Monday, June 29, 2009

Trader Joe's Pumpernickel Pretzel Sticks

I haven't seen pumpernickel sticks in years. I swear, they have everything at Trader Joe's!

My Dad used to like them. I remember he had what I still regard as a gross habit of "dipping" them in liverwurst or braunschweiger (another type of liverwurst). Actually, until I saw these rods at Trader Joe's, I had managed to suppress that memory fairly successfully for about 15 years... hmmmm,thanks, Trader Joe's!

Anyway... The TJ's Versions are roughly 4 inches long and half an inch thick. The slightly glossy outer shells are studded with rock salt. The rods are very crunchy and have a coarse texture.

In case you didn't know, Pumpernickel is a type of very dark rye bread. These pretzels, while seed free, do have a very strong rye flavor. They pretzels also have a really noticeable onion flavor (although since onion is listed on the ingredient list, it's not like we need Scooby Doo to solve the mystery). Looking at the rods you may worry they would be too salty because there are A LOT of salt crystals--but it balances out really well.

These would also be great dipped in onion dip or used as croutons. My Dad can keep the liver.

Trader Joe's

Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt: Cantaloupe

It has been really hot here in good old SoCal the last couple of days. And when it's this hot, I like my snacks to be light and refreshing (and usually ice creamy). Yogurt is always a good go-to snack, and there are enough flavors out there I could probably do an entire blog just on that. (But I won't, so don't worry).

Well, Dannon has added melon flavors to their Light & Fit line. Nice!

Color-wise, it reminded me of a chunk-free version of In-N-Out's burger dressing. In fact, just looking at it made me want a Double Double more than I wanted yogurt. A more poetic way to describe it would have be to say that it is a lovely orange chiffon shade. Kinda like something Blanche would have worn on The Golden Girls.

As for the flavor? I liked it. They actually did make it taste exactly like a sweet ripe slice of cantaloupe. It even has that vaguely banana/rose water taste that cantaloupe has. There is just a slight tang from the yogurt. (Come to think of it, this would make a fantastic smoothie base.) I was really impressed at how natural it tastes. I was worried that it would either taste like bad candy or have a vile after taste from the artificial sweeteners, but those fears were unfounded.

Thankfully, this is not a fruit-on-the-bottom type of yogurt. I love fruit on the bottom, but I can't imagine that cantaloupe would hold up very well. The texture is very smooth, but it's neither rich nor creamy...but since this is a fat free, low calorie yogurt, I didn't expect it to be. The only thing I didn't really care for is the consistency. It is very runny. (In that context, I definitely prefer Yoplait's low cal/fat options.) But even with the thinness of the yogurt, it still tasted pretty good and I would certainly get it again.

Albertsons Supermarket

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Second Helpings 6-28-09

Another week, another set of great reviews from other sites!

The first shout out has got to go to Marvo at The Impulsive Buy, and is a testament to both his sense of humor and the power of peer pressure. Yep, the intrepid Marvo actually reviewed The Comfort Wipe! And I have to give him special props for being the first person to really make me laugh in a week.

Cake Wrecks took us at light speed to the greatest Star Wars cakes in the Galaxy.

Jim reviewed Reber Mozartkuglen, which are a way yummy-sounding truffle that has my all time favorite marzipan.

Chocoblog reviewed some of the fantastic looking caramels Amella has to offer.

Possessed By Caffeine
revealed the freaky Lighting Rod Beef Stick. Who would have thought of putting caffeine in a beef stick? (More importantly, can they get it in a cheese log?)

And lastly, speaking of cheese...

Snackeriffic reviewed Cheese Jerky (which sadly did not contain caffeine).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Wedges

What first caught my eye about this candy was the packaging.

I love pretty much any little tin/canister, and I have been known to buy things just to reuse the container. Isn't it still recycling if you sometimes didn't want the original contents? Besides, being the friend to the environment that I am, the other thing that caught my eye about this candy was that it also features ancho and chipotle chilis and Korintiji cinnamon. With that combination, the chocolate could have been wrapped in sweaty old socks and I would still be wanting to try it.

The chocolates themselves are just as cute as the packaging. There are two layers of wedge-shaped pieces. Each piece is roughly 2 inches long and about half an inch thick.

The chocolate is a 70% dark. The melt is not what I would call chalky, but it is not completely smooth either. It's rich with coffee notes and is just dark enough that the bitter edge comes through, but without making you wish you'd gone for something sweeter instead.

