Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Maybe I don't give my parents the credit I should.
As kids, they never deprived us of having candy around the house. They just never had good candy. Inevitably, whatever they bought and stuck in the candy dishes kept around the house was cheap bulk candy that even we as little kids understood might be pretty to look at...but was probably best to avoid actually eating. (The lone exception to this rule was Christmas, when -- unless we were really poor that year -- the Palmer candies came out. That was when we got the really good stuff in the festive holiday wrappers.)
Why do I think this may have been a genius move on their part? We could never complain that we didn't get candy because we always had candy. The candy was just so bad that we never wanted to eat it.
One such treat (?) that would often hang around the old candy bowl until Christmas would be the Brach's Halloween or Autumn Mellowcreme mixes. It has been so long since I actually ate a piece of either mix that I can't really remember what they tasted like. I just remember them being extremely sweet. And since Walgreen's had this smallish bag on sale for a dollar, I thought now was as good a time as any to revisit this mix.
There are four flavors to the bag, and eight different shapes. The shapes are all autumn themed: a bundle of wheat, an ear of corn, a cat, pumpkins (one is carved, one is not), a bat, a jug, and a crescent moon. The shapes have no relation to the flavor, but the colors do. So with that in mind we'll review the flavors by color.
Dark Brown: Chocolatey
This was the flavor I remember us fighting each other to get, simply because it was "chocolate." (OK, it's not, but what did we know?)
Taste-wise it reminds me of a super-sweet Tootsie Roll. It's got a vaguely cocoa-like taste. It's kind of a letdown, because your brain sees something that looks like it should be chocolate flavored, and when it's not it's just disappointing. This flavor also absorbs -- for lack of a better way to explain it -- the flavors of the other pieces, so it becomes sort of like the sloppy seconds of the bag. And that works out about as well as it sounds like it would. Basically, ewwww.
Orange: Candy Corn
Ever notice that there are almost no reviews for candy corn on this site? There is a reason for that. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel the need to admit that I don't especially like candy corn. Other than simply "sugar," candy corn doesn't seem to have any flavor to me. But as we all know, I am often willing to take one for the team, so here I am eating something that's candy corn flavored...
So how does it taste? Like sugar that has been flavored with a little bit of vanillin. If you've ever had a single piece of candy corn in your life, you have had this. And after a couple bites, I have had enough.
This one at least has the faintest possible smell of maple. Since it is supposed to be maple flavored, that has to be somewhat of a good sign. I seem to recall these being the least popular of the mix amongst us kids. I think that probably had more to do with maple not exactly being a huge flavor with children, rather than because of the candy itself. But as an adult, I am a huge fan of maple flavored anything. So how did these stand up?
Easily the best in the bag. The maple is not the strongest maple ever put in a candy -- in fact, it's definitely on the timid side -- but I give Brach's points for at least attempting to make it taste like real maple rather than like fake pancake syrup.
This was my favorite as a kid. It is all classic fake banana flavor. Ever had a Circus Peanut? Then you have tasted this. I will give this one points for not having that nasty lingering aftertaste that some banana flavored items can have.
The texture of all the pieces is the same regardless of the flavor or color. Think of a really big, dense piece of candy corn. It's soft, yet a little crumbly. The sugar is a little grainy -- and much like candy corn, these candies seem impervious to the march of time. If these had existed in King Tut's time and he'd had a few bags interred with his mummy, I suspect they'd still be more or less edible.
Overall, I can't say that I will be getting another bag. I probably won't even finish this one. Fondant candy is just not my thing; but even with that said, it's not all that bad. It's just not all that good either.
Be sure to also check out Cybele's Candy Blog review of this mix here. She liked them more than I did.
140 calories per 6 pieces of candy.
Packaged on equipment that may contain traces of milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Ah, fall...yet another reason to love you! Among all the other things I like about fall (note: mostly because it means Halloween is here!), fall is also when a lot of new gum flavors hit the shelves. And we all know how much Gigi likes gum. (Seriously, I have 29 -- well, now 30 -- different gum reviews alone.)
