xanthan gum also helps thicken commercial egg substitutes made from egg whites, to replace the fat and emulsifiers found in yolks. It is also a preferred method of thickening liquids for those with swallowing disorders, since it does not change the color or flavor of foods or beverages at typical use levels.

Yikes sounds like it is in fact in everything we consume. 

So is xanthan gum bad for you?  In terms of my own research, the jury is still out.  While your health nut types will say "it isn't natural, therefore it is bad", there really isn't anything proven in terms of bad side effects.  Wikipedia mentions a case of an product with the main ingredient of xanthan gum being banned for possibly causing a certain disorder in infants, but a true link was never proven.  

I guess for me it seems like for now, xanthan gum isn't all that bad.  Also it seems like you would pretty much have to stop eating most foods to completely avoid it.  I guess for now I'll continue on eating things containing it as well as reading my labels and shaking my fist in the air yelling "XANTHAN GUMMMMMMMMM!" like I did on occasion before I did my research on it.  

Sources: 

Wikipedia 

WebMD

 

Bronwyn in Union Square

If someone asked you what the best German restaurant in the Boston area was, what would you say?  

I think most would default to Jacob Wirth in the Chinatown area but to me that place is more of a pub than a place trying to serve up authentic German cuisine.  And I'm sorry to say, their food is mediocre at best.  If you want true German fare, complete with beer  steins and the Octoberfest atmosphere to boot, you need to stop in at Bronwyn in Union Square.  

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I'm not one to give lengthy/wordy reviews so I'll just tell you what I liked and didn't like about Bronwyn.  

The Good:

  • Atmosphere - They really set the mood; I love the look, sound, and feeling of this place.  It almost feels like you've been transported to Central Europe. 

  • Communal seating - I LOVE this idea.  There are two large picnic style tables in the bar area were you can sit if you are by yourself or with a smaller group.  I saw some patrons taken aback by this when the hostess explained it to them. I guess some people just don't like sitting right next to other humans they don't know.

  • The food, good lord the food - I've only been here twice and each time I tried several different things.  Everything was perfect and I don't use that term lightly.  I can't wait to try more.

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  • Beverages - While I am not a beer man (allergies -> sad face) they had a great selection of wine and beer but also have a fully stocked bar with bartenders capable of whipping up any cocktail you might desire.

The "Bad":

  • Jam packed - Good for business, bad for you.  Both times I visited it was early evening maybe between 6 and 7pm and the place was full with a list of people in line for tables.  Since I was solo this was no problem but if you think you are walking in here at peak hours and sitting right down, think again.

  • Pricing - While I said the food I tried here was perfect, I don't think it warrants prices as high as they are when considering the portions.  Appetizers alone range from $8-$20 and a small dish of spätzle (enough to be just a small appetizer) while delicious, was $20.  This is why I can't recommend Bronwyn for a full course meal.  I'd recommend coming here for a quick bite and drink from time to time when you aren't starving but the portions are overpriced no matter how good they taste.  I don't think this will stop me from visiting again and trying other things on the menu.  
This is knödel. If you have anything at Bronwyn have this. Untitled

A few more things things to note:

  • They don't take reservations so either get their early or have a plan on what you want to do with your hour+ wait depending on what time you stop in.
  • Don't be intimidated by the menu.  Yes it is in German and you will miss-pronounce everything.  Guess what?  So will most other people that visit along with the servers and bartenders.  This is new to almost everyone.  
  • Please! If you have anything try the Knödel!  Do it; I'm serious.

Bronwyn is located at 255 Washington Street in Union Square Somerville.  It the best German restaurant in the Boston area until someone can show me one better.  

bronwynrestaurant.com

 

Sandwiches Wiki Page

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Through the power of Twitter I was led to this awesome wiki page all about sandwiches

I am a sandwich fiend.  I could eat some type of sandwich for any meal of the day and could probably do so for the rest of my life.  You can imagine why this list might be absolute heaven for me.  Some of my personal favorites:

The French Dip

The Cuban

The Monte Cristo

The Bàhn mì

Oh, and for good measure, this

Dragonfruit is Good

I'm sure you might have heard of dragon fruit but it is likely you've never tried it.  Well I took the plunge this weekend and I have to say: get on it!

I first saw dragon fruit in a stupid facebook game.  I honestly have never seen it in real life until until this weekend when I visited by my local Super 88, and Asian supermarket. 

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It isn't that expensive, was easy to cut and prepare, and I hear it makes a for a great smoothie ingredient.  The actual fruit itself is soft almost like a pear mixed with a watermelon, and it tastes a bit like kiwi.  

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Some fun facts about dragon fruit:

  • Dragon fruit only got its name from Asian countries like China and Vietnam.  It is actaly native to Mexico, Central America, and South America.

  • It is also known as pitaya, nanitikafruit, and strawberry pear

  • Dragon fruit is rich in carbohydrates, protein, calcium, iron and phosphorus. It also provides large amounts of niacin (vitamin B3) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The fruit is rich in water and fiber, and contains significant quantities of phytaolbumin antioxidants, which prevent formation of cancer-causing free radicals.

I'm definitely going to buy some more, and I suggest you give it a shot too.

Sources: 

Wikipedia  //  ehow.com