Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, January 02, 2021

In line with a strategy that seems to call for rehashing existing brands and exhuming old ones, Coca-Cola Co. is rolling out TaB Energy next month.

The iconic brand seems to be the sole thing this new brew has in common with Coke’s original diet cola entry. Not only is it not cola-flavored, TaB Energy doesn’t even appear to contain much in the way of the standard ingredients to be found in energy drinks. If the TaB name is perceived to be the value-added part of this equation, it would be quite the historical switch-up: “TaB” was originally devised to avoid attaching the “Coca-Cola/Coke” name to what was assumed to be a niche second-tier product.

But notice the packaging of TaB Energy: A slender can with burberry-pink patterned design. Very reminiscent of Pink, the Diet Energy Drink, which I discovered on store shelves back in May. I noted at the time that this upstart beverage looked like a reborn TaB, even though it’s produced by Phoenix Global Group, a company unrelated (as far as I can tell) to Coca-Cola.

I’m thinking that someone at Coke came across Pink, and got inspired. Where the line between inspiration and rip-off lies might be a topic for another discussion. But it could put a crimp in the in-process rollout of TaB Energy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/02/2021 04:05pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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Friday, December 23, 2021

A few days ago, I was in a Publix, looking for something different to eat for lunch. Even though I’m not much of a salad eater, I cruised through that aisle; figured maybe a chicken Caesar might be good.

I found a small Waldorf Salad. And I thought: “What kind of a supermarket makes pre-packaged Waldorf Salads?”

I was so thrown by this discovery that I bought it. I didn’t have it for lunch that day; I actually took it home and had it a couple of nights later. Not bad; it was missing the celery, but the poppyseed dressing I used on it compensated.

Still, I wondered: What would make the grocery store people think that the fairly obscure Waldorf would be worthy of coveted shelf space? I shop at that Publix regularly, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that item there before.

Then, it came to me. A few weeks back, one of the local PBS stations aired the old “Waldorf Salad” episode of “Fawlty Towers”. Viola! One of Publix’s saladmakers must have seen that same rerun, and gotten inspired. Having the ugly American bark out the ingredients to John Cleese must have helped.

Who knew an old Britcom could influence what you eat?

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/23/2005 10:08am
Category: Food, TV
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Monday, December 19, 2021

Just spied on the streets of Tampa (on Waters Avenue near the intersection with Dale Mabry, in case that matters):

An Empanadas To Go delivery van.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s about time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/19/2005 11:26am
Category: Florida Livin', Food
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Wednesday, December 14, 2021

Counting today, it’s a dozen days until Jesus’ birthday. So tonight, hoist up one of these seasonal suds and celebrate the holiday with choice hops. (The Avery Old Jubilation Ale sounds particularly good.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/14/2005 04:53pm
Category: Food
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I just love that Kim Yelvington named her patisserie “Chocolate Pi, and even underlines the pun by charging $3.14 for one of the signature treats at said shop. (I’m just glad she isn’t making people count out that price to the exact change.)

Yelvington shows a track record of mathematical obsession; her previous store was named “Sugar Cubed” (get it?). I’d always heard that, in the culinary realm, baking is more about precision than cooking is; so I guess it makes sense that a pastry chef would be inclined toward numbers.

Can I assume that her favorite movies — aside from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — are Pi and Proof?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/14/2005 04:42pm
Category: Florida Livin', Food, Movies
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Friday, December 02, 2021

Just when you think you know your one and only sibling, it turns out that he was moonlighting as a sportsbar chef in Toronto at age 16.

It’d have been a neat trick for my brother Basil (who actually went by the familiar “Bill” in 1989) to have commuted from New York to Ontario. An even neater trick would have been him cooking anything; to this day, I doubt he can cook much beyond standard bachelor fare.

