28 December, 2011

LaYogurt (Triple Berry)

First of all, this isn't usually the kind of yogurt I normally buy. I'm not buying into this whole "probiotic" thing, for example - all active culture yogurts are "probiotic."  Also, I like my yogurt to be interesting, so I go with unusual flavors or types of milk. But I got a wicked sweet deal on a full case ($1.99, or about 17 cents each) of these and couldn't pass it up.

So. LaYogurt is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. The Triple Berry flavoring comes from juice, which is mixed with yogurt, sugar, and thickening agents to create a very smooth and even consistency. It's not the best yogurt in the world, but it is not heinous either. Perfectly acceptable (though a bit on the sweet side) especially for the price I paid.

27 December, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts

In the past couple of years, appreciation for the humble pumpkin has really exploded. One indication is the number of pumpkin soup recipes that spread like a disease across food blogs every autumn. Another is the way pumpkin has started to appear in the most unlikely places - marshmallows, and beer, and soft drinks, and even Pop Tarts!

I picked up a box of Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts back in late October, and I would have posted this review long ago if my damn headaches hadn't kept me offline through much of November. Better late than never though, I suppose, and there are still a few boxes in stores here and there (and leftover stock should be showing up any time now in places like Big Lots and Ocean State Job Lot, so you'll still have a chance to grab 'em.) On with the review:

I've liked Pop Tarts ever since I was a kid, when my mom would buy them occasionally and dole them out as breakfast treats. That's still my favorite way to enjoy them, too - warmed up in the toaster with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee as a fast and carby breakfast on rushed weekdays.

As much as I like them, though, I have to admit that they've always tasted like somewhat fruit-flavored sugar pastries. I guess that's why my favorite variety has long been the Brown Sugar and Cinnamon flavor. It just seemed refreshingly honest to have a Pop Tart that came right out and said the filling was nothing but seasoned brown sugar. It was like the epitome of nutritionally-devoid calories.

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts are not like that, though.  Oh, they're still carby sugary nutritionally embarrassing squares of empty calories, but they are SO DELICIOUS.  They really do taste like pumpkin pie (although the sprinkle-cast frosting is completely over-the-top.) Two of these with a cup of coffee in the morning can really make the day more bearable when you have no access to actual pie, because they totally deliver on the pumpkin pie promise.

I'm really hoping that Kellogg's brings these back again next year.

23 December, 2011

Nabisco, I Am Disappoint

Remember Nutter Butter Creme Patties? Little wafer pillows filled with peanut butter creme...every bite held an explosion of awesome peanut butteriness.  My friend Michael was visiting last weekend, and mentioned sort of out of the blue that he hadn't had Nutter Butters for quite a while. Come to think of it, neither had I - and so, it became an imperative that we get some.

The wafers were just as crisp and wafery as we remembered - but somehow, those first bites just weren't as delicious as in the past.  Michael snapped one of the patties in half and it became evident why Nutter Butters aren't quite as Nutter Buttery as they useter.

Look at that! They're only half-full of peanut butter creme! No wonder they were better years ago - there was more filling back then.

Shame on you, Nabisco.

22 December, 2011

Ew...Cultured Almond Milk

So, apparently someone has figured out a way to make a non-yogurt using almond milk and active yogurt cultures. And, while I can see the appeal of this to vegans and the lactose-intolerant, there has to be a better way to go about it.

Amande Cultured Almond Milk does have active cultures in it. But since it isn't real dairy milk, there's nothing for the cultures to thicken. I guess they just sit around in the cup and wait to be eaten.  The thickening part is done by various starches and gums which are blended in to give the product a yogurt-like smoothness.

Unfortunately, yogurt-like is about as far as it goes, because the starches and gums also produce a consistency that is rather solid and jiggly, except for the pool of sticky waterish stuff that is also in the cup. Trying to stir the watery stuff back into the almond milk mass is an exercise in futility: it never mixes back in, it just sort of helps break up the jiggly parts into grainy little unappealing blobs. No, it is far better to just pour the water off down the sink and dig right into the almond milk mass, because when it holds its form you can at least pretend that it's pudding or something else that's actually appetizing.

The raspberry flavor that we sampled was a semi-pinkish/brown color, shot through with tiny bits of raspberry.  The raspberry flavor was rather pleasant, but unfortunately it could not mask the "elderly mayonnaise" taste of the almond milk concoction itself. And then there was that graininess.

