Saturday, January 31, 2015

Starbuck's Flat White Falls a Bit Flat

If it has caffeine, I will drink it, so do take this into account when assessing how discerning my palate is for coffee drinks. Not being a Starbucks’ coffee fan in particular, I enjoy their lattes and specialty drinks more than anything else available there. Finding myself near to one on Friday, it seemed like the perfect time to try the Flat White. Without having a good grasp on the concept, I remember reading in travel books that a Flat White is popular in places like Australia and even after reading the description AND drinking one in its entirety, I still struggle to explain how this is different than a latte. 

Starbucks describes this drink as expertly steamed milk poured over ristretto shots of espresso and finished with a Starbucks signature dot. Their website features a beautiful photo, rivaling a piece of beverage art. The dot is central and floating peacefully in the mug; the beverage itself flirting with the rim of the mug. Opening up the lid to my beverage, it was dotless. On a normal order, I wouldn’t even bother to open the lid and check this, but I have to wonder – why even mention it? 

Another thing worth mentioning is that this drink cost me more than $4, and the regular hot latte costs me a bit less than that. Trying this one time, the cost difference is negligible but if it was going to be a permanent replacement as a part of a daily routine, then the price difference is something to consider. My particular order was a Venti Flat White with non-fat milk (yes, I played along when ordering that and spoke their lingo). 

Upon first sip, the beverage was good. It reminded me of a hot latte, minus the biting espresso taste that I normally enjoy. This drink reminded me more of a milder version of their coffee blended with steamed milk with a new name at a new price. The taste was smooth and enjoyable. The milk itself wasn’t as frothy as my traditional latte and perhaps it wasn’t quite as creamy either.

To be clear, I liked it and would gladly drink it again. I wouldn’t however willingly pay for this again, because I still don’t understand the drink. What is it and why am I paying more for this? Perhaps it would be fun to blindfold people and to have them taste test the flat white and a hot latte, ultimately asking them to pick which one is which. It is worth mentioning that there are people out there who are going nuts for this drink, so do try it out yourself and let me know how I can tell the difference to motivate me to pay that extra fifty cents per cup.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Run the Other Way: Yoplait Greek Vanilla Cupcake flavored “Whip”

Do you remember that person who wronged you growing up? Perhaps they bullied you or stole your first boyfriend? Well here is a little special something just for them. If you want to punish somebody then consider feeding them a Yoplait Greek Vanilla Cupcake flavored “Whip”. What’s a whip you ask? Boy, I really should have asked myself that exact question before putting this into my shopping cart.

Yoplait describes a whip as Greek yogurt deliciously whipped into 100 calories. First off, I have a big problem when menu or food items include flattering adjectives. For example, “Tonight’s special is a succulent grilled chicken breast over tenderly roasted potatoes, finished with an exceptionally delicious and decadent red wine sauce.” Oh, is it? Reading that I would highly doubt it, but anyway I digress.

Do I like cupcakes? Sure, particularly the frosting flavor. Looking at the packaging, I was excited. Even after opening this up, I wasn’t concerned, but the second I stuck my spoon into this stuff I was terrified. Back in the early 1990’s, Nickelodeon started producing floam, which was a grainy molding compound for children to play with. It was a great time and I loved to get my hands on that stuff when I was younger. My hands, but not my mouth.

For the sake of reviewing, I steeled myself and took the first jiggly bite. The texture nearly unbearable, I was hit with the taste of fake sweetener and chemicals. Unfortunately I am unable to elaborate beyond this, because that’s really all there is to this yogurt. Buyer beware because this stuff is awful. Seriously, at least have fun with it and instead eat floam. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Chewy Chips Ahoy Brownie Filled Cookies

I have always been partial to Chips Ahoy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re great. If I am having an off week and for some reason these cookies hang around for more than a few days, their shelf stability helps them to retain their soft, chewiness that I expect in a good chocolate chip cookie. You don’t have to heat them to feel like they’re fresh. I don’t need to eyeball them on a tray before committing to eating one, worried that somebody baked them and they’re overcooked. They’re consistently good, not to mention thin enough that when I have more than a couple I don’t feel quite so bad. Over the past year, Nabisco is really stepping up their cookie game. How do you make an already good cookie better? Stuff it with something else delicious.

