Président Rondelé Peppercorn Parmesan Spreadable Cheese

This was one of the treats I picked up at the Taste of UMass trade fair and was very eager to get back and try with crackers and chips. I am a big fan of flavored cheeses and cheeses in general, especially Babybel and all Laughing Cow varieties. As a kid, I was addicted to the gourmet cheese cubes and have been trying to find them everywhere.This particular specimen is from Président, one of my favorite makers of Brie, and is a cheese spread with parmesan and peppercorns. I was a little skeptical about trying this because I was worried that the creaminess would detract from the pepper flavor, and that the peppercorns would be nothing more than a little more ground pepper than the average.The little packet is the perfect portion for dipping, though, and when I opened it, I was surprised to find a very spicy, freshly ground scent above the cheese, and then a mellow creamy undertone. The cheese was a little thick for my liking, definitely more of a thick, cream cheese than a whipped cheese spread that I could easily dip my crackers and chips into. That’s typical of a Boursin or Rondelé, though. A lot of the foods I tested it with broke, and I wonder if it might be better to microwave or let sit out to room temperature beforehand. I think that I’d have preferred this on a sandwich or a bagel, as it didn’t seem conducive as a dip. The flavor was sublime, though. There were at least seven crunchy peppercorns, which gave not only a burst of fresh spice, but a wonderful crispy texture to the cheese. Some dips and spreads have parm, but it’s often a very subtle flavor. Not this one. Not at all. The parmesan was very sharp and tangy on the tongue, but was blended into the cheese so that it had a consistent texture.

Generally preferring a softer and less textured cheese, I don’t know how inclined I’d be to buy this at retail price, but it’s definitely an unusual flavor and texture combination that I’d love to see incorporated into the line of “Wee Bries” which I adore, to get the perfect consistency with the tangy flavorings.

Compost Cookies

I am always on the search for the best cookie. I like having a snack I can keep in a bag around without pomp and circumstance and, in most cases, refrigeration, and if I can make it myself, it’s all the better.I have no idea where I found the recipe for Compost Cookies, because I’ve never been to the Momofuku Milk Bar, but it has changed my life for the insane. If you’re a fan of strange combinations and want to plan these out, that works, or if you have a ton of random shit in your cupboards that you must get rid of, that works, too.This happens to be my favorite combination of flavors, and hopefully, it’ll be yours, too.

The Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie
recipe by Christina Tosi
(Courtesy of Regis & Kelly’s website)

Ingredients (makes at least 24 large cookies)
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of your favorite baking ingredients- I used chocolate chips, Special K cereal, a stick of Rollos, and peanut brittle.
1 1/2 cups your favorite snack foods- I used Fritos and chocolate covered pretzels.

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While that’s happening, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla for a few minutes in an electric mixer to get it fluffy and incorporated together. We didn’t have a mixer, and did this by hand, but if you’re going to go that route, plan on this project with at least three people to pass the bowl around with.
2. Add in your eggs and vanilla and beat thoroughly for another ten minutes. The goal is to get this mixture extremely fluffy and big.
3. Little by little, add in the dry ingredients and beat for another minute. I cannot stress the importance of salt in this recipe, because it gives a fantastic counterbalance to all the sweet in the cookies!
4. With a food processor or a meat tenderizer, smash up your snack foods and baking ingredients. Leave relatively small chunks. We found that if the Frito pieces were too large, they ended up becoming chewy and strange in the cookies. We added the Rollos to the batter itself instead of smashing them together because we didn’t want to have the caramel sticking everything together before we added it.
5. Mix in your toppings until just incorporated.
6. This is the most important step, and unfortunately, the part you’ll hate the most- DO NOT BAKE THE COOKIES. You must let them chill in the fridge for around an hour, two hours, or they will bake improperly. Do NOT bake with room temperature dough.
7. Go play Parcheesi, bother your dog, or sculpt a giraffe out of modeling clay for that timeframe. Or watch Lost. Pass the time and try not to think about the cookies, but when the timer goes off, get your hands or ice cream scoop or serving spoon and scoop out relatively large balls of dough onto a baking sheet. We had a silicone sheet on top, but I’m sure spraying it down would work just fine.
8. Bake at 400 for around 10 minutes, and devour. They keep forever, but won’t last for long.
In this particular batch, the peanut brittle was the star, melting down perfectly and leaving salty, gooey patches of candy around the dough with the crunchy pretzels. What would you put in your Compost Cookies?

