This publicity stunt was so good you could taste it.
Author Steve Ettlinger held a book launch party in New York City Thursday night to celebrate publication of Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats.
During the party at McNally Robinson bookstore in Soho, various Twinkies were offered up for taste tests. There was a "gourmet" Twinkie from Nancy Olson of New York's Gramercy Tavern, an organic-vegan Twinkie by celebrated vegan dessert chef Fran Costigan, and commercial varieties including the Hostess originals, Little Debbie’s Golden Cremes, and Lady Linda Original Crème Fingers.
So which rated the most stars?
Organic vegan Twinkie, photo by Linda Long
"Well, within 45 minutes, the organic-vegan and gourmet versions were gone," says Marci Harnischfeger, our reporter on the scene. "In fact, patrons were plucking them so fast, trays were empty before servers could set them on the table. The commercial varieties seemed to be a hit too, especially with the ‘tweens who could be seen holding boxes of them under their arms and stuffing their faces."
Her favorite - the organic-vegan Twinkie.
Here's her take on it:
"It's much less sweet-tasting than the original, but still retained the ‘mmmm’ factor when it hit my mouth. Nutty, toasted, almost raisiny flavored cake with a cool and refreshing cream filling that left no aftertaste. It was reminiscent of a Twinkie, yet not an exact replica-an aspect I quite enjoyed," she said.
The vegan Twinkie was made with organic ingredients including white and whole wheat pastry flours, maple syrup, and expeller-pressed canola oil; the vegan pastry cream consisted of tofu, agave syrup (a sweetener), almond and vanilla extract, arrowroot (a thickener) and agar (a gel). Costigan plans to have the recipe available soon and when she does, we'll post it.
Ettlinger preferred the Gramercy Park Twinkie, describing it as “refreshing.” He said he could “taste butter” and pronounced it “sweet not overwhelming.” Plus, it left “zero film on the teeth." In short, it was exactly what it was supposed to be: “a treat."
Although Ettlinger described himself as a "whole foods" type before he began this book project, he ate Twinkies at various stages of investigating what went into the product. This hunt took him from phosphate mines in Idaho to corn fields in Iowa, from gypsum mines in Oklahoma to oil fields in China, in the process, "demystifying some of America’s most common processed food ingredients—where they come from, how they are made, how they are used—and why," as his web site puts it.
On his Twinkie-eating journey, he said the flavors of oil, polysorbate 60, and the cellulose gum particularly stood out. We wonder if they might have a certain terroir?
By the way, Ettliinger also posted this interesting nexus of ingredients in a Twinkie.