Chewy Chips Ahoy Brownie Filled Cookies first became available about two years ago to my knowledge. Trying these were long overdue for this blog or not. You can only imagine my delight, visiting my Aunt and Cousin this past weekend and to see these cookies waiting on their counter. The cookie itself is roughly the same size as the normal chewy variety. In my hand, it felt a bit heavier. Before my cousin’s birthday candles were even lit, this cookie was in my mouth. It should be said that right before my first taste, another family member advised me that she didn’t like these. Having heard that, I immediately adjusted my expectations accordingly. My family knows cookies. It’s like a genetic gift.

The cookie outside was good. It was exactly like the traditional variety and I really enjoyed it. The brownie itself was more cakey than fudgy and it would have been much better appreciated with a cold glass of milk. The center was a bit dry for anyone who likes their cookies chewy, so I wonder why Nabisco didn’t think to make the brownie chewier? It should be mentioned that these cookies were opened for the first time only moments before I ate this, so the dryness was not based on the amount of time the cookies were sitting around at my aunts. Did I enjoy them? Yes. Will I be buying these when I could have the plain chewy variety? No, most likely not. If you’ve tried them, let me know what you think. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

I Am A HazelNUT: Ciao Bella Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Gelato Squares

Sad story, I somehow made it to my mid-twenties without ever having the pleasure of tasting Nutella. The first time I ever tried it, I was in Italy and it was like somebody opened a window shade in a darkened room. There were waves of flavor, first hazelnut followed by the complex aftertaste of a rich chocolate. I was floored. How had I not known? All of these years and nobody told me what I was missing; perhaps to secure their own supply? Here’s to making up for lost time.

So far, this blog has been a lot of fun. It will be a yearlong commitment at minimum and my weekly grocery store trips have become the equivalent of a fun scavenger hunt, looking for new and delicious food items to try and review. Ciao Bella Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Gelato Squares have caught my eye on occasion in the past. Living alone, I am always a little hesitant to commit to an entire box of something new. If I like it, fabulous – no sharing, but if I don’t then what will I do with the other three ice cream sandwiches? We both know what I’ll do with them, regardless of if I enjoy them or not.

I reached my hand into the box and pulled out my first ice cream sandwich and it was smaller than the palm of my hand. My first thought was, “But where’s the rest!?” Having a box of four, the small size didn’t deter me. Opening up the packaging, the cookie itself was particularly dark in color compared to the average ice cream sandwich. Nibbling the edge, I was surprised at how understated the dark chocolate flavor was. The cookie was on the softer side and gave the ice cream sandwich adequate coverage.

Let’s get to the real star of the show here. At first glance, the hazelnut ice cream looked like a light brown tinted vanilla layer. You can see from where it’s been bitten that it is so much more than that. The texture was no different, the ice cream was consistently smooth and it was far richer in flavor than it was sweet. The hazelnut flavor was prominent, making up for the lack of chocolate in the cookie. The ice cream itself was good. If I could have it my way, I would buy two boxes, ditch the cookie and put the centers of the sandwiches into one large bowl. If you’re not a chocoholic and love Nutella, I would certainly recommend these. As for me, I have infinite more junk to move on and try. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ice Cream Royalty: The Caramel Brownie Blizzard

It’s been several years since I have been a member of the Blizzard of the Month club. As you can imagine, there’s a certain notoriety that comes along with this, including two for one coupons and advance warnings for certain month’s Blizzard flavors. The best part of my current job? It’s located near a Dairy Queen. I won’t lie and pretend that I go there all of the time. Trust me, I would be a happier person if I did but it’s a real thrill to leave this office at noon and drive over to a big red barn serving my favorite stuff.

Do you want to know who’s birthday is in January? Me too. This month the Dairy Queen Blizzard of the Month is Birthday Cake Oreo. There is a lot that I like about this, mainly the birthday cake and Oreo part. Yesterday I realized that the clock was ticking and that the month of January was even more fleeting than my youth. Here’s the thing – the Blizzard of the Month waits for no one. The Pumpkin Pie Blizzard did NOT care that I was rather busy this past October. If you don’t get there in time, then you’re only really punishing yourself.

