Thursday, April 30, 2009

Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino Ice Cream

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Believe it or not, Starbucks fan that I am, I have never had the Starbucks Ice Cream before.
Not sure why. I love Starbucks, I love ice cream -- so in theory, I should love Starbucks Ice Cream.

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Yeah... that sounded like a good theory.

First thing, the texture was awful. Grainy. Airy. There was no smoothness, no creamy mouthfeel.

Next, the chips. They are not real chocolate, but instead are something called "dark chocolaty chunks." They aren't even good in terms of mockolate. The chunks are gritty and bitter. Think Ex-Lax, but less good.
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And at last, the coffee flavor itself. Starbucks should be ashamed. Again, bitter is the word that comes to mind. It's like they took old grounds from the stores and used them to make the flavoring. There's a little sweetness but not enough to kill the burnt aftertaste.

Where did this go wrong? If STARBUCKS can't get COFFEE flavored ice cream right, there is just something seriously off in the universe.


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PURCHASED FROM:
Albertsons Supermarket






Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Nestle Coffee Crisp

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I was scanning the International Foods aisle, and this bar popped out at me.

A little Googling and I discovered that there are several versions of this bar to be had, and I am not sure entirely which one I got. The bar is marked Nestle's Canada -- but most of the label is in Spanish. And to add to the confusion, it was placed in with the UK products. I will just assume my little bar is its own special U.N. version.

The Coffee Crisp bar seems to be most loved in Canada. As best I could tell from my bar, it's a "Chocolaty" coated bar that is made up of layers of wafers with coffee flavored cream sandwiched in the middle.
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The "chocolaty" coating is very thin, it actually looks better in the photo than in real life. It looks dark and almost thick in the picture. In reality it was a much lighter brown, and its surface had several spots where you could clearly see the wafer below.

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The bar smells like a combination of cheap coffee flavoring and cereal. BUT, it does taste better than it looks or smells.

The thinness of the coating works because it means that it is fairly tasteless. This bar is really about the wafers. The wafers reminded me of those cheap generic sugar wafers you see in stores. But they are surprisingly airy, and tasted to me like a "cake" style ice cream cone. The coffee flavor, while artificial, was sweet and had a little bit of a milky quality.

I really liked the texture. It was dense but had a great crunch. I think this would be good crumbled over ice cream. This bar may not be the highest quality product that Nestle offers, but it is strangely addicting. It's sort of like the Giant Kit Kats' slightly backward country cousin. It may not be as pretty, it may not be that rich, but it's good in its own simple way.


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PURCHASED FROM:
Stater Brothers Market



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pepsi Throwback- Limited Edition

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I think I may be the last blogger on the planet to score cans of this limited edition Pepsi.
(Read Marvo's review HERE).

Pepsi Throwback is made with REAL SUGAR! While I am old enough to have had Pepsi before sugar was taken out and replaced by the dreaded HFCS, I honestly can't say I remember what it tasted like.

I know that Pepsi does a version around Passover that is made with sugar and is Kosher for Passover. (HFCS, while kosher, is not kosher enough for passover -- read THIS for an excellent explanation on what the differences are.) However, unlike Coke's version, I can't say I have ever seen it carried anywhere, nor at any Seder I have ever attended.

So what does Pepsi Throwback taste like?

Really, really, really good! -- and keep in mind I am a die-hard Coke drinker. The cola flavor stands out. It's just a little spicy. The citrus notes (mostly lemon) seem brighter. It seems like there is a hint of cinnamon at the end. Above all, it happily lacks that funky corn syrup aftertaste. I think because the vast majority of the soda that I drink is diet, that when I do drink "regular" soda, the HFCS sticks out like a sore thumb to me. It bothers me to the point I have pretty much stopped drinking anything that isn't diet. Anyway...

The carbonation level on this version also seems to be toned way down as well. This also works for me, because as I have said many times before I actually prefer my sodas a bit flat.

Ok Coke, time to step it up! Pepsi has punked you twice (I also liked Pepsi Natural). I seriously hope that the success of this product will show both Coke and Pepsi that there is a high demand for soft drinks made with real sugar.

