Friday, July 31, 2009

Kraft Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese: Sharp Cheddar

Sometimes after a long and hard day (well, night in this case) at work you just want to get home and treat yourself.

Maybe it's a foot rub, maybe it's a glass of wine. In my case tonight, it was having Mac & Cheese for dinner. But not just any old Mac & Cheese. NOOOO! I had DELUXE Mac & Cheese (I am just a baller like that).

The only kind of boxed Mac & Cheese I like is Kraft (yes, I know homemade is like 10000 times better...but at 1:00 A.M. I have no desire to make it). In terms of prep, the deluxe version skips the alchemy stages of mixing milk and butter with an oh-so-unnatural packet of dried orange cheese and tossing it all with the cooked pasta. Instead, it replaces those steps by providing one single packet of oh-so-unnatural orange quasi-liquid cheese and mixing that onto the cooked pasta. (A step I should have taken a photo of but didn't...and we are just going to have to learn to live with that.)

The Deluxe version also replaces the thin hollow tubelike noodles of the classic Kraft Mac with a more grown-up elbow rigati (a fancy word that means the pasta was ribbed for my pleasure).

I have to admit that the some-what liquidy cheese had me nervous because it reminded me a lot of the Velveeta Shells and cheese...and I HATE the Velveeta Shells & Cheese. (My friend Sam, however, could live on it-- but she hates the Kraft version, so figure that one out)

My worries faded away on the first bite. The Cheddar cheese made the Mac taste closer to homemade (well, my homemade anyway). It had a really nice, sharp tang to it. The texture was rich and creamy, but it didn't taste as milky as the classic version. The ridges in the pasta helped the sauce cling better. I bet this version would be passable for homemade if baked and topped with something crunchy.

I never thought I would say this, because I love the classic version...but I actually liked this one even more!

Albertsons Supermarket

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mountain Dew: World of Warcraft Game Fuel Duel Flavors

I should come clean and admit I am not a gamer. Well, not unless you want to count when the first version of The Sims came out and I spent HOURS in front of that thing. I don't play WoW, but I am a WoW widow of sorts.

My best friend and a mutual friend of ours started playing a few months ago, and now every time I call him to do something he is in the middle of a quest with Friend #3 and I have to pry him away from his monitor (typically it involves bribes, often involving money or women). I am, however, a big Mountain Dew fan. Code Red is my Dew of choice, but I always like to try any of the new flavors. (Well, let's be fair...I am always excited to try new soda.)

The two new flavors are Horde Red (a cherry citrus flavor) and Alliance Blue (a wild fruit punch flavor). As in the actual game, you are supposed to chose a side. In fact, Mountain Dew is running a sweepstakes where by registering and choosing a side, you can win a prize every 15 minutes! Check out the official site here for all the rules, instructions and other things I don't have the attention span for.

Now let's talk about taste.

I started with Horde Red because...well, because it sounds a lot like Code Red.

The bright orange color gives an immediate clue that the flavor is going to be stronger on the citrus side than the cherry. And that is indeed the case. The citrus flavor is strongly orange based. The cherry notes are there, but they are WAAAY in the background.

It tasted oddly familiar--and with good reason. Yes, fans of the first Mountain Dew Game Fuel can rejoice: according to
Bevnet, Horde Red is a renamed reissue of the original Game Fuel. The best way I could think of to describe it is that it's like drinking liquid orange Runts chased with a shot of tart cherry. It's sweet...really sweet. But it is oddly addicting. I didn't think I was going to be able to finish the can, but I did.

Alliance Blue is like a cross between average fruit punch and blue raspberry. It also has the advantage of being the perfect shade of Romulan Ale blue (did I just commit some big nerd faux pas by crossing series?). And we all know that I think there's not enough blue food. I wanted to like this flavor more, because I liked the color more. And the flavor is okay, but it has an unfortunate aftertaste that is sort of like stale fruit punch meets old Fruity Pebbles meets household cleaner. Even so, I got through the can with ease. I may not buy this flavor to drink again, but I bet it is strong enough to make a really good ice pop! With blue in mind I really wish Dew would make a caffeine-loaded coconut/pineapple flavor. How good would that be?

