Monday, November 30, 2009

Spudmaster ColossalChips

It's a rainy day, and I walk in to find a large box of Idaho potatoes by the couch- but wait! They're not Idaho potatoes! They're chips! Chips in boxes!

The Spudmaster potato chips are a breed unto their own. For starters, they have a sexy potato logo on the front, they come in boxes, and they're massive and extremely crunchy. Roomba and I set into them immediately.

The first one we tried was the "Shazam" flavor, which was like a combination of barbecue flavoring and a heat that warmed up and then burnt a little. It was good! The chips are huge. Heed my warnings, children. A few of these chips topped six inches, and none were really under two or three. Each chip was crunchy, to the point of where Roomba took off her headphones and just stared at me crunching for a few minutes.

The flavoring doesn't overwhelm the potato flavor, which is good. Instead, it compliments it and brings out some of the starchier, meatier potato flavors that are often missed with a chip that is too flavorful.

7/10- YUMMY

The "no salt added" chips worried me, because I genuinely enjoy a little salt with my taters. Unfortunately, when you take away the salt, you're left with the potato flavor and the flavor of the cooking oil, and because cooking oil is still left, you get a bit of a greasy flavor.

We agreed that these chips would be great for dipping, because there's no interfering flavors to contend with the dip, but that on their own, they're not as impressive as we'd have liked. The richness of the potato flavor is just bogged down by the oily taste and sheen left in your mouth afterwards. As always, the chips are still massive, in the best possible way.

4/10- OKAY

The last chip was the "original" flavor. I was really surprised to try these because I usually associate the original flavor with a plain salt chip. Instead, these had a really subtle undertone of garlic, onion, paprika, and more, that made us keep eating and eating them. They were excellent!

These chips, like the Shazam flavor, also brought out the best qualities of the potato. There was a creamy, oniony taste that made us think of a loaded baked potato. Overall, these are great! The flavored versions are a lot less greasy, too.


Overall, these are really fun, wiggly chips for a barbecue or family gathering. I wouldn't recommend them for on-the-go snacking, as they attract a good deal of attention and with the box, are somewhat unwieldy. But they're tasty!

Kanro Pure Grape Gummy

Grape Pure Gummies

Kanro Pure gummies have been a favorite of mine for a few years now. The lemon flavor got me hooked, and I've liked many other flavors I've tried in the past. My love of sour candy goes back to my childhood, and when combined with Kanro's typically authentic-tasting fruit flavors, the brand has been quite reliable.

A friend of mine from far away came to visit and brought these (and many other treats, reviews to come soon) as part of a late birthday gift. The gummies themselves are heart-shaped and coated in sour sugar, and I find them rather photogenic!

Grape Pure Gummies

When I opened these, the smell of concord grape juice was strong, and although it was a little fake, it didn't smell too much like medicine. The first taste of the gummies is simply sour, followed by grape juice. The balance of the flavors was just about right, not too sour or too strong.

These most reminded me of grape Jolly Ranchers or the better grape popsicles. The texture of the gummy (which, according to the bag, should be like real fruit) was firm and a bit leathery, and the sour sugar was coarse and tart. Whether you chew them up right away or savor them a bit longer, these are tasty gummies.

These have also been reviewed at Pockywatch.


Pure website


We stopped in Stephen Starr's new pizzeria off South St., Stella, a while back for an early 5pm Saturday dinner, and were quite surprised to see the joint already at near capacity so early in the evening. Don't know why it was surprising, because a sit-down pizza restaurant that's simultaneously family-friendly and quasi-chic is certainly one dining option that was sorely missing in the surrounding South St., Queen Village, and Society Hill neighborhoods.

With it being a little too chilly for outdoor seating, and all of the four-top tables along the periphery occupied, we were about to be seated amongst (gasp) families with young children at one of the long communal tables in the center of the loud and boisterous restaurant for what would have surely been a miserable dining experience.

Thinking fast, I requested to be moved to the bar in front of the wood burning pizza oven and the assembly line of pizza makers churning out pizzas rhythmically. Basking in the warmth of the wood-fired oven with a mesmerizing show of pizza making to entertain, I recommend any small party to opt for the bar.

Stella's menu is short and straight forward with only antipasti, charcuterie, soups and salads, pizza, and gelato. A short list of wine and beer is available, but may be too short for a town filled with so many knowledgeable and avid drinkers.We started with the grilled radicchio salad with Gorgonzola, dried cherries, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette, an average but slightly interesting salad, especially when your fork found one of the few large globs of melted Gorgonzola.