What I really liked about the wedges is that there is no mistaking that the spices are there. The cinnamon is the one that really stands out in terms of flavor, but there actually is a subtle and lingering mild heat. I tried to pick out the individual flavors of the chilis or the cinnamon, but to be honest, after several wedges I really couldn't.

While these wedges were really great to snack on, what I really want to do with them is try them melted over ice cream cream -- or used as an ice cream mix-in!

Trader Joe's

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jack In The Box Taco Nachos

I have had one of the worst weeks of my life. And let me tell you, it's kind of sad that one of the few highlights has been the Taco Nachos from Jack.

The nachos consist of two of Jack's classic fried mystery meat tacos that have been cut into pieces on a bed of lettuce and topped with jalapenos and nacho cheese.

Let's be brutally honest: there is very little here that in reality should be remotely attractive. There is no grace to the presentation. It's greasy, it's congealed. AM/PM nachos look better.

Let's break it down layer by layer.

The lettuce on the very bottom is purely ornamental. It's a thin layer, and what is there is wilted.

The taco layer: The tacos are striped down to merely meat and shell. The meat, which is beef, is rather nondescript. It's ground beef, but there is no distinguishable texture, or even flavor. It's just vaguely meaty. The corn shells have been deep fried and soaked in the nacho cheese to the point they are soft and floppy.

The jalapenos are nice, crunchy and "raw." They add a good hit of heat without being too spicy for the masses.

The nacho cheese: Once again I am going to show my age. It reminded me of a less orange version of the cheese served on nachos found at roller skating rinks everywhere. You know, the kind that came in a big ass tin can and was simply marked "cheese."

All of these layers together should, by all rights, form some of holy union of suck. But by some weird wave of the Universe's magic wand, these nachos are actually about seven different kinds of awesome. I can't explain how it is all so good together. It's practically not even food. But somehow it just works.

Marvo also tried them- read his review HERE


Jack In The Box

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thank You

Last week, I shared with all of you the sad news of the untimely passing of my stepmother Mary.

Here we sit at the one week anniversary of that occasion.

I said at that time that when I was able to, that I would share a little about her with you. And there are about a million things I would love to say...but honestly, I am just not ready to really talk yet. There will come a time, but for now I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you.

I have gotten comments and emails from people around the world, and I am not sure I will ever be able to thank you all enough. Thank you to all of you for being there for me with kind words and virtual hugs.

Thank you for being patient since there have been no new reviews/Tweets, etc. Over the next few days I will be getting new posts and Tweets up, and things will start returning to normal.

Thank you all again! It has really meant more then I may ever be able to say.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Starbucks Raspberry Sunrise Lowfat Muffin

What is it about muffins that make them so good?

Oh's EVERYTHING about them! But why isn't the same true of low-fat muffins? It's not that they are necessarily bad -- kinda like the Ewoks at the beginning of Jedi. It's just that they don't always end up being good (kinda like the Ewoks at the end of Jedi).

The problem is usually that the cake tends to be far oilier than that of a normal muffin, and somehow, in my mind, greasy and low-fat shouldn't mingle.

The Raspberry Sunrise muffin is no exception to that rule, but it tastes so good that I have no problem overlooking it. The base batter is lemon flavored -- and we all know I love lemon anything. There is even a reasonably natural citrusy bitterness. The raspberries are what really make this muffin. The raspberries comes in via little patches that are actual whole berries.

The berries are great! Fresh and sweet. The seeds add a great little unexpected crunch. The fact that they used real berries over jam (or just raspberry flavoring) makes the whole thing hugely better than expected of a ready made, low fat muffin. And that's just the kind of surprise I like.

Fantastic muffin!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rachel's Cottage Cheese Cucumber Dill

Cottage cheese is one of those foods that I think I should like, but I never seem to. And I'm not sure why that is -- I mean really, what's not to like? It's creamy, it's kinda-sorta cheesy. It's reasonably good for you. So what's the problem?

The problem is that it's...well, kind of gross. For one thing, it looks like scrambled brains. I imagine that cottage cheese is the preferred snack food of health conscious Zombies.

When I saw the Rachel's on the shelf, I thought that the flavor combination of cucumber & dill might help over come the 'eek' factor. I love tzatziki and, and since this actually did seem (remotely) similar, I thought it might just be the perfect snack.

I think I'd been expecting the cottage cheese to be studded with chunks of cucumber and shards of dill. But instead, all I found at first were large milky white curds.

