Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Keurig Mini and Brew Over Ice K-Cups

Now that the weather is humid, I sent my non-copyrighted Foodette Signal out into the sky, silently beckoning to companies and humans everywhere to please, assuage this shitty summer heat and help me out. The folks at Keurig heard me and from the sky, down came a Keurig Mini Brewer and an assortment of K-Cups. (I still maintain the opinion that "K-Cup" sounds like an off-brand plus sized version of the Diva Cup, but that's probably why I'm not in advertising.The Keurig Mini is small, small enough to wedge comfortably in between most of our appliances and has the added bonus of looking like a small robot dinosaur when opened. This effect is only enhanced with the silver paintjob and additional stickers I added to its exterior. So far, I liked it. It came with an instructional booklet with the detail of your average BMW user's manual. The machine was relatively easy to use, to the point where I simply tossed the booklet (gasp!) and started making a cup of iced tea.I was under the impression that the "brew over ice" function was an attachable piece to add on to the machine, much like a Leatherwood Hi-Lux M30 Red Dot sight or a bicycle horn, but it wasn't so much of an accessory as it was a concept and repackaged version of what the Keurig had before. The BOI Kups (Haaaaaa!) come in all sorts of flavors. I went ahead and prepared the Southern Sweet Tea. Oddly enough, despite the instructions and press releases that the cups are "specially blended" and proportioned for usage over ice, there is no indicator as to which setting or ideal amount of water I ought to use for them. I know that part of the concept of all-inclusive customization is to be able to freely adjust the amount of water you wish to use, but the formula tends to be somewhat murky as to when that should be lessened for the BOI function.
The water reservoir at the top of the machine is monochromatic with an incomprehensible detachable piece for determining how much water is in the machine. Being used to clear, easy-to-read dials on the side of the Mr. Coffee, I was thrown back by this accessory. It looked like something I'd have used in the Middle Ages as a rain gauge. And as a result of my blind guesswork and lack of inclination to pull out the measuring cups, I ended up with watery iced tea.
With a machine as specialized and focused on variety as this, the fuzzy detail in water measurement isn't a big deal if you drink coffee every day and have a specific mug that you use. You can easily just measure your water in that and then use it to brew the coffee. With the BOI, it tends to be a different story, as you then have to allocate for the amount of water you want to use, the water you're going to displace when you add the ice, and then the extra water you'll add from the ice, melted when the beverage brews. And the most realistic amount for a cup of iced tea, a 12 oz. glass with 4 ice cubes, is too large to fit underneath the dispenser. All smaller cups, like the one shown above, overflowed when I tried to brew with them. What gives? It seems like this isn't engineered for iced beverages at all. Not only have I still not found the ratio I desire in a cold drink, I'm now relegated to the couch at night because I keep mumbling about BOIs in my sleep.There is a silver lining to every Keurig, though. Keepitcoming Love, who was initially sworn against the Keurig, has found it immensely simple to use and appreciates the varied gear they sell to mix up your morning cup of joe. As for me, I'm going to have to keep tinkering with it to reach my ideal.Special thanks to the folks at Keurig's PR team for hooking me up with this gadget! They didn't pay me to write this, but I might have propositioned one or more of their coffee machines one drunken night. It's okay, the machines aren't on payroll.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Look Matcha Anmitsu

Matcha Anmitsu LOOK

I really need to replenish my stash. It's down to just one KitKat (Yakiimo). This weekend, I had wanted to go to Toronto for a little shopping, but various parties and gatherings kept us in town. The weekend was fun, anyhow, but my candy supply is in critical condition.

This flavor of LOOK is Millstone Ground Matcha Anmitsu. I'll just take them for their word on the millstone ground bit, but anmitsu is a Japanese dessert made with jelly cubes, sweet red beans, black sugar syrup, and in this case, matcha. Everything is better with matcha.

LOOK Matcha Anmitsu

The pieces just smelled like milk chocolate. Inside the shell, the matcha filling was creamy with small, grainy, millstone ground bits that melted smoothly. The flavor was a bit bitter and grassy, but it was very mild. Above the matcha filling was a thin layer of anmitsu, which was just slightly bitter with a hint of azuki flavor (only detectable when the syrup is tasted alone).

The milk chocolate was sticky, but the sweetness balanced the mildly bitter flavors nicely. I liked the grainy to smooth texture of the filling, but it would have been interesting to see some of the jelly texture brought in (I suppose that's best left to Tirol). It's hard to recreate the marriage of tastes and textures that is anmitsu. Matcha Anmitsu LOOK was pleasant, but the flavors, especially the matcha, just weren't strong enough to wow me.