I like Wrigley's 5 line as a whole. The packaging is slick, the flavors are strong, and they have good staying power. I will also grant you I may have chewed so much of the 5 Solstice that at this point I am considered an addict.
At any rate, Prism is the newest member of the 5 family. And like all the 5 gums before it, it has a cool hook to get you to chew it. In this case, the gum is watermelon flavored and is supposed to give your tongue an actual electric tingle; I guess kinda like what happens when you touch the terminals of a 9-volt battery to your tongue. (Not, of course, that I have ever done such a ridiculous thing.) As a fan of both watermelon and things that tingle, this gum had a lot of potential in my book.
First off, smelling the gum though the wrapper, you notice that it does indeed have a fake watermelon smell. It's a little sweet, a little sour -- and oddly enough, a little like banana.
The taste starts off like just about every other watermelon flavored anything. It made me think of a chewable Jolly Rancher. As you continue to chew, the flavor -- just like the smell -- becomes pure fake banana. Now, I happen to like banana flavoring (even fake), and the second favorite gum of my youth was Banana Bubblicious Bubble Gum (a flavor that has sadly long since gone to the great Flavor Graveyard in the sky). The banana flavor lasts a good twenty minutes before it starts to wane. The dying flavor starts off tasting like Banana Runts, and ends -- fittingly enough -- tasting almost like actual watermelon.
As for the "electric tingle," the gum does in fact make good on its promise and it really does tingle! It's not overly strong -- but if you have any used any adult product that promised warm tingling sensations...well, it is pretty much the edible version of that...wait, my mother reads this blog...
Disclaimer: Not that pure, innocent, naive me would have EVER used such products! Clearly, I have only heard about them from sources like commercials run during educational programming such as Jersey Shore, or maybe from my slutty friends who are bad influences on me.(*Quick side-eye glance around*) Everyone think she bought that?
Anyway, it's definitely an interesting and fun addition to the 5 line. The only negative side -- as pointed in by Gum Alert in their review (linked below) -- if you hold the gum in any one spot in your mouth for too long, it starts to burn. It's not a painful burn, but it does make you question what kind of a weird chemical Chernobyl might be building up in your mouth. But sacrifices must be made in the name of cool chewing gum, right?
Even though the flavor is more banana than watermelon, I still liked this gum enough that I'm sure I'll be buying another pack.
(Also be sure to check out Gum Alert's review here.)
5 calories per stick.
Friday, September 17, 2010
OK, I will admit I may be going a little heavy on the fall/Halloween type product reviews lately. But I think we all know what a girl boner I have for Halloween, so we are just going to humor me here.
Little Debbie seems to make somewhere around 9 zillion different products. I have reviewed a few of them. And for the most part I am indifferent to Debbie's feminine wiles (although I do have a soft spot for the differently shaped "Fancy Cakes"). I've seen the Pumpkin Delights on shelves for several years now, though I have never felt the need to try them. But as it so often does, the fact that I have never reviewed them served as a good enough reason to do it.
Pumpkin Delights are soft, filled cookies. What kind of cookie, and filled with what, are both good questions. Questions, in fact, that the product box doesn't feel the need to answer. Debbie is a chicklet of few words. But by looking at the ingredients and using the box photo as rough guides, you certainly might assume that the filling itself is actually pumpkin.
Each individually wrapped cookie looks vaguely like a pumpkin -- albeit one that has had most of its forehead cut off during some odd, possibly PMS-induced rage by the mysterious (homicidal?) Debbie. Well, looks aren't everything...and for these cookies, that is a good thing.
The smell of the cookie is nice. It has a spicy, almost pumpkin pie scent that is accented by molasses.
But how does it taste?
The cookie itself does have a pleasant molasses taste. It's a little on the sweet side, but not in a bad or overwhelming way. There's a healthy dose of cinnamon, too. There is also a hint of pumpkin flavor -- but honestly, if I didn't know to be looking for it, I can't say I would have called the taste anything other than generic "spice." The overall texture of the cookie is nice and soft.
The filling is limited to the eyes and the mouth -- note the orange, kinda cataract-looking filling cornea above -- but apart from a slight change in texture (the filling is stickier), both the filling and the cookie itself taste pretty similar.
