Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cheat Sheet - The Omnivore's 100

Ok, so I'm shameless, and only 6 posts in, it's getting late, it's past my bedtime, I'm going to pilfer a neat little post I found on a food blog (also swiped from another blog, so I don't feel too guilty). This is the Very Good Taste list of 100 things that every omnivore should try at least once. Ah, I like a good, preferably food-related challenge. Bring it on. (see my results below)

Given that it's obviously done/is doing the food fiends rounds, I feel I should have a good chance at it, and having just slurped, golloped, swallowed, tasted and chewed my way round the world in a very deliberate fashion I reckon I can give this list a run for its money...but I've not had a look at its contents quite yet - I'll take 'em as I find 'em. Any other fellow foodies who want a challenge, your instructions are simple:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (strong, smelly French cheese)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi (pickled Japanese sour prunes)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin - no idea what this is
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (durian icecream but not yet the fruit itself, darnit!)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Cor blimey that was fun! 78 out of a 100, not too bad though I do say so myself! A fair number of those of course I was lucky enough to have chowed down in the last four months. That alone is a good enough justification for the time away in my (admittedly stomach-oriented) opinion.

Now to keep an eye out for the remaining 22 food challenges...anyone care to join me for some snake? Or fresh Roadkill perhaps? I heard that Chef and the Connecticut boys had a dead skunk outside their house - seems like the perfect opportunity for some potent roast to me...

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Day at the Races - wot wot

Readers of my relatively recently concluded travel blog will have noticed that, aside from the heavy slant towards food, there were two other passions which slowly but surely nudged their way to the front of the crowd of global antics. These were: automobile-induced speed opportunities (moped, cyclo, speedboat, bike) and any given activity in water (diving, swimming, snorkelling, rivers, oceans). All three interests ensured that the four months were jam-packed with adventures.

Apt then that the fun shouldn’t end the moment I stepped off the plane into the UK. I’ve been desperately racking my brains for a way to make this particular day out nibble-scribble-worthy, and I think I’ve got it. I’m running the risk of accusations of tenuous connections….but hear me out…

From revelling in the glories of bountiful food…to the 2nd World War where food was rationed….to…Goodwood Revival! (Hmm…)

For those of you already shaking your head in wonderment, dismay and more than a smidgen of incomprehension, let me explain. Goodwood Revival is a fantastic, and terribly British day out, where those attending delight in flouncing around in their very best fifties fancy dress, cooing over beautifully designed and polished antique cars, bikes and planes and participating in various old jolly jaunts and amusements.

I was lucky enough to get an invite from my auto-obsessed father who, accompanied (less for the cars than for the excuse to dress up) by my mother, has now been to the event four years in a row, each time returning with hilarious anecdotes and extraordinary photos of which I was extremely jealous. (For those tutting and wondering where the food element of this posting has gone, stay with me)

Lucky thing that I am, I even had the privilege of driving my own car for the day – a 1959 MGA convertible in beautiful racing green – courtesy of my father’s aforementioned auto obsession. So I drove solo amongst a fleet of antique motors which included my parents in front and some family friends behind, headscarf flapping in the wind, sunglasses perched on my nose and bright red lippy flashing like a film star. My outfit: tiny black hat, hair in a bun, red lippy, white silk blouse, black pencil skirt, seamed stockings and high heels and a tweedy brown fitted jacket (authentic and previously owned by my grandmother). Father P sported a beautiful green tweed suit, with racing green silk waistcoat, deliberately themed towards Toad of Toad Hall of Wind in the Willows fame, and Ma P a fur coat over a casual tea dress with floppy brown hat. The MGA is a dream to drive, alternating between a satisfying purr and a slow, easy growl, the gears clunky and accurate, and the steering closely hugging the road. I’m no petrolhead, but this is the sort of motoring which gets me a teensy bit excited.

I thought this was a food blog, I hear you cry! But of course, and I haven’t forgotten (let’s face it, food is never too far from my mind). So let me now paint you a picture. I tottered through the entrance gate on my high heels, fresh from my windswept, but invigorating, ride. The very first waft of air I caught carried the sweet scent of candy floss being gently coaxed into shape by an apron-clad storesman. This combined with the heavier, more satisfying smells of greasy homemade, organic beef burgers being handed out by what equally well-grilled chefs. Old-fashioned sweet stores lined the promenade alongside the racecourse, large jars filled with glistening hard-boiled sweets, the enemy of all fillings. But any illusion of plenty was of course historically inaccurate – these were times of war-induced rationing, and the Tea Rooms dotted about paid testament to this, with tiny egg sandwiches, dusty little cakes and watery cups of tea.