Fine, I’ve learned the hard way and am now reformed. The Stamford Downtown Dairy Queen is tricky in January. Some days they’re open, other they’re not. I think the guy running it takes vacation, so I was thrilled to call yesterday and get confirmation that the barn was open for business. Perhaps not all that surprising for twenty degree weather, there was no line to place my order. Excited and already salivating, I was crestfallen when the guy at the counter told me that he hadn’t ordered the ingredients for this particular Blizzard of the Month. What?

It’s hard to stay salty when you’re at Dairy Queen. Fine, so I couldn’t try the Blizzard of the Month but that just gives me the opportunity to get reacquainted with my favorite custom made Blizzard Treat. My go to Blizzard order is the Caramel Brownie Blizzard. This isn’t on the menu, but of course they have all of the ingredients, which when combined make for just about the most delicious ice cream in the world.

With the exception of McDonald’s McFlurry ice cream, Dairy Queen soft serve vanilla is the best soft serve ice cream in this universe and I do not say this lightly. The ice cream itself is soft in texture and not too overwhelming in flavor. It lends itself perfectly to having candy folded in lovingly by the Blizzard machine. The brownies that make up this blizzard are always a little on the harder side. This is probably from the cold temperature and the fact that not enough people order this, but here’s why that’s good. Normally, I don’t like caramel. It’s suspicious. It’s not peanut butter and it’s not chocolate. It is sugary. “Hey, let me add some more sugar to my sugar.” But when you mix in the caramel with the hardened brownies, it softens them to the perfectly appropriate texture.

Eating this ice cream, sitting in the sun in the winter weather yesterday rocked. As the Dalai Lama once said, “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” Perhaps he was talking about ice cream?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Chobani Green Tea Greek Yogurt

The beautiful thing about a year long blog is that I will be reviewing certain types of foods that I have already dappled with, meaning in this case, that I won’t have to re-explain the revulsion I feel while spooning Greek yogurt into my mouth. If you’ve been reading, you get it. It’s an obligation and it makes me feel both serious and mature. Silver Lining? Apparently the yogurt industry is going bat shit crazy and any flavor you can imagine, well they have gone ahead and just stirred that right in.

I check food news with the frequency that any responsible adult should check the real world news. A couple of months ago, I caught wind that Chobani was coming out with a Green Tea Greek Yogurt. The original packaging in the preview was white and it looked to me like it was actually a container that could easily be mistaken for vanilla. Without a release date, I have been checking grocery stores regularly staring at too many vanilla flavored Chobani yogurts in a mixture of disgust and disappointment.

Over the course of the past month, I have acquired a food blog enthusiast who adds quite a bit of value to this blog. Having already discussed this yogurt, this Ace showed up and gave me exactly what my taste buds curiously wondered about. Opening the lid, you can see that while the yogurt has a hint of green, it doesn’t look like there’s a ton of fake dye in it for dramatics. There is no notable smell I was able to pinpoint either.

There’s no way that my assessment of the taste here is going to convey the positive sentiment I felt, but to me – this yogurt tasted nothing like green tea. To be frank, it tasted like full fat yogurt (2%) flavored with parmesan cheese. It wasn’t sweet, it was savory to me but overall the taste rocked. I have no idea how this tastes like actual green tea (although one other taster believed there were hint traces), but if I didn’t have that expectation then this would have been a home run for me. You will see this yogurt in my grocery cart next time I see it. If you give it a try, let me know what you think. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Calling All "Caffiends": Starbucks Pre-Packaged Iced Coffee

I wake up in the morning and it's not until I have downed two cups of coffee that my brain function starts. People talk vehemently about the dangers of being over caffeinated, but you know what? You want to talk about dangerous, try talking to me before I have had a cup or two. I'm addicted and enough is never enough, so just add that to the list.

Walking down the refrigerated isle at the A&P on Martin Luther King Day, I'm thinking to myself, "Wow this place is crowded and there sure are a lot of screaming kids here. Everybody keeps stopping short in front of my basket to send a text and if I don't have a cup of coffee soon, I might strangle one of these people." And there it was, as if on cue: Starbucks Iced Coffee.

