Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Our last post of 2008!
2008 was an interesting year for Gigi and those in her household, there have been a lot of changes. In the middle of all that I have written many reviews and shared a few warm and fuzzy moments with y'all. OK, I can't deal with the cheesy "let's all have a big group hug!" feeling that this post is giving off.
Let's just sum it up by saying I have eaten a lot of good things, I have eaten a lot of bad things- I have eaten somethings that were just sort of there- and I was lucky enough to get to share my twisted little thoughts and tastes with people from around the world (which is a pretty cool thing). I look forward to repeating the whole cycle all over again with you guys in 2009.
May your year be full of chocolate*
*And peace, love or whatever else you damn kids are into these days.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
New Yorkers are at least seemingly absolutely obsessed with Black & White cookies
They are everywhere here to the point you start ignoring them. I don't think they are bad, but I don't get whats so magical about them. In case you don't know what one is - They are a neutral cookie base- in the case of the Entenmann's it is a golden sponge cookie. The black & white part is icing and half if chocolate and the other half is vanilla.
Ok... after trying it I kind of see what the fuss is about. The cookie part is really good. It's like super soft yellow cake.
The vanilla side of the frosting does have a very subtle vanilla edge to it- mostly it is just sweet but not tooth ache sweet.
The chocolate side is stronger. It is like a super thin version of the frosting on any of the Entenmann's chocolate cakes.
This is not good folks... this is going to send me on a quest to see how this Black & White cookie stands up to other B&W cookies. Anyone out there have a favorite they would like to suggest?
Monday, December 29, 2008
I haven't had any Dagoba chocolate in a very long time...
Today at Zabars while looking through the display I was hoping to find the mint/rosemary bar and sadly came up flat- but they did have this Beaucoup Berries bar that sounded pretty interesting.
Beacoup Berries is a 74% dark chocolate bar with cranberries, cherries and vanilla.
Upon opening the bar smell wise all you get is the deep woodsy notes of the chocolate.
Dagoba bars are made up of fingers that are about the size and shape of mini Kit Kats. The chocolate is remarkably smooth and sweet for a 74% dark chocolate. It does have a biter finish but it is offset nicely by the bits of dried fruit. I know the bar claims to have cranberries but all I really taste is the cherries. The pieces are large and very plump. If there is vanilla in the bar they have also hidden it well- but maybe that is a good thing. If the vanilla is there it manages not to overly sweeten the bar or make it taste and smell like a candle.
It's pleasent enough bar. It's nothing I would go out of my way to have again- but if you are a fan of both dark chocolate and dried fruit this may be the bar for you.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
So here I am wandering around DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) airport trying to kill the next 3 hours...
I know I should eat but I am not filling well and the thought of typical greasy airport food makes me want to yark... again (Lupus is just SO much fun). I know, I know, I should have packed my own snacks but as of this writing (in the terminal at DFW) I have been up since 11:00 am Christmas morning and honestly in the last minute packing and craziness food was not even a thought. Anyway- I had to pass the food court on the way to my terminal and what caught my eye?- a cereal bar!!
We all know I am a cereal freak of Seinfeld proportions- and not only does Cereality have around 16 different cereal choices they also have mix in's AND multiple milk choices!- this is important to me as I have to use non-dairy milk.
Ok, I did spend about what I would have spent on a box of cereal at my regular old grocery store for a rather generous portion of Cinnamon Life and Oatmeal Squares topped with an obscene amount of Lucky Charms Marshmallows- but let me tell you I would rather do that then pay double the price for a chain burger and fries. Yes, btw they did have much healthier options then what I got, but really how many chances do you get to have marshmallows at the airport? (OK, worst excuse EVER!)
No, this is not really a review, but should you be traveling through DFW's American Airlines terminal C at any point in the Near future consider this a heads up to a really cool snacking option (or if you are near any of they're other locations)
Cerality Cereal Bar & Cafe DFW Airport Texas
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
And all through the house...
