Friday, March 27, 2015

Dunkin' Donuts Not So Spicy Omelet Flatbread

There are some days when I wonder if I should just get my direct deposit set up to go straight to Dunkin Donuts. More often than not, I find myself standing in the orange and pink store drooling all over myself several times in any given week. They’ve got that coffee I like and since I frequent Dunkin’ so often, I am always particularly interested in their new items. I figure that it has something to do with the Exposure Effect. Another thing that I particularly enjoy is that unlike many other chains that announce their new food items once they’re released, Dunkin Donuts often announces it a few days prior. Who doesn’t want what they can’t have?

There are a lot of people who I hear complain about the quality of eggs in the breakfast sandwiches here and I always wonder what their true expectations are? This is a quick service donut shop and you can get a complete breakfast in three minutes for less than five dollars. You can’t have everything and at least there are no dishes to attend to afterwards. Before I get rolling on my review, let is be known that I do normally enjoy Dunkin’ Donut’s egg sandwiches. I smother my eggs in ketchup, so long as the eggs are hot and the ketchup is Heinz, there’s minimal chance that I’ll be unhappy – particularly if I have my coffee first.

When I read about the Spicy Omelet Flatbread, I thought “Hell yea!” It’s never too early to keep things spicy in the morning and as Dunkin’ described this, it is a spicy omelet made with pepper jack cheese, habanero, red bell peppers and diced jalapenos, served with bacon and white cheddar cheese on an oven toasted flatbread. From the description, I was impressed that Dunkin’ would think to add such spicy peppers into an egg sandwich, knowing what sissies most people tend to be. Since I love the heat, I just looked forward.

What you’ll probably notice most about this review is how boring the pictures are and that accurately sums up what the sandwich was like. While the eggs were heated, it wasn’t enough so that the cheese would melt. You can see it sweating awkwardly in the photo. It’s inharmonious when you combine room temperature thick deli cheese and warm eggs. To add to the discordant experience, the cheese which was described as white cheddar was extremely pungent like a Swiss. If you like Swiss, maybe you’d be pleasantly surprised but I am not the girl for that.

The best part of this sandwich was by far the flatbread which was soft and grainy. You can actually see the grains in the bread itself and it tasted very good. The eggs were shockingly yellow and the peppers were plentiful but surprisingly they did not add any element of head whatsoever. The bacon was amiss for me and added nothing really of value here. It wasn’t crispy and it made me feel sadder than it looked sitting here.

In addition to any type of noticeable heat, this sandwich really needed a sauce. How can you have so many ingredients, BIG BOLD INGREDIENTS in this thing and still create such a lackluster experience? Save your money and eat donuts instead.

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Have a Break. Have a Kit Kat." - Green Tea Kit-Kats

This past Sunday, I found myself happily eating a large stack of chocolate chip pancakes, surrounded by good friends, while celebrating a very special 34th birthday. Life was good and my biggest problem was trying to stand up and get out of the booth with such a full belly. It only made sense that immediately after we walked over to the Asian market to peruse the candy isle. Apparently, being a 10 out of 10 on the full scale is not enough to stop a grown woman from barely making it out of the market before opening up her newly purchased candy and shoving it in her mouth. On the weekends, I don’t raise the self control bar all that high. Anyway, I digress.

Over the past couple of years I have heard a few people talk about Green Tea Kit Kats and I have always been curious. Within the last six months I’ve tried green tea ice cream and green tea Chobani Greek Yogurt, and while I have found them both to be unusual, the taste has always been pleasant. I’ve never been a “Kit Kat” girl per se, but I most certainly wouldn’t be upset to find one in my hand. Sunday, opportunity knocked and I was eager as ever to answer the door.

There’s a lot that I like about the packaging. It’s flashy and I can’t read even half of it. The bag was lighter than it looked and for $7, I felt as though I paid a premium. These Kit Kats won’t be a frequent occurrence in my possession unless I win the lottery or start working for Nestle. In the United States, Hershey makes Kit Kat, but all signs of this packaging lead me to believe that in Japan, that’s Nestle’s job.

Each small package contains 66 calories and the serving size is two packages. There are 12 packages total in the bag. I liked that you were “allowed” to eat two of them without any incidental guilt. Unlike normal, where you unwrap the candy and you’re supposed to save it for eight other occasions, just in one sitting you get to unwrap two of these!

