Saturday, October 31, 2009

Coco-Luxe Halloween Truffles

Some delicious truffles from Coco-Luxe, just in time for Halloween!

Now, I'm not sure what some of the flavors were, so I had to do a little guessing based on the flavor. First, I tried the bat truffle. These were really adorable with the little images on top! Quite seasonal. The bat truffle was a dark chocolate with a dark ganache inside, with serious hints of cinnamon and liquor, a much darker and spicier flavor. Perhaps a pumpkin?

7/10- SPOOKY

The next truffle was the witch truffle. It was a dense ganache, with a little bit more of a sweet hint to it, like a cherry-raspberry flavor. The flavor was still dark, but didn't carry as many of the spice flavors that the bat truffle did. The witchy witch was sweeter than she looked!

6/10- SCARY

Finally, the last truffle. This truffle said "boo!" on it. No doubt about it- this was a serious dark chocolate ganache, pure flavor with no interference! Really luxurious and silky chocolate, but also able to taste smokiness and depth to it.

7/10- BATTY

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Meiji Cheesecake Takenoko no Sato

Takenoko no Sato Cheesecake

I am a dessert person. However, cheesecake is not one of my favorites. It's so rich that I can't ever seem to eat a whole piece (even though I can put away a lot of cake), and I'm lactose intolerant.

Still, I purchased this cheesecake Takenoko no Sato because the line hardly ever steers me wrong. These are much bigger than the normal chocolates and they come individually wrapped. The flavor is Takesato's cheesecake, although I don't know if Takesato is a real person.

Takenoko no Sato Cheesecake

The smell of these reminded me of cheese cracker sandwiches or Cheese Whiz, which was a big turn off. After touching them, my fingers smelled like that, too. I could smell a little white chocolate sweetness, and my husband thought they smelled just like cheesecake. Luckily, they didn't taste like electric orange cheese.

The chocolate itself was sweet, but not cloying, and the cookie center reminded me of shortbread. It lacked the sharp tang that often comes with cheesecake, but I didn't mind. I was too busy being impressed with the mildly sweet white chocolate and vanilla flavor. As usual, the textures went well together. Even though the chocolate was very rich, in a nice small portion, I was pleased.


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Embrace Sweets

So I was sent some lovely brownies in the mail, from Embrace Sweets, and here they are, up for review!

The first brownie I tried was not a brownie, but a blondie, specifically, the Blondie Bombshell. It was very moist and buttery and tasted nice, with pecan undertones. I inexplicably got a smoky aftertaste, almost peppery, at the end of my bite. It was very moist and had a good flavor and texture.

7/10- GOOD

The next brownie was a caramel pecan, studded with crushed nuts. I tasted the pecan, it was unavoidable, but it was almost impossible to taste the caramel, though I'm not sure why. The ratio of nuts to caramel may have been it, combined with the chocolate flavor. This flavor may be more adept in the form of a blondie.

5/10- NICE

The next one was a peanut butter brownie. What I love about peanut butter in baked goods is that it makes everything so lovely and moist. This was no exception. It was a nice, moist brownie, very, very sweet with nice aromas and flavors of nuts and a good texture to sink your teeth into.

8/10- MMMMM!

Another good classic- the quintessential walnut brownie. The walnuts aren't sweet, but add a nice flavor component and cut out the saccharine qualities of the chocolate, making a good balance with a nice texture. I prefer walnuts to be on top of brownies, rather than mixed in, so one doesn't bite onto an errant chunk, so these were winners in my book.

7/10- LOVELY

Wrapping up the selection, we have a triple chocolate brownie. It was very sweet and very buttery, I wasn't as impressed with it as the others, like the Blondie, as it was a little too greasy and just like regular chocolate. There was a really doughy texture to it and although I often like that, I like some pieces or differences in consistency throughout so that it offsets the sameness.


Embrace Sweets

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

D'Lischka- Petite German Pastries

Do excuse the lackluster feeling in any subsequent reviews, if you happen to detect one. I've come down with the flu and can do nothing but drift in and out of consciousness and groan.

These are, without a doubt, some of the tastiest little cookies I've ever had. They've been in my dorm for about a week and a half and I'm quite surprised they've lasted so long! They're petite german pastries in all sorts of flavors with different fillings attached to them, and they follow the trend of "things in jars," which I rather like.

The first cookie was a Harvest Moon, with cocoa pecan pastries and orange jam, with a drizzle of white and dark chocolate on them. Overall, the orange and cocoa definitely overpowered the pecan, just in flavor. There were little nutty pieces that made a really nice texture. Some of the cookies were soft and some were hard, these happened to be in the soft variety and crumbled quite nicely in my mouth. A good, solid flavor, and the shape is adorable!

