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Interactive “D-I-Y” Dining Experiences

Ichiriki Nabe. Image courtesy of Ichirikinabe 

With modern restaurateurs constantly pushing the creative envelope in an effort to be unique and stand out, today around the world all sorts of “outside the box” dining concepts and theme restaurants are popping up.

From the extreme, to whimsical, weird, gross, scary, to absolutely repulsive, and everything in between. You can now pay to dine in the dark, naked, under attack by Ninjas, under water, in a hospital, prison or S&M dungeon setting, out of a toilet bowl, eat brains from a live monkey (sickest I’ve ever heard of), to up in a tree house. Or, even higher, suspended 150 feet above terra firma with ‘Dinner in the Sky’. More on that later.

While dining locked-up in an S&M dungeon as you’re handcuffed to the chair, or perhaps while skydiving may sound stimulating, as setting and ambiance are equally important. Along with that, what I really enjoy are those dining experiences where you assemble & cook your meal yourself at your table. Or where a skilled chef or waiter prepares your dish tableside.

Dining with homophobic Great White Sharks and Sponge Bob at Oceanarium Restaurant in the Pacific Beach Hotel, Waikiki.

Of course, you could take that whole formula to the ultimate extreme and have yourself a skydiving “Chute-side prepared” Caesar Salad! Why not? With a super fast, super skilled tendem skydiving instructor/waiter literally at your side, it might be possible! “Oh sh#t, there went all the croutons. I hate it when that happens.”

The Hungry Skydiver. Image courtesy of visitrenotahoe.com

Or you could think of all kinds of flame-grilled interactive “D-I-Y” dining ideas aboard a hot air balloon. There ya’ go!

On the conservative side of that here in good ‘ole fashioned Hawaii, at a recent lunch at Bac Nam Vietnamese Restaurant, I ordered what we might say was “R-I-Y”, with roll-it-yourself Vietnamese spring rolls. With that, first you prepare the rice paper wrapper, which is served served on the side “uncooked”, along with a bowl of hot water to hydrate and soften it. You then take the various fillings served on the entree plate and add them to the softened rice wrapper, roll ’em up, and enjoy with sweet chili house dipping sauce.

Bac Nam: Bo Luong La Lot – Grilled Beef wrapped in lá lốt Leaves. Rice paper wrapper served on the side, along with a bowl of hot water to hydrate and soften it.

For the most part easy to do, however soaking the rice paper wrappers in the hot water to the proper doneness proved a bit challenging, as within seconds they went from plastic-like, to perfectly al dente, to rice paper “mush”. Yet that’s what made it all the more engaging and fun!

Playing with my food at Bac Nam Vietnamese Restaurant

While Japan has some pretty whacky modern restaurant themes, there’s a number of interactive D-I-Y dining experiences in traditional Japanese cuisine, including several varieties that fall under the Nabemono or “hot pot” style. The most popular in the islands being Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu. However places such as Ichiriki with their signature back-to-basics Nabe “stew” are beginning to catch on here as well.

Sukiyaki at home. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

With these Japanese interactive hot pot dining styles, typically a plate of fresh raw vegetables, meats, seafood and other proteins (e.g. tofu & fishcake) are served at the table plated either individually or family style, which you then pick & choose and cook yourself in a centralized slow-boiling hot broth pot that everyone shares.

Ichiriki Nabe ingredients. Image courtesy of Cupcakes & Kimchi food blog

Or in the case of Nabe, which is a stew, each person has their own hot pot (or a partitioned pot like at Ichiriki). Typically the cooked food is then enjoyed with a dipping sauce such as Ponzu and Gomatare (sesame sauce), while of course there’s other dipping sauces that vary by restaurant, along with a bowl of rice, of course.

Ichiriki Shabu Shabu “Hot Pot”. Image courtesy of Cupcakes & Kimchi food blog

Another variation on hot pot is Yakiniku, more often found around Honolulu with Korean restaurants. Similar to Nabemono, except with Yakiniku, a centralized communal grill is used to cook the food vs. being immersed in a broth. Grilling heat sources may vary from gas to charcoal to electric, and they often have elaborate smoke ventilation systems to help save the patrons from smelling like an ash pit upon leaving.

