Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I admit it. I, Gigi, still have the fever for the flavor of a Pringle.
Yes, that is a waaaaaayyy old slogan, long since banished to the Island of Outdated Marketing. But that should also tell you how often I actually buy Pringles. I admit to having a rather torrid love affair with the Loaded Baked Potato flavor, but truth be told, you don't see many chip reviews here because I just don't snack on them all that often.
During my last visit to New York -- and subsequent trek to New Jersey to visit my sister from another mother, Net -- she got me hooked not only on Herr's Puff'n Corn (which, in homage to South Park, I simply refer to as "Cheesy Poofs") but also the Pringles Multigrain Truly Original flavor. So, when I saw that my local supermarket had Pringles on sale for the obscenely low price of $1.25, I figured now was as good as any a time to indulge -- purely for the the sake of a review, of course.
It might have been helpful had I bothered to read the tube I grabbed before taking it home. Because instead of getting the Truly Original flavor, I ended up with Cheesy Cheddar. That was OK, though...I mean, we all know I like cheese. So it wasn't what I was expecting...that was my fault, not Pringles'.
The Multigrain Pringles, while still the same size as the regular Pringles, are about half as thick -- which I like, because it sets them apart from their potato siblings. I also like that they are thinner than Sun Chips. And I liked the difference in the texture. I recall the Truly Original flavor had a taste very similar to Sun Chips. As a big fan of Sun Chips, this was also a good thing. And I also happen to like Sun Chips Harvest Cheddar, so I would not have minded if the Multigrain Cheesy Cheddar Pringles had shared some of the same flavors.
Yeah, that WOULD have been nice...
The problem is that the "cheddar" flavor overwhelms the Multigrain taste. The cheese is present in a powdered form that takes up large patches of the chips' surfaces. It's not a truly bad flavor -- it's really the same salty, Day-Glo orange colored, cheese-type flavor found on every chip that Pringles makes. My complaint with it in this instance is that it's the only flavor you taste. None of the Multigrain chip base comes through. And that's a shame, because if the two flavors had been able to combine, I bet they would have been great. So I guess we can chalk this up to a good idea, ruined by poor execution.
If you are a fan of the cheddar (and just the cheddar) this may well be the chip for you. Personally...not so much.
140 calories per 1 ounce (approximately 16 chips)
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I think we all know by now that if there is a marshmallow type product out there, I will try it. I like them plain, I like them flavored. I liked them chocolate covered. Heck, in a move that surprises everyone, including me, I even like them coconut covered.
So when I saw the new Jet-Puffed SwirlMallows, I had to try them. I picked up a bag of Caramel & Vanilla flavor. (Research showed me that there is also a Chocolate & Vanilla option out there -- and I would have gotten those as well, had I seen them.)
I warn you up front: you will smell the fake caramel aroma right through the plastic bag. In fact, the aroma is so strong that if you are within about three feet of them you will smell them. It's that too-sweet smell that caramel flavored items tend to have, rather than the nice burnt sugar smell of real caramel. Naturally, this was kind of off-putting. I am not exactly expecting hand made artisan caramel here, but the smell is just cloying. It reminded me of cheap air freshener.
They are cute enough, however, with the light brown striping on the outside and tan splotches on the inside.
So, how does it taste? As always with marshmallow products, I tried them both "raw" and "toasted."
RAW: It tastes remarkably like a regular old marshmallow -- except that it does have that "caramel flavor" added to it. It's sort of as if the marshmallows had been lightly soaked in the type of commercial syrup used to flavor coffee. It's not a bad taste, but it's a little stronger than I would like. Kinda forgettable, really.
TOASTED: OK, let me be honest here -- I do not merely "toast" my marshmallows. I incinerate them! I do this to all marshmallows that I eat cooked. I happen to like the crunch and the charred taste that setting them afire and letting them burn beyond recognition brings. And of course that also makes for a really cool flaming marshmallow photo. (Do not try this at home, kids -- I am a somewhat skilled professional.)
