Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ice Breakers Kiwi Watermelon Ice Cubes

Ice Breakers Cubes

Mmm, artificial flavors. Oh well, it's kind of expected in gum, especially sugarfree gum. Ice Breakers Ice Cubes are an interesting kind of gum where you pay more for novelty than quality. There are only 10 cubes in the box, but for the $1.20 or so price, you could get more gum for the money with other brands.

The cubes themselves are frosty and matte white with dull reddish-pink and green flecks (not as sparkly as portrayed on the box), roughly a cubic centimeter in size. I realize now that I took a picture of the back of the box, but I really wanted to capture that "Whoa!"

On to the flavor. The "Cooling Xylitol" hits you immediately, but it really didn't make me say "Whoa!" It's no different from any other minty gum. The fruit flavor here is decent, but it's pretty much 100% watermelon. Maybe my palate isn't sensitive enough to pick up the kiwi. I suppose it sort of smells like kiwi, but maybe it's just because so much of the kiwi experience is tied up in the texture that they just couldn't emulate that in gum form.

The "Cooling Xylitol" is gone pretty quickly, as are the flavor crystals for which the Ice Breakers brand is known. The watermelon taste does hang around a while, so I'd have to say it's one of the better melon gums I've had. However, I wish there was more gum in the package.

It's a cute idea, but I'll probably stick to Orbit. I have a pack of Maui Melon Mint ready for review, so we'll see how it stacks up.


Ice Breakers Website

Bust Out!

I’m gonna Bust Out! this Friday night, and you should, too.

Partake in "breast inspired" drinks, appetizers, or desserts Friday, August 1, at one of the participating restaurants, and 50 percent of the proceeds go to Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

The evening gets started at North 3rd with a pre-party at 4pm. Enjoy appetizers and drinks before heading off to sample more breast inspired dishes at one of the participating restaurants listed below. At 9 p.m., end the night at Arbol Cafe for a showing of a breast inspired film.

In support of women with breast cancer, and Bust Out!, I’ll be taking my two girls out for a night on the town. They’ve been good to me, so I’ll be good to them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Signs: Bangin' Bagel Hole

The first sign I'm giving you is my most favoritest food sign in Philly. This bagel beacon is hanging outside of South Street Philly Bagels just a few doors south of South St. on 3rd St. (confused yet?).

I love this sign because of the mesmerizing hole in the middle of the bagel. I could look at it forever (also, the crack in my bedroom ceiling). If the hole were perfectly round, I would not be so smitten with the sign. But it's not, and I am.

We are also smitten with the real bagels. And when I say "we", I mean my boyfriend. I also think South Street Philly Bagels' dough wheels are bangin', but the boy is the one that has been buying a baker's dozen every other week from the joint ever since he moved to Philly four years ago. That's over 1000 bagels!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Newness To The Blogness

There's going to be a new feature on this here blog!

I'm not sure what to call it since I'm hopeless when it comes to clever names (um...check out the name of this blog), but, for now, I'll just call it Signs. Yeah.

This new feature has nothing to do with aliens, but will be food related signs, scrawlings, and any other sort of image I find interesting in Philly (Wilmington, I might love you, too). You see, if I bake and eat out all the time, I'll keep gaining five pounds each year, and that's four pounds more than is acceptable.

I pass lots of interesting places in my wanderings through the city (I'm mostly in South Philly), but, honestly, I have no desire to eat at most of them. Some of the places have interesting signs, though. Some of the signs aren't that interesting, but I might have an interesting story (totally subjective) to go along with the sign. And sometimes a sign is just a sign. And sometimes it's not even a sign.

So, this is just my heads up to what in the hell is going on over here. I'm giving you a sign, dude! Soon-ish.

Laffy Taffy

Laffy Taffy

Back when I was younger, I had braces. Taffy tops the list of things you can't eat when you have braces; one of my freinds broke a bracket eating Tangy Taffy once. Whatever happened to Tangy Taffy? Anyhow, there was a time in my life when I couldn't eat taffy, so perhaps that makes me want to eat it more now.

The packaging feels like it's aimed at the 10 year old me, growing up in the 1990s. Bright colors and "cool" fruit. Just check out the sour apple guy in this picture. He looks like a beat poet! The goatee and shades are pretty cool.

Oh, and the jokes. You buy Laffy Taffy for the jokes, right? Most of them are recycled, but then credited to (presumably) a child, as if they thought it up themself. For example: Why can't a nose be 12 inches long? Because then it would be a foot. I don't think Jennifer B. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL really came up with that herself.

I still haven't gotten to the actual Taffy. As far as I know, it tastes the same as it did when I was a kid.

Sour Apple: It's an electric green color (again with the 90s marketing) and starts out tasting almost like apple, but about halfway through, there was a weird, chemical taste that I didn't enjoy. Still, the taffy was pretty juicy.

