Nobel Gummy Yogurt Sours

Remember that physical contact, hand-eye coordination issue I mentioned a post or two back? Yeah, it’s still here. I’m still pop, locking, and dropping like a champ. And it’s laughing in the face of the kids on my college campus who insist on playing Humans vs. Zombies in the last balmy days of November. Yet another maddeningly insipid activity that further alienates me from people my own age, I’m still struggling not to scream at the kids in Steampunk bandanas with tricked out Nerf guns that they’re all people- humans and zombies are people! a la Charlton Heston.
Well, little do they know, my street cred comes not from a $300 children’s toy or an arsenal of foam darts, but from special Japanese gummies from the lovely Miss Love, Nobel Gummy Yogurt Sours, that bring me closer to being an actual, fairly witty zombie than they’ll ever be. You see, these candies have a texture that I imagine is fairly precise to eating actual human flesh, which everyone knows is the choice nutritive supplement of the living dead. These are different from regular gummy bears in their chew, where the regular ones typically have a soft bite with a slight resistance, these are freaking fleshy, and biting into each one is like pinching the cartilage on your nose or elbow, with a decisive thud in each chomp.
The gummies are about the size of a small USB drive, with the same thickness as well. They resemble soft pieces of crystal quartz. They’re an opaque, pearly shade of white, and have a hard coating of granulated sugar on their outer surface, which prevented sticky or oily residue from sticking to the fingers and added a much-needed sweet counterbalance to the tart flavor. When all the sugar is sucked off, the nude gummies are slippery in a weird way, so it’s best to just chew them up before the sugar melts. While these are advertised as yogurt-flavored, they have a more saccharine, sticky taste with citrusy notes that render it more toward a generic soft drink palate, with a Sprite-like lemon flavor as the dominant taste and not a whole lot of dairy influence. Each piece ends with a persistent soapiness that isn’t entirely unappealing. The entire combination, though a little esoteric piecemeal, grows on you with each piece eaten. By the end of the evening, we ate the entire bag!

Angry Birds Fruit Gummies

Manual dexterity is not my strongest suit. My face catches flying objects better than my hands, or “trout” as I like to call them, do, and most of the time I try to fashion small bulbous garments for my arms so I can simply convince people that I don’t have fingers. It would make social interaction much easier.
I was surprised when I fell in love with Angry Birds last year because I didn’t expect to be good at it or enjoy it. Granted, it has the graphics and soundtrack of a more sophisticated episode of Tom and Jerry and the complexity of a four-piece puzzle, but damn it, I liked it. The marketing craze expanded a little beyond my level of caring, as I’m really not a member of the core demographic of Angry Birds feminine hygiene products or Angry Birds humidifier and filter sets, but when I saw these sweet Angry Birds gummies in a gas station, I figured my buck and a half would not be better spent elsewhere. Except on those 7-11 buffalo chicken Slurpees or whatever they’re hawking nowadays.
The Angry Birds gummies come in six flavors and colors representing the six primary characters in the game– red cherry basic birds, yellow lemon fast birds, green apple pigs, purple bomb birds, blue raspberry little birds, and strawberry big birds. The scent is generic but nostalgic, and reminds me less of gummy worms and bears than of the earthy, rich fruit snacks of my youth. The flavors range from sugary to spot-on, though after a while they all start to taste the same, and each gummy is carefully molded, although I did see a few creepy deformed characters.I WIIIIIIIIIIIIN.

Basically, for players of the game, it’s as entertaining and fun as eating Pokemon Kraft mac and cheese as a kid or having Power Ranger Eggo waffles for breakfast before school. The characters are appropriately colored and recognizable, a feature my compulsive mannerisms appreciate as it always wigged me out to see puce sharks or tangerine severed Scooby Doo heads in my lunch box at school.
While the flavors aren’t as subtle or complex as Bissinger’s bears, they have a good, meaty chew and don’t put you in an immediate sugar coma. They won’t replace my beloved Haribo Gold Bears, but made for an interesting change of pace. Fans of the game and fans of general adorable foodstuffs should check these out. They made for a fun photo shoot, too, with Dr. D’s iPad!