Excuse me, I have some hoarding to do...

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PURCHASED FROM:
Target








Monday, April 27, 2009

Kit Kat Mixed Berry

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Mixed Berry is another of the special edition flavors from Japan.
I'd Like to thank my Friends at Jlist for send me this bar to review.

Japanese snackers are so lucky- they have such a huge array of limited edition flavors to choose from they must have a hard time choosing what to have. Kit Kat much like the beloved Pocky comes in pretty much every flavor you could imagine.

This is a Mixed Berry Kit Kat. As the label is entirely in Japanese I am unsure exactly what's in the bar- but from the cover art I can tell you that it has blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries. It's covered in what I am assuming is white chocolate.

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The bar is broken up into two individually foil packs filled with two fingers each.
The fingers themselves are quite pretty. It's a soft pink base with marbly ribbons of white swirls. Once you open the foil you are immediately hit with the berry smell. It's like strawberry milk meets children's vitamin.

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If you are a fan of either strawberry milk or children's vitamins then this may be the bar of your dreams. The chocolate is very smooth and creamy. There's a vague vanilla quality to it but mostly it takes a back seat to the berry flavor. The berry flavor which seems to be hidden in the darker pink layer that is spread on the wafers, tastes to me strongest of strawberry. It's very sweet but towards the end the blueberry does wave hello. While I would never say it was the most natural of berry flavors it does manage to avoid having any chemical aftertaste. The wafers were great, very crisp and fresh.

I think someone who likes berry flavored candy more then I do would love this bar.

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PURCHASED FROM:
Provided by Jlist.com









Sunday, April 26, 2009

Paula Deen Handcooked Virginia Peanuts

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I was actually in Barnes & Nobles trying not to drop half my check on knitting books and vampire porn (er... romance) when I saw a rather large display of Paula Deen items.

Most of the stack was predictably books (vampire lovin' free) and some kitchen wares, but there was also containers of seasoned peanuts. I figured because this is after all a Paula Deen product, that it would be made with no less then 4 pounds of butter- and how could hot buttered nuts possibly be bad?

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Sadly, much like my vampire books there was no hot buttered nuts to be found here either. The nuts are supposed to seasoned with a "house seasoning". A quick glance at the ingredients list reveals that the house seasoning is made with salt, black pepper, onion and garlic.

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The salt and pepper granules are large and easy to spot. The peanuts themselves are HUGE! actually they maybe the biggest I have ever seen.

So the taste?
While I know that there is onion and garlic from the label I really didn't taste either of them. The salt and pepper really stand out. I liked the addition of the black pepper. It brings just a little spicy heat- not nearly as much as say a "hot" blend (like Planter's Heat) or a Cajun blend, but it is nice little kick. The salt straddles the Goldilocks line perfectly. It's not too much, but it's not too little.

All things considered there is not really anything special about this nut mix other then it having Paula Deen's name on it. It's a good enough mix that I would get it again, but at the same time I could just as easily add pepper to any other nuts I happen to have handy.

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PURCHASED FROM:
Barnes & Noble

Saturday, April 25, 2009

McDonalds McCafe Caramel Latte

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McDonald's recently started a nationwide launch of they're McCafe coffeehouse style coffee's
In my area in the last month or so the local McDonald's have been doing a serious push, even offering times when they are sampling the coffee's.
I have somehow managed to avoid each of this events- mostly because I work an obscene amount of hours. I also can't do caffeine after 4:00 P.M. or so and the McCafe line is not available in decaf.
The other reason is I have never been a fan of McDonald's coffee. I prefer my coffee to be roasted so deep it could be considered burnt (which is one of the reasons I love Starbucks) and I always felt that McCoffee was weaker then I liked. But, even with that said I could not resist the urge to have a whole new set of items to review soooo...

Since it was something to the tune of 20 degree's hotter then normal here in Southern California I decided to start my McOdyssey with the Iced Caramel Latte. I was not smart enough to take a few photo's but I assure you that it looked just like the stock photo.

