29 July, 2006
And in the stationery department, Target is offering notebooks with big block letters on the cover - I for Incredible, S for Sweet, and so on. They're so big and colorful, and so easy to rearrange.
So I was surveying the treats available in the cafeteria at work the other day, and I noticed something new: Doritos Fiery Habanero tortilla chips. It piqued my curiosity - most mass-marketed foods that are labeled as "fiery" really aren't that hot (it's that lowest-common-denominator thing) and most of them rely on cayenne pepper for their heat and paprika for their flavor. So I gambled eighty cents and bought a bag.
You know how sometimes things are labeled as being HOT, but they really aren't that bad? There might be the suggestion of some spicyness, but there's nothing special or exceptional about them and usually they aren't even as hot as you were hoping? Well, that does not describe Doritos Fiery Habanero chips. They really are hot. Capital "H" Hot, even.
The first thing you notice when you crunch into one is the slightly sour "nacho cheese" flavor that Doritos is famous for, but it is immediately followed by a subtle hint of habanero's signature "rotten apricot" taste. (Unlike some other habby products, this characteristic taste is not overwhelming; in fact, it is so well balanced with the cheeses and other seasonings that it's a lot more enjoyable than you might think.) The heat immediately blasts forth starting at the tongue and racing for the back of the throat. This fast attack makes the heat feel initially hotter than it really is, because after a couple chips you realize that the Doritos are delivering a pleasantly sharp burn, not so overwhelming that someone with medium tolerance will find them unpleasant, and not so mild that a real chilehead will be disappointed. I have to say, however, that these chips are likely to be too hot for nOObs.
It pleases me greatly to see on the back of the bag that the ingredients do not list any other chile pepper than habaneros. Frito-Lay is not taking a cheap shortcut and dosing the chips with cayenne - they're doing it right and using the real thing, 100%.
These get a strong thumbs-up.
20 July, 2006
Unfortunately, before any studies could be completed, the meaty menhirs were removed from the heat and consumed, accompanied by green peas and a delicious rice pilaf.
19 July, 2006
- The can has a pull-tab opener. Halfway open, though, the top often freezes -it just stops opening. From there on, it's a struggle until the lid finally surrenders, popping off with a snap and spraying fishy soy oil everywhere (thankfully, both times this happened to me the oil didn't slosh anywhere. That would have been a lot worse.)
- Are these really sardines? They're huge!! They look like the midsections cut from mackerels. They're so big there are only three in the can.
- THEY LEAVE THE SCALES ON! Auuuggggh! Seriously, how goddamn lazy or careless does a company have to be to do this? I don't know anybody who eats fish scales. They feel disgusting in the mouth and they make me gag. It's fucking sick. Yet there are a handful of crappy sardine brands that still insist on packing their fish unscaled so you have to rake the damn things off with your fork. And Crown Prince is one of them.
Like the Goya Octopus in Garlic Sauce I reviewed earlier, this product is a total win, though I found the label a little misleading. I expected Octopus In Pickled Sauce to be a kind of marinated offering - something with some vinegar and more spices. But upon opening the can, I found the octopus chunks covered with a sauce made of vegetable oil, tomato, onions, spices, and salt. Once some of the oil was separated out, I found the sauce to be very tasty and quite complimentary to the octopus - though not really identifiable as a tomato sauce other than by color.
As before, the can was filled with big, meaty, tender chunks of octopus tentacles with a few more slender tentacle pieces left in three-to four-inch segments. Absolutely delicious; once again, although the store I bought these at was closing them out for lack of sales, I would happily have paid full price for them - they were that good.
16 July, 2006
Picked up these doggy treats in Wal-Mart yesterday. They were so bizarre, I could not resist. Sergeant's Uncle Sam's brand Natural Lamb Lung Tender Chips. Ingredients: Lamb lung. That's it. No preservatives, no salt, no added flavors. Just slices of lamb lung, apparently freeze-dried.
