Cheese Quest: Part II (raiders of the lost cheese)

From where I stand (or sit) here in the cheese desert that is Florida, it seems as if the Swiss cheese I long for is locked up as tightly as the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia.

And like those in search of the lost ark, I feel the excitement of each clue along the trail (translation: like the eccentric ark hunters, I get validation from everything I find).

The sharpest cheese yet is once again from Middlefield Cheese, but you have to ask for it.

Middlefield Cheese holds back some of its Sharp Swiss Cheese to continue aging.  Or they just keep what they don’t sell.  I dunno.

Anyway, if you call them at 800-327-9477 (800-32-swiss), and ask for the extra sharp Swiss cheese, they’ll be happy to send you some.  They’ll also warn you that the cheese might have a little mold on it due to its age (mine didn’t).

If you have trouble finding the “extra sharp cheese lady” get in touch and I’ll pass along the contact name I have.

The only downside – it might require some special shipping during the warm weather months.  Small price to pay for the extra sharpness.  But…

Is it enough?  Does it sting in the back of my mouth?  Not yet.  The Quest continues!

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Cheese Quest! (The search for strong Swiss Cheese: Part I)

For about six months now (perseverance being the dark side of patience) I’ve been looking for some mouth-wateringly sharp Swiss Cheese.  None of that “mild, nutty taste” for me.  I like Swiss Cheese that has some burn to it; that stays in your mouth for a few minutes like a good pepper.

I probably enjoyed sharp Swiss cheese the most during my years in Cleveland, Ohio, at various delicatessens there, when I was less health conscious and ordered authentic Reubens more often.  On such a strong tasting sandwich a good sharp Swiss can hold its own.  When the urge struck me for a strong Swiss Cheese and I couldn’t find any near my home in Florida, my Cheese Quest was born.

At the outset I have to note that none of the cheeses I’ve bought so far look exactly like their photos, including the best sharp cheese I’ve found so far,  Middlefield Sharp Swiss from Middlefield Cheese in (where else?) Middlefield, Ohio.

The eyes in this cheese are smaller that pictured, but the cheese is pretty sharp and has a “real” Swiss cheese taste.

Another good cheese was the 2 Year Aged Swiss from Wisconsin Cheese Mart, an Amazon store.

But neither of these has the bite that I’m looking for, nor the iconic large eyes, so the Quest goes on.  By all means contact me with sources of good sharp Swiss Cheese, especially in cooler months when they can be most readily shipped to warmer climes.

(next: a few notes and two sharp cheese I won’t buy again)

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“Cornan The Iowan” comes to WordPress

I usually keep my lives separate, and so in the last few years I’ve kept my “personal” (eccentric and/or inflammatory) presence over at Windows Live Spaces (soon to be no more), while my more conventional self remained at Facebook and in comments scattered about in various forums.

Usually.  In fact, you’ll find “Cornan The Iowan” in both information technology destinations as well as personal ones, as well as my given name in whole or in part.

At WordPress, I’ll keep “Cornan The Iowan” for my more unique and personal observations.  If I want to make computer / technical posts I’ll start a “real” blog.

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Who is We, anyway?

Today I’m going outside my usual personal blogging bounds to comment on politics.  I’m also going to break my own rule about participating in the specious “left versus right” struggle here, if only for a moment. 

You see, my mind was wandering [as usual] when an image of an elephant, uh, seen from a posterior perspective, came into view, somehow associated with the Republican Party.

So I took a little while to create this graphic.

Now that I have your attention, the thing that has me fired up recently is how the debate in the United States is almost entirely about how we fight amongst ourselves.  News stories about other countries almost never connect to events and policies within the United States.

It’s as if we (Americans, remember) live in a separate universe.  We don’t.

When forced to actually think about what other countries are doing we whip out our “Not Invented Here” logic.  Even President Obama caved in to this at the beginning of the healthcare reform debate when he talked about “…a uniquely American solution…”.

Could it be that other countries have actually solved some healthcare problems?  That the Europeans have good ideas about clean energy?

Ideas that we might actually adopt?

Certainly not!

The Time Magazine article of February 18, 2010, “Why Washington Is Tied Up in Knots”, is a fine summary of the internal struggles we put ourselves through, and The TAKEAWAY’s series Frustration Nation was a good series of broadcasts.