7/10- NICE

The next cookie was a buttery Hazel Ace. One aspect that I didn't like about these cookies is that although they accurately follow the "ace" shape, the little ends of the ace tend to fall off and remain at the bottom. I liked crunching them up, but to be honest, that little extra bit of cookie would definitely add to a more flavorful dessert. These were of the crunchy variety, which I preferred to the softer ones, and are pecan cookie, hazelnut creme, and white or dark chocolate drizzled. The hazelnut, though delicious and tasting identically to Nutella, overpowered the butter cookie completely.

6/10- NOT BAD

Another tasty treat were the Almond Petals, with marzipan and pecan pastry, apricot jam, and white and dark chocolate. As I mentioned, the jars varied in the amount of cookies, and this one was stuffed to the brim with almond petals. These were of the softer variety of cookies, and I'm not sure how I felt about them. The apricot jam provided the sweetness to the cookies, whereas the marzipan and pecan held it together, but didn't add much flavor. The almond was more of an essence and really changed the texture, leaving an almost half-baked mouthfeel to them. They were good. I just wasn't able to eat many of them because of the texture.


The next cookie was another crunchy selection, a Mint Bloom. These cookies are like the gourmet version of Thin Mints, without the greasiness and cheap chocolate! Kudos to these. One thing I have to say is that you guys keep throwing these flavors that I'm not much of a fan of- mint, coffee, alcohol- at me, and keep changing my mind with your delicious goodies! But these were good. I felt as though the pecan pastry got a little lost in the flavor, as it was primarily a chocolatey mint-dominated taste, but that worked in the cookie's favor. With the nuts, there may have been too much going on. This was another cookie, like the Hazel Ace, that tended to fall apart a little.


The fifth cookie was a Razzle Heart. It tasted like something a grandma would make, or something that you'd serve at a afternoon tea. It was a really cute little cookie, with pecan pastry, raspberry jam, and white or dark chocolate drizzled. It was a really subtle mingling of raspberry and butter cookie, of the softer variety. I really had no complaints about this cookie!


And finally, I'm saving the best cookie for last. A flavor that I wouldn't have expected to enjoy, and certainly not put in my top favorites! Again, I was proven incorrect. This was the Dark Star. a crunchy butter pecan pastry with a black currant jam and white/dark chocolate drizzle. I loved the texture of the crunchies the best because they were really thin and offset the softness of their filling without making the overall experience gooey. This flavor was mainly butter, and I didn't detect much chocolate, but in the back of my mouth, there was a wonderful currant taste, very dark and flavorful. A real winner!


You can buy these at I imagine they'd be fantastic as little desserts at holiday parties for people to munch on but not feel overwhelmed with.

Pumpkin Streusel Cake

Who loves pumpkin? Y'all do!

How do I know this? Because every other blog post and tweet is about some pumpkin dessert, pumpkin savory side, pumpkin latte, or pumpkin beer. I guess it is Autumn, the most pumpkin-iest time of the year, but I'll confess that I'm not as passionate about pumpkin as y'all are. I don't hate it, and I'll eat an entire pumpkin pie gladly, but pumpkin desserts in particular are not my first choice.

So why am I making a pumpkin struesel cake? Because I'm eating down my pantry, and there was a can of pumpkin puree in there from, I guess, last year when Autumnal pressures made me buy it, and, then, I was not compelled to use it. Plus, I know y'all love pumpkin, and not every post has to be about what I like. And, it's about time I posted a vegan dessert recipe. And, I wanted to use Sweetzels Spiced Wafers in a recipe.
Sweetzels is a Philadelphia food institution that you'd never know about unless you live in the area. These crisp and thick spiced cookies baked in Skippack, PA, are only rolled out seasonally in surrounding area stores, but recently have made a push into the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard. They're really no different than other mass produced gingersnaps, save for a few extra spices in the mix, but they're locally iconic, and I'm embracing the local foodways.
Pumpkin Streusel Cake
adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
makes 16 servings

This vegan streusel cake bakes up very moist. Skip the streusel top, if you'd like something more pumpkin bread-like. And, make a standard spiced struesel topping, if you don't have gingersnaps.


7 gingersnaps, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • Pulse gingersnaps in a food processor until a flour-like consistency.
  • Mix pulsed gingersnaps and brown sugar together in a bowl. Sprinkle with canola oil, and mix until combined. Add pecans and mix

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup soy milk
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light molasses (I used sorghum)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, soy, milk, oil, sugar, molasses and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking poser, salt, and spices.
  • Adding half of the flour mixture at a time to the pumpkin mixture, gently mix the ingredients by hand, avoiding over mixing.
  • Pour batter into the prepared baking pan. Top evenly with the streusel mixture.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes until done, or a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Starbucks Moravian Sugar Cookies

Finally, a good treat from Starbucks. The only real problem is that these weren't homemade, they're just sold at the counter. These particular cookies are in festive "fall shapes". So I brought them home, because I'm always a sucker for a good cookie.

