Monday, June 28, 2010


Another visit to A Cookie and a Cupcake left me 12 cupcakes richer and $15 lighter.

Cupcake Wrapped
A gift!

Their Mini Gourmet Cupcakes are not just a batch of their regularly available flavors, which are consistently gratifying. They are like cousins from another continent visiting for the summer, family but a shade different.

Cupcake Tray

These diminutive beauties are a healthy two-bite size, so Bug and I were able to enjoy each flavor together without feeling like gluttons in denial. Each mini cupcake is ideally meant for 1 person. The first bite is more of an icebreaker, while the second and final bite better defines the relationship.

Cupcake Legion
Marching 3 x 4

With the box came a slip with descriptions of each cupcake:

Last row:
Salted -- chocolate cake, liquid caramel center, sea salt, caramel frosting
Blueberry -- lemon cake with blueberries, ?butter cream frosting
Passion fruit -- chocolate cake, passion fruit custard

3rd row:
Vanilla bean -- Madagascar vanilla bean cake and vanilla frosting
Date -- brown sugar date cake, mascarpone mousse, pepper pecan crunch
Hot chocolate -- orange cinnamon chocolate cake, cinnamon chocolate frosting

2nd row:
Pistachio -- chocolate cake, orange marmalade, pistachio frosting
Banana -- banana poppy seed cake, maple frosting
Hazelnut -- chocolate cake, hazelnut crunch, and hazelnut frosting

Front row:
Strawberry -- lemon cake, strawberry marmalade, balsamic frosting
Ginger -- chocolate cake, apricot center, ginger frosting
Coconut -- coconut cake, pineapple gastrique, lime creme fraiche frosting

Cupcake Ginger HC Strawberry
Ginger, hot chocolate, and strawberry

With so many cupcakes, which one should I try first? Which one would you try?

Not merely by the splash of color but also by flavor, I was the most intrigued by the ginger cupcake. Of the batch, this was the 2nd most subtle with passion fruit being the subtlest. Ginger can be quite potent, but its use in this was unobtrusive. Take that as you wish.

I've had and loved the date cupcake when it was featured during their cupcakes of the week run last year. As a result of it being an English steamed pudding rather than an airy cake, it stood out above all their cupcakes. The date cupcake of today wasn't quite as dense, but it was still a slightly sweet, moist, and tasty treat. The pepper pecan crunch introduced a little crackly party to the mix.

Cupcake Banana Pistachio HC
Banana, pistachio, and hot chocolate

A delightful treat, the hot chocolate cupcake with a trace of orange in the cinnamon chocolate cake had me craving a mug of Mexican hot chocolate.

Even with the lava salt staring me in the face dancing atop the caramel frosting, it still didn't prepare me for the sharp jab when I took a bite of the salted cupcake. There was enough sprinkled so neither of us was deprived of a crunchy and salty bite.

This makes a cute gift when visiting friends for coffee.

- Cassaendra

A Cookie and a Cupcake
2173 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Berry Voluntary

After reading about Ben & Jerry's new ice cream flavors exclusive to Target, Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder, I stopped by after work to indulge in a helping of berry goodness.

Berry Voluntary
Berry Voluntary

Brownie Chew Gooder is described as fudge brownie pieces nestled in vanilla caramel ice cream with caramel swirls. While this flavor didn't stand out at first, as I am writing this, vanilla ice cream with a salty-sweet tease of caramel is quite tantalizing.

The Berry Voluntary is a raspberry cheesecake ice cream with swirls of raspberry and white chocolate chunks. The flavor resembles blueberry frozen yogurt, pleasant and much appreciated as we plod through what already feels like the dog days of summer.

Berry Voluntary Scoop
Half eaten already!

The idea behind the creation of both flavors is to raise awareness and encourage people to volunteer locally through their Scoop it Forward program. Once registered and five others are invited to volunteer, each person involved is sent a coupon for a free pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be purchased at Target.

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Better Late Than Never

From elementary school through graduate school, my mother and I would vacation in San Francisco each summer to get away from the heat. One day, we dined at a Carl's Jr for our first and last time. I do not recall the reason for my disgust, but it left a lasting impression that we never returned.

~30 years later...

Each time we have passed the Hardee's in Willoughby, their sole presence in the region, it has always appeared unloved. It doesn't look like a dirt hole, just lonely. Finding out Carl's Jr was its sister company wasn't much of an enticement either.

One day recently out of the blue, Bug mentioned his desire to try the place.

After running several errands in the area, we walked in at 11:15. The restaurant didn't smell of stale grease and the dining area was clean.

I gawked at the menu, pointing and babbling what I'd like to try without killing my recent 'lifestyle change' (diet). There was a man standing ahead stealing glances at us as if we were aliens. Or was it just me?

The Jalapeno Thickburger was whispering at me through a cardboard display on the counter. The fish sandwich sounded all right but I wanted to cut out the calories from the bread. Heh. In small print, I noticed an option to turn the sandwich into fish and chips.