Strawberry: A bright pink color, I can't really say it tastes like straberry, but it's somewhere in the ballpark. It's a nice, sweet, berry flavor, and they managed to mask the chemical taste much better.

Grape: Considering how most artificially flavored grape candy tastes like cough syrup, these aren't too bad. They are a pale purple, and they remind me of good grape popsicles. The ones that didn't taste like Robutussin.

Banana: I've never been a fan of banana flavored things. I love actual bananas, but banana candy is its own taste. My husband loves it and I just can't stand it. These are the epitome of banana-flavored candy, and I couldn't finish it. It just reminded me of the smell of rotten bananas.

Overall, I think the pieces are too big, and it kind of felt like chewing a balloon at times. All the flavors are artificial, and it shows, but they're all right. I doubt I'd buy them again, but I mostly bought them for nostalgia anyhow.


Wonka Website

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Grape and Honey Goat Cheese Tart

It's been a grape-tastic weekend! A weekend I've been looking forward to since last year's harvest of grapes, and the most delicious, cherry-pie-like grape pie. Grape Pie! Do it. You'll thank me later.
This year's harvest of grapes from three vines growing on a pergola was much more bountiful than last year's. After splitting the booty with a friend, and plucking the good from the bad, I ended up with two huge bowls of grapes.

I, of course, made a grape pie. But what else could I do with grapes?I loved the onion and goat cheese puff pastries I made a while back so much, that I decided to rip off myself. I ended up making little puff pastries filled with grapes and honeyed goat cheese. They turned out well, but...

I had a little pie pastry left over from the grape pie, so made a small tart filled with honeyed goat cheese and grapes, as well. This was the much better combination! A larger ratio of cheese and grapes to dough, and the tart's crispy crust contrasted better with the filling.The grapes I used were picked just shy of perfectly ripe, so they're tart, but still enjoyable out of hand. Grapes in the grocery store are much sweeter than what I was working with. If you don't have access to homegrown grapes, I suggest picking up the tartest grapes you can find. Also, I think red grapes would be more aesthetically pleasing after being baked. Just a hunch.

I've still got an entire bowl of grapes left. Hmm....more tarts!
Grape and Honey Goat Cheese Tart
Makes (1) 9-inch tart, or multiple smaller tarts

1/2 pie dough recipe (I like this one)
12 ounces goat cheese
4 tablespoons honey
3 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 cups tart grapes
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Roll dough out and fit it in tart pan. Butter one side of aluminum foil, and line the tart with the foil, buttered side down. Fill the foil with beans, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove beans and foil from tart shell, and prick bottom all over with fork, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  • Beat goat cheese, honey, eggs, heavy cream, and salt together, then pour into baked tart shell. Top with grapes.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until tart is firm and top is lightly browned.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mars Starburst Tropical


I should know by now to be wary of "tropical" versions of things. I learned my lesson many years ago with Tropical Skittles. But I guess I forgot that lesson when I bought this bag of Tropical Starburst. Let me break down each flavor.

Mango Melon: I don't really taste mango, but I can kind of taste the melon (cantaloupe). I don't think either fruit is as sour as this tastes, though.

Royal Berry Punch: Tastes a lot like clear gummy bears, but not good ones. I don't really taste berry at all, actually, although the first bite was almost cranberry, in a bitter sort of way.

Pina Colada: Very plastic-y taste. I think it's from the attempt at tasting like coconut. The pineapple is almost there, but the sugary taste is overpowering.

Strawberry Banana: I liked this best of the bunch. It tastes very artificial, but at least it does hit its target of strawberry banana. Not that it's a very tropical combination.

Starburst is one of those candies that was better as a child. Now they all just taste too sweet. I can still eat the originals, although too many gives me heartburn, as I recently discovered. If I get the urge for Starburst again soon, I won't pick Tropical.


Starburst Website

JDH Dogs, Part Deux

I'm not sure a veggie hot dog from a franchise deserves further investigation, but I'm doing it. Bored, deranged, have no life...that's me!

I really didn't see myself heading back to Johnnie's Dog House any time soon. Maybe in a few months when hungry on the 202 errand trail? But a couple of commenters (one on this blog, and one in my email box) had me wondering if I had been slipped a meat dog on my first visit. It was awfully meaty tasting.

I went in for lunch today (still crazy mad busy) to see if the dog part of the hot dog tasted any different than the first go round.

I decided to order mine with just coleslaw. They don't have a custom option, but you can tell them what you want on your dog. They'll just find the closest thing on the menu, and charge you for that. Kinda crappy, since my one-topping dog corresponded with the Southern Comfort dog with coleslaw and chili, and was at the highest end of the three-tier dog pricing scale.