Well, took them out of the package. Not many intact "fall shapes" though my roommate swinging the bag at me might have had something to do with that. And there's really only one shape to speak of, looks like a mildly retarded Canadian might have drawn up the blueprint. Still, festive. They're packaged in this funky little folding box. I like it. So the cookies themselves are wafer thin and really, really crunchy. They remind me of Anna's Gingerbread cookies, and I could eat a thousand of those. These are just delicious.

The flavor is more buttery than sugary, and I like that. It reminds me of a nice shortbread without having the characteristically nubby, thick pieces. These are a great snack while on the go or sitting and having some tea. Which I will be doing soon. Because I am super duper sick. Don't worry, I'll post tomorrow. :)

8/10- LOVELY

Monday, October 26, 2009

SNACKDOWN: The Cider Wars

Hello, foodies! I have another snackdown for y'all today, in the spirit of the quickly chilling weather.

Ew, did I really just say y'all? I'm very sorry. Regardless, I have two contenders up for speculation today. Representing the home team is an apple cider from the dining commons, brewed fresh out of Atkins Farms, in Amherst, MA, and representing the "new and fresh-faced" section, in the opposite corner, is the new kid from Naked Juice- Chai Spiced Apple Cider. So, who will win? Will it be the rookie in the game, the Chai cider, or the reigning champion, Atkins Farms?
Atkins Farms' cider is a really well-crafted drink. It's full of spices that don't dominate the apple flavor as a whole and provides a really tasty, not-too-tart flavor. It's a little sweet, which is a complaint many might have, and if you don't shake it enough, there's a little watery flavor at first, but really, I have no complaints to speak of. It's a delicious cider.

The chai-spiced cider was really disappointing. It didn't taste like cider at all! It was really just apple juice, a really artificially-flavored apple juice, with cinnamon and some other subtle spices. There's a nutmeggy aftertaste but I couldn't taste any of the other flavors typically associated with chai, like masala spices, ginger, or cloves. And it just didn't have that "fall" (read: unpasteurized!) and raw, delicious taste that regular cider has, that implies that fall is nigh and you should drink cider all the time. I was kind of upset that this was so hyped and yet such a failure in the autumn department. Good cider, regardless of when you drink it, should transport you back to autumn, with falling and changing leaves and smoky smells.

ATKINS- 8/10
NAKED- 4/10


New At Divan

With a recent shift in ownership, the acquisition of a liquor license, and newly added menu items, the owner of Divan Turkish Kitchen in the Graduate Hospital area of Philadelphia invited me back to sample their new vegetarian menu items.

New on the vegetarian front: artichoke, lima bean, and dill salad; Russian salad with carrots, chick peas, and pickled cucumbers mixed with mayonnaise; and steamed spinach dumplings topped with garlic yogurt and mint.
With the new liquor license, Divan now serves beer, wine, and cocktails, but is still keeping it's BYOB status. Bringing your own beverage is free, except Friday and Saturday nights when a $10 corkage fee applies.

And Divan really wants to get you in the door with a daily noon-5pm happy hour that will net you 30% off the entire menu, including alcohol. Also, pay with cash no matter when you dine and get an additional discount.

918 S. 22nd St., Philadelphia, PA, 19146

Open every day, noon-11pm

Tirol Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake Tirol

Tirol is one of the harder Japanese sweets for me to find in America. I only ever see the variety pack strips, and more often than not, they are a little old. Aside from the expiration date, it's easy to tell how old the pack is by the limited edition flavor bundled with the regulars.

This Strawberry Shortcake came from a pack that was nearing the end of its shelf life, as it expires in December and doesn't have the current special flavor (which should be hot cakes, though I think kinako mochi might be making a comeback). The cute packaging appeals to me, as I am a big fan of pink.

Bitten Tirol

The strawberry milk scent was very strong in this Tirol. It had a fruity, tart strawberry white chocolate flavor that reminded me of strawberry jam. In addition, there was a bit of a soapy taste that I didn't care for.

Normally, I love the biscuit varieties, but something about this one put me off. It wasn't bad, but it was very sweet. The biscuit and fruit flavor did give it the feel of strawberry shortcake, but I think the cream/frosting flavor in this chocolate gave it a hint of soap, which ruined the whole thing for me.

Kelly of Tasty Japan liked them much better than I did, so be sure to look at her blog before you decide!


Tirol website

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Two for one: Pot Cookies

Another cooking adventure. Oh, joy. Okay, so I haven't fallen off the edge completely now, y'hear? However...can someone please send me a baking sheet? Oven mitts? Even a piece of jagged sheet metal from a demolished building that can fit in an oven, for Christ's sake? And a mixing bowl and spoon, maybe? It's getting sad.