The day was glorious, with blazing late-September sunshine causing throngs of auto-enthusiasts to wipe their brows and throw off their blazers. Men were dashing in braces and flat caps or trilbies, women gracious, with red lipstick, carefully coiffed hair, and complicated underwear causing all to walk tall and proud. Fancy dress made the air flirtatious, as everyone slipped easily into character – whether the dodgy ‘spiv’ sidling slyly up to the girls to whisper ‘anyone for nylons’, or the newspaper photographer begging a ‘style photograph’ and the excuse of a kiss from a rosy-cheeked girl.

Following the dusk races and still more tea and cakes, I put-putted out of the grounds and back onto the road, my hair protected by yet another little hat. I tooted my horn - a barely audible little ‘poop poop!’ - gleefully at everyone I passed. The sun was settting beautifully as I drove home over the orange, pink and red-kissed hills.

Homesick Hankerings

Four months away, hundreds of interesting, delicious and downright strange foreign foods tried, tested, tasted - and, on one occasion, trashed - and there was still always one food which would haunt me in my dreams, endlessly returning my mind to the comforts of home and a desperate yearning for…

Ma Pea’s homemade Chicken Soup.

The food equivalent of a motherly embrace – nostalgic, comforting, warm, loving – it was just one bowl of the nourishing broth that I craved wherever I was in the world. I could be chowing down decadent grilled lobsters in Belize, tasting new and delicious strains of coffee in the hills of a plantation in Guatemala, drinking my way through dozens of wine varieties in California, competitively slurping down oysters in New York, or being wined and dined in some of the top notch restaurants across the world…but still there remained this little voice in the back of my mind, which whispered “chicken soup…chicken soup…”

It may be difficult to fathom, but it took me less than three weeks into the first port-of-call on my extensive list, Japan, to send an email back (in May) to Ma Pea already adamant that Chicken Soup was my first food request upon my return (in September). Safe to say that five months is probably the longest standing food order I’ve ever had, bar looking forward to Christmas (which, unsurprisingly, I start around June/July time).

Everyone has a dish which their mother made when they were younger which sends them hurtling right back to infancy, dependancy and immaturity. Adult cares and troubles are erased; responsibilities seem distant dreams; for a few blissful moments we are children again.

Mine is without a shadow of a doubt Chicken Soup. It ticks all the right boxes: perfectly filling without being heavy; refreshing, tasty and revitalising; light protein in the chicken, a glorious medley of sumptuous veg (carrots, leeks, onions, celery), and a healthy dose of hydrating, tasty, flavoursome broth. I sit and quietly savour the combinations of flavours. Food tasting is a guaranteed method of quietening this chatterbox soul for a few peaceful minutes – I can only imagine that this is why my mother used to feed me such delicious nosh when I was a highly energetic, inquisitive and talkative youngster.

Dad often jokes that he married my mother for her soups. It shouldn’t really be something to say in jest as, frankly, I’m often worried about bringing boys home in case – following an encounter with one of her particularly famous soups - they fall in love with her over me!

Eyes peeled for the secret recipe – I’ll coax it out of her somehow…

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The way to this girl's heart...

I’ve fallen for a Chef.

Some might say this would be an inevitable move for a self-confessed food-a-holic, and yet surprisingly I had never thought of tapping the ‘boys who can cook’ market. An oversight, as I now discover.

There is, of course, a drawback to this, namely that he is an American, who lives (and, more importantly, cooks) in the states. The course of true love ne’er runs smooth.

He rapidly figured out the way to my heart, which involved him cooking many a nibble worthy of a scribble. So I thought I would share details of some of the dishes which, for any budding Romeos who might be reading, come with 100% guarantee that they’ll have a girl swooning and begging for more (food, that is, you naughty so-n-sos).

Boys, have your pen and notepads ready for some hints and tips. Girls, sit back, relax and enjoy…

Step 1: Tantalise and Tease
New England Clam Chowder

I’ll admit, before Chef actually cooked I was a skeptic. There are loads of burger-flippers out there donning the checked trousers and calling themselves a cook.

One spoonful though, and I was a true believer. This was the Holy Grail of chowders. The boy was talented. (I kept quiet, and savoured the soup in silence, not letting on just yet). Thick and filling, creamy and intensely flavoured, every mouthful took me straight to the coast. I wasn’t in a sitting room in Connecticut, I was in a sou'wester and waterproof boots, weatherbeaten and hungry, just in from the fishing! I mean, I’ve been there, done that, and tasted it before – my early childhood even included a trip to New Orleans where chowder is A Big Deal. But Chef’s topped them all. The flavour of clams was rich, meaty and intense, made all the more so by the unexpected but welcome addition of Boars head bacon, salty and satisfying, and topped off beautifully with the heady perfume of thyme. The added crunch of tiny crackers ensured that I wasn’t lost in my reveries for too long, bringing me back to reality.