Korean style Yakiniku at Camellia Buffet Yakiniku

Then there’s Teppanyaki, popularized in the U.S. by none other than Benihana, while Tanaka of Tokyo is also well known on Oahu. This is less D-I-Y, yet still often interactive, as the patrons converse with the chef while he or she slices ‘n dices away, flipping ingredients in and out their chef’s hat and onto diners plates, making smoking “volcanoes” out of stacked onion slices, and performing parlor tricks on the guests. All while grilling away on a scorching hot flat top station surrounded by the seated diners.

Magic & Flying Knives at Musashi Teppanyaki Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency & Spa Waikiki (since closed)

Part buffet, part Teppanyaki, I also really dig Mongolian Barbecue. Back in the 70’s when I was “small keed”, Marine Corps Base Hawaii (Kaneohe) had an awesome Mongolian Barbecue restaurant. There, instead of being served a given set of veggies and meats, you go down a buffet line to pick and choose what you want, then you take it to the “Mongolian BBQ Master” at the end of the line who grills your goods a specialized scorchin’ hot Mongolian Barbecue flat top thing-a-ma-jing that looks an oversized nut & bolt washer. Your grilled Mongolian Barbecue is then served with the starch (rice/potato/pasta) of your choice. LOVE that!

Mongolian Barbecue. Image courtesy of meetup.com

Throughout the US and originally Europe, Tableside Preparations by a skilled waiter are popular as ever, including classics such as Caesar Salad, Steak Diane, Chateaubriand and Bananas Foster.

Tableside Chateaubriand for two at Michel’s in the Colony Surf, Waikiki

There’s certainly varying levels in quality and execution when it comes to tableside preparations. For instance, at one restaurant, we ordered a tableside Caesar that was priced around $10, which you KNOW they’re gonna’ cut corners somewhere. Sure enough, instead of making the entire deal from scratch, they used bottled Worcestershire sauce (vs. turning anchovies into a paste) and pre-made (from scratch) Caesar dressing. Ack! Ironically, it turned out pretty darned good! Must have been the wooden bowl, as well as the “psychological effect” of watching our server prepare it. A-ha!

Tableside Chateaubriand for two at Michel’s in the Colony Surf, Waikiki

Shorebird Waikiki offers D-I-Y Grilling, where you choose your cut of steak or burgers and veggies and fire ’em up yourself on a flamin’ hot grill. Never tried it, but it sounds like fun.

Then there’s the Cooked-to-Order Egg Station. And the Cut-to-Order Prime Rib. Oh yeah, thick as possible. Lots of fat, please. No ends for me. I want it “moo’ing” pink rare. Add some Jus and a heap of Horseradish, and don’t bother me for the next 30 minutes. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Or how about Subway, when you tell the “Sandwich Artist” how to make your sub? That counts as “interactive”, right?

Swiss & Cheddar Cheese Fondue. Image courtesy of Host the Toast

Speaking of dipping food in a hot pot, one style that’s all but absent currently in Hawaii’s culinary scene is classic Fondue, a communal melted cheese hot pot. Lots of places offer chocolate melting fountain dipped strawberries and other sweets for dessert, but I don’t see much going with cheese Fondue served the classic way. I know back in the 70’s Fondue was all the rage, and that it’s slowly gaining popularity again on the mainland with restaurants such as Melting Pot, yet not so much here yet.

Being that Oahu translates to “Melting Pot”, that’d be the perfect name for a hip new Fondue restaurant here. Simply name it Oahu. That’s it. Perfect!

Now let’s visit some of those crazy new interactive restaurant concepts around the world, where we MUST start with Japan, because they be crazy.

Nude Sushi anyone?…

Nyotaimori/Nantaimori, a.k.a. female and male “body sushi”. Image courtesy of South Beach Magazine blog (click on  image for the “R” version. Not.)

My only question is what must run through the minds of the “body sushi” models. They must be thinking, “you go one millimeter closer to my kootch, and I’ll stick those chopsticks in your eye, buddy. LOL!!!!