Still, it makes me wonder what happened to this other Bill Tsiokos. Only a year of professional cooking, but that’s enough to get listed in as audacious a project as The Chef and Restaurant Database.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/02/2021 07:35pm
Category: Comedy, Food, Internet
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Wednesday, November 30, 2021

mm, mm, good
If you too have Cambodian tapioca sticks and other culinary odds-and-ends gathering dust in your pantry, slide on over to Google and discover what wild concoctions the search engine can yield when you feed it disparate ingredients.

And if that doesn’t work out, you can always swipe a recipe from Google executive chef Charlie Ayers.

(Via InsideGoogle)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/30/2005 09:29pm
Category: Food, Internet
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you're firewater
Not content with having his name branded onto mere bottled water, Donald Trump is teaming up with Drinks Americas to produce “Trump: The World’s Finest Super Premium Vodka”, due to hit store shelves in May.

The secret to this vodka’s super-premiumness? It’s triple-filtered — through his hair. Badda-bing!

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/30/2005 09:37am
Category: Business, Celebrity, Food
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Sunday, November 27, 2021

When is Dumpster-diving not Dumpster-diving? When Greenwich Village bo-hos do it, and couch the practice in an anti-consumerist philosophy dubbed Freeganism.

“We find more food than we could ever possibly eat,” said Adam Weissman. Just 24 hours before the dinner party, he found a hefty stash outside a gourmet supermarket in Manhattan: bags of salad nearing the sell-by date, dozens of sandwiches, boxes of Ritz crackers, some nice looking squash and loaves of still-crisp baguettes.

Although not all freegans are vegans, they all eat for free. Weissman said that with few exceptions, he has not eaten store-bought food — either at home, in a restaurant or as guest of a friend — in more than 10 years.

This is all oddly reminiscent of George Costanza’s antics on a particular “Seinfeld” episode. Do freegans adhere to the “above the rim” rule?

I actually do have a thing about preparing an overabundance of food, during the holidays or any other time. Regardless of how cheap or obtainable food may be, tossing out perfectly edible food just strikes me as pointlessly wasteful. (Stashing said food in the refrigerator for weeks until it becomes inedible, which I’ve done too many times to count, yields the same results; but I digress.) It’s not that much of an effort to plan out a realistic amount of food, instead of going for overkill.

That said, once it’s trashed, it’s trashed. At that point, you’re in bum territory, elaborate justifications aside.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/27/2005 05:17pm
Category: Food, Society
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You too can guzzle vast amounts of vodka, just like a real Russian. The key is taking shots instead of sips, along with a steady intake of boiled potatoes, lemon slices, olive oil, and raw eggs.

I think I’d rather just have the hangover…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/27/2005 10:08am
Category: Food
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Saturday, November 19, 2021

Today, I got myself a turkey sub for lunch from Publix. With cheddar cheese on sunflower bread, for you completists out there.

I guess I didn’t realize at the time of my order that, within a few days, I’d be stuffing my face with all the holiday turkey I could handle.

So, in retrospect, I probably should have gone with some other sandwich meat, like ham or roast beef. But it was a damn good sandwich, nonetheless.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/19/2005 06:24pm
Category: Food
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Wednesday, November 09, 2021

Today, to celebrate the birthday of a coworker, we all went out to El Toro Negro Mexican Restaurant and Grocery at lunchtime. We were tipped off to the place by a gushing review in last week’s paper, touting the “real” and abundant Mexican cuisine.

The Black Bull delivered. The portions were huge. Even though Mexican is probably my least favorite type of food (I hate beans and tomatoes, so you figure it out), I was quite pleased.

I think we all forgot about the “grocery” part of the name. There was a good few aisle of bodega-style food and sundry items right next to the dining area, and while waiting for our food, we browsed the offerings. There was a lot of Hispanic food items that are hard to find in the average Publix, including about a dozen different types of dried chilis. The most unusual item: Dry grounded shrimp.

If you’re in the neighborhood (the restaurant review mentioned Kenneth City as the location, but El Toro’s menu said Pinellas Park), and you like authentic Mexican food, you’ll definitely have to check it out. And bring a grocery basket, too.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/09/2021 10:03pm
Category: Florida Livin', Food
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Sunday, October 30, 2021

plenty of body
Last night was the aforementioned Halloween wine tasting hosted by my friends Tom and Amber.