To be frank, I had NO idea what to expect here. These Kit Kats are great, so great in fact I would pay another $7 for a bag. The most prominent taste for me is white chocolate and a decent white chocolate at that. My palette couldn’t detect the green tea, but nearly everyone else could. Nestle described the candy as having “a sweet maccha flavor mixed with a creamy white chocolate on a crispy wafer that Nestle has perfected.” The wafer tastes exactly the same as in the original Kit Kat. These flavors work really well together and there’s something about the white chocolate that seemed Easter appropriate. Hopefully the Japanese Easter Bunny will find me this year and treat me right with these.

Sometimes I wonder why I’m the one writing for the food blog since everyone can always taste the faint traces of the things I can’t. Then I stop questioning it because I have already eaten more junk in 2015 writing this blog than I probably have in 2013 and 2014 combined. Here’s to making up for lost time.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

YES: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies

Those three little words that every woman wants to hear someone say, “I have cookies.” That was the best news of the day yesterday, when my coworker pleasantly surprised us with Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies. Imagine us all sitting in our cubicles, an impending snow storm looming in our minds, when all of the sudden it’s like by saying this she opened up the shade and let the sunshine in.

So many of my reviews lately have been about foods not quite hitting the mark and it gets discouraging after a while. Where is all of the good food hiding? In short, apparently it’s been hiding at Trader Joes for some time now.

Speculoos Cookie Butter is a lot like the big hair of the 80’s. It’s everywhere, in everything and you don’t even have a chance to figure out if you like it or not because everyone else is doing it. My previous experiences with this brand of cookie butter include the actual spreadable cookie butter (liked it) and the Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Core Ice Cream (tolerated it). Knowing all of this, I was sure these cookies could go either way.

Hate it or love it, I am specific. There needs to be chocolate and/or peanut butter in my dessert for me to like it. Eating anything too vanilla makes me feel lonely and in earnest, that was my issue with the Cookie Core Ice Cream. I have this open mind, open mouth policy – so here we go. The box reads that these sandwich cookies are made of creamy cookie butter spread between two decadent butter cookies. Decadent indeed.
One word: WOW. I loved these cookies. They far surpassed my expectations because of how amazingly buttery they were. If you put the cookie on your tongue, it started to seep butter like it was the best day of your life. Once the cookie crumbled as you chewed, the sweet and gingery cookie butter went to work, adding a real richness and depth to the already satisfying experience.

Some of the cookies had significant cookie butter between the layers and if careful, you could twist them like an Oreo. I would definitely eat these cookies any chance I get. Don't let the imagery fool you; these cookies tasted far better than they look! Chocolate and peanut butter who? These cookies rocked.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Orange You Surprised: Florida Citrus Sampler

It’s a cold day in hell. Such a cold day in fact, that the sky is freezing over, but you won’t notice this because the pigs are busy flying overhead. Having just gotten home from a long weekend in Florida, the scale was all too quick to remind me that I was accountable for all crimes committed on my “binge-cation”. I had ice cream and alcohol every day I was gone. I’m sorry - I’m not sorry, but the afterglow fades quickly. Nevertheless, living life five pounds heavier, the blog must go on.

The only thing more toxic than my relationship with fruit is my relationship with wearing clothes that are too tight. On my way to Tampa Airport, my hosts stopped at an orange grove and in the spirit of travel I purchased one of each of their citrus offerings – a honey tangerine, a temple orange and a Valencia orange. I figured IF I was going to eat fruit, the Sunshine State was the place to do it. Never thought that I would see the day when my backpack held three pieces of fresh fruit, but here we are.

Normally I take a multivitamin because nobody in this universe would believe that my diet lends itself to covering all necessary nutritional basis. Like anything you’re dreading, it seemed only fitting to get this taste test over with all at once. My mind is open and I do hope to see the day when my strong distaste for fruit fades and I can join the rest of the population in sugary, vitamin filled bliss without complaint.

The first fruit on deck was the honey tangerine. Already my favorite because it was the smallest, this fruit was a deep orange color and quite easy to peel. The skin was so thin and I realized after the fact how lucky I was that this didn’t get squished in my backpack. Most people would argue that there’s a time and a place for fresh juice and we would all agree that it’s not at 35,000 feet. The tangerine was by far the sweetest of all three fruits tried, which meant that it should have been saved for last. The skin between sections was also very thin and I was surprised by the abundance of seeds. Honey was an appropriate name for this tangerine to say the least.

