Sasebo Burger Drops

How’s this for Healthy Month? All the flavor of a juicy burger in…a food drop? It’s more common than you think. J-List was kind enough to send over an assortment of foodie goodies for my perusal, so here’s one of the most a propos for the month: food drops. In this case, a Sasebo-limited confection that supposedly tastes like the local specialty (and American favorite) fast food chain, Sasebo Burger, similar to the hand-crafted quickservice chain Five Guys with locally sourced ingredients.

While I didn’t get the full Sasebo Burger experience, I can only hope that it’s not close to this food drop. Definitely more of a novelty than a form of sustenance, you’re really trading taste for calories in this treat. Food science has come a long way, though, and there’s a disturbing accuracy to these that, for a hard candy, actually had a powerfully smoky and somewhat meaty flavor. Where it was really lost was in the remaining aspects. Any creamy cheese or mayonnaise flavors ended up tasting overly sweet and indistinguishable, lending us the descriptor of “smoked butterscotch.” Don’t quote us on it. It’s not an unpalatable flavor, but it’s really something strange. At first, I thought this was coming from the sugared coating on the candies, but it lingered to the point of being intentional.
I don’t know whether the burger buns in Japan are sweeter; perhaps someone can clarify on that for me, but I do know that some acidity in this- an element of mustard or pickles, would have cut the sweetness immensely and possibly tasted better. I’m confident that they can do it. After all, if they can manufacture sweet meat, anything is possible, right? Buy this for the novelty. It’s neither satisfying to a savory or sweet tooth, but still delights.

Amy’s Organic Margherita Pizza

It was summer today. As we know from the fickle fancies of New England weather, it’s no surprise that this morning it was cold, humid, and rainy, and this afternoon it was 83 degrees. But we can roll with that, son, and tonight we busted out the al-ka-hawl and the frozen pizza. Keepitcoming Love picked up this frozen delight from the grocery store ’cause it’s new and we’re on top of shit all the time. This is Amy’s pizza and it kicks the infant asses of both Rustic Crust and CPK. Hell yeah.

The margherita features a thinner crust, tiny balls of mozzarella, tomato chunks, and fresh chiffonades of basil. Fuckin’ herbs, natch! Cooked that sucker for ten minutes and took it out. Fresh mozzarella is one of the best textural substitutes for meat out there, and on this pie, it was sliced into chunks that melted and got evenly distributed throughout. There was definitely more sauce than cheese, but it was a really tasty sauce with a subtle sweetness from onions and garlic and reminded me of a fancy bruschetta. Oh you fancy, huh? Well, Amy’s is, and it shows. Everything about this pizza, from the airy, crispy crust to the plethora of toppings, really showed how fresh its ingredients were. This pizza was $7 for the two of us and was ready in ten minutes. Of the three closest pizzerias in town, each listed their margherita pizza under their specialty section and ranged from $10-20 for a small pizza. That alone proves that this is better.
My one complaint, and believe me, I’m searching, was that the proclamation of a newer and thinner crust was a little misleading. While the crust was the same crispy, buttery crust I know and love, I just craved a deviation and wanted the product to live up to the promise as much as it had with the toppings.

Honest Tea Green Honey

Sorry for the delay in posts. With finals in full swing, I often experience crashes after pulling an all-nighter on a term paper or a take-home test. I drink coffee more than I drink tea, but was curious to add a few more beverages to my repertoire. Honest Tea sent me a few samples of their libations and I decided to test run an iced tea tonight.

With 73 calories in a 0 calorie world of artificial sweeteners and colors, does a carefully curated ingredient list matter more than nutrition? From this experience, I have deduced that the art of a beverage must lie in the flavor. If that’s the case, this is more of a community college art portfolio, because it’s bland, flat, and overly diluted. The tea flavor comes out strong, a bit more intense than I would have liked it had I brewed it myself, with a slight honey and sugar note at the end.

