Saturday, August 29, 2009
Dear Ben & Jerry:
Why, oh WHY, do you never consult me before launching one of your limited edition products? You guys really missed a golden opportunity with this one.
I know you love to do special flavors that pair a celebrity with their pet charity, such as Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road," which helps support Aids research. Stephan Colbert's "Americone Dream," which helps give aid to the disadvantaged. Dave Matthews' flavor, which helps cure the munchies.
And what do we have here? A Key Lime flavored ice cream! Where do Key Limes come from? Well, the Florida Keys. And who is the favorite son of the Florida Keys? Why, Jimmy Buffet, of course! And one of Jimmy's favorite charities is Save The Manatee. Think of how cool this could have been...you could have had the same flavor and called it "Jimmy Buffett's "Oh The Humanatee!"
Look how awesome the pint art could have been!
But NOOOOOOOO, you guys went with boring old "Key Lime Pie," of which, so far as I know, none of the proceeds go to either manatees or Jimmy Buffett. (Though it may actually help with the munchies, so at least some good has come out of it). For shame, Ben and Jerry! For shame!
(By the way, should this flavor be re-marketed that way, you boys had better remember: either me or the manatees get the money... What?! Don't look at me like that! The manatees WANT me to have some money. I'm the one who thought of the manatees in the first place! The manatees think I deserve a new Mazda 3... OK, a used Mazda 3...hell, I'll settle for something with working air conditioning.)
Regardless, I do love the thought of this flavor. Key Lime Pie is a lime-flavored ice cream base, with meringue swirls and bits of pie crust. Seriously, NOTHING bad could possibly come of that! I can't think of ever having seen a lime ice cream before -- lime sherbets and sorbets for sure -- but there aren't a lot of citrus flavored ice creams out there.
The base lime ice cream is very, very, very mild. It's more like the idea of what lime ice cream should taste like, rather than an ice cream that is strongly flavored with lime. There are patches in the ice cream that are like little super-concentrated pockets of lime flavor. That's not particularly good, but it's not bad either. I can't see the manatees feeling more passionate about the lime than I did.
The strongest flavor by far is the meringue tufts that float through the ice cream like happy little clouds. If cereal marshmallows had a fluffy texture, they would taste like the meringue in this ice cream. Ben & Jerry, if you're still reading, how's about we cut out the middleman and just do a meringue ice cream, because that was an awesomely good part.
The little bits of pie crust are soft and taste like fresh graham cracker. I was surprised that there is not more of the crust (and in larger chunks), as they were a really tasty addition. In fact, I think manatees are sad that they don't often get to taste pie crust.
I wish the lime had been stronger, the crust more plentiful, and that I could have an entire pint just of the meringue. But even with all that said (and my brilliant tie-in aside), I still have to rate this pretty high. It's not Mission To Marzipan, but it is darn good.
(I also have to give a special shout out to Chris, who did the graphics -- actually, he does most of my graphics -- for the "Oh The Humanatee" pint. You go to 11!)
I've had some good luck with the Slow Churned line from Dreyer's. There was one container that was so good it didn't last long enough to get reviewed! (But it will be soon.)
So, when I saw Hot Cocoa with Marshmallows, I had to try it.
The ice cream is a chocolate base with studded with mini marshmallows. The base chocolate is very mild, and is just the slightest bit malty. But does it taste like hot cocoa? Well, I hadn't had a mug of hot cocoa in a while, so I made one (purely for the sake of the review, you understand, NOT because I wanted a warm, melty mug of liquid happiness). I had a cup and I can say that yes, the ice cream does sort of taste like powered hot chocolate made with hot water and no milk. To be fair, thought, that's a bit better then it sounds. It's not the deepest, darkest, strongest chocolate. But it is pleasant.
The texture of the ice cream is very smooth. It doesn't have the same thick and fatty mouthfeel that premium ice cream has -- but it's not a full-fat ice cream, and for what it's working with, it's pretty darn good.
The best part is the marshmallows. The marshmallows are actually soft! In terms of both taste and texture, it is like they are fresh from a brand new bag! They are soft and fluffy enough that Mr. Staypufft himself might wonder how they did it.
I have had another flavor that I liked more, but those marshmallows are pretty sweet!
Friday, August 28, 2009
I've had good luck with Claim Jumper frozen entrees in the past, so I thought that they had pretty good odds at making a decent Shrimp Scampi.
I also thought I would grow up to be tall.