Cheapo tip-o - if you can deal with any combination of ketchup, mustard, diced onions, and sweet relish, just order a plain dog and top your own at the condiment/napkin counter.My receipt said veggie (my receipt on the first go round said veggie, too), and the guy taking my order (if his name was Danielle, that was one ugly tranny) shouted out, "We need a veggie," after taking my order, so things were looking solid.

The first thing I noticed when I got my hot dog is that the dog was substantially longer than the one I got the other day. The casings were similarly pinched at the ends, though. The dog was grilled, just like the other day, too.

One of the reasons I went back to check things out is an email comment I got from a person who ate a veggie dog at the same Johnnie's location, and claimed that their's was not grilled. I thought, "Aha, I did get the wrong dog!" But I'm not so sure the commenter just didn't pick up on the grilling, but I wasn't there, so... These dogs are grilled slightly on a griddle, so no grill line marks. Unless you deconstruct your dog, it's hard to tell it's grilled. First trip; second trip. Pinched butts look the same to me.

I took a bite, and it tasted similar - very meat-like. We could attribute this to the fact that it's grilled on the same griddle as the meat dogs (this is something vegetarians must accept if eating outside of their own kitchen, or not in exclusively vegan/vegetarian restaurants), or the fact that hot dogs don't taste like anything but a hot dog. Slip a perfectly grilled veggie hot dog to your meat-eating friends; they'll never know the difference.

I tore the dog apart with my fingers to check the texture (I did the first time, too). Dogs don't have a true tell-tale meat texture; they're processed bits.Short dog; long dog. WTF?

Seriously, I have no clue what I got. Why was the second dog much longer than the first? I suspect the long dog was the meat dog because it was a bit greasy. I guess the only way to tell is order one of each (beef, turkey, and veggie) and break out the ruler, calipers, and taste buds, which I am not doing. Not unless some meat eaters want to participate so dogs don't go to waste.

Anywho...the dogs themselves taste fine. It's the buns and toppings that were a bummer for me -- no toasted buns and no veggie versions of baked beans or chili.

Oh, how was that coleslaw? Finely diced with an onion bite, kinda like KFC coleslaw, but not as sweet. KFC's coleslaw is much better. Another topping bummer.

So, to recap, that was a lot of work with inconclusive results for something as insignificant as a hot dog (I still love hot dogs). Any meat eaters want to have a party, sit around drinking, and measure their wieners so we can settle this? It'll be just like high school.

Update: Just got a call from the boy, who accompanied me on the first trip. He said there were a ton of long dogs on the grill, as opposed to short dogs. Long would mean meat, because it's not like they're serving up more veggie dogs than meat dogs. So, we're thinking we got veggie dogs the first time, and I got a meat dog the second time. Either way, it's not cool that they can't keep their shit straight.

Is there a JDH employee out there that would like to settle this? Drop me a line and let me know which is which.

Stride Sweet Berry Gum


I have a problem with chewing gum. I like it too much. Packs of good gum last me only a couple days because I just chew and chew, which isn't good for the jaw. My favorite is Orbit gum, in pretty much all flavors, and I plan to review some in the future. But today, thanks to a friend, I have Stride Sweet Berry gum.

The website says "Is it strawberry? Is it raspberry? Or maybe it's blueberry? Who knows?" Well, I know. It's Wild Berry Skittles. Imagine putting half a pack in your mouth at once, and that's just gum smells like when you open the box. The actual flavor isn't all that intense, but I suppose it is fairly long lasting. Like a dull roar. It's just not a flavor I enjoy, and I gotta say, I like the Orbit Raspberry Mint better. There's not a hint of mint at all in the Stride, and I suppose that's not a bad thing, but it left my mouth feeling a little murky.

It'll do in a pinch, but I don't think I'd buy it.


Stride Gum Website

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Glico Strawberry Dessert Pocky

Strawberry Dessert Pocky

The full description of this Pocky is "Rich Strawberry Chocolate Shortcake Style" but that was too much to fit in the title. I love fancy, limited edition Pocky, and this one did not disappoint. I think it's the high chocolate to stick ratio that wins me over. I'm not a huge fan of the biscuit stick itself.

These had a layer of white chocolate with a gorgeous strawberry drizzle. Dessert Pocky really is a work of art, and the box is classic and pretty as well. The white chocolate is smooth and soft - a great contrast to the crunchy stick. The strawberry chocolate has a great fruity taste that is definitively strawberry, but still as delicate as the drizzle itself.

This was definitely one of the best kinds of Pocky I've ever tried.


Glico Website (Japanese)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Omelette Cake

You can't eat salads all summer long to beat the heat. Well, I guess you can but... At some point you're gonna have to rely on the stove or oven to turn out a dish. But there's nothing saying you can't chill that hot food before you serve it!

This omelette cake recipe came from last month's issue of the fabulous BBC Good Food magazine (recipe also online). Omelette cake is, essentially, alternating layers of omelettes and herbed cream cheese -- an omelette cake!