Ok, sure, he was good, I’ll give him that. But I was soon to learn that this wasn’t even the half of it…

Step 2: Turn up the Heat
Mexican Style Omelette

Omelettes are a permanent source of frustration for me. I know how to whip up a few simple eggs, but for some reason, add a few crazy ingredients and attempt to make them form some sort of omelette-shaped order and it all falls to pieces.

Safe to say then that I’m a sucker for a cracking (sorry) egg feast. The Queen of Mexican Style Omelette landed on my plate. It was a thing of beauty to behold – plump, succulent, bursting with carefully combined Mex-themed ingredients, and topped off with a punchy, piquant hot sauce. The tasty eggs danced in perfect harmony with diced tomatoes, red onions, green peppers, avocado, coriander and – the final yet perfect addition – melting cheese. Flippin’ ‘Egg this boy can cook, I thought to myself.

But he was only just warming up…

Step 3: Crack out the Aphrodisiacs
Fresh Lobster & Mussel Meunnier Linguine

I think I had an inkling he liked me when I saw him loading up the shopping trolley with three generously proportioned, still snapping but very promising looking live lobsters.

I was then treated to a Lobster Preparation 101 which was fascinating – though I confess to going slightly lightheaded at the point when their heads were snapped right off. The bodies were still wriggling as they were plunged into the scalding hot water, where their shells quickly turned bright red. The world will forever be divided into ‘those who know how to deflesh a lobster’ and ‘those who don’t’, and I’m now part of that secret society.

My heart jolted.….gorgeous, perfect, it took my breath away: a steaming plate of perfectly al dente linguine was in front of me. It must truly have been match made in heaven – a feathery light sauce of mussels with a generous amount of tender lobster threaded through, flecks of garlic laden cherry tomatoes which melted in the mouth, and thinly sliced courgettes.

Love at first bite.

Step 4: Hooked, lined and Sink Her
Pan Roasted Sea Bass

I could practically hear the fanfare with this one, as Chef rolled out a restaurant-worthy piece de resistance in a mere 25 minutes. This was real, live Ready, Steady, Cook.

Feast your eyes on this…
Chorizo-encrusted Pan Roasted Sea Bass with a scallop mousse - tender white tasty flakes of bass enhanced by the scallop and offset by the slightly toasted spicy meatiness of the chorizo

all complimented by...
• Roasted purple cherokee tomato with garlic, thyme and olive oil
• Sweet melting sticks of roasted butternut squash *chickpea and rocket salad topped with a caramalised shallot sherry vinaigrette
• all the delicious juices mopped up with toasted garlic/olive oil rye

That’s it, I give up. He’s won. I’ve thrown down my apron in despair. Whereas normally I’d be able to guarantee a boy’s affections merely by whipping up a batch of my killer brownies, slamming a roast chicken in the oven, or maybe stirring up a dreamy mess of risotto, I have to admit I’ve met my match with this one. Gracious, I’ll have to rely solely on my personality to win him over.

Of course if I could just get us a table in El Bulli

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sounds Fishy to me...

To quickly scrabble myself back into credible foodie status, following my initial 'junk food extravaganza' entry, I'm going to get right onto the case with two particularly outstanding frolics of the fishy variety which I had whilst I was in New York, both of which deserve a hearty virtual pat on the back.

Fishy Fare no.1:
Gari Sushi - Columbus & 78th

Let's be frank here - I'm always going to be in my 'happy place' with a seemingly endless stream of sushi passing in front of me, three by three, but this particular sushi den holds a pretty special place in my heart. Following close on the heels of my recent Japan trip, this was an interesting contrast to the raw energy of Tokyo's Tsujiki market, where lightning-fast sushi chefs slam 20 pieces of sushi down in front of you faster than you can say 'goeasyonthewasabiarigatoooogazaimashtaaa' .

Rather, Gari presented spankingly fresh fish with quirky twists and edgy flavour combos, some so eye-opening and pleasure-inducing that it rapidly became a mantra (often eyes closed) of 'oh what treasures can they bring next'? What new and untold delights would be revealed in the next playful threesome?

