Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Sweetie Citrus

     We're back to another fruit hybrid.  As I mentioned in a post about pummelos on February 20, 2014, botanical scientists have determined that there were four original citrus fruits--pummelos, citrons, mandarin oranges, and papedas.  The other modern citrus fruits are various combinations of these progenitors.
     The focus of today's post is yet another one of these.  Sweetie citrus are a hybrid of pummelos and grapefruit.  Since grapefruit itself is a child of pummelo and the sweet orange, we're getting into some "fruit incest," as it were.  And, like the cliche jokes about inbreeding, the result was kind of horrendous.  This was not a useful mutant like an X-Man, either.
     Sizewise, the sweetie citrus is about what you'd expect, given its parentage.  It's smaller than a typical pummelo, but larger than an average grapefruit.  Its outer skin is a yellowish-green color.  As you peel it away there's a bit of a surprise.  The inner rind, beneath the skin but surrounding the pulp, is extremely thick, and almost like a whitish fur.  Probably a third to a half of the initial fruit's diameter is this inedible fluff.  Once you finally get to it, the pulp is a dull yellow color, and is sectioned like a normal citrus fruit.
     Well, suffice to say, "sweetie" citrus is a lie.  This fruit is (in my non-humble opinion) unfortunately much closer to its nasty grapefruit parent than to its decent pummelo parent. Just completely bitter and awful.  I was only able to choke down a few sections before I called it quits.  My father was capable of finishing more of it, but even he noted that the aftertaste was quite unpleasantly bitter, and long lasting.
     So, in conclusion, if you like grapefruit, you might like sweetie citrus.  But if you don't, you'll probably hate this one, too.  I'm convinced the name is a cruel marketing trick, reminiscent of the Vikings naming the milder climate island "Iceland," and the bitterly cold, extremely harsh environment island "Greenland" in order to deter and then encourage potential settlers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Creepy Campfire Quarterly

     As you can see from the previous post, Volume #1 of Creepy Campfire Quarterly is up and available for purchase.  So, if you're interested, you can head on over to and pick up a copy.  My contribution, "Sheol," is about a guy who dies, and then learns what the afterlife is all about.  (Sort-of Spoiler alert--it's pretty disturbing, and I hope thought-provoking.)
     I'd like to thank Jennifer Word, and the rest of the staff over at EMP Publishing (  Also, my fellow authors in this new magazine, whose names can be found on the back part of the posted cover.

It's Here!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Weird Flavors of Gourmet Chocolates

     As I've explored in previous posts (Aug. 20th, 2012; Oct. 22, 2012; Sept. 20, 2015), one of the trends in chocolate-making in recent years has been some serious experimentation.  So, when I wander the candy aisles in supermarkets, especially ones with superior selections like Wegman's, I'm not surprised to see different and strange flavors.  And so it was a few weeks ago.
     All of the chocolate bars discussed in this post come to us from Chuao.  Chuao, pronounced "Chew-WOW," is a chocolate-producing region in Venezuela.  Michael and Richard Antonorsi both hail from this nation.  After chef Michael attended culinary school in Paris, France, he and his brother opened up their business in Southern California.  Since, Chuao has become quite successful in the field of artisan, gourmet chocolates.  Aside from chocolate bars, bonbons, and truffles, they also market "drinking chocolates," gelatos, and espressos.  Currently their products are mostly available in specialty stores, and nation wide groceries like WholeFoods.  They advertise their products as being 100% natural--no artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, preservatives, or hydrogenated fats.  Also their cacao is branded as being, "Ethically Sourced."  So, essentially, it's sweets suitable for all your hippie friends.  (Well, your vegan friends will balk, probably, but pretty much everyone else.)
     I've learned from literally bitter experience that I don't like dark chocolate.  Fortunately, Chuao has several exotic milk chocolate flavors.  Some of the exotics they sell that I didn't try (because they were dark chocolate, or not available, or were flavors I'd had before) were caramel apple, "baconluxious," spicy maya, and orange-a-go-go.
     I'll use my usual rating method.  "A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, "F" for failing, with pluses and minuses as required.  Also, note hat all the flavors had the actual exotic food(s) in them.

Chuao Strawberry Waffle Wild:  B-.  A hint of strawberry, but no waffle taste, even with the actual waffles in this.  Still okay, I guess.

Chuao Pop Corn Pop:  B.  Not really a strong popcorn taste.  It was salty, and there was a slight "pop" and corn taste, but only a little.  Pretty good, but not really the advertised flavor.

