Thursday, August 18, 2016

Trader Joe's and Limited Edition Junk

 I kept hearing people rave about these, so I managed to get my hands on a bag. The first impression is of sweet broccoli, and nuttiness. The smell wafts invitingly out of the bag. I can see what all the fuss was about. Delicious. The florets are perfectly, satisfyingly crunchy. Whatever they do to make these things, the end result is light and crisp, not dense or hard. My only complaint is that they don't stand up well to being shoved in a box with a bunch of things and shipped great distances. Mine are... crumbs, mostly. Ah, well. Can't have everything.

I forgot to take a picture, but the other Trader Joe's snack I got at the same time was their Pickle in a Popcorn. Pickle-flavored popcorn. They mean what they say. This isn't too vinegar-heavy, but it absolutely captures the briney, dilled experience. I ate a bunch in one sitting. And then I had pickle burps for hours. :/

Ghostbusters Key Lime Slime Twinkies! I love key lime, and was very interested to see if a tart filling would somehow make a twinkie appealing to me. Nope. The filling is sparse and blandly sweet.

Chocolatey Caramel Pop Tarts are okay. The filling is chewy, discernible caramel. The chocolate is mild and easily lost, typical of chocolate pop tart pastry. Very sweet.

Pop Tarts Crush Orange. Whoa. Whoa! I don't know how, but they managed to get the filling to taste exactly like a glass of Orange Crush. It's uncanny. Whether that was a good idea, on the other hand.. Bleh. It's over-sweet, and jarring. But spot on. It's made me nervous to try the A & W Root Beer iteration.

Not pictured, but def. included and eaten:

Pop Tarts A&W Root Beer. Well. The first smell, and bite, really hit the nail on the head. A&W Root Beer, with a touch of creaminess (like a rootbeer float). Before I'd truly decided if Root Beer Pop Tarts were a good thing or a bad thing, the flavor changed. Sweet, and bland were all that was left. Except for when I ate a bit of the pastry by itself. That was a bad idea. They added some sort of flavoring to the crust, in addition to turning it a light brown color (this halfway between plain and chocolate). Whatever they did, the crust alone is bitter and off-tasting. I finished one tart, but the second one is too much. Ugh.

Watermelon Pop Tart. Damn my morbid curiosity. And whatever person decided on the candy approximation of watermelon flavor. It tastes nothing like the real thing. The filling in these babies is perfectly artificial watermelon. Unfortunately, as a child I chewed too much watermelon Bubble Yum for my brain to understand that they could exist separately, and as a result all of this watermelon flavored stuff makes my brain expect gum. (Watermelon Oreos are the other big one I've experienced this with.) My brain says "This is gonna be springy and chewy" and then it's pastry and my whole life is ruined.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lay's Passport to Flavor (2016)

Lay's latest gambit is called Passport to Flavor. It seems to be inspired by the Olympics. This time, instead of voting for a winning flavor, consumers collect points for each bag they buy, which they can put towards entries into travel giveaways.

So here we go, off into another set of chip flavors. I'll write about them in the order I tried them.

I started with Brazilian Picanha, a regular-style chip. They smell meaty and herbaceous. The taste: meat/beef, tomato (sweet, acid), light herb notes that turn into a pretty noticeable parsley flavor. These are okay. I could eat a serving with a sandwich, but they are not crave-able. I feel like the past few beefy chip flavors have been underwhelming. They remind me of the burger smell that sticks to a vent hood or the inside of a grill lid.

Next up, Chinese Szechuan Chicken, the other regular-style chip. The bag smells like stale bread? Like a bakery, but not yeasty. A little sweet. Now let's try them. They taste exactly like they smell - stale bread, sweetness, but with a little spicy heat. The flavor develops after a few chips into something a touch more acidic, like the chili sauce in an Asian restaurant. Still underwhelming, reminiscent of a cheap brand of spicy ramen. I didn't get much in the way of chicken flavor.

On to the wavy chip - Greek Tzatziki. First impression is of dill, tang, and cream. Tasting time. "Whoa, this reconstitutes well." I get the dill, a touch of garlic, tangy yogurt. This is tzatziki. There's even just a titch of cucumber flavor, brilliantly subtle (not overwhelming or super fake). These are good.

And finally the kettle cooked chip, Indian Tikka Masala. This bag has a strong, complex aroma. Sweetness, curry, cardamom hit the hardest but they aren't alone. Let it be said that it's not discordant or off-balance. This smells amazing! Taste-wise, I get tomato, curry, warm spices, a little heat. And it's rich, almost buttery. With the potato chip added in, these make me think of a cauli-less aloo gobi. These are legitimately good, not just best-of-the-pack, limited edition good.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hershey's & Reese's Snack Mix, Werther's Caramel Popcorn

I received a few candy-related items and decided they made as much sense grouped together as anything else, so here they are!