(In retrospect, using a real flame on them may have been overkill. The temperature here in my cheerful Southern California town reached 113 degrees F yesterday -- which is 45 degrees Celsius, for my overseas readers -- so I probably could have just left them on the balcony and waited for them to spontaneously combust in the sunlight. Or at least melt into a puddle of disgusting goo. Or both. But let's be honest...playing with fire is just more fun, isn't it?)
Anyway, the flavor rounds out much better when they're toasted. The caramel taste is still present, but it seems more toned down and more like "real" caramel...which it might indeed be, given the carbonized sugar that results. In either case, toasted is definitely the better way to eat them.
I'd be lying to you if I didn't admit that the bag has been snacked out of on a pretty steady clip since I got them. Are they my favorite marshmallows ever? No -- that honor still goes to Vosges for their Caramel Marshmallows -- but I certainly would not complain if a bag "magically" made its way into my shopping basket again.
Be sure to check out Jess's review of the Chocolate & Vanilla variety here.
100 Calories per 4 pieces
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
One of the many perks of having both a food review blog and friends who travel, is that said friends are often nice enough to bring back foreign treats for me to review.
My friend Jess, for example, recently got back from an amazing month of studying art in Italy. (Jess will someday be a famous artist -- and when she is, I will be able to brag that she once brought me candy.) While she didn't jump at the chance to put me in her suitcase and smuggle my lame passportless butt out of the country, she did very generously bring me back some tasty offerings.
One of those goodies was this package of Ferrero Pocket Espresso To Go.
Now, I am already a fan of Ferrero Pocket Coffee candies (as opposed to these little mini-drinks). I've never done a review of those myself, but I love them. Cybele did both a review and an "Eat With Your Eyes" post, which you can see here and here.
Anyway, Jess -- being the cool person that she is -- saw these and thought of me.
Both Pocket treats are espresso based and both contain dark chocolate. Where they differ is that while Pocket Coffee is a liquid-filled candy, Pocket Espresso is actually all liquid and is meant to be drunk via the universe's cutest, tiniest straw!
Basically, Pocket Espresso is the world's tiniest coffee pod/juice box type product. Think of those little plastic packets in any diner or fast food joint that contain condiments, and you've got the size and shape. There's no denying that I love this product based on its packaging alone...but as we all know, the really important question this is: how does it taste?
I can understand why the pods are so tiny -- it's a small package, but it packs a BIG caffeine punch! The texture of the liquid is somewhere between actual espresso and chocolate syrup. It's not as thick as syrup, but not at the same time it's not as thin as coffee.
Tastewise: Again, that same comparison works pretty well. It's got that deep, dark roasted flavor that, while not as complex as a good espresso, is as good as one could ever hope that a coffee-flavored candy would get. Complementing the coffee is dark chocolate. It's a little woodsy, and not terribly sweet.
Let me tell you, these things may sound kind of odd but they were really good. I think the portion was perfect -- if it was any bigger, you'd probably be bouncing off the wall. If I had more of these, I would have liked to have tried chilling one (although I wonder if it would have caused it to thicken too much to suck out through the straw). And I think it would be killer poured over ice cream.
Like most things Italian, I have to say this was pretty awesome! (OK, I will grant you I am biased to all things Italian.)
Gift from my super cool friend Jess.
47 calories per pod.
Does not appear to be available in the United States...but who knows, maybe you'll get lucky and find it at an import shop. As the label is entirely in Italian and my Italian sucks, I am unsure if this contains any possible allergens.
Friday, August 20, 2010
It may may have been a hot and cruel summer for the rest of the country, but summer came late to Southern California this year. And now that it's here, as far as I am concerned it can go away again. I'm sorry, but there is just something wrong when it's so hot inside your apartment that the back of your thighs are sticking to the sofa cushions...and the sofa is cloth upholstered...and the AC is running full blast! If that doesn't scream "ice cream for dinner weather," I don't know what does.
OK, maybe I really just wanted to have ice cream for dinner. Don't judge me.