I duly took the black cat wine I found just for the occasion. And it’s a good thing I did pick up that Zeller schwartz Katz bottle, instead of the Vampire merlot I originally had planned on; turns out someone else brought that Vampire wine. So I avoided being redundant.

The “tasting” part of the party quickly gave way to “drinking”, which was more or less the plan anyway. I was determined to try every bottle there, and except for a white MĂ©nage Ă  Trois that got quickly emptied, I managed to accomplish that mission.

And speaking of funny-named vintages… The Sheila’s Chardonnay from Fair Dinkum Winery was quickly nicknamed “The Big Boob Sheila” by one of the ladies in attendance, and if you can’t figure out why after seeing the label pictured above… I’ve heard of a wine with legs; this one might have had that, and something more.

I can’t say I disliked any of the wines I tasted. That probably doesn’t mean much, since I was pretty buzzed after the fifth glass or so. I managed to have a more discerning palate for the accompanying cheeses; there were a couple of blue cheeses (including a 40-year-aged variety) that were excellent, while I found the edam to be fairly bland.

It was a good time. I’ve been paying for it by dragging today. Not sure I can tolerate any more cheese for the next couple of days. But it was well worth it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/30/2005 06:55pm
Category: Food
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Monday, October 24, 2021

meowI didn’t find that Vampire Merlot I was eyeing for the weekend’s Halloween wine tasting.

I didn’t look for it very long, because as soon as I came across Schmitt-Soehne’s Zeller schwarze Katz today, I knew I had my bottle. How perfect for the occasion is a wine label with a black cat smack dab in the middle?

No clue as to how it tastes. It’s a white, which I don’t like as much as red wine. But I’ve had Schmitt-Soehne whites before, and they’re pretty good. Something different, anyway.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/24/2005 11:25pm
Category: Food
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Back in July, St. Pete Times reporter John Cotey embarked upon the Public Scrutiny Diet. Since every other dieting method he had tried never took, the idea was to blow the lid off his weight-loss struggles and involve an audience of thousands in his progress:

Let’s call this one Project Public Humiliation. I will take what is personal and publicize it. Fail now and become a laughingstock.

The editors bit.

[Editor's note: Well, kind of. If John doesn't lose weight, he loses the column.]

As I walked out of our meeting, I thought: Now look what you’ve done. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

It’s not enough that I have dogged myself over this problem for the past decade. Now I’m about to raise the stakes?…

The fear of embarrassment is my last hope.

John’s been keeping at it, dropping from 250 pounds to 225ish, with the ultimate goal of 210 by the end of 2005.

So why am I declaring John’s experiment to be a failure in the making?

Because he’s stalled at around 225, and it’s looking really unlikely that he’ll drop the last 15 pounds. In fact, with high-calorie holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas coming, it’s going to be a challenge to not put back the previously lost poundage.

But I don’t think John has failed, as much as the “public scrutiny” part of this dieting approach has failed him.

Consider: The purpose of putting this all out in the open was to expose John’s ups and (especially) downs. The embarrassment factor was supposed to keep him motivated through fear, to not screw up and binge on that box of Yodels when the going got rough. Previous attempts at dropping the weight were accompanied by gentle encouragement and well-wishing; nice sentiments, but they never proved to be enough. Public scrutiny was supposed to bring forth a few hundred drill sergeants who would pound on him every time he didn’t make the grade.

That doesn’t seem to be the case. Witness The Skinny, John’s blog companion to his newspaper column. The comments, which provide public feedback during this progress, have been hijacked by namby-pamby feel-good types who are accentuating the hell out of the positive — even when there’s little positive to accentuate. If anyone dissents, the groupthink pounces and drowns out anything but complimentary notes.

