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Battle Lame Halloween Treats: Angie's Kettle Corn vs. Snyder's Mini Pretzels

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For years now, parents have been freaking out about the Obesity Crisis, pulling bread from the very mouths of their children and causing them to become anorexic by the age of six. They have castrated Ronald McDonald, taken a piss on Happy Meal toys, and banned soda and chips from some school vending machines. Now, they have set their sights on Halloween -- the one thing, besides the amusement park, that a little kid used to be able to look forward to. (Please don't take Halloween away from Gut Check...um...we mean the children!)

Their accomplices: Angie's Kettle Corn and Snyder's Pretzels. Both companies have decided that the perfect treats to grace the bottom of a faded pillow case are mini-sized versions of their everyday fare.

So how can a child find satisfaction in these relatively healthful substances on the night of All Hallow's Eve? We're not saying we'd recommend either over, say, a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, but if you have to give into the obesity fear-mongerers and choose one of these snacks, which would it be?

Your trustworthy Gut Check correspondent is here. And we're taking this all-important question to Fight Club Sandwich.

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Battle Gyro: Gyros in the Loop v. Gyro House

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Sarah Baraba
The gyro at Gyro House
In September Gut Check reported on the conflict raging between two gyro joints in the Loop: Gyros in the Loop (571 Melville Avenue; 314-725-5343) and the Gyro House (6152 Delmar Boulevard; 314-721-5638).

After the death of the Gyro House's long-time owner Ahmed Eltawmi, the restaurant moved east down Delmar Boulevard near Pi, and Gyros in the Loop opened up in Eltawmi's old location. Some punches were thrown, cops were called, a lawsuit was filed, and needless to say the two gyro restaurants aren't exactly chummy. Signs out front of the two eateries are indicative of the feud: Smiling down from the Gyros in the Loop's sign is a curiously similar likeness to the late Eltawmi, and blazing in neon below the Gyro House's name is "ORIGINAL," lest Loop-goers forget who forged this territory first.

With bad taste lingering between the owners, Gut Check figured we'd wage a battle between the two eateries battle on just that: taste. We pitted the restaurants' namesakes against each other in a battle as epic as Achilles vs. Hector.

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Battle Chicken Korma: India Palace Vs. Sukhi's Gourmet Indian Cuisine

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Gut Check receives a lot of press releases for new products. Many are useless, but occasionally one passes through that piques our interest. In this case, Sukhi's Gourmet Indian Cuisine made us do a double take with their promise of all-natural, authentic, complete Indian meals that can be prepared in fifteen minutes. Since many parts of the St. Louis metro area are lacking in Indian restaurants, this could be an easy and inexpensive way to get a curry fix without the trek.

But can Sukhi's possibly be as good as, say, India Palace (4534 North Lindbergh Boulevard, Bridgeton; 314-731-3333)?

We grabbed a packet of Sukhi's Korma Curry Sauce from the Brentwood Whole Foods. For less than five bucks we got a thick packet of deep green curry paste. Snipping open the packet released a fresh, tangy aroma spiked with kaffir lime.

It's a bit like "Curry Helper" -- add the seasoning packet, your own meat, and you have a meal. Mostly. The recipe called for 1 1/4 pounds of chicken (boneless and skinless) or mixed vegetables. We did half chicken breast, half fingerling potatoes cut into small chunks. After simmering the chicken and potatoes with water and the curry paste, we added one-quarter cup of whipping cream. Basmati rice and premade naan were made separately.

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Battle European Spread: Nutella Vs. Biscoff

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You might have sampled Nutella on a crepe, which is standard fare in France. The creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread melts on a hot, buttery crepe shell, and the combination is nothing less than divine.

However, France's neighbor to the north boasts its own sweet spread. The Belgians have always been famous for their waffles and cookies, but now they've created a real tour de force: Speculoos Spread. Speculoos, or "Biscoff" spread as its known in North America, is a thick, creamy confection with the consistency of peanut butter. To the naked eye, it even looks like peanut butter: the same brown color, many shades lighter than Nutella. If you've ever flown Delta, you might have been served the cookie version of the spread (albeit in shiny plastic Delta wrappers). Both the spread and the cookie taste like gingerbread, with a warm cinnamon aftertaste.

It's hard to put to equally delicious contenders up for the prize of Best European spread. Some might say it's like comparing apples and oranges: Nutella has a strong chocolate-hazelnut taste, and Biscoff tastes more like peanut butter, just with a little more cinnamon. Gut Check had a hard time finding Biscoff, but when Straub's ran an ad for it in the paper, it set the stage for the duel.


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Battle Pasta Con Broccoli Recipes

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Last week Gut Check spoke with Cheryl Hughey, the Ballwin-based writer who recently published Beyond Bacon Grease, a cookbook chronicling Hughey's journey to better health thought diet and nutrition. She lost 100 pounds in six months. But how does her modified diet taste?

This weekend we made Hughey's pasta con broccoli and compared it to a recipe purported to be the original from Cunetto's House of Pasta (5453 Magnolia Avenue; 314-781-1135).

Pasta con broccoli is really just the most basic Alfredo sauce - cream, garlic and Parmesan cheese - whisked together until just warm, then tossed with cooked pasta. The only difference is the addition of broccoli and mushrooms. Neither recipe diverges from this basis.