Omelette cake is pretty enough for a proper brunch party (what tempted us to make the recipe), and is made the day before and chilled overnight (what sealed the deal in our AC-free house).

After following Good Food's recipe exactly for a trial run, we decided to up the herbs, onion, and seasoning. Recipe reflects those changes.

I had the hardest time making photos of our trial run omelette cake look as gorgeous as it tasted, and I did not want to break out the camera for the garnished real deal sitting pretty on a cake stand, lest I look like a freak in front of company, but, trust, it makes a pretty brunch centerpiece.
Omelette Cake
Adapted from BBC Good Food

10 eggs
olive oil for frying
2 small zucchini
4 spring onions, finely chopped
4 roasted red peppers from a jar, drained and finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chili, de-seeded and finely chopped
10 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
5-6 tablespoons milk, or soy milk
6 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped basil

  • Break five eggs into one bowl, and five eggs into another bowl. Whisk eggs and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a pan, saute zucchini and spring onions in 1 tablespoon of oil for 10 minutes, or until softened. Set aside to cool.
  • Stir cooled zucchini into one bowl of eggs. Stir roasted peppers, garlic, and chili into the other bowl of eggs.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour 1/3 of the zucchini mixture into the pan, swirling the pan so the mixture covers the pan. Cook until egg is set and browned underneath, then cover the pan with a plate, and invert the omelette onto the plate. Slide the omelette back into the pan to cook the other side. Place on a plate when done. Repeat with the remaining mix to make two more zucchini omelettes. Make three omelettes in the same way with the red pepper mixture.
  • For the filling, beat the cream cheese and milk with an eclectic hand-held mixer until incorporated and smooth. Mix in chives, basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • To assemble, line a cake pan large enough in diameter to hold the omelettes with plastic wrap. Select the prettiest red pepper omelette, and place in the cake pan with the prettiest side down. Spread with a thin layer of cream cheese filling, then place a zucchini omelette on top. Repeat, alternating the layers, until all omelettes and filling are in the pan, finishing with an omelette.
  • Cover and chill for up to 24 hours.
  • To serve, invert the omelette cake onto a serving platter, and remove plastic wrap. Garnish top with herbs. Serve cut into wedges.

Glico Brazillian Pudding Pocky

Pudding Pocky

I don't really understand why Pocky is so popular. I've been to some anime conventions, and there seems to be a frenzy over Pocky. Although it seems to have subsided a bit recently, it's still way more popular than it deserves to be. I'm pointing my finger at regular Pocky; it's mediocre at best, especially compared to other Japanese snacks (Toppo, KitKat, etc.).

However, limited edition Pocky is a different story. Although I love the mousse and dessert Pockys best, I'll try any candy or snack in a limited edition flavor. This Brazilian Pudding Pocky was given to me by my sister.

Pudding Pocky

The tropical box is cute, and the stripes on the Pocky itself are quite pretty. As far as taste, it has a slight creamy caramel flavor which is pleasant, but not amazing. I'm not really sure what's Brazilian about it, but I suppose Brazilian Pudding sounds better than Exotic Purin. It just tastes like normal flan/purin to me.

Although it wasn't fantastic, it was a good light snack, and better than regular Pocky. The taste was very mild, but I suppose flan is a mild dessert, so it makes sense. This Pocky was also reviewed at Japanese Snack Food Reviews.


Glico Website (Japanese)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Johnnie's Dog House

Fate would have it that I just so happened to be in Wilmington the opening weekend of the Johnnie's Dog House franchise location on Concord Pike. I was uber excited for veggie hot dogs so close to home, but I've got to say that I was a little disappointed in my first experience.

Johnnie's Dog house was a mad house when we went, and continued to be so all weekend long. Many errands were done both Saturday and Sunday along Concord Pike, and each time we passed the joint, the parking lot and interior were overflowing. Who knew Wilmingtonians were so hard up for hot dogs?

Johnnie's Dog House specializes in hot dogs (beef, turkey, or veggie), but also has a few sandwiches, fries, onion rings, mac and cheese (looked school cafeteria-esqe disgusting; I couldn't bring myself to try it), and milkshakes.

The hot dog menu consists of hot dogs named after locations, topped with that city or regions signature toppings. The New York Style Classic has mustard, kraut, and onions; The Baltimore has coleslaw and bacon; The Texas Tommy is wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and topped with cheese; etc.

I wanted the Boston Back Bay Beanie Weenie with baked beans and onions, but the baked beans are not vegetarian. The chili used on other dogs is not vegetarian, either. Big bummer.

We tried to order a veggie corn dog, but were told that they don't have veggie corn dogs. Their corn dogs are not hand dipped and made to order, so big bummer number two.
I settled on the Chicago Style Dog with mustard, relish, tomatoes, dill pickle spear, onions, sport peppers, and shake of celery salt, simply because I've never eaten a Chicago-style hot dog. Lots of people love this style of dog, but I'm not sure it's for me. Nothing wrong with the combo, just not for me.