But neither dealt with what I see as the 800 pound gorilla in the room (no, not an elephant!).  Most of the thems we talk about every day are actually more us than “them”.

At least the Democrats and Republicans are opposing political parties.  But the anti-incumbent movement has finally come full circle by considering as them the politicians that we elected.

Sure, the Republicans are going way overboard in their all out opposition to healthcare reform, and I bristle at party line votes in general.  It’s simply unbelievable that every Democrat or every Republican holds identical views.

Moving forward, we [Americans] need to become a bit more nationalistic (it’s okay, other nations do it), and a lot less factional. In case my sledgehammer isn’t clear enough, I mean we should talk openly about possible solutions instead of the constant parroting of “[within our borders only] talking points”.

Otherwise we will never deal with the urgent issues facing our nation; the mountains of money leaving our shores, our dependence on [foreign] fossil fuel, the millions of immigrants coming in or the skyrocketing costs of healthcare.

 

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Is there a Dr (Pepper) in the house?

Inch by inch, step by step, I’ve become a food eccentric.  As items I like or need disappear from store shelves, I don’t adapt.

I order!


A case in point is Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper, a product that must certainly rank high in the annals of awkward product names.


CFDDP used to be available in Southeast Florida, but sometime in 2009 it disappeared from local stores.  I think this all came about when the folks at Dr Pepper added some new flavor, pushing this one off the shelves.  I can only hope that once these interlopers join the other buggy whips in the dustbin of history, CFDDP will creep back onto the shelves.

Publix!  Winn-Dixie!  Bravo!  Are you listening?  Why let me send my money to UPS when you could be selling me more soda?

Of course this only adds to my increasingly eccentric behavior on the subject of find low sodium or caffeine free food and drink.

So, in spite of my fondness for other beverages, I found I just could not quite let go of the taste of Dr Pepper, so now I order it from the Internet.  I  found CFDDP once at eBay, but more recently have ordered from NetGrocer.com, where I also buy other products.  For products that don’t require refrigeration, this seems to be a good food site.

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Yummy maple and pear yogurt and Cliff, the not-so-evil buyer

It’s true.  I know a buyer who’s not-so-evil.  Actually, he’s very nice and very helpful and works at one of the Southeast Florida Whole Foods Market stores and his name is Cliff.  He special orders cases of the flavors that are no longer stocked at our local stores.  You see, at some point a buyer did decide to stop stocking these yummy Wallaby Yogurt flavors; thus this blog entry.

Whole Foods Market carries a number of the Wallaby Yogurt flavors, and several of them are quite nummy, but these two flavors are something special.

At first the
Low-fat Maple yogurt was quite a surprise, yet after the first spoonful you think "of course", and you’re hooked.

In point of fact, it isn’t all that hard to make your own maple yogurt by just adding maple syrup to plain yogurt, but then you won’t be getting the Wallaby "Creamy Australian Style" yogurt that Wallaby makes.  I like it.

Bartlett pears are one of those things my mother gave me as a child to help my tummy feel better (the other was Peppermint Schnapps and 7 Up, oh-so-politically incorrect or worse these days).  In fact I still gravitate to Barlett Pears when I’m not feeling 100% and no, not to the Schnapps.

The Wallaby
Non-fat Bartlett Pear yogurt has just enough pear taste, nothing overwhelming or syrupy – like the maple yogurt, it’s "just right".  (In contrast, when I eat pears for my tummy I go for the "heavy" syrup.) 


Let’s get down to the flogging.  Your first step is to find Wallaby Yogurt.  I’ve seen Wallaby flavors at other stores, mostly "organic" or "health food"-oriented companies here in Florida. 

Once you’ve found Wallaby Yogurt, try some of the other flavors; several are quite good.  I haven’t tried the "Down Under" flavors yet, I guess because "that’s been done", along with the deserty flavors that my long-time-favorite Yoplait has been getting into lately (while my favorite Lemon and Tropical Peach flavors have vanished from the shelves).

Now that you like Wallaby Yogurt, get them to special order some maple or Bartlett pear.  I don’t think you’ll have any trouble consuming a case; share it with friends if you have to.

