Monday, May 2, 2016

Kitsch-en Kounter: Cinco de Mayo CHURRIOS Burro

Have you ever created something that works out surprisingly well on your first try only to be foiled by over confidence in a subsequent attempt to recreate it?  Well, get ready...

During the holidays, I decided to exploit the possibilities of my
rabbit-shaped cake mold for a last-minute, potluck dessert.

When there is no time for a cake but there is a houseful of christmas cookies, assorted candies, and a box of Rice Krispies (more than likely generic), I feel like that charmed Chopped contestant who, instead of being afraid of the mystery basket's contents, realizes he is the only one who knows to remove the membrane from prairie oysters.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rice Krispies Reindeer - not
perfect but pretty solid for  an impromptu holiday treat!

Using a bread knife to saw chocolate-covered pretzel rods, I refashioned
them into antlers by melting the chocolate with a barbecue lighter and
"gluing" on the remaining pieces.  The ears are the neighbors' homemade
biscotti, the eyes are jordan almonds, and the details are rendered in
chocolate icing.  A snowy bed of coconut is dressed up with a few holiday
decoratifs.  The nose, of course, is a bright-red maraschino cherry!

As I never did a proper "Kitsch-en Kounter" post about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rice Krispies Reindeer during the holidays, I felt it was acceptable to recycle the idea for Cinco de Mayo...but Rice Krispies seemed like old hat.  Then I remembered the small batch of marshmallow-Honey Nut-Cheerios (cough, store brand, cough) squares I made.  With a scant bag of Cheerios and the dregs of a marshmallow bag, I created a dessert from which we have coined the name "Churrios" for a flavor profile complimentary to that of Mexico's favorite donut stick!!!

The makings of Churrios!

It becomes acutely apparent that your father was an unusual man when your adult brother comes over for a visit and wants to "make a craft."  A lone picture exists of the one time that our dad tried to take us fishing, learning quickly that his sons were destined for different things. And so we found ourselves, two thirty-something brothers, not comatose in front of a football game, not parked at a sports bar, not playing video games, or concentrating on the contents of an automobile's engine compartment, rather brainstorming in the kitchen for ways to transform a Rice Krispies Rabbit/Reindeer into a Churrios Burro (Burr-io?).  By word and deed our dad encouraged ingenuity and creativity - culinary and otherwise - over what might be considered more masculine pursuits.  He was cool.

Included in our brainstorming session were ideas for presentation.
I quickly found one of my vintage Mexican tablecloths but immediately
became crestfallen when I  realized that I had recently discarded a bower
of paper flowers and even a mini Mexican flag...

In cooking, crafting, and sewing, my priority is always to make the most of what we have on hand.  With all the urgency of panicky usher seeking medical relief for a theater patron, I screamed, "Is there a miniature sombrero in the house?!!"  In a home where the answer to that query can come so rapidly in the affirmative, one might assume that there wasn't anything for which this project could go wanting; the Churrios Burro, however, required a very special trip to the store.

For what would a Churrios Burro be without some Chiclets and Bandera de Coco?

Nobody's immune to the chiclet-teeth Hollywood makeover!

A tad over-anxious, we un-molded the Churrios Burro before he was quite ready.  I made a cinnamon frosting with coconut milk to add some highlights/character but by the time our little Burrito was assembled, there was no time for superfluous adornments before he began to implode.

With dead M&M eyes, a blanket of flattened Bandera de Coco, a single, snaggle chiclet
tooth, and that miniature sombrero, our Churrios Burro had to hit his bed of Mexican-flag
coconut before he fell completely apart.

The lighting inside wasn't so hot; we wondered if a trip outside would improve the situation...

Clearly, it didn't...

This Churrios Burro is suffering from the dreaded "Cinco spread."
Our impatience combined with the large format of Cheerios might have
made the molded dessert a questionable choice BUT, because it still
tasted delicious, I will share the recipe without feeling like a total ASS!



