Lovely Superfruit Chews

Happy government shutdown! It’s okay, we have plenty to talk about on Foodette. Sometimes I feel like a pet seal- what can I say? I perform better when I have a small treat, and I need lots of little bites of energy to keep me through the day. I’m lucky that I live close enough to school that I don’t have to resort to buying my own lunch, but I like to keep a stash of goodies in my car and briefcase, too, for days when one class goes slightly over the schedule or when I just feel low on energy. Lately, I’ve been eating organic candy chews from Lovely Candy Co- these were sent to me over the summer, but I recently found the pack I’d been saving for school: superfruit!

They come in three flavors- blueberry, raspberry, and cranberry, and come individually wrapped. They are quite the faithful homage to Starburst- same creamy, chewy texture and shape, but are all natural, gluten-free, GMO-free, and fruity as hell, despite being somewhat stickier. I haven’t been able to put them down, and I’m not typically a candy person.
Where these succeed outside of their commercial counterparts is their flavor. They have sizable chunks of freeze-dried fruit, and some of the flavors have herbaceous notes to them. I am unsure if that’s from the fruit itself or an additional flavoring, but it makes for a very good foil to the sweet fruit and sugary base.

The only area where these fall short is packaging- the predictability of Starburst makes them easy to eat and parcel out. Everybody has a favorite flavor. With these, there are more to the package- approximately 30, but the flavor discrepancy was a little ridiculous. In my package, I had 17 blueberry candies, 10 cranberries, and 3 precious raspberries, which happened to be my favorite flavor. A more even adjustment would behoove the brand.

Spindrift Water Raspberry Lime

When it gets especially hot here, we like to joke that the cats turn into cheap, waxy chocolate due to their tendency to melt into puddles on all surfaces when it’s above 65 degrees, only to solidify when they find a cool spot or air conditioning. Luckily, our superior evolutionary benefits (sweating!) and supply of awesome sodas prevent us from melting away. One of the most recent breakout brands we’ve added to our libation portfolio is the increasingly awesome Spindrift. It was wonderful to see them at the Fancy Food Show and sample their latest line of drinks, Spindrift Water.

Billed as an adult alternative to soda, Spindrift joins sophisticated drinks like Izze, Hot Lips, Hint, and Ayala, to create a light, refreshing version of the drink we all love to hate on. You won’t find Coke here, though I’d love to see what they could do with such an iconic flavor profile. Instead, they’re trying out three new flavors of ten calorie “water” with fruit pulp mixed in. We tried them all, and loved the Raspberry Lime the best. This was perfect on a 98 degree day.

The soda has a more austere, less rich feel than the standard Spindrift but with the same boldness in flavor and fruit-forward acidity. This one has a delicate, floral aftertaste, with all the tart, bright flavors of raspberry in a less concentrated form. I was surprised that the lime didn’t make as much of an appearance, but it still offered a zesty, somewhat bittersweet counterpart to the fruit. It’s definitely a drink to come back to repeatedly, as its subtle flavors make each sip pleasant and curious. For ten calories, you could do a lot worse! This offers artisanal flavors and a rustic texture with the bits of fruit pulp that remind me of homemade sodas.

Dr. Lucy’s Cookies: Maple Bliss, Double Chocolate, and Ginger Snap

People love to ask me if I ever eat my words, or if I ever reevaluate a product after I review it for the first time. Because most companies are not masochists, and because I grew up in jaded 90’s SpecialKid land, I typically laugh in their face and tell them that, no, I do not, because words are not delicious and I am never wrong. But do you want to hear something private, secret internet diary? Sometimes, something good does occur and products that were once not awesome at all undergo a miraculous transformation that turns them into beautiful, sexy princesses with edible innards that I want to cram into my mouth. And they don’t even have to remove their glasses!

Dr. Lucy’s Cookies are a prime example of this transformation. About a year and a half ago, I reviewed Lucy’s chocolate chip cookies, featuring all-organic ingredients and a gluten, nut, and allergen-free stamp to boot. I thought the concept was in the right place, but that the flavor and texture still had a ways to go. Now, Lucy’s has introduced three new flavors of cookie- Maple Bliss, Double Chocolate, and Ginger Snap. And none of them taste like plant matter!