VitaMuffin Chocolate Mint VitaTop AND CONTEST!

I want groupies.

I mean, there must be some chicks, or even a few gorgeous guys out there, who are willing to pull off their VitaTops for me and show me that they’ve tattooed or written “Foodette Reviews” on their chests. Or arms.

Here’s the deal: send your photos, with Foodette Reviews written anywhere on your body, and I’ll pick the best ones for a special prize. It will be something delightful and delicious from my coffers. Extra points for curly, twirly script and drawings that look like old sailor’s tattoos.

You have until 11:59 PM EST, SATURDAY, MAY 8TH to email all your submissions to and then, the winners will be posted on the site. I’m not responsible for ink poisoning or sudden crushes from the same or opposite sex flocking towards your sick tat.

On another note, I’m reviewing a different kind of VitaTops today, the kind that’s rarely featured on Girls Gone Wild. This is a natural and delicious snack from VitaMuffins, who makes all sorts of delicious and healthy treats perfectly portioned at just 100 calories apiece. In Paris Hilton math, that’s half a muffin top a day!

Today’s VitaTop is a chocolate mint. Having a well-known affinity for all things Girl Scout, I gravitated towards this and the peanut butter chip VitaTop and geared up for a fantastic snack. This is a pretty big snack, too, roughly the diameter of one of the dining common’s dessert plates or Gollum’s eyes, clocking in at around three inches. As I opened it, I immediately smelled a fresh, minty aroma, and knew that this would be sumptuous.The cake part is fluffy and moist, just like a real muffin. I know that with some lower calories muffins, texture is compromised, but not here. It’s cakey and substantial and there’s a multitude of chocolate chunks spotting the entire surface of the muffin.

The flavor is identical to a Thin Mint. Seriously. But it’s like the one Girl Scout of the bunch who could beat everyone up, Scout Mum included. It’s packed with a ton of vitamins, including 4 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and 50% of your daily serving of iron. In a muffin top! After eating this for a snack, I was full for a good hour and felt like I could stay full for a little while more. It’s very chocolatey and minty, and neither flavor dominates over the other. The mint makes it refreshing and just adds to the overall wonder of this snack. I could feel just fine eating two or three of these for breakfast and enjoying it.My only real criticism of this is that because they’re all natural and lack preservatives, they have to be frozen at all times, but that’s easily rectified with a quick thaw or 30 seconds in the microwave. These feel really versatile and I think they’d make great desserts just as they do breakfasts and snacks. VitaMuffins also has a wide range of other products and recipes for an endless array of variety. I’m keeping this snack in the books.

Wagamama, Boston, MA

On a trip with some friends, I ended up eating at Wagamama in Boston, and checking out their modern and funky flair. I only ordered some cheesecake, but the lovely humans around me were more than inclined to share their dishes, too! The restaurant had a bright, bustling family style atmosphere of eating, with benches on long tables, and during that time, I got really close to the people I was with.

First on the menu was the ebi chilli mein, ordered by the wonderful Lily and eaten, for a good part, by me! It’s a shrimp and noodle based dish with lots of veggies and a red chili and tomato sauce on top. The vegetables were roasted and charred to perfection, and the noodles were both tender and firm, perfectly covered in sauce. There was a good deal of vegetables and a wide range within the dish, but I mainly got peppers, which had a good char, but not as much of a crunch as I’d have liked.Because of the stir fry method of cooking, every single piece of food got dunked in this fantastic chili sauce, which was savory and bright red. Although the sauce had tomatoes in it, I found it slightly egregious that they billed it as a chili sauce when the predominant flavor was tomato, but the sauce had a light kick and a different consistency than your run of the mill marinara.