Overall, I would have liked to see a more pronounced nuance of both sweet and bitter in this. I really do like a good iced tea, I’m no hater, but just think that with such a simple and easily user-friendly beverage, measures could have been taken to make this a more unique and sophisticated drink.

SNACKDOWN: Healthy Choice vs. Lean Cuisine in Battle Ravioli

Here at Chez Love, we are no strangers to the delicacy of the frozen meal. Many a night has been saved by the good graces of an Amy’s frozen pizza or a pint of ice cream. So when we saw these two varieties of gourmet ravioli, we knew a snackdown was in order.The two varieties wouldn’t have seemed out of place on the menu in a nice restauraunt. Lean Cuisine boasted a pumpkin ravioli with creamy sauce with walnuts, snap peas, and carrots, while Healthy Choice gave us a lobster cheese ravioli with green and yellow zucchini in a vodka sauce. Both sounded excellent and filling for a cold night.Unfortunately, we couldn’t stomach sampling more than a bite of each. While each was visually appealing- the LC’s julienned cuts of vegetables and the HC’s hearty portions, the flavors were each abominable in their own ways. Let’s take a journey into the world of Healthy Choice. The ravioli in this dish were mushy with a crumbly, powdery filling and leaking fishy fluid that completely saturated the rest of the dish with a strong canned seafood flavor. When I tasted the vegetables with sauce alone, despite seeing a firm, colorful piece of zucchini, all my mouth could think was “FISH” and resisted my every attempt to shove it in there. The sauce, which had come out of the microwave thick and rich-looking, was runny when I sat down to eat and also tasted like fish. A quick look at the ingredients showed that one of the main offenders was “pollack powder,” and after that, the only thing I could associate this was fish food and worse, the flakes that fish food comes in. No thanks.After that, I was looking forward to trying the Lean Cuisine, but Keepitcoming told me not to waste my taste buds. The crisp, colorful vegetables were drowned in the “creamy” sauce, or in our case, the salty sauce. It was an assault on my blood pressure. For some reason, both of these dishes contained an ingredient or component that made it impossible to taste anything else. The ravioli in this dish was on the other end of the spectrum- too firm and almost chewy, with an acidic, yammy flavor to its filling. This was a particular shame, as the dish itself was really pretty.

Unfortunately, we have no winner. The real winner is the pizza we picked up shortly after! Better luck next time. Expect more frozen food offerings in the future…

Smart Ones Anytime Mini Cheeseburgers

Smart Ones makes a rather bold claim in assuming that you can eat their Anytime selection any time of day. Oh, can I, Smart Ones? Now that I have your permission? Coming from someone who has been known to eat Easy Mac in the wee hours o’ the morn with chopsticks to boot, I don’t feel any more liberated knowing that I’m allowed to snarf down one slider any time I please.
Along with the Mini Cheeseburgers, Smart Ones seems to be on a trend of “bar snacks for infants,” also offering mini quesadillas, mini non-stoner bagel bites, and mini taquitos to round them off. The mini burgers are easy to prepare and boast a fair amount of cheese. Thirteen words to basically yap about a very simple concept: tiny Frankenstein burgers with TVP and a strangely delicious bun. The bun is the best part about this slider, actually, with a floury, dense texture and buttery flavor. I don’t know how the bun alone isn’t the 200 calories in each ‘wich, but I do know that don’t want to eat it as much as I want to stick googly eyes on the little sucker, film a short comedy series, and adopt it as my own. It’s that twee.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really blow me away. If anything, this was the equivalent of a lazy backseat handjob. This was like the latter-day excitement I’d normally reserve for a used salad shaker. While I don’t expect the same level of expertise in frozen foods than say, at wd-50, I do expect a modicum of congruity and tastiness. This was just insulting. For 200 calories, I was able to eat one of these dense, salty little suckers, which, despite having a fair amount of slick, weak-flavored cheese, contained a pungent and soft, yet tough burger patty the size of a commemorative coin. This was no slider. I couldn’t lie to myself.