OK, so it wasn't exactly an in-your-face pumpkin taste. But I love molasses cookies, so I still thought they were tasty enough. Honestly, they're not something I would go crazy looking for, but I wouldn't turn one down if it was offered to me.
If you're a big molasses cookie fan, you may want to try these.
150 calories per cookie.
Contains wheat, milk and eggs. May also contain tree nuts.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I'm excited about this review for two reasons:
1. It's the first "Halloween" candy review of the season! And anyone who knows me knows how much I love Halloween. Yes, I am one of those pathetic adults who will try to trick or treat...and given my height, with a good costume choice and a mask, I can totally pull it off. (Yes, I could just go buy my own candy, but that is slightly less fun.)
2. I have been trying to hunt this flavor of kiss down since way back in 2008 when Cybele reviewed it on Candy Blog (read her review here). Kinda sad that it took two years to finally get my hands on them, but better late than never.
When you open the bag, the fragrance wafts out immediately. Smelling the inside of the bag is sort of like taking a big whiff of apple-filled cereal bars that have been tinged with chocolate. Not a bad way to start things off.
I should admit I'm more a fan of the idea of caramel apples than I am of actually eating caramel apples. I don't know why. I like caramel, I like apples, I like dipping slices of apples into caramel sauce -- but you will never catch me gnawing on a whole caramel covered apple. And that said, I also love the thought of a caramel apple flavored kiss.
The kiss itself is the larger, molded and filled style kiss rather than the smaller traditional extruded kiss. Which makes sense, because of course these are filled kisses.
The caramel that fills the center is quite fluid and readily spills out. Don't expect a thicker, more solid, chewy type of caramel -- this is more like what you'd use as a dessert topping. The caramel itself has a nice sweet flavor. I have to agree with Cybele in that I didn't pick up any of the burnt sugar or buttery flavors one expects from caramel either, but it has enough of a caramel-type taste that you get the idea.
It's the apple flavor that I really liked. I won't say it's the most natural apple flavor out there, but it's good. It's not too sweet and at the same time it isn't bitter. It reminded me a lot of the apple flavoring used in oatmeals.
The apple combined with the caramel actually makes it easy to down several of these kisses at a time. The only thing that keeps you from snarfing the entire bag too quickly is the chocolate. Granted, it's not bad chocolate -- it's just the boring, standard issue Hershey's milk chocolate. It's cool on the tongue, a little grainy, and a little too sweet. Still, all in all, this is one of the best of the special edition kisses.
Also back in stores (or at least Target) for fall are the Pumpkin Spice and Candy Corn kisses.
190 calorie per 9 pieces.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Snickerdoodles are one of those cookies that people seem to either love or hate. I am in the love crowd, and I do mean love. If you have never had one still warm and fresh from the oven, with the aroma of heated cinnamon Eskimo-kissing your nose, then it is quite possible you have not fully lived.
Ben & Jerry's latest limited edition flavor is the autumn-friendly Snickerdoodle Cookie. It is a butter and cinnamon flavored ice cream base with chunks of -- you guessed it -- snickerdoodle cookies.
I think the choice of a butter flavored base was interesting. I have always like the butter flavored part of butter pecan ice creams. I am just not a fan of the actual pecans, even though I like pecans otherwise. (In one of the quirks that makes Gigi, as much as I like nuts by themselves, I hate nuts in ice cream.) So I was looking forward to enjoying the butter flavor without having to worry about avoiding nuts.
But how did it taste? Well, the butter is more like essence of butter. Don't expect the full-on rich, almost salty flavor that you would get from, say, a butter pecan ice cream. This is more subtle and creamy. And in addition to the cinnamon, there also seems to be a hint of nutmeg. It actually reminded me a lot of a less custardy egg nog flavor. Truly delicious by itself.
Aaaah, but it's not by itself. No indeed, it is chock full of hunks (because "chunks" does not convey how large some of the pieces of cookies are) of snickerdoodle cookies. The cookies are full of cinnamon and brown sugar. They crumble up just a little and add a small hit of salt that brings all other the flavors out a little more.