The hot dog itself was grilled, and scarily meat-like with a thick casing. We seriously wondered if we had been slipped meat dogs, but our tummies did not report back any subterfuge that evening. The bun was soft, but a few seconds on the grill would make the dog eating experience much better.My partner ordered the South Philly Dog with grilled onions and cheese. The cheese was processed cheese, as is called for on a Philly cheese steak. The grilled onions were a little less than generous.

We also ordered fries and a chocolate malt. I forgot to take pictures of the fries and shake because it was so hellishly busy with kids screaming all over the place that, well, I forgot. The boy liked the thick cut fries, but did not like his malt. He likes malt, and the shake did not taste malty at all. They were either light handed on the malt, or forgot to add the malt in all the hubbub surrounding them. He also thought the price of a small shake was expensive for the size.

With hand dipped veggie corn dogs, grilled buns, and all toppings available in vegetarian form, Dog Almighty in Austin, Texas, still reigns supreme in my veggie hot dog adventures.

I will give Johnnie's Dog House another go when the traffic dies down, kinks are worked out, and I might be able to make a custom dog without having to shout my order to a person at a register who is in the weeds and overwhelmed.

Update: My Second trip

Johnnie's Dog House
3401 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19382

Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.;Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ice Breakers Berry Sours

Ice Breakers Sours

Ever since I was little, I've loved sour candy. And it was never sour enough for me. Lemon Warheads were great until the sour powder went away. Okay, so I don't enjoy having my mouth cut up by sour candy anymore, but I really love these Ice Breakers Sours.

I've had a couple different kinds, and this berry pack is by no means my favorite, but it's the one I have now. As far as I can tell, all the kinds I've had are eqyally sour, and I just wanted to note that the package says "Caution: sour level may cause irritation to the mouth." That's how you know it's good.


The package is glittery, which is always appealing. There's the "to share" side with the big opening, and the "not to share" opening, which never really works for me. The flavors are listed on the front, but that doesn't really help. One of my only gripes with Ice Breakers Sours is that it's really hard to tell which one is which flavor, especially since these all look pretty similar. I'm going to guess as best as I can. Honestly, I usually just blindly shovel these things into my mouth.

Raspberry Lemonade: This one is the easiest to identify because of the yellow flecks in it. The raspberry flavor is good and reminds me of blue raspberry Blow Pops, but the lemonade part is a little bit like lemon Pledge, so this is probably my least favorite of the three. I'll still eat it, though. Note that it's represented by a purple lemon on the front of the container. This flavor is the sourest.

Berry Splash: It was hard to tell this one from Strawberry, but if you get very close, you can see it has purple and red flecks, suggesting multiple berries. I still taste strawberry in this one, with maybe a hint of blackberry? It's hard to tell. This one is very good, as there's no cleaning solvent taste. It's not very sour. I'd have to call this one my favorite.

Strawberry: This one seems to only have reddish/magenta flecks. Call me crazy, but it actually does taste like strawberry. Because it's a bit sour, it almost tastes like strawberry lemonade you might get at a place like Red Robin. This one is the sweetest and the least sour, and if it had been just a bit less sweet, it would have been my favorite.

All in all, these are good but not great. The Fruit Sours that come in the bright green container pack much more of a punch. They used to have some fantastic ones with margarita flavors, but unfortunately those seem to be discontinued.


Ice Breakers Website

Calpis Softcandy

Calpis Softcandy

Calpis is one of my favorite Japanese beverages. It's a yogurt flavored, non-carbonated soft drink. You can buy it some places in the United States, but they call it "Calpico Water" over here because Calpis sounds like...something else. Apparently, Calpis is short for karada ni pi-su (peace to [your] body), so I'm not sure where Calpico comes from. Anyhow, there are yogurt flavored versions of Hi-Chew and other candies that taste just like Calpis, but this candy was put out by Calpis itself. I'd also like to point out that the package says "CALPIS" soft candy will always be enjoyed by you.

The package is simplistic, but elegant. I suppose that means they're going after a more mature market than Hi-Chew or Pucho. Unfortunately, this soft candy doesn't have a nice texture like Hi-Chew. It is much chewier and stickier, and after chewing for just a little bit, it gets kind of gritty, and that's not pleasant.

On the bright side, the flavor is great and exactly like the Calpis beverage. However, so do other yogurt flavored candies, so I think I will stick to those.


Calpis Website (Japanese)

Hi-Chew Golden Pineapple

Hi-chew Golden Pineapple

The first time I had Hi-Chew, the texture really surprised me. I think I was expecting something less...elastic? Anyhow, once you know what to expect, these are typically fantastic candies with great flavors. The one flavor I tried and didn't like was Watermelon, because it tasted like cucumber. But that's another story.

