Even Willie Nelson Makes CBD Coffee Now

In news that should shock literally no one, Willie Nelson loves weed. And now, the cannabis-loving country legend hopes to cash in on weed-related wellness. The only surprise here, if any, is that it’s taken until now for this to happen.

Nelson, a long-time marijuana advocate, has been in the commercial cannabis game for a couple of few years now—since 2015, his company, Willie’s Reserve, has sold branded bud, vapes, edibles, and more. Because it’s 2019 and we love #Wellness, the company has added a health-focused line called Willie’s Remedy, as Rolling Stone reported on Tuesday . Naturally, its first product is CBD coffee, sold for $36 a bag .

In case you’ve skated past CBD entirely (congrats), CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from cannabis plants. But unlike THC, which gets you stoned, CBD is non-psychotropic (in other words, won’t have you zoning out to a Pink Floyd blacklight poster for three straight hours). People are into it because it’s been said to offer relief from pain and anxiety —hence, the CBD coffee, cookies, and chocolates everywhere.

Instead of the lattes laced with CBD oil that are now commonplace at trendy coffee shops, Willie’s Remedy infuses whole beans with organic, American-grown hemp extract. An 8-ounce cup contains seven milligrams of CBD. Judging by a few guides online , that’s a pretty small dose, but that might be because it’s just meant to add a “balancing effect to coffee’s natural lift,” according to the product website.

Nelson isn’t just hopping on a trend—he’s actually been preaching the word of weed and wellness for years. “I think marijuana is probably the safest medicine that you can take,” Nelson told the Associated Press in 2017 . In 2014, he publicly supported edibles as medical treatments during an interview in which he invited New York Times writer and notorious weed-freakout-haver Maureen Dowd to smoke with him. He’s supported marijuana legalization for even longer .

Willie’s Remedy adds to a big market of CBD drinks, but despite their popularity, it’s still not totally clear whether these products offer any scientifically-provable benefits—or do much of anything at all. The dosage in a typical CBD coffee is about 30 times less than the amount associated with stress relief, Vox concluded last year .

For the skeptics, Nelson said that the effects reach further than CBD’s purported benefits. “Hemp isn’t just good for our farmers and our economy, it’s good for our soil, our environment—and our health,” he told Rolling Stone in a statement. And as Nelson’s wife Annie, who runs Willie’s Remedy, told Rolling Stone , “It’s not about getting high, but it’s still all about Willie and the benefits we believe cannabis has to offer.” Eventually, CBD fans can also expect candies and topical creams.

We can all, probably, stand to be more chill, and if CBD might get us a little closer to Willie Nelson’s level, then sure—bottoms up.

Tokyo’s New “Chicago Pizza” Trend Looks a Hell of a Lot Like Fondue

Several years ago, then- Daily Show host Jon Stewart got the attention of everyone in northwest Illinois by declaring that Chicago-style pizza is not pizza. “When I look at your deep-dish fucking pizza, I don’t know whether to eat it or throw a coin in it and make a wish,” he said. “And if I made a wish, it would be that I’d wish for some real fucking pizza.”

In just over three minutes, Stewart called deep-dish pizza everything from “an above-ground marinara swimming pool for rats” to “a cornbread biscuit which you’ve melted cheese on” to simply “a fucking casserole.”

Whether or not vintage Daily Show segments are a thing in Tokyo, it seems like a number of restaurants agree with Stewart’s assessment that Chicago pizza isn’t real pizza. They’re not tossing coins toward each thicc slice—but they are selling it as fondue.

According to Chicago magazine , at least a half-dozen restaurants in Tokyo now offer a gooey, cheesy dish they call シカゴピザ, which translates to “Chicago pizza” or “Shikago Pizza.” (Note to Ariana Grande: This would not make a good hand tattoo .) ‘Pizza’ is probably a stretch for this dish—it doesn’t involve toppings or red sauce—but it does involve a soft deep-dish crust filled with melted cheese. The result bears more resemblance to a baked Brie than a pie from Pequod’s.

Some restaurants serve it with a side of vegetables or sausages for dipping, while others assume that diners will scoop up the cheese using pieces of the crust itself.