I'm an All American Dunkin' Donuts Coffee kind of gal, but without the option, I will just as easily drink Starbucks. I have always felt it's too fancy and dark roasted for me. No, I really don't want to order my size in another language, particularly if this is my first cup of the day. Having to play along with this makes me resentful and grouchy.

That being said, usually iced coffee is twice brewed and more expensive than a hot cup and I have never seen it prepacked as unsweetened before so I thought, "Why not?" I picked up the bottle, placed it in my cart, and said a little patience prayer as I braved my way to the check out line.

A few cool things to note about this product - the only ingredients are Starbucks Coffee and Absorbic Acid to preserve flavor. I'll get back to this point in a bit, but something else really great is that this bottle was brewed in Purchase, NY. I am all about supporting local products, particularly if they justify indulging in my preferred vices.

Normally I drink my coffee with skim milk and no sugar for the simple fact that if every time I had a cup of coffee which included sugar, I would have long ago been suffering from diabetes and cavities galore. For the sake of the review, I first tried this iced coffee black. When I originally read the label and thought absorbic acid, I was like, "Meh - ugh." But after tasting it, the preservative is needed. The iced coffee is good and I'd buy it again, so let's get that out of the way. If I were to drink a cup of Starbucks regular black iced coffee in store, I'd make a face of displeasure. Girl needs her caffeine, but that's a bitter ride. This store version is much milder, with the faint associated Starbucks taste we all know. Die hard Starbucks snobs will be disappointed.

Want to talk about going from good to great? Adding skim milk and a bendy straw, this glass rocked my world. Looking the bottle over, I see this stuff is good until March. The reality is, it will be long gone by tomorrow. I've tried to make iced coffee at home before, but it's just cold coffee that deteriorates rapidly in my fridge. Next time I will save the hassle and leave it to these experts accordingly.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Real Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Half Baked Ice Cream

The year is 2000 and I am in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house blasting 'N Sync with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked in my hand. The CD is playing, I’ve just recovered from brain freeze in time to sing “Bye Bye Bye” and life is good. I’m thirteen, so this is pretty much as good as it gets and damn it, it’s feeling pretty good. I’m smiling, my belly filled with Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream with Fudge Brownies & Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Think about it. In friendship terms, I have “known” this ice cream for fifteen years. Our relationship could nearly drive. It’s our crystal anniversary, which is great because I would love to take this ice cream and dress it up in a beautiful crystal bowl and show it the attention it deserves. All of this time and I’m still in love. And after a decade and a half, Ben & Jerry’s has shaken things up, keeping my relationship fresh and anew.

My friends are awesome and several of them tipped me off in advance that Ben & Jerry’s was coming out with a Peanut butter version of Half Baked, described as Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ice Creams mixed with Gobs of Peanut Butter Cookie Dough & Fudge Brownies. Reading the news, I could bite my computer screen. Yes, gobs.

So let’s get down to it. Here’s the packaging, but who cares about that? I’m posting it so you know what to look for to do yourself a favor. Beyond that, nothing noteworthy. I bought this at Target, who carries it at multiple locations which is surprising because my local grocer doesn’t. I considered sitting at the attached Starbucks with a spoon upon purchase, but I try pretty hard to not let myself go over to the dark side and I thought maybe this was crossing the “Secret Compulsive Eater” line somehow.

Opening the lid, you can see the top of the pint had a significant amount of chocolate ice cream. I sighed at first. Yes, I love Ben & Jerry’s premium chocolate ice cream like the next person with taste buds and a brain, but this is not what the night was supposed to be about. I ate beyond the surface and boy am I glad I did. The chocolate ice cream is traditional for Ben & Jerry’s. It’s velvety and tastes like chocolate mousse. The peanut butter ice cream has a faint peanut butter taste. I have large needs with this flavor, but still – exceptionally good. The brownies were the same as the traditional half baked and I was glad to see each bit in my spoon. No surprises here.

The best part? The peanut butter cookie pieces. Ben & Jerry’s was not cheap in including these and that takes this ice cream from good to great. The dough is peanut buttery, buttery and perhaps a little bit magical. Do yourself a favor. Close your browser, lock your computer and get to Target. If this ice cream is truly “Limited Batch” like the packaging indicated, then your clock is ticking and I am your freezer competition.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gimme a Big Chunky Break: Kit Kat Chunky

Two hours of hard-ish work into my workday and I for one am ready for a break. As a consumer, I have been brainwashed to think that nobody can “Gimme a Break” quite like a Kit Kat can and being that eating candy at 10:30AM is not even close to the most inappropriate thing that I have ever done at that time, this review was born.