The Claim Jumper version contains linguini in a garlic butter sauce with shrimp and summer vegetables. The copy sounds nice...the reality is slightly different. The summer veggies are small and have that weird texture frozen veggies can get where they're a confusing mix of mushy and crunchy. The veggies consist of green beans -- which are the worst in terms of texture -- along with carrots, green and red peppers, and the smallest amount of broccoli possible for there to be broccoli at all. (Two miserable pieces, each the size of my pinky nail!)
Behold half the broccoli in the whole bloody portion!
As for the pasta: the sauce was very oily -- though I think that was supposed to be the butter -- and it actually does taste like butter, but in a fake popcorn topping sort of way. (Except that even bad popcorn is still kinda good). The sauce also tastes very garlicky. But there is no actual garlic to be found, and it again seems to be on the artificial side. But believe it or not, the pasta itself was cooked perfectly! Even for frozen pasta it was good. Too bad the sauce it was drowning in wasn't.
The shrimp? Don't even ask. Small, dry, flavorless, and very tough.
How did this meal go so wrong? It would have been a decent sized portion, had it been good enough to actually finish. (I tried to, but it just wasn't happening.) But really, even frozen "scampi" can't possibly be this hard to formulate.
Altogether, just plain bad. Inedibly bad.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Chicken noodle soup is called a lot of things. Food for the soul. Jewish penicillin. Yellow gold. Et cetera and so forth.
And I would be lying if I told you that I haven't eaten a lot of Chicken Noodle soup over the years. I have had it made homemade by Jewish bubbes, and I have had it from delis, both world famous and strictly neighborhood. I've had Italian versions, Mexican versions, Asian versions. My own mother has attempted it. But in the end, the one the I like most to this day is the classic Campbell's version (Double Noodle, specifically). I know hardcore foodies will skewer me for saying that, but I don't care. I do love it, especially with about 9 billion crunched up saltines!
So when Campbell's contacted me and asked if I would like to review the new Healthy Request Chunky version, there was just no way I was going to refuse.
Looking at the soup in the bowl, it is indeed chunky. In fact, visually it reminded me a lot of my second favorite Campbell's soup: the long-discontinued Home Cooking version of Chicken Noodle. (Hey, Campbell's guys...any thoughts of bring it back....pretty please?)
The broth is slightly thicker than its red-canned cousin and tastes of carrot, celery and onions. There are many pieces of chopped herbs floating, which look quite nice (but honestly I couldn't tell you what it was). It's less salty than the classic Campbell's version-- which only makes sense, because the Healthy Request version indeed has 45% less sodium. And this is a good thing taste-wise as well. I think it makes it taste more home made and less like something from a can. (It is also 98% fat free, woo hoo!)
The carrots are large and tender and very plentiful. The celery was present more in taste then in actual slices; I wish there had been more and larger celery pieces. The noodles are quite large; and while cooked a little past al dente, (in fairness, that's probably unavoidable in a canned soup), they are not gummy or tough. The chicken pieces were breast meat and are bigger than those in its classic cousin. The meat is moist and there was a decent amount in the can.
One can made a very generous bowl that I was even kind enough to share. This soup is a very tasty option, and one that is more suited to grown-up tastes than my usual choice...but that's just fine. Since it's getting to be soup season this is definitely one to check out!
Sample From Company
Monday, August 24, 2009
Marvo talked about the Yoplait Delights on The Impulsive Buy's Podcast episode number 4...of course, he also dances in a dress...
While there is no dancing in this review, I actually did get to taste the Raspberry Chocolate parfait.
The cups are divided into two layers. The top portion is the Barbie doll pink layer of raspberry, and below that is a light brown chocolate layer.
The raspberry layer was my favorite of the two. It's the type of raspberry that tastes more like raspberry flavor than like actual fresh raspberries. It's sweet more than tangy. It's almost like a raspberry candy. In fact, it's like a soft version of a Raspberry Creme Saver. I would actually eat a full sized container of this flavor alone.
The chocolate side was a little harder to get used to. I think this is because in terms of color and texture it looks like chocolate pudding -- so then, though I knew it isn't pudding, for some reason I kept expecting that type of flavor, which isn't fair because -- DUH, it's yogurt. The chocolate side is more tart than the raspberry. It reminded me of soy chocolate milk. There is a very mild chocolate taste along with a tangy yogurt finish.
The texture for both flavors is very creamy and thick. One of the things I don't like about some of the "lite" yogurts is that they can be thin and runny. (Yes, Dannon, I am looking at you.) But there is no such issue with the Parfaits. It's comparable to its higher calorie siblings.