Next, up, eat one of these “Quadruple Bypass” Burgers at Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, Nevada, and you get your own “private nurse” to wheel you out to your car in a wheelchair…

Heart Attack Grill’s “Quadruple Bypass” Burger held by their “Nurse”. Image coursesy of examiner.com

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, not only does Heart Attack Grill serve cardiac-arresting burgers by scantily clad “nurses” to their “patients”, they also serve fries fried in lard, whole milk shakes and unfiltered cigarettes. Seriously! Just stick a fork in me, why don’t ya’! Not surprisingly, two fairly young men who were known regulars and spokespersons at Heart Attack Grill have already died, with one suffering a fatal heart attack at a bus stop soon after leaving the notorious restaurant. See, if they had drank Green Tea instead that milk shake, and walked to their car instead of being wheelchaired out, they may still be with us. Seriously.

Next, up, according to Trendhunter.com, “Bagger’s, a unique German restaurant, has eliminated all need for human interaction. Now you can enjoy your meal without pesky waiters — the only one left to blame for a screwed up order is you. The Nuremberg restaurant allows customers to order their meals via touchscreen right at their table. Estimated arrival times are communicated and the food and drinks glide down spiral rails when finished.”…

Bagger’s “waiterless” restaurant in Nuremburg, Germany. Copy and image courtesy of trendhunter.com

Japan’s Pub Paradise pampers women’s feet while dining. Image courtesy of trendhunter.com

For you ladies, while they don’t serve Manicotti and Manicures (which does have a nice ring to it!), you can get a “toe start” on your pedicure as you enjoy Japanese noodles at Pub Paradise in Japan.

According to trendhunter.com, “The Pub Paradise restaurant is a spa dining experience for women. They have heated water with mineral salts for those at the bar seats to soak their feet in while they enjoy their meal. They also have “rock” flooring that touches on pressure points in the feet to improve circulation and promote health. As well, they offer reclined dining at floor level so you can get off your feet and legs completely to enjoy your meal. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Pampering your feet while enjoying a good meal with your girlfriends should be a dining standard.”

Japan’s Pub Paradise pampers women’s feet while dining. Image courtesy of trendhunter.com

Dang, if I did that for my dinner date, I’d instantly become her GOD. Little more to the left. Lower. Higher. Yes! Yes! Oh, YES!

Pampering your feet not enough? Well then take care of your tush too at Taiwan’s Modern Toilet Restaurant

Modern Toilet Restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan. Image courtesy of jetsetta.com.

“Excuse me, may I have another roll of toilet paper and a can of Lilac Air Freshener? Thank you.” Imagine a cheese Fondue “hot pot” served out of that. What a visual. There’s lots more gross asian restaurants at this Jetsetta.com link. Check it out!

Ah, this is a MUCH better visual when I’m dining…

Ithaa Undersea Restaurant in the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. Image courtesy of nickyfromtheblock

According to trendhunter.com, “Five meters below the Indian Ocean sits the “first-ever undersea restaurant in the world.” This restaurant, built and introduced by Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa, “is part of a US $5 million dollar re-build of Rangalifinolhu Island, one of the twin islands that make up Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa.”

Implications – The food you will taste in this submersed restaurant is a fantastic blend of western style food that have been given a twist of Maldivian flavor. If you were also looking to sip on some fine vino with your meal, they also have an exciting wine concept which will please pallets with beverages from the Champagne house Louis Roederer. Good food and an adventurous environment — what more could you ask for?”

Duty Free Waikiki should have thought of doing that with their aquarium, instead of putting that silly T-shirt store under it. It would probably still be there if they did that. They’ve since took the aquarium out, claiming it too expensive to maintain. A restaurant serving expensive bottles of wine would have covered that.

From under the sea, aim for the stars and have your Dinner in the Sky

Dinner in the Sky at. Image courtesy of toxel.com

Dinner in the Sky is Belgian based novelty restaurant which uses a crane to hoist its diners, table, and waiting staff 150 feet into the air. It accommodates 22 guests, with 3 staff in the center. Forbes magazine called it one of the world’s ten most unusual restaurants. Dinner in the Sky has mobile services available in 15 nations, and has operated in various cities including Paris and Las Vegas.

Back home, a member on the Hawaii Threads discussion board said there used to be a Chinese 24-hour restaurant in a small hotel in Waikiki, near the Ilikai and Wailana restaurant that served Jook with D-I-Y toppings. They’d bring a big pot of plain Jook, a.k.a. Congee, which is a Chinese rice porridge soup, along with a wide variety of toppings, including chicken, pork, beef, various hot sauces, shoyu, mushrooms, shredded lettuce, cucumber and other vegetables, crushed peanuts, etc to pick and choose from. Mix it in the Jook and have at it.

