Just after I wrote that whole story on oatmeal, I noticed Quaker Supreme at the grocery store. Quaker Supreme is a line of "heartier" oatmeal packets clearly marketed for adults. It's slightly better than regular Quaker oatmeal packets, but don't be fooled. It's not great. I know I run the risk of sounding like some crazed hippie (or worse, my mother) but when it comes to prepackaged and preflavored things like oatmeal and yogurt, you're really better off making your own. Buy a big tub of yogurt. Spoon as much as you want into a glass and then add your own jam, honey, granola, cinnamon sugar, pomegranate syrup, whatever. It's always better. The same is true of oatmeal. Why would I pay extra for sub-par cinnamon- and pecan-flavored oatmeal? I mean, the stuff is still a white, pasty glop when you pull it out of the microwave, despite the picture on the box. Where is this brimming bowl of dark, richly textured oats? Not in my Radarange. For one thing, the bowl and spoon in this picture are obviously a demitasse cup and its dainty stirrer. That's it. I've had enough. I'm going to start working on making my own recipes for oatmeal and find a way to put it in individual packets. You just wait and see.
You must go eat at Pho #1. Both times I've been to this brand-new Vietnamese restaurant at San Pedro and Zuni (268-0488), it's been packed with a mix of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese patrons. What's all the fuss about? Well, the atmosphere is nothing remarkable, so it must be the fantastic food. Chef Day Nguyen previously had restaurants in Boston, Mass. and Arlington, Texas, but recently moved here for the pleasant climate. Pho #1 is owned by Nguyen's brother-in-law Hue Chung and their house specialty is the magnificent Seven Courses of Beef. Don't be intimidated by the confusing names of the dishes. Grill Hawaiian loaf leaf beef is absolutely scrumptious, for example; so is steamed beef paste/meatball mixed with glass noodles and spices. It sounds horrifying, I know, and the meatball isn't much to look at either, but I swear it's one of the best things I've eaten in recent memory. Whatever you do, don't miss the beef grilled on your table and served with a lemongrass sauce. It's to die for. Oh, and make sure you have time for a leisurely dinner. Service can be slow for a regular meal, but the seven courses of beef takes a pleasantly long time to get through as well.
Here in the Land of Enchantment, nothing says "family gathering" like whacking a papier-mâché animal until it bleeds candy. First you'll need to buy or make a piñata. The fabulous bird you're looking at now was hand-crafted by our friends Jada and Crash (call 401-8794 to order). There are instructions on how to make a simple balloon-based turkey piñata at www.familyfun.com.
Is one kind of turkey really any better than another? Probably. When the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine cooked traditional frozen turkeys (labeled as self-basting) and "natural" turkeys, they discovered big differences. The vast majority of frozen turkeys are labeled as self-basting because they've been injected with fluids to make them juicier. These fluids, usually salt and broth, but occasionally artificial flavors, do indeed make a moist turkey. But Cook's Illustrated's taste-testers said they could taste some weird and unnatural flavors. You know how turkey deli meat doesn't taste anything like roasted turkey even though it's technically roasted turkey? That's what we're talking about here.