Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 in Review: Food

This is the fifth entry in my blog series reviewing 2013. Previous entries include those on television, books, movies, and music.

Since the latter half of 2013, Melanie and I don’t go out to eat as much as we once did. That’s a good thing, for a variety of reasons, but the change wasn’t a noble one. Really, it’s a lack of enticing options in Tallahassee that has prevented us from wasting our money on dining out. Only a few eateries are worth our time and money … or at least are tempting enough to trick us into believing they are worth our time and money. Among those is Bagelheads, a Christian bagel shop that makes some delicious, God-approved grub. We first discovered Bagelheads—back in 2012, if not earlier—as a breakfast joint that featured not only yummy bagels, but some very delectable muffins (the neon green pistachio muffins being the best of the bunch). Eventually, we tried a few of their sandwiches, finding each of them to be spectacularly good. In 2013, I had the privilege of trying several more sandwiches from their lunch menu—items like “The Flamethrower” (peppermill turkey, pepperjack cheese, lettuce, [hold the] onions, jalapenos, and mayo) and the available-for-a-limited-time “Georgia Peach” (which featured sliced peach and “peachonaise” atop sliced chicken and swiss cheese). However, my two favorite 2013 sandwich discoveries at Bagelheads are the “Ragin’ Cajun” (roast beef, pepperjack, lettuce, [hold the] onions, and remoulade) and the “Little Leo” (smoked turkey, roast beef, scallion cream cheese, cole slaw, provolone, and tomato). The Little Leo is definitely my very top choice of the new sandwiches I tried, although I get it with regular cream cheese because I’m racist against scallions. Bagelheads is one of the only eateries in Tallahassee I expect to miss when/if I ever get out of here. Looking on the bright side, there’s not a lot of hope that I ever will. (Just kidding. Maybe.)

Runner-up for restaurant discovery of 2013 is a place right by the FSU campus, a Greek restaurant called The Pitaria. I ate there one time on a whim, and then I took Melanie and the boys there a few weeks later. Those two visits make up approximately half of the times that I’ve eaten Greek food outside of Utah. The Pitaria’s food doesn’t compare to Greek Souvlaki back in Salt Lake City, but it’s quite satisfying nonetheless. On both visits, I had the “Gyro Supreme,” which is a standard gyro (“gyro meat,” which I assume is lamb, [hold the] onions, tomatoes, and Tzatziki sauce) but with the addition of sautéed mushrooms, green bell peppers, and feta. It is νοστιμότατος! (That’s Greek for “delicious”!) Pitaria also offers three kinds of fries—“regular,” Greek (which are unhelpfully described as “fried potatoes, Greek style”) and pita fries. On my first visit, they were out of Greek fries, so I went with regular. They are thick-cut and seasoned and yummy. I happened to snap a photo on my cell phone to send to Melanie and make her jealous, so I can now show it to you. Enjoy!

Outside the world of restaurants, 2013 was the year of hummus. I’d tried hummus once or twice before 2013, but sometime in 2013, hummus and pretzel chips (and/or pita chips) became my go-to snack. (It’s also good with baby carrots, FYI.) For a while there, I ate hummus every single night of the week. Seriously, a day rarely went by that I didn’t eat it. I don’t know how long that trend continued. Quite a while, methinks. But eventually Melanie and I did tire of it and stopped buying it. We’ve been on a hummus sabbatical for a few months now, but I didn’t feel I could talk about 2013 without mentioning it. And it’s been long enough since I’ve had it that it actually sounds kind of good right now. Darn.

A true game-changer for me in 2013 was my personal discovery of almond milk. Of course, I have long known that almond milk exists, but I hadn’t actually tried it myself until maybe six months ago or so. I was quite skeptical, and thus pleasantly surprised, when I first poured it on cereal. I didn’t mind the taste at all, and now I rarely have cereal with anything other than almond milk. Because I have cereal almost every morning, this is a worthwhile investment for me. I get the unsweetened variety, so it has only 30 calories, no sugar, and practically zero carbs per serving. Of course, this means that almond milk doesn’t work so well in non-cereal capacities. I wouldn’t use almond milk as a beverage, for example. I once tried it with Ovaltine and that wasn’t too pleasant of an experience. Maybe the sweetened form of almond milk would’ve worked, but the unsweetened variety made the Ovaltine taste bitter. I don’t recommend it.

And finally, there were some negative food discoveries in 2013. The worst offender was a sausage dog from Bradley’s Country Store, a quaint shop located a picturesque 15-minute-drive away. Bradley’s sausage is purported to be world-famous, a claim seemingly made by every Podunk eatery about their food. But I think they are legitimately popular around these parts, and they at least offer to ship their sausages all over the United States, which I presume somebody must request every once in a while. And so, Melanie and I took the kids there once, trying to have a fun Saturday afternoon activity. We bought a few sausage dogs and took them outside, as the store so charmingly recommends you do. We ended up throwing most of the food away. I’ll say this much, I’ve never had a sausage dog like it. I didn’t know sausage dogs existed that were best described as “dry and crumbly.” You know when pencil erasers break apart into tiny, not-quite-pebble-sized pieces? Imagine getting a mouth full of little eraser bits. That’s pretty much exactly what it was like, texture-wise. And not even faintly juicy. Maybe just maybe we got a bad batch, but I’m not willing to pay a second visit to find out.

A less terrible discovery was made just a couple of weeks’ ago. I tried herbal tea. I’ve been thinking of trying herbal tea for a while now. As a Mormon, tea is usually considered a no-no, but herbal teas (which don’t involve any tea leaves) are kosher. It was actually cold in Tallahassee, and I liked the idea of a hot morning beverage other than hot chocolate (which is pretty much the only Mormon option, unless you’re a radical). I imagined herbal tea being aromatic and pleasant. And so I snagged a box of “gingerbread spice” tea while at the store one day. Gingerbread isn’t my thing in particular, but I thought it might be fun. Well … no, it wasn’t. It was very bitter. It was sugarless, of course, so that didn’t help. I hadn’t wanted to add sugar because I was hoping to keep it as healthy as possible, but once I knew what it tasted like, my only real options were to add sugar or to pour it down the drain. I added a few scoops of sugar, and the taste improved greatly. Still, I only drank about half a cup before I admitted defeat and poured it out. I’m not against trying other herbal teas; I still find myself imagining that such a thing could be pleasant. But I’m much less confident now. Which is a bummer.


  1. What a description about the sausage! Ew! I think I'm going to be sick!
    I've had the same type of experience with herbal tea. I wanted something healthy, sugar free, aromatic and comforting on cold days. I haven't yet figured out how to make it really that satisfying. I've tried. Perhaps someone has tips but for no I give up!

  2. I'm a big fan of herbal teas. Celestial Seasonings are pretty good, and if you want to go hardcore you can go to these fancy tea shops. Sadly most of the time you need to use some kind of sweetener. I use honey or I use splenda to give it a shot when I don't want extra calories.

    1. The brand of tea I tried was Celestial Seasonings. I have a "variety" pack of theirs, too, so I can still try some other flavors. Do you have any particular flavors that you'd recommend?