Friday, October 30, 2009

Kern's Nectar: Pear

You know what? There just aren't enough pear items!

Pear has a light and crisp flavor that I think gets overlooked far too often in favor of, say, apple juice or white grape. And often when you do find something pear flavored, it's been "helped" by the addition of said apple or white grape juices. What I found appealing about this Kern's Nectar is that the only juice used was pear. (We will -- momentarily -- ignore the fact that it also has HFCS.)

I had actually never tried any of the Kern's nectars before, so I was not sure what to expect. It is a thick drink. Think of the thickest apple cider you have ever had, and it is probably thicker still than that. It's a cloudy golden color and has a sweet, juicy aroma.

The pear flavor has that great crisp, clean, almost flowery taste of a perfectly ripe pear. And because the nectar is so thick, you almost get a sense of the texture of a pear. Grainy, yet slick. Kind of crunchy.

Sweet is also a perfect word to describe the flavor. In fact, this is where I have to point the cold dead finger of judgment at the added High Fructose Corn Syrup. Pears are quite sweet enough on their own. They certainly don't need any sweetener added. And this stuff is just way too sweet. You know that heavy syrup that canned fruit sits in? It's like drinking that. As good as the base flavor is, and as interesting as the texture is, the sledgehammer sweetness overwhelms after the first few sips. I couldn't finish even a quarter of the can.

And that fatal sweetness is a damn shame. This would be an addictingly good drink if I could have gotten past the sugar (or the not-exactly-sugar, in this case).

Albertsons Supermarket

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reese's Pieces

Sometimes I wake up thinking about candy. Most of the time that is fun. Sometimes it's nagging (as in: I really should review that enormous closet shelf's worth of candy before the products get discontinued), and sometimes it's just nonsensical.

Today it was a nonsensical thought. For whatever reason, I woke up today thinking about Reese's Pieces. It hit me that I have never reviewed Reese's Pieces. Now, there's a reason for that -- and the reason is that I have never really liked Reese's Pieces. I am not really sure why. I like peanut butter, I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and I like most candy lentils.

So why don't I like
Reese's Pieces?

I will skip the E.T./Reese's Pieces mythology. (But if you really want to know, don't fret. The reviews I will link to will fill you in.) Around the time that the movie came out, my father did his best to endear the candy to me. And, truth be told, the first time I ate them I remember being quite pissed because they were not in fact weirdly colored M&M's. The Pieces and I just never fell in love.

Here we are, many moons later, and out of the blue I wake up thinking about them. So let's give this another go.

Reese's Pieces are simply a smooth peanut butter center, covered in a crunchy candy shell. The candy shell is thin, and beyond just "sugary," it doesn't really have much flavor of its own. I like the crunch, but it was a little too sweet for me.

The peanut butter is dry, salty, and crumbly; but not in the same way that makes Reese's Peanut Butter cups so good. In this smaller portion, it just comes off a little oily and there is an aftertaste I can't place. It may be from the food coloring in the shells.

If you love peanut butter but not so much chocolate, this may be a good option for you (they are chocolate free). For me...honestly, I still don't like them, but I don't dislike them quite as much as I did back then.

For a differing take, be sure to check out Cybele's Candy Blog review here, or Jim's review here. They are both bigger fans than I am.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Altoids: Cool Honey

It's been a long while since we last had a new Altoids flavor. (If I am not mistaken, it was the Creme de Menthe.) And I was really stoked to see the new Cool Honey flavor in the kiosk at Walgreens.

Cool Honey, one would assume from the tin art, is a mint/honey combo. Since Altoids are advertised as being "curiously strong," I was a bit unsure of how that was actually going to work out.

I wasn't sure if it was going to be a super-sweet fake honey taste (which, oddly enough, can sometimes be good) with a little hint of mint...or if it would be a super-strong mint that picks up that sort of toasty flavor that honey sometimes gets when used in hot tea.

Fortunately, it is sort of a hybrid of the two options. Peppermint is definitely the stronger of the two flavors; and while it is bold and refreshing, it doesn't have quite as powerful a kick as a regular peppermint Altoid. The honey adds sweetness and mellows the mint while not overwhelming it.

It reminded me of a hard version of a Butter Mint. And I loved the little bumblebee patterned tin!

Nice. Very nice.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trader Joe's Paneer Tikka Masala

I confess: I am seriously spoiled when it comes to Indian food.

