Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trader Joe's PB&J Bar

I have to thank Cybele for reviewing this bar first (be sure to read her review here) because she brought the bar to my attenion. The PB&J bar is Trader Joe's second original bar and features peanut butter, milk and dark chocolate, raspberry jelly and potato chips. (Yes! Potato chips!)

The bar's biggest layer is the peanut butter layer. Embedded into the peanut butter are small pieces of the potato chips. I had been hoping the peanut butter would be more like the PB in the amazing peanut butter cups they sell, but I found it a little different. The peanut butter in this bar is roasty, lightly salty and otherwise a little creamier then I like in peanut butter -- but the potato chips add a nice little crunch, although not much flavor.

The chocolate is just kind of meh. Much like Cybele, I couldn't tell you where the dark chocolate is, either. If I had to guess, I think it is a very thin l.ayer directly under the jelly. The milk chocolate is a little too sweet and otherwise non-remarkable. There's nothing wrong with it -- it's just kinda forgettable.

My favorite part is the raspberry jelly layer. It's a solid jelly -- like what you would find in TJ's addictive jelly rolls (available in orange and raspberry), or even in the German Raspberries. It's seedless (which is good, as I HATE seeds). It's tart and a lot like jam. I actually would eat just a slab of the jelly.

I liked it enough to almost finish it, and it was better than last year's Lumpy Bumpy bar. That said, I don't think I would rush to get another. It's not bad; it just doesn't rock my world.

Trader Joe's

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mini Chill

I may be the perfect reviewer for Mini Chill.

I'm kinda like one of those little hyper yappy dogs. I am always trying to do five different things at once and usually making more noise than one should ever expect. My days are stressful and long, and as anyone who reads my tweets can tell you, I have bad insomnia. If anyone needs to chill, it's me.

According to the makers of Mini Chill, the two-ounce Mini Chill shot offers tension relief, a break from anxiety and stress, AND improved focus without drowsiness or having to drink a big ass can of somethin' somethin'. They do this through something they developed called "Relarian," which is a blend of amino acids, herbs, and possibly fairy dust! (OK, I made that last part up.)

Let's start with the flavor.

It's described as "Berry Bliss" flavor. It reminded me of a mix of blueberry and grape juice. Only slightly sweet, but in a good way. There is a little tartness, but not enough that it causes a pucker effect. I actually would drink this in a larger portion.

While the shot doesn't need to actually be chilled, I have tried it at both room temperature and after being in the fridge. It's good both ways, but I liked it a little more at room temp. The flavor is more vibrant.

So, did it make me chill? Well, I did feel more calm and relaxed afterwards. Honestly, I am not sure if I got that way because of the shot itself, or because drinking the shot forced me to take a break and focus on me rather than on everything else. And you know what? Either way I ended up feeling more relaxed, so I am going to call that a plus.

I really liked these!

As of right now you can purchase them directly from Mini Chill by clicking here, or if you are lucky enough to be in New York City, they can also be found in some stores in the East Village.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Safeway Select Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

Sometimes I think I am an ice cream snob.

There are very few times you will see a review of an ice cream (or "frozen dairy product") here that is not a major name brand. It's not that I have anything against store brands on principle -- in fact, I was quite fond of the Publix supermarket's brand of peppermint ice cream. It's just that as someone who is not on the best of terms with lactose
(believe it or not, with all the dairy I eat), I want a lot of bang for my buck. And let's face it: most of the time, that means going with the super premium brands.

But doesn't Chocolate Truffle ice cream just sound good? It's a chocolate ice cream base with swirls of milk chocolate sauce and truffle pieces. Yes, it certainly did sound good.

As for the taste...well...

The base ice cream has a pretty decent flavor. It's a mildly cocoa type of Dutch chocolate and it's quite generic. Not strong, not complex, but not bad.