Homemade D-I-Y Turkey Jook

Another HT member also mentioned them frozen yogurt shops popping up all over, where you pick ‘n choose your own toppings.

Where you CAN’T pick and choose, yet is very much interactive in every sense of the word is a lunch or dinner with the Angry Korean Lady at Ah Lang…

Won, the “Angry Korean Lady” of Ah Lang Korean Restaurant

As you may have read my review, as well as the numerous other reveiws on Yelp, the experience dining at Ah Lang is as much about “dealing” with Won the “Angry Korean Lady” as it is enjoying her wonderful, authentic Korean eats. Here at Ah Lang, you make your own water, and you kiss Won’s ass by bringing her favorite booze, which is either Michelob Ultra, or any expensive Wine or Shoju. Just kidding on expensive. As long as the wine isn’t Yellowtail, which she claims makes her sick.

Then you have to hope she even likes you, or chances are, she’ll just ignore you until you walk out. We’ve witnessed her actually do that! Unbelievable!

Angry Korean Lady‘s signature Chive Jun… OMG, the BOMB!

If she does like you, then sit back and enjoy eating some of the best Korean food you can get this side of Kim Jong Un’s chubby cheeks, while sippin’ on Shoju with the Angry Korean Lady. Won ended up liking me so much, that she hand-fed me one of her luscious steamed Mandoo herself! How you like that?! Hand-fed me! Now THAT my friends is what you call INTERACTIVE!

On the domestic front while growing up, I used to dig when my sister Keanu would prepare us a D-I-Y Taco Station at the dinner table, which was often. She’d fry-up the flour tortillas, and set them out on a plate with the various taco fillings (we’re talkin’ THE WORKS), where you make your own. Winnah, that one!

There’s a whole lot more interactive and “unusual dining experiences” out there, just a Google search away to explore.

What’s your favorite interactive D-I-Y dining experience(s)? Anything unusual you’ve tried?


22 thoughts on “Interactive “D-I-Y” Dining Experiences

  • March 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    I can pretty much do without any of that, although I have found dinner at the Pacific Beach Hotel to be an excellent value.

    • March 13, 2013 at 3:53 pm


      That said, I’ve added a “None of the above” choice to the poll for this posting.

      I agree, Oceanarium’s buffet (especially the Sunday Brunch) is reasonable considering both the quality and quanity of dishes, along with the Aquarium for the ambiance. As “touristy” as it is, it’s still one of my top choices for entertaining out-of-town guests.

  • March 13, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    I love mongolian bbq. I also love the Melting Pot. Their wine seasoning is delicious.

    • March 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm


      I always wanted to try making my own Fondue at home, but never done it. I love mixing things to see how they turn out. I’d probably experiment with a blend of several cheeses – definitely one being Brie – and a good dry white wine, which I understand works best.

      • March 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm

        Oooh! You must try making it at home! There are several common recipes in which kirsch is used, some use beer too. A good white wine is also delicious. Around holiday time, the stores here always have fondue mix, which is a foil pack with a glob of cheese/wine/garlic. It’s kind of the lazy person’s fondue, but still good. Mixing various cheeses with Brie sounds delicious, too. I know bread is the common accompaniment for fondue, but raw cauliflower florets, celery and apple are amazing dipped in fondue.

        Are you familiar at all with Raclette? It’s sort of similar in concept to cheese fondue, but a little less labor intensive with the preparation, and it’s a lot of fun because you can melt the cheese and grill veggies (or meat) at the same time. You should check it out.

        • March 13, 2013 at 9:08 pm

          OMG!!! Raclette! Who’d a’ thought? While I’ve never heard of Raclette until now, thanks to you, Raclette is SO up my alley! The whole idea of scraping melted cheese off a partially hardened block? Dude, SO there! Cheese FREAK right here, baby! Shoots, screw scraping it onto a plate of grilled veggies ‘n meats… just scrape the melted off cheese straight down my throat! That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! ;)

          As for what I’d like to try for dipping in an ooey-gooey-cheesy Fondue? At the top of my list would be MUSHROOMS. Any and all kinds. Second would be Eggplant. Third would be Artichoke Hearts. Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin and Moloka’i Sweet Potatoes might work out well, too. Essentially, the more “earthy”, root veggie stuff. Of course, prepared properly so that it’s tender, while dry enough so that the cheese adheres well to it.

