Wingnut Confections

Look.

I wanted to give you clean and beautiful photos, but I couldn’t help myself.

One second, I was munching on this vegan toffee. And the next second, this.And that’s all she wrote.

I guess it’s one interesting instance when I ate my own homework, but you guys will never accept that. Le sigh.

So, this maddeningly good toffee, among other candies, was made by Wingnut Confections out of Portland, Oregon. I got a chance to try a selection of their finest and report back. So, let’s start with my favorite, because I’ve already completely decimated it.

This is actually a coconut toffee, and the way it’s cut makes it look as though it could be bought by the square foot, like sheet rock or shag carpet, and as soon as I took it out of the package, the scent was…strange and intoxicating. It took on this slightly spicy smell, and then, a nice, mellow, roundabout with the dark chocolate. It was beautiful, even before biting into it.

And then I actually ate it. The texture was crisp and condensed, and the dark chocolate on the outside melted perfectly. The coconut flavor was subtle, but mixed in well with the other flavors, and I was glad that it was an oil instead of flakes, because that would have interfered with the absolute perfection of the rest of it.The toffee itself wasn’t too thick, and it crunched so well, with sweet, grainy sugar, but the real aspect that put it all together was the toasted pumpkin seeds. The seeds were slightly spicy and added a natural crunch to the toffee that really made a great experience to taste. It was definitely original, and like nothing I’d have expected before.David, the chocolatier, also sent me two flavors of candied hazelnuts. One was a candied hazelnut, and one was chocolate covered. Each hazelnut was large and round and perfect for just popping into my mouth. It was an excellent snack, and I could see these being versatile for just eating as an afternoon indulgence or as a topping for a nice dessert.

The chocolate covered hazelnuts had a nice, slightly burnt aroma and flavor, and that was sweetened in part by the chocolate, but not too much because it was a nice bittersweet chocolate powder coating it.

The hazelnuts were toasted well, and broke cleanly in my mouth without having a too burnt or too raw flavor. The candied inside added a fantastic crunch similar to the toffee, and it sweetened up the candy and made a perfect bite to pop into my mouth.The candied hazelnuts didn’t have chocolate, but they had a really bumpy texture and a hint of vanilla. While I wasn’t as keen on the combination of the sugar and the hazelnuts, reminding me of the standard New York City Nuts 4 Nuts carts, it was still a pretty classic treat and the sugar coating wasn’t too hard.Again, the hazelnuts were prepared perfectly, and each one was a very good size. No skimpy nuts here, people. Overall, like the chocolate hazelnuts, a good snack, though I might be inclined to recommend this one for portability, as the chocolate dust tends to spread on one’s hands.The last confection I reviewed was a six piece collection of truffles in an assortment of flavors. Like the other candies, these are all vegan! The truffle flavor selection was rather exotic, and I found myself pleased with the derivation from the usually pedantic flavors that the majority of companies, like Russel Stover and such, put out with their things.Earl Grey was definitely my favorite. There was a strong flavor of bergamot within the ganache, yet not so much that it overpowered the chocolate. The orange notes were fantastic, and there was a slight crunch in the outer garnishes of the chocolate, the orange zest. Really swell. 9

The habanero mole truffle was another big hit, though in this one, the ganache was a little drier, and definitely chalked off more. That really affected my thoughts on the truffle, and although it did melt in my mouth eventually, it was a slower melt, and the burn got really pronounced within that timeframe. A strange flavor, with the mole tastes almost turning musty, and while I can’t say that I didn’t like it, it wasn’t exactly my favorite. Still spicy, though, and the sesame seeds were a fantastic combination. 5

I also tried a Thai chili truffle, which had accents of coconut, chili, ginger, and lime, but all I really tasted was the chili. Considering how pronounced the coconut flavor was with just a little bit of oil in the toffee, I would have liked to see more in the truffle. 4

The next truffle was a very tasty one, the peppermint truffle. I normally don’t like the combination of chocolate and mint, preferring more nut blends, but this classic combination went well together, and it was a smooth flavor and finish. The mint was crisp and clean and the chocolate was undoctored and plain, allowing the flavors to come out in the clearest of ways. 8