The milk chocolate syrup, in terms of both taste and texture, is exactly as if someone had squirted some Hershey's syrup onto the chocolate ice cream. It adds a stronger hit of chocolate flavor. Again, nothing outstanding, but hey -- even bad chocolate syrup can be pretty good. But if you got a really big blob of it in a spoonful as I did, it did make my throat burn.

The truffle bits? UGH! EPIC FAIL! I don't know what planet these slightly bloomed, oily and cheap tasting hunks of "chocolate flavor coated" monstrosities are considered truffles on -- but I do know I never want to go there. They were so bad I found myself eating around them.

In terms of overall texture this ice cream was almost grainy with ice crystals. It only became smooth once it had melted a bit. It also is not the richest ice cream I have ever had.

Minus the truly Godawful "truffles," it's not that this is the worst ice cream ever; it's just not very good either. It's like an edible version of the definition of mediocre.

You know what? I am an ice cream snob. Deal with it.


Vons Supermarket

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Campbell's Light Vegetable Orzo Soup

Ahhhh, soup...warm, toasty, comforting soup! Since it was 109 degrees in my 'hood yesterday -- that's 43 C, for y'all across the pond -- it's really not what one would consider soup weather here in balmy (some might say "infernal") Southern California.

Or so I thought until I wanted a late night snack, and I didn't want anything heavy or substantial.

Well, Campbell's Light Vegetable Orzo soups comes in at only 80 calories per half-cup serving, and damned if it just didn't sound good.

The base of the soup is a vegetable broth (uh, duh). There are small leaves of spinach floating on the top. Also bobbing in the soup are bits of tomato, carrots and lentils. Unfortunately for me, there is also red pepper. If you like red pepper, then you may love this soup. Hey, Indiana Jones has snakes and Gigi has red peppers. Gigi HATES red peppers!

But red pepper aside, the orzo was quite plentiful and tender. It went really well with the lentils and the celery bits. There is a bit of Parmesan cheese in the soup -- but I like A LOT of cheese in my soup, so I added to it and it added a nice hit of salt.

This is one of Campbell's condensed soups, so it's not as chunky as the appropriately-named Chunky line, nor as creamy as some of the thicker soups. But it is satisfying and smooth. Personally, the only reason I didn't like it is the inclusion of the red peppers. If you don't mind them, or even like them, then this could be a pretty good soup for you.

It's hard me to rate this one, given the red pepper...but oh, how I hate red pepper, so I am going to give this two ratings based on this fact....

First, for those who hate/dislike red pepper:

OK, that may be a little let's go with this one, based on everything but the red peppers:

Sample From Company

Friday, September 25, 2009


I don't do very many non-food reviews. But every now and then, along comes a product that I feel a need to talk about -- even if it's way outside my normal scope. OxiClean is one such product.

It's not like OxiClean is new. Billy Mays has been (or had been, sadly) shouting at us from our televisions about it for years. I just never bothered with it, and let's be honest -- who really believes what late-night infomercials tell you, anyway? (sorry Billy)

Well, I HATE to do laundry. In fact, I have been known to pay people to do my laundry. But one of my day jobs requires me to wear white dress shirts...specifically, clean and spiffy white dress shirts. And I hate to look unprofessional in any case.

At this point, I feel the need to point out (once again) that I am seriously short. Short, as in a couple inches under five feet short. And at my height, pretty much everything in a restaurant kitchen that can be greasy/messy/gooey etc. that would probably hit at apron level for everyone else, lands at about mid-chest on me. With that in mind, all of my shirts quickly end up with a rather distinct line of stains across them from where I have had to lean over things to reach.

Because I hate to do laundry, and I hate my dress/work shirts to look sloppy, I have been using a dry cleaner to launder/press and do stain removal upon my shirts. But in a matter of months, the shirts always hit a point where they are beyond help...or so have said my various cleaners. And, like everyone else, I am feeling the effects of the economy, and frequent dry cleaning isn't cheap! Furthermore, taking stock of my work shirts, it became clear that I badly needed some new ones.

Honestly, I can't afford to replace all my shirts. I have tried bleaching, and that only results in spotty shirts and a very itchy, blotchy Gigi (yes, Gigi has extremely sensitive skin).