I'll elaborate:

Toro Roe with pickle - fresh roe with a tangy crunch of pickled Japanese radish
Salmon with a tomato compote - fresh, sweet tomato relish burns with flecked roast garlic, a pala
Fatty Tuna with horseradish sauce - genius. Old-school English horseradish taking the place of the usual spicy Japanese wasabi radish. A tongue teaser - roast lunch or a whole new kettle of fish (sorry)? - my mouth pondered aloud.
Snapper with baby leaf salad, tarro root and pine nuts - nuts, on sushi, I hear you cry?! And well might you question. But a mere morsel of this mysterious nigiri and any worries will be wiped away. A whole plate of palate pleasers in one neat bite.
Lobster sushi - tender, luscious, meaty lobster, sushified.
Mackerel with anchovy paste - let me briefly extol the underrated virtue of the anchovy - 'o tiny fish, how masterfully you boost 'most every dish'. Mackerel flavour is instead brought to the fore, a thousand fold.
Seared Roast Tuna - my companions actually had to ask me if something was wrong after this one. I went into a zombified state of extreme bliss from which I had to be physically shaken. How is it possible that with each sushi they just kept getting better?! No! Stop! I'll pass out!
Seared Cod - delicately teased with a barbeque flavour, the fish flesh becomes a complex web of textures and flavours, exalting in its new grilled persona
Yellowtail with jalapeno - a firecracker of a finish to the evening - an explosion of fresh spiciness lying in wait under the fish.

Stumbling home stupified with more lusty thoughts than I had ever had about sushi, I reflected briefly on the fact that in spite of eating more pieces of raw fish than I have limbs, I still didn't feel horribly and ridiculously full. In fact, I felt quite spritely. Must be all that Omega 3.

Fishy Fare no.2:

East Coast vs. West Coast - Oysters

When I find out that there's yet another field of food into which I've yet to be properly initiated, I get pretty excited. So a night out 'on the Oysters' was a big event. Though I'd previously had a couple of the squirmy suckers, I'd never really experienced an out-and-out tasting test.

They arrived beautifully presented, two East versus two West. Even before the tasting it astounded me the different shell shapes and sizes. There was a whole new education opening up in front of me.

Excuse the pun - they were of course already open...

We shunned the taste veils of lemon, vinegar or tabasco, opting instead for pure, unadulterated oysteriness. We slurped and swallowed, lightly chewed and mused, voting as we went. The great spectrum of flavours quite took me by surprise. Naively, before I had thought an oyster was an oyster was an oyster. Oh how wrong I was!

Drum roll....in order of preference...:

1. Eagle Rock (West) - biting, salty, with a convincing kick of lingering sea
2. Yaquina (West) - a bright burst of salt and meat, clean aftertaste
3. Bluepoint (East) - large and sloppy to eat, watery, melon taste with an unpleasant flabby clinging aftertaste
4. Caraquet (East) - drab and tasteless

A clear win by West.

Oyster Tasting 101 - may this be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ashamedly All American

Warning: the following entry will contain descriptions which discerning/gourmet foodies may find distasteful. Descriptions of what is commonly referred to as 'junk food'. (Mummy Pea, I suggest you look away...!)

In the name of research, however, I feel that my last few weeks in the U.S. of A deserve some food recognition - coming to the end of my four months of global travel, this is a flagrant attempt to seamlessly make the transition between my heavily food centric travel blog and my new, unashamedly food centric food blog (minus the travel, but hopefully with equal lashings of adventure).

The last few weeks of my travels in the North East of the states have seen me on a quest to experience 'typical American fare'. Whilst the ensuing calorific orgy may seem horrifying to some readers, and the trans-fat contents appearing quite in contrast to my normal requirements of nutritious nosh, please do rest assured that I've been endeavouring to seek out only the absolute
best junk food available, as oxymoronic as this concept might be. However, even a healthy appetite like my own routinely balks at the enormous portions available in this neck of the woods - maybe I'm more European than I gave myself credit for? Many a doggy bag has been brought in at the eleventh hour.

But those are my excuses out of the way, let's tuck in shall we?!

Fall-Off-the-Bone Ribs
Yeeehaaaa! Texas Roadhouse is fully responsible for unleashing my dormant cowgirl.

My heart melts as I spy the chargrilled decadence of ribs - they can barely keep the meat on their bones at the sight of me. It's almost obscene the way they offer themselves up to the hungry diner, falling apart, whispering seductively 'go on, tuck in, you know you want to...'. The sweet perfume of BBQ sauce is enough to make a head swim. It's oh so wrong but....oh so right. I can't stop myself, I can't think straight. What velvety meaty lusciousness. Thank goodness for the sense and sensibility provided by the jacket potato and steamed veg that surround these naughty little bones.