Very, very, very sad.

So yeah. This post is called pot cookies because technically, I did make them in a pot, and because I'm a sellout and people will love reading about pot cookies because they'll think I'm a typical college stoner and not an atypical pretentious food critic.


And yes, that's a pen I mixed with. This is why we can't have nice things.

So the mixes used, this is a double-header, consisted of a chocolate chip cookie mix, gluten-free, from Doodles Cookies. All organic. And some of what Ina Garten would definitely consider "good" vanilla, in the form of Singing Dog Vanilla from Kestrel Growth brands.

I mixed the cookies, as you can see, and popped them in the oven. The girl in the background couldn't have been more annoyed that I was cooking in the kitchen while she was trying to have a phone conversation about her boyfriend, GOSH.

Sorry for being so snarky, readers, but I do what has to be done. So, out came the cookies. I had to make them really tiny because I decided to bring them to rehearsal tonight and give them to the cast. And their verdict? The cookies were gone in about twelve seconds. Everyone came up and thanked me. Some select comments...

"Like little balls of joy."
"Really chocolatey!"
"You can taste so much vanilla. It's awesome."
"I love these cookies!"
"Very squishy."

Nobody knew they were gluten-free, either. So, Kestrel Brands and Doodles Cookies, you have met the seal of approval. Then again, one could say that hungry actors eat everything. Soon, I'll make another batch of cookies and hopefully do a little foray in the world of crème brûlée. Anyone have a blowtorch I might borrow?


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Moti Restaurant, Amherst, MA

Last night MM (Mangia Massachusetts) and I went to the grand opening of a new restaurant in the center of Amherst, Moti. So Moti is in what's known as a cursed place because of its location next to the big contender of fast food, Antonio's. I've always lauded them for their pizza varieties, massive slices, and excellent prices, but sometimes you just don't want pizza.

And if this doesn't jinx it right off the bat, I think Moti provides adequate sustenance for that pizza resistance.

I keep complaining about the lack of a good falafel, or rather, any falafel, in the immediate area, and although I love Amounez, I don't love traveling an hour and change to grab one. Jesus has answered my prayers. So MM and I walked in and it was moderately bustling. The waitresses were extremely attentive and friendly and made sure to omit or add all the toppings we requested.

This is the back of the restaurant. Yes, that's a massive shawarma. Yes, that man is using little to no effort because that meat falls off like warm butter. Oh my god. It was a beautiful sight.

I had to order the falafel, though, and seriously, this might become my new brand of fast food. I can easily see myself ordering this, especially at the price of $5, to take and whisk away to classes on a busy day.

The falafel itself is like an amazing and wonderful sandwich. Easily a foot long, it's the homemade and delicious rebuttal to Subway. The best thing about it is the style in which it's wrapped in. This is serious fast food. Unlike regular falafels in pitas, which are great, but messy, this one never spilled a drop, even with the extra tahini and hummus I opted to add. The lavash bread was obviously homemade and still warm, and soaked up all the sauces. The falafel was flavorsome and had a really nutty taste and was nice and hot.

Any criticisms I have are pretty weak, actually. The falafel wasn't as crunchy as some that I had, but that was because of the shape of the thing, and I'll take shape over texture. The ingredient distribution was a little awkward and eventually, one must succumb and simply eat it by shoving the entire diameter in one's mouth to get all the fillings at once. Which is fine, you know. But that was it. It was an amazing sandwich and if nobody else opts to go, I can promise you I'll be single-handedly holding up this business. Go here. It's a keeper.


On a side note, I now have official business cards and am leaving them when I go places, like farmers markets and restaurants, so expect to see my calling card when I go out to eat!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Starbucks Morning Bun

I was intrigued by the neat coils of this little confection, and also by its whimsical name. A morning bun. It sounds like something that would be served by a sweet granny in a bed and breakfast, piping hot with homemade sweet cream and butter with pretty trees and horses outside, the kind of granny who calls everyone "sweetie" and makes you feel guilty about having sex in the room.

But imagine if, under that friendly, sweet exterior, that granny had a few screws loose. Maybe she grows marijuana amidst marjoram and marigolds in her garden. Or maybe she's an underground hustler and the bed and breakfast is just pretense for her granny pimping. That was what the Starbucks Morning Bun was like to me.

It started out nicely. It was flaky and tasty and a little warm. But then, things got ugly. Some mild threats. A little too dry in one spot. A flavor that mocked almonds in its essence. A greasy inside. And the flavor was friendly and wholesome, but it just tried too hard. I saw through this morning bun. It was dry and tasteless and needed a slap in the face and some whipped butter to go with it. The morning bun had seen better days at one point and had now turned to whoring, smoking, and cheap ingredients to lure in its customers.