Back when I lived in Georgia, I was a regular at a fantastic place called Cedars Taverna (sadly, no longer in business). Ken, the chef and owner, truly had a gift with food. His specialty was traditional Indian fare -- but sometimes, if you were lucky, he would also prepare local Southern favorites and put an Indian spin on them. Heaven on Earth just may have been his curried crab cakes.

Ken also has the distinction of being the person who made me love Indian food. I'll be honest -- the first time I went, I did so only to shut someone else up. But for the first time, after all the times I had previously had Indian food, something clicked and I was immediately hooked. And ever since the days that Ken has closed and I have moved back to California, I often find myself longing for Indian the way he made it for me.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a local place that I really love. Most of what I have encountered around here has been neutered and domesticated Indian food, made to appeal to timid Americans who find Taco Bell too spicy. What a waste! Indian, if nothing else, has strong flavors -- not necessarily hot (though I love and chase the heat), but bold and assertive.

Well, I wanted Indian food badly this weekend, and the budget wouldn't allow going out to a restaurant. But I noticed that Trader Joe's had a couple items that looked here we are.

Tikka masala is a dish that is familiar to many non-Indians. In fact, it was likely invented by Indian immigrants living in the UK, where it has become immensely popular. It's a tomato based sauce -- usually served with chicken -- that can be spicy, but is more often mild. (Guess which one I like better?) There are many variants, but it typically has yogurt, cream, turmeric, garlic, etc.

TJ's does a pretty respectable take. I opted to have the paneer (a firm, mild cheese) version. They also offer the more common chicken version.

The tikka sauce is mild -- yes, I do like mine set to 11 in terms of heat -- but I was not expecting extreme heat in a frozen commercial product, so I cannot hold that against them. It's creamy. There's sumac (or something similar) in it. You can also taste the faintest dash of cinnamon. For ready-made microwaveable, it is truly first rate.

The paneer -- which, in this case, is cut into little tofu-esque chunks, is...well, I would rather have had more sauce instead, but they are OK. You would almost expect them to be rubbery based on their appearance, but instead they crumble in your mouth...and I mean that in the best sense possible. If I had to nail a flavor, I would say it's like a super-solid ricotta.

The spinach basmati rice is yet another example of the few times frozen ready-made food simply doesn't get much better. It's tender and moist. Just kissed enough by the spinach that it adds a slightly bitter edge, but not enough that it distracts from the buttery richness of the rice. The only part of the rice I could have skipped were the tiny cubes of carrot. They are reasonably tender, and they're not bad. They are just kind of pointless.

I really enjoyed this meal. It was flavorful, and portioned well. OK, I admit it, I liked it enough that I probably should have bought two. It wasn't hot in terms of spice; but again, I was not expecting it to be. And perhaps for those who are curious about Indian food but are wary of the heat, this mildness would be a plus.

So how good is it overall? Well, Chris said the only thing that could make this meal even better would be if it could be eaten off a naked Aishwarya Rai. But Trader Joe's apparently doesn't offer that option, so I guess he'll just have to make do with it as is.

Finally, I might also add that this product is a great value, as it is both better and less expensive than some similar items
(ahem, Amy's) that are sold in many supermarkets . Simply put, this one is a winner.

Don't just take my word for it, either. Abi over at Heat Eat Review also loved it (read her review here).

Trader Joe's

Monday, October 26, 2009

WOOHOO!! Campbell's V8 Soup Give Away!

Last month I reviewed the very yummy Campbell's V8 Garden Vegetable Blend Soup.

Besides tasting great, one of the fab benefits of the soup is that it gives you a full serving of vegetables in one single bowl (oh yeah, and there are other good things about it, like added fiber and vitamins A & C). And since the inventors of the Internet have yet to come up with a scratch-n-sniff version or even Lick-O-Vision, the good folks at Campbell's have come up with the next best thing: They have put together a gift pack for one lucky winner!

Not only does Campbell's want you to eat your veggies and love it, but they want to help you get healthy. The holidays are just around the corner, and who doesn't want to look smoking hot come New Year's Eve? OK, so you don't walk around in Speedos on New Year's Eve, at least not here in the Northern Hemisphere (unless the New Year's party you're attending gets a bit wilder than we can discuss on a family web page), but that isn't the point. The point is, you'll know you look smoking hot. And that is always a good thing.

Included in the gift pack will be:

Two containers of Campbell's V8 Garden Vegetable Blend Soup...

