Jukebox Skipping

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

ODDKA Vodka -- Taste Test

A few weeks ago, a friend (and former co-worker that now works for a New York City PR firm) asked if I would review vodka from one of his clients.  "What all does this involve?", I asked him just to be sure it didn't sound too much like work.  "We'll send you some vodka, drink it, and write your opinion of it."  Wait.  Free booze?  I'm in!

Fresh Cut Grass, Electricity, and Wasabi ODDKA Vodka

ODDKA: For those that don't know...ODDKA makes some of the most interesting flavors of vodka on the market today including "Fresh Cut Grass", "Salty Caramel Popcorn", and "Wasabi".  I figured that I would sit around the house one night, sample all three flavors that I was sent, write up a few notes and call it a day.

But, that just seemed kind of boring.  So I called my friends at Omaha's Elbow Room to see if they were interested in helping me review some vodka.  Of course the answer was yes...so with camera and vodka in-hand...I was off to add "Booze Reviewer" to my ever-expanding resume.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video should be worth even more than that, right?  So, let me have HTD friend Jeff Novak, take the honors of introducing (and sampling first) our three ODDKA vodka flavors for the night.

Fresh Cut Grass: The thoughts on this one were universal.  What in the world is it? And, what do I order it with?  As it turns out, we all liked it as a chilled shot. It really does smell exactly as the name implies...but it was far more drinkable then we had anticipated.  Of note, we also tried it mixed with tonic water which was NOT a good fit.  Somehow the tonic took the subtle grass taste and enhanced it into what tasted like a giant pile of lawn clippings dumped right into your mouth...not what we had hoped.

If you're going to mix it with anything, soda water seems to be the wiser choice.  The ODDKA website also has a few additional cocktail suggestions for Fresh Cut Grass.  But, as for the HitThatDive crowd...we'll stick with drinking this as a chilled shot every time.

Enter "Fast Eddie".  Eddie is a vodka drinker that had never had ODDKA before, so naturally we put him on the spot immediately!  Was Fast Eddie the newest ODDKA fan in town?  Take a look for yourself.

Electricity:  Jeff described this one as grape-flavored where as Fast Eddie determined its flavor to be "Blue".  In either case, it's a berry-flavored vodka where the flavoring is not too overpowering.  Again, our taste testers at The Elbow Room determined this best served as a shot, but Jeff even thought it would work with soda water as well.

Ultimately, Electricity is for vodka drinkers who want a little different taste, yet don't want the flavor to completely overpower the vodka itself.  Even a vodka drinker like Fast Eddie was impressed with this one.

Now...how do I properly tee-up the ODDKA Wasabi flavor.  Perhaps our man DLH summed it up best in this video.

Wasabi: As a shot, this will get your attention.  Immediately! It was impossible for anyone at The Elbow Room this night to try ODDKA Wasabi without feeling the burn seconds after you swallowed it.  That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, in fact, much like eating wasabi...it seemed to be a great way to clear out your sinuses.

When you think spicy and vodka, you immediately think of a Bloody Mary.  Jeff's concern with making a Bloody Mary with ODDKA Wasabi was that he didn't want a mix to out-do the already spicy vodka taste.  So, he came up with his own recipe:

The Elbow Room ODDKA Wasabi Bloody Mary:

  • Celery Salt
  • Pepper 
  • Hot Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tomato Juice (No Bloody Mary mix)
  • ODDKA Wasabi Vodka 

Now, in all fairness, did everyone that tired all the ODDKA vodka love it?  Nope.  But, what I was initially concerned about was that none of us were going to like any of them...and just wasn't the case. It's different, it's unique, and yes...it's a bit odd...but they even tell you that by the company's name.   

With all the flavored vodkas that are over-saturating the market with the same old offerings like Cotton Candy, Birthday Cake or even Fluffed Marshmallow...I like the fact that ODDKA wants to stand out in the vodka crowd and make something truly different.  

Are these flavors for everyone...probably not. But if you're tired of the same old offerings (and don't mind wandering off the beaten path when trying a new drink or two) ODDKA will take you down an adventurous drinking adventure that you can enjoy...without ever leaving the comfort of your barstool.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Coming Tomorrow -- ODDKA Vodka Taste Test

A few weeks ago, I received several flavors of ODDKA Vodka to try.  Knowing that its always better to have a few drinks with friends, this time at the Elbow Room (which also is a member of HitThatDive's Hall of Fame) I brought along my video camera to catch the reactions of customers as they sample ODDKA's "Fresh Cut Grass", "Electricity", and "Wasabi" flavored vodkas.

What did I, and everyone else, think of these off-the-wall vodka flavors?  Full review...with videos...tomorrow.  Don't miss it!

What's it like to drink Fresh Cut Grass?
Find out tomorrow!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Oscar's Round 2 -- Omaha Wing Challenge

17330 Lakeside Hills Plaza
New Menu
Omaha, NE 68130
402 758-1910

Two years ago, I stopped by Oscar's to review their wings. Predictably, they received 47 points out of a possible of 50. As most of you know, Oscar's has been know as one of the top bars in the area to always get consistently great wings. But then...something happened.