Earlier in the summer, Ben & Jerry's partnered up with Target to offer the special, Target-exclusive flavors of Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder. If you didn't get the hint of the names, they are part of a program that Ben & Jerry's is sponsoring with Volunteermatch.org called Scoop It Forward. Basically, if you visit that website and volunteer your time and service to the local charity of your choice, Ben & Jerry's will reward you with free ice cream. Now how cool is that?
It probably would have been selfish of me to simply eat the ice cream and not volunteer my time for something. So, with that in mind, I have actually voluntarily appointed myself to be the official Food Blogger Spokesperson for Lupus. As someone who lives with lupus, I will grant that I am biased towards finding new treatment options and ultimately a cure. (I actually am planning a post around that, but please feel free to send questions my way in the meantime.)
Well, since I have been such a good person, I have earned some ice cream...right?
I decided to start with Berry Voluntary. I love most raspberry flavored items -- and how could I not love raspberry flavored ice cream?
Berry Voluntary has a raspberry cheesecake flavored base with white chocolate chunks and a raspberry swirl. The base has a purple-tinged color. The raspberry is nice and soft. It's not too sour, and tastes pretty natural. I also like the fact that it's raspberry cheesecake. The "cheesecake" portion keeps the flavor a little tart and tangy. In fact, it reminded me of frozen Greek yogurt. The raspberry swirl was my favorite part. I will admit that it tastes like every other raspberry swirl on the planet -- which is to say a little sweet and almost candylike, but I happen to like that taste.
As for the white chocolate... (sigh) why must it always be white chocolate? Indiana Jones has snakes, and I have white chocolate.
Never let it be said that I won't take one for the team, however. Because it's Ben & Jerry's, the chunks of white chocolate are ginormous (which, to be honest, also made them easy to avoid). Honestly, I have a hard time really giving an opinion here because I just don't like white chocolate to begin with. It's got a good texture, there's some nice snap. It's the taste that I just don't like. It has that kinda vanilla-like, mostly just sugary oil taste that all white chocolate has to me. I suppose if you're a fan of white chocolate, it'll be just fine. But if you're like me...well, I did mention that the chunks are huge and thus easy to avoid.
Even with the white chocolate I still really liked this flavor. It's definitely worth picking up next time you're at a Target store.
Be sure to check out Marvo's review of both of the Target-exclusive flavors here.
250 calories per 1/2 cup
Friday, August 13, 2010
You long-time readers out there probably know that today is one of the few days of the year that I ask you to indulge me; and instead of talking about the yummy foods and snacky deliciousness that I normally do, I instead wish to take a minute to remember my grandmother who passed away nine years ago today.
I know most people think that their grandmothers are candidates for sainthood. But I am pretty sure that if anyone has actually attained it, it's her.
In years past, I have tried to keep this post light and brief. Part of it is denial on my part. I won't lie to you guys -- August 14th is the single most dreaded day of the year for me. I have tried for nine long years now to wish this day into the cornfield, and as of yet am not having a whole lot of luck with it.
No matter how many times I have gone through it...no matter how many times I have told myself it is just one day out of the year -- and it's not like it exactly sneaks up on me -- it's like an annual sucker punch to the gut. My grandmother's passing was not the first death I had to deal with, nor was it the last. It is, however, the one that still shakes me.
Maybe it's because I always thought that there would be more time. Her mother (my great-grandmother) lived to one hundred, and maybe that had all of us spoiled with the hope that we would get the same kind of time with my grandmother as well. But I know that even if we had been so lucky, her not being here would hurt just as much.
Somehow, despite our fondest hopes, there is never as much time as we want there to be.
I try to remember all the wonderful things she shared. If not for her influence on my early eating habits, Gigi Reviews might never have existed. She was never afraid to try new things (well, as long as they did not contain any form of poultry), and she encouraged me always to try something at least once. She loved red wines and dark chocolates -- by themselves, and yes, sometimes even together. She adored lobster in any way possible, and she began each day with a cup of the universe's worst, most vile black instant coffee.