“I think anyone from Chicago could see in a photo the difference between the real thing and the one made for being photographed, not necessarily for eating for its flavor,” Yukari Sakamoto, the author of Food Sake Tokyo , told the mag. “Chicago pizza is just one of many Insta-bae food trends.”

There are places in Tokyo that serve more traditional, if less Instagram-worthy, versions of Chicago pizza. The three DevilCraft locations all have deep-dish ‘za on their menus, and they may be the only places in the city where you can order a cheese-on-the-bottom, triple sausage-on-top pizza called the Abe Froman.

Weirdly, the chain called Chicago Pizza doesn’t serve anything that even remotely resembles the city’s signature pie—but it does have an “Autumn Special” topped with roasted duck, herb-roasted chicken, and truffle cream sauce.

So what are you wishing for now , Jon?

We Went on an Exhaustive Gritty-Inspired Philadelphia Food Crawl

When the Flyers debuted Gritty at the end of September last year, he was an instant sensation. He was weird and sort of scary looking and easy to mock, which people did instantly and en masse. That made liking the googly-eyed, Cheeto-colored Abominable Snowman seem cool and contrarian—which in turn made everyone quickly fall over themselves to about-face and profess their utter adoration for the Internet-era mascot.

And, as things are wont to do these days once they have entered the annals of Online, pseudo-ironic fandom of Gritty begat serious obsession that blossomed into a political moment as Gritty became an icon of the Antifa movement. The New Yorker weighed in; the Wall Street Journal tried to reclaim him from the left; Vox wrote an explainer, the Ringer published a cultural recap, and the Washington Post memorialized Gritty Mania in a mini doc.

We like Gritty. We just also think all the hype is a little bit of a sad commentary on how desperate everyone is for something unimpeachably good (mascots can’t talk, shouldn’t be able to say something problematic, and yet Gritty insists on “giving interviews ”) to get excited about these days.

So why did we decide to go to Philadelphia on a chilly Sunday in late January to eat all the Gritty foods? Because Philadelphia is the best fucking city in the world and you bet your ass we’re gonna jump on the chance to expense a cheesesteak. And if that’s not precisely the spirit of Gritty, we don’t know what is.

Mac Mart All photos courtesy Danielle Wayda

We went into our first stop at Mac Mart, a macaroni and cheese takeaway spot in Center City, too hungry to pace ourselves, which was a mistake. Having skipped breakfast in preparation of the all-day gorge-fest, we didn’t even bat an eye when they said that they didn’t have the Cheetos and would be replacing them with Buffalo-flavored Cheez-Its. We love Cheez-Its, but we do not think they need to be flavored any more aggressively than they already are in their (completely un)natural state.

This is awkward, but we realized later that Mac Mart gave us the wrong thing. They debuted their Gritty Mac and Cheese Fries just after the actual Gritty was unveiled back in the fall, and it featured “Shoestring fries, smothered in our 7 Cheese Mac topped with buffalo sauce, PamPam’s Buttermilk ranch & @cheetos crunch!!!!”

By the time we got to Philly, that was no longer their #MacOfTheMoment, but the women working at Mac Mart on Sunday afternoon were happy to oblige our request for the “Gritty.” However, what they served us was: Mac and cheese (deliciously decadent without veering grossly gooey or too homogenous, can understand how a business would be built around this single item), with chicken, buttermilk ranch, the aforementioned Buffalo-flavored Cheez-Its, and more Buffalo sauce—fitting for a city that hosts Wing Bowl, or at least did until this year .

It tasted like something your stoner friend would bring to a Super Bowl party.

It’s sort of strange to try to parse whether getting the “wrong” thing impacted the Gritty-ness of the experience. It was definitely orange, just as intended. Are French fries more Gritty than chopped up chunks of grilled chicken? Probably? But if pressed, we couldn’t exactly explain why. In the end, we picked around most of the add-ins and toppings to polish off the pasta smothered in the proprietary seven-cheese sauce, which is a strong endorsement of Mac Mart, and less so of Buffalo-flavored Cheez-Its.