After the tangerine, it was basically all further downhill. The temple orange was too juicy to peel without wearing most of it. It was always my understanding that the attraction of carrying fruit with you is that it’s self contained and can be eaten on the go. I would only eat this thing if I had a poncho on. There were plenty of seeds in this orange too and the skin between each section was quite thick. Temple oranges seem like they’d be perfect for easy juicing, if you’re into that.

Last and least was the Valencia orange. Save yourself the airfare and enjoy this orange at your local Chinese restaurant when they bring you your bill. This was by far the hardest and least rewarding to peel. The tartness of this overwhelmed me. It should be mentioned that this may likely be because of the previous fruits being so sweet. To be frank, I couldn’t even finish half of this thing.

Overall, this didn’t kill me. My pants aren’t really any looser, but I certainly mitigated any risk of developing scurvy. You won’t see me bagging oranges at the A&P, but when in Rome.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pop-Tarts: Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Pop-Tarts are so great. They’re convenient. You can travel with them. Toast them. You can just “have to eat both because you don’t want the other to go stale.” They’re timeless really. From brown sugar to s’mores, they are consistently delicious. I’m not going to touch on my feelings regarding the fruit variety, because that’s just an unfair reflection on an otherwise favorable breakfast pastry.

Like several other food brands I have reviewed lately, Pop-Tarts has really stepped up their game. From peanut butter to pumpkin, there have been many new varieties hitting the shelves lately. A friend of mine, who is an enthusiast, recently handed me a pack of Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop-Tarts. As described on the box, these Pop-Tarts have a cookie dough filling inside of a chocolate frosted cookie crust, which has vanilla icing swirled on top. Cookie dough makes me think of ice cream and I was already drooling at the thought.

To be clear, I like my Pop-Tarts toasted. There’s something about the toaster oven which coaxes the true deliciousness out of the pastry and into your mouth. The most unique part of this was by far the cookie dough filling. Personally, I found this flavor to be very mild and if I was blindfolded, I would have had no idea that this was actually cookie dough. While still very good, this reminded me so much of the s’mores Pop-Tart.

The frosting was more sugary than chocolatey and I thought maybe I could have further enjoyed the cookie dough taste if there was perhaps less of it. The cookie crust was really good. It reminded me of the vanilla teddy grahams in a way that I truly enjoyed. These Pop-Tarts were fun and delicious. If I had to pick, I would have gone for some of the classics instead OR I would have rocked my world by throwing this into a toaster oven and really brought things to the next level.

These Pop-Tarts are worth a try because they’re limited time, but maybe share the box with some friends. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Insect Edition: The Original Cricket Bar Chapul Aztec Bar

Variety is the spice of my life. At the beginning of the year, I was sincere in my offer that if you suggest a food I will try it, based on availability of course. Justin Steele was kind enough to bring to my attention these Chapul Cricket Bars and since he’s the world’s best pen pal, I was all too excited to see them arrive in my mailbox a few days later. Rock on Justin. Thank you!

I’m breaking these flavors down into three reviews, because not only are they interesting, but because I want more adventure in my life. Nothing screams adventure like crickets in your mouth. Today’s flavor was the Aztec Bar, which in addition to cricket flour features dark chocolate, coffee and cayenne. Below are the nutritionals for this bar as requested by Jason Zinn. This bar impressed me with its high fiber count and I tried not to think that it was based on the bodies of the crickets themselves.

When Justin first told me about this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was terrified that there would be cricket wings and bodies broken up in large chunks throughout this bar, but terrified in the way that I wanted to know more. You can see from the texture that this bar wasn’t entirely smooth. My first and last bite did have a chunk in it, and in giving one of my coworkers a piece there was an appearance of a leg. With the exception of what I just mentioned, the cricket flour was relatively well ground.

Based on weight, the first ingredient in this bar is dates and I found that to be the strongest flavor that I tasted. Not being a big fruit fan, I just counted my blessings that it wasn’t bugs. If you were blindfolded, you wouldn’t even know that crickets were an ingredient here. I could taste strong hints of the cayenne and chocolate, but I was unable to detect the coffee. Two other taste testers mentioned that there was a very strong coffee flavor, so most likely there is some type of presence. I drink 5 cups of coffee a day, so I’m most likely immune to the stuff.