What to do?

Well, while cruising the laundry aisle at Albertson's a few days ago, I noticed they had the smallest size container of OxiClean on sale for an insanely low price. So I figured I would give it a try and use it on one of my worst shirts. If it worked, great. And if it simply killed the shirt...well, it wouldn't matter, because that shirt was going to be discarded anyway.

As per the directions on the package, I let my shirt soak in the OxiClean.

Now, kids, this is where I am going to give you the "don't try this at home" lecture. I experimented on a shirt I didn't care about. So please, do not do your first OxiClean test on your irreplaceable great-grandma's wedding dress or some other such item, and then write me nasty emails or comments if it disintegrates. I got fantastic results, but I also didn't follow the instructions verbatim; I allowed the shirt to soak overnight rather than the six hours the label recommends. Also, I did not use the product on something delicate. You have been warned.

Here is the shirt before:

See what I mean about the stain line?

Again, I did let the shirt soak overnight (though not intentionally -- to be honest, I got busy with something else and forgot about the shirt). The next day I rinsed it out well and hung it outside to line dry.

And this is the same shirt after:

Here is a close up on the stains before:

And the same area, after:

WOW! The white is as bright as it was the day I bought the shirt, and the stains that in real life were a nasty dark yellowish brown are almost completely gone -- there is still a very faint shadow of a stain, but you really have to look for it to notice. (These were stains, by the way, which every dry cleaner I went to was unable to eradicate, and said it couldn't be done.)

Why didn't I try this before?! I have been able to save ALL of my white shirts. I couldn't possibly love this product any more than I do.

Thank you, Billy Mays!

(BTW, this is also my epic 600th review!)

Albertson's Supermarket

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Goetze's Caramel Creams Bulls-Eyes

Bulls-eyes are one of those candies that I like based more upon fond childhood memories than upon the actual candy itself.

Back in the day -- ye gawdz, am I really old enough to say "back in the day"? -- my father would get bags of them, and they were strictly his. Unless he shared...or I snuck one while he was watching the game. I am not sure what brand he used to buy (I did ask, but he couldn't remember), but it may very well have been Goetze's. If it wasn't Goetze's it was something pretty similar.

Bulls-eyes are semisoft caramels, slightly larger than a quarter, and about an inch or so thick. And smack in the center is a dot of soft cream.

The outer caramel layer is kinda funky and chewy. If you are expecting a smooth, creamy melt, this is not the candy you're looking for. In terms of texture, it sort of reminds me of a caramel flavored Red Vine. It's thick and doughy and there is sort of a wheat-like taste when you get beyond the caramel flavor.

The caramel flavoring itself is mild. If you've ever had one of Kraft's caramel squares, the flavor is similar to that, though not quite as sweet and slightly more milky. It has none of the deep, rich, burnt-sugar notes that a really good caramel has. It's more like something that meant to be caramel flavored than a true caramel.

The cream center of the bulls-eye is my favorite part. It reminds me of Oreo cookie filling, only not as dense. There's a faint vanilla taste (or perhaps it just seems like that when compared to the caramel). It's cool and smooth on the tongue -- well, mostly smooth but with just a slight graininess. By itself it would be too sweet, but it works so well paired with the caramel that it's my favorite part.

Is this the best caramel ever? Truthfully, no. Not even close. But there is something comforting and tasty -- and dare I say nostalgic? -- about them nevertheless.

Yeah, I admit it, they made me happy.

Be sure to check out Cybele's take on them (with some truly fab pictures) HERE.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale

I love ginger ale. But it's one of those sodas that doesn't have a whole lot of variety. Sure, you see the odd raspberry or cranberry ginger ales, but it's not like there are many new options out there.

Well, here at last, is a new one.

I had been jonesing for some diet Canada Dry, when right next to the twelve pack I was going to pick up, was the new Canada Dry green tea ginger ale. Woohoo! Kick ass!