What’s worse is that I made a meal out of this with some oven fries and one burger, coming out to 500 calories. 500 calories nets me four White Castle hamburgers, a far more filling and well-prepared food, even if out of the freezer. Not to mention that White Castle sells their frozen counterparts in six packs for around $2.50. I picked up this package of two Smart Ones sliders for a little over $3. At $1.60ish a slider, that’s like comedy club prices and I didn’t even get a commemorative shot glass to show for it. So Smart Ones, you can suck it. I’ve had enough of this baby bar food tomfoolery and will stick to my regular favorites.

Annie’s Cinnamon Roll Bunny O’s

With the warm weather impending (hint hint, Massachusetts, stop raining now) I’m starting to become a cereal convert. While I’ll be quick to admit that it’s a lot of fun to whip up a big, hot breakfast, it’s certainly less fun to slave over a hot stove in the middle of the summer. But while I may have been won over by Honey Nut Chex, I wanted to test my theory and see if I’d enjoy other cereals as much.
Annie’s sent over a few of their products for Healthy Month, one of which was Cinnamon Roll Bunny O’s. As soon as I pulled these out of the package, I knew I had to review these. After all, where else am I going to find a product that combines not two, but three of my favorite things? Ooey gooey cinnamon rolls, an adorable product name, and disembodied rabbit heads. Man, it sounded like a winner.As I opened the package, I noticed that these had a decidedly different texture than the Chex. They were much thicker and less crispy and had an airy, oaty texture that seemed if they were left out too long, they would get chewy and stale. I tested this theory by opening my box and storing it as I would any other cereal. Within a week, it was stale. Unless you’re living the purgatorial life of a perpetual college student, there’s no way you’re going to finish this box in such a small window of time. The flavor reminded me less of cinnamon buns and more like cinnamon toast, the main difference that they were not coated in neither sugar nor butter. Probably better to err on the healthy side when starting out in the morning, but not the best manifestation of a cinnamon-based breakfast I’ve seen.

There was just too little to enjoy about these. With the small aging window, the poor ratio of sweet to spice, and the lack of resemblance to its namesake, I wasn’t enthralled by the whimsy of rabbit shapes and the organic promises to ensure a place in my cupboard for these again. Bummer, too. Those bunnies are too damned cute. I’ll have to stick to my Annie’s Easy Mac, a form of quick cooking that brings a whole new level of sadism to the epic Bunny Suicides.

Foodette’s Second Birthday and Keepitcoming Love’s Birthday Pasta

It’s Foodette’s second birthday! And like most two year olds, she’s starting to feel a need to pull away from the Blogosphere teat and start eating solid, mushy foods. In commemoration of not aborting her in the first trimester, as happens to many baby blogs, Keepitcoming Love cooked a delicious and healthy vegetarian pasta dish, of which I consumed three servings.
Thanks for another great year, guys! We can only get bigger and more coherent as time goes on.

Keepitcoming Love’s Birthday Pasta
Ingredients (serves 4)
3 large tomatoes
10 pieces of asparagus
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste
1 cup of chicken stock or red wine
1 lb of your favorite pasta- we used Al Dente’s garlic linguine
1 cup of baby mozzarella boccaccini balls
1/4 cup of basil1. Chop up all of your vegetables and cut the boccaccini in halves. Reserve one of the chopped tomatoes, the basil, and the cheese in a bowl.
2. Heat a pan up and place oil and asparagus inside. Sear until brown and put in the two chopped tomatoes and liquids. Season to taste and let simmer until cooked down and saucy.
3. Boil your pasta until done and toss with sauce and remaining tomato and cheese. Eat hot or at room temperature.