...a super tripped-out pedometer (they sent me one and it has become one of my favorite gadgets)...

...and a hardcover, spiral-bound health journal.

Admit it, your life will not be complete until you win!

So how do you win? Simple. Just leave me a comment telling me why you love V8 or Campbell's soup (or the Campbell's V8 Garden Vegetable Blend soup).

QUASI-LEGAL STUFF: The winner will be picked at random, purely based on whatever method amuses me at the moment. Bribes won't help you, but if you want to send them anyway, I'm perfectly willing to keep them. Lastly, friends, family, and people I don't like are not eligible to win. (Although I have a feeling that friends, family, and people I don't like aren't that interested in trying to win.)

Winner will be announced on Monday, Nov 9. The winner will be asked to submit their email address via comment (don't worry, it will NOT be published), so I can contact them for mailing information. Winner's personal info will not be auctioned off to the highest bidder on eBay, sold to Somalian pirates, bartered for Pez, or otherwise shared in any way. One entry per person. Entries start Monday, October 26th, and will be accepted until Saturday, Nov 7th at 12:00 AM PST.

Good luck!

Friday, October 23, 2009

R.I.P. Dreyer's/Edy's Grand Cookies 'n Cream Ice Cream

This is not a review, but more of a eulogy...

On second thought, maybe "eulogy" is too serious and dignified for this site. It's more like the Derek Zoolander version -- the "you-googly."

Actually, I hadn't planned on reviewing another Dreyer's/Edy's flavor for a while. No particular reason; I'm just kind of burnt out on them at the moment. In fact, I was really looking for gelato rather than ice cream. But you know how, sometimes, something else catches your eye? This was one such time.

[WARNING: There is music after the jump -- but don't worry, it's safe for work.]

While browsing the supermarket ice cream cases, I noticed that my beloved Dreyer's Grand Cookies 'n Cream ICE CREAM seemed to be in the process of replacement by a probably adequate, but definitely NOT ice cream, Fun Flavors version. My goodness, both versions were on the shelf at the same time! (Caveat: I have not yet tried the replacement version, so I cannot claim first-hand knowledge. But I have eaten many of the other Fun Flavors, so I pretty much know what to expect).

You see, folks, the issue at hand is that the Fun Flavors line is not ice cream. It is packaged to look like ice cream (and to be fair, how else would/could they package it?), and it's placed in the same section as ice cream (again, it's not as if there are many options where to place it), yet it remains not ice cream. And it is made by a manufacturer with a long, rich, and creamy ice cream making history.

Be that as it may, Fun Flavors are classified as "frozen dairy dessert" and not as ice cream. Now, what does that actually mean in English? It means that Fun Flavors are an ice cream style dessert. In an email to me, Dreyer's explained it thus:

"Frozen Dairy Dessert is defined as having more whey and less dairy and thereby it does not meet the standard of identity of Ice Cream as set by the FDA back in 1929.

We at Dreyer's Ice Cream appreciate your interest in our company and our products. We value our consumers and we thank you for the opportunity to respond to your concerns.


Consumer Response Representative"

Well, there you have it. The product is not actually ice cream -- thus, for legal reasons they have to call it something else -- so "frozen dairy dessert" it is.

To Dreyer's/Edy's credit, they don't make any claims that the Fun Flavors are ice cream -- and, for what they are, the Fun Flavors are a decent enough product. But it is still sad to see a company that built its good reputation over the decades by making actual ice cream, taking their signature product and downgrading it to an ever-decreasing portion of their core line. Yes, I know it's cheaper to produce -- and from a business point of view, I can see where the Fun Flavors line must be a better option for them. The profits have got to be higher than they are for the Grand line, when you consider that the Fun Flavors are sold in the same sized containers, and at the same prices as their ice cream counterparts; but the ingredients are not as costly. Yes, it does make economic sense. And certainly, in these financially turbulent times, every penny counts. I get it. Thirty second MBA review over, I definitely get it.

Nonetheless, as a consumer, this does not endear the company to me. Not when they are charging the same price as they do for the ice cream...and for the same, reduced portion as the ice cream. If we will recall, the official reason for downgrading the size of the container back in 2002 -- in the pre-Fun Flavors days -- was to be able to still provide quality ice cream at the same price point. (Check out the Wikipedia page for more detailed info.)