While it doesn't appear to come in a diet version (or if it does, I haven't seen it), it boasts that it's enhanced with 200mg of antioxidants from green tea, plus vitamin C. But you know what? I couldn't care less if it has any nutritional value, because it is just that good!

This ginger ale is very lightly carbonated -- yet not so lightly as to be flat. The green tea adds a slightly sweet note, which is just a little on the spearmint side. And the crisp zip of the ginger cuts through the overall sweetness, leaving a brisk, clean taste. All the various flavor notes are good, and the balance between them is perfect. Honestly, there is just not enough bandwidth to tell you how great this is!

Officially my favorite soda since Coke Zero! And my second favorite Canadian export since Douglas Coupland.

Albertsons Supermarket

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Doritos Collisions: Cheesy Enchilada & Sour Cream

There is just something wrong with the world when I am watching Anthony Bourdain and drooling over the all the great things he gets to eat, and the best thing I have in my house is a bag of Doritos.

Don't get me wrong. I looooove me some Doritos every now and then. It's just hard to go from watching Bourdain eating crab in garlic sauce, fresh oysters and freshly made Middle Eastern foods, and then I eat...well, Doritos.

Oh well, be that as it may...the Doritos "Collisions" line consists of two different flavors of chips mixed together in one handy bag. This bag was like Mexican food when you are too lazy to go get real Mexican food...

The Cheesy Enchilada chip, pictured below:

Yes, it features that alarming, kinda radioactive-looking orange color that reminds one of hunter's vests or Muppet skin (hunting for Muppets, perhaps?). I really tried to get deep into the flavor and figure out what -- if anything -- made it taste enchilada-like. Or at least less like the classic nacho flavor. And the best answer I could come up with is that it's the standard nacho chip with extra "cheese" powder and a bit of cumin. It was about as close to an actual enchilada as a Taco Bell Enchirito. But in much the same way that an Enchirito is so bad it's good, so is the Enchilada chip.

Next, the Sour Cream chip:

I am a sour cream lover. I'm one of those freaks who will put it on pretty much everything and anything.

But I can live without the crunchy version. Take everything good about sour cream (or, failing that, even other sour cream flavored chips) and all you're left with is a sort of sour corn chip. And it's a weird sour. Kinda like sour cream that was left in the sun rather than real sour cream. It's not horrible, not even all that bad...but I sure wouldn't buy an entire bag of them.

If you eat both chips together...well, about all I can say is that you've eaten them together at that point, and nothing much has changed. If you liked the "Tacos At Midnight" flavor then this one is probably right up your alley. I myself am sticking to the Spicy Nacho flavor (aww...dude...)

Albertsons Supermarket

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mousse Temptations by JELL-O: Caramel Crème

In case you missed it last week, I reviewed the first in the new line of Jell-O Mousse Temptations: the Dark Chocolate Decadence flavor. And it is no exaggeration to say I would officially do very bad things for just one more cup.

Next in the line up is the Caramel Crème.

Just like its Dark Chocolate Decadence sibling, the mousse is sugar-free and comes in at only 60 calories. The texture is just as light and fluffy -- actually, I think the caramel version is even a little more airy. And once again, I have to give hats off to the good folks at Jell-O for coming up with the mousse idea. The texture of the mousse perfectly covers (or actually rids) the dessert of the waxy, weird mouthfeel that can haunt sugar-free, low fat puddings.

But how does it taste?

It's a very milky, sweet caramel. It reminded me most of flan; especially the crème caramel version of flan (read the Wikipedia entry, wonderfully HERE). There is sort of a custardy quality to it (though sadly, not that great thick topping flan has). But at the same time it reminded me of a lighter -- in terms of flavor -- version of the classic butterscotch.

I'm not going to lie; it didn't come anywhere near equaling, let alone topping, the Dark Chocolate Decadence. But that would be pretty hard to do, because the Dark Chocolate Decadence kicks some serious butt. It's still pretty good, though.