Chuao Potato Chip: B.  Once again, not a particularly strong taste of the exotic flavor.  A bit salty, but I didn't really detect the flavor of the ground up potatoes.  Still not bad, though.

Chuao Cinnamon Cereal Smooch: A-.  Finally, a Chuao which tastes like it's billed.  Reminded me of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.  Tasty.

     I was kind of unsure how to score these.  Because, as you can see from above, most of these didn't really have the weird flavor listed on the wrapper.  If I'd sampled these blind-folded, I don't think I could have differentiated between some of them, or predicted which actual flavor they were.  But, and here's the thing--they were all at least good.  I suppose most things will still taste okay if you coat them with milk chocolate.  However, I can't help being a little disappointed.  I was expecting bizarre flavor combinations, and was instead presented with good, but tame variations of regular milk chocolate bars, except for the Cinnamon Cereal variety.  So I do recommend them, but with this caveat.  They're a bit expensive--about $3 for a 2.8 ounce bar (about 3 inches by 6 inches in size, or roughly 7 cm. by 15 cm).  Also, beware that their website's blog has a recent post which contains "Game of Thrones" spoilers.
     Just as a reminder, "Creepy Campfire Quarterly Issue #1" will be coming out this Wednesday, January 20th.  More info then.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Writing Announcement and the Worst Sports Teams Ever (Update)

     Regular readers may remember that back in March 2015, I let you know that Grinning Skull Press had accepted a story of mine, "Cruel to be Kind," for inclusion in their horror anthology "Cranial Leakage Volume 2."  I'm pleased to report that I was just sent the contract for my story, and should be starting the editing process very soon.  The editor I communicated with indicated that everything should be completed within the next few weeks.  As always, I'll provide more info (the cover, blurb, list of all authors, etc.) when I receive it.

     To switch tracks, I also noticed that my Philadelphia 76ers as of tonight have a record of 4-36 (4 wins, 36 losses, for non-sports fans).  They have an unfortunate good shot at setting the NBA record for worst winning percentage and most losses in a season if they don't improve.  Anyway, this got me to thinking about bad sports teams.  So I looked up the worst teams in the four major U.S. sports (Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League).  These are all record-based, clearly, and not based on opinion, point/run/goal differentials, etc. (Update:  The Sixers didn't set the record, but they came depressingly close.  They finished 10-72, or the second worst 82 game record, and the third worst record by winning percentage.  I've added them in the list below.  On the plus side, they got rid of their General Manager Sam Hinkie, so maybe they'll start making better basketball decisions, etc., and finally improve significantly.)

Basketball:  1) 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats:  7-59, winning percentage of .106
                    2) 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers:   9-73, winning percentage of .110
                    3) 2015-16 Philadelphia 76ers:  10-72, winning percentage of .122
                    4) 1947-48 Providence Steam Rollers: 6-42, winning percentage of .125
                    5) (tie) 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks: 11-71, winning percentage of .134
                    5)         1997-98 Denver Nuggets:  11-71, winning percentage of .134
(Note that the schedule in the 1940's was only 48 games,while current NBA teams play an 82 game schedule.  The 2011-12 NBA season was only 66 games due to labor disputes.)

Hockey:     1)1974-75 Washington Capitals:  8-67-5 (won-loss-tie), winning percentage of .131, 21
                  2) 1930-31 Philadelphia Quakers:  4-36-4, winning percentage of .136, 12 points.

Baseball:     1) 1916 Philadelphia Athletics: 36-117, winning percentage of .235
                   2) 1935 Boston Braves: 38-115, winning percentage of .248
                   3) 1962 New York Mets: 40-120, winning percentage of .250
(Note that MLB increased from a 154 game schedule to a 162 game schedule in 1961.  And some games suspended due to rain or darkness weren't always replayed or continued, meaning team records don't always add up to 154 or 162.  Also, if we include pre-1900 teams, the National League's Cleveland Spiders were by far the worst team, with a record of 20-134 (.130 winning percentage).  Several other pre-1900 teams were worse than the 1916 Athletics, too.)