Big Gay Ice Cream

As a firm believer in the superiority of soft-serve, we appreciate and admire all that Big Gay Ice Cream does to elevate the form. But right now, we’re a little mad at Big Gay Ice Cream, because we’re not entirely sure we’ll ever be able to eat a Dorito ever again.

We knew that we were getting an ice cream sandwich, and that it was orange from some sort of exterior adornment. We assumed, naively, that the ice cream itself would be vanilla, or some other traditional flavor, which would then be rolled, Chipwich-style, in some sort of crushed orange snack. The ice cream itself was not vanilla. The ice cream itself was…Doritos-flavored.

Because we’re professionals, we knew enough in that moment to simultaneously order the Salty Pimp—Big Gay Ice Cream’s unimpeachably popular soft serve cone of vanilla with salty caramel sauce and a chocolate shell—to combat the Gritty Puckster’s forthcoming negative impact on our relationship with all things ice cream.

The man tasked with selling frozen food to Philadelphians in the dead of winter assured us, against our misgivings, that the Gritty Puckster was their most popular ice cream sandwich, and that Big Gay Ice Cream had even given some to the Flyers themselves. He did not know whether the Flyers enjoyed the Doritos ice cream or how often people purchased the “most popular ice cream sandwich.” But our Gritty Puckster was stale, frozen so solid it could have moonlighted as the puck itself, and the worst thing we have ever eaten that tasted the way it was intended to.

It tasted, sorry, like if you ate a bag of Doritos and then a bowl of ice cream and then, perhaps because of that combination, puked. It tasted like the flavor that would be left in your mouth after you puked up ice cream and Doritos. It brings us no joy to have to write the words that will inspire your brain to consider such a hypothetical.

We took exactly two nibbles each of the Gritty Puckster before deciding no content was worth it. This is proto-Gritty, before the sheen of memes and irony and activism made the mascot a mainstream idol. It’s alternate-universe Gritty, one where he never made it to the “you know what, he ain’t so bad after all” stage of acceptance and still sends children screaming in terror upon first sight. This is the Gritty that makes people wonder why. Why would a place that’s capable of so something so right (the Salty Pimp) make something so wrong (Doritos-flavored ice cream)?

Mike’s BBQ

If you’re going to South Philly for a sandwich served on a hoagie roll, it’s unusual to end up at a restaurant that’s just about a year old. And if you’re going to call something a cheesesteak that’s actually brisket and even has lettuce and tomato on it in this city, you better make it damn good. And if this sounds like more a local news restaurant review than a Horkfest, that’s because the quality of what we ate at Mike’s BBQ overshadowed the weirdness.

“The Gritty” consists of brisket, housemade cheddar “Whiz,” onions, lettuce, tomato, crispy potato sticks, and a very yellow sauce that at first we thought was the Whiz, but in fact tasted a little like mustard. Someone behind the counter explained that it was a turmeric aioli and that the red spice sprinkled on top was a Takis-like mix of paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and apple cider vinegar powder.

But is it Gritty ? You wouldn’t want to play hockey immediately after consuming such a sandwich—but then again, by now Gritty transcends the sport. It wasn’t all that orange, which seems to be the overarching interpretation of how to translate the oversized Muppet’s essence into something edible. But it was certainly gratuitous, which fits—mascots, after all, are nothing if not Extra in the modern parlance. Even more than that, they’re completely superfluous. They provide a sort of begrudging amusement in their affable uselessness. At their worst, they’re a shortcut to cheap thrills irrespective of the quality of the primary product (again: hockey, hard to remember now that Gritty has gone Hollywood ). Kind of like fried potato sticks or an artisanal-masquerading-as-artificial cheese sauce. Or maybe we’re just saying all that to justify polishing off half a Gritty in the middle of a Horkfest.

Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop

Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop, which is located further north in Philly than you’ve likely been if you don’t live there, used to have a different name. From the time it opened in 1949 until 2013, Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop was called “Chink’s.” Yes, just like the racial slur (although, not because it was a racial slur—that just happened to be the owner’s nickname).

They changed the name in an effort to “no longer inadvertently alienate anyone in the Philly community ,” but that was their name for a long time and it would be reasonable if you chose not to engage with their cheesesteaks because of it.