Of course, there’s always a protein in these dishes, and in this case, it was shrimp. Having never been a fan of shrimp because of some bad seafood at a hibachi restaurant some six years back, I’ve always stayed away from the little crustaceans, but in this dish, it was hard to resist. In my portion alone, roughly 1/3 of the plate, I had at least five big, beautiful, curled shrimp, perfectly pink and bursting with juices. With the noodles and the sauce that they’d soaked up, they had the consistency and moistness of a good cooked chicken breast, with that shrimpy texture, slightly corrugated, and a nice burst, they were a perfect addition to the noodle and vegetable medley, even better than chicken.While I was eating all of that goodness, my cheesecake came. It wasn’t just any cheesecake, though. It was a ginger cheesecake on a biscuit base, with white chocolate sauce on top. It was a pretty hefty slice for $3.95, and immediately, I could smell the fresh ginger coming up from the cake. The cheesecake was very moist and creamy, but the texture was different. Within the creamy part, there were little strands, almost like eating an orange, with a similar palatable tang and mouthfeel. That was the ginger, and it juxtaposed the cream cheese base with a spicy POW of heat and that wonderful ginger flavor. I like that this wasn’t just a regular cheesecake made with ginger extract or powder, because with the strands of silky ginger, it just went that extra step to making it perfect and firmer than your average cheesecake.

The white chocolate, though thinly drizzled, added a big flavor to the cheesecake as a whole, too. I thought imparted a slightly sweeter flavor to the cake and, like powdered sugar, made it slightly sugary and gave a nice little texture differentiation to it, too. I think that the only part of the cake that I wasn’t gushing over was the biscuit crust. While it was definitely an original crust, reminding me of arrowroot biscuits, it was thin and mushy underneath, unable to handle the liquids from the cake, and wasn’t crunchy or exciting at all.Now although that was the dessert section of the meal, a few friends and I had ordered the Japanese flatbread as a side and it arrived late, so it was free! So, technically speaking, we had that for dessert. What I thought would be a pillowy, naan resembling bread with toppings on top, hence flatbread, was actually more of a Japanese quesadilla. It was stuffed to the gills with toppings, with monterey jack cheese, chicken, scallions, and sweet corn. The cheese, which is supposed to be sharp, was bland, though gooey, and was more flavorful with the chicken added to it. That was moist and covered in soy sauce, with nice little chunks for easy eating. I was expecting a lot more sweet corn in the bread, as that was what really drew me to it, along with the dipping sauce, but the amount was scattered and sparse, but still sweet when I bit into it. No scallion flavor to be found, rather, they were used as more of a garnish than a flavor additive.

The dipping sauce was strange. What was supposedly chili sauce was more of a paprika tasting, mayonnaise/salad dressing conglomerate with a strange aftertaste that I wasn’t able to quite place. I wasn’t a big fan of that and favored the plain flatbread over the bread with the sauce. A shame because generally sauces at restaurants are tasty, but this one was off. All in all, I’d love to try more of Wagamama’s offerings, and thought that dinner with friends was fantastic and fun. I look forward to more of it in the summertime.

Amano Dos Rios 70% Dark Chocolate

All right, kids, dorm week is over and I’m back to my regular reviews. Coming up from Amano is another artisan chocolate bar with beans from the Dominican Republic.This bar is hand crafted and has a nice, consistent color, reminding me of coffee before cream is whisked in. Slightly dry, it’s a softer chocolate, but still has a fantastic snap, and as soon as I popped a piece in my mouth, I got an immediate sensation of licorice- less of the heavy black stuff you can tie in braids, and more of an intense, planty flavor mixed with the heady sensation of a nice dark roast. The texture isn’t as moist or creamy as some, but for a 70% dark chocolate, it manages to sap away a good part of the bitterness, which imparts itself upon your tongue as the finish, a long and drawn out finish at that, secedes to a creamy, herby tang with notes of cinnamon and an overall warm sensation.This chocolate is very evocative of warm weather and the flavor is layered perfectly. I think that with the texture of the chocolate, how it’s soft and melts so evenly, it’s an excellent and beautifully complex chocolate that would pair well with a smoky Côte-Rôtie or a good, strong dark coffee. I loved this bar and thought that the flavors stayed really well within the layers of the bar and maintained a smooth, chocolatey flavor amidst all the different tastes.