Seriously, this was what the boxes looked like two days in. I don’t think we’ve even gone through Oreos with this much zeal. And the fact that each cookie is around 40 calories doesn’t hurt in the slightest. What was so remarkable about these cookies was how they took a standard mass-produced cookie model and just made it better. I can honestly say that if I tasted these blindly against more well-known brands, I’d be hard-pressed to call a winner. The ginger snap is a great example of a twist on a classic. These remind me of a less tough, less sweet version of Trader Joe’s famous Triple Ginger cookies, with a crunchy texture and big pieces of crystallized ginger. They’re crunchy, but bend easily and have a great crumbly and crunch. And they’re really, really! Okay, I can’t end my paragraphs with that any more. I tried.

We loved the chocolate ones just as much. Their deep, dark, charcoal-heavy flavor of bittersweet cocoa powder and sea salt brought to mind a robust, thicker Oreo. It was tempting to want to sandwich these with icing! However, the winner of the new varieties, by a long shot, was the maple bliss flavor. The cakey, shortbread-esque texture of Maple Bliss, a little thicker than the others, topped with a generous scattering of maple sugar, tasted like a portable pancake! The 40 calories made it even easier to pile bacon on top, too. Or so I hoped. A girl can dream! In any case, these are fantastic. I’m impressed that they took such lengths to improve their formula and make these delicious, and even more impressed that they made a cookie that boldly faces the competition with a healthier design.

Rhythm Superfoods Texas BBQ Kale Chips

Wanna know the worst person at a party? It’s not your drunk uncle Manny, hitting on your teenaged cousin. It’s not your parents, renegotiating their restraining orders and custody over dill potato salad. It isn’t even that one doppelganger of a cousin you have, who somehow grew up with the same people you loathe yet is far more successful, interesting, and skilled with the ladies. 

No, it’s that one guy who may have wandered in from a homeless commune- ah, no, he’s somebody’s boyfriend, the one who goes over the edible offerings at any barbecue or gathering like he’s Larry the effing Health Inspector. You’ll find him loudly braying about raw food and omega-3 viruses and chlorine in chicken breasts to anyone who can stomach it while pigging out on potato chips and beer, both of which are most definitely cruelty-free and organic. The irony continues when you notice that he’s strapped an infant to his midsection for the past three hours- nope, that’s just his beer gut. He’s hypocritically fastidious about what he eats and he’s a colossal fatass. Thankfully, the best way to get someone like that out of the way is to occupy them with these chips.

Appropriately sourced from a discount, free-range, local grocery store, Rhythm Superfoods Texas BBQ Kale Chips are about as Texan as his ‘n’ his bedazzled bridal Stetsons. (But seriously, Rick Perry, those would be awesome.) The kale tastes like an absorbent sponge of oil, organic fertilizer and salt. Holy crap, are these terrible. If this was an Elementary Agromarijuana exam question, the answer would be “flesh-eating microvirus”. Gross. The basics of food reviewing 1.0: if it’s good, say it’s good; if it’s bad, say why. But where the hell do I start? These are bad because they have the texture of particle board and the flavor of body odor. They are thick, brittle hunks of UFOs- Unidentified Food-like Objects, choked with coconut oil and inexplicably, tahini. They are flaky, shedding copious amounts of barbecue-flavored food dandruff all over the place, and come three to a bag, a bag originally priced at $6.59 marked down to the low, low price of $3.00 for what amounts to a fistful of kale and broken dreams.

I guess that would be the only offensive thing about them if they were healthy and good for you and provided an alternative, albeit, terrible niche market for people who have moral or ethical concerns about eating barbecue potato chips. Logically speaking, a customer who purchases something proudly advertised as air-popped, organic, and raw is likely doing so because they are looking for a healthier alternative to snacks that are not air-popped, organic, and raw. So how do you explain why a 2 ounce bag of these have more calories, fat, and carbohydrates than a McDouble from McDonald’s?