Gigi was running and being a grouch. OK, that doesn't really rhyme.
My apologises for the lack of updates these past few days. Between just getting ready for Christmas and getting things ready for my vacation- I have not been able to even try anything new! Things will be spotty for the next couple days but starting on Friday Gigi Reviews will be coming to you live from New York City! (sadly, I am not moving there...yet)
I have some interesting things planned for The City. I will be hitting up my favorite Pocky hot spots in China Town. I will be making my first visit to Economy Candy and I will even try to go to the Hershey's World in Time Square (I will NOT be doing this until after New Years)- I am after the Champagne flavored Kisses.
So any requests?, things you think I shouldn't miss?
biddness aside (I am watching "Gangland" on MSNBC right now)
I wish all of you a very merry christmas. May you spend it among the people you love.
Ho, Ho, Ho,
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I haven't been to an actual Marie Callender's restaurant in years but I do like they're frozen offerings.
The Fettuccini Alfredo has long been a favorite of mine. The sauce is thick and creamy. It's definitely on the basic side- don't be looking for complex flavors, multiple cheeses or pepper. But for comfort food it's pretty good.
The pasta is surprisingly al dente for frozen pasta. This version also comes with mixed veg- which translates into broccoli and carrots. The vegetables are well... frozen, not bad but nothing special. The garlic bread is just bad. The flavor is ok, it's buttery, it's garlicky. The microwave is just not it's friend. Some parts were rock hard, others were soggy.
A good meal for those times you just don't want to think about it.
Friday, December 19, 2008
The time for the Vienetta being reintroduced was kind of funny.
Back around what would have been my Grandmother's birthday (in September) I thought it might be interesting to get one in her honor- she loved them. Besides Spumoni the Vienetta cakes were the only ice cream I remember her ever buying for herself. It was around then that I realized the Vienetta was no longer on the market. Oddly enough that was also around when Unilever decided to bring the Vienetta back as a limited edition product.
The new version doesn't hold a candle to the old version. First the ice cream in the past was Brayers. The ice cream in this version may be made by Unilever but Brayer's it's not. It's more like the much cheaper, much more chemical laden Good Humor line. I seem to remember the old school version having wafer layers. The current version has thin layers of mockolate.
YES! to add insult to injury not only did they tarnish a cherished childhood memory, cheapened the ice cream THEN they went and put mockolate in it.
On top of that the entire thing doesn't even have any flavor. I know it's supposed to be triple chocolate, but there is barely one chocolate. If anything it's coffee flavored, in the sense that it's fake coffee flavor.
There is nothing good about this... no wait there is!- I never have to eat it again! Bah Humbug!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I am starting to think this week is all TJ's all the time!
My well known love of Abuelita so how could I resist these cookies?
Yeah, I think we all know I couldn't. And I am glad I didn't. Each cookie is a little bigger then the size of a quarter in diameter and about an inch or so thick. The cookies are generously powdered in cocoa powder and a spicy cinnamon. The cookie underneath is chocolate and it's semi-soft. Actually I think flaky is a better word. This cookie perfectly captures Mexican Hot Chocolate. Without a doubt this is an 11!
Get some- and pick me up another box while you are at it.
Ah quiche, the stuff that bad 80's stereotypes and mediocre brunch are made of
Sadly, TJ's version is in the mediocre brunch category. The crust (which is normally the best part of good quiche) the crust on the TJ's version is dry and bland. It's kind of like if someone had made crust out of Saltines- only less good.
The filling is eggy and salty. It reminded me of something that the airlines would have served back when they fed you (and didn't charge you to check your bags).
You can see the cheese but you can't really taste it. The broccoli pieces are teeny, tiny bits of stalk.
TJ's miss the mark on so few occasions that I am willing to forgive them for this (I am sure they will all sleep better tonight knowing that)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Alton Brown is a Geek God.