I ordered a large and I was presented with a huge 32 oz's of iced coffee. On outside appearances if I hadn't know for a fact I ordered the caramel latte there was no way to guess it was anything beyond plain iced coffee. There is no whipped topping and no visible caramel swirl. I could live with that, I personally have to be in the mood for whipped cream on my coffee- and on a super hot day such as today I would have opted out anyway. Just like in the picture it is pretty light from the amount of dairy already in the drink anyway.

Flavor.
In the first few sips what really stood out was the caramel flavor. It was the type of caramel flavor that is super fake. Sweet to the point it is cloying. I gave the coffee a good stir but it didn't matter. What's interesting though is that as the ice melts and the coffee gets more diluted the caramel seems to taste better, it gets less sweet, a little more buttery. Perhaps that's a sign that they used too much syrup in this drink- or maybe the chemical's just get spread farther.
The coffee it's self is still what I consider weak. It's diner coffee on a good day- but it's not bad. It's not the deepest roasted or the most complex coffee you will ever have but it is satisfying. Not bitter and even though there is a large amount of milk (and that caramel) to compete with it holds it's own. I think I would actually really like just the plain iced coffee.

Truthfully I would never pick this over an Iced Latte from Starbucks but it was pretty good. I do have to say it is a fantastic bargain ringing in at barely over $2.00 for 32 ounces.

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PURCHASED FROM:
McDonalds

Friday, April 24, 2009

Trader Joe's Fleur De Sel Caramels

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I am a really late comer to review these caramels
Cybele reviewed them way back in December of 2006! (read her review HERE) .
This review has become my white whale. I have sat down to write this thing more times in the last month they I care to admit. For some reason I just blank when I get here. I think what has made it so difficult is the fact that these caramels themselves are inconsistent.
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Salted caramel is one of the great pleasures of life as far as I am concerned. Since having salted caramel, "normal" caramel while still good is just not as good.
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Some of the caramels in this package have been outstanding. The salt hits your tongue in just the right way so that the flavor as a whole seems brighter, sweeter. The milk tastes richer. The gently burnt sugar lingers in your mouth. The texture is slightly sticky, yet buttery smooth. There's just enough "pull", but not so much that it gets stuck in your teeth.

But some of the caramels in the box... they have tasted like plastic. There's almost an envelope paste aftertaste to them. And there is no warning! you could have 2 or 3 blissfully perfect caramels in a row and then WHAM! you get hit by this foul glue-type abomination. There's no warning. They look the same, smell the same. They're in the same box! I don't get it! Did I get an off box? is this just the luck of the Trader Joe's draw? Has anyone else out there noticed this?

I am rating this based on the good caramels with the assumption I just got an off box- but I may revise this if the next box is the same way.

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PURCHASED FROM:
Trader Joe's


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Culinary Circle Shaved Parmesan Cheese

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I try to make tomato sauce from scratch at least twice a month (I make enough for a small army and freeze it).
One of my not-so-secret ingredients is just a touch of freshly grated cheese. I normally prefer a sharp hard cheese such as a pecorino, and I like to keep a stash on hand with things I picked up in New York (let's not discuss what the smell of cheese in the luggage is like by the time you get home), or things that I get from my local Italian store.

Somehow I dropped the ball and this afternoon I found myself cheeseless. As a certain well-known powdery Parmesan found in a green canister is not allowed in my house (not that I dislike all of that brand's products, I just find that one to be vile)- AND the Italian market was closed, I was left in a pickle. Left with only the most basic of choices that my local supermarket had on hand. There was nothing especially wonderful-looking in the lot, and in the end I chose a tub of the Culinary Circle brand shaved parm.

Culinary Circle is Albertson's supermarket's higher-end store brand (not to be confused with their Wild Harvest organic line)
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The first thing I noticed when I opened the package was that there is no aroma- well,at least not one I would expect from Parm. At its worst it was merely not noticeable, and at its best it was like kind of strong string cheese.

