Frosty the Cheeseball Man by Charles Phoenix

palms-hotel

If you’re feeling extra festive this holiday season, you may want to try one of the wacky and wonderful Test Kitchen ideas from Charles Phoenix, the “Ambassador of Americana” who promotes fantastic vintage kitsch through books, tours and slideshows. (He also had the honor of riding on the City of Downey’s tiki float in last year’s Rose Parade.) His “food-crafting” projects include the Astro Weenie Christmas Tree (as seen on Conan O’Brien) and the Cherpumple (a cherry, pumpkin and apple pie takeoff on the turducken).

(Photo from Charles Phoenix on Facebook)

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Last year I vowed that we would attempt to make Frosty the Cheeseball Man. This “jolly, happy soul” is made of Velveeta cheese with a layer of cream cheese “snow,” plus olive and bell pepper accoutrements. I named him Tiny Tim because he couldn’t stand up without being propped up by a pretzel stick crutch.

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…Frosty the Snowman
Knew the [electric skillet] was hot that day

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So he said let’s run
And we’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away
[Into processed cheese dip]

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Thumpety thump thump
Thumpety thump thump
Look at Frosty go…

Tiki Turkey Dinner by Charles Phoenix

For a Thanksgiving-themed Test Kitchen project a few years back, Charles Phoenix made a Tiki Turkey Dinner complete with a Moai meatloaf centerpiece, Hawaiian bread stuffing, and coconut curry green bean casserole. Maybe next year we should throw a holiday luau!

(Photo from CharlesPhoenix.com)

Related posts:
City of Downey’s Rose Parade Tiki Float
Tiki Holiday Gift Guide 2012
Tiki Wonderland at the Tonga Hut 2010

Tiki at the LA County Fair: Part Four

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In this requisite annual post I present to you more of the myriad reasons why I love the LA County Fair. Among them are taking photographs of the ferris wheel at sunset, eating strange fried food and finding random tiki sightings.

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Chicken Charlie is famous for serving up deep-fried delights, but this year he introduced a new stand called The Pineapple Express that offered some island-inspired options that were promoted as healthier than your typical fare fair.

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One of these was the “Naked Shrimp” ($11.95) with white rice and pineapple chunks, served in half a pineapple shell. If you’re concerned this dish sounds too healthy, don’t worry, they also give you a side of melted butter! The shrimp looked like they might have some spice, but were pretty bland. I appreciated the novelty presentation, but we’ll skip this next year.

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On the other hand, the deep-fried lobster on a stick ($12.87) was juicy inside and the crisp coating had great seasoning.

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Of course, Chicken Charlie couldn’t stray too far from his roots so there was also deep-fried Spam and deep-fried pineapple rings with chocolate sauce (both $6.44) to continue the Hawaiian theme. Not surprisingly, the latter wasn’t very good. I guess the deep-fried Klondike Bar shall remain my all-time favorite.

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Even though we went at the end of September, the weather was still hotter than it had any business being. We paused to cool off with some shave ice at The Big “Kone” Huna, which I think might have been a new food vendor at the LA County Fair this year.

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Their stand had a thatch roof, some tiki masks and bamboo poles, but also hot rod flames, disco lights and dance music, so that was a bit odd. As was their logo with a surfin’ dude in a scary-looking tiki mask. Yikes.

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We couldn’t decide what flavors to get so we went with their suggestion of strawberry and pina colada “Hawaiian style” with sweetened condensed milk on top ($5.06). It was pretty good, though I kept stealing spoonfuls from our friends’ order of lime and margarita.

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Every year we make sure to visit the arts and crafts building. We speculate on the fierce rivalry among the jam and preserves makers, and examine the prize-winning baked goods slowly decaying in the glass displays. There was no tiki cake this year, but there was this impressive cake for “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

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We’re also slightly obsessed with the tablescaping contest where people decorate tables according to themes, complete with elaborate centerpieces and menus for an imaginary meal. (Part of our fascination has to do with the nitpicky critiques from the judges, like “Teaspoon near knife is a questionable decision.”)