          As for Kirsch, GREAT. My long distant past continues to haunt me. :cry: Seriously though, I’ve always kept a bottle of Brandy in my house, not just for sentimental reasons, but I use it often to cook with. Especially for deglazing, infusing and tenderizing. In my steak eating days, I often made Steak Au Poivre, which as you know Brandy (or traditionally Cognac) is the key ingredient to the flambeed Peppercorn Sauce of this classic French dish. Now with my pescetarian-focused diet *cough-cough*, I’d like to try doing a Portobello Mushroom Au Poivre. Better sounding as “Belle Au Poivre”. Ooooh! :yes:

          • March 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

            Raclette is pretty awesome, lots of fun, too!

            Your choices of fondue dippers sounds great, though I’m not sure I’ve had Kabocha pumpkin. Is that the yellowish/brown veggie in most sushi veggie rolls?

            I can’t imagine what kind of distant past you had with Kirsch. When I think of alcohol and my distant past, I (cringingly) think of peach schnaps and (even more cringe-worthy) wine coolers.

            Bella Au Poivre sounds delicious. I use a lot of wine in cooking, but I don’t have much experience cooking with brandy (or cognac).

  • March 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm


    I see you can buy Raclette Makers for home use. Here’s a nice one from William Sonoma…
    and Target…

    It looks like each diner gets their own Raclette Cheese tray and spatula. That’s pretty cool. That does look like fun! I’m getting one, for sure! I’ll ask our local Yelp community if anyone knows who might serve Raclette in Honolulu. And Cheese Fondue for that matter.

    That yellowish/brown veggie in sushi rolls you’re referring to is most likely Takuwan, which is pickled Daikon (turnip).

    As for my distant past, it’s what Kirsch is that I didn’t expect, and I got choked up. I was just venting. That’s all I’ll say.

    I checked if you can swap by using Brandy instead of Kirsch for making cheese Fondue, where some said it’s not recommended. Only if it’s a sweet fondue like chocolate. Next time I go shopping I’ll look for Kirsch. Sounds interesting.

    Being vegetarian, does that include sauces as well, like ZERO meat involved? Like say if you were served Belle Au Poivre (Sauteed Portobello Mushroom with Peppercorn sauce), yet the Peppercorn sauce it was prepared with had beef or veal stock in it, would you still eat it?

  • March 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I have a raclette maker, I love it. I use other cheeses besides raclette in it, it’s just as good. It’s really fun to have raclette parties, and it’s less fiddly than fondue. That said, it’s just as fun to get out the raclette for one.

    As for the Kirsh, I understand. Sometimes things that are seemingly random to others put me in the same disposition.

    You don’t need Kirsh or brandy for cheese fondue. If you make a cheddar-based fondue, you can do it with beer and garlic (that’s how they do it at the Melting Pot). You can also use various wines with various cheeses, there’s no rule, unless you’re following a specific recipe for swiss fondue that calls for kirsh (and even then, you can substitute. Nobody’s giving points for authenticity :-D ).

    As for being a vegetarian (and sometimes pescetarian) and sauces, yes, basically zero meat is how I roll. When I need an extra savory stock or base, I use Better Than Bouillon’s Mushroom Base (http://amzn.to/Z7VzCj). I know I’ve probably had various meat stocks while dining out, and if I can’t tell, it’s fine. If I can tell, I usually don’t like it (I’m not a fan of the flavor of animal proteins). I don’t mind fish/seafood stocks. Often as a dinner guest at someone’s house, I end up with things like veggies sauteed in chicken stock or some similar thing, and I just eat it because I feel like they went to the trouble to cook something extra for me, not thinking about the stock, and it would be rude of me to not eat it, or say something that might embarrass them. So, all in all, yeah, I guess I’m kind of strict about it.

    By the way, thanks for answering about the veggie roll. Now I’ll know what I’m eating.