Unfortunately, you’d be missing out. On a Sunday evening, Joe’s, which convincingly bills itself as being largely unchanged (except the name) since the ‘40s, was staffed by high school students gossiping about prom and serving up wooders . The “Gettin’ Gritty Wit It” (referencing both Gritty and Will Smith, another beloved son of Philadelphia) is advertised as being available only during Flyers games, but they were happy to crack open a bag of Cheetos for our benefit.

We haven’t the time or space to litigate the cheesesteak hierarchy in Philadelphia so we will simply say, without the use of superlatives or comparisons, that Joe’s makes a sublime cheesesteak that was surprisingly undiminished by the addition of French fries (the kind with wavy edges) at the bottom of the roll and Cheetos on top of the meat. It was the sort of wild-eyed, arrogant spin on the city’s classic that could only be pulled off by an institution that’s fully confident in its Philly bonafides. In that way the sandwich felt like Gritty, who isn’t supposed to be anything except maybe a riff on the Phanatic, who is similarly nonsensical (and GREEN when the Phillies’ colors are red and white). If you have to ask why it works, it means you don’t get it. It means you’re not from here.

The Grittys We Failed to Find We only ate four Grittys in Philly that day, which was enough to feel uncomfortably full for the drive back up the turnpike, but far fewer than we had intended. We tried to get a Gritty cupcake from Sweet Box Bakeshop, but you have to pre-order the artful icing.

We tried to get a Gritty doughnut from Dottie’s Donuts but the popular googley-eyed breakfast treat that we saw all over our Instagrams was sadly a short-lived offering.

We thought we could convince a barista at ReAnimator Coffee in Fishtown to make us a latte with Gritty foam art, but punked out immediately upon entering the painfully cool coffee shop playing a deep cut Belle & Sebastian song neither of us could even identify.

And we tried to get Gritty beer. At Brewery ARS on South Passyunk, they just shrugged, saying the Gritty Gruel had sold out in “like 40 minutes.” We called Broken Goblet Brewing in Bristol, Pennsylvania to ask if it was worth the trek for their Nightmare Fuel. “That was just a one-day thing,” the woman who answered said with the sort of impatient exasperation that made it seem like she’d explained this many times to other Gritty-grubbers before.

It would be just like Philly to lose interest in Gritty as he became more widely accepted. In the true spirit of “No one likes us, we don’t care” -style Philly sports fandom, it had been a point of pride for locals to ardently defend the sentient orange dust bunny no matter how much the rest of the internet found him to be Bad. If you didn’t like Gritty, that’s fine, because we don’t like you. But now everyone does like Gritty, and his literal cartoonishness feels less edgy and more cuddly. More “Brotherly Love” than “Fucking Philly,” and the Grittys that remain feel like a shameless attempt to convince novelty-seeking out-of-towners and Philly ex-pats to embarrass themselves by ordering Doritos-flavored ice cream. And we’re the suckers who fell for it.

Cheese Calzone Recipe

Servings: 4

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 ½ hours

Ingredients

for the dough:

1 1/2 cups water heated to 110-115° F

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

for the filling:

2 ⅓ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus the zest of 1 lemon

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

to serve:

marinara sauce

Directions

1. Make the dough: Whisk together the water, yeast, olive oil, and salt. Let the yeast foam for 5 minutes.

2. Add in 3 cups of flour and use your dough hook to knead. Knead for a minimum of 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and just slightly tacky, but not sticky. Add the additional ½ cup of flour if needed and knead until smooth.

3. Place the dough in a large, well oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to proof for 1 hour, or wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store in your refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

4. Assemble the calzone: Heat the oven to 500°F. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta with the lemon juice and zest and season with salt and pepper.

5. Divide your dough into 2 equal-sized balls (See Farideh for size). On a lightly floured surface and working with one ball of dough at a time, roll the dough out into a 9 to 10-inch circle. Place ⅓ cup of the mozzarella down the middle of the dough and top with ½ cup of the ricotta. Top with ¼ cup more mozzarella, then gently lift one side of the dough up and over the filling. Using the handle of the pizza cutter (or a fork), seal the dough about 1/4-inch in. Repeat with remaining dough and ingredients.