Terrestrial Crab Cakes (a.k.a, a very wd~50 Thanksgiving)

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t incredibly impressed by wd~50 to the point of wanting to use some clever tricks in my every day cooking. While I didn’t bust out my supply of emergency sodium citrate and calcium chloride, I did try to take back the concept of taking a concept- holidays, udon noodles, Jackson Pollack, and translate it into food.
With all the Thanksgiving leftovers lying around, I wanted to make something a little classier than the standard sandwich ‘n’ hash deal (though I ate plenty of that as well) and decided to try what Keepitcoming Love later dubbed the Terrestrial Crab Cake- a croquette made of leftover Thanksgiving offerings that emulated the buttery, stringy texture of a crab cake with no seafood.
It’s fucking delicious. And simple. I literally can’t believe that I made this in no time at all with such perfect results. Speaking from the humiliated perspective of someone who isn’t all that keen on Thanksgiving foods, this completely swayed me. Eaten with a sunny side up egg atop the whole mess, it made a decadent, but subtly complex meal.
Terrestrial Crab Cakes (Thanksgiving Hodgepodge)
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 small leek, thinly julienned
1/4 cup cranberry jelly or sauce, preferably with whole cranberries
1/2 small Poblano pepper, diced
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sopressata, sliced and cubed
1 large turkey breast, cubed
3/4 cup leftover mashed potatoes
olive oil
dried or fresh sage to garnish (optional)
1. Gather your ingredients and cut as specified. In a small pan, drizzle a little olive oil and pour in your leeks, cooking slowly on a low heat until caramelized.2. When leeks are soft and almost cooked, pour cranberry sauce, peppers, and water into the pan and turn the heat up slightly, cooking until most of the liquid is reduced.
3. Put remaining ingredients in the pan until all are mixed together and hot. Put the mash on a plate and let cool until you are able to handle it and mash it into small patties.
4. Form into patties and prepare another small pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Cook patties on medium until they are golden brown and crisp on all sides and serve with sunny side up egg or on their own.
Eat this. Just eat it. Even a baby could cook this. It surpasses the sandwich and slaps the leftovers upside the head with subtle, sweet flavors.

Wendy’s “W” Burger

Pros about living in New England: we’re awesome. Oceans. Ascots. A distinct lack of accents outside of Bahstahn and New Hampshah. Bleeding heart liberalism is pretty sweet most of the time.

Cons about living in New England: We have roughly four fast food restaurants, approximately none of which are ever test markets. In all honesty, that might be my biggest pet peeve. I live in an area a hair too far away from Maine, which carries the McLobster, and lack an appreciation of the irony that would entail eating a McPizza in freaking New Haven, Connecticut, home of two of the world’s greatest pizza restaurants.
So what would normally take ten minutes for anyone living in a normal state took FF and I a rollicking two hour drive to go to a better Wendy’s than any of the Wendy’s around in the quest for the elusive “W” burger. The “W,” surprisingly not provoking any jokes or lawsuits from our former president, is actually a play on words, “double…you?” Well, it partially delivers on that front, with two 2.5 ounce beef patties, two slices of American cheese, a loveable cast of vegetable rag-tags, a signature sauce, and a softer, artisan buttered bun. At its best, a burger with an affordable price point for those whose hunger isn’t small enough to be satisfied by the dollar menu and those who just don’t feel like breaking out the big guns. At its worst, a glorified and more expensive McDouble. Size-wise, it seemed fairly average for a burger, even a fast food one. Not too big or too small. The first immediate issue with this burger was its scent- as soon as I extracted it from its paper prison, a fake nacho cheesy scent emitted from its core. It was definitely freaky, but I ignored it and forged on, figuring the restaurant itself smelled weird or something. The burger is stacked pretty tall, but the height isn’t so unreasonably high that it needs to be squished in order to get a bite of every topping in your mouth. And that’s good, because the squishy bun practically falls apart with a stern glare.
As far as toppings go, nothing really distinguishes it from other fast food burgers on the market, aside from the special sauce on top. Wendy’s describes this as a soybean oil-based, sweet honey mustard flavored sauce. I would normally be all over this sauce, but the flavor of the sauce was so mild that all that remained was the viscous, runny texture and a slick, oily mouthfeel in every bite. Not an appealing way to start the meal. The veggies were incredibly fresh, with the exception of the pickles, limp, translucent shells of their former selves, with an unfortunately mild, bitter flavor, lacking any acidity. The beef was thin and crispy, with a smoky, moist flavor, but had a chunky, chewy texture similar to leftover meatloaf.
Like the release of Justin Bieber into human society, one small thing led to the utter demise of a greater, more complex being, in this case, the poor quality of the pickles led to the downfall of this burger. Without the pickles providing a much needed foil to the assault of cheese, sauce, butter, and a rich bun, the only tangy bite coming from this was the red onions. It’s like putting a 1996 engineless Camry in a drag race with a Ferrari. It just can’t compete. The dairy elements in this were truly unctuous- heed that as a word of advice from a shameless lactophile. Alone, or scaled down, they might have been somewhat appealing, but all three milk-based ingredients combined completely overwhelmed almost any additional flavor this burger attempted to have, with the aforementioned popcorn butter residue and gooey nacho cheese flavor absolutely persistent and infused into every cranny of the sandwich.
I can understand what the motives were in creating a burger that allowed a maximum amount of toppings for the consumer with a lower price point, and I genuinely appreciate that. Having a somewhat subdued appetite myself, it seems like something I’d get behind when my dollar menu fantasies were no longer hitting the right chords. But the exuberance works against them with an imbalanced flavor and makes for a sandwich that takes away your hunger not because you’re full, but because you’re mildly repulsed.