It’s nice that a mini-community has gathered around John’s cause, but since that sort of support structure hasn’t worked in the past, it’s ultimately going to enable him to fail once again. The “I’m-okay-you’re-okay” ilk are exactly the kind of encouragement John doesn’t need at this stage. He needs hecklers who will rag on him for staying stuck at the halfway point.

I don’t know if the non-blog feedback is more of the same, or more harsh in criticism (I’d suspect the latter). But from the online feedback, plus even a fair amount of equivocation from his editors, it’s looking to me like the intended effect of this unique weight-loss scheme is rapidly foundering.

I know John — not extremely well, but enough so to acknowledge each other when we pass the halls at work (both employees of Times Publishing Company, and formerly both on the paper’s Sports desk). It feels a little uncomfortable for me to be criticizing him like this. But I think it’s a necessary red flag, both for himself, and for the column/blog’s relevance. Going that last mile in dieting is the toughest part, and the territory where relapses most often occur. It’s a crossroads. Getting back on the right path is the difference between success and failure.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/24/2005 10:33am
Category: Bloggin', Food, Publishing
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Saturday, October 22, 2021

bloodthirstyMy friends Tom and Amber are hosting a Halloween winetasting party at their pad next weekend. Deal is you bring a bottle of vino with you, and everyone samples everyone else’s selection; and for the occasion, you costume up.

On the costume front, no idea yet, but it’ll likely be minimalist. This is the first Halloween in ages I’ve gone out, so I’m out of practice.

On the wine front, I know pretty much nothing. So on a lark, I did a search on “spooky wines”, and wouldn’t you know, I came up with a selection of vintages.

The Vampire Merlot has got to be the way to go. As you’d suspect, it’s made in the one-and-only Transylvanian region of Romania, and it goes well with red meat. Boo!

If I can find it locally, I’ll definitely take this with me. If not, I’ll go with one of those bottles with the funky Ralph Steadman-drawn labels.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/22/2005 07:25pm
Category: Food
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Wednesday, October 19, 2021

serve 'em up
Leanne Shear and Tracey Toomey, the Whisky Chicks, are hot.

And they drink whisky (probably whiskey, too). And they know how to bartend, the experience from which they’ve used to write “The Perfect Manhattan”, a novel about a girl’s travails in the big city.

Aside from fiction, they dole out bar-scene advice:

Q: Is it a good idea to send a drink over to a woman at a bar via the bartender? Or should I just approach the woman and offer to buy her a drink myself?

A: Tracey and I talked this one over for a while — this is a good question! We ultimately feel that we love the idea of a guy sending a girl a drink via the bartender. It’s a win/win situation and a chance for BOTH people to feel each other out — the girl can decide if she wants to talk to the guy in person and thank him for the drink. If she doesn’t approach him, the guy knows she is a dud not worth wasting his time on — all it cost him was the price of the drink!

It may be the cynic in me, but I’ve always felt that sending the drink via the bartender also eliminated (or at least, minimized) the possibility of roofies.

Maybe Leanne and Tracey will relocate to the Tampa Bay area and tend bar. They can serve up their signature rejiggered Manhattans:

First they specified Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon, “because of it’s modern flavor and smooth finish.” Then they got rid of the dry vermouth and the bitters. Finally, by adding a splash of maraschino cherry juice, or by muddling an actual cherry, they gave their drink its distinctive color - sort of a dark pink. The result, in their opinion, is a cocktail that is fun but not ditzy like a certain drink made popular by the TV series Sex and the City.

“We see it as a foil to the cosmopolitan,” Toomey said.

I’m sold. It’d be a welcome move, since bartending skills hereabouts are sorely lacking.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/19/2005 11:05pm
Category: Food, Women
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Monday, October 10, 2021

For the past two years, my friend Tom has been revelling in being a first-time dad. Part of that fun has involved feeding his baby girl a wide range of cuisine — more or less matching what her parents eat.

Since Tom is something of a gourmand, their food sometimes veers into the realm of the adventurous. Being acquainted with the conventional wisdom about easing babies into eating solid foods by restricting them to bland fare, I often wondered about the wisdom of giving the baby morsels more geared toward adult tastebuds and physiology.