Do yourself a favor. Cook something.



Has everyone been to PYT, the burger bar in the Piazza at Schmitd's, yet? It seems like it. And everyone has an opinion about PYT's West Coast-style burgers, and those opinions seem to swing far to the left and far to the right, due to what I have gathered to be an inconsistent kitchen and waitstaff. One night your burger is awesome, the next night not so much. Service is only OK when it's not busy, and, when it is busy, gets worse.

During a September Philly Burger Club "meating," I had the chance to sample the two veggie burgers on PYT's menu, which might be a little more stable from visit to visit than meat burgers. There are no degree-of-doneness or seasoning-of-meat quibbles when you go veggie!
Everyone can agree that the alcohol-spiked adult shakes are great, with flavors like Jack Rabbit Slim, a vanilla or chocolate milkshake spiked with Makers Mark; and The Jon Valdez, an espresso ice cream milkshake spiked with Kahlua and Patron. Virgins are also available.

I do like getting tipsy, and I do like milkshakes, but one adult milkshake doesn't quite get me to that happy place, and there's no way I could down more than one milkshake and still have room for food. Asking for a double shot of liquor might be the way to go.
Or you could just throw back PYT's signature shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice. It's an ingenious way to get rid of all the pickle juice at the bottom of the pickle containers (a pickle comes with every burger, so they're burning through the pickles). Sounds gross, but it works, although I don't know if I would make this my regular drink; it's more of a "why the hell not" drink.
The onion rings are covered in a thick and sweet beer batter that's crispy and not greasy. These puppies are great, but, with about five rings in a tray, are not enough to share.
Beef, chicken, and veggie burgers are on the menu, and all burgers come with lettuce, tomato, and choice of cheese and condiments. For $1 or $2 each, depending on the item, toppings like mushrooms, sauteed onions, jalapenos, bacon, avocado, or a fried egg can be added to any burger. Kettle chips are strewn across the burger and plate, and a long dill pickle accompanies.

Being the tail end of Summer and tomatoes still in season when I dined, the tomato slices were fresh and tasted like a tomato should. And, be sure to get hooked up with the oniony mayo-based special sauce if you're into special sauces.
The Shroom Burger has two beer battered and fried portabello mushrooms sandwiching shredded Cheddar cheese. The heft from the mushrooms satisfies, and the crunch from the batter pleases. The squishy Martin's Potato Roll gives no fight and lets the portabellos shine. There's a backyard comfort from the potato roll, but the battered and fried portabellos are an extra step not seen at most backyards parties.
The Calibunga Burger is a thick seared white bean, garlic, basil, and breadcrumb patty. Even with crisp edges, the mushiness of the patty was too much — like eating a mound of heavy mashed potatoes. The pungent basil taste was also unpleasant, mostly because I don't expect basil in a burger. I ended up eating the Calibunga burger without the white bean patty.

I do appreciate the veggie love of putting not one, but two kinds of veggie burgers on the menu, but the Calibunga's pasty bean patty needs to be sent back to the drawing board. Maybe some other texture should be thrown in there?

And, wouldn't you know it! My visit swung far to the left and far to the right, but more so in the direction of delicious.


In the Piazza at Schmidt's
1050 N. Hancock St., Philadelphia, PA 19123
Mon-Fri, 5pm-2am
Sat and Sun, noon-2am
Kitchen open until 1am

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Botanical Bakery

I was sent these teeny, tiny little tea cookies as a sample for a review. They're cookies with plants in them. Was I afraid? A little. I made sure to eat them in the dark in case a swarm of bees came to attack me. I've been checking myself to see if I've pollinated or something. But all in all, these are some delicious little cookies.

I fancy combining these with a nice spot of tea, perhaps. I see them doing well at a garden party, and perhaps you'll order some for yours in the near future. The small demographic of mine that potentially has garden parties. Oh well. Onto the reviews!

The first cookie, peppermint with cacao nibs, is a new flavor for winter. All of these cookies are on tiny, buttery shortbread bases, by the way. A nice and crunchy, not soft or stale, confection, and the flavor is very subtle. The mint doesn't remind me of an artificial mint at all, more of the calming flavor one might taste in a chamomile tea. The buttery flavor works and softens the mint, making it a very fresh taste, and the cacao is in the background, adding depth but not overwhelming the palate.

7/10- GOOD

The next cookie has a little more crumble and acidity to it, the lemon thyme tea cookie. It's quite tasty, a rather acidic taste for such a tiny thing. Eating one gives a full burst of lemon, followed up by a mellow thyme flavor. I'm starting to like the idea of pairing herbs with sugary things. Sometimes it doesn't work out and ends up tasting like a pizza gone wrong, but in this case, the two flavors compliment each other really well.