This bar had some awesome heat. Pepperidge farm could learn something here. Probably the most interesting feature of this bar was the texture. It was particularly grainy and I am certain that was the cricket flour. To be fair, this far exceeding my expectations and really spiced up both my and the people around me’s work day. There was nothing about this that was gross besides the idea of it. For anyone looking for a non-offensive thrill, this bar might just be it. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bring on the Heat: Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Chocolate Chili Milano Cookies

If I could do things differently, I would take the opportunity to eat more cookies. I love cookies, in fact I am in love with cookies, but they have always played second fiddle to my love for ice cream. My Mother always told me that in life, you can’t have everything and it’s because of this that I have slighted cookies on so many nights in my life. Some cookies are so dependable that even hearing the name of them, you know exactly what you’re going to get. Chips Ahoy, Tagalongs, Milanos – there’s really no guess work. I like this because already you know “if it’s worth it?”

Over the past several years, I have gotten a real kick out of Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” Campaign, where they ask snackers to propose new flavors for distribution and you should know that this girl loves democracy. Following suit, Pepperidge Farm asked consumers to do the same for Milano cookie flavors. It’s my understanding that chili beat out green tea as the winner of this particular competition.

Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Chocolate Chili Milano Cookies had my interest long before I could get my hands on them. I like it hot. There’s rarely an occasion where you’ll hearing me say that I can’t handle the heat and while I have never in my life purchased a bag of Milano cookies, I do heavily associate these with long flights and vacations. For some reason, airlines seem to really push these cookies and I always enjoy eating them when I get the chance. To spare you from the weeks of seeking that I had to endure, these cookies are currently available for a limited time at Target.

Smelling the bag, my nose detected a bit of a peppery flavor, reminiscent of cinnamon. Looking at the cookie itself, you can see the center is two toned and I was truly very excited for these. Biting into this cookie, it tasted good and quite similar to a regular Milano but the chili was so faint that it’s hard to believe that these cookies are being marketed as such. Checking out the ingredients, there are no chilis listed whatsoever. In fact, there is no cinnamon, no cayenne, nothing. This helps to explain the lack of the pepper flavor, but what gives? 

These cookies are frauds. They were tasty, but not hot. Don’t buy these unless you want your heart broken. I’m happy to have tried them, they have the potential to take the traditional cookie and make it into something mind blowing. Do us a “flavor” Pepperidge Farm and please add the featured ingredient next time.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Walk Down Memory Lane: Lunchables Pizza with Pepperoni

Kids have it great. Adults drive them around, they get unlimited hugs and they can basically eat all of the processed food they want. I can’t remember the last time I walked down the snack isle and they had packaging to reel me in. Has anyone ever seen packaging with a topless male model and commercial ads for reality television on a box of cookies? No, that remains to be seen, but you can bet your cookies that I sure as hell hope that I am around for that day.

Normally, the preparation of food doesn’t excite me too much. As soon as I see it, I am salivating and I’m ready to go. The idea of too much assembly is really an inconvenience to me over anything else, but it’s probably too lazy to complain about the inconvenience of convenience food. Leave it to me to find a way.

Growing up, I was obsessed with Lunchables by Oscar Mayer. With fair certainty, I can say that they are serving the Lunchables Taco variety up in Heaven. For those of you who remember, there was a plastic pouch of ground beef that came in a taco sauce that was as phenomenal cold as it was hot. For over a decade I continue to look for this and for over a decade it’s eluded me. Most likely some nutrition action group attacked the ingredients of this product and now they have ruined it for everyone. Way to go. Anyway, I digress.

When I can’t have Lunchables Tacos, the runner up is Lunchables Pizza with Pepperoni, described on the packaging as: Pepperoni made with pork, chicken and beef--BHA, BHT and citric acid added to help protect flavor, Pasteurized prepared mozzarella cheese product, pizza sauce and pizza crust. I’ll admit, the description leaves something to be desired, but do kids care about this? At 27, do I care about this? No and probably not.

The best part about this meal is that it was exactly like I remembered. The cheese is light and processed and sticks out quite nicely on the pizza disk. The tomato sauce is particularly sweet and clashes with the cheese in a way that walks you down memory lane. The pizza disk itself is rock hard and like a large glamourized cracker. The pepperoni was delightful in the way that only a three meat sausage could be.

Let’s be blunt – I liked this. I’ve always liked this. The only three things I don’t like about this is the shame of eating this as an adult rather than as a child, some thought of “this is so processed, I shouldn’t be eating this” and that even after nearly two decades of eating this, I still can’t gauge the right distribution during construction to have equal cheese and pepperoni left to assemble that last pizza. While I can’t imagine too many readers running out and buying this, remember these Lunchables still do exist for the time being in case you’d like to reminisce about back in the “good old days” when lunch came wrapped in tons of plastic and when you could bring in peanut butter sandwiches without more than half of your class dying from a peanut allergy.