 Reese's Snack Mix. It truly bothers me that the label is not aligned with the shape of the container. Inside, I found baby Reese's PB cups, Reese's Pieces, peanuts, and little pretzel bbs (The size of a Reese's Piece, but round). The ratio is pretty good, you're not getting a can of pretzels with two cups or anything. But it's maybe too even. Those little cups are really sweet. The pretzels are okay, nothing to write home about. The Pieces are delicious, as always. The peanuts are over-roasted, though. This was the most promising of the three and I am disappointed. I'll just take the Reese's Pieces plain and add them to my popcorn myself. 

I was not excited about the Hershey's Snack Mix. I'm not a huge Hershey's bar fan, except in the case of s'mores, where they are required. The mix includes mini Hershey's bars, pretzel bbs, roasted almonds, and little chocolate balls. The almonds are toasted well and lightly salted. Pretzel bbs are the same as the Reese's Mix ones. Baby Hershey's bars are.. baby Hershey bars. The little chocolate balls... I don't know what's going on there and I don't like it. They're a little salty, and something about them really enhances that whole vomit flavor Hershey's can have. 

Payday Snack Bites! I enjoy the occasional Pay Day and was looking forward to this. There is something different about these. A snack-size Payday has a nougat core, caramel, and salted peanuts. I assumed these would be maybe half of a snack size bar. There's some sort of candy coating ( like white "chocolate") on the outside and the flavor is off. Why did they change it? Why?

The bag tells you all you need to know, really. Werther's Caramel plus popcorn. It's a winning combination. It's not some revolution in the caramel popcorn game, but it is delicious. This is the best caramel popcorn I've had recently.

Oreos: Choco Chip, Fruity Crisp, and S'mores Limited Editions

Well, here they are. The latest batch of Limited Edition Oreos. I truly wish I could just buy the little 4 cookie snack pack sizes of these things. I know, I know, if people are willing to shell out for the whole thing to try the flavor why would they bother... Anyway.

First up, Choco Chip Cookie. I assumed this was a rehash of the cookie dough flavor. But closer inspection reveals there are 'choco chips' (or at least dark specks) in the oreo cookie, to mimic a chocolate chip cookie. Similar specks can be found in the creme. These smell vaguely vanilla-y and taste like a vanilla cupcake candle. I mean.. The aroma. I don't eat candles. Nothing chocolate that I could isolate, just heavy vanilla. Pretty bland, all told.

As soon as I pulled open the seam of the Fruity Crisp Oreos (which, why are they the only ones of this batch without the convenient easy-open tab on top?), I was assaulted with the smell of Fruity Pebbles. Well, I say Fruity Pebbles, but it was a close call between that and some sort of kitchen cleaner. FP cranked wayyyy up. The actual cereal doesn't smell as strongly as opening the packaging here would do.  Taste? They messed up. That big bowl of Pebbles on the front and these are definitely more Froot Loop. The flavor is spot on for the cereal though. Whatever food science was used to make that happen went too far, though. I could taste this for at least an hour after I ate it. (And I only ate 1, so... whoa on the whoas everyone.) A final note: there are bits of Pebbles in the creme to add a little extra crunch. This, I do like. It reminds me of the Marshmallow Crispy Oreo, one of my all-time favorite LE Oreos.

S'mores. I feel like this is a very extended Limited Edition? Or a quick re-release? Regardless, these were another disappointment. The cookie does have a vague graham note. The creme didn't really hit on chocolate or marshmallow, just plain creme. 

Am I picky? Probably. I'm wondering now if it's me or if Oreo has a hard time hitting the scant middle ground between not enough flavor to tell and 'why can't I get this taste to go away it's been hours'?

Western Washington

For Christmas my little brother and his wife sent us an amazing smattering of Western Washington-specific products. A brilliant idea, with a nicely varied selection.

Rainy City Crunch (Chocolate) granola bars. These have oats, a bunch of kinds of nuts and seeds, and cranberries in them. I was a little concerned about the dried cranberry addition, especially since these were chocolate flavored. The bars are thin, and come all together in one bag - no individually wrapped wastefulness here. Intense cocoa flavor, brilliant crunch, with a hint of chewiness. The nuts and seeds make it quite hearty, and the cranberries work somehow. They're just a little tartness for when the cocoa and the richness of the nuts starts to overwhelm. Also, there's a sprinkle of coarse salt that makes these. They are all gone, and I want more.