Even with four of us tasting it, most of it went straight into the bin. At best, this is an acquired taste. And I'm truly sorry for anyone who has cause to acquire it.

21 December, 2011

Milano Reopens In Springfield

Milano Imported Fine Foods, Springfield's best Italian market and deli, has reopened, six months after having been destroyed by the June 1st tornado that chewed through downtown.

Right now, the grocery and deli are up and running, and the sausage and pasta-making facilities are in full operation. They'e still working on the kitchen, however, so hot lunches and the catering service may be delayed for another week or so.

20 December, 2011

Lobster Slider Patties

I was poking around in the frozen food section of Dollar Tree and found these: Lobster Slider Patties. How awesome to find something as expensively gourmet as lobster at such a reasonable price! Even though the box felt kind of light, still: LOBSTAH FOR A DOLLAH! I knew it must be true, because "Lobster Meat" was the first ingredient listed on the side panel Yea, though I paid a pauper's coin for this delight, verily I would dine like King Neptune this night.

Of course, there was other fine print on the label, like on the front where it shows a photo of two plump and delicious lobster slider patties on fresh rolls with some kind of mayo peeking out from the bottom.  Superimposed over the bottom of the righthand sandwich, in a typeface so tiny it is barely readable by the naked eye, is the advisory: "Serving Suggestion." This is a marketing term which loosely translates as "What you're seeing here isn't exactly what you're getting in the box."

When the box was opened, we found two "patties," sans bun (that was part of the "Suggestion," and the box was after all clearly labeled "Slider Patties" without any mention of buns.) They were about the size and shape of a chocolate-chip cookie, and looked like they had been hand-formed.

The cooking instructions strongly suggested baking the patties in the oven, mentioning that it was superior to the micowave. Instead, I opted to pan-fry them in butter. Besides the fact that pan-frying adds a delicious crispy crust to the bottom and top, I was also not about to run the oven for two tiny little dollar-store patties. So into the pan they went, sizzle-sizzle-sizzle, and out they came to a plate a few minutes later, exactly as anticipated: crispy and browned on the top and bottom, soft and hot inside.

We broke bits off and examined them. They are definitely made primarily of lobster meat and crumbs, exactly as the ingredient label states. (The red pieces you see in the photos are bits of red bell pepper that appear to be added as a garnish.) But don't look for chunks of lobster, because you won't find it. Look carefully at the lobster patty chunk on the end of your fork, and you'll see the meat: tiny little fibers that are the last remaining bits of salvageable meat from the lobster after all of the choice bits have been taken for other purposes. Note, however, that there was no way for us to really tell what kind of "lobster" it was. It could have been Maine lobster, or langostino "lobster", or lobster tails for all we could tell.

At any rate, it didn't matter. The patties passed the most important test: they actually tasted good. They had a decent shellfishy flavor and a smooth, if a bit wet, texture that was reminiscent of the stuffed clam filling one might find in a restaurant. A few dashes of hot sauce pepped up the patties and brightened the shellfish flavors.

I don't really think I'd serve these as "sliders," on a little hamburger roll. That would be way too much like eating a bread sandwich (I'll have a whole wheat on rye, hold the pumpernickel please.) But if I had some little sausage patties on biscuits, these lobster patties would be awesome snuggled in there against the pigmeat.

So I might not have dined like King Neptune, but I liked the lobster patties well enough. A buck well spent.

18 December, 2011

Eggies Hard Boiled Egg Cooker

Check out this ad for a product called "Eggies."  Apparently, their target market is "People Who Don't Mind Being Called Too Stupid To Peel An Egg."

Vernors Ginger Soda

So, Vernors. Yet another beverage with a cult following. Is it a ginger ale or a "ginger soda?" It's been marketed as both, but currently the can says "The Original Ginger Soda," so I guess we'll go with that.

And I think that's fair, because Vernors is sweeter and more gingery-spicy than the typical ginger ales that are commonly on the market, with a flavor profile that has a lot more going on than the usual sody pop.

Vernors has a stronger ginger flavor right out of the gate, and it's accompanied by a subtle spicy kick, reminiscent of but milder than ginger beer.  There's a touch of vanilla in there as well, and the overall effect is really quite nice.