    • March 14, 2013 at 10:29 pm


      I finally had time to look up Raclette on YouTube, finding a demo’ by SwissMar, manufacturer of kitchen countertop Raclette models.


      They pronounce it “RACK’LET”. However I’d imagine the proper Swiss way to pronounce it has more finesse to it. I dunno though. To me, Raclette looks more involved than Fondue. At least with Fondue, all you need are disposable skewers for each serving. With Raclette, you need those complex cheese trays called “coupelles”, plus a scraper tool.

      Regarding Fondue recipes: beer, garlic and cheese? Gosh, I really don’t know how that formula could EVER not work!

      It’s so interesting hearing from people like you in the US who totally dislike the taste of animal protein (meat and fat), when it’s so prevalent everywhere we look. More power to you! You’re not like a size -03, are you? Ha!

      Me, while I don’t miss the fleshy texture of meat, I do now and then crave the savory flavor profile of it. IIRC, our local Costco sells the chicken version of Better Than Bouillon. I’ll keep an eye out for the Mushroom version. Sounds DELISH!

      My favorite seafood stock is clam “liquor”. Infuse some butter, garlic, wine and lemon juice to that. Perhaps some chopped Dill. Toss pasta with that. Done!!! Clams are so similar to Mushrooms, which is no wonder I LOVE Clam Chowder. Preferably New England style, however Manhattan works too. We need to create a standard for Hawaiian style Clam Chowder (regardless of Clams not being a common catch here). I’m thinkin’ something along the lines of “Squid” Luau, being based on coconut milk and taro leaves. Simply name it ‘Luau Chowder’. Ooooooh!!!

      • March 16, 2013 at 6:30 am

        The fondue pot I have is one that was passed down to me, probably one of my mother’s wedding gifts from 1970 or something. It’s a pain to keep heated, to clean, etc. I guess that’s why I say that fondue is fiddly.

        I agree about cheese, beer and garlic = yum. You’ve got me thinking about cheese combinations though. I was at Whole Foods yesterday and lingered at the cheese counter for a while, finally picking up 3 cheeses I’ve never had before.

        I agree about it being unusual being from the US and not liking animal protein, considering it’s so prevalent. Nothing is more “American” than a steak the size of the moon (not even apple pie). But I’ve always been this way, even when I was a child. It’s 75% preference and 25% OCD. In answer to your question, I’m not a size -03. I like clothing too much, and it would be hard to find in that size… it would also look terrible. I have no desire to look like Skeletor or Posh Spice.

        The Mushroom base is incredible. I use it in so many ways, from making veggie stew richer to using it in my “I really need to go to the grocery store cream of mushroom soup” (coconut milk, mushroom base, onions if I have them and frozen cauliflower, blitzed with the immersion blender after boiling).

        Your clam recipe sounds delicious. Butter, garlic, clams and dill, yum (I LOVE dill!!!).

        • March 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm


          How much may I ask did those 3 cheese you chose at Whole Paycheck cost you? Be honest! :-D In light of that question, I just looked up “Most expensive cheese in the world”, where it turns out Pule, a Serbian cheeese made from Donkey’s milk sell for about $1,700 per pound. Not surprisingly, it’s not sold commercially. The most expensive commercially-produced cheese is a French mountain cheese called Beaufort D’Ete, retailing for $44.99 a pound, less than one tenth as much as pule.


          throughout my sister’s high school years, she sewed EVERY outfit herself from those patterns you buy at fabric stores. I mean, she had a new self-sewn outfit to wear just about every week from mixing and matching fabrics and combining patterns. I swear, she was the best dressed chic in Kamehameha. Back then she was skinny bones.

          I just got back from one of the supermarkets I shop at, and they carried the Better than Bouillon products, but only the beef, chicken and vegetable version, not the mushroom. I’ll look around locally some more.

          I was looking at the ingredients in the various powdered brown gravies by McCormick, including the mushroom and onion flavors, and they all have beef fat in it. The only one that didn’t list any meat product was Campbell’s canned Mushroom gravy. I don’t know about instant gravy in a can though. I’d rather “build” the gravy myself.