Fujiya LOOK website

How's That CSA Treating You?

Week 1

Not too bad. Although, while the weekly pickups of the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA at Grindcore House (I'm writing this post from the all-vegan coffee shop!) are the highlight of my week (I'm utterly boring), the bundle of fresh produce is at times a little overwhelming.

This is my first year as part of a CSA, because previously I lived alone and there was no way I could eat even a half share's worth of produce. Now I live with another person, and a half share is just about right. There always seems to be a little something leftover at the end of the week that we didn't get to, though.
Week 2

I'm well aware of the seasons and what times of the year produce comes into season, so it wasn't really news to me that the beginning of the CSA season would be chock full of greens. In the past three weeks we've gone through 1 bag of baby mizuna, 1 bunch of mature mizuna, 1 bag of mixed greens, 1 bunch of dandelion greens, 1 container of micro greens, 1 head of green leaf lettuce, 1 head of red leaf lettuce, 2 heads of of romaine lettuce, 2 baby bok choy, and 2 bunches of collards.

Oh, and I also planted 10 lettuce plants in the raised bed of my rowhouse patio, full well knowing that the beginning of our CSA would be heavy on the greens. I wouldn't be lying if I said I was ready to move straight into August's bounty of tomatoes and squashes.
Week 3

Mostly, we've been shoving these vegetables straight in our pie holes uncooked in the form of salads of all sorts. Because I have a food blog, people tend to ask me what my favorite way to cook _____ (insert name of vegetable or fruit) is. The answer is eat it straight up! Maybe a little salt or pepper, or vinegar dressing. That is all.I had no intentions of writing about my CSA experience (but, hey, here it is!), but have posted pics on Twitter of our weekly hauls and some of what we've made with the produce, if these phone pics look familiar to some.

A little vinegar on some radishes to make refrigerator pickles. I always thought it was just pickled daikon that smelled like holy hell when you opened the container they're stored in. Nope, it's all radishes.
I particularly like the "swap box" when picking up our CSA share. One week I was able to swap out for an extra bundle or rhubarb. We had rhubarb pie, rhubarb compote, and . . .
strawberry-rhubarb sorbet!

How's that CSA treating you?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ninja Food - Blueberry Gummy

I got this pack of gummies from a box of assorted goods sent by the good people at J-List. In order to help possible ensure future samples of interesting Japanese snacks here’s a shameless plug for them. Everyone! Go to J-List and if you feel ever so inclined. They have all types of stuff from Japan (snacks, food, anime, games, books, and even porn) for the weeaboo in you! Damn it, ruined the plug already. If you are a weeaboo and would not mind paying extreme shipping prices to get something shipped to you from Japan, this site is probably for you. For the non-weeaboo people who actually go outside, just hit up your local Asian grocery store and save money like a boss.

Some of my actual belongings. Yeah, I'm a total badass.

From the moment I looked at the package, I knew that this strange Japanese pack of candy and I were destined to meet. After gathering and reflecting upon a few random possessions from my room, I had a strange feeling that the well dressed Ninja business man on the cover was an omen of things to come. I felt that I was looking at a future caricature of my future self as depicted by Japanese candy executives. I now think I have a great future goal to work towards. Instead of being a special agent in the FBI working to stop white collar crimes such as tax evasion or corporate embezzling I now am planning to become a ninja accountant, yup a ninja accountant.

I took that strange package to my Japanese roommate for a translation which only resulted in “Ninja Food – Blueberry”. The candies themselves looked like beans made of candy. There was probably only 15 in the package, just enough for a small candy snack break. There is no time is the life of a ninja accountant to stop and have a large amount of candy when there are statement of cash flows to complete in the shadow of darkness.

These candies tasted pretty accurately of blueberry. It didn’t taste too artificial but one could also easily tell it was a good replication. There was a thick layer of candy covering over a hard gummy center. The outer covering was a good hard candy covering, somewhat like a yogurt covered raisin, but with candy. The blueberry taste was rather heavy in the outer candy coating but tapered off when you got to the gummy center. The center was just a very chewy slightly blueberry flavored hard gummy. The gummy center was a lot harder and had semi-leather like texture compared to regular gummies that one would get.