The packaging here is quite eye-catching and very psychedelic. I'm not sure why they went with such a groovy theme, as pineapple doesn't really make me think of disco and roller skates, but it's attractive nonetheless.

Morinaga is generally spot on with fruit flavors, and they nailed pineapple. These were incredibly juicy and sweet without being overly so, and thanks to the unique texture of Hi-Chew, they don't get stuck in your teeth. Did I mention the candy also smells great? Pineapple is one of my favorite fruits, so it was nice to have it so well done here.


Morinaga Website (Japanese)

Meiji Matcha Takenoko no Sato


There are lots of Japanese snacks similar to this one, involving some type of cookie dipped in/filled with some type of chocolate, usually in a cute shape. I had never tried Takenoko no Sato before, but I think the Matcha one was a good place to start.


These certainly are cute. The matcha chocolate on the outside had a nice flavor that was just a little bit bitter (a good thing) and just the right thickness to balance with the chocolate cookie. Actually, it seemed like the cookie was just a bit bitter as well, which was nice and not at all too sweet. The matcha white chocolate melted really well with the crunchy cookie, and my husband really liked that texture combination. I think even those who aren't crazy about green tea could enjoy these snacks since it's got something else going on.

They were quite addictive, as my husband and I finished them in one night. I would definitely try these in other flavors!


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Skittles Shakes

Does anyone remember Skittles Shakes? I got them about a four years ago at a foreign goods store in Nagoya, Japan in the Australia section. It's been four years, but I still remember these things as the nastiest candy I've ever had. We get to catch a glimpse of them with the chocolate Skittles that are out now, but for some reason, I remember the Skittles Shakes being worse. I looked up the flavors, so I'll see if I can remember what they tasted like, in order from most to least tolerable.

Lime Spider: This was the only one I could swallow. That's not saying much, because even that was hard.

Strawberry Vanilla: I think the problem here was trying to make the Skittles taste like milk. It just tasted sick and sweet and rotten.

Banana Split: As a general rule, I hate banana flavored candy, and this was no exception. You know how if you mix a bunch of colors together, you get brown? This was the taste equivalent.

Chocolate Honeycomb: This was just like the chocolate Skittles out now - wrong texture, wrong taste, just wrong wrong wrong. And I'm not even sure about the honeycomb part, but maybe they're referring to the waxy aftertaste.

Caramel Cream: I've saved the worst for last. Can you imagine a butter and sour milk flavored Skittle? If so, then you're pretty close. I still remember how disgusting that one was, and I don't think I ate more than one.

Luckily, these are no longer made. To get the idea, try Chocolate Skittles. Or actually, don't, because they're just awful.


Skittles Website

Glico Melonpan Pretz

Melonpan Pretz

Pretz is very hit-or-miss to me. I find that most of the flavors taste strongly of preservative, but some mask it better than others. Amazingly, matcha Pretz was a kind I didn't enjoy (and I like everything matcha). Salad, Tomato, and Pizza are all right, certainly addictive, but this one, this Melonpan Pretz, is fantastic.

Melonpan is a pastry (pan = bread) that is named more for how it looks than how it tastes. Think of a sweet bread topped with a thin sugar cookie coating, scored to look like a fancy melon. I've heard there are some recipes that use actual melon or pineapple extract, but for the most part, it's as described above.

Well, these Pretz DO taste (and smell) like melonpan, and actually a little bit like melon, too. They are less dense than regular Pretz, and a little flatter and wider. The coating is sugary and somehow, the taste is pretty accurate!

Although the preservative taste was there a little bit, it was low for Pretz and ignorable. My husband couldn't taste it at all, so maybe it was just my imagination. Either way, we both really enjoyed this snack! The four loaded bags inside the box were gone in two days, and normally, even the good flavors of Pretz sit in the cupboard until they get stale.


Glico Website (Japanese)

Meiji Blueberry Apollo

It's no secret that I love Meiji chocolate. I even made a Flickr group for it. I have yet to try something I don't like, although I think the 99% cacao bar would do the trick.

The blueberry Apollo were no exception; they were also quite tasty. Apollo has such a fun, fancy (and educational) shape. These were bigger than the usual Apollo, and they were individually wrapped in shiny packages. There was a pleasantly sweet bluberry aroma upon opening a package, which I appreciated. Too often, blueberry candy or chocolate just sort of tastes remotely berry, but you can't pin down with one.

The white chocolate bottom was harder than the usual Meiji fare, but otherwise it might have been mushy. The blueberry top reminded me of yogurt, and it had a definite blueberry taste. Together, they were lovely and did not disappoint. However, it was entirely too easy to eat the whole box at once.

I've also tried their matcha brethren, but it was too long ago for me to write a review.