          Whenever I make simple pastas (just garlic, EVOO and/or butter & wine sauce), if I’ve got some on hand, I’ll always sprinkle Dill on it. Can’t beat Dill with Salmon ANYTHING. Especially on smoked lox on a bagel and cream cheese. Dang I could for that right now!

          • March 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm

            Goodness that’s some expensive cheese!! Though, if I found myself in a situation where I had only two choices, pay for some of that cheese or eat the same amount of casu marzu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casu_marzu) for free, you better believe I’d shell out for the pricy cheese!

            I spent somewhere between 15 – 20 on the cheese at Whole Paycheck (I forgot, I bought 4, not 3, more on that in a bit). When I try new cheese, I like to get the smallest wedge, and my limit is $5 because I hate wasting food/money if I don’t like the cheese. I bought a triple cream with morels and leak, an extra gooey double cream and a cheddar with mustard seeds. While I was walking away, they were sampling apple and Dubliner cheese paninis, so of course I walked away with a chunk of Dubliner, too. It was on sale though, so that doesn’t really count. In fact, same brand at my regular grocery was double the price.

            I don’t think I would be able to be stylish your sister’s way. When I was a teen, I thought it would be awesome to sew clothing, so I gave it a try. I started practicing on the sewing machine by sewing a pillow. I ended up sewing my shirt to the pillow case and that was the end of my sewing career. I like to stay between size 2 and 4, unless I’m at Old Navy. I swear they size for ego and not actual size, because a 0 there is like a 4 elsewhere.

            My local grocery doesn’t sell the Mushroom variety, either. They have many of the others. I think Whole Foods has it, but I usually order from Amazon. I have that Prime membership, so of course they’ve made a captive customer out of me.

            As for gravy, I’ve never used or tried canned/jarred gravy. When I make meat/poultry for others, I make the gravy myself. When I cook for myself, I’m more of a “sauce” person. I usually make sauce myself, but I admit to using the McCormack Hollandaise sauce packets (but I doctor them up with a bunch of lemon or lime and some cayenne pepper. Plus, I don’t use the butter/margarine called for on the directions. There’s no need). I know how to make real Hollandaise, but it’s a pain!

            As for lox, you would have loved my late grandfather’s pickled lox. He used the trimmings from regular smoked salmon, so it was just pickled bits, but it was soooo good. Growing up, that was always called lox, and slices of smoked salmon was called Nova. I didn’t know till I was an adult that they were the same thing. I thought lox was the name for pickled bits of salmon!

    • March 15, 2013 at 2:19 am


      I watched that video you linked on DIY pancakes. AWESOME! I’m especially intrigued in trying the savory ones, like the one that uses a Zucchini batter. Also neat that they’re all done out of squeeze bottles, so you can “draw” your pancakes on the griddle, where they have ” pancake art” contests. Super-duper neat-oh! Thanks for sharing the find! 8-)

  • March 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm


    Gosh-WOW, your comments lately have been EPIC!

    Regarding them cheeses you got recently from Whole Paycheck, I’m really curious how they would have turned out all melted together in a grilled cheese sandwich, using your favorite artisan bread ‘n butter, served with a good Tomato or Lobster Bisque. Oooh!

    Never tried Cazu Marzu before, and not sure I’d like it. Sounds pungent. I’m more into predominantly creamy, contrasted lightly by sharp, along with a good dose of herbal. In a cheesy nutshell.

    Size 2 to 4 eh? So at Old Navy you’re back to size -3, right where I presumed. Ha!

    Regarding your sewing skills, you may have not realized it at the time, but you must may have invented the world’s first “Shirllow”. A pillow you wear on the back of your shirt, so you can get some comfortable rest, no matter where you are! BRILLIANT!!! :-D

    Regarding Better than Bouillon, I’m curious how savory the Vegetable flavor is. Another popular concentrated broth brand is Knorr, where they have one line that comes in a concentrated paste with no MSG.

    Gosh, of all the McCormick’s instant sauce/gravy packets, I can’t believe you use their Hollandaise Sauce version. Nothing beats a scratch-made Hollandaise, extra lemon and nutmeg for me, please! Being you like Hollandaise, I take it you eat eggs?

    Finally, for salmon lox, never heard of the term “Nova”. However, I like the idea of pickled bits of salmon that can be spread about on the thick layer of cream cheese spread on the bagel.