It turns out that Tom’s approach is validated. The traditional advice calling for rice cereal and strained carrots is so much bunk, and more doctors are calling for zestier nutritional choices for baby’s first foods. Exposing the tykes to more varied foods supposedly will acclimate them to greater food variety later in life, helping avoid nutritional shortfalls and obesity.

So jalapenos, curry, and Italian seasonings are fair game. I’ll remember that the next time some infant begs me for a bite of pizza.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/10/2021 11:05pm
Category: Food, Science
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Monday, October 03, 2021

she's lovin' it
They said they were giving Ronald McDonald a healthier diet.

I guess this is what happens when you go cold-turkey off McFood: You turn into a gender-bended, faintly alluring woman.

Well, if you’re a corporately-owned clown, anyway. And you’re trying to convince Japanese people to come McHome:

Hidekazu Sato, known by his nickname Kazoo, the associate creative director at Beacon Communications - a joint venture of Leo Burnett and Dentsu - said the costume was so recognisable it was a mnemonic - a design that people would instantly associate with McDonald’s.

“We devised the costume and took the red and white stripes and the yellow, which were recognised and converted them into a stylish dress,” Kazoo said via a translator.

“We were assuming that even if we didn’t include the McDonald’s logo and even if the model was a beautiful caucasian just those colours of the mnemonic design would wake up people’s association with McDonald’s.”

“The important point is we didn’t change Ronald himself - we played around with his costume.”

You can check out the commercial here. And, bizarrely enough, there’s even a little something for the ladies.

Clowns as sex symbols? Well, it is Japan, and anyway, clown-based erotica is not unheard of.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/03/2021 08:59pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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Wednesday, September 07, 2021

drinking in circlesI don’t know much about wine, other than that I don’t like it boxed.

I’m sure there’s a circle of Hell reserved for those wine-boxers. There must be, because Bonny Doon Vineyard‘s Randall Grahm has concocted levels of suffering for every other sinner in the wine world:

The first cantos of Grahm’s parody, Da Vino Commedia by Al Dente Allegory, are out now in his newsletter. In them, the pilgrim is Grahm’s alter ego, a forlorn winemaker who confesses in midlife that “I have loved multitudinous grapes o’erwell,” but admits that Rhone grapes “have been berry, berry good to me.” He scales the heights of pinot noir, whose secrets are hidden behind a door marked “abandon all oak, ye who enter here.”

Where Dante crossed the River Styx with Charon, Grahm’s characters are ferried across Chypz (clever spelling for the oak fragments used in cheap winemaking) with Char-On, a bull literally barrel-chested. Char-On is described in footnotes as “Mr. Chips Goes to Hell.”

Grahm recounts his struggles with ratings, bad corks, the great Yellow Tail and other Australian monsters and lists the sins and travesties he finds in modern winemaking.

I wish he’d put all this up on his website, instead of just in his newsletter. It still wouldn’t make me go ga-ga for wine, but I’m a sucker for a comic re-interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy (or at least, just The Inferno).

As far as the illustration here, and who’s who in it:

Among the masses of bulk wines and vintners that Randall Grahm sees crowding the market place are hordes of French look-alikes (some on Gallo bicyclettes), the rooster of Rex Goliath, a not-so Little Penguin from Penfolds, plus an emu, kangaroo, moose and roaming goat representing wines from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/07/2021 09:44pm
Category: Creative, Food
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Tuesday, September 06, 2021

and not one piece more
I took this shot in a local supermarket. I couldn’t tell you the brand name of the bag of chocolate mint candies, but the number of pieces per bag obviously struck me as unique.

Forty-three? Why that odd number? I understand standard counts like 10, 20, 25 even. But 43? Why not up it to a full 50, or else save a some money and downgrade to 40?

I wonder if this is somehow related to that 43 Things… thing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/06/2021 11:25pm
Category: Florida Livin', Food
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