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Meiji Matcha Meltykiss


As I mentioned in my review of the Meiji Rich Matcha bar, Meiji is the authority on matcha chocolate. Matcha Meltykiss (or Meltyblend, as I think it's now called) is the buttery, sweet epitome of matcha chocolate. It's another candy that seems to only be out in winter, but it's worth the wait.

Each box contains plenty of individually wrapped chocolate cubes. To be more specific, they are matcha white chocolate cubes coated in chocolate with a powdery cocoa finish. Even though they are small, you'll want to savor them, believe me. The inner matcha white chocolate is delightfully smooth, silky, buttery, and rich.

There are other flavors of Meltykiss/blend but the matcha really shines. It's just strong enough to have a true green tea flavor, but not so strong as to scare the hesitant. This is one of my favorite candies of all time, and it makes a great souvenir for family and friends. It's just so hard to give them away....


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nestle Vanilla Beans KitKat

My memory might not be so fresh on this KatKat, as I had it several months ago, but I will try to post a short review.

The packaging was very pretty and classy, especially the wrapper around the bars (cobalt blue and white). The KitKat itself was a milky white with vanilla bean flecks, and it tasted like a rich vanilla ice cream. Although it seemed a little too sweet, I can't say anything bad about it. I found it to be better than the US white chocolate KitKat (which only seems to come in mini variety packs now) but rather average compared to other KitKats (like Caramel or Cookies and Milk).

In any case, I got a bar for some friends at work who had never tried Japanese KitKats before and they loved it.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Brunch at Palace at the Ben

While I was hanging around Palace at the Ben for cooking classes, I, of course, checked out their lunch and dinner menu featuring Northern Indian cuisine. I also spied their weekend brunch menu, which happens to feature Southern Indian foods.

Southern Indian food, a rice based cuisine that doesn't rely as heavily on dairy as Northern Indian cuisine, is what I prefer. I used to eat at a Southern Indian brunch almost every Sunday in my hometown. My hometown Southern Indian restaurant is the restaurant that I miss the most now that I live elsewhere.

When I saw dosas on Palace at the Ben's brunch menu I got excited. When I saw dahi puri (my most favorite Southern Indian chaat) also on the brunch menu, I knew what we were doing that weekend for eats.I was beyond excited when I saw dahi puri on the menu. I have yet to find this little chaat on any Indian menu I've encountered since I moved away from home six years ago. Dahi puri are hollow, crispy fried puris shells filled with potato and topped with yogurt, sweet tamarind chutney, chili powder, sev, and cilantro. I could pop these little guys all day long. All night long, too.We also ordered sev puri, fried flat puris topped with a slice of cooked potato, onions, green chutney, tamarind chutney, and sev. Very good, but with such generous appetizer portions, I tried to save more room for my beloved dahi puri.Palace at the Ben offers a few different kinds of dosas on their brunch menu. I went with my favorite, mysore masala dosa, a thin rice and lentil crepe filled with spiced potatoes and spicy chili/garlic/ginger chutney. The dosa was accompanied by coconut chutney and sambar.

This crepe was soft, and I prefer my dosa crispy, but I'm sure I could request it to be made crispy next time. With my first bite, I encountered a large smear of chili paste that caused me to tear up a little (kudos to them). After the first bite, all was good with my mysore masala dosa.potatoes and spices inside the dosa

I cannot tell you how happy I am to have found an Indian restaurant in downtown Philly that serves dosas and dahi puri. These foods are only offered on the weekend, but that's when I'm in Philly anyway. If they would offer curried cabbage (my favorite main dish), I'd tear up from complete and utter happiness.

*Delawarians and New Jerseyans, note that the owners of Palace at the Ben also own Palace of Asia in Wilmington, DE, and Palace of Asian in Lawrenceville, NJ . Same menu, same food.

Palace at the Ben
834 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107

Sun.-Thurs, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri-Sat., 11 a.m.-12 a.m.
Brunch: Sat. & Sun., 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Nestle Caramel KitKat

Last Two Caramel

I tried the Caramel KitKat for the first time last year and didn't really remember it, but recently came across more and had to buy. Upon (re)tasting, I came to a new conclusion: this is one fantastic KitKat.

The chocolate coating couldn't be any richer. It has a caramel colored swirl and although it didn't smack me in the face with caramel flavor, it was buttery and smooth. This may be as close to gourmet as possible for a KitKat. I really was sad to see this one go.

My friends at work also tried this KitKat and agreed that it was delicious.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Nestle Matcha KitKat

Matcha KitKats

Over the years, Nestle has put out a couple different matcha KitKats in Japan. I had one over a year ago that was matcha and white chocolate swirled on the outside and was not only delicious but very pretty, but it's been too long for me to really review that one accurately. So here is a newer (though not really new) matcha KitKat I got recently.