7/10- NICE

I'm totally biased. This next cookie was my favorite, a cinnamon basil. Honestly, the only thing I could come up with was that it's a very fresh, popping taste. The basil, as one chews, emits a licorice-like flavor and mingles with the cinnamon, which, like the cacao, creates a very subtle taste. I find that with the butter, the flavors are accentuated in a more sweetened way, but also muted and cut with the richness to make a sweet and not bitter cookie. The small size of these is also fantastic, as I'm not sure if a larger one would suit my palate like these tiny ones did.

8/10- MMMM!

This cookie was flavored with fennel pollen. I don't know if it's my personal bias to eating pollen, but I only got a subtle fennel flavor and somehow expected pollen to taste different. The texture was a little more powdery, the butter flavor, the same. Very rich. A little strange. I can't decide whether I liked it or not. There were small flowery essences. I guess the idea of eating pollen just didn't appeal as much as I thought it might have.

5/10- OKAY

And then the last cookie, a lavender cookie. Despite having the buttery shortbread base, this one carried the strongest flavor of all and went with the butter very well. At first, the only thought that was in my head was of chewing on one of those aromatic pillows or face masks, but then my brain switched in and reminded me that it was a cookie. The soothing benefits of lavender sort of come to play in this cookie, making a really mild treat that relaxes the mouth and the flavor evokes lovely images of lavender flowers...

7/10- GREAT!

Botanical Bakery

Wrigley Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint

Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint

Cardamom is one of my favorite spices. I don't know about it being exotic, but it is fairly common in Indian cuisine. It's great on rice pudding and in chai tea, but you do have to be careful how much you put in. Once, I made brownies and added too much cardamom, rendering them inedible.

This is the first cardamom gum I've ever seen. There was a berry flavor available as well, but the mint sounded better to me. I had seen pictures of this gum on Flickr, but didn't know it contained cardamom until seeing it at the store. I figured the cardamom wouldn't be distinguishable from the mint.

Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint

The gum didn't really smell like anything special at all, but from the first chew, the cardamom was obvious. It made for a spicy cooling sensation that was just a tiny bit hot on the tongue. It was very fresh and authentic.

This is unlike any other mint gum I've tried, and I have to hand it to Eclipse for that. The flavor lasted a long time, and the texture was just about right. My husband and I were in agreement - this is a great gum.

The Impulsive Buy and Gigi-Reviews also reviewed this one (and they both liked it).


Eclipse website

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Three Cheesecake Tuesday

Well, kind of a two cheesecake Tuesday. I ate one a few nights ago and still need to review it, so here's the last three cheesecakes in the Decadence Cheesecake lineup!

The first cheesecake I tried was the New York style cheesecake, a few nights ago. It was wonderful and creamy, but the flavor was somewhat bland. It was reminiscent of just a creamy flavor, without any of the often sour subtleties of the sour cream. The crust was also good. For some reason, this cheesecake was also slightly less firm than the normal standard of these cheesecakes. It was good, I've just had better plain cheesecakes. I tend to prefer those with a less sweet flavor than this one.

4/10- GOOD

The next cheesecake, though, the one I'm eating right now, was absolutely phenomenal. This was the cheesecake that had me sold on the Decadence Cheesecake lineup. It's a Southwestern Cactus, comprised of a blue cornbread crust with a prickly pear cactus filling and a sour cream and agave glaze. I was so excited to try this!

The texture of the cornbread crust and the creamy filling was amazing. The combination just created this moist, lovely flavor in my mouth, and there were fantastic notes of corn and salt in the middle of it. The filling is amazing. The overwhelming feeling in this is just this freshness that explodes throughout the thing, a quenching flavor. It has bits of the cactus in it for flavor, too. How cool is that? A dessert with a cactus. I'm glad it didn't come with the thorns, but it was pretty phenomenal.


The next cheesecake brought in my personal area of expertise: chocolate and peanut butter. The Outer Banks cheesecake consists of a chocolate crust, peanut butter and chocolate chip filling, with a chocolate ganache topping and crushed macadamia nuts on top.

Well, it was a damned good cheesecake. But something was missing. The entire thing wafted peanut butter smells throughout my room, there were elements and subtle notes of chocolate, pecan, coconut, licorice, macadamia, and almond...but there just wasn't enough peanut butter. Seriously. I tasted many flavors, and I did taste peanut butter, just not enough to substantiate the claim that this is a peanut butter cheesecake.

I liked it a lot, but I was confused. I'm not sure that if I'd known this was a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake, I'd have necessarily guessed it. Still, a lovely dessert, and I can't reiterate enough that I love the idea of desserts in jars!