Back in November 2014, I went to Ireland and anybody who travels internationally knows that the best part of any trip is simply the food. For me, a big part of this is the candy that I can’t get my hands on in the United States and in this instance, the Kit Kat Chunky. The first thing worth noting is that this candy bar is made by Nestle in Ireland, rather than Hershey’s who produces it in the US. I will get to the significance of that a little bit later in this review.

Chunky is one of my favorite adjectives, so already I felt a fondness towards this candy. As per the packaging, this is a crisp wafer finger with a creamed peanut topping covered in milk chocolate. If I actually read these labels, I might take a second to think “Ugh, that sounds minimally enticing”, but I know what a Kit Kat is and I can clearly read there’s peanut butter so I don’t question the things I know. Saying all of this, what messed me up the most here is my idea of the traditional Kit Kat. This candy was good independently of my expectations, but it was not very “Kit Kat”.

This candy bar was the perfect size by my standards (if I can’t have King Sized) and it is broken into three pieces. I like this being broken into thirds particularly if somebody is asking to share it. There are no halves to be given out and I would say that 33% is generous enough to give away so that you won’t walk away, enjoying your candy feeling cheap and guilty.

On first bite, you are absolutely hit with the Nestle chocolate flavor. It’s much sweeter than the traditional Kit Kat and significantly thicker. As a result of what’s just been described, the peanut butter and wafer pale in comparison. Largely, I think the effect of this depends on what your preference is. Basically, I want peanut butter in my mouth. I wanted this candy bar to be exactly what the Kit Kat is in the United States with a big peanut buttery layer. The “creamed peanut topping” was welcomed, but the name for me is a good description of what it was. Basically, I love candy and I would eat this again but if I had the opportunity to go back, I would take full advantage of instead getting something new to try.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Celebrating the Never Ending Season: Chobani Pumpkin Spice Blended Greek Yogurt

Each Autumn, while everybody is busy complaining about how the temperature is dropping, I am heating up to the idea that pumpkin season is just around the corner. You aren’t going to catch me complaining that pumpkin season is now apparently sweeping the nation from August through January. Pumpkin is delicious; it’s available canned year round so why make me wait for some allocated “season”? My belly doesn’t like to wait.

Dr. Oz and everybody else who gives out unqualified and unsolicited nutritional advice tells me that I should be eating Greek yogurt. With the exception of the possibility of it turning somebody around me into John Stamos, I hate everything about Greek yogurt and force myself to eat it every weekday. Think of me Monday through Friday at 11am while I suffer through this. Normally, I buy fat free plain Greek yogurt. If I am subscribing to the idea of eating this for my health, I avoid added sugars and flavors in this yogurt. "I really want to read a review about plain yogurt," said nobody ever.

Having heard of this in advance, I was on the lookout for Chobani Pumpkin Spice Blended Greek Yogurt for several weeks. After several grocery store stops and no luck, my coworker was sweet enough to find this and bring me one. Right off the bat, this yogurt is 2% milkfat and I am used to the fat free variety. Anybody who takes a swig of skim milk, for example and then drinks whole milk will know that when milk fat is included, the texture is far more velvety and luxurious.

This yogurt is good. You can see the orange color is not too over the top and the yogurt itself isn’t overly sweet. There certainly is a nice pumpkin spice to it, as one would expect. In terms of what I thought beforehand, this is definitely not something that tastes like a dessert. It’s like plain Greek's more delicious cousin who people want to be around on special occasions. I couldn’t eat this every day, but I would be inclined to buy another one next pumpkin season, assuming that this pumpkin season ever ends.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Skinny Cow Chocolate Mousse Ganache: An Udder-Catastrophe

If you’re reading this blog, then I don’t need to tell you that my nutrition could use a little work. In my youth, I read a book about volumetrics as a source of weight loss and it dawned on me: the lighter in calories something is, the more of it I can eat. Enough is never enough and I don’t waste my time crying over the fact that I have no portion control. To manage the cards I have been dealt, I find myself eating a lot (quantity) of lower calorie ice cream. Sure, this might not be as indulgent as a pint of Hagan Daaz, but it feels pretty damn indulgent to sit down and eat two full bowls of ice cream for half the caloric bang.