After giving the curds a swirl, the excess liquid dissolved -- which is good. I really hate watery cottage cheese. I thought I gave the container a good stir, but as I got closer to the bottom I did find a very thin, layer of what I think was supposed to be the cucumber and the dill...but in reality, looked suspiciously like sweet pickle relish.

Even if you can't always see the cucumber and the dill, you can definitely taste them. The cucumber is the stronger of the two flavors. It's almost vinegary, and even though the label gives no hint to it, I have to wonder if there is not just a tiny bit of garlic. The dill is muted -- kind of like what someone envisions dill should taste like rather than what it really does taste like. It's not bad. It's not nearly as good as real tzatziki, but it's passable. I think I would like this better with something: maybe carrot sticks to dip, rather than just on its own.

What was interesting was the texture. It was much firmer than any other cottage cheese I have ever had. It was so firm it could almost be called chewy. I actually preferred it to the mushy stuff.

I also like the fact that Rachael's is free of artificial colors, flavors, HFCS, and is made from growth hormone free milk.

Cottage cheese is still not one of my favorite things, but I would have no problem having this one again in the future... And if I ever become a health conscious Zombie I will already have a go-to food.

Albertsons Supermarket

R.I.P. Mary

My stepmother passed this morning. Mary was an incredible woman and once I can stop crying long enough to think clearly I would like to share a few thoughts about her.
For obvious reasons I will be taking a few days off, but I will be back.

Thank you all for understanding,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Twizzlers Twizted Berry Pull-n-Peel

Twizzlers! I love them. I can eat a truly scary amount of Twizzlers on my own in a very short span of time.

Seriously, Twizzlers -- the classic Strawberry flavor -- are one of the few things I don't keep in the house, because I will work through even the biggest bag in less than a night. That is, unfortunately, as guaranteed as death and taxes. (Maybe even more so, given the advances in cryogenics and the possibility of anonymous exile in an obscure corner of Uruguay.)

But those rules have yet to apply to any of the non-classic forms of Twizzlers. Not sure why, I have just yet to find one I like nearly as much.

I have especially not fallen for the Pull-n-Peel types. Pull-n-Peels are thinner ropes, often differently flavored, that are entwined around each other. The Twizted Berry ropes are made up of "Berry Cherry," "Blue Raspberry" and "Berry Grape" flavored strings. And they're very fragrant. Even before opening you can smell them right through the plastic packaging...and it smells like a blue Slurpee. Once you actually open the package, it's more like cherry cough syrup than Slurpee.

I got one of the single-serving packs that have 3 thick logs of Twizzler each. If nothing else, the Pull-n-Peel have a fun, edible Play-Doh sort of thing going for them. They are brightly colored, squishy and gummy. Oddly enough (or perhaps not so oddly), those are some of the qualities that ended up killing this candy. They are made with wheat flour, and as a result the texture is gummy...and not in a good, Gummi Bears sort of way. More like gummy in a overcooked pasta type way.

What about the flavor? Well, if after reading this you are still going to take the time to Pull-n-Peel, I'll give you a breakdown of each color:

Predictably, this is the Blue Raspberry. This was my favorite of the three. It tastes like every other blue raspberry candy you've ever had. Really sweet raspberry, with no bitterness. There does seems to be a pretty gnarly (the kids still say gnarly, right?) aftertaste from the food coloring -- but I doubt kids would ever figure it out.

Is the so-called "Berry Cherry". It is indeed a VERY cherry flavor; if by cherry flavor you are thinking of cough syrup. Bad cough syrup, at that.

Berry Grape. Tastes kinda like store brand grape soda. Store brand grape soda from the kind of store that sells the above-mentioned bad cough syrup.

All together:
In one bite, all three flavors blend together in one generic berry ball of goo. I can see where kids would love this candy. It's pretty colored, it's intensely sweet, and it has that all-purpose synthetic berry flavor that kids seem to flock to.

As an adult, minus the colors (I like bright things), those are pretty much all the reasons I don't like these Twizzlers.

My strawberry Twizzler addiction is in no danger of being replaced any time soon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lotte Plus X Cube Gum- Pinneapple Mint

Once again, I have to repeat that Japanese products have the best packaging/product design.

I mean, look at those little cubes and the little 8 bit design on the box, and tell me that isn't the coolest thing!

Each little piece of gum is about half the size of a sugar cube. They are meant to be chewed by the handful. The outer layer of the cube is sweet and slightly crunchy (think of the old-school Cinnaburst gum).

The initial flavor is sweet pineapple. It actually tastes pretty natural; though more like dried pineapple slices than fresh. The flavor is strongest for the first three minutes.

