The Foodening! It’s happening! [or, Bloody Marys and Apple-Gifting, FHCx1]

We warned you. The time has come. (And isn’t Master of None so great, by the way??)

Welcome to Day One of the SPAK Food Holiday Challenge!

ICYMI, your friendly neighborhood eating machines (SP and AK, that is) are embarking upon a journey throughout which they (we) will be celebrating every national food holiday. Y’know, those gimmicks you see sponsored ads on Facebook for? The ones that sound like the chain restaurants totally pulled a “national holiday” out of their butts to get you to come in on a Tuesday at 4pm? Yeah, we’re spending an entire year of our lives buying into every last one of them.

FAQ

Q: For real?

A: Sho’nuff.

Q: Why the hell?

A: Who even knows anymore, but the answers here should probably just be 1) food 2) why not?

Any blogging you’ve seen us do during the last several months has really just been practice for this, the motherlode. 366 days of scheduled eating, mandated by what we’ve learned from the internet. Granted, food holidays are kind of en vogue these days, and we’re certainly not the only ones to have done something like this, but we’d at least like to believe that we’re doing it up like champs. Come at us, comida.

Now that you know what’s going on —

TODAY IS BLOODY MARY DAY AND ALSO APPLE GIFTING DAY!

Being that the first day of the FHC happened to fall on the last day of our Disneyland vacation, apple gifting has the honor of being Afterthought #1 of the challenge. Surely there will be many more. BUT, we did it. Our hotel’s continental breakfast buffet happened to have some apples, so each of us painstakingly combed through all three of the available apples to choose the best fruit for the other.

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Red Delicious < Honeycrisp, but these were clearly graced with Disney Magic™ and not mealy or gross. Might’ve been poisoned, though. We can’t have everything.

Then came the Bloody Mary celebration. The Internet® asserts that the origin of National Bloody Mary Day on January 1st comes from its popularity as a brunchy hangover remedy, perfect for post-NYE drankin’. Booze-soaked apple slices from the bottom of a friend’s sangria were the extent of AK’s consumption, and SP only would’ve been drunk if Lipton onion soup dip had any sort of alcohol content, so we didn’t exactly need the Bloody Mary in the morning. Instead, we flew home from California and drove ourselves straight to Hell’s Kitchen.

Hell’s Kitchen was a pretty clear choice for Bloody Mary Day. They’ve got a 35-foot long Bloody Mary bar with anything you could possibly need to bloody your mary with (“featuring 247 hot sauces, gourmet rim salts, specialty olives, cheeses, bacon, peppers, and dozens of other garnishes,” to be precise). HOWEVER, it’s only available during weekend brunch hours, and we felt content with what Hell’s Kitchen has dubbed its “Bloody Hell”: Chipotle/orange-infused vodka, spicy bloody mix, beef stick, and a pickle. Plus, some local Surly Furious to chase it.

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It should be noted that, after typing it this many times, bloody now sounds like “blue-dee” when I read it in my head.

If you thought SPAK would go to a place like Hell’s Kitchen and be satisfied with just some drinks, YOU’RE JUST SILLY. After spending the afternoon on a plane with the accompanying empty carb nibbles we’ve all come to expect from air travel, we needed some meat. AK needed meat so badly that the customary beef just wouldn’t cut it.

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Somewhere in there is a bison burger and some tots.

A recent stomach bug led AK astray from her usual request for rarer meat, but even cooked to medium, this bison burger was pink and juicy and beautiful. In the picture you can see that it’s buried in something tasty: sautéed crimini mushrooms and leeks, which are an addition only appearing on the menu as an option for the NY strip steak. The fine folks at Hell’s Kitchen understand our needs and let us sub it onto the burger. It was a good choice. For those who are wary of “gamey” meats, this bison still tasted pretty beefy. At least to us. The tater tots were golden, crispy, and a star in its own right. The homemade ketchup at the table was nice with them, but what made them mouthwatering was a little swim in the au jus that came with SP’s french dip sandwich.

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Don’t hide, little fries! You were tasty, too!

Plain and simple, this was what every french dip should taste like. Most of the time au jus seems to just be unremarkable pan drippings, but Hell’s Kitchen makes it garlicky and oniony and perfect. Of course there’s hardly a place where sautéed onions wouldn’t belong, but they complemented this sandwich well. They don’t come with it unless you ask, and ask you should! It took everything SP had to save the second half for tomorrow’s lunch. The horseradish dipping sauce on the side was tasty, too. Restaurants that do spicy things well can sometimes go overboard and be like “SPICY EVERYTHING ALL UP IN YOUR FACE, ENJOY THE FIERY POOPS” but the sauce wasn’t too overpowering this time.

Can we just have another moment of silence for those crimini mushrooms AK got on her burger, though?

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*bites lip*

Okay, so now for the crowning glory. Before ordering, we kind of passively noticed that there was a caramel-pecan roll on the appetizer menu. What we didn’t know was that it would be mind-blowing. The scariest thing of all is that we almost didn’t get dessert! Can you imagine?!

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This is just one of way too many pictures that we took of it. 

Butter. Sugar. Sweet. Tender. Goopy. Giant knife. Didn’t need it. Minimal crustiness. Definitely fingerswiped some of the plate goo. Some moaning could be heard. Just… just go get yourself one.

Hell’s Kitchen has a recipe book for sale in their in-house gift shop, and this caramel-pecan roll is in it. The question is: when is Cinnamon Roll Day, and does this count?!

Happy New Year to all, and welcome to the FHC!

SPAK

Colossal Cafe Does Breakfast Big

SP and AK here to talk about the cinnamon roll Colossal Cafe. The Colossal has been around for a decade now but recently just opened a new location on Grand in St. Paul, where there is room not only to stand but to sit and have a Colossal-level breakfast. Their motto, “Made from scratch,” printed on nearly everything they do is the cornerstone of what makes Colossal so damn good.

This morning we took the opportunity to get in for a weekday breakfast at Colossal on Grand. And the first thing staring you in the face as you walk in is a big pan of these beasts.

Big and Tasty.

Big and Tasty.

They’re gooey and moist. They have that outer crust as though they were just a second away from being overcooked, but they aren’t rubbery on the bottom at all. The best part, as both SP and AK can agree, is what SP calls “The Core.” That part of the cinnamon roll that is far enough inwards that it still retains some soft doughyness, while it also has the most density of buttery cinnamon. That’s the part you have to fight over. THIS IS THE PART THAT MEANS SOMETHING.

But it did not overshadow the rest of what we got. SP ordered the flappers: two giant, dense, and doughy flapjacks. These are not your fluffy pancakes injected with more air than substance. These things are meaty, filling, and tasty as hell. And just for kicks, SP got his short stack with fresh fruit. These cakes are evidence that the best food is made from scratch.

The kind you don't even need syrup for.

The kind you don’t even need syrup for.

AK was feeling eggy so she got a spinach/artichoke/cherry tomato egg white frittata with a side of sourdough toast. As somebody who enjoys over-easy and otherwise underdone eggs, a frittata can sometimes be a bit of a gamble. However, this one was just firm enough. It even still had some gooey goodness leftover toward the middle, which sort of gives the illusion of cheese (or maybe there was cheese? We think there wasn’t). The artichokes were cooked without becoming mush, and the spinach held it all together like spinach does.

And damn, was that sourdough bread good. The slices are the perfect thickness and, according to our server, they are toasted to a lovely golden brown right on the cooktop. Yum.

This would be better if it was another cinnamon roll.

This would be even better if it was another cinnamon roll.

Thanks, Colossal!

SPAK