It’s also worth noting that McDonald’s, for all the criticism it receives, has been fairly reliable about accurately reporting nutrition facts and has never gone on the record indirectly implying that eating its food can cause weight loss. Rhythm Superfoods’ website and bag have different caloric values and they have no problem convincing you that eating raw lets you “pig out” and potentially lose weight at the same time.

At least I can shoulder the realization that regardless of caloric value, these will still taste like crispy disappointment every time. Unlike a McDouble.

Spindrift Soda Sparkling Half & Half

Wanna hear something kind of crazy? We’re fifty posts away from our 1,000th review. I find that to be completely insane. It felt like an impossible number when we were at 300, at 500, at 800. It seems like just a few months ago I was getting ready for college and procrastinating for it by starting this blog! And I’ve been procrastinating ever since. Sigh. Memories, guys. In honor of our not-quite-thousandth and not-quite-birthday, I’ve decided to start another theme week in celebration. Also because I have an excess of like-minded food in my pantry, but mainly because you’re an awesome set of readers! There might even be a giveaway, so stay tuned.
Tonight, however, deals with our regularly scheduled programming of “strange things I eat for America’s sake.” And while the classic combination of iced tea and lemonade isn’t strange, classifying it up like it’s Chateau Palmer and carbonating that libation makes me raise my eyebrows all the way up my face. It’s a scary sight. You get used to it. Spindrift Soda is a relatively new brand describing itself as a fresh take on soda. They definitely have the fresh part locked down. Of the six sodas they sent over, each tasted like it had been made that morning with ripe, fresh fruits, lightly sweetened. Think the flavor of an Odwalla with a little more levity and grace and you’ve got an idea of what Spindrift tastes like.
The bottle design is clean (and even gently pokes fun at itself by informing you that yes, despite its Coke-lacking iconography, it’s still a soda!) and the colors of the beverages are vibrant and mimic the fruits inside of them. Sodas have been cruel to your gastrointestinal tract in the past, but Spindrift won’t let that happen. It has a liberal arts degree from Hampshire College and a surfboard strapped to its Neon. In this instance, the soda is lightly brown with a murky, gentle pulp at the bottom. It’s one of the most refreshing summer drinks I’ve had, playing off the classic Arnold Palmer and de-cloy-ifying it with less sugar and a more prominent pekoe influence, orangy and herbaceous. It’s smooth and earthy, with an almost cane sugar-like sweetness to it and a warmth to its body that reminded Miss Love of lemon sun tea. It’s the rich man’s half ‘n’ half and it’s worth every penny.

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Pacific Foods Hazelnut Chocolate Non-Dairy Beverage

One particular memory from high school really stands out in my mind, never to disappear from the recesses of my head. I’m embarrassed that I still recall this as I’m sure that it’s blocking my retention of my checking account balance or De Morgan’s laws, but here goes. My high school music teacher had a rotating selection of portly theater major college dropouts bring her coffee every morning during our class and it became such a basic part of the day, a hazelnut iced coffee with cream and Sweet ‘n’ Low, that it lodged in my mind and I internalized it. I ended up trying it one day and it was such a disgusting bastardized coffee flavor, rife with sugar and a fake nuttiness that it appalled me that someone would be able to drink such a concoction day in and day out.