1 stick of Butter
1 16 oz. Bag of Mini Marshmallows
1 17 oz. Box of Honey Nut Cheerios (or generic equivalent)
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Cinnamon-Sugar for dusting


In a heavy-bottomed dutch oven or stock pot, brown the butter (really, it makes a delicious difference).  When the butter is browned, add the entire bag of marshmallows and allow them to melt (stirring constantly).  Once the marshmallows are melted, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, vanilla, and cereal.  Press the combined mixture firmly into the mold of your choice.  Once set, remove the Churrios from the mold, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar and decorate for your chosen holiday extravaganza.

But be patient before un-molding or he'll never be able to say "Heeyaw, Heeyaw, Heeyaw!"

"The Donkey Serenade" - Glenn Miller with The Andrews Sisters (1940)

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!!!  Now go make an ass of for yourself!


Mr. Tiny

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Once Upon a Time in STORYLAND...

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived an adventure team who dreamt of a grand holiday in Storyland.  Combining their life savings, amounting exactly to one hill of beans (albeit magic), they discovered they had just enough for the railroad fare from their humble village.  And so they packed their meager belongings for the long passage north.

Never having ridden a proper locomotive, they thought the
train ride would be the most harrowing part of their journey...

That is until they came under the attack of a not-so-reluctant dragon!

Filled to the brim with immersive attractions based on history's most beloved fairy tales, Rotary Storyland (nestled in the verdure of Fresno's Roeding Park) is every child's dream come true.  So child-centric is it, that some well-intentioned locals advised us to bypass Storyland in favor of more sophisticated diversions.

They'd obviously never met the wacky tacky adventure team!

Built in 1962, Storyland, is the kiddy pool to the "deep end" that is Rotary Playland (1955).  Directly adjacent to Storyland,  Playland is a contemporary of its decidedly-overwrought neighbor to the south, Disneyland.  Within its gates, it appears that park goers can ride carnival-style rides in a lakeside setting, but as we whizzed by on the train we were barely afforded a view of Playand's many wonders.

We did, however, manage to catch a glimpse of an amazing drinking fountain where to hydrate
is to defy death; for a cool sip one must stick one's head inside the mouth of a man-eating lion!

And pictures simply do not do justice to the radiant colors being applied to the whirlybird helicopters.

As Playland was not yet open for the season, we stuck to our original plan and continued on our trek to to Storyland.  Acting the big shot, I strutted up to the ticket booth and placed my order for four adult tickets.  Imagine my confusion when the charming attendant inquired if there were any actual children in our party.  When I answered in the negative, she indicated that Storyland is closed to adults unaccompanied by minors.  Thankfully, our respectful protestations - accompanied by the flashing of a wacky tacky business card - resulted in VIP entrance to the park!

It quickly became evident that we were indeed
quite a bit larger than Storyland's typical clientele.

Large though we may be, our all-access pass revealed some of Storyland's most well-kept and, dare I say, dirty, little secrets.

Example: Humpty Dumpty didn't fall...he was pushed
Example: One word - "extensions"

Example: In spite of what Alice will tell you, eating this will not make you smaller.

Example: Little Miss Muffet was a curd thief and whey rustler; even the tuffet
belonged to Mr. Spider (Storyland's most respected cottage cheese magnate).

Example: Goldilocks was in serious cahoots with the three Baby Bear has two mommies.

Example: There was no hill to fall down; Jack and Jill were plastered.   

Example: Little Boy Blue was under the haystack but he wasn't alone...and they weren't sleeping.

Example: It is the witches, in fact, who get stitches.

Example: Hansel & Gretel were fools - every fairy tale cottage comes complete with an escape hatch.

Example: There was no house of straw...
There was no Big, Bad Wolf...
The Three little Pigs were guilty of perpetrating Storyland's biggest insurance fraud.
Example: The Gingerbread Man is totally catchable.