Following that was a marion berry truffle. I wasn’t really on top of this one, because it had the same chalky texture as the mole truffle, and the berry flavor wasn’t very pronounced. I don’t know what a marion berry is, either, but I’d have liked to taste a little more of a textural difference, perhaps with some marion berry jelly instead of simply essence of the jelly itself. 4

Finally, we finished up the selection with the last truffle, the Oregon hazelnut rum truffle. Although I am nuts for Nutella, I was getting a little weary of the hazelnuts at this point, and would have appreciated cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, but this was a little too much. Thankfully, the hazelnuts provided a nice crunch, and the rum gave a luxurious and smooth boozy flavor to the truffle. I liked the ground up pieces of nut on top. 7

Tong Sing Chinese, Easthampton, MA

Every college student needs a roster of good Chinese restaurants in the tri-state area tattooed to their bicep, thigh, or appliqued as a tramp stamp for those late night cravings when absolutely nothing else will satisfy. It’s just perfect, hot, and cheap, and lately, Erik, Fleeper, and I have been chipping away at these restaurants at strange hours of the night and are reporting our findings amidst comas of crab rangoon, mindfucks of MSG, and chokeholds of chow mein.

Today’s restaurant was in Easthampton, close to Fleeper’s house, and is in a tiny plaza next to a dairy and liquor store. Tong Sing Chinese. We went in and ordered an appetizer, Szechuan fried wontons with pork and a spicy sesame glaze, and our entree, General Tso’s chicken.The wontons were perfect. I don’t think we spent more than two or three dollars on them, and there had to be at least six of them, enough to give each of us two, and they were quite large and stuffed with pork. They were covered with glaze and it was obvious that they were freshly made, because underneath the glaze, they were extremely crispy and the dough yielded to a poke with a fork, but didn’t mush completely. The pork filling was savory and minced well, and wasn’t chewy or sinewy. My only possible criticism was that these weren’t really “Szechuan,” because the glaze was more sweet than spicy, but it was damned tasty, and even though it didn’t deliver the heat that I expected, I was very pleased.For our entree, we had the General Tso’s chicken, which was delivered, as the wontons were, scalding hot. There is really nothing more pleasurable than a restaurant that delivers food as hot as the sun. I’m so used to lukewarm food in tepid dining halls that I’ve forgotten hot temperatures, and it’s absolutely refreshing. The pile of chicken was just crazy. And the flavor was incredible. Biting into this breading was like biting into a piece of slightly caramelized food. It was just ever so sugary, but the heat was spot on, that it had literally caramelized, and the crunch was perfect. It was also extremely hot, and I did burn myself. I burnt myself on perfect food.The breading was really light on this, and so was the glaze, and each piece, although tiny, was packed with an inordinate amount of flavor. It was so tasty. The cut of meat wasn’t the best that it could have been, and there was a little bit of gristle with some of the bites, but overall, it was a tasty dinner, and we took home a lot of leftovers. Erik and I split this plate, so this was a feat!Tong Sing also makes, for an exorbitantly low price, a homemade spicy mustard and duck sauce, which we got to eat with our chicken and wontons. Totally worth it. Incredible sauces. Rich flavor and delicious textures. It’s so rare that you find a restaurant making homemade sauces these days that you just jump on opportunities like that when you actually do.

Hippie Chips Haight Ashbury Jalapeno

Hippies are the new bad boys.

Take a look outside. The new, up and coming 18-35 bracket isn’t driving greasy motorcycles. Those would release carbon emissions and pollute the earth. They’ve traded those in for a worn pair of Birkenstocks, or if they’re rich, a Prius.