My chosen side would be the Horde Red. I really liked the first Game Fuel, so getting to hang out and hype up with an old favorite was a nice treat.

I am going to use having the extra cans of the Alliance Blue as an excuse to go buy some cute silicon ice pop molds and try making Popsicles with it. In fact, I think I'll do it right now. After drinking two cans of Dew, I am now sufficiently wired to put on my running shoes and dash to WalMart (and back home again) in sixteen seconds flat. Hell, it's only a couple of miles away...

Be sure to check out Bevnet's review HERE.

The Ratings:

Horde Red:

Alliance Blue:

Sample From Company

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Help Create New Ratings!

Gigi is designing new ratings!

As all of you guys know, I have a standard 1 to 10 rating system that I use custom made icons for. I like to use pop culture/celebrities etc. for the visual.

Up until now all of the people/characters used have been my own picks--with the exception of the Megan Fox icon made especially for Jim.

Now, I would like to get suggestions for who/what you would like to see turned into a rating. Leave your suggestion as a comment. Heck, I may even pick more than one!

McDonald's Angus Third Pounder Burger with Mushrooms & Swiss

The Angus Third Pounders have been national for a few months now, though I actually tried my first one last summer. (My local McDonald's is a regional West Coast test store.) I didn't review it at the time because, as it was merely being test marketed, there was a good chance it would never become a menu standard. Once it did go national, Marvo over at The Impulse Buy was brave enough to review all three Angus burgers without a cardiologist on hand...and luckily for the rest of us, did live to review again.

The Mushroom & Swiss Angus burger is a fairly simple burger. The bun is a "grown up" sesame seed bakery style roll. The topping is mayo, Swiss cheese and mushrooms. Let me pat McDonald's on the back for the mushrooms. No, they are not fresh mushrooms (that would have been awesome, but c'mon, it's still McDonald's) but they are reasonably un-rubbery. They also manage not to be greasy or slimy. They add a nice texture and taste, and thankfully they don't slide off in a mushy grey sluglike sludge. (Yes, Carl's Jr, I am glaring right at you. J'accuse!)

The burger isn't drowning in the mayo. The Swiss cheese is serviceable and melted nicely.

The burger itself is the same diameter as your average Quarter Pounder, but it is thicker. The flavor is much more "beefy" than your average McDonald's fact, it's extra beefy to the point I have to wonder if some sort of beef flavor was added. The texture is more like a burger you might make at home. The only drawback is that it was dry. As in Metamucil Biscuits dry. I found myself wishing that I could put this topping on the Carl's Six Dollar Burger because that would have been outstanding (and yes, I know I could just put my own toppings on the burger of my choice...but if I am going that far, I may as well just do the whole thing from scratch).

Minus the dryness of the patty--which could have been just bad luck on my part; maybe mine wasn't quite fresh off the grill--I have to say this is one of the best burger options Mickey D has on the current menu.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Coconut M&M's Limited Edition

Way back in June (wait...does June count as "way back" yet?), Cybele got to review the new Coconut M&M's . Today, I get to be kinda as cool as her, because I got my own bag.

I knew from Cybele's review that these M&M's were merely flavored with coconut rather than M&M's with actual pieces/shreds of coconut in them. I considered this to be a good thing, because while I like coconut flavor, I don't like actual coconut.

The Coconut M&M's are of the larger variety. In terms of size and shape, they resemble the larger Peanut Butter M&M's (though not quite as big). In addition to the usual offset M's that the candy normally features, there are also little tropical themes.

The flavor seemed to vary between some of the M&M's. Some seemed to have a stronger coconut flavor to them. At its best the flavor reminded me of German chocolate cake. The coconut goes hand-in-hand with the milk chocolate. There's almost a caramel flavor that comes out. At its worst, in the few that seemed stronger then the rest, it reminded me of eating M&M's with fingers that had recently applied Hawaiian Tropic sun product. Fortunately, that really was the exception rather than the rule.