KitKat Cross Section

You can see on the box that this one had a milk chocolate coating, two wheat wafers, and a matcha cream filling in the middle. What you can't really see is that instead of the usual twin bar that you break apart, these were individually wrapped, wider KitKat bars (more room for filling, I guess).

I was somewhat pleased with this. The chocolate coating was thick and had a good texture, and the matcha cream was soft and smooth, but rather tasteless. I couldn't pick up a matcha taste at all, actually. My husband thought these were barely KitKats because of the reduction in wafers, but we both agreed that they were tasty. Not as good as the Caramel KitKats, but that's another review.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Strawberry Mentos

When I eat Mentos, I tend to go through the package very quickly. They are so addictive! Hard outer shell, chewy inner mint, what's not to like?

I'm always up for a different flavor, so when I saw Strawberry Mentos, I snatched them up. However, I was disappointed.

The packaging is cute (I like the green foil), but the cute ends there. Oh sure, they're good, but they don't taste or smell anything like strawberry. In fact, they are indistinguishable from the "Fruit" Mentos and I'd say they tasted more citrusy than anything else.

Having said all that, the package is more than half gone and I only bought them yesterday. They're still Mentos after all, but next time, I won't get my hopes up.


Mentos USA

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meiji Rich Matcha

Meiji Rich Matcha Chocolate

I can't believe I'm 3 reviews in and I haven't reviewed anything matcha yet. Matcha (finely ground Japanese green tea) is my favorite flavor. It's perfect for ice cream, chocolate, bread, cookies, noodles, pretty much anything.

Meiji really has matcha "chocolate" down to an art. The taste is hard to describe if you've never had it before, but imagine smelling a cup of green tea, only with added bitterness and sugar. The Meiji Rich Matcha chocolate bar is matcha at its affordable finest.

The pale green color is perfect, the aroma is strong and sweet, the chocolate is smooth and melty, and the matcha flavor is simply divine. This bar is on the stronger side of matcha, so if you're not a fan of the taste, you might try the Meiji strawberry bar. LOTTE also has a matcha bar, but Meiji's is much better. Definitely go with Meiji.

Unfortunately, matcha is a bit of a seasonal flavor in Japan. Some matcha items are available all the time, but the best time is winter. Everyone rolls out the matcha stuff in winter. I don't know if this candy bar is available all year, but I hope it is. It's paradise.


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Meiji Chocolife

Meiji Chocolife Pumpkin

Who doesn't love a bit of Engrish on their chocolate? Meiji is probably my favorite chocolate company, and although I'm not sure what constitutes a Chocolife, I am tempted to live it. The two flavors I tried were pumpkin with milk and strawberry.

Meiji Chocolife Pumpkin

The packaging and the chocolate itself are both sophisticated and lovely. Although I can't really say it tasted like pumpkin, it did taste delicious. My husband (who ate this with me) said it reminded him of cookie dough, and it had a pleasant grittiness that seems to be a recurring theme in the chocolates I've reviewed today.

Meiji Chocolife

I also tried strawberry Chocolife, and I feel I must again mention grittiness - I'm really starting to appreciate that quality in a chocolate. Thankfully, it came from strawberry pulp and not seeds. This one is intensely fruity and definitively strawberry (unlike the ambiguously pumpkin chocolate above).

Even though the pieces were very small and thin, I think the portion size was just right, as they were easy to savor. I can't pick a favorite between the two flavors, so I'll just have to wait until I try the matcha flavor; I'm sure matcha will be my favorite.

Pumpkin: A-
Strawberry: A

Meiji Website (Japanese)

Vosges Naga Bar

Vosges Naga Bar

This might be the most expensive candy bar I've ever eaten. This little thing was $3.50 at Whole Foods, but I've always wanted to try curry chocolate, so I just couldn't say no. The full size was something like $7.50 so I went with the little one. It was supposed to come with tasting instructions, but I didn't see any.

This was some smooth chocolate. The milk chocolate base was as silky as I've ever tasted, and the coconut added a nice grittiness. The curry was not how I expected, but I was pleased. I suppose I thought it would be more present, but it instead provided a bit of background heat and a nice spiciness. I am a huge fan of spicy foods, and spicy sweet is a fantastic combination.

OK, I lied, I have had this expensive stuff before. A few years back, my husband's parents gave us the Black Pearl (ginger + wasabi + black sesame seeds + dark chocolate) and the Red Fire (Mexican ancho & chipotle chillies + Ceylon cinnamon + dark chocolate) bars in a Christmas gift and they were very similar to this one; really high quality chocolate base and background heat.

The aforementioned Vosges chocolates are definitely something special, and although they aren't five alarm spicy, they definitely aren't for people with low heat tolerance. I can't really say it'd be worth the money for me to buy them often for myself, but as a gift, sure, bring them on!


Vosges Haut-Chocolate