Sample From Company

Friday, September 18, 2009

Campbell's V8 Garden Vegetable Blend Soup

After eating my body weight in chocolate mousse over the last 24 hours, I felt like I needed to squeeze a couple vegetables in for balance. And Campbell's V8 soup promised me a full serving of veggies in just one bowl (AND a bonus 4 vegetables, as the soup is made with 12 veggies, not just 8).

So how was it? Pretty good, actually.

The texture was rich, thick and creamy. I think I had been expecting the standard issue thinner broth, so that was a happy surprise. The soup is a thick puree that is studded with chunks of carrots, potatoes and peas. Parmesan cheese is also listed in the ingredients, as is milk, and I think that helps add to the rich texture.

You can taste the tomatoes, the onions and the celery. There are also whole kernels of corn. There's red pepper. There's also watercress and parsley. There is so much flavor going on! It was not at all what I was expecting from a boxed soup.

Oh, and there are no preservatives or artificial flavors!
Really, what more can one ask? I will definitely be buying more of these.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

C. Howard's Lemon Mints

I have had C. Howard's violet products (the mints and the gum) many times, but had never come across the lemon mints before.

As we all know, Gigi LOOOOVES lemon the way Paula Deen loves fact, doesn't this picture kinda look like a little mini stick of butter?

The lemon mints -- which do in fact look like little tiny pats of butter -- taste neither like butter nor mint. What it does taste like, pretty much to a tee, is a larger, thinner lemon Pez candy.

The lemon is slightly tart -- not enough that there is any real pucker power, but enough that you know it is supposed to be lemon flavored. As you chew the mints (or allow them to crumble from sucking on them) there is a mild sweetness that comes out. Again, not enough to make the mints taste more like a real candy, but enough to make off any sharp edges the citrus might have had.

The texture is sort of like biting into a little piece of chalk. It doesn't so much dissolve in your mouth as crumble. But there is something oddly satisfying about biting the squares into a million crumbly little pieces.

Honestly, there was no big wow factor here. (Well, the butter picture was kind of cool.) The flavor is very standard. The texture is just...meh. If you have ever had lemon Pez, Smarties, or any other compressed dextrose candy, you have tasted these. But there is something charming about old-style candy. Maybe pick some up and show the kids the kind of candy their grandpappy used to eat -- and be sure to start a long, somewhat meaningless story that you forget the most important parts of, with the phrase "back in my day..."

Balboa Candy
Newport Beach, California

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mousse Temptations by JELL-O: Dark Chocolate Decadence

WOOHOO! There are new Jell-O products out!

Is it sad that this fact may prove to be the highlight of my week? Well, you know what? I don't care! It's not chocolate pudding, it's chocolate mousse!

And I think we all know that mousse is the dessert of the gods. The Jell-O version is also sugar free and comes in at only 60 calories. You know what else? I wouldn't care if it came in at six hundred calories; it is just that good!

Dark Chocolate Decadence has a deep flavor that is best described as raw devil's food cake batter (the other food of the gods). It's a strong cocoa flavor that has a little milky essence to it. Yet, because the dark chocolate holds its own so well, it's nearly impossible to tell that this is a sugar free dessert.

The texture is very light, whipped and airy. It is a bit denser than a true mousse would be...but ignore that. The whipped texture may be the best thing that has ever happened to sugar free dessert. I say that because while I happen to like the "regular" sugar-free chocolate Jell-O pudding, there is difference in the mouthfeel compared to "normal" sugar-sweetened, full fat pudding (the regular is not as creamy, and tends to make your mouth feel a little oily). But all you get with the whipped version is angelic, fluffy happiness.

I liked these so much that I did something I never do over the course of writing a review: I ate two containers in a row! (Which kinda makes the low calorie count a moot point, but I can live with that. I can live very happily with it, thank you very much!)

Just go to the store and get yourself a box right now, then come back here and thank me...I'll wait. Because I know that once you taste it, you won't take long.

This is so good, in fact, that I am bringing back the rating that started it all!:

Sample From Company