Their hair is no longer greased back, but is flowing, either let down in curling locks or teased into the quintessential dirty dread. And since leather jackets are cruel to animals, you can’t help but notice the unmistakable reek of hemp clothing all over their privileged bodies.Eating these chips, Hippie Chips, I was reminded of Bono and U2 and how “rocker” the hippie lifestyle is now associated. It’s a strange phenomenon, and these chips have jumped on the bandwagon. They’re healthy “potato” chips, and I say potato because I’m pretty sure they’re soy, at least, they look a hell of a lot like soy crisps, and are flavored in “Haight-Ashbury Jalapeno”. I don’t know whether to laugh or smash a guitar made of endangered wood from Tanzania.For $2.00 per 1 oz. bag at the gym’s vending machine, these are about worth the money you’d spend to go see Hannah Montana play Woodstock. There were, and I counted, twelve chips. That’s not to say that they weren’t good, but I’m still reeling from the math here. The flavor is definitely peppery, but it isn’t jalapeno. It’s a poseur of a chip, definitely more of a generic pepper, like the Lay’s Pepper Relish Chips than a clean, kick of a jalapeno. There is spice, though, so it’s hot, but not really hot enough to make you run for your organic latte or Odwalla smoothie.To compare these chips to anything, they’re definitely hippie chips, but as far as flavor goes, they’re about as badass as Milhouse in drag.

SodaStream Penguin

It sat in my room, just staring. One cold, gimlet eye, a sleek body with fins that slip out of your fingers. A sharp, pointed beak. The potential to explode.For about a week before opening the SodaStream Penguin, I was terrified. It wasn’t that I was afraid of exploding my dorm room and the surrounding dorms, or afraid of screwing up the machine, or afraid of failing my family in bringing them cost-effective, tasty beverages, but the penguin was judging me. I wasn’t worthy of its presence.

Just opening the Penguin, I felt like my dorm’s property value went up. This thing belongs in a hotel. It’s all curves and no angles and has a stainless steel chamber and comes with carafes. Where the hell do you see carafes in a dorm? I threw out my plastic Fiestaware and Dixie cups and embraced the new era with this, my cold, chilly lover.So, the logistics. The Penguin comes with carbon dioxide, which is inert, so the possibility of me making a flamethrower was out of the question. It’s extremely easy to assemble. I’m sure a real penguin could do it if it had opposable thumbs, too. It comes with that and the carafes, and SodaStream also sent over 19 flavors, too, for me to try out.The usage is also really facile. It’s just a matter of filling up the carafe and releasing the carbon dioxide into the glass, and then mixing in whatever flavor you want. I’m not sure if the carafes are the ideal beverage containers for me, personally- while they are sleek, they’re a little bulky and pretty heavy, and I can’t see myself carrying them around and using them in any other setting than at home as a regular drinking receptacle.I couldn’t try all 19 flavors on my own, so I enlisted the help of Swagger to taste test and tackle the beast. We took these photos in the dorm kitchen and tried it all out. So we already knew that it was really easy to use, but how did the flavors taste? We tried 9 of the flavors, to give you a broad spectrum of what they’re like.(clockwise: energy, orange mango, fountain mist, root beer, Pete’s Choice)Fountain Mist was SodaStream’s personal version of Mountain Dew, and it was pretty good. It was definitely the same color as Mountain Dew, and the flavor was pretty accurate. It had a nice lemon and lime flavor, and we liked it. 6

Orange was definitely our favorite flavor out of all of them. It had a clean, crisp taste, and just felt fresher than some of the other ones. It was really sweet, but not too sweet so as to make you feel like your teeth are rotting out. It tasted like the candy jelly slices I eat at Passover. A definite winner, and better than some of the orange sodas you can get in stores. 10

With the orange, we also had orange mango. The flavor was a little more subtle than the orange, but the mango was mellow and tasty. I thought this one was tasty, but perhaps a little too sweet on the tooth. Still a definite winner, and especially nice for those of us who like strange soda flavors! 8

Next, we tried the lemonade. This was another favorite, because it tasted just like my local soda company’s lemonade equivalent, a gassosa. The lemon flavor isn’t bitter at all and is, like the mango, a little more subtle. This can also be remedied if one likes more or less flavor, because you can add syrup to taste. I personally preferred the little, one serving bottles for easier clean up and mixing, but it’s all a matter of preference. 9After that was the Pete’s Choice. This one was a little strange. As Swagger so eloquently put it, “Dr. Pepper has his doctorate in soda making, Mr. Pibb has his bachelor’s, and Pete didn’t get his GED.” This wasn’t our favorite. The syrup was black, and the flavor was just off. 2