I'm told that the Vernors of today is different than the classic Vernors of yesteryear - that the formula has changed and the soda is less itself than it once was. I'm not in any position to notice because Vernors is hard to find here in New England, and before scoring the few cans I recently tried, the last time I had it was back in the late 1970s and I don't remember that old experience all that well.

But anyway, Vernors is a unique taste and enjoyable. If you live outside of their home turf of Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois and find a can or two, nab it. You'll like it.

15 December, 2011

Candy Corn M&Ms

Candy Corn M&Ms were an M&Ms "special edition" - a Walmart exclusive made up of white chocolate with white, yellow, and orange candy shells.   This isn't really a post about them, though. Call it an "anti-post," I guess, because I was never able to find the damn things during the Halloween season when they were supposed to be on the shelf.

I visited every Walmart in the area through the Halloween season and beyond,  but they were never in stock, so even though I'd love to tell you how awesome they were, it ain't gonna happen.

Now, I know that Walmart has enormous clout with manufacturers and distributors because of the huge share of the market they command, but I still hate this kind of "limited distribution" because it inevitably leaves other chunks of the market out.  I suppose I could have sent an email to Mars to request some samples, but it's not my policy to request stuff from manufacturers (though they are free to send me products unsolicited and at their own risk for review, I don't like putting my hand out.)

So I guess that's it: I don't like retailer-specific special edition items and now you know about it; rant over, the end.

14 December, 2011

Buy Bacon Salt For What It's Actually Worth

Despite the strength of the Internet Bacon Meme, I don't think much of Bacon Salt. It doesn't "make everything taste like bacon," it makes everything taste like cheap, shitty smoke-flavored salt. 

On a recent foray to markdown grocer The Barn in Greenfield MA, I found a shelf full of Bacon Salt at fifty cents per jar. Finally, someone is selling the stuff for what it should be marked at based on flavor and usefulness.

12 December, 2011

Wild Bill's Bacon Jerky

When Dave and I were both feeling at our worst, I was the one stuck doing some shopping. As I wandered aisles and aisles of food that didn't look appealing and was preoccupied wishing I could go back to bed, I saw the food equivalent of a choir of angels: Wild Bill's Bacon Jerky. I immediately tossed it into the cart, chortling with glee, and went home knowing that I was definitely forgetting something important (milk,) but arriving with something that would certainly make Dave feel better. And besides, bacon jerky must be interesting, because hot damn, who doesn't love jerky?

Well, when I brought it home and we zipped the package open, both Dave and I were disappointed to find nothing more than thick cut, precooked bacon inside. The flavor was okay - a bit on the salty side, if you ask me - but it had this welcome smokiness that brought together the whole flavor profile of the bacon. It wasn't jerky, though. Just plain old precooked bacon, at a 300% markup.

Live and learn, I suppose.

Dave Says:

I was pretty psyched to try this stuff, because you know: BACON.  And also: JERKY. Hot damn. It was quite a disappointment to open up the bag and find thick-cut but otherwise pretty run-of-the-mill precooked bacon, broken up into bite-size (and smaller) chunks.  WTF, six bucks for three ounces of this?  Not cool.  I mean, it was as good as any other precooked bacon I've ever bought, but at least I can get Hormel and Oscar Mayer ready-to-eat pigstrips on sale and in whole slices.

My first thought was that Monogram Meat Snacks, the guys responsible for the Wild Bill's brand, were buying precooked bacon shards that other companies couldn't put into a ready-to-eat bacon package because the slices weren't whole anymore. But no: the USDA Establishment Number printed on the package shows that the bacon was processed by Monogram their own selves.

Anyway, my official rating: decent bacon but definitely not jerky, and not something I'd go out of my way for.

Meyenberg Low Fat Goat Milk

If you've grown up drinking cow's milk, goat milk can be an acquired taste. Goat milk is stronger in flavor (I've heard it described as "gamey" or "strongly goaty") and has a different aftertaste than cow's milk.

As for me, I've always liked goat milk, and I can't resist picking up a quart when I find it (which isn't very often, BTW - goat milk is still considered a "specialty item" and a lot of supermarkets don't regularly carry it.)  For that matter, I like goat milk yogurt and goat cheese, too.  Hell, if I thought I could get away with it, I would keep a nanny goat here in my quiet suburban neighborhood and be all Goat Milk Dairyman with her.