6. Drizzle 2 sheet tray with the olive oil and gently lift the calzones onto the sheet tray. Cut a small “X” onto the top of each calzone and brush with olive oil. Bake until golden and puffed, about 15 minutes. Serve with marinara sauce.

This Cylindrical Pastry Is Finland’s National Treasure

Welcome to #NotAnAd , where we post enthusiastically and without reservation about things we’re obsessed with from the world of food.

I’m a firm believer that sweets, especially pastries, are straight trash and a waste of everyone’s time.

There is, however, one exception, and that’s Runeberg’s torte, invented in my hometown of Porvoo, Finland. It’s not much to look at: It’s basically a cylindrical-shaped pastry, a noble cousin of muffins if you will, with a dot of raspberry jam and some icing on top. The real secret, however, is what lies within. Chopped almonds provide texture and deep nutty flavors. A dash of rum or arrack gives a delightfully boozy element and contributes to the heavenly mouthfeel of the pastry—if it’s done correctly. Too moist and you might as well drink the entire bottle while you’re at it. Too dry, it feels like someone is force-feeding you cat litter.

But when the balance of ingredients is just right, the slightly spongy interior manages to be dense but delicate, while the crust is crumbly yet remarkably firm. The raspberry jam on top might seem like a distraction at first, but it provides a lovely touch of brightness to the overall experience.

The torte is named after Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Finland’s national poet (related: Finland has a national poet—in addition to writing the words for the Finnish national anthem, he’s best known for a poem called “The Moose Hunters”), who lived in Porvoo in the 1800s. The story has it that Mr. Runeberg, like a fucking legend, enjoyed this very pastry with a glass of punsch every morning. Nothing like meeting the day with a double dose of liqueur, amirite?

Runeberg’s wife, Fredrika, is often credited as the creator of the torte, because a recipe for it can be found in one of her book from the 1850s. However, another prevailing theory is that a local baker named Lars Henrik Astenius invented it—and that the name comes from the the poet’s renowned gusto for the dessert. Which, what a legacy.

These days, Runeberg’s torte is prepared all around Finland but only for a limited time. They start popping up in January and reach sugar-rushed climax today, February 5, Runeberg Day.

Some torte lovers like to save themselves in the ramp-up to have their first Runeberg’s torte of the year on the actual Runeberg Day. I don’t get that. It’s a pastry, not tantric sex. Some fundamentalists also think that it’s not a proper Runeberg’s torte unless it’s made in Porvoo. I don’t believe that shit, either. It is, however, definitely Porvoo’s gift to the rest of Finland, and Finland’s gift to the rest of the world. It should be treated as the national treasure it truly is—but only if it’s made right, otherwise don’t bother.

It’s Tuesday, February 5, and Central Park’s Hot Duck Is Now a Pawn in the Foie Gras Debate

W elcome to Off-Menu , where we’ll be rounding up all the food news and food-adjacent internet ephemera that delighted, fascinated, or infuriated us this morning.

News I still can’t really believe that Postmates semi-regularly convinces celebrities to show their entire asses in the form of allowing the delivery service to publish a summary of their annual order receipts, but I am happy to ogle the results . No judgement, but Kylie Jenner orders from Postmates, on average, every other day , most frequently in the form of a cream cheese bagel at 10 AM, which honestly sounds like a very relatable way to enjoy obscene wealth. A little more judgement, however, for the time that she Postmates’d a single carrot and a bottle of Smartwater. All told, she spent north of $10,000 on the delivery app in 2018. The DC-area baker who DIDN’T ACTUALLY APOLOGIZE for selling a cookie that said “Build that Wall,” but did explain it was just a joke after the backlash, is doubling down. Rather than, you know, taking into consideration that people didn’t find the cookie very funny and backing off the issue, Ken Bellingham is now selling “Build that Wall” cookies by the dozen and adding “Lighten Up” and “I’m Offended” icing messages to his arsenal. Over at The Takeout , Kevin Pang actually “made that queso” that went viral during the Super Bowl based on the recipe (or at least, the list of ingredients) Dana Perino tweeted out . Her inclusion of canned mushroom soup and sautéed bacon received almost as much criticism as as the soupy brown result, but Pang said the finished product was “inarguably delicious.” Of course, his actually looked like something you’d want to eat, so rather than exonerate Pernio, this should be seen as an indictment more of her photography skills and abilities in the kitchen than the source material she pulled from. Foie gras has long been controversial because of the animal rights issues inherent to how it’s obtained (force-feeding ducks and geese via shoving a long metal tube down their throats) and now a New York Councilwoman has proposed a bill that would make selling the delicacy illegal for restaurants and vendors in the city. “Don’t tell me you’re a fan of the Central Park Mandarin duck but you think foie gras is OK,” a different councilwoman who backed the bill told the New York Post . Not News A 20-year-old Australian woman got an inner lip tattoo that says “KFC” because the fast food fried chicken makes her “happier than anything else in the world.” She told The Daily Mail that “It would be awesome if they gave me free KFC because of it,” which is not how this works (you’re supposed to get 10k RT before getting inked if you want the brand to take notice), and that she also has a dog named Nugget. Just wait till she finds out about the absolutely unnerving Colonel Sanders bearskin rugs the brand is giving away (or something?) on Reddit . Those hands are gonna haunt me for a long time. Something Nice