Before I go on with my review of Stella, let me say that I am not a pizza snob or connoisseur. I have no preference for thick or thin crust, I don't look down my nose at deep dish, nor do I discount a pizza with Cheddar cheese. As long as the pizza is not burned or undercooked, and it tastes good, I don't get my panties in a wad over pizza. So, I appreciate that Stephen Starr combed NY and other cities to find the ultimate pizza and modeled his pizzeria after his discoveries, but it may all be a little lost on me.

Pizzas come in one size, about 12-inches, and are great for splitting with another person if you're not ravenous, although most tables seemed to order one per person.We went with one of the more interesting sounding pizzas, the Pistachio with red onions, pistachio, Fontina, and extra virgin olive oil. With only a smattering of crushed pistachios on the olive oil-based pizza, the extremely thin sliced onions and Fontina cheese were the real star of the pizza. Anytime I see a restaurant use extremely thin sliced raw onion, I know that they have a great understanding of the onion — raw must be sliced thinly or diced small; if using large chunks, they need to be caramelized.
The bottom and top of the crust was blistered with a few charred bubbles, but certainly not overcooked or burned. Those pizzas cook fast! We witnessed them throw away a few pizzas when the oven master took his eye off the oven for only a few seconds. Some pizza snobs do a crust test by holding up a slice, and if any more than the first inch of the tip droops, it's no good. Stella would have failed this test, but I'm not a snob. I usually fold and bite, or rip small pieces off with my hands and shove them in my mouth.Keeping it simple, dessert is your choice of a few different house-made gelato flavors. Chocolate, pistachio, olive oil, and Ricotta were up for that evening. We decided on the smooth, mild flavored Ricotta topped with a miniature anise seed biscotti, a perfect ending to the meal.

We waited about five minutes longer than we should have for our gelato, although we were unaware of this since we were having a fabulous time watching the pizzas being made, but our server volunteered to comp our dessert when he noticed we didn't have any in front of us. If only more restaurants comped for their mistakes. It leaves such a pleasant taste in the mouth.

Does Stella make the best pizza in town? I don't know, and I don't care. It's conveniently located near us, and is one of the only sit-down destination pizza restaurants near us, so I'll be back. A seat at the bar and dazzling pizza show is really what made the trip fabulous.

420 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Mon-Thurs, 11:30am-11pm
Fri, 11:30am-midnight
Sat, 11am-midnight
Sun, 11am-10pm

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Taco Bell's Volcano Taco

On the hour of battery life I have left, I'm writing this review to you because I know I'm late. I've been a very bad Foodette and am reaping the punishment now. I'm writing this on a bus, albeit, a spacious one, but a bus nonetheless.

So before this singular and delightful experience, I must say, I was rather dubious of the entire concept of the "fourthmeal" that Taco Bell had been shilling in its advertising. But it was 11:38 PM, Food Fag and I were starving, and the powdered Gatorade and Doritos in the house were not cutting it. Only thing to do was take a trip.

I was hungry, but I didn't want a meal, and I certainly didn't want anything fried from the combination KFC. Realizing that I was late on the whole idea of the volcano menu concept, I still decided that the volcano taco was the right thing to get. And when you order at this particular Taco Bell late at night, they often stock your food with extra food or take an item off your order and give it to you free so they can get rid of extra stuff.

So, the volcano taco. It was tiny, but like Napoleon, it packed a punch and did the job. The shell was bright red, a feature I'd forgotten but much enjoyed, but was inexplicably greasy. It did a good job of holding the food in together and not making a mess. The lettuce was abundant, and I could have done without, but was pleased with how crunchy and fresh it was. The taco was not one that had been sitting for a long time under a heat lamp. The shredded cheese was also superfluous, as the taco had cheese sauce that did the job. It made more of a mess than anything else, and I ended up just scooping it out and eating the remainder of the taco plain.

Honestly, if I could have had a taco, a sandwich, an anything, topped with the beef mixture and the lava sauce, I would. Top garbage with that stuff, honestly. It was delicious. The sauce had a really nice burn, and it's nice to see that Taco Bell isn't afraid to add a little more spice to their products. It was cheesy, gooey, and the beef was spot on good. I like tacos to have a little more moisture. I just think it holds everything together well.

And for the price, it was the perfect thing to satisfy my hunger. I can definitely see this becoming a staple in my food, especially with the quality of meat that they use and the size of the product. I don't need a full meal to feel satisfied. One of these will definitely do the job!

8/10- HOT HOT HOT!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich

Ah, the day after Thanksgiving. To be fair, I ate this coming home in the bus station, waiting for the ride back to town. And now I'm reviewing it today. It's a favorite. Sandwiches are hard for me, because I'm really picky. I don't eat beef unless it's in tacos, and I think that vegetables, unless they are potatoes, do not belong in a sandwich. I'm a fan of massive, delicious 'wiches, and just don't like to settle.