I am not sure chocolate is ever going to be my favorite yogurt flavor, but I am chalking that up to personal preference rather than a funky product. I did like the raspberry side, and I like the idea of the Parfaits. And I am definitely looking forward to trying the lemon flavor!
Saturday, August 22, 2009
One of my favorite things to have for dinner is "hors d'œuvres." I am not going to lie. It's not like I'm puttering around my kitchen making mini quiche. I wish I was, but I just don't have that kind of free time.
Pillsbury has had the Savorings line out for about a year now. But for whatever reason, I never got around to acquiring a box. Today, I finally did! The Artichoke & Spinach bread bowls are new -- and I love artichoke too much to be able to pass it up.
But maybe I should rethink that last...
Presentation-wise, the little bowls are pretty darn cute...as almost everything mini tends to be. Each bowl is the size of a large button mushroom. The bowls, which browned nicely, seem to be made out of the same dough that the Pillsbury crescent rolls are. Only take out everything that makes the crescent rolls good (i.e., major amounts of buttery-type product). What's left is a really bland bowl that is not crunchy, but not chewy, and not worth the calories wasted.
The filling is spinach and artichoke in a cheese-type sauce, which is then covered in a melted cheese. The spinach is represented only by little green flecks that may have once been actual spinach. The less said about it, the better.
The artichokes are just sad. They taste freezer-burned, which I suppose is a possibility...but the other ingredients don't have that taste, and this particular line has just been launched recently. So I am not sure what the deal is there.
The cheese sauce that the artichoke and spinach are encased in is sparse and salty. It's kind of like Alfredo sauce for people who aren't sure they like Alfredo sauce. I am not sure what kind of cheese is on top -- again, it did brown quite nicely, it just didn't have much taste one way or the other.
It's not like I was expecting something Martha Stewart would serve at cocktails to come out of the box, I was just expecting something that was -- at the very least -- good in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way. Yet these didn't even have that much going for them. They were just plain bad. All the more disappointing, because they did look so good.
Maybe they were made to be seen and not eaten?
Monday, August 17, 2009
It's been a while since I tried a Vosges product and I was feeling like something exotic. Even in the wide Vosges imaginarium (is that even a real word?) of flavors, the Calindia Bar stands out.
The bar features Indian green cardamom, organic California walnuts, dried plums and Venezuelan dark chocolate. The only ingredient I am not so sure about is the walnuts. I am not a fan of walnuts, no matter how good they may be (and I have never met one I considered good). With that caveat out of the way...
The bar has a warm, spicy aroma that reminded me most of ginger. And since cardamom is a member of the ginger family, that is not surprising.
The first flavor is the strong dark chocolate. Even thought it is only 65% cacao, it tastes stronger and darker. It reminded me of a shot of good espresso. Deep, roasted and a little intense, but not so much that it's bitter.
I wish that the bits of dried plum had been bigger. They are sweet and just a little chewy. The flavor is not quite raisin, and sadly there is not enough of the plum to really get much of a sense of it. I love the idea of plums and chocolate, but there just aren't enough of them in this bar to feel strongly one way or the other whether it was good or bad.
The walnuts: this was, again, the part of the bar I was most worried about, because I just really hate walnuts. With that in mind, and trying to be impartial about it, I can say that the pieces were very small, but quite crunchy and fresh tasting. If you do like walnuts, you will probably love them. I know that if it had been a nut I liked, such as...oh, any other nut on the planet...I would have found them a nice addition.
Walnuts aside, I generally liked the bar -- although I do wish there had been more plum. This is one of those bars in which all the ingredients come together really well, even if one by one they don't tend to stand out.
Zabar's (New York City)
Thursday, August 13, 2009
This is another of the Dreyers/Edy's "Fun Flavors" that are classified as a "frozen dairy dessert" rather than as ice cream.
The base of the dessert is a very prissy frou-frou pink. The kind of pink that would thrill my mother if only I would wear it (and I would have to have my mental health checked if I did so on purpose). There's not a lot of taste to it -- it's very slightly cherry, but I think that's more because of the plentiful maraschino cherry pieces than because there is actually a base cherry flavor.
In fact, the Maraschino cherries' biggest downfall in this case may be that there are just too damn many of them. The flavor starts to become medicinal; it's like ice cream flavored with Luden's cough drops. (Actually, not entirely a fair comparison, because Luden's are a pretty spiffy-tasting cough drop.) Like clothes on Hugh Jackman, less really could have been more in this case.