The oft-food-centric Instagram from the pair of cartoon artists whose work appears in The Guardian.

Buy This 22-Pound Cheese Cake via Costco.com

Not cheesecake, but cheese cake. Costco bills this as a “cheese lover artisan wedding cake,” and Thrillist claims this it’s a welcome alternative to a classic wedding cake (which, love me some cheese but I have to disagree—when else do you get to eat buttercream as an adult?). However, if you look closely at the description, you’ll notice that this cake comes unassembled, and decorations are not included. In other words: It’s just five wheels and 22 pounds of cheese. Nothing wrong with that.

‘Slimeball’ Diner Caught On Camera Stealing a Steak In a Napkin

Steve Medlen’s House of Beef serves juicy steaks and “the best tri-tip sandwich in town” to the residents of Oakdale, California. For that reason, House of Beef is pretty well-loved. “BEEF LOVER [sic ] SHOULDN’T MISS THIS PLACE,” reads a recent Yelp review. With the priciest steak on the menu costing under $40 (including garlic bread, sides, and access to the soup and salad bar), House of Beef has also been called a pretty dang good deal for a classic steak dinner.

Still, for one unidentified diner, a $56 meal of steak, lobster tail, and a 20-ounce beer was $56 more than he wanted to pay. As reported by Fox 40 late last week, one beef lover liked House of Beef’s meat so much that he just had to take his steak home, without paying or boxing it up.

The beef thief was bold: After receiving his surf and turf dinner, he picked up the porterhouse, wrapped it in a napkin taken from the bread basket, and then walked out. It was all caught on surveillance footage that has since been posted online to help the steakhouse find the dine-and-dasher.

House of Beef’s head server called the theft—and the diner—“highly unusual.” Not only had he asked for a table for four, but, dressed in a suit, he reminded her of a “used car salesman or bad real estate agent.” (In case you didn’t get the picture, she also said he reminded her of an 80s movie villain.)

“What type of person will take a steak and watch the juice drip off and then wrap it in a linen napkin?” she told Fox, reinforcing the claim that yes, House of Beef does make a juicy steak.

Dining and dashing might be par for the course at some restaurants, but as Steve Medlen told MUNCHIES over the phone, that’s not the case at his steakhouse.

Although the footage of the beef thief has made the rounds online, Medlen told MUNCHIES that he has yet to be identified. Still, Medlen is not giving up.

“This guy needs to be brought to the front. I’m trying to do something for my fellow merchants and fellow restaurants, anyone that could be affected by this,” Medlen said. “It’s hard for me to believe that no one’s recognized him yet.”

I guess you could say that Medlen’s got… beef.

Is Grey Squirrel the Next Great Sustainable Meat?

Almost nine years ago, a north London supermarket very quietly started selling grey squirrel meat, adding it to its game selection because of its sustainability. “It’s [a] bit like rabbit,” Andrew Thornton, the owner of the Budgens supermarket in Crouch End, said at the time . “I think there will be a lot of fuss about this now, but in a few years it will become accepted practice that we eat squirrels. People don’t bat an eyelid now about eating rabbit.”