Since the review two years ago, only two things have really been consistent with every order of wings at Oscar's. One...they make it to you faster than a cheap Mexican place can zap a chimichanga in a microwave and flop it onto your table.  Two...the characteristic "charbuff" crunch has been replaced with a fully cooked, yet slightly slimy and not all that hot of a wing....which is kind of a bummer.

Great Sauce
Word around town is that Oscar's hasn't been all that thrilled with me since a bit of a "Twitter war" we had back in September.  So, chances are they still aren't going to be all that happy with me after this one either...but here's the bottom line, well as I see it anyway...

Oscar's has become a victim of its own success and is now trying to crank out wings faster than a sailor on shore leave can spend a stack of 20's in a seaside whorehouse.  Sure, it's a great way to turn tables faster than ever, but is it really worth a lower quality final product?  In my opinion, no.  But of course...I'm not the one making a ton of profits from the cash machine that is Oscar's.

This was a GOOD one
First Impressions:  Even for a Tuesday lunch crowd, this place is PACKED as usual.  There may be bar owners in town not making money...but it sure ain't these owners!  I take a seat near the bar and wait a good while for someone to wait on me.  I already know what I'm going to order...10 wings, charbuffed, double dipped in Buffalo sauce.  See, this was part of my test...I'm adding an extra step, so clearly it should take longer.

I get out my stopwatch and hit "Go" just after the server enters my order. Seven minutes, 16 seconds and .4 hundredths of a second...my wings arrive.  HOLY DOG SHIT...that's fast by fast food standards!  The always great sauce again has enough of a burn that you can smell the heat...but something is missing. Oh, I know, wings fresh out of a fryer (or grill for that matter) should be steaming hot. These lacked any sort of steam at all.

Score: 7

This was NOT a good wing
Sauce:  For me, Oscar's has the best sauce in the area.  It tastes almost exactly like the wing sauce I've been making for more than 20 years.  The Buffalo sauce in particular is the perfect compliment to the wings that have a good amount of charring on them...which are usually the smaller ones.

Score: 10

Crispy: This got a "10" last time.  And, if I change the category to "Chewy" it could get a 10 again. What once was the hallmark of a great Oscar's wing was its crunchiness. They were never overcooked, yet, always were good and crispy nearly every time.  But now what you get is a wing that has been (I'm guessing baked first) and then kept warm in the kitchen for some amount of time.  If it only took 7 minutes to get my food, they must thrown them in they fryer for 90ish seconds and then on the grill for another 30-45 seconds.  It CAN'T be any longer than that...or my order would have taken MUCH longer.

Also of note, those of us that have downed our fair share of wings...what happens when you pull apart and bite into that first one?  EXACTLY...you can't because they are too hot and burn your fingers. Even on my first wing, I was never in danger of burning anything...and by the last wing...it somehow seemed cooler than room temperature.

And, this is?
Oscar's vows they have never changed how they make wings...I would have to disagree.  What's changed is the churn-them-out as fast as possible cooking style that they never used before. This is the biggest weakness of Oscar's wings today.

Score: 5

Size:  All but two were perfect size...but the ones in question were a bit on the "mutant drummie" side and, while fully cooked, were far more slimy than the rest.  It also was the bigger two that gave off a distinct baked chicken taste...just like the bland oven baked chicken my Grandma would make every third Sunday.  But...not too much at fault here...moving on.

Score: 8

Extras:  Extra plate, check.  A few additional napkins, check. Sad-looking celery, check. Watery bleu cheese that doesn't taste anything like bleu cheese, check.  Wetanp.  What, now you don't even get a wetnap here any more?  At the very least, the corners of the packet make a great impromptu toothpick...not to mention I walked to my car with sauce on my face which would not have happened with a wetnap like they used to give out here. Not the end of the world I suppose...

Score: 8

Final Score: 38 out of 50 (Original Score 47 out of 50) 

Final Thoughts:

The Good:  Oscar's has some of the best sauce and reasonably priced wings in the area.  And, as history has shown, they really do know how to make a great order of wings if they want to.

The Bad:  The microwave burrito that I'm making for dinner, at this very second, takes six minutes to make.  How on earth can a restaurant place an order, properly make wings, plate them, THEN bring them to your table in seven minutes?  Answer...by cutting corners in the kitchen as far as cooking them properly, the way they once did.

Oscar's is a close to an "institution" as there is this far out in West Omaha.  But they sure could take a few notes from a place like The Salty Dog in Council Bluffs that makes it clear on their menu that all wings are cooked after you order them, so they will take at least 20 minutes. You can still do way worse in the area, but sadly, at one point not that long ago...it was almost impossible to do any better than Oscar's wings.

You can't make an egg this fast!