Overall, an interesting edition. I don't think I would ever pick this flavor over, say, the Peanut Butter ones (my fave since they took the Crispy variety off the market). But they do make for a fun summer flavor.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Second Helpings 7-26-09

It's that time of the week!

Jim got to try what sounds like a kickass orange and dark chocolate bar...the Whittaker's Zestful Dark Orange.

Japanese Snack Review checked out the Ume (plum) soda Kit Kat.

The Chocolate Nerd got a press release for some pretty crappy-looking chocolate that comes with a two carat Asscher cut diamond. Guys, I'm just saying that if you want to send me a sample (with the diamond! Gotta to be comprehensive, obviously), I am completely willing to review it. Because, y'know, I am just here for the people.

tried the World Market Chili & Lime Dark Chocolate Bar. Now, how good do those three things sound together?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seeds Of Change Milk Chocolate With Puffed Grains

Seeds Of Change did a brand re-design earlier in the year, and changed some of their bars and the packaging.

I never tried any of the "old" versions, so I really have nothing to be nostalgic for or about. I picked up a little stash of the "new" bars back when I was in NYC. I just didn't get to them until tonight, because I really wanted a Rice Crispies style bar...then I remembered I had the Milk Chocolate with Puffed Grains bar in my stash!

First thing I feel the need to point out is that I liked was the packaging. I really like the envelope style with the individually wrapped bars. I almost never eat an entire bar in one sitting and I like the fact that I can nibble now and still keep the chocolate fresh for later.

Inside each pack is a generous block of chocolate that's divided into four smaller squares.
The chocolate is a deep 43% milk chocolate. Seeds Of Change uses certified organic and sustainable cacao beans. Happy planet PR aside, the chocolate is pretty tasty. It certainly has a milky side to it but there are also some coffee notes. It really reminded me of the initial sweeter flavors after eating cocoa nibs (before the strong, bitter flavors take over). The melt was smooth and creamy.

The puffed grains line only the bottom of the chocolate and are not mixed in. This was disappointing because I like my Crispies throughout the bar. I had the idea in my mind that the puffed grains would actually be a granola-like mix of different kinds of grain that had been puffed. Instead, based on both the package info and the taste, I think that in reality the puffs are made of different grain flours (oat, wheat, brown rice, rye, barley and millet flours are all listed) that were combined into a single "grain" that was puffed. I could be wrong, but the size of the puffs and the taste is just too uniform for there to be much chance of anything else.

The taste of the grain puffs is...well, just sort of a generic graininess. It's kinda malty, but nothing stands out. It's not bad, even if it is not special. The texture is what does it in. The grains are spongy. Not crispy, not crunchy, but spongy. I was willing to say maybe it was because I have had the bar for over a month, but it has been in a temperature controlled area (and in transit back home, the bar was with me the whole time), and the bar doesn't expire until 01/2010.

I liked the chocolate itself quite a bit; the puffs...meh. Not bad, but not something I would go out of my way to get. I wonder if the puffs on the old version were better? Cybele reviewed the bar back when it was called the Isle of Skye, and I wonder if she has tried it since...and if so, what she thinks of the New vs. Old versions.

In either event, I have some more Seeds Of Change in my stash and I am looking forward to trying them soon.

Blueberry Farms Bodega (Convenience store) NYC

Friday, July 24, 2009

Azuki Bean Kit Kat

I admit it. Prior to this Kit Kat (minus the odd red bean paste filled Moon cake) I had never really eaten azuki bean.

And beyond that, the only reason they ever stuck in my mind was because Gillian McKeith is always going on about them on the BBC show "You Are What You Eat." Of course, she also goes on and on and on about poo, so maybe she's not the best person to listen to...

Anyway, as some of you may not know (and as a reminder for those who do), in Japan Kit Kat produces tons of different flavors. Much like Pocky, some of them are seasonal or regional, and the sheer number of flavors seems endless.