Well, it’s been nine years and it’s not accepted practice yet, but at least one London chef agrees with him about its sustainability. According to the Telegraph , Ivan Tisdall-Downes has started serving a slow-cooked squirrel ragu—and the occasional barbecued squirrel heart—at his restaurant Native in London’s Borough Market.

“Squirrel is one of the most sustainable proteins you can cook really,” he said, basically echoing Thornton. “It’s tasty, it’s not as gamey as rabbit, it’s nice white meat […] It’s very good for you, it’s quite lean.”

One Telegraph critic who has tried Tisdall-Downes’ ragu described it as “succulently rich and tender,” with a flavor like that of lamb. “Paired with the silky celeriac, cheese and tangy pickled walnuts and you could tell me it was straight off the A30 [motorway]—I’d still have scoffed the lot,” she wrote.

Tisdall-Downes is all for eating grey squirrels, especially because their population seems to be forever increasing, and they have a nasty habit of taking food and forest from the country’s endangered red squirrels. The grey squirrels—which now number over 5 million—are largely predator-free, which means that they’re free to eat, bone, and repeat without any real repercussions. (Since greys are considered a non-native pest species, there have even been attempts to sterilize them using Nutella laced with a hormone suppressant. Tasty).

Robert Gooch, the owner of the Wild Meat game company, said that squirrel has become his third-biggest seller in England, right behind venison and pheasant. “Consumers are very concerned about the stress that farmed animals go through in their lives so are more interested in wild meat,” he told the Telegraph . “Eating meat from animals that are killed or culled anyway is sustainable otherwise it would be waste.”

In the United States, you’re more likely to find the word squirrel in a restaurant’s name than you are on its menualthough that hasn’t always been the case. National Geographic reports that James Beard’s American Cookery had a recipe for Brunswick stew that required “two or three squirrels,” as well as a recipe for squirrel fricassee. And, until 1996, Irma S. Rombauer’s classic Joy of Cooking even had diagrams for properly skinning a squirrel.

There are places where squirrel never fell out of favor and, yeah, they’re mainly in the Southeast. For the past 19 years, Hampshire County, West Virginia, for example, has hosted an annual Squirrel Fest , where the locally prepared entrees have included squirrel cobbler, squirrel with herb dumplings and—a perennial favorite—squirrel gravy.

Nine years ago, when Thornton added squirrel to the Budgens inventory, he was called out by an animal welfare group that accused him of “profiting from a wildlife massacre.” In reality, he hasn’t put a dent in Britain’s grey squirrel population, but he has found a way to make an already sustainable meat even more planet-friendly. As of last fall, his store now sells ‘plastic free squirrel’ that is sold in a fully compostable tray with fully compostable wrappings.

Not bad, Budgens. Not bad at all.

Roasted Carrots with Tahini and Honey Recipe

Servings: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients 2 bunches carrots (the nice long thin ones!) with green tops preferably (about 1 ¾ pounds|800 grams)

3 tablespoons olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon tahini

4 ½ teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Directions 1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Toss the carrots with the oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool slightly, then transfer to a serving platter.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, honey, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon water. Drizzle on the carrots and sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Garnish with the picked carrot tops.

Michael C. Hall Played a Bodega Cat in the Skittles Broadway Musical

Michael C. Hall was dressed in a full-body catsuit—the kind Idris Elba and Taylor Swift will presumably wear in the film version of Cats . He crouched down on all fours and received a gentle pet down the back, his bushy tail surprisingly alive. He leapt up on a bodega counter, knocking bananas to the floor in front of candy-filled shelves. Then, of course, he burst into song.

This was the Super Bowl Sunday Skittles commercial. Except it wasn’t playing on TV in between possessions—it was performed on a Broadway stage in front of a live audience.

Hall, best known for his work on Dexter and Six Feet Under , is what some might call a “serious” stage actor. The kind more likely to star in a Pulitzer-finalist solo play than one whose pomo image is a cat barfing rainbows with red and green candies where his eyes should be. But there he was, feline from head to toe, in Skittles Commercial: The Musical, a 30-minute crossover event for which lines spilled out the doors of Town Hall Theater in New York City early Sunday afternoon.