Anyway. Different brands of goat milk seem to have different goaty intensities.  I recently picked up a quart of Meyenberg Low Fat Goat Milk and really enjoyed it. But I have to say it was much stronger in flavor than some of the other goat milks I've had.  It had a very distinctive "barnyard taste," which is something that some people find objectionable but I find interesting.

I would certainly buy it again, especially if I also have Cap'n Crunch in the house. Because that's something else about goat milk: it is awesome on Cap'n Crunch.

PEE Jays?

Every year, Maryanne and I order a box of oranges from one of the local high schools during their annual fund raiser. This year, the fruit came from a fundraising place in New Jersey instead of directly from Florida:

That's a legit company, and the oranges are okay, and I'm sure the rest of the stuff they sell is okay too. But I still have to wonder what kind of horrible childhood someone has to have to get the nickname "Pee Jay" instead of, say, the more neutral "PJ."  Also I laugh, because I'm an immature bastard.

11 December, 2011

Out Of The Can: Brookdale Corned Beef Hash (ALDI)

Today's Out of the Can feature is Brookdale Corned Beef Hash, sold by ALDI. Bearing in mind that ALDI is a no-frills, low-price sort of supermarket, I was expecting this hash to be a hilarious cylinder of fat and lurid pink mystery meat, much like the cheap house brand hash that provided me with so many lulz in April 2010.

But no - Like so many other ALDI branded products, Brookdale Corned Beef Hash is pretty awesome. Very little fat cooks out of it in the skillet. The meat and potatoes are both decent quality, and the flavor is good without being overly salty.

A quick check of the USDA Establishment Number printed on the can reveals that the hash is actually made by Hormel, then labeled for distribution and sale by ALDI (regardless of how secretive ALDI is about the source of their private brand stuff, this is something they cannot hide on anything containing any kind of meat - federal regulations require that the processors of meat products be revealed on the package.)

I like canned corned beef hash - 'ash an' heggs is a favorite Sunday morning breakfast for us, especially as the weather gets colder. I've gotten used to tipping the pan and spooning out a quarter of a cup of fat as the hash cooked, so it was a mighty pleasant surprise to find that Brookdale hash doesn't pour off a load of grease as it heats up.  And what makes it even better is the price (I'm pretty sure I paid less than $1.50 a can for it.)

Recommended with no qualms.

Why, Hello There!

Have you ever had a migraine headache?  They can be pretty nasty - they might knock you out of service for a whole day...or two...or sometimes, for some people, a week.

My head has been in almost constant pain for about two months now. 

Last month was the worst. I couldn't look at a monitor for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I couldn't talk on the phone. And worst of all, I couldn't concentrate on anything. I spent a huge amount of time on my back, hiding from the light, with a heating pad wrapped around my head. And the pain isn't just inside my head, it's in my scalp and face too. 

My doctor and my neurologist are both working to figure out what is going on. I've had CT scans, MRIs, and ongoing bloodwork to see if we can track down what is causing this. So far, we've ruled out the really scary shit like tumors, embolisms, or arterial blockage, and now we're testing for less-scary shit like Lyme disease and such.

So between that and Lynnafred being out of commission, posts to the blog have been more or less on hiatus. She's feeling somewhat better, though, and my own pain is starting to get to the point where I can get some work done again, so you can look forward to a bunch of posts in the coming days. We both have a big backlog of stuff to review and a couple recipes to share, and I'm really eager to get back online again. I think if I take advantage of the periods where the pain is manageable I can get some stuff posted and/or scheduled, and give you guys some new stuff to read.

Finally, I'd like to thank all of you who sent emails of concern during the hiatus. I'm going to try to answer all of you in the next day or so.  I deeply appreciate your messages, and the get well wishes you guys wrote in the comments to Lynnafred's post.  And I'm sorry that I couldn't get past the pain or work up the concentration to reply to them before now.

All of you are awesome.  Thanks!

06 December, 2011

We're not dead yet.

But we might as well be, for all intents and purposes. Awhile back, I mentioned that Dave was feeling sick and wasn't really in the blogging spirit. He's still not feeling well, which is half the reason that there's no updates to be had. The other half is, obviously, me. I've just gotten over a horrible bout of flu and general feel-shittery, and am just starting to get back into the normal swing of things, not to mention normal eating habits. So, now, I'll be taking the helm again and posting the things that Dave dictates, as well as whatever odd food that I can find. (Fun fact: I have bacon jerky to write about, so stay tuned.)