This candy would have been better if the whole thing was just made of candy and did not have a gummy center. The gummy center was a piece of leathery disappointment after a relatively good blueberry candy. The gummy center also did not have enough taste to compensate for the leather texture.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hershey's Air Delight Aerated Milk Chocolate

Okay, call my bullshit on this but I personally see aerated chocolate as the snake oil equivalent in the candy variety traveling medicine show. I mean, the very idea is roughly as useful as Scotch-flavored condoms. Hershey's put out an aerated chocolate bar with an asinine name to follow in the footsteps of their ever-exotic cousin, the Aero bar, and here is the result.
The USA seems to have abandoned the Twilight craze and swept itself up in the aerated chocolate bar fad. Completely untrue, but what Milton Hershey's non-existent grandkids and CEO's don't know is that the Aero bar does serve a functional purpose in the British world. After all, because we all know that British people are bad-toothed and batshit insane (Editor's note: Redacted the link to Foodette's ex's Facebook page. Also, wait. I am the fucking editor. This is awesome.) Aero simply plays on that bad dentistry history from the heyday of the Industrial Revolution by offering a softer, gentle, less snappy version of the chocolate we all knew and loved. It's a phenomenal way, much like whipped cream cheese and whipped candy bars, to stuff less product into the container and sell the very air you're whipping into it in the first place and overcharge the customer.
I'm quite sure you don't need too much of an explanation for this. This is a standard Hershey bar with a severely underdeveloped cocoa flavor. Yes, it's thicker to hold all the precious air and it has less squares because of that, but it's still the same crumbly, overly sweet, sugar throat burning creamy flavor that we all know and mildly tolerate. Does the air provide a sensation? Not really. If you chew it quickly, it crumbles off in small pieces that suggest that the bar is of a low quality until you remember that this was intentional. Each square is just a hair too large to comfortably fit in the mouth and suck on (LOL here) and the air isn't really distinguishable until the square eventually collapses in on itself and melts to regular, boring chocolate. I don't feel any airy, bubbly textures or specifically unique texture to this bar at all.
As a result of witchcraft, this bar is more expensive and less weighty than a Hershey bar. It's more of a pointless buy than the $19,000 Hammacher Schlemmer seven-person bike and is just a disappointment for all faux British wannabes and real British ex-pats. Just buy a regular Hershey bar, melt it, and fart in it before it sets. This is the American confectionery equivalent of Engrish. We cannot live up to the hype of the Aero bar. (Note: I love my British readers, by the way. I just hate the Air Delight more.)

Avocado Week: Salad

Shrimp taco salad is so easy to prepare and so hard to fuck up. This was a particularly zesty recipe, with lime zested beans, chili-garlic rice, guacamole, paprika sour cream, and plenty of shrimp and salsa verde on top. Good Mexican food is so damned filling and so cheap. It might be one of the most satisfying cuisines I can cook.
We ate this salad after a day of running errands and it was honestly as good as any I've had in a restaurant. Fairly simple, too, with a layer of lime black beans, chili garlic rice, guacamole, paprika sour cream, and salsa verde marinated grilled shrimp with plenty of salsa slathered on top. It was only until later when I realized that not only had I forgotten the cheese, but that we didn't even need it in the first place.It's a recipe that orchestrates itself easily if you tackle the time-consuming elements, like the rice and beans, first and then prepare the cold toppings while those are cooking.In conclusion, here is our cat. She tried to jump on her cat tower while a potted plant was resting on top, miscalculated the distance, and got wedged in between the window and the cube because of her exceptionally rubenesque rear end. We laughed and took photos and posted them to PETA's Myspace and then we let her down. All was well and she ate shrimp off the counter.

Orbit Fruit Punch

Orbit Fruit Punch

Ah, Orbit gum. It's been a while, old friend. While waiting to check out at my local Target, I spied Fruit Punch during my routine impulse candy scan. I've been off gum for a while, but a new Orbit flavor is always a good excuse to start chewing again.

Fruit Punch is a very nostalgic scent and flavor for me. I used to use Bonne Bell Fruit Punch Lip Smackers lip balm every day in middle school, and that red smell is permanently buried in my nose. Even though it made my mouth feel fuzzy (probably from excess vitamin C), I went through a Hawaiian Punch phase at about the same time. These are my fruit punch memories, and I drew upon them to review Orbit Fruit Punch.

Orbit Fruit Punch

Maybe it was a bad idea to hope this gum would taste like Hawaiian Punch. It wasn't even close. The gum smelled sweet and a bit like strawberries. The flavor was slightly tart and fruity. I picked out banana and peach, but anything else was lost in an indistinguishable blend. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't fruit punch.