To this day, I’ve never been a fan of flavored coffee or milk drinks because of that, and that goes for flavored iced coffee and most chocolate milk syrups, so I initially raised an eyebrow when I saw this new drink by Pacific Foods. Hazelnut and chocolate? And non-dairy to boot? For $2, it didn’t seem like too much of a risk. Suffice to say, this defied all my logical understanding of flavored, non-dairy beverages. For a drink made mainly of hazelnuts, this was certainly creamy. Each container gives you a lot of beverage for your buck, delivering 32 full ounces and a mere 140 calories per serving. Not bad for gussied-up chocolate milk, but this has a few other things going for it.
I won’t mince words: this tastes exactly like Nutella. Liquid Nutella with half the calories and fat and a smooth, sweet flavor. I was worried at first because the scent is virtually non-existent, vaguely sugary without much else going on, but the flavor is intensely concentrated. It’s the perfect balance between buttery, salty hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate milk and in no way tastes fake or too sweet. The package suggests to consume it between 7-10 days, which is just wishful thinking on their part. We’ve had this for a little over 24 hours and we’ve been hitting the container like some eco-friendly slapbag. This would make an exceptional cocktail mixer if you’re partial to Mudslides.
Criticizing this is difficult as it is both high in quality and extremely cheap, but the packaging makes me look like I’ve been temporarily afflicted with hand tremors. I’ve hurled more liquid on the floor in the last ten days than I have in my entire college career, including parties. For whatever reason, this is outfitted with a spout that gurgles weakly when held at a certain angle and gushes wildly when tilted approximately three degrees south, so pouring an 8 oz. drink can take upwards of a minute if you want to be neat or twelve seconds with an equal amount ending up on the floor as in the glass. If this is a ploy to make me want to buy more, there’s really no need as I’m planning on stocking up the next time I go to the co-op. This is better than most regular chocolate milks I’ve had and makes a wonderful protein-rich treat after a workout.

Antidote 77% Cacao Almond + Fennel Bar

I must say that pursuing my, ughhh, lifestyle choices here in Western Mass is about as close as I’ll probably ever get to riding a lollipop train. Perhaps Artemis herself has blessed me with the good fortune to be in love with a wonderful woman. But sometimes just getting through the day requires a meditative Sarah McLachlan sesh and a nightly dose of organic, free-range, Goddess-endorsed, paper-sheathed, raw, adorably designed, empowering chocolate like Antidote, made by incredibly gorgeous chocolatier Red Thalhammer. Am I right, ladies?
These visually appealing bars have features more PC than Chastity Bono and a considerably slimmer profile. No word on if they can dance or not, but they’d sure look good slathered all over Lacey Schwimmer. Nevertheless, nonchalantly sporting Antidote Chocolate’s quirky and health/psyche-conscious flavors at the dog park will cause heads to turn faster than a chick with a Justin Bieber haircut. With flavors like mango + juniper and banana + cayenne, it definitely seemed like the type of product that I could not only enjoy for its weirdness, but tout as the ultimate liberal status symbol.
One of these bars, almond + fennel, showcased two of my favorite savory ingredients in a sweet application, with a backside like a work of art. Named after Artemis, the Greek goddess best known for boys-free power, hunting, and acoustic guitar YouTube tributes by girls with crew cuts, the bar features a 77% dark chocolate base with crushed almonds and pieces of dried fennel. The bar imparted a fairly dry texture overall, but had a much smoother mouthfeel than other raw chocolates I’ve tried.
The dark chocolate was some of the nicest raw chocolates I’ve had, with an incredibly concentrated flavor of smoke and berries, leaving the Fine and Raw in the dust. However, I found that the main flavor I tasted was the single origin Ecuador chocolate, and it was a challenge to distinguish the flavors of the almonds or fennel.
It’s more often the other way around in some embellished chocolate bars, and I was disappointed to see such a beautiful landscape of nuts and spices disappear into the miasma of powerful dark cacao. If raw or vegan chocolate is your thing, you may find this one of the tastiest and beautifully designed bars on the market. Thanks to Aunt Linda for tipping us off!