There is also a mint flavor to the gum. I was worried that this was going to be a nasty combination, but it is surprisingly mild and pleasant and it worked quite nicely with the pineapple. Maybe because it's a subtle mint -- more of a menthol warmth that stays long after the actual flavor is gone, rather then a pungent, breath-freshening type mint.

The gum has a soft and non-sticky chew. I preferred just one cube at a time -- but then, I am not a fan of huge wads of gum.

Finally, there was one little extra that came with the gum that left me scratching my head...until I read J-List's product blurb. And that is a little tiny Post-It style pad included in the pack. Since I spend a rather embarrassing amount per year on Posties (as I like to call them) I thought this was pretty neat, but I had no idea why they were there. (Is it customary in Japan to scribble little notes to oneself while chewing gum? No? I didn't think so!) Actually, what the pad is really supposed to be is something to wrap your piece of gum in when you are done chewing it. That's a pretty nice add-on, since the gum itself is unwrapped in the box. Failing that, you could just use them to write notes on.

I loved this gum and will definitely be getting more. Because the label is entirely in Japanese, I have no idea if it is sugar free or how it is sweetened -- if you know, please comment! (I tried to Google, with no luck.)

I bought mine from Kam Man in New York City, but J-List does carry this gum -- along with lots of other Cube flavors and Lotte products, so check them out!

Kam Man Market NYC

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kellogg's Corn Flakes Touch of Honey

It was Marvo who brought the existence of these new corn flakes to my attention when he posted about them back in May .

As Marvo pointed out, corn flakes are boring. It's not that they don't taste good. But let's be honest; there is no "wow" factor. Yes, there is Frosted Flakes. And while I am a fan, on some days they are just too sweet for me.

Touch of Honey adds a welcome middle ground. To make life simple, the corn flakes taste like corn flakes. Nothing new, nothing interesting. The honey, however, adds a little something. I can't say that if I didn't know for a fact that honey was used, that I would recognize what was used as the sweetener.

The flakes are a little sweeter than regular corn flakes, but not nearly as sweet as Frosted Flakes. I can see this being a good alternative for people who want something sweet but not that sweet, or for parents who don't want to give the full-on sugar rush that is Frosted Flakes.

Albertsons Supermarket

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Second Helpings 6-14-09

It's that time of the week again!

I am starting to think The Impulse Buy is obsessed with hippies...

Once again, Japanese Snack Review has made me jealous. I wanna try Coke with Green Tea!

Cybele reviewed some classic Adams gum. (I LOVE the Blackjack flavor!)

got to try Zotter's Cheese, Walnuts & Grapes bar, which sounds surprisingly good!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fran Whipps White Chocolate & Caramel

The Japanese stick candy wars -- Pocky vs. Fran -- are sort of like the Coke vs. Pepsi battle. Both are tasty and equally as bad for your teeth, but very good for your dentist.

Fran is the "number two" stick candy product, after the powerhouse that is Glico's Pocky. Pocky may be the better known and more popular of the two, but don't let that fool you. Fran definitely holds her own.

Fran's Whipps line have been among my favorites. They have thicker, more decadent coatings and some interesting flavor combos. As I am sure you already know (because, clearly, you can read), today I reviewed the White Chocolate & Caramel sticks.

This Fran certainly takes the prize for being the most fantastic smelling. The moment you open the wrapper, you get this wonderful warm,sweet, milky scent. If you have ever been lucky enough to be in the same room with caramel that's still cooking, it smells exactly like that.

The cocoa stick is enrobed first with a layer of white chocolate, then wrapped in caramel. Starting from the inside out:

The stick:
It's fairly neutral tasting, although it looks like a really dark chocolate biscuit. It adds just enough chocolate flavor that you know it's there. On its own, it would be bland but with the toppings it works very well.

The White Chocolate:
I am not a white chocolate fan as a rule (if you want some great white chocolate reviews from someone who is a fan, check out Jim's Site) but here it adds some good contrast. It's sweet, and has that vaguely vanilla taste that white chocolate is known for. Texture-wise, it's quite smooth and cool on the tongue.

The Caramel:
While this is the thinnest layer, it is also the most flavorful. The burnt sugar just makes everything better. It's milky and it adds just a slight graininess to the texture -- yet it's not sticky in the least.

On their own, each layer is good -- but together they are terrific. My favorite Fran to date!

I got mine at Kam Man in New York City's Chinatown, but my friends at J-List carry lots of Meiji products, including Fran -- so check them out!

Kam Man Market, NYC