Something I found interesting is that in the title of the product the chips are referred to as "chocolate chips"...but on the actual ingredients list (check out the Dreyer's site here) they are referred to as "chocolaty chips." Cocoa is used in them, but they still appear to be mockolate. That said, for mockolate, they are not bad. There's almost a dark chocolate taste to them. The chips have a nice crunchy snap, there's not really a melt. But, since chips this cold really wouldn't melt much anyway, it's not a distraction.
Although the overall the flavor is OK and the mockolate passable, what does this one in is the texture. I am not sure how to even describe it, except to tell you that it is in some bizarre middle ground where it's not rough enough to be called "gritty," but it's actually almost powdery. How the hell does ice cre -- sorry, "frozen dairy dessert" -- manage to be powdery?! Was it made by Lindsay Lohan? Doesn't powdery ice cre -- ugh,"'frozen dairy dessert" -- violate some obscure law of physics? Someone get Michio Kaku on the phone!
Just like with the Root Beer Float flavor, I can easily see this being a big hit with kids. Let's be honest: kids wouldn't notice the flavor issues, nor even that the chips aren't really chocolate. And I doubt they'd care that the texture was weird, because all they would be thinking is "ICE CREAM!" (even if it's not).
As for me, I won't go back for a second container.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My love for cheap and generally questionable quality frozen pizza is pretty well documented...
With that said, let me begin by saying that if I had a party and served this pizza to my friends, they would no longer be my friends.
Let's start with the crust. I am not sure where Tony is from, but he is apparently in his own little world. Doughy and chewy translates into "crispy." (Perhaps this is the same land where Tall means small and Grande means medium and people actually care that Paula Abdul is not returning to American Idol). The shape is also something Tony evidently made up after a night of heavy drinking. "Scround?" What the hell is "scround?" It's not really square, it's not really round, and it's not really good.
As for the sauce...
Well, let's be fair; the sauce on these cheap frozen things is never really good. But even with that disclaimer, this sauce is dreadful. It doesn't resemble any sort of pizza sauce from this planet. It's like cheap, store-brand ketchup that was mixed heavily with sugar. Only less good.
I don't even want to discuss the "cheese." I have had enough trauma for one day.
Just spend the extra 10 cents and get something, anything else. This was truly horrible.
Monday, August 10, 2009
First, let me say I am sorry that this is the only photo this review will have. I took more, they didn't come out. I thought I had more ice cream, I didn't, and I wasn't about to buy another container, sooo...
I liked the idea of a root beer float flavored ice cream. Rarely do I indulge in a root beer float, but I do love them.
Dreyer's version is only a pale comparison to a good homemade float for several reasons. First, notice that the carton does not contain the words "ice cream." (This is actually something that you'll see on all of the "Fun Flavors.") A visit to the Dreyer's website shows that they have the flavor listed as "Root Beer Flavored Frozen Dairy Dessert" (check out the product page here). Scanning the ingredients, it's clear that it is not called ice cream because it isn't ice cream. Fair enough. But if I were making an actual root beer float, I would have used real vanilla ice cream. In this case, the white swirls in the dessert are kind of vanilla. I say "kind of" because, while I know that vanilla was most likely the intended outcome, the final product tastes as much like real vanilla as a vanilla diet shake. Dreyer's didn't even seem to try on this one. Unless they included it under the umbrella of "artificial flavors," it didn't even appear as vanillin (A.K.A. artificial vanilla). The outcome is a milky, sweet taste that doesn't have any edge to it.
The root beer side of it does taste like root beer...cheap, no-name store brand root beer. The kind adults buy for kids who are too excited by the prospect of getting soda to know that their parents bought them crap. It's not woodsy, there's no wintergreen. But it's sweet...
The texture was super smooth. I don't want to say creamy, because that's not the right word for it. But it was smooth.
If I was craving a root beer float this is not the option I would go for. I can see where kids would love this flavor simply because it's sweet. And even with all the negative things I have said, it's not completely awful. But it's not good either.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Another week, another set of reviews!
Sugarhog Blog got to try something called Hanuta -- a hazelnut wafer snack. I want one of those! And not only that, they also got to shop at Jungle Jim's! (Actually, I think I want to do that more than I want to try the Hanuta.)
Jim got to try Lindt's Thyme & Orange Fantasy. Sadly, what sounds like it might have been an interesting flavor seems like it would have been better left as a fantasy.