Sahale Snacks Ksar Pistachio Nut Blend

Today’s review was brought to you by an intriguing comment by a cowardly reader. Recently, it was brought to my attention that my reviews were pretentious and favored expensive, low quality foods over cheap, high-quality condiments that I’m clearly missing out on loving to death. Yup, I’m just out to squash the little guy under my leather Charles Jourdain pumps. I had no idea I was Satan and Big Oil and Pacific Gas & Electric, but that’s why the website is called Commenter Reviews, right? All these things make me think a lot of feelings about myself.
Of course, the last time I checked, it wasn’t, and that’s why I’d like to highlight one of my favorite products to prove you wrong. Have you met my friend Honey Badger? Sahale Snacks is easily one of my favorite snack companies because it takes boring base ingredients (nuts) and gives them thirty pieces of flair (spices, herbs, fruit, and other nuts) to keep them exciting and awesome. Sahale’s blends are some of the most original I’ve come across. I mean, how often does your government-issued campfire trail mix come with lavender, orange zest, or lemongrass? Tonight’s offering was indeed found at our local discount grocery store, and I did love it.
The Ksar nut blend features a base of pistachios accented with sesame seeds, pepitas, fig, and harissa. Definitely sounds more like something you’d find orbiting a sphere of pork butt or pumpkin rind at Alinea, no? But this stuff is available to the masses without a crazy reservation for the mere price of $2 and change. Not bad at all. In yet another delightfully self-promotional twist, I’m going to go as far as to liken this to my own website. Perhaps in individual elements, it’s not perfect. Your eyes may hurt from my cheap orange and turquoise color scheme or you might not like how chewy the fig balls are in the Ksar blend. You might find my prose trite and the pepitas too spicy, or my photos crappy and the sesame seeds invisible. But quite honestly, if you open wide and take the whole thing in, you’ll find that it’s awesome. It’s a little whacky, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s delightful to behold and will satisfy you long into the night. Just like that, baby, just like that.
This mix has a charming versatility to it that makes me want to cancel any dinner plans I have on any given day and experiment with this- with grinding the nuts and coating chicken breasts with them, or mixing them into a stew or shredded taco meat. Maybe even blending them with a little oil to create a savory, spicy nut butter? There’s just so much to this flavor profile that aches for customization to an individual dish. Not that it’s not excellent to eat on its own. The harissa really comes out when paired with the earthy pepita seeds. For whatever reason, this heat is strongest on them, possible from their higher concentration of oil and toasted flavor. The figs added a much needed jamminess to the whole mix to counterbalance the buttery, savory indulgence from the nuts. All in all, pretty darn perfect. And only a few dollars for a quality product. See? Just get to know me. Perhaps you’ll find that my elitism isn’t as bad as you may think. Or maybe you won’t. I guess the truth is that I don’t really give a Ksar.

Ginger People Ginger Peanut Chews

After a fairly awful week of fairly awful items, I figured you all deserved a break. Here’s some good old fashioned food, with calories and flavor and edible components that you might actually want to eat. My good friend Rodzilla once clarified his reasons behind an A+, illustrating his point with an impressive stack of ice cream cartons. Tonight’s product follows a similar principle. What makes a good, solid product for Foodette? Well, for starters, it’s an embarrassing lack of photos due to consumption. Believe me, we were very close to photographing an empty package for you!
This product has some of the most unique packaging I’ve ever encountered, not so much in the physical execution so much as the visual. Their logo is an anthropomorphic ginger root, with hedonistically plump features and a come hither gaze. He is typically entwined with whatever additional flavored component is in the actual candy, in this case, a shapely peanut. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that on each package, he is featured either preparing or eating his own flesh- ginger pieces! That being said, if the Ginger People ever marketed a plush version of their mascot or slapped this guy on a t-shirt, I’d be all over it.Once we ate one of these peanut ginger chews, courtesy of the Ginger People, we simply could not stop. With a short ingredient list and a mere 20 calories per chew, these are a winner in not only flavor, but health. Obviously, the Ginger People are known for ginger, and these chews incorporate said ingredient in a very refined and well-executed fashion. For the most part, I found that these chews had an addictive enough flavor and spiciness that grew in intensity with each bite, but weren’t so mindlessly chewable that I felt as though I was at risk of eating too many. Each chew is roughly the size of a Starburst, though rectangular, and is coated in corn starch and powdered sugar. It has an initial coolness on the tongue as a result of that coating, but then the sharp ginger flavor comes through brilliantly, with a clean and smooth heat that permeates the entire chew.
The peanut influence is also strong, and manifests itself in a flavor and format similar to the texture of natural peanut butter, with a pleasant graininess and not-too-sweet taste. The sweetness of the ginger really accentuates the nutty flavors of the peanuts, and supplements their lack of sweetness with the natural fruity flavor of ground ginger. Really well balanced and delicious to eat. Because they’re individually wrapped, they’re incredibly easy to slip in a pocket or purse if you don’t feel like taking the whole package along on a trip or to class. These will definitely come in handy for soothing a winter cold as well as satiating my sweet tooth in the months to come.