Mind you, it's not that most other manufacturers didn't follow suit. Many did. In fact, I will use the sound-alike (but completely unaffiliated) Breyer's as a comparison. Breyer's is also one of the many companies that cut container size while keeping the same price, using preservation of quality as the justification. And to be fair to Dreyer's, Breyer's isn't exactly what it once was either.

For example, Breyer's has started using mockolate and tara gum as examples of how they can manipulate their stance of using only all-natural ingredients that one can pronounce -- while at the same time cheapening the product. Well, yes, I can easily pronounce "tara gum," as well as the preferred term they use for mockolate -- i.e., "chocolaty chips" -- and I will grant that both are, in fact, natural. But by that logic, if you really want to get picky about it, snot is natural too...and I don't want snot in my ice cream either.

At least it can be said of Breyer's that their core line was, and still is, actual ice cream and not some increasing number of pale imitations called "frozen dairy desserts." Dearest Dreyer's: if you are going to ditch everything we have grown to love about you in exchange for some younger, sleeker, but ultimately hollow trophy wife kind of replacement, couldn't you cut us some slack on the price tag? Personally, I will be taking my future Cookies 'n Cream dollars to the premium brands from now on. Yes, I know I will get less product...but what I will be getting will still be REAL ice cream.

Businesses, no matter how cuddly they try to make their public faces, are not here to be your friend. They're more like that weird, gross Uncle Ray who you try to avoid at family functions. They put on a good show and remind you of how close you used to be, of the good times you had and all the stuff they got you as a kid, but by the end of the night you realize they are trying to bum money off of you. All any company really wants from you at the end of the night is your money -- I understand that, and am perfectly OK with it. But, if I am going to part with my money, least try be more like Cousin Cody, who will still ask for that money at the end of the night, but at least promises to share the good stuff with you when he comes back. Give me something of quality in exchange. I am willing to spend my money. I am just not willing to waste it.

Friends, lest you think I went off on some sort of sugary, cookie-filled tangent on a subject that I was not 100% sure of, let me share with you the Grand Cookies 'n Cream death certificate email I received from Dreyer's:

Dear Ms. Miller,

Thank you for your email letting me know of your disappointment of not finding Dreyer's Grand Cookies and Cream at your local market. I realize how frustrating it can be to search for, but fail to find, your favorite frozen dessert treats.

Unfortunately, this particular flavor has been discontinued from our Grand Ice Cream product line. It has been reformulated into our new and exciting Fun Flavor line. You can find our Fun Flavors at your local market. We are truly excited about this line of products and hope that you will be as well.

I hope that you will be able to try our exciting Fun Flavors soon. I appreciate your taking the time to contact our company with your comments.

Consumer Response Representative

Ref # N2263205

Yep. There it is. You've read it, now you can weep.

And if you don't mind, I have some tears to dab too. But please take a moment and view the slideshow presented below in loving memory of our latest fallen friend.

Ciao Bella Key Lime Graham Cracker Gelato

Back when I reviewed the Ben & Jerry's Key Lime Pie ice cream, reader Carrie suggested that I try this gelato.

And how could I possibly deny any of you dear readers a request? Yes, that is just how much I care! I care so deeply and profoundly that I will actually eat gelato for you guys...hey, someone has to do it...I am telling you, I am such a giver...

Now, I do have a favorite gelato -- and that would be any flavor sold by the wonderful folks at Grom Gelato on New York City's Upper West Side.

But I have had Ciao Bella's sorbets and been very impressed. (The Blood Orange is SOOOO good!) And I gotta tell you, for pre-packaged gelato, you will be hard pressed to find better than Ciao Bella.

I would like to thank Carrie for not steering me wrong. When she said that the lime flavor in Ciao Bella's version went KA-POW, she was not kidding. The lime is so vibrant and fresh it's almost like the juice was squeezed directly onto the creamy base.

The gelato is rich and perfectly smooth...except for the soft, delectable crumbs of graham cracker mixed throughout. The base has a light and mild, almost honeyed taste.

There is nothing about this gelato that isn't good. Even if aliens came in the middle of the night and sucked out your taste buds in some freakish experiment worthy of a call to Coast to Coast AM, you would STILL be able to tell how good it tastes.

Now go to the store, get some, and then leave comments telling Carrie how grateful you are to her.