wd~50, New York, NY

My absence for the last few days hasn’t so much been a byproduct of business as it’s been a complete suspension of my personal gustatory reality. This week, I ate vegetarian sandwiches that tasted like meat, drank wines with the aromas of flowers, barnyards, and musk, and willingly downed not one, but nearly two large portions of tender, chewy woodear mushrooms, my own personal Kryptonite, in ecstasy and without any pretense of betting. This last fact alone proves that Chef Wylie Dufresne of wd~50 isn’t so much mad scientist, as diners have noted, so much as he is a benevolent wizard of cuisine. But I’ll get back to that.

This has been on my bucket list for a while. When Miss Love offered to treat me to dinner, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. As we drove to the restaurant, situated on Clinton street across a check cashing kiosk and Mexican grocery store, I was kind of wondering if I’d be hitting the end of that bucket list sooner than I thought. wd~50 looks completely different on the inside, and from the throngs of well-dressed people and scarily attractive clientele milling around the restaurant, it’s clear that the restaurant has many admirers despite its location. On a balmy evening, we started off our night with a few cocktails.
We ordered two specialty cocktails from their list- a wd~50 classic, the Green Hornet, with celery gin and tonic, and a seasonal selection, the aptly named ¿Qué Pasa, Calabaza? with tequila, squash, yuzu, and black salt. The Green Hornet was an excellent interpretation on an old standard. Drinking it becomes apparent that this is not the place where sticking a stalk of celery in a G ‘n’ T passes for a quality libation. It infuses all the sweet brininess of a celery stick into a drink with none of the pesky starchy xylem, working impeccably with the spices in the gin.
The ¿Qué Pasa, Calabaza? was a perfect play off the weather outside, with a very Halloweeny black and orange color scheme and a light, fruity flavor and fragrant nose. The yuzu crept in at the end of each sip, its subtle influence rendering a citrusy zest without the tartness that a lemon would typically impart. The richness of the squash was beautiful with the naturally yogurty flavor of the tequila. If there was any one element I was somewhat on the fence about, it would have been the salt. While a little was welcomed, there was quite a bit on the rim of the drink. Consuming too much salt in one sip overpowered the more delicate flavors.
While drinking, we enjoyed a box of crisp sesame flatbread in lieu of a bread basket. These had a buttery flavor and delicate texture of the crunch of popcorn husks without the annoying tooth-sticking quality. They provided a good neutrality in between dishes.
Here at Foodette, we go big and go home sloshed, so we went for the full tasting menu with the wine pairings. We started off with an amuse bouche of fluke, black garlic paste, grapefruit, toasted squash seeds, and pomegranate zest. This was an excellent way to start the meal, with a light texture yet bold flavors with the tobacco-like sweetness of fall. The crunch from the squash seeds and silky garlic sauce offset the acidity of the grapefruit and gave depth to the mild fish.
This was paired with a sparkling sake from Yamagata, Japan, which our server explained was basically regular sake made with unpolished rice, made using the méthode champenoise with a light petillance and familiar sake neutrality. It allowed the flavors of the amuse bouche and second course to shine without clashing and was a great way to ease into the meal.
Our second course was the driving force behind my desire to come here, Dufresne’s famous everything bagel ice cream with crispy cream cheese, fuzzy smoked salmon threads, and pickled onions. The presentation was stunning, from the matte sheen on the brittle shard of cream cheese to the airbrushed baking marks on the bagel and precisely placed sesame and poppy seeds. It was beautiful, if ephemeral, and had a sweet, bready quality and silky texture.
Next, we waited for our third course while enjoying our second wine, a 2008 Austrian “Trie” Triebaumer from Burgenland. It is worth noting that if you’re friendly to your server, you’ll leave with a slew of new facts about the fascinating library of wines wd~50 pairs, as well as a fairly generous pour with each new glass. This particular wine was a combination of unoaked Chardonnay, Yellow Muscat, and Muskat Ottonel, three wines that made me cringe inwardly in anticipation of the sugar shock that never came. For a trio of typically unctuous wines, this was a fairly restrained example, with a cloudy color and floral heavy, bone dry flavor that played nicely with the next course.
This was another curiosity, Wylie Dufresne’s play on a falafel, taking the “fa” and replacing it with “foie” in a melty, buttery ball of joy nestled inside a thick, chewy pita bread. The foie-lafel consisted of foie gras balls rolled in chickpeas and sesame seeds, fried inside a pita with kimchi tahini and a tabouleh salad underneath. While absolutely delightful to hold and eat, the two unusual elements, kimchi and foie gras, were buried under the pungency of the Middle Eastern spices and showed only their most basic forms in a slight piquancy for the former and fatty, rich quality for the latter. A clever interpretation, and a delicious one, but one that unfortunately missed the mark as far as idiosyncrasy went.
Our next wine followed a similar suit with the 2009 Palmina “Subida” from the Saint Ynez Valley of California. This wine was created in a similar style to red wines from the same producer, and had a beautiful basil and nut flavor with a dusty nose and a yellow hue rivaled only by the luxurious center of our next course, Dufresne’s interpretation of a Caesar Salad with a perfectly soft-boiled egg orbited by dried pumpernickel crisps, lily bulb, caesar dressing, and its own shell, recreated out of edible kaolin clay and brown butter. Flavor-wise, not the most outgoing, but the texture was seamlessly similar to an actual solid egg shell.