Root beer was up next. Root beer is also an easy flavor to screw up, but SodaStream pulled this one off really well. The flavor has just a hint of vanilla, and is really frothy and refreshing. I could see this making an excellent root beer float. 9Finishing up the sodas was the energy flavor. This is basically the equivalent of a Red Bull, and it tasted identical. Unfortunately, nobody likes Red Bull because it tastes like robot piss. It was still a valiant effort on the part of the flavor as far as accuracy went, and it did end up giving us energy to lift microwaves, so it had its merits. 3

After those, we tried the MyWater flavor essences, which are additives to the sparkling waters that you can use as flavor syrups. They’re highly concentrated, so a very small amount goes a long way. We tried the berry first, and it was medicinal and didn’t taste like berries at all, or might have tasted like the chemical equivalent of berry flavor. It was not tasty and even when titrated with other flavors, was still easy to detect. 0

The orange flavor fared much better. While I definitely lean towards the side of sweeter drinks, this was refreshing, like going to a hotel and drinking the water with the orange slices in it. It was just enough of a hint of orange for me to want to drink more, and the carbonation was nice and bubbly. A nice alternative to the orange soda, and the presentation is very classy. 7With the presentation and ease of the machine itself, and flavors, I think it’s a nice addition to a home where people drink a lot of soda. I know I’ll get a lot of usage out of this machine. I think it’s great for parties, and is a fun novelty item for families to own. If the price is daunting, make tabs of your soda intake with cans and see if it’s worth the amount you regularly spend. I rated based on the flavors and presentation.

The Penguin waits.

Walker’s Shortbread Assortment

Recently, I was sent an assortment of Walker’s Shortbread to try out. I have some really fond memories of shortbread, from traveling around the UK, so when I ate this, it brought back some great memories.Walker’s Shortbread is a classic and simple treat, but can be jazzed up really easily to fit any occasion. With each shape of cookie, one can indulge with the bare minimum- simply the cookie, or any array of toppings, and the cookie’s buttery flavor adapts well to any number of flavors. I dipped it in coffee, hot cocoa, ice cream, pudding. The cookie is fragile, so I might not recommend the sticks for topping, but the rounds and triangles were of a substantial weight.The flavor is really top-notch, with a rounded, buttery flavor. It’s smooth, and leaves a slight tang in your mouth, and the cookies crumble instantly. I like these, and would definitely want to try ones with other toppings already in them. As far as the shapes went, there was no differentiation in between them, aside from the size that dipped into my glass- the stick was, by far, the most practical, but I liked the rounds the best. Each one has a prettily designed top. I was a little disappointed, however, by the promising of sugar on top of the triangles, hoping for a slight irregularity in texture, and none was found. Overall, though, a good snack to indulge upon!

Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

This was a soup I actually stumbled upon accidentally, with Sherlock while searching for snacks to take to the movies. Needless to say, after trying a sample of this, I bullied her into fitting this into her large hippie bag along with our snacks to take to Shutter Island. I didn’t drink it in the movie, though with all the blood, it might have been fitting.The soup was offered as a sample the night we went, and it is probably one of the most delicious soups I’ve ever tried. The only thing that could make it better is if they put it in a boxed wine format, with a tap, so that I could just have soup on tap at my immediate disposal. The flavor is extremely creamy, but with only 100 calories per serving. The peppers and tomatoes are equally distributed in the flavor, with a slightly smoky taste from the roasting, and it’s not chunky, which makes it a fantastic stand alone bisque on a cold night or something that can be equally jazzed up with some cheddar crackers, chives, sour cream, or any of your favorite veggies.What I love most about it is just the ease in preparation. It can be kept indefinitely on a shelf until opened, and then it’s just a matter of eating it. I love how simple it is to prepare, and how vibrant the flavors and colors are. It’s so hearty and thick, and for a college student, finding a gourmet soup like this is a real treat.

Cocoa Dolce’s Quick Fix

Recently, I had the opportunity to try some of Cocoa Dolce’s truffles and assorted selections, which I’ll be popping into review over the course of a few weeks. Starting off the review is the “Quick Fix” selection, which, I might add, came packaged along with the other chocolates in the cutest presentation I have ever been privy to receiving.I could flee the country with this suitcase and nobody would miss me.