Vons Supermarket

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Twilight Delight

I have a feeling that just by putting the word "Twilight" in a post heading, all of a sudden I am going to get a barrage of hits from Twihards hoping for a glimpse of the Keeper of the Unicorn Forest (yes, I am a dedicated Dlisted reader).

But alas, they are bound to be disappointed, as this post is completely free of sparkly vampires...or even good vampires, for that matter. And this chocolate -- much like the Twilight Vamps as compared to, say, the True Blood vamps -- seems to lack a certain edge, even if it's technically in the same family.

Okay, maybe that was a little, it wasn't.

Ghirardelli's Twilight Delight is a 72% cacao bar and is part of the Intense Dark collection that Ghiradelli launched a couple years ago. (You may have guessed that part from the title.) And if nothing else, it is a really beautifully molded bar. Seriously. Just look at the pictures:

Esthetically it's quite pleasing. It's as glossy as marble. The Ghirardelli logo is boldly stamped in a richly detailed bas-relief. The squares are large enough that each single square broken off on its own makes a good sized portion. There's even a nice, crisp snap when you break a piece off.

But once the snap is past and the chocolate is melting on your tongue, it's a little waxy. It seems to take forever to start to melt -- although, to be fair, once it does start to melt it is nice and smooth.

As you would expect from a 72% cacao bar, it is bitter, but not overwhelmingly so. There's a little bit of a coffee note when you first bite into the bar. As it melts it tastes fruitier. In fact, it tasted a little like cherry to me.

It's a perfectly serviceable bar. It just didn't make me bare my fangs. I could see where this would be good shaved and used as garnish. Or maybe even baked into cookies or brownies...but I can't say I would ever dig into this bar on its own. There's just absolutely nothing notable about it.

Be sure to check out both Cybele's review here, and Jim's review here. Both of them liked the bar more than I did... although neither of them mentioned vampires in their reviews, so I think I deserve cool points for that.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trader Joe's Mini Mint Ice Cream Mouthfuls

Ever wished there was a really good bite sized mint ice cream cookie snack? Then you have clearly not been to Trader Joe's!

These little snacks are the size of an Oreo, and have mint ice cream sandwiched between two cookies.

The cookie layers taste a lot like an Oreo -- but they have the texture of an ice cream sandwich wafer. They're soft and smooshy. Paired with the ice cream, they are really good. Eaten on their own, they're a little oily...but just don't eat the layers separately, and you'll be fine.

The ice cream is a very smooth mint, with a creamy texture. I wouldn't eat the ice cream on its own, either. By itself it's a little toothpasty and doesn't have much in way of mouth feel...but it does have the Universe's tiniest chocolate chips. And how could you not love the Universe's tiniest chocolate chips?

The cookie and the ice cream separately are just kinda "meh," but paired together they're pretty good. So it's kinda like an edible version of Hall & Oates. (Unless you don't like Hall & Oates, in which case think of any other musical duo that you do like. Hey, I can't do everything here.)

Trader Joe's

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lindt Excellence Dark: A Touch of Sea Salt

OK, I feel like I am totally riding Cybele's coat tails. She recently reviewed the same bar (don't miss her review here), and it just sounded so good that I had to go and track one down for myself.

I love salted chocolate -- but most of the time it's "salted" only because the salt is attached to caramel or nuts or even bacon. This bar is different, because it's simply dark chocolate and sea salt.

Keep in mind I am not a huge fan of Lindt. It's not that I find it bad or even substandard; it's just that I am just not usually wowed by it.

This bar, however, impressed me. It has a great aroma to it; a very rich cocoa. It's like the perfume of a million happy little Toll House morsels -- and I mean that in the best way possible. The chocolate itself is mild for a dark, probably because it's only 47% cocoa. Personally, it reminds me of a very deep milk chocolate. It's very creamy and has a fabulous melt.

The sea salt is the clear star here. As best I can tell, the salt seems to rest mainly on the top of the bar. There's not a lot of it...just enough to set off the chocolate beautifully. There is a savory element to it that I am not sure I can do justice to...about all I can say is it just makes the chocolate better. There are also little salt crystals mixed throughout the bar that add a nice, slightly crunchy texture. And I love the way they melt on the tongue.

This bar is so good mostly because it's so simple. There's no glitz, no excess, no edgy, super-trendy ingredient (yes, bacon, I mean you), but that's exactly the point. It's as basic yet elegant as the classic little black dress. It should not be missed.