I gave a chunk to Zim (the family dawg, named for cartoon character Invader Zim.) He carried it over to his bed, chewed it a little, then nosed it around the floor like he was trying to figure out what it was. Finally, he got around to eating it.
Hmmm. Strange reaction from a dog that even eats green olives. So I decided to eat a piece myself.
There isn't much to these "chips." They seem to be made of randomly cut chunks of something, but if you've never seen a lung before you might not be able to immediately identify it. Light as a feather and rather inorganic in texture (reminiscent of styrofoam.) They smell like liver and rawhide. Biting into one strengthens the styrofoam comparison, and points up the lack of salt or other seasoning. There is a faint livery taste with a strong cardboard finish. The freeze-dried tissue sort of wets down into a slippery rehydrated mass that is not nearly as pleasant as the light and crunchy initial bite. As a "people snack" they leave a lot to be desired.
Sometimes strange or filthy dog treats have a warning that the food is "not for human consumption." This package doesn't. Old laws intended to help stop the spread of tuberculosis in the US forbid the sale of animal lungs as food for people. It does, however, carry the curious note:
As with any dog treats, wash hands with soap and water after handling.I can't quite figure that out. I suppose there are some cleanfreak weirdos out there that scrub their hands after handling just about anything, but why would a dog food company want to give them validation?
Also, I guess you're supposed to watch your dog eat. The other warning on the label says:
CAUTION: For supervised consumption only. Remove and discard if your pet attempts to swallow large pieces or chunks.
15 July, 2006
An examination of the packaging revealed some details: "Cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite. Rubbed with natural flavorings." So Blazing Bacon is pretty much a normally-cured bacon that's had some spices rubbed on. The packaging does not specify what the "natural flavorings" are, but a close look shows red powder. Probably cayenne pepper and paprika.
Above: Farmland's Blazing Bacon out of the package. Check out the top edge of the bacon slices. The hot spices are along the edge of the bacon with little penetration onto the surface of the slices.
The bacon also got really wrinkled and curly. Farmland bacon is always pretty decent. It's never overly salty, doesn't seem to be too sugary, and has a well-balanced smoked flavor. It does tend to be a little fattier than some other brands, but hell, it's bacon: what do you expect? But I have noticed that Farmland is also a "wetter" cure than some others, and that's what makes it wrinkle and curl so much - the water frying out with the fat. Thankfully, it's not too "spitty" - it doesn't "pop" a whole lot, and it doesn't leave a lot of caramelized sugars at the bottom of my spider*.
And what about the taste? Very much like a standard bacon, but with a noticeable hot "edge." Not "Blazing," and not even very uncomfortable (even for my non-chilehead wife) but there it is. For all the wonderful paprika smell when the rashers hit the pan, there is no noticeable pepper taste, but there is that vaguely annoying "back-of-the-throat" cayenne pepper burn and lingering heated aftereffect in the mouth.
The verdict: Thumbs up, actually. Farmland really does make a good-quality product and sells it at a fair price, and Blazing Bacon with its mild capsaicin kick makes for a nice bit of variety at breakfast.
* - Spider is a New England term for "cast iron frying pan." See? You learn something new every day.
13 July, 2006
Bumble Bee Sardines in Hot Sauce - the label says "Premium Quality," and that's sad because it means that Bumble Bee has really lowered their standards pretty dramatically.
Under the attractively-designed lid of this sardine tin, I found four massive fish and two smaller ones, rather haphazardly packaged and looking a little like they had been processed with a weed whacker (at least they'd been scaled - it is so disgusting to get a mouthful of fishscales.)
The term "hot sauce" on the front label is a little deceptive. The deeners are packed in oil which seems to include a cloudy red slurry. That must be the hot sauce, and there is nothing subtle about it - The harsh cayenne heat is virtually devoid of any flavor and slams into your mouth and throat like a chunk of burning sandpaper. Not my favorite kind of spiciness, but tolerable with a handful of nori crackers for me and probably enjoyable as-is for many others.