It came with boarding passes and a map of the chocolates, and it was adorable. It was definitely one of the most original ideas I’ve ever seen. I loved how, instead of just packing some extra chocolate selections, they chose to include the airline boarding passes as gift certificates and let me pick them out online. It was a really adorable selection, and the box was very classy, with a wax seal and raffia ribbon.Anyhow, onto the signature truffles. I got a special selection that you’ll all come to expect, but for now, the Cocoa Dolce Quick Fix. Not to be consumed in an airline bathroom while humping a stranger. Since this is a selection, I’ll rate them all on a scale of 1-10, and then average that number for an overall rating.(Left to right, starting at the top: Mayan, carmello noce, lemon, strawberry, cinnamon orange, champagne, mocha, gianduia, and raspberry)

The first one we ate was a raspberry truffle. We liked the pink dots on it, and thought it was a very cute truffle, but the taste didn’t deliver. It didn’t taste fresh and the ganache was blended with raspberry rather than separate jelly, and it was unimpressive. 5

The next one was the lemon truffle, and we were unanimous in our agreement that this was the prettiest of the truffles. The flavor was really creamy and went extremely well with the white chocolate, and it was tart, like a lemon meringue pie, but was offset by the milkiness of the chocolate. We liked it a lot. 8

The strawberry champagne had an interesting texture. It was coated in sugar, which was, like I said, interesting texturally, but the sugar made the entire truffle too sweet. The strawberry, which was billed as organic, had an artificial flavor and completely overpowered the chocolate. We weren’t pleased. 3

The mocha truffle was very tall and regal and presented itself well. One interesting aspect was the espresso bean, which nobody really wanted after dinner because then we’d all have to bounce off the walls, was actually fake- it was made of chocolate! So once we figured that out, we whacked the truffle up. The ganache inside was semi-liquid and fluid, and slightly grainy. It was very strong and really tasty. I normally don’t like coffee, but the dark flavors of the ganache and the coffee went really well together. Erik and my father liked this the best. 9

After that, we tried the champagne chocolate truffle. This one was the booziest of all, and definitely tasted like some kind of alcohol, but not necessarily a discernible champagne. The chocolate cut the strong alcoholic flavor, and so did the sugar, but it was still a little sharp on the palate. 4

The next one was my personal favorite, the cinnamon orange. It was warm and rich, and the chocolate was a nice, and thin shell that just barely melted on my tongue, and along with it came the sensation of the cinnamon. The orange ganache reminded me of a Terry’s chocolate orange, one of my favorite childhood treats, and the zest really provided a good, fresh contrast to the richness of the chocolate. 10

Coming up a close second was the gianduia, but mainly because of my affinity- (okay, lust) need-(okay, addiction) problem with Nutella. I mean, this was basically Nutella in a gorgeous ball of chocolate. The nuts added some good contrast and a nice crunch, and the goo on the inside was sweet without burning my throat. And it was just like gourmet Nutella. NOM. 9

We then tried a carmello noce, which was caramel cream wrapped in chocolate with a pecan on top. I liked the dichotomy of the pecan and caramel cream, like a soft, less chewy turtle, but thought that a little more nut might have worked out better. 8

The last truffle was a mayan truffle, and I have to applaud the ingenuity on this one. The ganache was balanced really well with the flavors of honey and vanilla, chili and cinnamon, and although we tasted more of the sweet than the savory, we really did think that this was a keeper in our books. 10

Vitamin Water Spark

Dear Foodette Reviews,

I have a little story for you.

I’ve cheated on my boyfriend with another man, and now I want to make things right. I tried to buy him a new Porsche, and he didn’t want anything to do with it. I tried to buy him diamond studded cuff links, and he threw them down the garbage disposal. When I bought him a limited edition, Metallica endorsed Snuggie, he gave it to the homeless man living down the street.That’s when I realized that I needed to put the Spark back in our relationship. Not the spark. I didn’t want to have sex with his shapeless, lumpy, beer belly and crappy, unshaved chin(s). I mean, he’s unemployed, stalks around the house watching Lifetime, and spends his days perfecting the curve in our couch when he should be perfecting the curves of his manly six-pack. I’m talking about the Spark- the newest flavor of Vitamin Water. It has grape and blueberry and other natural flavors, and it cost me $1.89. As soon as I gave it to him, and our fingers met against the sweaty contours of the bottle, I knew he’d forgive me.
The flavor is floral, with just a bit of sweetness, just like the aromatic spray I sprayed over the living room, bathroom, and laundry room after my dirty, nasty tryst to cover up the scent of cologne, vodka, and strawberry lubricant. The grapes are predominant, but the blueberries are just as important and taste pretty accurate to most blueberry beverages I’ve had. And believe me, I’ve been around the blueberry beverage block. It’s slightly artificial, like my breasts and my boyfriend’s mother’s affection, but I know that at the end of the day, those vitamins will keep me going strong- with whomever I’m having sex with. So, readers, from me to you, bring the Spark back in your relationship, and drink this drink with someone you love tonight.Love,