I am not the most religious person ever. Truthfully, I am one of those people who want scientific proof for as much as possible. And with that in mind, I can't honestly begin to guess where she might be right now. I like to think that where ever she is, she's young and healthy and strong. That she gets to spend her days reading the cheesy romance novels she loved -- that is, when she's not busy doing an extra-hard jigsaw puzzle. Or maybe that she gets to spend her time decorating for perpetual Christmas. She loved to decorate -- she was one of those people who would start putting things up the second the turkey was out of the oven on Thanksgiving. I hope her nights are spent dancing to big band music and that she has a big pot of red clam sauce on the stove at all times. I like to think she and my great-grandmother are continuing to drive each other crazy like they did for the 75 years they shared on Earth. I hope she somehow gets to see all the things she's not here for, and that she knows how much she has been missed for all of the nine years, or 3,287 days (if you wanna get picky) that she has been gone. All of those wishful things may only exist in a little pocket I have created for her in a corner of my cold black heart (which I got from my great-grandmother -- who, as much as I loved her too, was definitely not a candidate for sainthood), and if that's the case, I suppose that's still not so bad. At the very least, it means a part of her lives on in the way those of us who remember her choose how to do it.
Every year, regardless of anything else that is going on, I stop and have a glass of wine for her (and lobster if I can swing it). So, if you have a moment and some wine, or some lobster, or some chocolate, or whatever suits you -- please say a Salute! in memory of Tina.
And because I have not quite hit my sappy quota for the year just yet, I leave you with a fitting song by the great Barry Manilow.
I love you, Grandma Tina.
Monday, August 9, 2010
It's funny how even when it's still in English, some food names can be completely different in different places. Here in the U.S. when we hear "flapjacks," most of us immediately think about pancakes. Apparently in the U.K., Flapjacks can actually refer to a popular type of snack item.
My thanks once again to Cinabar of Foodstuff Finds for sending me this pack of McVitie's Snickers Flapjacks. I have been dying to try them since I read Jim's review back in October of last year (see it here).
Jim, to be fair, didn't like the Snicker's Flapjack all that much -- but he did say that it had a really good nutty smell. He also said they had an almost too moist, crumbly texture. But I happen to have a soft spot for that particular kind of texture (I am weird, I know).
Anyway, the package contains five individually wrapped bars.
Each bar is slightly longer and just a touch thinner than one of our "Fun Size" Snickers bars. The chocolate topping is much lighter in color than you'd guess from the packaging illustration -- in fact, it's almost a butterscotch color. And as Jim said it would, the bar does indeed have a very strong nutty smell. Looking at the bar I couldn't help but think that it looks like a hunk of chocolate (or butterscotch?) covered particle board. It's a taupe-colored mishmash of grainy looking bits, studded with peanuts. It is far from what one would call a pretty bar.
Looks aside, how did it taste?
Fortunately, it did not taste like something cheap furniture is built of. It is super moist -- moist to the point that it falls apart the moment you bite into it. The main flavors seem to be peanuts and oats. The chocolate, incidentally, may look like butterscotch, but it doesn't taste like it. It actually tastes just like any other commercial, mass market milk chocolate. It melts very easily, and while I have a feeling that on its own I would say it's too sweet, here it added a much needed kick. Without the sweetness of the chocolate, the oats would be too bland and the nuts would have nothing to jazz them up.
Also oddly missing from the Flapjack was any trace of caramel. Why is that? Caramel is such an important part of a classic Snickers bar that I don't get how they could possibly skip it here.
It's sort of hard to rate these. As a chocolate/peanut/oat flavored snack cake, they really aren't bad. I did like the texture, and I liked the fact that the cakes are just sweet enough without going overboard. On the other hand, as a Snickers flavored item, they are an epic fail. There's no caramel, and it just doesn't much seem like a Snickers bar at all.
In the end, I think I am going to just split the difference and go with:
Gift from Cinabar of Foodstuff Finds
167 Calories per Flapjack.
Contains peanuts, milk, soy, gluten, and is processed on equipment that also handles eggs and nuts.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Once again I have to give a shout out of thanks to the amazing Cinabar of Foodstuff Finds for sending me gobs of goodies from the U.K.