Red Baron Meat Trio Singles

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, this is how they immortalize you?

Imagine this. 80 kills in combat, while flying, with the potential for many more unconfirmed, and this is your prize. Forever being recognized as the crappy microwave pizza, second, always, to Freschetta. Oh, and also being turned into a vampire in a crappy bodice ripper.It’s like putting General George Patton on second-rate toilet paper or Hitler making an appearance in Pearls Before Swine. If it weren’t for the distinguishing light-hearted characteristics, history would be completely left in the dust.

Don’t even get me started on the jokes about his airplane, the Fokker Dr.I.

But let’s move onto his pizza. I got the meat trio, which has cubes of ham, pepperoni, and sausage in it. With my first pizza, the one in the photo, I definitely overmicrowaved it. With these pizzas, it’s necessary to watch them or else the deep dish crust gets caustic and bubbles all over the crisping tray. The cheese basically evaporated off the crust and it was chewy on the inside and cracker like on the outside. I couldn’t taste the meat because my tongue had burnt off. It then became a meat quadruped.However, with the second pizza, I watched it carefully, and at the first hint of bubbling around the edges, I whisked it out of the microwave oven. This time, the cheese was all intact, despite being slightly unmelted on the inside, and was slightly gooey and all right. There wasn’t a lot of meat, and there was no meaty texture, but the flavor of meat was there. Meat essence. The cheese was rubbery and mixed with the sauce, which was definitely the dominant flavor. With the sauciness and the chewy crust, it reminded me of a cheap Grandma pizza.All in all, there was nothing special about this pizza. I’d have definitely cooked them in the oven, like the premium singles I tried last August, but I won’t be buying this again for a quick snack. The flavor is nice and the crust is thick enough to hold, but I wasn’t impressed.

Chocolate 101 @ UMass

Yesterday, through the help of my boss, Martha Monaghan and the generous UMass Dining, I had the opportunity to take a chocolate-making class with eleven other students and the head pastry chef at UMass, Chef Simon Stevenson.

We got there and went to one of the dining commons’ showrooms, where we got a little briefing about what chocolate is, where it comes from, and how it’s made. Chef Simon passed around a whole dried cocoa bean and a split one, with the seeds rattling around inside. He told us about the five ingredients required to make chocolate- ground cocoa beans, soy lethicin, sugar, chocolate liquor, and cocoa butter, and we went through the process that chocolate goes through to become the form we all know and love.

After getting an education into our beans, ha ha, we went down to the Hampden Bake Shop, where all of UMass’s desserts are made on site, and got a feel for the kitchen and had a chocolate tasting. Chef Simon wanted us to get all of the notes and tones of the chocolate’s flavors in their variations, much like a fine wine. As you can imagine, this was no daunting task for me, having sampled many chocolates and wines, so I knew the drill.We tried nine different chocolates from Felchlin, starting with cocoa butter. That was waxy and tasted like eating lotion straight out of the bottle, and it had a very slow and fatty melt. The next one was a 100% dark chocolate, and it was very bitter and had a coffee flavor, like eating the straight, dark roast beans, and a nuttiness to it. Not my favorite. After that was a 74% dark, which was preferable to the 100%, and had a more developed chocolate flavor. It wasn’t bitter at all, and although it melted slowly, I found that the finish was nice and long, and very clean, and the bite was similar to the coffee notes in the last one, but richer. The next one we tried was voted the best chocolate in the world, the Grand Cru Maracaibo 65%, which was sweet and dark and smooth, with a long finish and a raisiny aftertaste. It was sweet and the flavors were intense and delicious.The next few were similar, but I don’t remember their percentages aside from a remarkable 58% dark chocolate that was sweet and caramely and had a great, milky, creamy flavor and a softer crunch to it. That was my favorite out of all of them, because it tasted a lot like a milk chocolate but was still dark, with no milk or milk solids added at all. We tasted an entire spectrum, ending with Felchlin’s milk and white chocolate, which were also sublime. And then we got to the stars of the show- making chocolate!