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As you can see, the shavings were generous in size, although there were more "solid" crumbles than I would have expected from shaved cheese- but to be fair, it is mass-produced. It's not like I have any illusions that it was freshly shaved by some artisan cheesemaker hiding in the back of the market.

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Taste is the most important factor here, anyway- after all, it is going to be mixed into ground meat and swirled into tomato sauce. There is not going to be a visual clue that it's there. For the purpose of this review I ate some of the shavings straight from the tub. I think I am going to be back to string cheese as the comparison. Even a mild parm (of the aforementioned green container version) should have a mild butter taste, a little nutty and be "sharp"- even if it's in a way that's too generic to really define. The color should be slightly yellow. This cheese is almost pure white. Flavorwise, it's very milky. It was like salty string cheese. The flavor was not bad- it just wasn't good. Well, check that. If you are a huge fan of string cheese, this is probably your dream come true. I was not expecting this is be in the same ballpark of my "normal" cheese, but I thought it would at least be in the parking lot (so to speak). There's no complexity, no depth of flavor. It's like cheese for people who want their food to look like they used "grown up" cheeses but who are afraid of how real hard cheese should taste.

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PURCHASED FROM:
Albertsons Supermarket





Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Starbucks Chocolate Madeleines

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Madeleine's are one of those classic treats that I love to eat but have no desire what so-ever to learn how to make myself.
I group French Macarons in with that as well. Madeleine's may look kind of like a cookie but for those who don't know, they are actually small, spongy cakes. They are always shaped in that elongated shell-type shape (via a special pan of course) and the taste of a traditional Madeleine's is sort of like pound cake with a bit more butter and a little lemon.

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I have never actually seen chocolate Madeleine's before, which either means I am not quite the bakery slut I had fancied myself- or that Starbucks is just being cutting edge. A quick Googling taught me that chocolate Madeleine's are more common then I realized, so I am not as well versed in fancydancy cake as I thought and Starbucks is just playing into Soccer Mom chic. Yeah well...

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Anyway, let's talk about Starbucks version. The first thing I noticed is that while the ingredients list does not give any evidence that it's there, the Madeleine's smell very strongly of coconut.
The cake is moist but at the same time the mouth feel is lumpy. As if the dry ingredients weren't shifted. Rather then being light and spongy the texture is dense and a little greasy.

The flavor is pretty much like a really bad bakery cupcake. It has that overly processed taste that cheap cake products get. It does have a deep cocoa flavor to it, and while the ingredients does list cocoa powder and chocolate drops, it is more like a chemical version of what cocoa should taste like then real cocoa.

About the only redeeming thing I can say about these Madeleine's is that they are now gone and I don't have to eat another bite.

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PURCHASED FROM:
Starbucks

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ben And Jerry's Flipped Out Peanut Butter Chocolate

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The Flipped Out flavors are a new addition to the Ben & Jerry's line
The Flipped Out flavors differ from the regular pints because they are topped in a layer of chocolate fudge. The bottom of the cups have brownie pieces, and rather than 1 full pint they are sold in packages of two smaller cups. What's interesting is that front of the packaging and the description show the layers in reverse of how they are actually packaged.

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The brownie layer was great!- It seems to be the same brownies that are used in some of the pints such as Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Very soft, with a rich fudgy flavor.

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The base ice cream is a peanut butter flavor with a peanut butter swirl. LOVE IT!
The base peanut butter is very mild, it's almost more like a vanilla that's peanut butter flavored. The swirl- oh the swirl! it's almost exactly like peanut butter straight from the jar. It's has a strong roasted peanut flavor and is on the salty side. Why is salt added to ice cream so addicting?

The chocolate fudge layer is not what I was expecting. I had been expecting a hard chocolate shell type layer. But instead it is actually a simple chocolate syrup. Considering the package lists it as a "gooey" clearly the misunderstanding was all on my side. It doesn't live up to the greatness of the rest of the ice cream but it's not bad. This is one of the best flavors ever.