It didn't taste punchy (or like red food dye) at all. That's probably a good thing, because Hawaiian Punch is not a flavor that occurs in nature, but I wanted that flavor. Orbit Fruit Punch felt very subdued in comparison, and I was disappointed. Rest assured that there was no mint here, just a slight cooling sensation for that fresh feeling Orbit advertises. I chewed for about 15 minutes before the flavor dulled and I got sick of it.


Orbit Gum

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lotte Wine Chocolat

Lotte Wine Chocolat

Mon Cheri is the lofty standard to which I compare all liquor candies. Nothing came close to that intense shot of filling...until now. Lotte's Wine Chocolat was a last minute addition to my most recent napaJapan order, but it blew me away.

With the pink background, sparkly glass of wine, and cute font, the packaging is clearly appealing to a certain type (myself included), but it came up short of the elegant look I think Lotte was going for. The chocolate contains 3.3% alcohol, and the package also reminds consumers to use discretion about driving.

Lotte Wine Chocolat

The format was quite similar to Mon Cheri, only on a smaller scale. The milk chocolate shell had a mildly sweet milky flavor, but it was almost irrelevant; the filling was most definitely the star of the show.

The liquid center tasted strongly of sweet, brandy-like liquor. The filling had a slightly fruity flavor that reminded me most of cherries. It was sharp on the tongue and went well with the smooth chocolate. It was a bit on the sweeter side, but that boozy kick was a fantastic surprise!


Lotte website

White Castle Surf 'n' Turf Slider

Why did we decide to go to the Bronx at midnight? We'd never been to a White Castle, New York housing the last smattering New England has to offer. The GPS had attempted mutiny by directing us not to the gentle White Castle off 95, but the cramped location in the middle of the city. And with every check cash kiosk, boarded up Boys and Girls Club, and flashing ambulance we drove by, that question became more apparent in my mind. As we reached the kingdom itself, a building as compact as one of its burgers and open 24 hours a day, I wondered if this meal would be so good as to justify it as my last.
This was not the melting pot that Murray told us about! This was empty and sterile inside, with an atonal prison-esque buzzer to open and close the bathroom and a near shootout over the price of a Saver Sack. Dorothy was not in Kansas anymore, and we were certainly far afield of Connecticut. But here we were, and as we ordered through holes in the bullet-proof Plexiglass bubble separating us from our sliders, I peered over the menu, throwing caution, food poisoning, and health to the wind and ordering an item that allowed me to desperately cling to all that I knew and loved. That item was the Surf 'n' Turf Slider, an item debuting once in the 80's and last Valentine's Day, ensuring that no fish would go uncubed and no couple would go unsevered.
As Swagger and FF, whom I now considered my two large, hairy escorts, waited for their Crave Case, I chomped down on this burger. With eight layers of goo and a little over 500 calories in such a diminutive sandwich, it almost looked like the plodding, savory counterpart to a petit four. Needless to say, the Surf 'n' Turf is unfortunately, not a little chunk of lobster plopped atop one of the Castle's trademarked patties, despite my prayers to the gods for a little chevre. Calling it Surf 'n' Turf is like calling a concoction of Barefoot Chardonnay and Crystal Light a 1er Cru Bordeaux. It is far worse than that, consisting of three buns, three slices of cheese taking the place of edible glue, two beef patties, a handful of onions, the ominous fish stick square and no less than five packets of tartar sauce to lubricate it on its way down my gullet. The equivalent of a pre-Jamie Oliver 4th grade lunch with a slider garnish on top, or so I thought.
In reality, the burger tasted less offensive than it looked, despite being the gastronimical byproduct of two cows gang-raping a mermaid. The fish was tender and provided more of a textural irregularity than any particular flavor, which was good, because halfway through the slider, I remembered that I never really liked reconstituted fish patties. But it wasn't a terribly pungent flavor, just an added layer of grease alongside the standard squishy bun and squishy meat. The cheese was surprisingly gooey and salty. My main problem with this sandwich was that, like receiving a Wagyu beef steak and covering it in barbecue sauce, this slider was inexplicably coated with a blood-like sheen of ketchup, not only all over the burger and buns, but all over the side of the box as well. This really detracted from the allure of some of the more delicate flavors I was trying to place and placed it in the category of an average fast food burger with a sickly, weak tomato flavor. As much as I hate pickles, they'd have probably done some good here with their crispness and acidity.
There's no nice way to say it: this is the creepiest burger I could have ordered in the creepiest of settings. And the burgers are deceptively small. I saw myself easily pounding down ten, but after this wildcard and two regular sliders, I felt sick. Luckily, my mood was elevated and I regained hope for the reign blanc with the joy of watching FF and Swagger eat ten burgers apiece out of their modified briefcase a la Pulp Fiction and discover the joy of the jalapeno slider. After all, it wasn't really about the food, it was about the adventure. The rest was just a bonus. And that's the way we like it.