Football:   1) 2008 Detroit Lions: 0-16, winning percentage of .000, (obviously).
                 2) 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0-14.  (Expansion team, first year of existence.)
                 3) 1942 Detroit Lions: 0-11.
                 4) (tie) 1943 Chicago Cardinals: 0-10.
                 4) 1944 Brooklyn Tigers: 0-10.
                 4) 1944 Card-Pitt:  0-10.
(Note that the NFL season schedule was rather fluid in the 1920's- 1940's, with some teams not playing the same number of games.  This was standardized to 12 games in 1947, to 14 games in 1961, and to 16 games in 1978.  The 1944 Card-Pitt squad was made up of the Chicago Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers combined--World War II resulted in depleted rosters.  The 1977 Buccaneers started off 0-12 before winning their final two games, meaning the Buccaneers started their history 0-26!  Finally, special dishonorable mention goes to the 1934 Cincinnati Reds, who went 0-8, and then were disbanded about midway into the season due to lack of funds.  They scored only 10 total points, and were shut out in 6 of 8 games.  Another group bought their squad, renamed them the St. Louis Gunners, and went 1-2 for the rest of the season.)

And as a bonus, here's some info about international sports.

Olympics:  As of now, of the over 200 countries to compete in at least one Olympic game, over 75 have never won a single medal.  Not surprisingly, countries with the smallest populations tend to be the least successful.  Here's the ones who have participated in the most overall Games, with no wins:
                  1) Monaco:  0 for 28 Games (19 Summer, 9 Winter).  Population of about 38,000.
                  2) San Marino: 0 for 22 Games (13 Summer, 9 Winter). Population of around 33,000.
                  3) Andorra: 0 for 21 Games (10 Summer, 11 Winter). Population of about 86,000.
(Note that evidently in the Games early days, medals were given out for non-sports events.  For the 1924 Games, for example, Julien Medecin of Monaco won a bronze medal in architecture.  This is not officially counted in their medal haul, clearly.)


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--French Soft Drinks

     This week's selection is a bit of a mystery.  It's not "Murder on the Orient Express," or anything, but it's still somewhat of an enigma.  (Off the topic, but Agatha Christie's views on race were fairly.... questionable.  Look up the original, original title for "And Then There Were None.")  The Frizzante label calls them "European Soda," and further mentions that they're a product of France.  That's where the trail grows cold.  I spent a little time trying to trace the soda's French manufacturer to no avail.  All I found were websites telling me where I could order it from Wegman's, or nutritional information, or other folk's ratings of it.  So we'll have to leave it at that.  It would appear that it is made in France, but may not be sold there.  It might just be solely made for Wegman's supermarket back in the U.S.  Maybe this is a bit of a cheat, but let's move on.
     The confusion continues with the soda's name--Frizzante.  This French-made product's name comes from an Italian word for "slightly effervescent."  (Which makes me wonder--are there also individual words for "about half effervescent," and "mostly effervescent," and "99.4% effervescent"?  I'd like to think so.)  This word is usually reserved for speaking about wines.  You could see why they chose this name after the drink was opened and poured into a glass.  It had a thick carbonated head, almost like a beer.
     The bottles themselves were kind of distinctive.  They were liter bottles made of glass.  Here in the U.S., of course, most drinks in the past couple of decades come in plastic bottles, or metal cans.  But the Frizzante bottles were solid, foot long (about 30 cm.) monsters.  In a pinch they'd make effective weapons for bashing somebody over the head, way better than a typical 11.2-12 ounce beer bottle.
     Another unusual feature of Frizzante was the juice in it.  Granted, it wasn't that much (2% for most of them, with one type having a high of 12%) but still.  U.S. soft drinks, clearly, save for maybe Hawaiian Punch, are mostly just "natural flavors," unnatural flavors, and high fructose corn syrup.
     As usual, I'll use the U.S. scholastic rating system--"A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, "F" for failing, with pluses and minuses as needed.

1) Frizzante Sicilian Lemon, 12% juice: A.  Very very nice.  I think the added lemon juice adds to the taste.  A cross between lemonade and lemon soda.

2) Frizzante Sour Cherry Lemon, 2% juice: B. Pretty good, but a little blander than the others.  Not as pleasantly sour as I'd hoped.

3) Frizzante Cranberry Lime, 2% juice: A.  Also excellent.  Nicely tart.  Could really pick up on the lime flavor.

4) Frizzante Blood Orange, 2% juice: A-.  Also really good.  Tart like the Sicilian Lemon kind.  Really solid and tasty.

     As you can see, I was extremely impressed by Frizzante.  Even the weakest one was still pretty good.  I don't know if it's the added fruit juice, and/or the extra carbonation, but these were superior drinks.  I just hope the French themselves get a chance to have them, too.  I realize it's a long shot, but if any French readers would weigh in on the Frizzante situation there in the comments, I'd appreciate it.