That being said I do have one issue and that is the cost compared to the amount of product. As I said at the beginning, the Flipped Out flavors come in packs of two small containers. Each non-resealable (it's a peel off lid) container contains 4 ounces of ice cream. That brings us to a grand total of 8 ounces of product. Not bad, it is a satisfying portion- BUT, at my local store the Flipped Out packs sell for only slightly under a dollar less then a full pint. As much as I may have liked it, with the economy the way it is and on a tighter budget then I care to think about, it is not so easy to part with nearly $4.00 a pop for half the portion of the pint- and if my market is doing one of the frequent two-pints-for-$6.00 sales that they run, there is even less of a chance I would buy it again. I find it more then a tad hypocritical of Ben & Jerry's to take snipes at Haagen-Dazs on their website for shrinking the size of the pint (click ME) and still charging the same price, when they themselves are charging almost as much for a product that contains a HALF pint of ice cream- although admittedly they are not actually calling it a pint or trying to imply it is. It just comes off to me like "plausible deniability."


Rating:
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PURCHASED FROM:
Albertsons Supermarket



Monday, April 20, 2009

Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti

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If you have read this site for any length of time you probably have noticed I don't review a heck of a lot of Italian products.
Clearly, it's not for lack of new things to try- it's just that I am incredibly picky about Italian food (being Italian) and because of that I don't feel like I can give a very fair shake to some products. That being said one of the perks of being a member of Food Buzz is that every so often they send me out new products. This time I was sent out the new Wild Mushroom Agnolotti from Buitoni. I like mushrooms, I like ravioli and my family was too lazy to make there own so I have no predisposed feeling on ready made.

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I followed the instructions of tossing them with a little olive oil but because I had none of my own sauce on hand (I am a sauce snob) I ate them "bare".
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I have to admit they are not the most attractive thing I have ever eaten but damned if they were good!
The pasta skins are fresh and they actually came out al dente! One of the things about frozen ravioli is that it can be rubbery but there was no such problem here (probably because they are "fresh" rather then frozen). The mushroom filled center (made with cremini and portobello's) is earthy and meaty. The roasted garlic actually tastes sweet and caramelized. The cheese add's a nice sharp tang and adds a thicker texture to the filling.

I liked these enough that I will definitely buy them for myself. There were the inevitable couple of ravioli that "exploded" but I have never been able to avoid that happening so I am prone to thinking it is something that I do rather then a problem with the pasta it's self.

I may have to give the Buitoni tortellini a try!

Rating:
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PURCHASED FROM:
Sample From Food Buzz



Sunday, April 19, 2009

Green Tea Bonbons

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I'm not sure who makes this candy. I bought these on my spree through Economy Candy in New York City. The box bares no name brand- other then a clear sticker that says "Tea Symphony"- which Googling turned nothing up on- so if any of you know more about this candy please leave a comment!

I think from the word "bonbon" I was expecting little soft candies. However, what they really are is individually wrapped khaki colored hard candies.
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The candies are solid but I managed to saw through one:
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The first flavors that hit your tongue is that of pure green tea leaves that have been kissed with honey. It's really clean and refreshing. There's an Earthy grass notes. With both sugar and malt syrup listed on the box the candies don't come off sweet. The flavor is best described as green tea squared. There is only one problem...

The texture.
After the thinly panned surface layer dissolves the rest of the candy gets gritty. I am talking about is this a Pepcid or is this a candy gritty. Candy shouldn't hurt your tongue. And the longer you have the candy in your mouth the rougher it gets. Really that is too bad because if they were a smooth candy (or at least less gritty) these candies would be addictive.

If you would like to try them for yourself they can be purchased online direct from Economy Candy HERE

Rating:
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PURCHASED FROM:
Economy Candy NYC

Rating System!

OK I closed the poll early!
It's pretty clear that you guys would like a ratings system and you guys got one!

I put a lot of thought into how to how I wanted to do it. I had actually been kicking around the idea for months and I wasn't sure how I wanted to format it. So we are going with a 1-to-11 scale. Since I review pretty much anything edible it was hard to nail down what kind of graphic to use, because I watch way to much TV and too many movies (got to love insomnia) I have chosen to use a pop-culture images.

A preview:
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What do you guys think?