Now I don’t work in marketing, but if I did I am largely confident that I wouldn’t name a light ice cream targeting the weight conscious consumer anything to do with a cow. That being said, if it’s chocolate, vanilla or frozen I couldn’t care less what it’s called. At my Mom’s recommendation, I picked up a four count box of Skinny Cow’s Chocolate Mousse Ganache Ice Cream Cones. I can’t remember a time that I have had anything with chocolate ganache and not liked it, so seeing this in my local freezer isle, I figured – why not?

For anybody who cares about this, there are 160 calories per ice cream cone, 4.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 16 grams of sugar. There are no sugar alcohols in this thing. These nutritionals are based on eating only one. With stats like that, I ate two. Looking at the comparison between my hand and the cone, you can see these are on the smaller side anyhow.

A smaller than average ice cream cone throws off the balance between the ice cream versus cone ratio. Eating this, it was a ton of cone. The ice cream itself was light and icy and it had a chemical taste that definitely lingered. The ingredient list is a long one and perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise to me. While the synthetic chemical taste was off putting, I still managed to eat all four within two day’s time, so this ice cream is certainly still edible.

The best part of these cones were the rich little nugget of chocolate ganache on the top. Nothing about it tastes less than decadent. Overall, I will not ever buy these again, but if I went over my Mother’s, I wouldn’t think twice about sitting in her living room and eating an entire box of these. Skinny Cows out there, be warned.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Flake of a Croissant

My whole life, I have been a big fan of croissants. By default, they’re buttery, flaky and indulgent. You can dress them up, or eat them plain. Either way I have always found that even a mediocre croissant is a pastry that I want to be around. I was pleased to hear news that as of January 2015, Dunkin’ Donuts would be carrying a chocolate croissant. On any given day, I am likely to frequent a Dunkin’ Donuts and they have been keeping their new menu offerings exciting as of late. So I thought, “Bring it on.”

The first thing I look for in an Amy approved pastry is that I want it to grease through the bag. I am not a cardiologist and I don’t go to one. If I wanted an apple in a bag, I would have gone to a farmer’s market. Bringing this back to my desk after a trip to the local Dunkin’, the paper bag was showing me all of the promising signs of a good time.

As described by Dunkin’ Donuts: “Dunkin’ Donuts’ new Chocolate Croissant features flaky croissant dough with chocolaty filling, served warm, and available nationwide at participating Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants.” Now I can’t say if it was just the Dunkin’ Donuts that I went to or what, but my croissant was not served warm. Maybe a little heat would have softened the croissant and melted the frosting, but I can’t sit here and play “what if”.

I’m saddened to report that this croissant was only okay for me. It was purchased around 2PM and by this time, the croissant was certainly on the harder side. My hands weren’t greasy after handling and I didn’t salivate as the buttery pastry hit my tongue. The first bite of the chocolate filling was enjoyable, but the more I ate it, the less I really tasted actual chocolate. This is the kind of pastry I would eat off of a free breakfast buffet, but I wouldn’t buy this again. Dunkin’ Donuts has some delicious things which I would recommend, but I would say if you pass up this limited time offering, you really aren’t missing much.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Back from Mars: Crispy M&M's

2005 was a good year. I graduated high school, R. Kelly premiered "Trapped in the Closet" and Matthew McConaughey was crowned "Sexiest Man Alive." You would think that would make for a pretty good year, but no. Mars had to get involved and discontinue the Crispy M&M. I can't get behind the notion that nobody was eating them, because I know I certainly was. Either way, it's a new year and I am ready to let bygones be bygones, particularly because as of January 2015, these crunchy little delights are back.

The first thing that's different here is the green packaging. If my memory serves me correctly, the original bag was blue. Let's be serious here, it's what's on the inside that counts! The package was light and you can see from the labeling it's under 200 calories for the entire bag. Nobody should need to be convinced to eat these anyway.