Bug was entranced with the biscuits and gravy, chicken, and other items. He wanted a double Thickburger, but reluctantly ordered a Jalapeno Thickburger, large Curls (seasoned curly fries), and a large drink ($6.79). My Jedi mind tricks worked! Or maybe it was my hopping up and down pointing excitedly at the Jalapeno Thickburger display. He also ordered a Big Chicken Fillet ($3.99).

I ordered the Fish 'N' Chips Basket with Curls instead of regular fries ($5.29 + $1.79).

After paying, we were instructed to have a seat in the dining room where the food would be delivered. In the 7-8 minutes we waited, 5 cars drove through the parking lot. Business must not be suffering too badly, or people were just cutting through...

Three baskets were delivered to our table, sandwiches half-wrapped at the bottom making them easy to grasp without dribbling. I gasped at the sight of the sandwiches. This was the first time seeing fast food sandwiches prepared as advertised. Oh, how I cursed not having my camera.

The bread didn't look like it was used as a punching bag and the whole leaves of lettuce were crisp, without brown wilted or squishy edges, on both sandwiches.

Freshly cut red onions were eye catching on the burger. Unlike your average restaurant bucket o' jalapenos, theirs retained their crunch. The Sante Fe sauce tasted like taco seasoning mixed into mayonnaise followed by a faint zing.

Bug was impressed by the freshness of the vegetables but felt the patty could have been better. The meat tasted as if it was reheated in a microwave oven.

The Big Chicken Fillet was a cut of meat instead of a ground and shaped fried chicken patty. It was crispy, moist, and slightly peppery. Bug liked the sandwich, but it was too salty for me.

When I laid my eyes on my basket of fish and chips, I was surprised to see two ~3"x5" fish fillets and a heap of fresh out of the fryer Curls. There was a generous serving of tartar sauce nestled in the basket which made me giddy because I love tartar sauce with my fries.

My first bite of the smooth beer battered fish was met with a crunch, followed by a firm yet moist fillet. It didn't taste very salty nor did any particular flavor stand out, which is sometimes a good thing, but I also tend to go overboard with tartar sauce. One fillet was enough to sate me so I handed the 2nd fillet to Bug and scarfed down the rest of the crisp Curls. Bug, also pleased with the firmness, happily accepted.

I would eat the Fish 'N' Chips Basket again in a heartbeat, but my heart sank after reading the nutrition facts. Verifying my suspicion, the Basket consists of 1150 cal, 80 g of fat, 80 carbs, and 2320 mg of sodium. The Fish Supreme (sandwich) is 620 cal, 38 g of fat, 40 carbs, and 1310 mg of sodium.

Bug felt the price was justified for what he received -- neatly prepared fresh (fast) food. However, the total cost ($18.97) was more than he prefers to spend for a fast food meal so it will be a little while before we return. The next time we do go, I will try a sip or 20 of their peach shake.

- Cassaendra

36900 Vine St
Willoughby, OH 44094-6341
Tel: (440) 953-9722

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Another Day

Akemi Sleeping

Some days, I wish I were a dog. I should make a clarification -- one that is treated at least as well as we treat Akemi.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Amish Country

Traveling an hour and a half south of Cleveland to Holmes County, we were transported back nearly a century, home to the world's largest population of Jakob Ammann's followers, the Amish Mennonites.

A few of my relatives came to town and had a wonderful idea of visiting Amish Country. It's quite shameful that Bug and I had not visited previously. I have been curious to go for a number of years, but always put it off for another day. The days turned to years, until their arrival.

Amish Buggy Almost

Modes of Amish transportation based on our excursion appear to be by horse-drawn buggy, bicycle, and foot. The drive within Holmes County was a bit harrowing as the roads leading to the area are hilly 2 lane highways, one lane going each way, with only a few feet of berm paved.

Horse-drawn carriages share the same road as motor vehicles and the speed limit is 55 mph. Of course, this doesn't mean that people have to drive the speed limit, but the roads are seductive, so beautifully paved with voluptuous curves, easily capable of handling much faster.

Amish As Time Goes By
One of the better pictures of a horse drawn buggy

Each time we passed over a hill, we slowed down considerably in the event a buggy was just over the crest. Even worse, we came upon disabled cars a few times that were parked at the crest of a hill in the middle of the lane we were traveling and were forced to move to the opposite lane to pass, unable to see oncoming traffic.

For most of the drive, we saw beautiful green farmland with barns dotting the landscape. Occasionally, there would be a home near the road and we'd catch a peek of a woman in plain solid blue dress with white apron hanging laundry. We squealed at a [50 mph] glimpse of a barn being raised by several men just ~40 yards from us. What were the chances of us seeing this? I wondered if the same barn was being just built every day as tourists drive through, as if we were in an Amish amusement park ride.

I realize it isn't PC to take pictures of people living their day to day lives because they look and sound different, but Amish tourism is one of the areas industries so, with that line of reasoning, I respectfully took just a few snapshots.