The udon dish completely turned my world upside down. Completely. Granted, I had my chance to pussy out at the start when the server asked about food allergies, but I decided that if I took my chances and ate mushrooms, it would be at the hands of one of America’s most talented magicians of morsels, and I would go down like a champ. Turns out I didn’t have to go anywhere. In a rare feat of bravery, this was so delicious that I ate all of mine and most of Keepitcoming’s. At its simplest, this dish mimics the textures and flavors of crispy General Tso’s chicken on a bed of chow mein. At its most daring, this was a melange of beautiful moist textures and sweet flavors. Surprisingly, mushrooms make pretty damned good noodles, sopping up the gingery sauce yet remaining firm. This was topped with soft morsels of crispy fried sweetbread. The only element that I felt could have been richer and more pervasive was the banana molasses, reduced to a mere glaze atop the sweetbread and lacking the smokiness I typically associate with the sauce.
We were absolutely smitten with the 2010 Gamay “Mon Cher” Noella Moratin. It had the gamey, rustic qualities of its varietal, with a persistent and strong lily nose, with floral top notes and a deep, bretty, almost human-like base scent, of barnyards and wet leather. It reminded us of vintage French perfumes with an old-fashioned set of scents and flavors. It added a svelte layer of grassy sweetness to the udon that the molasses lacked.
A tender, perfect piece of salmon was paired with a root beer oatmeal, sour cherry mash, and carrot. The oatmeal absorbed the snappier, minty essences of sassafras with a firm bite from the kernels and tasted fine against the mild flavor of the salmon, but both had very separate flavors and never really met in the middle. The cherry mash electrified the salmon and really boosted its natural sweetness better than the oatmeal. The carrot’s flavor was nowhere to be found.
We drank a 2010 Pinot Noir from Wilson Daniels with this as well as our next course, though I must confess that at this stage, the generous pours were getting to me and if the wine wasn’t off the charts exceptional and memorable, it didn’t really stick in my head. This was one of the more generic selections of the pairing, with a mild licorice and cherry flavor and scent.
Our next savory course consisted of a tender filleted duck breast dotted with blobs of nasturtium yogurt, roasted turnips, and nutmeg. The nasturtium yogurt was the most unique part of the dish, with a thick, pasty texture and tang similar to hot Chinese mustard but no heat. On top of the duck and countered by the rooty turnips, it was delicious, if a little rich for us at that point.
The final savory course of the evening, (which, at that point, had passed the two and a half hour mark) was a riff off rice and beans with lamb and chayote squash. A very Southwestern vibe emitted from the spices on the “rice and beans,” which were really soft, soaked pine nuts and a rice crisp. The lamb was cooked to perfection, but had a little too much fat left on. I liked the sweet, apple-like flavor the chayote lent to each bite. Cut in translucent strips, it curled around the fork, wrapping the fillings up like a nouveau American sushi roll.
We transitioned to the dessert portion of the menu with a strange little palate cleanser of candied egg yolk, brown buttermilk ice cream, jackfruit, and crushed hazelnut pieces. The dish toed the line delicately between savory and neutral, with a hint of sweetness and rush of acidity from the jackfruit. The egg yolk and jackfruit were both bright yellow in hue and the yolk had a milky, creamy flavor but was difficult to discern in each bite. The crunch of the toasted hazelnuts gave a good structural depth to the otherwise dairy-heavy dessert.
And then, we were in full-throttle sugar mode. It was awesome. The apricot, buckwheat, quince, and green tea dessert lent a range of flavors to the plate, at first resembling a set of components not unlike certain Rieslings, but with more colorful flair and less balance on the whole. The apricot pudding had an excellent texture, but its tartness mirrored that of the quince and pushed the subtle salinity of buckwheat to the back burner. The green tea powder was piled and squiggled in a way that made each bite somewhat inconsistent. Some had a mere whiff of bitterness, some, overly chalky as a result of too much powder.
Our wine with that was a beautiful Vermont ice cider, a “Honeycrisp” from Champlain Orchards. It was beautiful and smooth, with a honeyed, brown sugar flavor and ripeness of a baked apple.
We followed that wine with our final dessert and dessert wine, a Californian NV Port, the “Lot Number Three” Marietta. This was a beautiful and lush selection with a chocolatey, sundried flavor that reminded me of liquified Raisinettes. I drank both our ports with our final dessert.
This last dessert was another Dufresne favorite, the beet, ricotta, chocolate, and long pepper Pollack-inspired edible painting. I could have eaten the ricotta ice cream by the gallon, it was so tangy and delicious, with a flavor similar to, but wholly different than yogurt and cheese. It definitely had the silky, salty bite of ricotta. The beets imparted less of a flavoral difference than I expected, but accentuated the saltiness of the ice cream and provided a gorgeous color palate. For me, the chocolate was the highlight of the dish, with a fluid, semisolid texture and elastic smoothness in the mouth. A perfect way to finish the meal.
With our check came balls of ice cream coated in Rice Krispies and fried balls of a lemony rice pudding. Poppable and sweet, they helped soak up a good deal of booze for the ride back.