Drizzle's Blood Orange Olive Oil and Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar.  The blood orange flavor brightens the olive oil, and adds a wonderful tartness. I used half the bottle in a blood orange olive oil cake, no regrets. The cake was delicious and I'm pretty sure that subbing in the blood orange oil in place of plain really kicked the flavor up a notch.  The blackberry ginger vinegar is equally wonderful. The flavor is rich and heady, enough that I sometimes pop the bottle open just to take a quick whiff. It's brilliant headlining a vinaigrette, and I keep workshopping a way to add it to something chocolate.

Spice Hut Orange Cream Rooibos Tea. Delightful. It's tart, but the vanilla smooths the tartness. I only put a touch of sugar in here, which is pretty impressive. (I usually add a bunch not because I have a sweet tooth but because I have a hard time reconciling the difference between the smell and taste of most teas.) As a wonderful bonus, the tea bags are biodegradable, so I don't feel bad about using them.

Bellewood Acres Honey Roasted Peanut Butter. I had to ration this once I started to get to the bottom of the tub. It's crunchy and perfectly sweetened and salted with a deep, roasted peanut flavor. This is hearty, stick to your ribs peanut butter and I'm sad it's gone.

Smoked Sockeye.

Monday, August 01, 2016

German Summer Treats

 Emmental Pringles. Part of the summer/football push. Pretty light on flavor. Salty, with a hint of emmental nuttiness. Not bad, but not special/accurate enough to buy again.

 Summer RitterSport! The only new-to-me flavor this season. They got this one just right. The milk chocolate is smooth and sweet, and the filling is creamy and tart. Yum.

 I was pretty excited for new Capri-Sun flavors. Fruity Water comes in Red Fruits and Tropical. I chose red fruit. I should have read the fine print, these are 'healthier' because they water the juice down, and spike it with fake sugar to make up the difference. Blech. I foisted these off on unsuspecting kids at a neighborhood bbq.

 Found these in the refrigerated case. They're a fresh Happy Hippo. A milk chocolate exterior, fresh creamy filling, and a toasty, nutty layer to bridge the gap. Om nom nom nom.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Korean Box 2

As I believe I mentioned before, I received a second box of Korean snacks. It's finally time to break them out! Here's the whole haul, before I dig in and take a good look at each item.

Little fish cakes. These are so cute! Also, as you can see from the second picture, these are actually cake. Yay! The cake is a light sponge cake, not very sweet. I expected from the box that these would be chocolate/marshmallow. The filling doesn't look like the box art. There is no visible white, and the brown is lighter and thick-sort of fudge-y in consistency. I do wonder if that's a result of the shipping/age, though. Not a real chocolate flavor. These aren't bad, and they are adorable. That makes up for the blandly sweet flavor.

Premium whole almond candy. These look just like the picture. A whole almond is set on a small piece of milky toffee. The almond isn't covered, so when you put it into your mouth there is an unignorable difference of textures between the smoothness of the hard candy and the coarsness of the almond skin. After the pumpkin taffy, I've been more careful about biting down on candies and to that end I sucked on the almond candy for a minute. The toffee is slow to dissolve, but pleasantly sweet and mildly milky. Bored, though, I gave an experimental bite and was well rewarded. The toffee is brittle and breaks easily. Together the almond and the candy are delightfully crunchy and well balanced. 

They aren't joking when they say these are milk flavored. For some reason the taste of these makes me think of movie theater popcorn. They're not really salty, so I'm not sure why. Milky and sweet, with the intensity of evaporated milk. Very sweet, enough that it.. burns(?) that 's not the right word, but you know what I mean.

I was pretty excited for crackers and cheese. I love the salty calorie bombs that are those pb and cheese cracker sandwiches. These... well. The crackers are saltine-like. But without the salt on top. Very thin, very bland by themselves. The picture is not a mistake, these are double-deckers. Top cracker, orange cheese smear, middle cracker, yellow cheese smear, bottom cracker. The cheese is thin, and not as punchy as I'd like. Also the yellow is sweet. I like salty and sweet as much as the next lady, but this just isn't balanced. I am disappointed.

Oreo-flavored wafers, covered in chocolate. What's not to love? These aren't as 'oreo' forward as I was expecting, but they do hit on the signature flavors. Probably something to do with the cookie/cream ratio. These are still delicious and the flaky wafer texture is nice, as well.

Smoky Bacon Chips.
There is a lightly smokey smell when the bag is first opened. It's also a little sweet. These chips are puffed something. Potato? Rice? Who knows. It makes these light, airy, and satisfyingly crunchy. The flavor is, like the scent, lightly smokey. A little salt and umami, but these are not assertive. The picture on the package led to me believe they would be intense but they aren't. For which I am glad. These are moreish. I could see myself eating the whole bag without realizing it.