So I got this in a fit of hunger and desperation, and also because I was so tired of seeing people order freakishly disgusting sandwiches. Tuna fish, pepperoni, and honey mustard? Really? I had my sandwich made on Italian Herbs and Cheese, chicken, the sweet onion sauce, and monterey jack cheese.

I get so flustered when I want to make a sandwich without a previous plan, simply due to the number of permutations I can get. Anyone else have this problem? It's one thing to go somewhere and get a chicken sandwich, but it's another to customize it. I digress, though.

The bread was a little too crispy for my liking, and when the woman made the sandwich, the amount of chicken looked really disproportionate to the amount of bread, despite the fact that she put two trays on. I should have asked for double chicken, but I really didn't want to spend too much money. I'd say that out of the twelve inches of the sandwich, I got chicken in all but 1.5 inches total, which was very good.

The cheese was barely noticeable. If I hadn't ordered it myself and known that it was there, I might not have noticed. It was a shame, because I ordered the monterey jack for a little more flavor. The chicken was nice and tender, unremarkable, but flavorful and had a good chew to it. And the sauce was just disappointing. I tasted teriyaki. I tasted salt and sweet. But I tasted no onion. It was like bathing my chicken in a flavorful syrup and soy sauce mixture. It was a shame. I ate the sandwich, but it just wasn't to my likings as far as a homemade sandwich goes. For that, I require something a little more carefully made, although I do appreciate Subway's range of sauces.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jones Tofurky and Gravy Soda

I don't have a photo of this, but I can assure you, it was as noxious as it looked.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to take one for the team and have some Jones Tofurky Soda, debuted this year. Excuse me, tofurky and gravy. The soda is designed for all masochistic vegans and vegetarians, and believe me, there's quite a demographic. So I bucked up and bought a bottle of this, and decided to try it for an audience of rapt friends.

In short? Utterly disgusting. If you're squeamish, stop now.

In long. Oh, my. First opening it, it's a lovely aroma of cat kitter, Windex, and gravy. The taste is very watery, and not at all like turkey at all, more gravy than anything else. The carbonation is the strange part. I keep expecting it to have the thick texture of gravy, but it's so...not gravy like. It's the Schrodinger's Cat of sodas. Gravy and not gravy.

Overall, it's like a Butterball turkey took me and raised me as one of its own, and sustained my frail little body by vomiting its juices into my mouth. So, for gastro-intestinal taste enthusiasts, this is all systems go. For the rest of the world, stick with what you can chew and leave the libations fruity-flavored.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This Thanksgiving marks the 20th anniversary of me becoming a vegetarian, but this number is not that significant. It's neither here nor there; just a nice round number that makes me realize just how old I'm getting.

This Thanksgiving also marks the first Thanksgiving that I will be spending with family in, gosh, over more than a decade. Living more than 600 miles from my family for the past eight years is definitely one reason I haven't been home for Thanksgiving, but even when I lived six miles from my family, I didn't go home for Thanksgiving except for maybe once or twice since I was a teenager.

Before you think that my relationship with my parents is strained, it's not. My Mom took the opportunity to go on an annual skiing trip over the Thanksgiving holidays once we all got out of the house, but in the past few years realized she's gotten too old to ski without doing irreparable damage if she were in an accident, so started doing a traditional Thanksgiving again. And my Dad spent Thanksgiving with his wife's family. Such is the life of a child of divorced parents, although the few times I did have Thanksgiving with family back in my 20's it was with my Dad.

So, have I not experience Thanksgiving all those years? You bet not! I love all those Thanksgiving sides. And I have many good friends to thank for sharing Thanksgiving with me. Whether it was dinner with a group of friends that lived down the street, dinner with friends at school, dinner with friend's family, or even just an intimate dinner with a boyfriend, I've enjoyed a proper Thanksgiving all these years.

Not superficially sentimental, I always dread the ritual of going around the Thanksgiving table saying what you're thankful for. My mind races. I usually pick something easy and obvious like health, which I am thankful for, but, yeah, I didn't put any thought into my choice. This year, I also didn't put much thought into what I'm thankful for, but that's because it is plainly and painfully obvious.

I'm thankful for my friends. My friend's that are there when I need them. My friends that treat me like family. My friend's that share their meals with me.

Of course, I am greatly thankful that I have parents who are still alive (we're all getting so old) to spend Thanksgiving with. I'm very excited to see my family this year, but was getting a little sad to not spend Thanksgiving with friends.

It turns out, we did an early Thanksgiving with friends this year...for which I am thankful.

Flavrz Drink Mixes

Are these for the nature conscious? Certainly not. They've got enough packaging for three Crystal Light drink mixes. Are these for the busy people who need a convenient drink? Not really. The package is full of liquid, and that's kind of strange and hazardous. Does it make the drink better? Does it taste good?