To put it further into geek terms, if Anthony Bourdain is the Capt. Kirk of the food world then Alton Brown is Mr. Spock (OK, to be picky Ambassador Spock)
Alton has all the passion that Tony has for food but he also has a very cool, scientific side that makes you not only understand how to make whatever it is your making but also why it turns out the way it does.
Much like everyone else, it seems this year I have many people I want to give gifts to for Christmas- I just don't have money for gifts. Everyone I know is doing cookies this year so I thought "why not do fudge?" everyone loves fudge. Having never made it before I was unsure where to start. I figured Alton wouldn't steer me wrong so I used his recipe- which you can try for yourself by clicking ME
Read through the recipe first, it's easy to follow. My advice in advance is if you don't have a candy thermometer on hand (and I didn't, I got mine for $2.00 at Walmart*) get one. I could see bad things happening to those that don't. For my chocolate I used Trader Joe's Non-Sweetened Baking Chocolate and had great results.
The fudge was the perfect texture. Firm yet soft. A slightly grainy texture. It melts in your mouth. It's cool on the tongue. There's just a touch of vanilla. I never thought I could make fudge this good but Alton made it possible. Well worth the effort and I think my friends are going to love it.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Back in March I discovered Abuelita Mexican Hot Chocolate (read all about it HERE
I am not sure how long the Abuelita syrup has been out- there was not much info on the Nestle site- but I saw it tonight when I went to restock my reserve of the powdered mix.
I have to take medicine before I go to sleep and every night I do that with a glass of Lactaid milk and some nights chocolate syrup has been known to make it's way into the glass. The Abulita syrup is made for (amongst other things) cold drinks!
When you open the bottle the first thing you smell is the cinnamon. Strong and spicy.
While the chocolate it clearly here it seems to be more subtle then it is in the hot version. At first it is almost disappointing- but the more you drink the more you notice the dark, cocoa notes. After a few sips you start to wonder why you thought the syrup was all cinnamon in the first place.
My normal chocolate syrup has some competition!
And here is the rest of it.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sometimes on a cold December night you want something to snuggle up with and keep you warm. Clive Owen would of course be my go-to for this, but he's unavailable. Something about a restraining order- I dunno...
Anyway, since Clive is MIA I had to find something else. Once again leave it to the good people at Vosges to come to my rescue.
I had on hand one of Vosges Red Fire bars. It's a dark chocolate bar with chipotle chillies and ceylon cinnamon. I had the smaller bar on hand- it's actually the perfect size for a testing bar or a single serving. It's thin and very glossy. There is a great snap to the bar.
The chocolate is a relatively mild 55% dark. I know this makes me a wimp but in my old age I seem to be preferring my dark chocolate around that rage. It's just sweet enough to take off the too biter edge and milky enough that it melts smoothly.
Between the cinnamon and the chillies the cinnamon is the stronger flavor. It's woodsy and has a spicy warmth. The chillies give the bar a subtle heat. You don't taste it so much as feel it. It's a nice heat going down your throat.
Vosges also makes a chip version of this chocolate and I would love to make a batch of cookies with them.
Sample From Company
Sunday, December 14, 2008
This shake won't be wining any beauty prizes. The best way to describe the look is to say that it looks like liquid cement...
But sometimes beauty is on the inside and that's the case with this shake.
It may not be pretty but it does taste good. It's thick with vanilla ice cream. The mint while clearly just a flavored syrup manages not to taste like mouth wash. The Oreo's are plentiful. This is the best shake I have had from Carls's!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
OMG I didn't know apple juice could be this good!
Imagine biting into a perfectly ripe, juicy apple. I am talking about the kind of apple that was used to tempt Snow White (or maybe that made the pie in "American Pie"). Now imagine that some really smart person made a juice with that apple.