Mt Hope Parking Buggy
Parking lot near Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen

Arriving in Mt. Hope, we drove down what one imagines as "Main Street," a narrow street lined with storefronts. The streets and sidewalks are clean, and exudes small village but lacks the dusty and faded appearance of a town settled in the mid 1800s. I'm not sure if this speaks of how well the town maintains its buildings or if they were recently (re)built.

We unanimously agreed to stop in Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen, a restaurant that boasts Amish style home-cooking. Everyone quickly scrambled out of the van after being cooped up for ~2 hours and a bit hungry. Taking turns using the bathroom and hovering over the buffet to see their offerings, we quickly sat back down to order our mid-day meal. We all chose the buffet.

While keeping an eye on everyone's belongings, I noticed two bottles at the table that would normally be ketchup and mustard. Instead, the label read apple butter and peanut butter.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Apple Peanut Butter
Amazing apple butter and peanut butter

I couldn't wait to get up to grab some homemade bread. Using the word homemade for every dish they serve would get old quickly since they advertise that each dish is made from scratch and locally sourced when possible.

Upon everyone's return, I hopped over to see an interesting array of salads. Taco salad with chunks of onions, grape gelatin with a sweet, thick whipped cream filling, another gelatin salad with vegetables, salad greens, cole slaw, pickled mustard and beet eggs, various potato and pasta salads, and the typical salad toppings liked boiled eggs and croutons.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Bread
Delicious slate for peanut butter!

The bread smelled like it was baked today. It wasn't gooey or overly soft nor was it dry. I drew a squiggly line of apple butter and another line of peanut butter. The apple butter tasted like pureed apples, slightly sweet, viscous, with an applesauce crunch.

The peanut butter was an exciting discovery! I did not expect honey mixed into the peanut butter and mentally scribbled it under experiments to duplicate at home.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Pickled Eggs
Pickled eggs

This was my first time encountering pickled mustard eggs. They were tart, as expected, with a mellow yellow mustard essence. As far as texture, I expected the whites (yellows?) to have more boing. This is another dish I'd like to try at home.

My guilty favorite from the salad bar was the grape gelatin with a thick, sweetened whipped cream filling. What was not to like? Hush, that was a rhetorical question. I have already heard the evils of Jell-O. I forgot to try the vegetable gelatin salad.

When I go to a restaurant for the first time, I always check the soup selection. Chicken noodle and beef vegetable soups were listed. As it was a beautiful day in the 50s, perfect weather to be out and about, I easily entertained trying their soup.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Beef Veg Soup
Beef vegetable soup

The beef vegetable soup arrived partway through my salad. Sated at that point, I wished that I ordered a cup instead. It was beefy, with generous portions of vegetables and small cuts of beef, and had a delightful tang. If the salt could have been toned down just a notch and an hour and a half closer, I could see myself eating it weekly with a half sandwich.

Bug was giddy with excitement upon seeing chicken fried steak on the menu. The platter came with mashed potatoes and breaded mushrooms. He shared a bite of each item with me. I thought they were fine. The mashed potatoes were a bit refined to my tongue. I prefer mine lumpy and with skin. Bug warned me the mushrooms were hot so I waited patiently for it cool for 10 seconds and scalded my tongue. The steak was just crunchy to me after searing my taste buds.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Country Fried Steak
Country fried steak

Unfortunately, Bug was not wow'ed. He was suspicious the mashed potatoes were from a mix because of the texture. The country fried steak was technically all right. In his opinion, they tasted no different from a Redi-Serve OnCor entree preferring Cracker Barrel's instead.

The fried chicken in the hot case received a lot of praise, but I skipped all of their hot items to check out dessert. When I saw rhubarb pie during my once over prior to eating, I knew that was going to be mine.

By the time Bug and I returned to the table with our desserts, everyone had gone off in search of their respective interests -- wood crafts, quilts, and unusual snacks to take back as gifts.

Mrs Yoders Kitchen Dessert
Rhubarb pie and root beer cake

This was my first time eating rhubarb, a vegetable that made its tart presence known despite its sparsity amongst the abundance of whipped filling. I'll need to further investigate rhubarb pies. The root beer cake was interesting. It was dry and faintly tasted of root beer like licking the foamy suds off a mug of root beer float. Bug and I shared the nut cake, which was fine and as advertised.

As we headed out, there was a refrigerator near the door with peanut and almond butters for sale. I was tempted to buy several for everyone but with it being refrigerated, they would have been more of an imposition to lug.

Walking down the street you hear the bustle of cars, clacking of horseshoes, see an occasional awkward sighting of a tractor trailer making an impossible 90 degree turn with skill, lingering smell of horses, and the chatter of what sounded peripherally of German, but just out of my reach of understanding.

Mt Hope Parking Buggies
Parking lot

Visiting Amish Country was a nice excursion. I look forward to visiting the other areas in Millersburg and Berlin Township. I can leave my camera at home.

- Cassaendra

Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen
8101 State Route 241
Mt Hope, OH 44660
Tel: (330) 674-0922

Mon - Sat, 07:00 - 20:00

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