The M&M's themselves are even rounder than they appear here. They do vary in color, but these are the two I grabbed for the photo. There's no point in sugar coating this (pun intended), these candies are even better than I remember. I had read before their release on a different food blog that people were Facebook messaging Mars, petitioning and calling and all for good reason.

The best part about this candy? The center is still crunchy upon biting. Since 2005, I have had a few imitations of this delight and the one thing I have found to be consistent is that the center is not crispy. My biggest crime? I take a lot of the foods I enjoy for granted. My stomach thinks this candy will always be waiting for me by the cash register, but I have lost this love once before and I am not going to let it get away from me again. There's never been any doubt about it, an overdue reunion feels good. Welcome back Crispy M&M!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"You Can't Make Everyone Happy; You are Not a Jar of Nutella."

Many times, when people are getting ready to visit old friends, they take the opportunity to Google directions to see how exactly they will commute to their visit. That's practical, but it's not delicious. Knowing I would be heading to New Jersey, I silently thanked Andriod for the Google Map App and instead focused my time and attention on combing Yelp. With a bit a luck and the good sense to search the word "nutella" within the town I intended to visit, I came upon the Ridgewood Coffee Company: The Home of the Nutella Latte. That's right. I didn't just make that up from some corner of my heart, or my wildest dreams. The baristas over at this coffee house are whipping up hot cups of heaven, combining some of my very favorite things.

Upon entering this coffee house, it was clear that even at 3PM the good people of Ridgewood were much ready for a cup of the same. This place was packed and I mean not even one seat available kind of packed. Thank God for "To Go" cups. Parking is free in Ridgewood on Sundays and the town is a great place for a stroll. I drove 55 minutes for the latte below and it was worth each mile. 

So let's get to the star of this review. You'll have to forgive the photo, when I smell hot Nutella in my hand - my artistic eye is slave to my ravenous appetite. I was expecting a particularly sweet, hazelnut flavored latte and to my delight, it was not sweet whatsoever. There was a hint of nutella, but it was very much a latte. It had a velvety mouth feel and it was a real treat. This latte was quite good, but like any real nutella purist, I would have preferred a regular latte while eating Nutella from the jar on a spoon.

Overall, worth the visit:
Ridgewood Coffee Company
90 East Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Friday, January 2, 2015

Loving Lovin’ Spoonfuls Moose Tracks

 Now that 2015 is here, I look forward to spending more time updating this blog. There should be no misconceptions here, I ate my way through 2014 with enough food pictures to create a living history of my plate, but I didn’t take the time to immortalize each meal with my words. This year, I look forward to having new experiences with my taste buds. Meal time is always interesting.
            Nothing makes more sense than starting this year off with something that I hope to write plenty about, my best friend: ice cream. My freezer generally houses a quickly rotated quart of Turkey Hill Moose Tracks Ice Cream and on my New Year’s Eve visit to A&P, I was looking for exactly that. I can’t say if there was a run on the grocery store for this particularly delicious flavor, but to my dismay it was not available in my local freezer isle. All the more reason to branch out a bit and try something new. I am always partial to the lighter flavors, because I have no idea what portion control is and I don’t want to waste my time learning something new at age 27. That boat sailed and I don’t even see it on the horizon. 
 As you can see from the label, Lovin’ Spoonfuls Moose Tracks is vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and famous moose tracks Denali Fudge. Not to mention, 25% of the profits are donated to the Special Olympics, so essentially the calories don’t even count. The first thing I noticed removing the lid was the yellow color associated with the vanilla ice cream served in cafeterias across America. Any purist might think this is a negative, but no. There is a special place in my heart for this and it tastes like the artificial vanilla I miss like an old friend. Normally, vanilla ice cream makes me fall asleep, but in conjunction with the fudge ribbon and peanut butter cups, it created a perfect harmony in my spoon.

Another thing I really liked about this brand was that it didn’t come out of the freezer rock solid and that wasn’t based on my freezer, which I keep at Ice Age temperature. When it’s ice cream time, I get anxious waiting for it to reach a soft enough temperature and I eat more than a serving while trying to chisel it out into a bowl. Forget you Turkey Hill, there’s a new Lovin’ Spoonful in town.