    Dang h, see what you did? That’s what I feel like eating now! A big fat bagel half x 2, heaped with a thick layer of soft cream cheese and dill, topped with slices of smokey salmon, sliced red onion, a thick steak-cut tomato and olive spread. Bring it, baby!

    • March 21, 2013 at 2:05 am

      I think you forgot “maggoty” in Cazu Marzu’s potential flavor profile. Yuck.

      I use the Vegetable Better Than Bullion. It’s great, but it packs a vegetable punch, so best for specific uses. The Mushroom, on the other hand, just adds a general savory depth of flavor to anything (but does boost the mushroom flavor if used in a mushroom dish). I’ve never heard of Knorr’s paste.

      I’m with you on the extra lemon in Hollandaise. I like extra lemon in just about everything. I do love a scratch-made Hollandaise, but it’s a chore to keep from splitting, and too unhealthy to eat as often as I’d like a “lemony sauce” so I use the packet for just general stuff, and scratch-made when I’m being fancy. I consider the packet to be like Domino’s Pizza. I like it, and it does it’s job, but it’s not actual, real pizza. (just a generic comparison, I’m not a pizza snob or anything.) I do eat eggs in things, I like baked custard, etc. As for breakfast-style eggs, eh… I’d rather have a bagel.

      • March 21, 2013 at 5:25 am


        Andrew Zimmmern did several episodes featuring cheese made out of “recycled” bug infestation. The Bizarre Foods just this past Monday, he was at a cheese place in Wisconsin that was producing that type of cheese, where he described it as “nutty”.

        I’ll continue looking locally for the BTB Mushroom flavor before resorting online.

        I gotta’ try that McCormick’s Hollandaise. You make it sound almost as good as from scratch! Speaking of that and Pizza, I wonder if anyone’s tried making a pizza using Hollandaise as the main sauce instead of Marinara. That’d be interesting! Perhaps a Pizza Lox with Hollandaise. Or back to “basics” with an Eggs Benedict Pizza. Ooooooooh! :lamp: Guaranteed I look that up on Google (which I haven’t) and someone’s done it already.

        Amazing you’re a size 3, yet you don’t eat breakfast. Goes against all those dietary recommendations that eating a healthy breakfast is important in weight (metabolism) management. Then again, you got the upper hand being a vegetarian.

  • March 21, 2013 at 7:41 am

    HOLLANDAISE PIZZA! This HAS to happen. You’re a :pizza: genius!!

    I always hear how important breakfast is, and I believe it. However, I’ve never been able to stomach the idea of food for a few hours after I get up (I’m not a morning person). I’ve always been this way, even since grade school. So perhaps my body is just used to it? I usually grab an apple and some almonds to eat mid-morning, so I guess that’s my breakfast. If it’s a weekend and I’ve been awake for a few hours, sure hand over a pancake or two. But in general, breakfast isn’t for me.

    • March 21, 2013 at 10:59 am


      As expected, there’s a bunch of Hollandaise Pizza recipes already out there. Here’s a couple…

      Pizza Hollandaise

      Smoked Salmon ‘Pizza’ with Lemon-Curry Hollandaise

      As for typical American fare, I like eating breakfast food for dinner. Been like that since I was a kid. Cereal and milk (2%) is one of my favorite late night snacks, and an egg ‘n cheese “deluxe” sandwich always hits the spot for dinner. Throughout the mornings during the work week, I’ll have either toast, fruit of any kind or instant oatmeal and cream of wheat.

      Did you check out that DIY pancake house Adri previously mentioned? Now THAT is genius!…


      • March 21, 2013 at 2:14 pm

        Aw, too bad you weren’t the original inventor of the Hollandaise pizza. Well, I’ll remember it as your invention, if it helps. I think if I made a Hollandaise pizza, I’d top it with sauteed mushrooms, roasted asparagus and a sprinkling of capers (I love capers).

        I eat cereal and milk (Almond) for dinner sometimes. I really like grape nuts. Though sometimes I’m like a 5 year old and eat fruit loops. In the winter I make homemade oatmeal every once in a while.

        Slappy Cakes looks like an awesome restaurant. I’d love to try their zucchini pancakes. Of course they’re in Portland, OR. That city has the coolest places!!


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