Read on, Foodketeers!

Lame, yes.

Flavrz Drink Concentrates were sent to me by the company for review, in their three flavors: Cherry Berry, Lemon-Lime, and Tropical. They're drink mixers that can be added to 12-20 oz. of water. That's a big margin of flavor for me. It's the difference between that abysmal Dasani "Hint" water and a nice Fruit 2 O. So how are they?

I tried the Cherry Berry in a water bottle. I figured that with the copious amount of liquid, it would be equal to the powder ratio, with a 19.6 oz. recommended mix. It mixed to a nice rose color in the water, but the taste? Bleh. Tasted just like that damned Dasani.

Another thing I noticed which I really, really disliked was the flavor inconsistency. I'm not sure if it was the agave, but inexplicably, I found that there were like, liquid pockets floating around the water, like grease on a burger, where there was more flavor, possibly due to an inability to mix? Whatever it was, it was awful and led me to sip tentatively.

2/10- GROSS

Unfortunately, no photos of that. I can't seem to find the ones I sent to my email address from my cell phone. None of lemon lime, either. But I can save you with tropical.

The lemon-lime, I decided, couldn't be screwed up, and also opted for a smaller ratio of water. I filled my bottle up with twelve ounces and added the liquid, then gave it a good shake to disperse whatever those greasy pockets were before. And then I took a sip.

Awful. Even worse than before. The entire twelve ounces was permeated with a medicinal, metallic taste bearing little resemblance to lemon or lime aside from a strange, not sour acidity and general lack of sweetness to the drink. Horrible. The taste stayed in my bottle for days until I washed it out with boiling water.


Although I was scared to try the last one, life has left me bereft of juice in the last week and I'm thirsty. So I bucked up for the sake of the review and tried it. It's sweet! It's cloying! It's actually sort of tasty, in a strange way! The overall flavor reminds me of coconut, banana, and pineapple, and it comes in a pleasing orange color. Oddly enough, it even has that waxy coconut aftertaste. Hrm.

I don't know how to feel about this. Even after mixing it, there were those strange, unmixed swirls, and I just didn't like them as much as I thought. I'd never buy them unless the concentrations got better, and the greasiness went away. And they're just not convenient for on the go. If I were to take these anywhere, they'd go right in my backpack, and I'd just worry about something puncturing one of them.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Route 9 Diner, Hadley, MA

Okay, guys, the last local restaurant review before I head home for vacation. I'm technically posting this for Tuesday, though I'll be in classes and also on a bus for about four hours. Ah, the joys of public transportation. Anyhow, onto the review.

This place is a classic staple for students, as it's open 24 hours a day and serves up food you wish you could make, but cannot, because you are drunk or incapable. The menu is horrifyingly expansive and offers selections like breakfast food, amazing sandwiches, phenomenal desserts, and the best waffle fries this side of Chick-Fil-A.

I went with my mother on a brief break in between shows this weekend. I'd been before, but hadn't yet reviewed it because I wanted a more substantial meal to pick apart. I was ravenous, so I ordered the Mt. Holyoke chicken sandwich- fried chicken breast, bacon, BBQ sauce, onion rings, and cheddar cheese on a bun, with waffle fries and a diet Pepsi.

The photo is a little blurry, but there it is, in all its glory. The food came in about ten minutes, record time, but made no indication of being reheated or previously made. It was fresh, fancy, and delicious. I don't like coleslaw, so I gave it to my mother. The sandwich itself was a monster. The bun wasn't toasted, which I like, and also had melted cheddar cheese on both sides of the bun, enveloping the contents in a gooey seal.

The chicken was phenomenal. It was uniformly cooked to perfection, crispy, slightly greasy, and very flavorful. I don't know how well it would have served as a solo dish (as opposed to Lenny and Joe's,) but it's delicious "sandwich chicken" and that makes everything all right. The bacon was perfectly cooked, but was unfortunately overshadowed by the onion rings. I think that this sandwich could have been better made with onion straws, as they give the taste and crunch of rings without the strange texture. Some of the onions slipped out of the breading as I bit, and that's a textural component I cannot abide in the least. The BBQ sauce was there, but in the tiniest, quarter-sized pool on top of one side of the chicken and made some appearances on one side of the sandwich, but that was as far as it went.


As far as the waffle fries go, they are sublime. I'd say that in each serving, at least 60% of the fries are large, waffly slices, and at least 25% of the fries are large enough that you have to unhinge your jaw to eat whole. They come piping hot and are orange and seasoned with magical spices, but are not greasy and acid-inducing like some fries. They are crunchy in some areas, soft in others, and utterly addictive.