Avocado week: Beverage

Riding on our Limered-induced addiction to bubble tea, Keepitcoming and I decided to try our hand at copying the avocado boba that Joe and co. have been churning out.
Needless to say, our prototypes for an avococktail were trashed and the avocado boba wasn't quite the right texture, so we wound up making an avocado milkshake. Know ye, a judicious application of avocado will save you headaches later on from trying to slurp it out of the glass. The mixture gets extremely thick!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wendy's Berry Almond Chicken Salad

Last night, Swagger, FF, and I took a jaunt in the jalopy so I could bribe them into eating some of the fast food world's newest offerings. I ended up eating this one myself, the new Berry Almond Chicken Salad from Wendy's along with their new Wild Berry Tea. The press release came in a scant three hours before I tried the salad, and boasted a plethora of things I love, including an exhaustive array of one specific component of the salad. Or so I thought. What with the recent mayonnaise-based chicken salad popularity in the Subway and Arby's markets, I expected a similar coup from their female counterpart with the advertising focused on the trendy acai and fruit additions, but it turned out to look like most of the salads on the commercial market today.
All of the components of this salad were represented differently than how I'd expected them to be. With an absurd $6.99 price tag, I inwardly groaned. Not because I'd also just bought Swagger twenty five spicy chicken nuggets, but because I'd never willingly spent so much on a vegetable based salad before. From the get-go, the salad distinctly separates itself into two categories: ingredients that work well together, and ingredients that just fall short.

This being the first day of the salad's nationwide debut, I was disappointed, but not surprised, that my local Wendy's employees got the chicken wrong. Instead of the grilled chicken, one of the spicy chicken fillets was diced up in the salad. Oddly enough, this combination worked. With the nutty creaminess from the parmesan, the chicken's spice was toned down and I found myself enjoying the different play of textures within each bite. The salad appears to give you your money's worth in the parmesan department. The entire upper third of my bowl was filled with curly parmesan slices. The berries, though obviously fresh and juicy, came few and far between with each bite. The blueberries erred toward the anemic side and ended up uselessly rolling into the nether regions of the bowl, but the strawberries were the real star of the show, providing less flavor than the more powerful proteins, but a sweetness that balanced the dish out. The lettuce, some pieces clearly leftover from crappy iceberg salads and others, leafy and earthy, brought it all together with an interesting textural distinction and vaguely healthy air.
Honestly, if the salad had just stopped at chicken, cheese, berries, and a little arugula on top, I'd have been happy right there. With the addition of more textural elements, like the raspberry-acai vinaigrette and the toasted almonds, the salad took an irritating spin toward the overloaded. Both the nuts and the sauce completely disappeared behind the wakes of the more powerful flavors. The sauce left a wet, acidic aftertaste behind and the nuts acted as though they weren't there at all. It bothered me that elements that definitely bumped the price and calorie level of the salad played no integral role in improving the flavor.
Overall, I was pleased that Wendy's, in attempting to go beyond the traditional constraints of limp, over-dressed fast food vegetal fare, provided a good prototype for its imitators, but could not find enough to enjoy about this salad that justified its price tag and uniqueness. In a fast food market, this is an anomaly, but for home cooks, Wendy's isn't reinventing the wheel.

Avocado Week: Appetizer

Avocado Week's massive delicious seven-course dinner kicks off with a few appetizers: tempura avocado, two ways. We're a big fan of doing it two ways here at Foodette Reviews. Ladies???? AM I RIGHT?The avocado was battered in a combination of tempura and white corn masa for a little extra crunch. We served it with homemade chips and SO MANY SAUCES. There might have been four. The first preparation had small chunks of fried avocado on chopsticks, dusted with chili powder and lime juice on top.
The second preparation was more involved, with spearing a frozen, perfectly round avocado half and frying it up. It made for a gorgeous presentation and was dubbed nature's first salsa bowl. It was a proud day.