It's the perfect apple juice. It's sweet, but it's not like a syrup type of sweet or a honey type of sweet. It has tartness to it. It's the kind of tart that comes from eating the peel of the apple. It has a velvety thick mouth feel- without being chunky (I cannot deal with chunky)
AND if all of that weren't good enough the company does something that I thought was pretty interesting. They do limited pressings of the juice. Be sure to visit Purity Organic website for far more information then I can give.
Track this down!!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Believe it or not I have made it to the ripe old age of thirty something having never tried Rocky Road ice cream.
I love chocolate, I love marshmallows and I like almonds. Here's the thing though, I tend not to like almonds and chocolate together and I really don't like nuts in my ice cream. Your probably wondering why at this point I am even trying this.
Good question. I have been making an effort to try things I have previously said I didn't like. I have to say that Haagen-Daazs isn't making it easy to still call nuts in ice cream "icky"
The base of the ice cream is classic Haagen-Daazs chocolate. It's got that strong cocoa base too it. The almonds were lightly salted, roasted and crunchy- if all the previous nuts I had had in ice creams past had been this good I would not have spent all these years avoiding them... well except walnuts. I HATE walnut.
The best part hands down is the marshmallow swirls. It's sweet. There's a touch of vanilla, it's a little sticky. From a texture stand point I think I would have loved it if they had used actual mini-marshmallows but I am not complaining.
I am definitely pointing this flavor into my rotation.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Grab yourself a dancing midget and a damn fine cup o' coffee and let's have some cherry pie
Once again showing my age here... As a kid I always wanted to try cherry pie. My parents in some sort of parental wisdom wouldn't let me have it. They decided that I wouldn't like it because it was sour, I think the truth was they didn't like it because it was sour and they decided I would feel the same. So my cherry pie lust went unfulfilled.
Cut to a few years later and as a teenager the show "Twin Peaks" premired. Yes, much like the rest of the country I was caught up in finding out who killed Laura Palmer (and in an embarresing moment of fandom somewhere I even have a copy of "The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer") but one of the things that caught my eye besides a rather hot Kyle McLachlan was the pie. They ate pie every episode- always cherry. That was it I had to try some! And so I did... and then I remembered that I didn't really like pie and I promptly forgot about it for the next 10 years or so (ok, now I feel really old)
Since then I have decided that pie isn't so bad. And while my parent's my still prefer they're pies sweet I prefer tart. Cherry has become one of my favorites.
The Sara Lee cherry pie is one of the best easy options for pie.
The crust is light and flaky. There is just enough salt to keep it from being both too buttery and too bland.
The cherries are juicy and almost sour, I say almost because I would prefer they be a little less sweetned, but for mass produced filling it is close enough. I like it warm with vanilla ice cream (because ice cream makes everything better).
I wish I had time to bake my own pie from scratch but since I don't this will hit the spot.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I LOVE going to Claim Jumper for dinner. If you have one locally you should probably be there right now rather then sitting here reading my blog... no wait, read then go.
Sadly, I don't get to eat there nearly as much as I would like to- especially being on an extremely tight budget lately. But lucky for me they do have a line of frozen items that tend to be on the salty side but still pretty good.
That led me to try the spicy chicken tenders.
The tenders themselves are decently sized. Smaller then what you might get at the actual restaurant but about on par with fast food tenders. The batter is a light corn meal like breading. I am not sure what they decided made the tenders spicy- there does seem to be a little extra black pepper. I have chocolate in my stash that is spicier then these tenders. The flavors not bad, it's just not spicy.
The chicken is plump and the coating did get reasonably Crispy in the oven.
Are these as good as actually going to Claim Jumper... no, but for heat and eat they are decent.
These did come with a bar-b-que sauce but I couldn't bring myself to try it.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I remember the chocolate covered malt balls (Whoppers) of my youth being pretty darn good.
Somewhere in the midst of my getting old malt balls- specifically Whoppers stopped being good. I place the blame for this firmly on the inclusion of mockolate.