Example: Little Red Riding Hood was notorious for sampling the forest's many varieties of mushrooms.
The subsequent hallucinatory episodes included wolves, grandmothers, and...
Imaginary tea parties.

Example: After the foreclosure, Sleeping Beauty's Castle
was auctioned off to a new owner not of royal lineage but... 

To The Beverly Hillbillies.

Example: No matter how hard you try, the house is not edible.
Trust me.

Example: It's easy to get swept away in the fantasy but...
There would be no princes that day...
When all we had was a bunch of horny toads!!!

Example: Dorothy did not miss the Scarecrow most of all.
She left him to farm beets with his equally-brainless kin.

The best thing I learned at Rotary Storyland is that my family is much more funner than what your family is!!!

Even after the Mary-Go-Round...

broke down.

And we always live "Happily Ever After."

So when do we get our own show?!?!!

Rotary Storyland & Playland
(Inside Roeding Park)
890 W Belmont Ave
Fresno, CA


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Chow Time: Four Clowns at a PANCAKE CIRCUS!

I finally understand the East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry rooted so deeply in the '90s hip hop community.  Fundamentally, I'm pretty sure that it's about breakfast food.

Obviously, the East Coast is the undefeated champion when it comes to streamlined chrome diners, all night joints where one can unashamedly order a kitchen-sink omelette just as easily at four in the afternoon as four in the morning.  Where the West wins is corny coffee shops - Googie-style affairs with kooky rooflines and even kookier theming.

Pancake Circus (1960) - Sacramento, CA

To visit Sacramento is to learn that Pancake Circus is the Tupac of themed coffee shops.  Seriously, when told that the kitchen would not make her pancakes in the form of Tupac's famous West Coast hand sign, Mary requested that they at least arrange her bacon in the shape of a "W."

The kitchen, the counter, and some of Pancake Circus' OGs.

Waiting for our meal to arrive, we engaged in all the usual coffee shop shenanigans - shooting the paper wrapping off our straws, loosening the lids on the pepper shakers, playing the rims of our water glasses etc.  It wasn't until we began balancing spoons on the ends of our noses, that I realized what was happening; at Pancake Circus, we were the circus.  The spoons were little more than large rubber balls and we were the seals.  Here, the two-dimensional animal cutouts watched as we, trapped in our naugahyde cages, wildly tore into the food delivered by our keepers/servers.

See what I mean?!

He's an animal!

Stalking her country potatoes like big cat! 

To distract myself from the startling realization that we could easily be mistaken for circus animals (and to rethink my questionable comparison of Pancake Circus to Tupac Shakur), I decided to take some pictures...

Under the lights of the BIG TOP!

If clowns (paintings, plushies, porcelain dolls, parachuters) are not your thing, then I still say go to Pancake Circus!  Think of it as phobia therapy.

Because these people are not clowning around!!!

Or are they?

Mind if we drop in?

", thanks!'

My favorite part of the Pancake Circus went unnoticed by nearly every other diner in the restaurant;
it's that accordion-style partition (above) that closes not in a straight line but in a swoosh!

I love my family.
I love this photo.
I also love the incredible walls, slightly obscured by the elephant
cutout; the matchstick mosaic is studded with tiger-eye glass tiles. 

Prior to running away with the Pancake Circus, we met an older couple in town who told us that going there would be a waste of time.  "Oh...there," said the wife, "It used to be cool."  I tried to maintain my composure but inside I was shouting, "No duh, lady."  I mean, it doesn't often happen that bastions of mid-century morning mealtime dramatically improve with age yet it remains our duty to support them!  Sure, the edges are worn, the finishes are dulled, and the clowns are many.  But as the old saying goes, "Circus breakfast is the most important meal of the day."

If not the animals, then we definitely left feeling like the
clowns; and that still makes Pancake Circus pretty cool...

Even after hours!

Pancake Circus
2101 Broadway
Sacramento, CA


Mr. Tiny