Second Rate Snacks pitted Chicken In A Biskit crackers against Chicken Flavored Snack Crackers. This made me remember my grandmother who hated chicken to the point that she wouldn't go near so much as a chicken bouillon cube, but loved Chicken In A Biskit crackers -- go figure that one out.
Josie at Yum Yucky weighed in on Jif Natural Peanut Butter...but did her greedy kids like it?
Cheap Eats dared to wonder out loud (well, out loud in print) if Mulder ever touched Scully's boobs -- and reviewed Fresh & Easy's Gazpacho at the same time.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I don't normally get performance anxiety when writing my reviews...
But in this case, Marvo beat me to reviewing this new Ben & Jerry's flavor and he went all out! The man wrote parody lyrics for crying out loud! PARODY LYRICS! (Yes, all caps, boldface, and italics! Can you tell I'm screaming?) How am I supposed to compete with that? Short of pulling a Penn & Teller and using topless women gratuitously, I am not sure I can.
There...did that help?
Elton himself may not have approved of that...oh what the hell, let's make everyone happy...
So, anyway...Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road is one of Ben & Jerry's limited edition celebrity inspired flavors (like Phish Food or Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream). It's a chocolate ice cream base with peanut butter cookie dough, brickle candy bits and white chocolate chunks. According to the legend on the container, the flavor was created using ingredients that Sir Elton is a fan of. For some reason, I think that if Elton did eat this ice cream it would be while wearing a hot pink feather boa, sparkly glasses and being bitchy to his husband...no, wait, that describes how I ate it. Never mind.
The base chocolate ice cream is the same chocolate used in all of the other Ben & Jerry's chocolate ice cream based flavors. It has a rich, deep cocoa quality to it. Not too sweet, but not bitter--just well balanced. It was the perfect binder because it didn't overpower any of the chunks, and at the same time it held its own.
The peanut butter cookie dough was my favorite part of the ice cream. It's slightly salty. There's a nice nutty roasty taste, and it adds a mild graininess to the otherwise creamy texture of the ice cream; which was a good contrast. I may have gone out of my way looking for the cookie dough chunks.
The brickle is buttery and crunchy--but thankfully does not stick to the teeth. It would have been better if the pieces were bigger or if there were more of them.
The white chocolate...why, why did it have to be white chocolate?! If they had to use white chocolate, couldn't they have brought back the white chocolate covered pop rocks from Kaberry Kaboom? I think Elton would have approved of exploding mouth candy. As it is the chocolate used is too sweet, somewhat oily, and is just disappointing in an otherwise great flavor.
It's too bad this is a limited edition flavor, because I would love to see it still standing on the shelf in a few months.
And what the hell, here's one more for the Yellow Brickle Road!
Monday, August 3, 2009
When I think of pie, WalMart is not exactly the first name that comes to mind.
Actually, on serious thought, it's not even in the top twenty names that come to mind. But my dad started buying these little blueberry pies and was raving about them. They remind him of little individual pies that were sold when he was a kid. (It was probably nostalgic for him, because they'd just invented fire and the world was going all crazy with convenience foods.)
Each four ounce pie comes in its own cute little tin.
The crust appears on the lighter side in terms of color (it appears deeper in color in the picture than it did in real life). The edges have a bit of golden brown, but if this had come out of my oven I would have put it back in. If I was less lazy, I suppose I could have warmed it in my oven. (Microwaving is out, since the pie is in an actual metal pan and my microwave is the old cheesy kind that would spark.) Besides, I also think it's important to try the product "as is" first, because that is how most people will actually eat it. Only after that can I get as crazy as I want.
The top layer of crust is thin, and is flaky in the most minimal sense of the word. It's not so much the whole crust that's flaky, just the absolute top layer-- it's kinda like crust dandruff. It's bland, not buttery. Not even sweet like a Hostess pie. It's not that it's bad. It's that it's only about as good as you would expect WalMart pie crust to be.
As for the filling: it's a deep and vivid shade of Royal Purple- kinda like if Barney was liquefied in a freak accident. (Accident? Heh!) It's very, very sweet. Think of a pretty standard blueberry jam with about 100 extra tablespoons of sugar. There are little dry shriveled bits that at some point in their lifetime may have been blueberries. But now they're like some sort of raisin of the damned.
As bad as that all sounds, in the end they are no worse (but sadly, no better) than your average supermarket pie. Do I get why my Father likes them so much?-- no, but he's old and maybe some of those taste buds have died off.
Can I still be grounded at my age? That comment may have earned it.