When I was doing some shopping at my local Brit store the sales lady told me these were her favorite- AND they still contain real milk chocolate so how could I resist?
First, a closer inspection once home of the label revealed that while the chocolate coating does include both cocoa butter and cocoa fat it also contains the evil hydrognated vegetable fat. UGH! WHY?!
Whining aside I will give it points for tasting more like 100% real milk chocolate then the coating on it's American cousin the Whopper (well maybe Step-Cousin would be a better comparison. While Hershey's makes Whoppers here, in the UK it is a Mars brand). It's cool on the tongue. It's waxy and doesn't so much melt as slouth off from the heat in your mouth. The coating it's self was just the right thickness.
What I really liked about the candy was the malt center. If our version of a Whoppers center is dense has more of a vanilla taste to it, these are light and airy. They melt in your mouth. If you have ever had a real malted shake or even just added malt powder to milk, that is exactly what the center tastes like. There's almost a honey taste to it.
I liked these enough to get them again!
THE BRITISH EMPORIUM Upland
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Cheesecake always makes me think of The Golden Girls
The Golden Girls were always eating cheesecake. For you young en's out there the Golden Girls were kind of like the Sex And The City girls, only maybe a year or two older. Anyway, see I caught a couple episodes at some ungodly hour of the night/morning when I should have been sleeping and since then I have been dying for cheesecake.
Cherry tops cheesecake. Lucky for me once again Sara Lee saves the day.
The Graham cracker crust chewy and has just the right amount if cinnamon.
The cheesecake it's self is creamy and sweet with just a little, tiny bit of tang.
The cherries were my favorite part. The are sort of like tart marschino cherries.
For ready-made cheesecake, this is pretty darn good!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Butterscotch. When I think about it the only thing that really comes to mind is pudding...
Butterscotch was (and probably still is) my Father's favorite type of pudding. And my mother only made it for him once in a very great while- and it was understood that on those occasions the pudding was solely his. I would love to tell you that it was because of all the effort and love she put into it, but it was J-ello brand- from the box. This was the early 80's, I dunno maybe making boxed pudding was more involved then it is today. Anyway, I think it was his mostly because he had three sugar crazed kids to deal with if he shared.
One time he did share. I remember it somewhat vividly. "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" was making it's network TV sigh yes kids, I said network tv for these were the days before everyone had cable and while VCR's were certainly out there it was not unusual for movies to either be difficult to rent or astonishingly expensive to buy (we are talking about $99.00 a movie being the norm) anyway... we watched Star Trek that night and somewhere around Shatner screaming "KHAAAAAAAAAN!" my Father shared one of his puddings with me. To this day I am not a fan of butterscotch pudding (but I still love Star Trek- and my Father)
With that in mind I tend not to go out of my way looking for anything butterscotch flavored. What made me get this bar is the guy at the Dutch store said it was one of his favorites and shouldn't be missed.
The Verkade bar is a milk chocolate bar. The pieces are scored into thick little blocks. The chocolate it's self is sweet smelling but waxy. It does melt quickly but not it's not creamy. The bar is full of crunchy bits of sugar. While the texture is both sticky and crunchy (in the good ways) the sugar bits themselves don't seem to have any flavor whatsoever. Honestly, I couldn't taste any butterscotch or even any caramel like notes.
It's not a bad bar but minus the sugar crunchies there is not anything noteworthy here either.
The Dutch Bakery Ontario Cal
Visit they're website!: Dutch Variety Foods
Friday, December 5, 2008
Another bar from Jim's side of the pond
I have actually had this bar before but at the time I didn't review it (what? there was ever a time I ate something and didn't review it?) but since they had them at the local Brit store I thought it was time to try it again.
The first thing you smell is the mint. When you break the bar open and see the insides of the fingers it reminds me in both terms of looks and smell like what I imagine solid mint chocolate chip ice cream would be like.