The Azuki come in a cute little box protecting its payload of 4 fingers, separated into two packets each containing two fingers. The fingers themselves are the same size as their U.S. cousins.

The first clue that these are not like our Kit Kats is the smell. There's sort of an earthy, grassy smell that wafts out of the packet. It's clean and pleasant in a Demeter Fragrance Dirt sort of way-- but it's definitely not something you'd expect from a Kit Kat.

The flavor is unique. It didn't really remind me of the red bean paste I've had before. If you have ever had boiled peanuts, there is a touch of that taste--which is to say, nuts that have more of a soy bean/raw green bean essence. There is also a grasslike taste.

The chocolate is milk, and it seems a little thinner then our version. It's very milky and while it's sweet, it reminds me more of the imported Nestle chocolate than the U.S. version.

Once I got used to the flavor, I really loved this Kit Kat. It's just such a different flavor than what I am used to that I found it addicting. Once J-List starts shipping chocolate again--or I make it back to New York City--I am doing some serious stocking up on this flavor!

Kam Man Market NYC

I purchased mine from Kam Man in New York City...but my friends at J-List also carry it, so be sure to check them out!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus Candy

This was an impulse buy at Walgreen's...

The candy features three different levels of sour, and also has a bonus "Berry Sweet Relief" flavor that is supposed to extinguish the sour if you can't take it. Well, I was going to make this candy my bitch.

Seriously, there is yet to be a sour candy I have sampled that made me weep like a tween girl at the thought of one of the Jonas Brothers getting married (why do I even KNOW that fact?!) .

Tangerine is the first flavor and the least sour-- actually the box refers to it as "tangy." The flavor is like a cross between a strong orange Tic-Tac, an orange Popsicle and is also vaguely lemony. "Tangy" actually is a pretty fair way to describe it.

Then there's lemon--which is described as "sour" and is the next level of intensity. Think of lemonade powder, a lemon cough drop and a lemon Trix ball all mixed into one. It's a strongly lemony flavor. I say "lemony" because it's not a natural lemon in the least, but there is no mistaking what it's trying to be. The sourness is ratcheted up from the Tangerine, but it's hardly what I consider to be super-sour. It was about as sour as a Warhead candy.

Lime is the final of the sour flavors, and is supposedly "super sour." Personally, I think the lemon was stronger. In terms of flavor, it tasted as I imagine lime scented household cleaner would. It's lime only in the most basic sense. It's kinda like the lime-ish after taste that Alka-Seltzer has. And as I said, for what was supposed to be super sour, it was pretty weak.

The final flavor is the Berry Sweet flavor. It's supposed to be cool/sweet enough to kill the sour flavors should they overwelm you (bwahahahaha). It's your standard issue "berry" flavor. I couldn't tell you what kind of berry. Most likely a raspberry/strawberry combo. It is not especially sweet. Or especially good.

The flavoring on all varieties is only found in the outer panned shell layer. The inner portions of each are a soft, kinda jellylike inner center. Not exactly like a jelly bean...but if you've had any of the Twizzlers Pull 'n' Peel or Twerps, then you know exactly what the texture is like. If not...well, don't fret, you're not missing anything terribly memorable.

In the end the candy was OK. Not as sour as the box hyped, and not good enough that I would get them again. But for a candy priced under $1.50, I really can't complain.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Archer Farms Chocolate Drizzle Snack Mix

Something about cereal snack mixes make me think about parties my parents may (or may not) have thrown back in the 70's, where the adults stayed upstairs, and the kids were banished to the basement, where all they had to entertain themselves with was a TV that only got four (yes, four!) channels, some old toys, games missing pieces, and snacks consisting of bad frozen pizza and a big bowl of stale cereal with whatever Mom felt like tossing into it...

It's OK, we worked through most of the bad memories in therapy. Really, we did. Anyway...