What I also like about the waffle fries is that they're not uniform. I like it when there's a slight cut that uses the really meaty end of the potato, as opposed to the standard sticks. If anything, they might need a little more salt. But trust me, if you're going to Route 9 Diner, don't order anything on the side but these fries. If you order them as a side order, they come piled high on a plate the size of your head. Trust me, though. You'll finish them.


Route 9 Diner
458 Russell St. #11
Hadley, MA, 01035

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rao's Coffee, Amherst, MA

To all 98% of my non-Massachusetts readers, (see, I do check up on my Google Analytics!)

I'm terribly sorry for doing all of these local restaurant reviews, but I keep eating out, and the food is so good, and it seems a shame to not review them for others! I have two more of these, and then it's back to the regular stuff for a while- new and exciting developments in the snacky world.

In the meantime, it's rainy and disgusting, which makes me want to go home all the more. Instead, I sucked it up because I have a day and a half left, and went to Rao's coffee after getting my overdraft fees together. (This is why there's a donation button! Hint hint!)

I saw these cupcakes, giant strawberry and vanilla babies, about two weeks ago and decided that at some point, I just had to have one. It was a beautiful and large, glistening treat, and for $2.71, it was a good deal, too.

The cake is massive. It's more of a small cake. It was tall enough to prevent closing the little container it came in and hefty enough to throw at a robber to fend them off. I've eaten 1/4 of it so far and might chip away at it before relinquishing it to Roomba. It's a dense vanilla pound cake with pretty piped strawberry buttercream on top. The buttercream is pink with little bits of real strawberries in it.

Now, buttercream is a fickle beast. The best buttercream is fresh and airy, a fluffy cream that you can bite into without getting a waxy taste over your mouth, which makes it greasy and disgusting. It's flavorful and delicious and provides the right moisture for a cupcake. It's like fondant- very easy to mess up, but utterly addictive if you get it right.

This is not the best buttercream I've ever had, far from it, in fact. The mouthfeel tastes as though the cupcake was frozen and then just thawed, and the strawberry flavor is overshadowed, aside from a small hint, by an overwhelming coffee flavor that comes from the shelves being too close to the grinder, and the frosting absorbing the taste. The aftertaste is not greasy, thank goodness, but delicate. The texture may throw people off, though.

The cake itself is more of a crumbly muffin than a cupcake. It's a little too dense, like a pound cake, but doesn't hold together quite as nicely. (My prerequisite for a pound cake is from my grandmother's close friends in Georgia- one cake has twelve eggs and six sticks of butter. How's that for comparison?) It, too, carried that slight hint of coffee flavor, but overall, had a really nice, rounded, buttery taste.

Together, they are decent. I cut my pieces into individual bites and respread the buttercream. It was okay, not my favorite. Hopefully there will be some Four and Twenty Blackbirds desserts to review for my Connecticut crew! That's a place that makes good sweets.


With this, I had a chocolate Chai iced tea to drink. I don't have any photos of that, so I've decided to overcompensate by taking more cupcake photos. The CCIT was really tasty, but came in a cup that was at least 50% ice, and that's not fair at all. I paid $4.49 for a small drink in a 12 oz. cup and it was probably about 5% chocolate syrup, 25% water, 15% milk, and 5% Chai tea. It was delicious, don't get me wrong. The flavors mingled really well and it was cool and creamy and very evenly distributed with the chocolate, but for the price, I feel like I ought to be getting a little more drink and a little less filler. Even Starbucks doesn't have the audacity to price that high.

6/10- GOOD

Rao's Coffee
17 Kellogg Ave.
Amherst, MA, 01003

Cranberry Relish

A couple years ago, in the spirit of adventure, I tried a cooked cranberry chutney recipe that is extremely different from the fresh cranberry relish my Mom makes every year for Thanksgiving. Bad move. Thanksgiving is not a time to deviate from traditions. You can incorporate something new, but you can't take away the tried, true, and beloved.

In our family, we don't do canned cranberry sauce, nor do we do a cooked cranberry sauce, but we always make a very simple fresh cranberry relish of nothing more than cranberries, oranges, and sugar. I took the liberty to reduce the sugar and add cinnamon to my Mom's recipe, which I'm certain came from the back of a cranberry bag, but have been unable to spot such a recipe in recent years.

One reason I am so endeared to this recipe is that my Mom let me make it every year from beginning at a very young age. We'd break out the old crank meat grinder, suction it to the counter, and I'd fill the hopper with cranberries and orange hunks, and grind away. Now a days, I use a food processor to get the same results.

Cranberry Relish
makes about 2 1/2 cups

This relish is best made a day ahead, so the cranberries can macerate and the flavors marry. It can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in the refrigerator. It also freezes well.