Tiny ramen puck chips. These smell, unsurprisingly, like cup noodle. They are taller/fatter than I expected. 2cm diameter, 1 cm height. The noodles are quite densely packed, but very light and brittle. It's easy to bite through, it doesn't really throw off shards like biting into a ramen brick would. Flavor? Savory, sweet, spicy. More spicy than I expected. In a back of the tongue, lingering sort of way. The package has.. hot dogs? with some sort of glaze and sesame seeds on the top right. I don't get a really meaty flavor. These are more like spicy ketchup (but with no real tomato tang. I know, it doesn't make sense.). Huh. Also, a lot less salty than I assumed.

First things first. The box opens from the side and has a little tab to reclose it. Sort of like a fast food chicken box. The box doesn't lie. These are shaped like tiny drumsticks, with a smooth breadcrumby exterior. I'm not getting a strong scent from the bag. A little chicken-y, a little herb-y, maybe. Huh. The fat part of the drumstick (the meat, as it were) is hollow. These are very crunchy. I'm not getting a lot of flavor. A smidge of onion, maybe, a touch of chicken. Mostly these taste like breadcrumbs. But not in a bad way. And the crunch is so satisfying.

I was worried that after the honey-butter potato chip disappointment that I'd be wasting my time by saving these for last. Fear not, past me! You made the right choice. These are deliciously addictive. 2" segments of churro-shaped chip. These bad boys are super crunchy, and perfectly sweetened. Decent, not overwhelming cinnamon, and a touch of authentic honey flavor round out the profile. These are incredibly moreish and some friends and I ate nearly the whole bag in a very short sitting. Yum!

I've been eating these the whole time I've been sampling snacks. Again, like a Korean Hi-Chew. These are soft, chewy, and brightly apple-y. What's not to love?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Germany takes on Root Beer

During one of my leisurely, not shopping for actual groceries, trips to the store I found these cans of root beer on the shelf. 

Naturally, I bought both of them and brought them home. Europeans don't typically "do" root beer. I've heard more than once that there is some toothpaste flavor here that's pretty similar and it makes the beverage too weird to drink. Regardless, these are both German-made. The cans are the best. One is an american flag, the other specifically says "no beer" on it.

Tem's Root Beer. Smells like root beer. Mostly. Tastes... like root beer. Mostly. Heavy on the wintergreen. Enough that after two or three drinks I was getting flashbacks to Life Savers. The balance is wrong. But it's not terrible, although it is very carbonated.

Carters Root Beer. This smelled about the same as Tem's. That did not prepare me for the very heavy fresh mint rush and aftertaste. Before that vegetal, mint hits you it almost tastes like root beer too. But not quite.

I wouldn't buy either of these again. Good effort, but I'll stick to American brands. They did leave me wondering if that's how real root beer tastes to Germans - some sort of lost in translation thing...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Trio of Posh Pop

I randomly found a small brand of soda from the UK in a kitchen store in Bruges. The flavors were intriguing, so I grabbed a few to try. I saved them for a while, waiting for just the right time. But that was silly and they were just taking up space in my fridge.

Up first, Pear & Elderflower.  This is delicious. The crisp pear flavor is prominent, but it's perfectly complemented by the lighter elderflower. The combination somehow manages to capture the taste of a fresh asian pear. The carbonation is light, but present. Very refreshing. If this is a sign of things to come, I'm quite pleased.  I only wish these were easier to get.

Cloudy Lemonade. Lemony, lightly carbonated, not too sweet. This is pretty good. I love tart lemon things, especially lemonade. This doesn't pack quite the punch I was hoping for, but it's quite nice.

And finally - Ginger Beer with Chilli. The ingredients for this, just after carbonated spring water and sugar, is whole lemon and orange fruit concentrate. So the main taste I'm getting is citrusy - like the lemonade. There is the 'burn' in my throat I associate with ginger, but the flavor itself is a muted afterthought. As for the chilli, I'm having a hard time pinpointing that as well. I guess I get a little bit of chilli flavor in the heat of the ginger, and the heat lingers in a chilli-like way. The more I drink the more burn I get, and the longer the burn lasts. I wish I had some french fries to eat with this; I think it would cut the greasiness fantastically.

Overall I'm pleased. These pops are all less aggressively carbonated and sweetened than many sodas I've had. I wish they were available here, because I'd love to try Strawberry & Rhubarb, Plum & Cherry, and Sloe Lemonade.