And of course, the more people that buy it, the more likely it will be around tomorrow – for me 😉

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Buying a better wet / dry vac

Do you need the cheapest possible wet / dry vac?  If so, I’m sorry to say that this blog isn’t going to be of much help, unless you need to know that the big box stores and Sears are simply chock full of the most economical models from every manufacturer.  Also if you’re looking for a hand held unit then you likely won’t find much of use here today.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a step up in Wet / Dry features from 5 gallons capacity on up, you would likely have as much trouble as I did getting actual information on what was available.  It took me several long sessions of searching to reach a final conclusion, and I’m as happy as can be with the result (that is, as happy as I can get about a wet / dry vac).

First, I wanted to find a vac that was QUIET.  I previously had a Ridgid vacuum I bought at Lowe’s or Home Depot (I like Ridgid tools in general).  It was one of those cheap models that all the buyers (the evil buyers, remember) put on the shelves.

It was reliable but quite loud and finally walked off or flew off of my boat in Texas during Hurricane Ike.  Time for some shopping!

First I tried reviews.  I found two (you’re guessing I didn’t find them terribly helpful, right?)
  

You’ve noticed that they’re two years old, but that didn’t bother me too much.  However, neither of them had any solid information on sound levels.  While we’re at it, don’t bother paying Consumer Reports for a membership to get the extra information, there’s precious little useful information not in the public review.  (And if you simply can’t resist giving them your money, be sure to cancel your subscription later before you hear that monthly sucking sound coming from your checking account).



Then I began my struggles with the Shop Vac website.  If you like mazes, you will love the Shop Vac site.  Here’s what it boils down to:
  

  • There aren’t any decibel ratings, but there are suggestive sound ratings for many of the vacuums, from Quiet to Super Quiet.  Okay!  We’re getting somewhere (right?), if only in a relative sort of way.
     
  • I visited all the other manufacturers’ sites I could find, and they were unaniminous (pronounce it, I like this spelling) in having even less information than the Shop Vac site.  So I returned to Shop Vac to stay.
     
  • There is no way on the Shop Vac site to choose all the features you want from all the Series with all the sound ratings.  It’s a good maze. 

When I had found several vacuums that claimed to be some kind of quiet, I began to notice things called "features". 

This is when I got greedy.  Again I dove into the maze, and in the end I found a model that met all my requirements, and only cost me about $170.  While this model has a 10 gallon capacity instead of 5 or 6, and is almost four times what the cheap models at Lowe’s and Home Depot will run you, it’s still less than half of the cost of the super deluxe "professional" wet / dry vacs. 

Here are the notable features of the vac I bought:
   

  • "Super Quiet" operation.  Yes, the sound level is quite acceptable in spite of the vague marketing speak.
    (Marketers are second on my list of evildoers after the buyers.)
     
  • "tank drain".  Way good!  No more tipping over 40+ pounds of water to empty the crazy thing out. 
     
  • A push handle and two big wheels (like a hand truck, but with one small wheel in front).  They call it a "three wheel dolly".

    Another way cool option.  I love it.
     

  • Thrown in with this I got a stainless steel tank, but don’t kid yourself, the stainless steel is pretty thin.  The first one I ordered arrived bent, ensuring a fun time for my friends at Ace Hardware re-packing the box.  For $170 you can’t expect a stainless steel oil drum. 

With the accessory caddy in place the center of gravity seems to be almost directly over the rear wheels, so this is an easy unit to knock over when empty, but isn’t much of a problem in use, especially once the tank begins to fill up.

The model number for this beauty is one of the things that seems to change with the wind.  In fact I believe that Shop Vac builds up its units for sale out of standard vacuum cannisters packaged with various sets of accessories.  Right now the one I bought is Catalog Number: 962-11-00 in the "Ultra Pro" series.  I don’t think that was the model number when I bought it, and it’s certainly not part of the part number Ace Hardware cooked up for it in their system.  But it’s available for special order, and in fact Ace Hardware seemed well set up for special orders.

If I’ve whetted your interest for a better Wet Dry vac, please consider ordering it from your local hardware store or Sears rather than the big box stores.

However you make your purchase, I’m sure you’ll appreciate having bought a "better" Wet Dry vac.

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