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 Navel orange
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Wash cranberries and drain. Discard any shriveled or bad cranberries.
In a food processor, pulse cranberries 8-10 times until finely chopped. Turn out cranberries into a large bowl.Cut orange into eighths.
In food processor, pulse orange wedges 8-10 times until orange rind is finely chopped. Turn out orange rinds, including juice, into the bowl with the cranberries.
Add sugar and cinnamon, and stir until incorporated. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bruno's Pizza, Amherst, MA

I'm doing two posts today because I missed out on yesterday and Friday, and, well, because you deserve it! I've been in a show all weekend, and after the shows I either go home and sleep or hang out with some friends. Friday night, I went back to the dorm and ordered a party pizza with some awesome friends from my dorm, Kottke, Woot, and C.

It was from Bruno's, a local college pizza staple. Amherst has some really excellent pizza places. Bruno's might not be my first choice for taste and variety, but it delivers a really excellent and solid cheese pizza.

For $20, this is a really excellent deal. The pizza is extremely large- I'm not entirely sure how big, because the menu doesn't say, but it's quite large. It's cut into 24 pieces, so, six per person for our little party. The pizza's crust is good- it's not too thick or doughy, and it's cooked well, with a nice cornmeal crunch on the bottom and no mushy patches of uneven dough. The pizza is cut into squares instead of slices, so the corner pieces have a much higher ratio of crust and that sometimes gets overwhelming. On the converse, the middle pieces are sometimes very messy.

The sauce is not bad. It's one of those sweet pizza sauces, a little too sugary for my liking, and sometimes runny, but not bad. The cheese was also good and toasty, but spotty in places, and there were some areas when I had parts of just bread and sauce, which is a little strange. It wasn't at all greasy, either.

Overall, I like Bruno's. It's a fun pizza to gulp down while hanging out with friends. It's no gourmet, but it's the experience of a massive pizza thing that's half the fun.

7/10- GOOD

Bruno's Pizza
363 Main St.
Amherst, MA, 01003

Pioneer Valley Pizza, Amherst, MA

This pizza is the first and foremost hangover remedy for UMass and other four-college kids. What is it? It's Pioneer Valley Pizza, aka, PVP's, famous buffalo chicken gourmet pizza. It's simple. It's very tasty, and it's the perfect wake-up call after a long night partying.

I had this today after waking up around two. My production of Sweeney Todd ended last night and there was a large cast party, so I slept quite late today after that, and then realized that I was starving. This pizza is delicious- it's a little expensive, $11 for a medium, but it is a specialty pie. It's a cheese pizza topped with pieces of buffalo chicken tenders, blue cheese, and hot sauce.

PVP is all right with delivery. Sometimes they have trouble finding my dorm, which is odd because I've ordered with them at least six times, and the pizza is lukewarm when I get it. The selection of the menu is good, with wings, calzones, and assorted pizzeria goodness.

So, the pizza itself! It's not a very big pie for eleven dollars. At the rate you're going, it's about $1/square inch for a medium pie. The toppings are interesting. If there are any complaints I have, it's that you can't eat this normally because if you eat it by biting the triangular way and don't have a freakishly large mouth, you don't get an even distribution of toppings and wind up with mouthfuls of blue cheese one bite and chicken the next. However, this pizza does lend itself perfectly to the case of folding into a pizza sandwich, and that makes everything mix together nicely.

The best thing about this pizza is the creaminess of all the cheeses and sauces, but not so creamy that it takes the chicken, which is fresh and very crispy, and mushes it down and makes it soft. There is nothing more disgusting than soft and mushy crust on chicken, which is why I generally order grilled chicken on pizza. But this is perfectly cooked chicken, and when you bite it, actually breaks instead of falling off, splattering molten hot sauce on your face and shirt.

It's good. Order it with friends, order it when you're hungry. It's filling and tasty. The calzones are good, too. So far, from my limited view of PVP's menu, their food is quite tasty.

7/10- NICE

Pioneer Valley Pizza
20 Belchertown Road
Amherst, MA, 01002

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tijuana Taco Shop

People in Wilmington love them some Tijuana Taco Shop, a Mexican restaurant and bar (the bar is tiny) near Wilmington's Little Italy neighborhood. I've heard Tijuana Taco Shop mentioned on multiple occasions as the best Mexican fare in Wilmington, so decided to finally check it out.
Step up the stairs past an open window with a view into the kitchen, then past the tiny bar where servers can be seen doing their homework when times are slow, and the restaurant opens up to a warm and casual dining room with bones that look like a once pizza or Italian restaurant from the 80's. Free chips and salsa are de riguer. Chips are average, but the slightly smokey salsa is nice.
Cheese enchiladas are covered in a dark brown, very chocolaty mole sauce. Mexican rice studded with peas and beans accompany, along with a side of re-fried beans.