The Chocolate Drizzle mix features roasted peanuts, pretzels, and Chex-like cereal covered in a chocolate drizzle with sprinkles of cayenne pepper.

I think for me it's the mix of cereal and spice that is what I really don't like about snack mixes. Archer Farms was pretty easy-handed when it came to the pepper. You can definitely tell that it's there, but it doesn't overwhelm. There are other spices including garlic, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lots of salt. But yeyond the salt and the cayenne, I couldn't pick any particular flavor out--it's just sort of a generic spice.

The chocolate drizzle was very liberal mix of white and milk chocolate. It was heavier on the white. Not the greatest chocolate ever, but surprisingly good for a non-candy product.

All of the individual components were fresh and crisp. If you are a fan of snack mixes, I can see where you would really love this one. I, however, am still not a fan. I guess it's just one of those things that no matter how good the product, is I am still not going to like it. With that in mind, I am going to rate it based on the quality of the ingredients and how I think someone who likes snack mix would feel, rather than based on the ingredients and my thoughts on the taste.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meiji Caramel Pucca

When I saw these on the shelf at Kam Man in New York City, the first thing I thought of was classic Pepperidge Farm Goldfish snacks.

Since the entire box written in Japanese, the best I could tell is that it was a pretzel type cracker filled with caramel.

Seeing my little school of Pucca fish, that was a pretty good guess on my part (yes, yes, I AM a genius, thank you). Each fish is like a giant puffy Goldfish. The baked surface is studded with large grains of salt. The cracker itself is not exactly a pretzel--although it sure looks like it--but it's not exactly like a Pocky biscuit either. It's kinda like what would pop out of the oven nine months after a Goldfish cracker had a drunken three-way with a Pocky Biscuit and a Rold Gold Pretzel. (Is it inappropriate to speculate on the DNA possibilities of snack foods?) Anyway, no one's really sure which the baby daddy is because it could easily be either, and the appearance on Morrie isn't scheduled for another month...

Tastewise, the first thing you notice is the salt, then the cracker. The cracker is kindasorta of like a Pocky biscuit that was cooked extra long. It's a little saltier, a little yeastier.

The caramel filling is in the form of a creme rather then a hard or fluid caramel. It's cool on the tongue and smooth-- sort of like the filling in a sandwich cookie. It's on the sweet side, which the salt cuts perfectly. There's a very milky taste to the caramel.

I had only tried the Pucca because it looked interesting but didn't think I would end up caring for them one way or the other. But let me tell you, this snack was insanely addictive. Meiji makes several flavors, so you know I will have to go fishing for some!

Kam Man Market, New York City

I purchased these at Kam Man, but my friends at J-List carry this flavor along with others, so be sure to check them out!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dove Peanut Butter Silky Smooth Milk Chocolate

Given the sheer number of chocolate/peanut butter products that I have reviewed, it's pretty safe to say that I am a fan.

I also am a fan of Dove products. For mass-market they do a fantastic job with the products they make, and it is among my favorite milk chocolates. When I read Cybele's review back in June I couldn't wait to try this candy for myself.

The bar is broken up into five "promise size" pieces. The outer chocolate is Dove's classic milk chocolate. It's smooth, sweet and has a strong dairy quality to it.

The peanut butter flavor permeates the entire bar--but in a good way. The peanut butter itself is super smooth. There's not much going in terms of texture. One of the things I love about Hershey's peanut butter cups is the crumbly texture of the peanut butter. That's not present here. The peanut butter is mildly salty, but mostly it is just bland. It's not sweet enough that it reminds you of, say, a peanut sauce. It's not roasted enough to be like an actual peanut. It's like peanut butter for people who like their food as plain as possible. It's not bad; it's just kinda forgettable.

In the end this bar is okay. It's smooth, the melt is thick and rich, the chocolate is good. For the chocolate alone, I would prefer it over a Reese's. But on the other hand, I wouldn't for the peanut butter. It's just not as good as a Trader Joe's peanut butter cup (still the best as far as I am concerned).

Albertsons Supermarket