Laloo’s Goat’s Milk Deep Chocolate Ice Cream

Ah, remember those blissful times when I assured you that I rarely contract illnesses of any sort? How confident and young I was in that time. It seems like only three weeks ago that I convinced you that I was some schlubby superwoman with lungs of steel, and now look at me. I’m bleary-eyed and congested two ways to Sunday and wandering around in an pseudoephedrine-induced haze because that is indeed how I roll when I got a col’…d. It’s the worst kind of illness because it keeps you up late at night without any of the fun and photobomb aftermath of a college party but all of the post-shenanigan symptoms. I’m too tired to get up and do anything productive but too energetic to nap for another week. Hell, I don’t even care enough to make myself matzo ball soup, so I’m settling for the next best thing: chocolate goat’s milk ice cream.
Yes, bubbies everywhere are shaking their heads and dropping their Arnold Scaasi-designed knitting needles. I’ve foregone the pervasive soup bowl and picked up a goddamned spoon. Two pieces of vital information prior to the shakedown: this ice cream was free, courtesy of Laloo’s. This ice cream was also seven freaking dollars and forty-two freaking cents at my local freaking organic co-op. Seven fitty for a pint of chocolate ice cream. Let that sink in and then, mom, understand that I did not pay real people money for this, because that would be insane. One tenth of a law school application (the part where you compose an essay in Twitter form) and one half of a movie ticket in Connecticut equals this ice cream. Laloo’s is an ice cream company specializing in lactose-friendly goat’s milk based ice creams with superior digestability. It’s ripe with probiotic power and I imagine it gives Activia a run for its money in both the olfactory and Jamie Lee Curtisian factors. With flavors like cajeta de leche and black mission fig, the company intrigued me. Despite my ambivalence to goat cheese, I gave it a go. This ice cream thankfully lacks some of the stronger, brettier flavors goat cheese typically carries, but has a rounded complexity that makes it present, but not front and center, on the palate. So, caprophobics needn’t run in the other direction.
This flavor, Deep Chocolate, boasts a short ingredient list with 77% Scharffenberger dark chocolate front and center and a surprisingly low caloric content- 160 calories and 6 grams of fat for half a cup. That doesn’t really help considering that I polished off the container in a day and a half, but works if you actually eat in moderation. Ahem. The chocolate flavor is fantastic, with a rich, silky flavor redolent with cocoa and a slightly salted, milky aftertaste that reminds me of eating bittersweet chocolate chips. The chocolate is distinct with none of that ubiquitous “chocolate flavoring” stuff typically employed in supermarket brands. That flavor alone compelled me to eat most of the pint, with no additional ingredient hacking. I was surprised that my sea salt and olive oil went untouched!
Texture-wise was where things got a little freaky. I’m not alone in thinking that this is an incredibly gummy ice cream. Unfortunately, it has the mouthfeel of a Fudgsicle and the price tag of gelato with a fudgy, dense slickness that sticks in the mouth like a pudding with a tangible chew. Not that I don’t like that, but it added a strangely generic feel to the ice cream that didn’t settle with its image and ingredient list. My other main gripe was that there was a serious filling discrepancy between pints. Of the two pints I picked up, each had air bubbles pocked throughout and the second one was missing about a half inch’s worth from the bottom, the ice cream settling atop the space without filling in. You can vaguely see the line where the ice cream did not fill in. A few air bubbles in a quart of Edy’s does me no harm, but when you’re talking about a dollar’s worth of ice cream making up those few tablespoons, I start to raise my eyebrows. I was happy to sample this and enjoyed it immensely, but I honestly can’t justify the steep price tag attached to this dessert.