Asked if the beans contain lard, our server said,"No." I could eat a steak and not have tummy problems, but my highly sensitive dining partner reported no problems afterward, so perhaps they're telling the truth.
The a la cart veggie burrito filled with Mexican rice, re-fried beans, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, and avocado was surprisingly Plain Jane, even with all those ingredients stuffed in there. A slap of mole sauce from my partner's plate and salsa from the table livened things up.
In the veggie taco department, you can choose a mushroom, a potato, a bean, or a poblano taco with your choice or corn or flour tortillas. Above are the mushroom and the potato tacos. Savory sauteed mushrooms with raw diced onions, cilantro and cheese were my favorite. The potato taco was interesting in that the fried potatoes had the texture of a cross between mashed potatoes and grated potatoes.
Need more veggie taco options? Look under the salad section. The salty and tangy nopales salad with fresh tomatoes, onions, cheese, avocado, and cilantro comes with a stack of tortillas, and is a meal in itself.

The menu at Tijuana Taco is quite large, and even has a section dedicated to vegetarians, but look around, and I'm sure you can find something to eat elsewhere on the menu by asking for omissions and substitutions. For example, there's a Torta section with only meat options, but take the meat out and you're still left with beans, cheese, and a whole slew of veggies tucked in a roll.

And for you meat eaters, they do tacos al pastor and lengua, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I don't care enough about to memorize (tried to get a take out menu, but they didn't have any, and they have a really bad website with no menu).

I can see why people love Tijuana Taco Shop. It's solid Mexican in a casual environment. The only thing that would make Tijuana Taco better would be if it were BYOB, 'cause Mexican food is so much better with an entire bottle of Tequila. Aw, well! You'll just have to purchase your liquor from the restaurant.

Tijuana Taco Shop
1815 Lancaster Ave., Wilmington, DE, 19805


The Pita Pit, Worcester DC, Amherst, MA

I haven't had good experience with this restaurant so far, so I decided to give it one last try before giving it the old heave-ho into the restaurant and food graveyard. It's problematic. It's open so late, and only three steps from my dorm, and uses YCMP, which means I don't have to dig into my bank account, but the quality has just been so low.

First time I went, I ordered a falafel pita, no vegetables, with extra hummus and tahini, and received little more than a crumbly pita folded over falafel "spread," and it was cold and mushy and quite disgusting and stale. I took a bite and threw it out.

The second time I went to order a chicken sandwich with fries, only to discover that there were no fries, and even though they were open until 1 AM, they shut off the grill at 11:45, for no reason at all. So I left empty-handed.

I went one last time, only as a last resort, and my roommate came with me, paying for my meal since I've used up all my swipes on the Massive Glutwich- another post, I promise. It's only the most delicious sandwich I've ever had. So I went and ordered the chicken combo meal- a buffalo chicken sandwich with fries and a drink. I expected Wings quality because that's the standard by which all chicken is judged now, and went to eat my meal.

Well, they shut off the fryer at 11:45 and it was 11:46. In fact, I saw the guy try to put some fries in but was chastised by the manager. Two or three minutes later, especially when customers are willing to pay, is rather unreasonable to simply shut off the entire operation. So, no fries. The chicken sandwich was grilled rather than fried, which is healthy, but not nearly as satisfying as the saucy, crunchy Wings chicken. Another point off. The chicken was soft and tender, though, and covered the entirety of the bun, which was fluffy and fell apart rather easily. The buffalo sauce was nothing spectacular, but it was spicy and tasty.

Overall, my experience was average. Roomba got a hummus pita, which she said was satisfying, but not the best thing she's ever had. Too hummus heavy. It's not enough to make me rush out and go back, and it certainly didn't satiate my hunger, but it was all right for the time being and definitely satisfied my need for a hot meal at midnight.


The Pita Pit
Worcester Dining Commons, UMass Amherst
Amherst, MA, 01003

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Godiva Halloween Truffles

Godiva Halloween Truffles

What a belated review. Halloween has come and gone but the decent into cold weather indulgence has just begun. It starts with candy at Halloween and seems to end with candy at Easter. In an attempt to pace myself, I started tasting these on Halloween and finished them a few days ago.

I'm no chocolate connoisseur, but it seems like Godiva is overrated. In the US and in Japan (probably other countries, too), Godiva has the reputation with many people of being just about the best chocolate there is. It's tasty, for sure, but not usually worth the money. However, these truffles were so cute that I couldn't resist ($11). The four flavors were Caramel Apple Tombstone, Candy Corn Ghost, Blood Orange Bat, and Death by Chocolate Skull.

Caramel Apple Tombstone

The white chocolate smell was strong, and it was full of runny caramel. The textures were great, but the caramel almost tasted spiked, as if the apple flavor had made it ferment. It was quite tart and fruity, though not specifically apple.