Today's reviewed item has been quite the world traveler. Snickers Pods are not a U.K. item, but are actually a product of Mars Australia. So, before it was even opened, this package made the trip from Australia -- well, to be picky, they are actually made in New Zealand -- to an import shop in Cinabar's corner of the U.K. Then from the U.K. it flew all the way to Southern California. All of which means that these Pods went (using nearest major cities to give you a better geographic picture) from Auckland, New Zealand, to London, England, to Los Angeles, California. That's a grand total of 16,846 air miles -- or 27,111 air kilometers -- just so I can get my chance to get my nom-noms on. (Wait...did that sound unprofessional? I meant to phrase that as: So I can have my chance to try yet another hopefully amazing foreign delicacy. That sounded better, right?)
I could not resist, though. As soon as I read Cinabar's review of the Pods (here), I had to try them. First, because I am just an all-around a fan of Snickers. Secondly (and to be honest, this was my main reason), there is just something about them that screams Scooby Snack! I can't explain why that is, but something in my mind just thinks if there was ever a human version of a Scooby Snack, these Pods would be it.
The Pods consist of a crunchy hemispheric shell that is full of a caramelly Snickers-type filling, and topped with chocolate.
So what do they taste like?
The wafer reminded me slightly sweeter, sugar cone style ice cream cone.
The center has a very thin layer of yellowish creme. It looks like caramel shown on the package (though not nearly as thick as the picture would indicate). That layer is where the peanut flavor and the caramel flavor reside. It's interesting because there is no mistaking the nuttiness -- it's just as present as it is in an actual Snickers bar -- but the creme is perfectly smooth, and there are no actual nut pieces to be found.
The chocolate layer is thicker than I was expecting. It's as perfectly smooth and creamy as any Mars chocolate ever is. The only thing I can say is that it does have that sweeter taste that many mass-market chocolates made outside of the U.S. tend to have.
I actually really liked these Pods. The added crunchy texture to the classic Snickers taste was a good combination. I would definitely buy these if I could get them on a regular basis.
Gift from Cinabar of Foodstuff Finds.
545 kilojoules per 25 grams. (I have no idea how many calories that equals.)
May contain tree nuts and barley.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Confession time: as much as I love cake (and I looooooovvvve cake!), I can't say that I have much -- make that NO -- desire to actually bake one from scratch. Oh, I am perfectly happy to make boxed cake mixes, but the moment sifting gets thrown in, I am pretty much over it. I realize it's not that much extra work. I just don't want to do it.
That said, even baking from the box...well, it happens maybe once every couple of months. I have to admit it was the rather tasty-looking cake porn on the box that got me to buy this mix in the first place.
This is a chocolate cake mix that has not only chunks of chocolate, but also hidden fudgy patches. The cake pictured on the box also features a lush-looking chocolate glaze (not included). And while the store did in fact have pretty much any type of frosting or glaze I could ever hope for...well, here is Confession #2: I do not like frosting. I know, I know. I don't completely understand it either. If given my way, I would never eat frosted cake again. Don't get me wrong; I don't hate it, I don't go as far as not having cake if it's frosted, nor do I scrape the frosting off. It's just that given my choice, I'll skip it.
You basically make this mix as you would any other boxed mix -- except that there is an extra step of mixing the fudgy stuff in a second bowl, and holding that off to the side until you have the cake mix in the pan. Then you add little dollops of the fudge here and there.
So, after all of that, how did it taste?
Sort of like the love child of chocolate cake mix and brownie mix. The cake bakes like any other cake, but the little fudge dollops you have added stay moist. If you have had "lava cake" in a restaurant, the effect is much the same.
I can see where a lot of people will end up loving this cake. For me, though, I found myself wanting one extreme or the other. By that I mean that it didn't exactly satisfy the cake fix I was looking for, and yet the little fudge patches made me want brownies!
It's as moist and chocolatey as you could ever hope for a boxed mix to be. But I think I just prefer my cakes a little more old school.