The chocolate is Nestles standard issue milk chocolate, It's a thin coating but it's sweet and creamy even still. The inner mint portion tastes like a mint melt away (I love those things!) but what I like about it more then the taste is the texture. It sort of implodes on it's self. It melts in your mouth in kind of an airy honeycomb.
Of the best Nestle bar's ever!- but don't take my word for it- take Jim's too
THE BRITISH EMPORIUM Upland
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Now it is time to ask one of the great questions in life...
No, it is not why did they ever stop making Pudding Pop's (and yes, I know they did bring them back but they are not the same, these new ones are glorified fudgecicles)
The question is why is everything that is supposed to be pistachio flavored actually almond flavored? I don't get it. It would taste just as good if it was called almond flavor instead.
This pudding is (as you probably guessed) no exception to that rule. The flavor is best described as an edible version of Jergens Cherry-Almond hand cream... and oddly enough that is not a bad thing. The flavor is predominately a strong cherry-like almond with a bit of vanilla. There are surprisingly crunchy tiny pieces of almond.
I am not sure there is a natural flavor to be found in the bright minty green colored mix but it's probably as good as it is because of that. There is something comforting about this pudding. I think it's so good because it's so bad.
There is nothing redeeming about this pudding on some levels, it's not novel in any way. It certainly won't win you any Foodie bragging points (actually admitting to eating it may take some away) but it's one of those things that is so bad it's kind of good.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Stroopwafels are one of those things I don't keep in the house often because they are so good that the bag will be gone before I know it.
Stroopwafels for those not in the know is a thin waffle that has been sliced into two pieces down the middle. Then a filling of some sort (my favorite is caramel) is spread between the two halves and they are then placed back together. Eating one is so good it makes puppies smile.
A common way to eat them is with coffee or tea. You place the waffle over the top of the cop and allow the steam to warm the waffle and melt the filling.
I like them stright from the package. They are buttery smelling.
For me, the part I like the best is the texture. It's chewy, but crispy. The caramel even un-warmed is soft and ribbony. If you have never had one you should- trust me.
The Dutch Bakery Ontario Cal
Visit they're website!: Dutch Variety Foods
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Admittedly after the Ikea Nordic Sweets Salt Licorice I was worried I might be up for a repeat performance.
Luckily that was not the case.
The Harlekijntjes are about the the size of a quarter and have little faces molded into them. They are soft to the touch but not overly smooshy.
Flavor wise they are indeed mild and sweet. There is just a touch of salt- which in this case it's perfect. The main flavor is more like anise or licorice root then the molasses-like quality of Panda. There is just enough heat to the licorice to make it interesting but it doesn't overwhelm.
I wish I had started here with my first Dutch licorices, if I had I probably wouldn't have waited so long to try another. The aftertaste is great. It's long lasting and just leaves you with a fresh feeling.
The Dutch Bakery Ontario Cal
Visit they're website!: Dutch Variety Foods
Monday, December 1, 2008
I wonder if this might be a better soda for Marvo over at The Impulse Buy to review since as Bing Crosby taught us Mele Kalikimake is one of the ways to say Merry Christmas in the Hawaiian islands
And if it's not, are you trying to tell me that Bing Crosby lied to me?
Bing aside, Mele Kalikimaka is a coconut/pineapple flavored soda. I happen to like both of those flavors so, so far so good. The smell is stronger on the coconut then the pineapple but it's a good mix.
Taste wise it is also more heavy on the coconut. I really liked it. Yes, it's sweet- but it reminds me alot of a good pina colada. It also manages not to have a bitter or chalky after taste which a lot of pina colada type drinks tend to have (yes, SoBe Lizard Blizzard I am talking about you). It's lightly carbonated and like all Jones Soda is sweetened with pure cane sugar.
I can't promise anything but if you leave one of these out for Santa it may increase your chances of him leaving you a Wii! (at least that's what I am hoping)