Ballpark Smoked White Turkey Franks

“Ball Park franks plumped when you cooked them, but Hercules Hot Dogs did something better. They came out of the package looking like normal, udder-pink wieners, but as they got hot, an amazing transformation took place…” -Jeffery Eugenides, MiddlesexA hamburger, done right, is a gorgeous, perfect thing, but how often do you come across the perfect burger? Either your standards are low or the burger is a plane ride away and you just have to settle. And there is no way you can get a good, simple burger for 50 cents at IKEA, at least, not in this century. Hot dogs are the underdog of the backyard barbecue. I find them highly underrated for what they are- perfect in any way, whether garnished with fifty toppings or a schmear of mustard.My ‘dog of choice is Ballpark’s Smoked White Turkey Franks. With 45 calories per dog and no fat, you’d have to eat eight of these suckers to knock off a little over half of your daily calories. This opens them to a wide range of possibilities and customization to give you a meal that doesn’t fatten you up from wet sausages or pork calories, leaving your belly room for the real star of the barbecue- beer and potato salad. Salud!We polished off a package of these in about a week, customizing them with a near-obnoxious amount of toppings, from slathering them with our two favorite mustards to a New England bastardization of a Georgia Hot. Keepitcoming Love even baked special hot dog buns for the occasion. I like to cook my dogs one way- with as much open surface area as I can possibly fit and a near-black char on that exterior so that the skin is bubbling and crisp. You can never overcook a turkey dog. When hot dog buns aren’t available, we turn to hamburger buns, an awkward fit but a better ratio of dog to bread, filling the bread to the gills with avocado, hot sauce, and in tonight’s case, tomato basil mayonnaise. Any way you slice it, the lowly hot dog can be made king with a few easy customizations. Convert the nay-sayers and start frying with some of our favorite sauces and sides. Tomato Basil Mayonnaise
Ingredients (tops three dogs)
4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of ketchup
2 tablespoons of chopped basil

1. Chop basil and put it in a bowl. Measure out your two sauces and mix together.
2. Refrigerate until needed and top liberally.
Mustard Potato Salad
Ingredients (serves 2)
10-12 fingerling potatoes
4 tablespoons of oil or butter
4 tablespoons of grainy mustard

1. Chop your potatoes and throw them in a frying pan along with oil and spices. Heat and fry until golden brown and crispy on all sides. Place in a bowl and let cool.
2. When room temperature, toss with mustard and serve immediately.

Crystal Light Pure: Strawberry Kiwi, Mixed Berry, and Lemonade

Recently, and possibly after seeing my MiO review, I was sent a couple boxes of the new Crystal Light line, “Pure.” Pure features flavor packets with all natural flavors and the standard gamut of flavors. Being that it was 66 degrees and hot out today, I decided that today was the day I’d need a serious refresher.The flavors are powdered, like the bulk of flavor packets out today, and are about three times larger than the standard packet. When I saw the size of these, I was reminded of the Special K Protein Water, but in this case, I couldn’t quite see why there was a need for larger packets. I mixed up a glass of each flavor, strawberry kiwi, mixed berry, and lemonade, and was wary before I took the first sip. The drinks, which I expected to be clear and naturally colored as a result of their lack of artificial ingredients, were cloudy and neon-colored, reminiscent of the classic Crystal Light my grandmother would make me by the gallon as a child, with a murky, salty flavor. It wasn’t a very good first impression. In addition to the flavor, these were absolutely pungent. The second I opened the packet, my nostrils were assaulted by acidic, sugary scents.The flavor of the mixed berry tasted somewhat fermented and jammy, like berries that had botrytized before being mixed into water. It was a sour, watery flavor with no distinct flavor that really reminded me of berries. If anything, it was like drinking Life Savers dissolved in water. The dissolving problem that I encountered in the mixed berry and lemonade was more improved in the strawberry kiwi and the water was transparent with no residue at the bottom. The flavor was also sour, but counterbalanced by a nice fruitiness to its body and a non-chalky consistency. This was my favorite of the three.
My final drink, the lemonade, looked appetizing and juicy on the package with slices of lemon. I was most excited for this one as I was hoping it would deviate from the traditional standard powdered lemonade and taste like something freshly made. Well, once you stop laughing, let me tell you that yes, you’re right. Of course this wouldn’t taste like a $4 glass of lemonade in a bistro or a $12 Lemontini or even like Lemon Pledge. Despite its hawkings of all-natural ingredients, I was just not convinced that this was any different than the store-brand version.All in all, I was pretty disappointed. As someone who has already established a healthy love of beverages, I have no qualms in crossing these off my list and sticking with drinks I already know and love.