This is truly one of the best flavors ever to come out of Vermont -- and I do not say that lightly. In fact, I beg those good people in Vermont to just forget the whole "Limited Batch" thing and add it the core line. This was truly amazing.
Be sure to check out Rodzilla's review here. I liked it a little more than he did...but that just means more for me!
230 calories per 1/2 cup.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I may be a diehard Coke drinker, but I really have to give Pepsi props for their continuing use of real sugar over HFCS in special editions of their products.
Sierra Mist is a relatively new member of the Pepsi family, having been launched in 1999 (to replace lemon-lime Slice) and gone national in 2003 or so. With that in mind, since there was never a version made with sugar, it was clear that they couldn't call this part of the Throwback line. Instead, it is joining Pepsi Natural as a new Natural edition. And let's be honest: the very name "Sierra Mist" already sort of conjures up a kind of crunchy, hippie vibe for me anyway.
I should also be honest, that while I looooooooove the Sierra Mist Diet Ruby Splash, I have never been a huge fan of the original Sierra Mist. For me it's been because the carbonation has always seemed on the flat side -- which I normally like, but in this case it does nothing for me. The lemon-lime flavor seems a bit diluted, and I tend to think there's a funky aftertaste. Sorry guys, but I prefer the stronger, more carbonated Sprite Zero, or even regular HFCS sweetened Sprite better. But how could I resist giving Sierra Mist a second chance when it was made with real sugar?
So how did it taste?
Well, better than hippie bathwater, I will give it that...
Okay, seriously though, all the things I already did not love about the "old" Sierra Mist are still present and accounted for in the Natural version. The lemon-lime flavor is still more muted than I prefer it to be -- but I do have to give it credit at the same time for tasting cleaner and crisper than its HFCS-sweetened sibling. Had it just been stronger, I would have really liked it.
The carbonation is beyond light. When you pour the soda it does foam up, but almost immediately the bubbles die down and the carbonation level drops to almost nonexistent.
I will also give points to the Natural version for managing to do away with the funky aftertaste that I think the "normal" version has -- although I am pretty sure that aftertaste was caused by the HFCS to begin with.
All in all, as much as I applaud the use of actual sugar, I still can't say I am a fan of Sierra Mist...although if I had to drink it, this is the version I would pick.
Be sure to also check out BevReview's take -- which is chock full of info on changes being made to the Sierra Mist line, plus news on the return of the seasonal Cranberry Lime flavor.
100 calories per 8 ounces.
Caffeine free. No artificial ingredients, colors, flavors or preservatives.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
I have been trying to hunt down a bottle of Broguiere's chocolate milk since December. Broguiere's is a local independent dairy that actually does have their own store located in Montebello. But that isn't close to me, and the thought of bringing milk home on the roughly 34 mile drive, in my air conditioning-free car (I would like to tell you I am AC-free because I am going green, but in reality I am just going ghetto) is not terribly appealing. So I have been waiting for it to appear, as it does occasionally, at my local Vons supermarket. The problem is that it is just so good -- and in short supply -- that I've been told it sells out literally within hours of being stocked. And short of stalking the delivery guy, I have just never managed to get there while it was still on the shelf.
Well, I got lucky today!
Long time readers know I am actually lactose intolerant, and by far the single most painful dairy product for me to consume is straight milk. With that in mind, you are probably wondering why I have gone so out of my way for chocolate milk, of all things.
Well, first of all, I have to tell you to read my December review of Broguiere's Vitamin D Whole Milk. That review will answer such questions. Even Broguiere's "plain" milk was simply the best milk I have ever tasted. Couple that with the fact that there are literally hundreds of mini-reviews out there in cyberspace on their chocolate milk and how amazing it is, and I simply could not resist.
If the hype is to be believed, the Broguiere's Chocolate Milk is so good that if Robert Pattinson were somehow able to magically lactate, not only would that milk be glittery (of course) and chocolate flavored, and could gave you eternal youth and goodness -- and even the tiniest of sips would be able to make all the prurient dreams of even the most rabid Twihard cougars come true -- even that still would somehow manage not to be as awesome as the stuff that comes out of Broguiere Farm's mere dairy cows.