On the bar today was a chocolate ganache for hand-rolled truffles, chocolate lava cakes, and tuxedo strawberries. We started out by gathering the chocolate for our ganache and boiling the cream, and then gently stirring the two together. After we whisked the ganache and let it cool, we were shown a table with different flavorings that we could add to our ganache. Once we’d tasted them all, orange and lemon being the general favorite, our group decided that banana would be the best, and once we added it in, boy, was it good! It tasted like chocolate chip banana bread soup.

We set that aside and let it cool and got everything ready to make chocolate lava cakes. Chef Simon explained how, in an industrial kitchen, they use formulas, not recipes, with measurements by weight so everything turns out the same. So we got started with that, whipping sugared egg yolks and eggs into a full, puffy volume and adding our flour and melted butter and chocolate until we had a very mousse-like, fluffy batter. That alone looked good enough to eat, but we had to scoop it into ramekins, add the frozen ganache insert and let them bake. While those were baking, we started on our tuxedo strawberries with a little lesson on writing chocolate. Chef Simon told us about how having a higher concentration of vegetable oil over cocoa butter makes it easier to pipe from a paper cone and write with. He drew us an impressive, loopy alphabet with chocolate and demonstrated a beautiful strawberry, and then we all got to work. We each got three big, beautiful berries, which we dipped in white chocolate first, and then two sides of dark chocolate for the tuxedo jacket. Once that dried completely, we took the little piping bags and drew on little buttons and bow ties. All of a sudden, the lava cakes were done! We took a break to take a taste of our little cakes and see how they came out. They were amazing and hot, fresh from the oven! The tops were crunchy and the inside was fluffy and moist, with a fantastic and light chocolate flavor. They were so fluffy, like little clouds, and the ganache was rich and plentiful. I was so proud of myself for contributing to that success, and we definitely reaped the benefits of our labor!We had to leave the cakes to eat later, because it was time to hand-roll our truffles! We took them out of the freezer, where the ganache rested in squeeze bottles, and we piped the ganache into chocolate shells. They looked like little olives. After piping, we flash froze them and got a tutorial on chocolate tempering and how to fill and dunk the truffles, and then we did that ourselves. My first group member handed me each truffle, and then I got chocolate all over my hands and gave the truffles a bath in melted chocolate, then passed them to my partner, who rolled them in cocoa powder and put them on parchment paper. And then, we ate!The truffles were elegant, delicious, and looked like the real thing! They were delicious and solidified well. We got 21 to take home. By the time those were done, though, we were out of time and sadly had to leave the beautiful kitchen and beautiful KitchenAid mixers I was drooling over. I have to get myself a tangerine mixer before I hit 21, goddammit! And we left with Felchlin bags, information and goods in hand, as well as two extra chocolate lava cakes, frozen and ready for baking!It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had so far at UMass, and I look forward to trying out the other culinary classes here. Thanks, UMass Dining, Chef Stevens, Jean, and Martha!

Next up on the roster: My first trade show: trials and tribulations!

Pepperoni Pizzeria Hot Pockets

Gamers, agoraphobics, college students, lend me your ears!
I come to bury Hot Pockets, not to praise them.
The evil that men eat lives after them;
The good that is oft interred with their appetites;
So let it be with Foodette. The noble Hot Pockets
Hath told you Foodette was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievious fault,
And grievously hath Foodette answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Nestle and the rest-
For Hot Pockets are an honorable food;
So are they all, all honorable foods-
Come I to speak in Foodette’s funeral,
She was my friend, faithful and just to me;
But the Hot Pockets say she was ambitious;
And the Hot Pockets are an honorable snack.
She hath brought many groceries home to the refrigerator
Whose nutrients did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Foodette seem ambitious?
When that the hungry have cried,
Foodette hath wept:
Snacks should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet the Hot Pockets say they were delicious;
And Nestle is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the website
I thrice presented her a Kinder Egg,
Which she did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet the Hot Pockets say she was ambitious;
And, sure, they are an honorable snack.
I speak not to disprove what the Hot Pockets spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love her once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for her?
O judgment! thou art fled to freezer burnt favors,
And men have lost their taste.
Bear with me;
My heart is in the freezer there with Foodette,
And I must pause till it come back to me.Hot Pockets are absolutely gross, dishonorable, and stab people in the back. There. Now you have the equivalent education of someone with an English degree. See how helpful this website can be?My particular Hot Pocket, that of the pepperoni pizzeria variety, was a hollow shell of a snack, with about 25% of the pepperoni depicted on the box, and none of the cheese. The sauce was slimy and cold, and the gaping maw of the crust, tho’ filled with authentic herbs and spices, depicted a shallow dearth from whence there is no return. The taste- Satan’s pubes, I dare say! Alas, to die, to sleep; no more- for I now wander the planes of indigestion and stomach pains.