Mountain Dew Pitch Black

The bottle I’m holding in my hands right now is a time capsule to my distant, not-so-illustrious past. I’m not talking about wine. Half the time I’m crossing my fingers to drink things far older than any lifetime I’ve ever lived. I’m not talking about expired cough syrup- that capsule to my past is more like an old VHS of fuzzy nights with carnies. Man, going to The Gathering of the Juggalos was a bad idea.No, I’m talking about Mountain Dew Pitch Black. Yes, loved ones, let’s go on a journey. A journey to a place where the grass wasn’t always greener, but where the Dew flowed like whiskey, ten o’clock at night was the witching hour, and 1992 was just a number. I was fifteen.A grizzled old twenty now, I look back on my days of caffeine fueled adventures and rides in cars with dem olda boys and I sigh with happiness, knowing now that because Mountain Dew Pitch Black is here, albeit for a limited time, I can go back there with a single whiff. This new release shouldn’t scare you- for me, it is the Dew of those endless glory days, resplendent in Chuck Taylors.Too young to care about Code Red and too old to fumble with Baja Blast, I turn to that period of enlightenment where, ironically, my world was cradled by Pitch Black. For me, this is pure sensual nostalgia- the rush of the bubbles hitting my nose as I’d stifle the noises of carbonation backstage at a show, the pungent, citrusy grape scent with a hint of spices that reminded me less of cheap grape soda than hundreds of melted down grape gummy bears, and that flavor- not saccharine, but tart. Not wine-like, but deep. While I’ll admit that my favorite incarnation of Pitch Black was Pitch Black II, which carried more bite than its predecessor, I am more than satisfied to have this in my hands, new and pure, without having to buy old, unopened bottles of this on eBay and risk stomach pumping.Under natural lighting, it’s almost raisiny in color.

For those of you who haven’t tried this, it’s a unique flavor- Mountain Dew, a citrus-based beverage, combined with grape flavors seems more akin to a new flavor of jungle juice than a beloved soda, but the combination works. The sweet sugar of the grapes balances out the citrus zest and creates a fantastic amalgam of taste. As I uncork- er, uncap a bottle of this today, these sensations come flooding back to me all at once. The main difference I can detect is that the current Pitch Black formula has the same light nectar of flavor that the previous two had, yet lacks a good deal of the carbonation. I can’t determine the reason for this, yet after a half hour of savoring this, it has gone rather flat. A marketing ploy to encourage me to purchase more? Absolutely. I would gladly feed into such a thing.So maybe I’m putting a lot of energy into waxing nostalgia about this soda. Representation of youthful innocence, blah blah, but the truth is, it makes me immensely happy to be able to sample a bit of my own beloved past once again. How many of you have longed for Micro Magic, String Thing, and Pop Qwiz, only to know in your heart of hearts, that you’d never see them again? Though the release may be a little premature to inspire serious elegies, it has been enough of a treat to make me long for the harried, though thankfully quenched, days of my youth. If Frito Lay takes the bait and comes out with their guacamole Doritos again, I can pair the two and really go back in time.

Special thanks to Mountain Dew for granting my pathetic adult Make A Wish request! FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS, if you want a chance to win a bottle of this magical stuff, keep a close ear and eye on the page in the next week…if you’re not already following, do so right here!