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Battle Tomato-and-Mayo Sandwich: Hellmann's vs. Duke's

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CNN's Eatocracy claimed recently that the best sandwich in the universe is a plain ol' tomato-and-mayo on white (white!) bread, the reason being that tomatoes are in season during August.

This statement took Gut Check back to our childhood. Harriet M. Welsch, fictional heroine of Louise Fitzhugh's masterpiece Harriet the Spy, was a big fan of the sandwich, and it was her lunchbox staple. How jealous we were that Harriet was allowed to bring her favorite food for lunch every day. Every day! She never got stuck with bologna.

But the best sandwich in the universe? That's something Gut Check has to taste to believe.

For the mayo, we decided to pit an old standby, Hellmann's, against a relatively new condiment to St. Louis: Duke's. Schnucks has been stocking Duke's for about a year now, but lately we've noticed more and more TV commercials for the mayo. Intrigued, we procured the four ingredients and headed to the kitchen.

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Battle Crispy (Springfield-Style) Cashew Chicken: Bobo Noodle House vs. Quik Wok

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For a kid in rural central Missouri, Chinese food means one thing: cashew chicken. And not a plate of stir-fried chicken chunks with celery, carrots and cashews. No, it had to be Springfield-style cashew chicken. As in Springfield, Missouri.

Of course this isn't Chinese food. It's Chinese-American food, and the epitome of it. Chinese immigrant and restaurateur David Leong had trouble convincing '60s Springfieldians to eat his Chinese dishes. He looked at the local food preferences, which lean strongly on southern traditions, and created a dish that balanced the two food cultures: deep-fried, breaded chicken chunks topped with a brown oyster sauce-based gravy, sprinkled with cashews.

Two years ago, the New York Times deemed Leong and his creation worthy of a profile.

Although the profile says that Springfield-style cashew chicken is a regular on St. Louis-area Chinese menus, we beg to differ. More often than not, local restaurants opt for the stir-fried version. Cross the river, and forget about it. Metro East Chinese restaurant employees inevitably don't know what we're talking about when we describe the dish that first eased our young Midwestern palate into the world of Asian cuisine.

Sometimes, we miss it, which means a trip to Quik Wok (10665 Saint Charles Rock Road, St. Ann; 314-426-7711).

But sometimes we want something more upscale, like the fresh offerings of Bobo Noodle House (278 North Skinker Boulevard, University City; 314-863-7373), which has cashew chicken.

Is it a fair fight to place a dated, Americanized chop suey house favorite against a new-fangled, Americanized version that probably has nothing in common with the original aside from chicken and cashews? We think so.

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Our Puppy Panel Tastes Treats from Bittersweet Bakery

Your typical Fight Club Sandwich throwdown pits one thingie against another thingie. You know: cupcakes. Hot dogs. Designer beer in cans. Trouble is, when you're talking dog treats -- and today we're talking dog treats -- you need to bear in mind that given the choice between two treats, a dog is going to eat both of them and not betray an obvious preference for either. So rather than stack up one treat against another treat, in this FCS bout we evaluate one kind of treat, consumed by several dogs.

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Deborah Hyland
The Treat:Dog treats from Bittersweet Bakery (2200 Gravois Avenue, Benton Park; 314-771-3500). Retail for $0.75 each.

The Panel of Testers:
Fluffy, a miniature poodle
Peanut, a miniature Chihuahua
Chip, a champion Samoyed
Steuben, a fancy pants dog and Gut Check's official dog-treat taste tester


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Battle Pain au Chocolat: La Bonne Bouchée vs. Saint Louis Bread Co.

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The French are known for making love, not war, but their other specialty is making pastries. From buttery croissants to crusty baguettes to sweet treats of all sizes, shapes and flavors, French bakers are le chat's meow.

Though the U.S. has little hope at besting the French at their own game, that hasn't stopped stateside bakers from trying. One common example: the pain au chocolat, a croissant whose flaky, buttery layers give way to a center of melted chocolate.

In the spirit of liberté, égalité, fraternité (and gluttony), Gut Check decided to pit the two most prodigious local purveyors of pain au chocolat against one another to see who does it better: La Bonne Bouchée (12344 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-576-6606) and Saint Louis Bread Co.


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Our Puppy Panel Tastes Love Dog Treats

Gut Check began this puppy pursuit as a Fight Club Sandwich -- throwdown that pits one thingie against another thingie. You know: cupcakes. Hot dogs. Designer beer in cans. Trouble is, when you're talking dog treats -- and today we're talking dog treats -- bear in mind that given the choice between two treats, a dog is going to eat both of them and not betray an obvious preference for either. So rather than stack up one treat against another treat, in this Fight Club Sandwich bout we evaluate one kind of treat, consumed by several dogs.

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Deborah Hyland
Without further ado...

The Treat:
• Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal treats from Love Dog Foods (lovedogfoods.com). Retail $10.00 for a pint canning jar of 70 treats. Baked locally, the treats are carried at Four Muddy Paws (1711 Park Avenue; 314-773- 7297).

The Pooch Panel:
• Bebe, a Pomeranian
• Lanie and Ria, of mixed herding-dog ancestry
• Butters, a Mastiff
• Dakota, a Husky mix
• Chip, a Samoyed
• Steuben, a fancy-pants dog and Gut Check's official dog-treat taste tester
• Nikolai and Kitty, cats (control)

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