Best Value Potted Meat

Okay, so maybe this one isn’t a dorm food, but then again, my grandmother told me she ate baby food in college and from my research on the harsh streets of rural Amherst, some people still live in the 50’s and still totally do that. Not being one to stoop to Gerber’s obsequious ad campaign, I chose for the manlier, the cheaper, the less branded, the more disgusting…Potted meat.

Fun facts.
1. It doesn’t come in a pot.
2. You’ll want to smoke pot after trying it.

To gear ourselves up for this, Swagger and I did a little research by watching Youtube videos of people eating this live and showing their reactions. Although none made it out alive, at least we got a feel for what would happen. So I edited my living will from the Little Hugs and opened the can.Oh god, it smelled like cat food and leftover Spam. On the Wikipedia article, the fun fact of the day was that different varietals have different ingredients- beef tripe, mechanically separated whatever, the stuff they use to grease Rosie O’Donnell into pants every day. What have you. Ours listed mechanically separated chicken, so I thought we were safe.We spread it on a Saltine and made ourselves Sunny D cocktails. And then it was down the hatch for the potted meat. My first impression was that it wasn’t nearly as greasy as the cadre of videos made it sound. The texture wasn’t soft, but something entirely more terrible. It was creamy. It was very wet and very creamy. Meat. Should. Not. Be. Creamy. Even a cheese dog isn’t creamy. This had like, a whipped texture that minced prettily on the Saltine. And then, the taste. It didn’t taste like meat, really, but it did taste like salt. Closest I can liken it to is Spam. That’s a lie, actually, I’ve never had Spam. But it would probably taste like that, and Swagger, who has Spam, says it’s close to Spam.

It’s probably the worst thing you could ever put in your mouth, aside from Rosie O’Donnell’s penis. It’s potted meat. It leaves a greasy residue. And my dorm smells like an animal shelter.

Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae

Aaaaaand, another treat to fit in the microfridge. This time it’s something slightly different from the less healthy treats I’ve been serving up. This is one of the Smart Ones desserts. Deviating from the standard microwave meals, SO makes a dessert that’s actually pretty good.My personal favorite is the chocolate chip cookie dough sundae, though I have a few others to report on, too. The sundae consists of a cookie crust and something called cookie-flavored ice cream, topped with cookie dough bits and chocolate sauce.

The portion is perfect for me. It’s small and easy to shove in a tiny fridge, and I find that larger sundaes are a little overwhelming and sometimes become a pain to finish once you cross the ice cream headache threshold and can no longer muster up the energy to stick your tongue to the roof of your mouth. These are nice and easy to eat while watching Dancing with the Stars or something and need only time to thaw slightly.The cookie flavored ice cream is a lame pretense. This is vanilla soft serve, trust me. But it’s good vanilla soft serve in that it melts nicely, isn’t unevenly thawed and covered in ice crystals, and is creamy for a low calorie indulgence. And the creaminess of this provides an excellent counterpart to the cookie crust, which surprisingly doesn’t get mushy amidst all the dairy ingredients. It’s not graham cracker consistency, but it’s enough to provide a difference in texture. It’s tasty, too.

The predominant flavor in the sundae is the chocolate sauce, which unfortunately resembles Hershey’s artificial flavor and not actual hot fudge. This is okay, though, because then you get to the cookie dough bites. God, there are like, thirty thousand…okay, like, fifteen of the perfect things there. It’s actual cookie dough, too. Honest to God cookie dough and that really makes this sundae. It gives the dessert a wonderful and sandy texture and really makes it feel like you’re eating a nice sundae. A very big success.