Monday, October 19, 2009

Dreyer's/Edy's Fun Flavors: Peanut Butter Cup

I really should know better by now...

It's not like I haven't had enough of the so-called Fun Flavors to know that I am probably not going to be thrilled. Once again, let us all remember that the Fun Flavors line is "frozen dairy dessert" and not in fact real ice cream.

That said, the base of this particular "frozen dairy dessert" is -- well, I'm not sure what it is, as it is basically flavorless. If I had to guess, I suppose it was meant to be vanilla. Not offensive or unpleasant, but it's like eating cold nothing.

There are chunks of chocolate. And to be fair to Dreyer's/Edy's, while they may not have made real ice cream, they did use real chocolate. It's very sweet and tastes mostly like vanillin (fake vanilla), but it does have nice snap to it.

Swirling through the ice cream -- whoops, darn it, I meant frozen dairy dessert -- are ribbons of chocolate fudge and peanut butter. The fudge is OK, but nothing to brag about. I did like the peanut butter swirl. I would never eat it on its own -- it's too sweet, too thin, and not grainy enough. But it is hands down the best part of this dessert.

One thing I will also give to Dreyer's/Edy's is that while the Fun Flavors may not be actual ice cream, they have all had a consistently smooth texture that is pretty nice. But for a really knockout peanut butter ice cream, I am sticking to Ben & Jerry's. It's not that this is a bad flavor, it's just not good.

Bottom line, save this one for the kids. If nothing else, they'll love the intense sweetness. (How you'll deal with their sugar-induced hyperactivity for the next couple hours is your problem.)

Vons Supermarket

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Starbucks Via Ready Brew: Italian Roast

I have a pretty serious bias against instant coffee.

We can thank my grandmother for this, as much as I loved my grandmother. If you've heard me talk about her before, you know that as far as I am concerned she is eligible for sainthood. But I could never understand why, out of all the ways you could possibly drink coffee, she preferred instant. And it had to be black. My grandmother also played fast and loose with the directions. She used so much of the coffee that the bottom of the cup looked like motor oil. Her reason for this was that using the prescribed amount resulted in a cup that was too weak. Oh, and she could easily knock off six cups or so. (Again, why she didn't just brew a fresh pot of good coffee completely escapes me.)

I have tried instant coffee made both according to the directions, and her way. And to be honest, I would rather just skip it in either case.

Being a fan of all things Starbucks, however, how could I resist trying their version of instant coffee? Well, I couldn' here we go.

My local Starbucks was giving away free single serving packets with purchase, so I opted to try the Italian Roast (the darker of the two available; the other being Columbia -- a medium roast).

I mixed my packet into eight ounces of steaming hot water and stirred to dissolve -- and thanks to the dubious magic that is instant coffee, it's immediately ready to drink.

It does have a nice dark smell. Not quite as full and roasty as a regular brew, but deeper than other instants. Actually, it smelled much like an average store brand coffee -- not an instant, but a regular. (Let's be honest, though -- it's hard for coffee to really smell bad.)

As for the taste? Well, I tried it two ways to get a feel for it.

First, I drank it black:

The taste is smooth. If you like the initial flavor of Starbucks coffees but tend to think they taste too dark or too burnt for you, this may be a Starbucks you like even more. It's missing the bitter finish that most Starbucks coffees have (and that I love). It's got an earthiness to it, but it stays mellow. If I drank this not knowing what it was, I wouldn't have guessed it was instant -- but I also would not have guessed it was Starbucks. It's more plain and basic than I have come to expect from their roasts.

I also drank it the way I normally drink my coffee -- with waaaaaayyy too much creamer and Splenda.

This way, while again I would not have guessed it to be Starbucks, I would also never have pegged it as instant. It reminded me of a respectable cup of home-brewed coffee. Nothing special, but still pretty good.

In the end, I would never pick Via over a freshly brewed cup of Starbucks; not even one made rather carelessly at home, let alone over one made at an actual Starbucks store. I am, however, truly impressed and surprised at how good it is -- especially for an instant coffee. In fact, I would choose Via over a traditionally brewed cup of most of the mass-market grocery store brands.

Honestly, I am not enough of a daily coffee drinker to say that I will be keeping a stash of these on hand. But for those of you who are, Via may be the instant coffee option you have long been waiting for.

But I suspect my grandmother would still have stuck to her motor oil.

Sample received at Starbucks with a purchase (had a Venti Breve Hot Chocolate, if you care)