6/10- GREAT

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vegetable Pot Pie

One of the joys and liberties of living alone is that you can eat soup for dinner five nights in a row without worrying about boring a dining companion. Nor do you have to be shamed in the presence of others when you pull out leftover rice, roll it up in a tortilla, and call it dinner. The downside of all this lackadaisical culinary freedom, is that because no one is there to impress, nor there to judge you, you (or at least I) tend to not put more than ten minutes of effort into a meal, and we all know that the meals that take more than ten minutes to prepare are usually tastier.
I absolutely relish my loner kitchen liberties, but I do miss having a reason to cook for another person, so am looking forward to my near future when I will have another person for whom to cook. One of the dishes I used to make all of the time when I had a house guest — a dish my non-indulgent, lazy cook self misses so very much — is pot pie. After a seven year hiatus from pot pie (admittedly insane!), I recently tried it out on the boy, and I think he's gonna want me to make it again. I always make my vegetable pot pie with the usual suspects of veggie fillers — peas, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, and maybe celery — and for the protein either tofu or seitan. For the gravy it's always nutritional yeast gravy, which, if you haven't had (I think every vegetarian and vegan has had this), is absolutely awesome. I could wrap nutritional yeast gravy in a tortilla and call it dinner, and I'm sure I have! And, I have no shame in picking up a pie shell made with vegetable shortening from the store (which would also make this recipe vegan), if I don't feel like rolling out one — or two, 'cause I like a bottom and a top crust. Vegetable Pot Pie

Double pie crust
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 sticks butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
7 to 10 tablespoons ice water
  • Pulse flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse a few times, until coarse crumbs form.
  • Add water and pulse until dough holds together and is not wet or sticky.
  • Divide dough into two portions, shaping each portion into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
5 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups potatoes, 1/2-inch cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, 1/2-inch cubed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup dry white wine (can be omitted)
2 1/2 cups miso broth (can use vegetable broth)
16 ounces seitan or firm tofu, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
  • Mix together flour and nutritional yeast. Stir in melted butter and mix. Set aside.
  • Boil cubed potatoes in a small pot of water, until just tender and can be pierced easily with a fork, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat olive oil and add mushrooms, onion, and carrots, and saute until vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add thyme, sage, and garlic, and saute for 3 more minutes. Add white wine and boil until almost evaporated
  • Add miso broth, and bring to a simmer. Add nutritional yeast mixture, whisking until incorporated. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
  • Add seitan or tofu along with green peas and potatoes and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Roll out pie crusts on a lightly floured surface to fit an 8 or 9-inch pie pan.
  • Gently lay one pie crust in a pie pan. Fill pie shell with pot pie filling. Top with second pie crust. Trim overhanging pie crust, leaving one inch of overhang. Flute edges and cut four slits in the top crust for steam to escape.
  • Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Best Friends Hot Cocoa

Four different flavors on a cold, winter day. In the event that you're interested, Best Friends Cocoa is also making an appearance at the Acton-Boxborough Farmer's Market for the next two weeks and have plenty of samples to share!

Starting with the original. I was completely unimpressed with this flavor. It was chocolatey and rich, but had a strange, almost rye-like aftertaste, as though it had fermented or gotten air leaked into the bag through some contamination. It was a good cocoa, without that flavor, but that permeated the entire cup and made it taste rather off.


The next one, raspberry, carried this same strange aftertaste. I was rather perturbed, actually, to the point of needing a second opinion. When given a cup of this, my roommate told me it smelled like raspberries, and the raw powder tasted like raspberries, but in the mixing or heating of the cocoa, the raspberry taste went away.

3/10- ODD

This cocoa was much better. The flavor was marshmallow dream, and it tasted like that sugary, light flavor had been condensed into the cocoa without overpowering the chocolate, and still mixing. A good treat.

7/10- TASTY

And finally, the last cocoa, cinnamon twist. My roommate and I both agreed that this was much better than the others. We liked how the cinnamon mixed well, with little undertones of nutmeg permeating the cup, as well. It was a really nice autumn treat and reminded me of how my father used to put cinnamon in cocoa when I was small, so it brought back some nice memories and tasted lovely, too!

7/10- GREAT

Order Best Friends Cocoa as a post-apple picking treat or a nice beverage after a snowy sled ride.

Best Friends Cocoa

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Island Burgers and Shakes, New York, NY

Last night I went with some friends to explore one of my other favorite passions, dogs, at an AKC sponsored event called Meet the Breeds at Javits Center. As far as I know, it's still running today, so if any of my New York readers have a hankering for furry animals, head over there.

That's my plug for today, now onto the review. I'm a big fan of little dives. Not talking the kind of stuff Guy Fieri reviews, which could have his bleached hair on a bun and he'd still eat it, but little, tiny, neon-lit places in the backs of stores, hidden away. Such was the case of Island Burgers and Shakes.
I keep wanting to type Island Burgers and Fries, but that's exactly one of the things that they don't serve. More about that later. The outside is rather unassuming, but the inside is hopping with people. Many bright colors, funky surfboards, and little candles surround the place, which can't be more than fifty feet long and ten feet wide.