Could it even be possible for regular old chocolate milk to be that good? I will be the judge of that, thank you very much.
First, let's talk about the color. Pooled inside the old fashioned heavy glass bottle is a chocolate milk that is so dark that it is the same color as chocolate ice cream. When you pour it, it is so thick that it actually leaves a film that coats the sides of the glass. Contrast that with the HFCS-laden commercial ready-to-drink chocolate milks we are used to, which tend to be made with 2% (or even non-fat) milk, and are so thin that the texture is almost watery. No wonder this milk is even labeled "extra creamy."
And let me tell you, it lives up to the hype! It is so creamy that it's almost like drinking a non-frozen milk shake. It's thick and rich, and like good ice cream (or the regular whole milk) it leaves a luscious fatty film in your mouth.
The chocolate flavor, again, is more like high quality chocolate ice cream than any chocolate milk you're likely to have had before. It's deep and has a very Dutch cocoa quality to it. In fact, this was the first time I have ever had a ready-made chocolate milk and not wished that more chocolate syrup had been added. No indeed, it's perfect as is. It's not too sweet, and at the same time there is no bitterness.
I feel safe to say you will probably never try a better chocolate milk, EVER. I just don't think it's possible. The only remotely negative thing I can say about it is that I am sad that since it's a natural lactose filled milk, I can't drink it whenever I want. (Although, in the interest of fair play, should Robert Pattinson in fact start lactating glittering chocolate milk, I guess I am fairly obligated at this point to review it, just to be sure. Oh, the things I will do for you people...)
Plagiarizing from myself here, but...I know that for those of you outside of Southern California, this review may be something of a tease. But you ought to search out local dairies in your own area that sell products like this. The difference between this and the highly processed milk you're probably used to drinking is amazing, and worth whatever it takes to hunt it down.
$5.39 per quart bottle (price includes $2 bottle deposit, which is refundable when empty bottle is returned).
None on the bottle, but the cap advises you to call (323) 726-0524 for nutritional info.
Talk about old school...if they have a web site, I couldn't find it. But they do have a Yelp page here, most of whose reviews are even droolier than mine!
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Dear People of Greece: Thank you so much for continuing to create delicious dishes that consist of phyllo dough filled with amazingly good stuff.
I was kind of surprised when I realized that I hadn't reviewed these yet. I have loved the Trader Joe's manitaropita for years, and they are one of my TJ's staples, but somehow they flew under the review radar until now. And we all know how much I like appetizers or finger foods as dinner, so I figured it was high time I wrote about this.
The easiest way to explain what manitaropita is might be to tell you to think of spanakopita...except rather than the puff pastry being filled with spinach and feta cheese, it's filled with mushrooms in a white wine sauce.
Trader Joe's manitaropita needs to be baked in the oven. The package specifically says not to microwave them -- and having done that out of laziness once, I can tell you that the package's admonition is a wise one.
No worries, though, because baking them is as simple as it sounds. Just pre-heat the oven and then toss them in. They only take about 10 minutes to bake. The phyllo dough (and really, does it take much more then phyllo dough to make something good?) rises to golden, flaky happiness. The many paper-thin layers add a nice crunch and interesting texture.
Trader Joe is generous with the mushroom filling -- which is a good thing, as the filling is excellent. The mushrooms are remarkably non-rubbery and have a rich, almost beefy taste.
The mushrooms are done in a white wine sauce. The sauce itself actually has a delicate, lightly herbed taste. If I had to pick out a single spice that stands out, I would have to say it's oregano. Just think of it! Mushrooms, white wine, oregano...all stewed together and encased in flaky phyllo...if the very notion doesn't bring a smile to your face, don't complain to me: complain to a doctor!
This is truly one of my favorite Trader Joe's products. It's satisfying as a meal on its own, and I would also be very pleased to serve them to company as an appetizer.
80 calories per piece.
Made on equipment shared with eggs and tree nuts, at a facility that processes peanuts, fish and shellfish.