Like a Boa Constrictor eating a small pig, the feast is finally over and, satiated on pounds of meat, skin and clothing straining at the seams, diners sit in stunned silence, barely aware of the strains of country music filling the surrounding air. Even the mechanical, rhythmic clunk of the staff's cowboy boots line dancing at the next table will fail to rouse or amuse you. Chamomile tea anyone?

Burger & Fries
If you're going to do it, you might as well do it properly.

Zagat-rated and media-hyped, Five Guys Burgers & Fries is the place to be. At first you might mistakenly think that this is yet another American Burger joint, but appearances can be deceptive. Five Guys is oh so much more - with the brightly tiled walls plastered in posters and newspaper coverage of this famously acclaimed old school hangout. So, here's how it's done.

Whack your order in, tailor your toppings (pickle, tomato, lettuce if you please), fill up your bottomless soda, and sit back and mentally prepare yourself for this moment. Make time and space in your head for the burger onslaught, because this, my friend, will require all of your faculties intact. Your name will be yelled, so scuttle up, little one, grab your bag and run. Crouch possessively over your small fast-food table, and silently contemplate your brown paper bag. Slicks of grease from the real potato fries will soak tantalisingly through, and winks and flashes of the foil-wrapped burger will taunt you from inside. It is what it is: the Holy Grail of Burger. Enjoy this moment, go on, it won't last long.

Then finally, allow yourself that first ravenous bite of grilled meat burger, succulent juices running out over your chin, the tang of pickle bursting onto your tongue and piquant mustard exploding in a joyous rhapsody of fast food delight. Salad crunches reassuringly, reminding you that, believe it or not, there are more important things to life than just meat. What about those picture perfect old-fashioned fries...

Initially I turned up my nose, but now I know better. And that little, nagging, curious part of me wanted to know what the big deal was. What is it that turns those American kids' tongues bright blue/orange/red in all those teen flicks.

I've now been initiated into an ancient American secret, revealed to me at the local 7-Eleven corner store. A tradition known only as: the Slurpee

However much icy goodness you think you can take, pick the appropriate sized plastic cup, pop the domed lid on top and get in position. Crank the valve of whichever e-number riddled, electric-coloured poison you're after today - I'll have Blue Raspberry or Cherry please (much to my foodie chagrin, my one true vice is terribly fake flavoured drinks) and watch in delight as the frothy, fizzy, foamy icy slush comes pouring joyously out. Once filled, pay, and...


Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich (PBJ if you please)

Packed with nutty goodness, Peanut Butter is an underrated easy way to quickly boost your protein intake. So it remains a mystery to me why Peanut Butter has never really caught on across the pond. A classic addition to American lunchbox, the Peanut Butter & Jelly (jam) sandwich is quite a craft, and one of which I am in full appreciation (it must be my early American upbringing). So when I stumbled upon an article all about the nutty nuttiness of Peanut Butter & Co., an entirely peanut butter obsessed store located in Greenwich Village, I knew that my trip to New York would not be complete without a visit.

I went for the PBJ Classic - with my favourite 'jelly' flavour, grape, and wholemeal bread. With a glass of ice cold milk in hand, I settled back in my chair to enjoy the nutty goodness which stuck reassuringly to the top of my mouth, taking me right back to my days as a three year old frolicking upon the doorstep of my San Franciscan house. The reassuring rescue effort of the milk means you needn't panic for too long about the asphyxiation potential of peanut butter at its finest.

Some say that we're all searching for the ultimate food which transports us right back to our childhood. This one is close, but not quite cigar...

The search continues.

Stack of Pancakes

No visit to the States is complete without a proper breakfast in a diner. Preferably at an establishment which will provide an obscene amount of menu choice which should leave the visitor in question gawping and speechless. I mean, really, 47 varieties of pancake?!?! Determined not to be overwhelmed, I made my decision swiftly and callously - the Patriot. Not just bananas and blueberries on the inside, but bananas and blueberries on top as well. America, land of choice and freedom.

Now, much as I theoretically love the fluffy, buttermilk sweetness of all-American pancakes, drenched in suffocatingly sweet maple syrup (another vice), my problem comes with the quantity of pancakes received. I'm afraid to say I bowed defeat at the mountain (8?!?!) of 'Patriotic' pancakes which arrived, and ate maximum 4 forkfuls. America got the better of me. I'm lucky to have exited the diner alive - I had visions of me being dragged wailing and screaming out of the diner, covered in sticky, gooey maple syrup and flecks of light-as-air pancake batter. Thank goodness I'm a gracious loser.