So I sat with my friends and we waited, and got our menus. The menu is massive, and filled with funkily-named selections like "Tijuana" (guacamole, bacon, and sauteed onions) and "Sans Spud" (sour cream, bacon, chives, and pepper jack cheese). I opted for the churasco, which is the purportedly famous grilled chicken sandwich, in the Sans Spud flavor, and a malted black and white shake.
The shake was a decent size, not the biggest, not the smallest I've had, and had the fascinating physical property of being lukewarm and still retaining the properties of ice cream. I, personally, prefer an ice-cold, freezing shake. It was one of the thickest shakes I'd ever had. A black and white milkshake is a vanilla milkshake with drizzles of chocolate syrup on the glass, to satisfy the need for both flavors. It was quite creamy, with a very heavy malt flavor, just the way I like it, and the chocolate syrup made good appearances in most of my sips. It was just extremely thick and the temperature was not quite right.

6/10- GOOD

And then, the sandwich came.

The chicken breast was made from a mutant, giant chicken. Easily the biggest piece of boneless chicken I've ever seen, like, half the size of a regular chicken. I had to cut off the little part hanging off the edge just to make it fit on the ciabatta. The roll was decent. Extremely floury, so that was the predominant bun flavor, but the fluffiness and chewy texture kind of made up for it.
The grilled chicken was supposed to be the world-famous star of the meal, but I was just unimpressed. Its size was the only really redeeming quality, and the texture was great, moist, and tender, but it was generally flavorless. I would have expected some sort of a rub or marinade or at least a dusting of salt and pepper, and I'll tell you this, no matter how gourmet and wonderful chicken is, without flavor, it's just awful. So that was the chicken. The toppings were good, the bacon was cooked quite well, and the sour cream and chives added a bagel-like quality and creaminess to the sandwich. Didn't taste much cheese.

On the back of the menu, they explain why they don't have fries, citing the reason for a small space and no room for a deep fryer, but fries could easily redeem this restaurant. Without a size, the burgers seem impossibly small, the sandwiches kind of bland, and the meal...somewhat incomplete. Although they do serve baked potatoes and potato chips, the mealy french fry makes the meal. It's like peanut butter without jelly or fluff. Just...not right.

5/10- OKAY

Island Burgers and Shakes
766 9th Ave, 51/52nd St
New York, NY, 10019

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Decadence Key Lime Cheesecake

I've hit a serious rock bottom here. This blog and these treats have become the highlight of my evenings, now. I need to go clubbing or have drunken sex or something, people. Seriously.

Anyhow, onto this little cheesecake. Again, I cannot emphasize how lovely the portions are. This particular cheesecake is quite filling because of its creaminess. I love that the cheesecakes aren't simply flavored by their key flavor, but also contain components that their non-cheesecake dessert counterparts would have, like the coconut and caramel glaze on last night's cheesecake, and the little meringue topping on this one.

The lime flavor is fresh! But not so sour that it makes the creaminess bitter and curdled. The crust is an almond biscotti crust, and there are hints of an almond-like flavor, but they tend to get lost within the intensity of the lime. The meringue goes well on top, though, and makes for a really creamy flavor.

7/10- MMMM!

Bissinger's Key Lime Chocolate Bar

Key Lime Chocolate

This is a lovely chocolate bar. I purchased it at Whole Foods a couple weeks ago, entirely for looks. Later, I noticed that it was all natural, and the white chocolate swirl in the middle of the bar was colored with turmeric and green plant extract. I'm not a stickler for all-natural stuff, but that's pretty cool.

The combination of chocolate and key lime conjures up images of central Florida souvenir shops. Aside from having everything under the sun, all under a ridiculously gaudy exterior, there's usually a section of touristy treats like key lime mini-pies and chocolates.

Key Lime Chocolate

Again, the bar itself is gorgeous. The first whiff was fruity, and reminded me of lime-flavored Tootsie Rolls, but in a good way. The chocolate had a good snap with a mild and subtle lime flavor, made from lemon zest oil, key lime flavor, and citric acid. The effect was a nice gradient of sweet-to-sour, but the citrus flavor gave the bar a very slightly odd aftertaste.

I liked the smooth, cool texture and feel of the chocolate. All in all, it was a very fresh, tasty bar. According to the back of the box, this is dark chocolate, but it was definitely on the lighter side. No cocoa percentage was given, but it did suit the lime. While I'm not in love with the flavor combination, it was well executed and made for a tasty treat. I'd love to try more from Bissinger's, and from the looks of their website, they have tons of pretty, swirly bars to try.


Bissinger's website