Sparked in Seattle

Gloji Seaberry and Ginseng

I’m a big fan of juices great and small, and when I heard that Gloji was doing some new juice flavors, I was all ready to sign up and review. My fetish for all things juice is surpassed by my propensity for juice in strange flavors, so I’ve put together a small list of things that a seaberry is and what a seaberry is not today.

For instance.

A seaberry grows on a bush, but will not scare you away like a bush scares Butters in South Park.
A seaberry is not made in the ocean.
A seaberry is also a place in the magical world of Strawberry Shortcake. Buy her merchandise. Buy it all.
A seaberry is a potential cure for cancer.
A seaberry is not a euphemism for anything sexual on Urban Dictionary. Yet.This drink is an interesting one, though, and even more interesting is the bottle. Not only is it a fine specimen of a receptacle for things like potting soil for plants or urine collection for the hip hobos on the streets, but it’s…lightbulb shaped, inspiring this photo.
It was very hard to take. But it still looks like I’m churning out ideas by the dozen.

The drink itself was interesting. I was intrigued to and immediately drawn to the color, which might also attract some buyers, along with the pleasing shape of the bottle, is a lovely orange yellow, that changes in the light. It’s opaque and looks thick, even inside the bottle, and I couldn’t wait to crack it open and try it out.

The drink is thick, almost like a nectar than a juice, and has a vaguely sweet scent. The flavor is interesting, and very different. It’s salty. It tastes like a hybrid of a tomatillo, mango, and a few apricots, but made into a steak sauce or a glaze for meats. It doesn’t taste like it’s supposed to be had as a juice drink or accompanied by something sweet. Although there were definite sweet notes, the predominant flavor was a savory beverage.I liked the mouthfeel of this. It was very complex and the layers of salty and sweet were definitely interesting, but I can’t see this drink as being a multi-functional drink for the average person to carry around and just have as something to sip on unless accompanied by something special to offset the flavor. I looked up the seaberry and this is what they were supposed to taste like. It’s not that it was a bad flavor, but I would have rather had something mixed in with it to cut down the natural flavor of the seaberry.

Papa Ben’s Peanut Brittle

Over the years, we’ve seen the demises and returns of a ton of old fashioned treats from the quintessential penny candy stores like horehound, button candy, and a personal favorite, peanut brittle. And some of these favorites have been revived and redazzled into gourmet, upscale treats, like the Rice Krispie treat. Making one is like making a car- you can put anything you want on it for a base fee and then, the add ons just get worse. It’ll only be a matter of time before you can get edible diamonds or gold crap on your damned lollipops.Some treats are sticking to the basics, though, like a peanut brittle that I got in the mail recently. Papa Ben’s Brittle has six ingredients that do something insanely magic when they combine. It’s different from many of the brittles I’ve had in that it’s a little more substantial and less airy. The bubbles are packed closer together and it’s got a dense, foamy crunch. The sugar has caramelized and burnt to the point of perfection. It doesn’t stick to the teeth, it just gently releases, like a friendly dog, and the sea salt is an excellent counterbalance to all the sugar that brittle typically puts in.At first, I couldn’t appreciate this brittle because of the subtleties of the burnt flavors and the complexities of the layers. The peanuts are soft and yielding and end up playing, oddly, a second fiddle to the medley of sweet and salty and bitter that goes on in the actual candy in this confection. You can taste the very vessel that this was cooked in. This candy needs no bling or packaging or crazy advertising. It’s just, in a word, an art form. I can eat through four ounces and know that each piece will taste a little different each time. It’s a company that truly does keep on keepin’ on.