Thursday: There May Be No Stairway, but $2 Goes a Long Way Toward a Little Bit of Heaven (aka the “Central Park Discovery” Post)

On Thursday night, I did dessert first.

photo-13I’ve begun to build in long stretches of city blocks (or river fronts, or parks) into my ways to get between places, and walking through Central Park I began wishing I had an ice cream thing. Or a popsicle thing. Or, in other words, the exact sort of treats that the park concession carts with the green-and-white umbrellas specialize in.

I’d never bought a frozen treat in the park before, and to be completely honest, I was expecting something closer to stadium prices: $4 and up. So I was shocked, I mean shocked, to discover that (with the exception of the Haagen Daaz and Ben & Jerry’s bars), hardly anything was more than $2-$3!

photo-14photo-12The best idea ever got better: My $2 Blue Bunny FrozFruit bananas & cream bar was only 160 calories, actually lists bananas as the third ingredient (after water and milk) and is not a shabby source of a couple of vitamins and minerals. And it only could have been improved by not being deep frozen — too impatient to wait for it to thaw, I had bitten through most of it by the time it got soft enough to melt in that pleasant way cold things on a stick have a tendency to do.

I have no idea what took me so long.

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Monday: Whoopie Pie in the Sky

My first whoopie pie. An Isamax Snacks “original”-style Wicked Whoopie Pie, which means two chocolate cake discs stuffed with enough cream filling to set off a classroom of children like firecrackers, let alone one bleary-eyed girl, 28,000 feet high in the sky, at 7 o’clock in the morning. (Is that what makes it “wicked”?)

photo-11Mine is slightly smooshed from the transport, which means I’ve lost some of the cream filling to the crevices of its crinkled plastic wrapper forever. I’m not worried, just patient. I cat-nap until the beverage service comes around, because nothing cuts through that cloying-ly sweet frosting — you know, the kind that sends sharp, little tingles up into your bones — like stoic, acidic, citrus juice. Think about it: Why else does lemonade go down so well at birthday parties?

The verdict: It was so messy. It was processed cake-y, registering only slightly more homemade than a Hostess Ding-Dong or a Hoho. And on frosting steriods — an instant sugar high, tingly bone sensations and all.

… Although I’m fairly certain I caught the man reviewing his Powerpoint presentation next to me sneaking a glance. This is not normal Monday morning flight behavior. Was his look one of jealousy, or disgust? I was too absorbed in my own Wicked Whoopie world to tell.

The Minnesota Edition: On the Road Again (aka the “Strange Synergy of this Trip” Post)

In several not entirely expected ways, my return home mirrored my journey here.

First, there was the Dairy Queen stop, at the beginning of the nearly 10-hour trip home.

photophoto-1This time, I went for a medium-sized, butterscotch-dipped cone, which I happily devoured while staring out at a local highway. Specifically, I was staring at the sign at the start of the bridge, the far side (which the iPhone camera is too low-res to capture). It reads (“announces” might be a better word): The Mississippi River.

“This is so Minnesota,” I thought, “To sit at a Dairy Queen, just off a local highway, and stare at a turn in the Mississippi River.” A moment later. “And damn, this is good soft serve.”

Transferring through the Minneapolis airport (MSP), I had the greater part of an hour to kill, which meant dinner. I ended up at Rock Bottom Brewery (which I photo-3actually don’t like that much) solely because I saw open electrical outlets, and even one guy plugged in and using his laptop, and I wanted to do the exact same thing.

I ended up with the sampler selection (of the beers that I don’t particularly like or dislike) because 24 total oz. of sampler beers was the same price as a large, single, 20 oz. beer — so, I got 4 oz. free. (Plus, I couldn’t remember which Rock Bottom Brewery beer I liked best. Oh yes, I’ve been to one before, in California.)

photo-4And I ended up with the half-order of nachos, plus guacamole extra, because I saw what they looked like on a neighboring table, and that’s exactly what I want.

Multi-colored corn chips (apparently, they exude some sign of authenticity), pickled jalapeno rounds from the can or jar, guacamole scooped out with a melon baller scoop — these nachos are nothing at all like the fare from my beloved taco truck outside the Jackson Height’s subway stop, but when you’re still three hours and change away from even landing at La Gauardia — just do it.

The Minnesota Edition: Thin Mint Cookie Blizzard … Mmm (aka the “Dairy Queen Ritual” Post)

photo-9For as long as I can remember, the drive from the Twin Cities to Crosslake, Minn. involves a requisite DQ stop. Something about Dairy Queen treats just taste better on the road in Minnesota, whether it’s a hot, sunny day or a humid summer night, cars whizzing by on the highway, heading elsewhere.

I usually go for the Dairy Queen Blizzard Treat: creamy soft serve and your mix-in of choice roughly blended so that crumbles, bits and whole chunks of the candy, cookies, nuts or even fruit (or some combination thereof) are strewn throughout. So I was thrilled to discover that August’s “Blizzard of the Month” was a Blizzard Treat blended with Thin Mints, that classic Girl Scout cookie, which the first thing you do is stick them in the freezer anyway (they’re just better that way).

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The verdict: A must-try for any Girl Scout cookie junkie. The cookie bits stay hard and crunchy, and the soft serve has the distinct taste of Thin Mints, which is different from but related to the mint-chip family of flavors.

As the soft serve inevitably begins to melt around the edges into little milky pools, I was reminded of this classic pairing: A short stack of Thin Mints and a tall, cool glass of milk.

BLD Minnesota Edition: Impromptu Appetizer Party, Target Superstore-Style

If you live in the heart of New York City, and find yourself in the vicinity photo-6of an all-in-one megastore, like the Super Targets that populate the Twin Cities, you will make a pilgrimage there.

And you will marvel at the convenience of being able to buy your milk, freezer waffles, birthday cards, DVDs, toothpaste — as well as a cheap, fashionable handbag from some designer’s collaborative collection — all in the same place. Reverence-worthy indeed.

While I was scouting out travel-sized Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps, the $4.95 DVD rack and more, my aunt basically sourced the entire impromptu appetizer party, which happened a little later at Grandpa’s house, from Super Target’s grocery section (which legitimately could be a stand-alone, fully-stocked grocery store).

On the Menu:

Pita chips and humus.
Shrimps and cocktail sauce, frozen/thawed.

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Meatballs and hot dogs in barbecue sauce, warmed on the stove (could have just as easily been in a Crock-Pot).
Bite-sized vegetables and ranch dip, prepackaged.

photo-2photo-1No fancy cheeses (although I do love ’em), no Chinatown-sourced delectables (although I love those, too), no ordering involved (or cooking really, either) — just simple food of the sort that people can gather around and share, along with the latest family news.

Living in New York, you forget how the rest of the country eats. That’s okay, I think, but this is quite alright, too.