White Chocolate Ghost

The ghost was super cute. The filling was buttery and had a good, thick texture. It tasted more like a buttercream frosting than candy corn, but the white chocolate was very well balanced, and I felt it was some of the best white chocolate I've had.

Orange Chocolate Bat

The bat was kind of cute, except for the hole on it's nose. The flavor was the same kind of orange flavor as a fruit gem. The filling was tasty, if a bit too sweet and greasy. I liked how I could taste the orange zest, and my husband liked this one the best.

Halloween Godiva

Death By Chocolate Skull was by far my favorite to look at--it's gorgeous--but not to eat. It was good, but tasted almost exactly like a Lindt dark chocolate truffle to me, and therefore not really worth the price. Click here to see the inside.

Overall, the set gets a B-.

Here's another take on the set.

Lion Cream Soda Candy


In Japan, the term cream soda refers to melon cream soda. Personally, I am a big fan of melon soda, because there's something very exciting about a neon green beverage (like Ecto Cooler). These candies were purchased for me by my sister, and were made by a company called Lion. I've linked their website at the end of the review, so if you visit, prepare yourself for an onslaught of cute.

As with many imported snacks, there was a large nutrition label pasted over half of the package, so I couldn't really see any of the candy description. The little blurb the front says it's pleasantly creamy, more or less.


The open package had a vague melon aroma, and the candies themselves were individually wrapped and were about the size of a Jolly Rancher. Maybe if I had been able to get the nutrition label off I would have known, but these were fizzy candies! I was pleasantly surprised by the fizziness, and the flavor was exactly like melon soda. If you've never tried it, it tastes like honeydew melon in the same way that Sprite tastes like lemon.

The flavor was fantastic, sour, and bright. The candy wasn't creamy at all, but had a cream filling. However, it was so runny that as soon as there was an opening in the candy shell, it slid right out before I could taste it! The little bit I did sense was very weak, and was drowned out by the melon and the fizziness. It didn't add anything for me, and I would have rather the candy been solid melon soda all the way through. Still, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these if you come across them, just don't expect the pleasant creaminess.


Lion Website

Andiamo Restaurant, Amherst, MA

I was absolutely starving when I got back from practice tonight. Turns out my roommate was, too, so we decided to try this restaurant whose menu had recently been slipped under our door. They're a modern Italian place, with panini and salads, and with free delivery, it was hard to pass up!

Delivery took almost no time at all, which was great, and our sandwiches were hot when we got them. I ordered the Levante, which is a baguette pressed with chicken breast, fresh mozzarella, pesto, and sundried tomato aioli inside.

The overall sandwich is about a footlong. Compare this to Subway, though, and it's about $8, total. A good price for good, fresh ingredients as opposed to Subway's more mass produced stuff. The baguette is crisp, but not as crisp as I'd like it. It's a chewier baguette, and when I eat my panini, I like them to be crispy and buttery on the outside. It does have grill marks, though.

The sandwich is really good and soft, the fillings, that is. I'm always worried when I order a sandwich with grilled chicken that there will be one, tough breast piece that will slide out and fall away. This prevents that. There are neat little strips in it that melt along with everything and taste awesome. The chicken is perfectly cooked. The mozzarella isn't as noticeable as I'd like. I like fresh mozzarella to be gooey and prominent in a sandwich, and it's unfortunately overshadowed by the sauces. It's a little odd, the distribution. On one side, there's the pesto, which is good and basily and salty, and the sundried tomato aioli on the other. I don't know what to make of the aioli. On one hand, I was relieved that there weren't any chunks of sundried tomato, which nauseate me as much as mushrooms, but on the other hand, the definition of "aioli" was used rather loosely, more for pretension than actual literal ingredients.

By definition, an aioli is a sauce made with garlic and olive oil. This seemed to be a mayonnaise if anything else, and had a sharp and vinegary taste that left a bitter flavor and also overpowered some of the sandwich's other aspects. You can order chips with your sandwich, too. I find it a bit of a cop-out, because they charge $1.89 for a small bag of Kettle Chips, where I'd much rather have fries or another complementing side.

Italian, this is. Perfect, it's not. Go with simplicity and order the Levante without the aioli. It will taste better. And ask them to grill it extra.

6/10- GOOD

Roomba ordered the Andiamo salad without portabella mushrooms, but it came with the mushrooms. She describes it as the fancy poor man's salad, and that the addition of ranch dressing to a salad with bitter greens, arugula, and avocado really took away the beauty of the fancy salad. And picking out the mushrooms was just awful- to quote Up, our new favorite film, "We do not like the mushrooms of shame."

6/10- OKAY

Andiamo Restaurant
485 West Street
Amherst, MA, 01003