Regardless of their shortcomings, these fishies are selling for fifty cents a can at the local job lot stores, so they're a cheap and decent lunch.
Goya Octopus in Garlic Sauce - Big, meaty chunks of tender delicious octopus, flavored with garlic and tinged with a pleasant and subtle cayenne heat. Truly wonderful, the pieces range from large, slightly chewy chunks to small, melt-in-your-mouth tender tentacle cuts.
This would be excellent in a marinated seafood salad, tossed with a light vinagrette, some artichoke hearts, and garden-fresh tomatoes, but it's just as good all by itself, drained of its oil and just eaten with a fork and some crackers. Goya octopus = win!
First of all, when you open the can, you find a deep, mahogany-brown mass filling the can that looks nothing whatsoever like the "serving suggestion" depicted on the box. Goya packs the cuttlefish in a sauce made up of vegetable oil, tomato, onion, ink, spices, and salt. I suppose if you drained the cuttlefish well, you might be able to arrange them on a platter to look as good as the pic.
The cuttlefish are cut in pieces about an inch or so square and are firm in texture, yet very tender. It's strange - kind of like eating a stewed gasket - but there's a good seafood flavor there hiding below the weird sauce. That sauce is probably the product's weak spot: it has an odd metallic/rancid taste, as though it was pulling most of its flavor from the can and from overripe tomatoes and onions. The overall flavor was not unpleasant, just unfamiliar and a bit jarring.
10 July, 2006
07 July, 2006
Here's Burger King's press release about their new BK Stacker:
[2006-07-05] The BK™ Stacker is now available in three sizes to satisfy any appetite, BK™ Double Stacker, BK™ Triple Stacker and BK™ Quad Stacker.
Two, three or four flame-broiled hamburger patties are stacked high between a sesame seed bun with equal slices of melted American cheese and up to eight slices of crispy bacon, smothered in original BK™ Stacker Sauce. The bigger the burger ordered, the more layers of bacon and cheese.
“The BK Stacker is simple and built with the very ingredients our restaurant guests love best--meat, cheese, and bacon,” said Denny Marie Post, senior vice president and chief concept officer, Burger King Corporation. “We’re satisfying the serious meat lovers by leaving off the produce and letting them decide exactly how much meat and cheese they can handle.” The BK Stacker is a permanent addition to the menu and is now available at all participating restaurants. The BK Double Stacker sandwich is available at a suggested price of $2.49, the BK Triple Stacker at $3.29 and the BK Quad Stacker at $3.99.
This is what a BK Quad Stacker looks
like in real life.
I had a BK Quad Stacker for lunch today. They aren't nearly as overpoweringly huge as they look in the TV ads, but they're no small snack, either. The Quad has five slices of cheese, four Whopper-sized burger patties, eight slices of bacon, and a dollop of "Stacker Sauce," which seems to be a mixture of the cheapest BBQ sauce available, and mayonnaise.
The smokiness of the bacon and the flame-broiled flavor of the beef compliment each other nicely, and the cheese seems to be the standard Kraft mild orange cheddar that every burger chain uses. The Stacker Sauce is unobtrusive - there's enough to give a hint of flavor, but not enough to drool onto your shirt or get all over your fingers. There's definitely something sweet going on there, though, and I bet the stuff is loaded with high fructose corn syrup.
Despite the sloppy appearance of the burger in the photo, the bun is of adequate size to hold everything together without making the sandwich too "bready" - though with four burgers and a handful of bacon sitting on it, you'd need to slice a pound cake in half to hide the meat here. The sandwich is so tall it's hard to get my mouth open far enough to take a bite, but surprisingly enough, the layers don't slide around or mush around the way some huge burgers do.
If there isn't at least a thousand calories in one of these sloptrough burgers, I'll be amazed. I ate one two hours ago and just the thought of dinner tonight is making me groan.