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Of course this table caught my eye! It was inspired by James Michener’s book Hawaii, and featured a thatch roof over the table, woven palm frond placemats, monkey pod wood dishes, mini tiki torches, fake tropical flowers and tiki salt and pepper shakers. The Hairpin has some great pictures of some of the other tablescaping entries (including one for Game of Thrones!).

Related posts:

LA County Fair 2011 – Lumberjacks & Tiki Cakes
LA County Fair 2010 – Chocolate Covered Oreos Wrapped in Bacon!
LA County Fair 2009 – A Horse Named Tiki

Bahooka Ribs & Grog – Rosemead, CA

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A night at Bahooka is like having dinner in Davy Jones’ locker. The restaurant’s booths look as if they were constructed from driftwood, while more than one hundred aquariums emanate a mysterious glow. It’s a bit of a hike east from Los Angeles to this part of the San Gabriel Valley, but I love to make it out there whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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If you’ve seen the movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” then you’re already slightly familiar with this place. In the first several minutes of the film, Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke (Hunter S. Thompson) peels into the parking lot and uses a pay phone inside. (If you ask the staff, they might be able to direct you to Depp’s favorite table.)

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Making his silver screen debut in that scene was Rufus, the giant, carrot-eating pacu fish by the check-in stand. He’s 35 years old! Here he is munching on his favorite snack — you can even hear him crunching away if you stand up close. I absolutely adore this guy and I’m certainly not the only one.

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Bahooka’s first restaurant, which is no longer around, opened in 1967 in West Covina. This Rosemead location came about nearly a decade later. The name Bahooka supposedly means “shack,” but that’s not a reflection of its size. The restaurant is so large that it’s pretty easy to get lost in the labrynth of seemingly endless aisles.

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The décor is flotsam and jetsam at its finest, with huge glass fish floats, several tikis, random street signs, and authentic nautical equipment the owner had picked up at a naval shipyard. I love the hefty anchor chains that go right through the middle of some of the tables.

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Try to keep your mutiny conspiring to a minimum, or you and your dining companions might find yourselves eating with the other scurvy dogs in the brig!

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Bahooka is known for its ribs, which are pretty good. The rest of the menu features teriyaki chicken (also on the plate above), steak, fish, burgers, sandwiches and lots of fried fare (shrimp, chicken strips, cheese sticks, zucchini, onion rings, etc.).

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Crab rangoon is one of my favorite tiki menu staples, but the closest thing they have here are “crab puffs” ($10.75). An order comes with 20 bite-sized pieces and three sauces, though I thought they tasted best on their own.

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I’m also partial to another deep-fried delicacy: the stuffed shrimp, which are filled with crab and cheese, then breaded and fried. Luckily there’s the best of both worlds with the $20 combination dinners, such as ribs plus two stuffed shrimp. (You don’t really want to consume more than two in one sitting, but I doubt you’ll get that far since it also comes with soup or salad and a starchy side like fries or baked yam.)

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The drinks can be a bit too sweet and seem to disguise the rum rather than complement it. But they’re potent enough to do the job, and who am I to argue with Jonathan Gold? He deemed Bahooka’s Flaming Honey Bowl one of LA’s Best Cocktails, praising its presentation and nostalgia factor.

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These sunken treasures are Bahooka’s first signature tiki mugs from Tiki Farm. They’ve since produced two more designs: a nautical style one (now sold out) designed by Book of Tiki author Sven Kirsten and the blue “Rufus” mug by The Pizz that was just released this weekend.

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Before you seek out Bahooka on your own ersatz South Sea adventure, take a moment to print out the $5 off coupon from their web site. (Click on the menu link and scroll to the bottom of the page.)

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UPDATE 2/15/13: It gives me great sadness to report that Bahooka is closing on March 10, 2013. Read more on Chris Nichols’ Los Angeles magazine post.

Bahooka Family Restaurant
4501 Rosemead Blvd.
Rosemead, CA 91770
626-285-1241

Bahooka on Urbanspoon