I was one of approximately 1,500 people who were all there because a $35 billion corporation somehow convinced us to happily pay to see a commercial . Tickets had cost anywhere from $30 to $200, and that didn’t even include free Skittles, the only item being sold at concessions.

The show started with Hall, dressed as a cat but playing himself(?), entering a bodega on the afternoon he was meant to perform in a live Skittles commercial—and things only grew more meta from there. In the opening number, Hall wondered aloud whether “this might have been a bad idea,” before tasting some Skittles and recanting his doubts. (A soundtrack for the show, which includes mesmerizing ASMR of Hall eating Skittles for four minutes, was released on Spotify last week.)

Hecklers planted in the audience soon complained about the very conceit of the show. “I thought this was gonna be one of those crazy ads with talking animals,” one griped.

“How do you know it isn’t?” Hall shot back. (He had a point!)

“When do we get to see the play with the cat in it?” asked another, referring to the show within the show for which Hall was dressed.

“That part’s going to be on the internet, right?” an usher pleaded.

“This is all there is,” Hall deadpanned.

“It’s not recorded, so enjoy the present moment, the here and now,” explained Ari Weiss, creative director of the ad agency behind the show. But there had been no notice about switching off our phones for the performance, and if none of us posted about it on Instagram, did it even really happen?

Skittles Commercial was a self-aware parody at nearly every turn, frequently coming right out and asking the very questions it provoked. As many layers of meta-theatrics as there are colors in the Skittles rainbows should be expected from co-writer Will Eno (whose one-man play Hall recently headlined) and downtown director Sarah Benson, who are both known for challenging audience expectations and shattering illusion rather than creating it.

Back on stage, fed up with the crowd mutiny, Hall threw his hands up and walked off. An announcement explained that musical was cut short due to “unforeseen circumstances,” but no one made for the exits—we may have been suckers, but we were no fools! The curtain then opened on what looked like the sidewalk outside Town Hall, where fake audience members swarmed Hall and broke out into chants of the winking complaint printed on souvenir tees sold in the lobby: “Advertising Ruins Everything.”

“It makes me spend money I don’t even have,” sang one man holding three shopping bags. “Which wouldn’t be bad if I wasn’t a dad, with a wife and three children to feed.”

“It shows me how perfect a woman can be, and reminds me how perfect I’m not,” a girl continued. Such acknowledgements of capitalism’s ills seemed designed to prove how very self-aware rainbow candies can be—without actually offering any serious critique of the system or the companies that benefit from it. Remember, the whole thing was still about selling Skittles, after all.

The fake audience mob finally turned on Hall when he revealed that they were, in fact, actors who had been hired by Skittles. Two staged pseudo-realities—this one outside Town Hall and the other inside the bodega—collided in foggy chaos. An actor ripped open his shirt as the air vent above rained Skittles down his bare chest.

Fictional Hall’s body was crushed beneath a keeled-over ATM, like the wicked witch of the east, leaving him to haunt the stage as a ghost. An actor dressed as a grizzly bear silently crossed through the haze, a likely reference to Shakespeare’s famous stage direction: “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.” Oh, Winston Churchill showed up too, and reminded everyone to enjoy the game. And someone read on Business Insider that nearly 600 packs of Skittles were sold at the show, which “really give meaning to Michael’s life.”

The only detail of this spectacle that the show didn’t joke about was how much Skittles must have paid for the appearance of disrupting the famously pricey Super Bowl ad complex. (The cost for 30 seconds of airtime alone reportedly exceeded $5 million during the Super Bowl this year.) Beyond whatever they paid Hall plus all the non-headlining performers, Skittles also donated the ticket proceeds, and matched that donation, to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization that supports people living with HIV and other critical illnesses. All of which is money well spent—especially when you consider the many write-ups just like this that mention those flattering facts (We can do meta, too, Skittles.)

“This definitely was a bad idea,” Hall and the company belted out in the closing number. With rainbows sprouting in our brains like psychedelic cat puke, I’m not sure if any of us involved knew whether he was right.