I got the sense that wd~50 didn’t rest all its deconstructed eggs in one basket. Their food was delicious, and their service was impeccable. Each element of the meal felt like it was executed and timed well. Considering that the meal lasted for a little around three and a half hours, it never felt like it was dragging or like we were forgotten. While I can’t say that the meal was perfect- a few of the dishes did feel like they were presented for shock value with less regard for flavor than expected, it was certainly memorable and beautiful. I’ll definitely be coming back to check out the dessert tasting and to try a few more of those cocktails.

Maine Root Pumpkin Pie Soda

I can’t quite tell what this soda’s angle is. It was put out on the shelves after Halloween, yet has a jack-o-lantern on it. Because I totally didn’t find this until after Halloween, I’m going to say that this is for Thanksgiving, for the college student stranded by themselves over break with little else to eat on the holiday except for this soda and McDonald’s and day-old bakery rolls. Forever alone.

This makes for a depressing Thanksgiving, if you’re drinking it for its intended purpose. I’ve tolerated selections from Maine Root in the past, and have enjoyed their stranger selection of flavors. This was a new one in the supermarket. Unfortunately, there are some flavors that just shouldn’t be incarnated into carbonated form. Jones has exhausted that list to the point of insipid novelty, and now Maine Root is jumping on the bandwagon with their pumpkin pie soda. Even the kitten was kind of skeptical.
A few years ago I totally “wasn’t” into Harry Potter and I “didn’t” go to three of the midnight book releases and “never” cried at the end of the seventh book. Now I’m over that noise despite seeing some of my old high school friends totally cosplaying the crap out of those books, but was piqued by this soda as a result of a years-old curiosity surrounding the omnipresent pumpkin juice in the book series. I was hoping this would be quenching, rich, and almost vegetal in flavor with a deep underlying spiciness and sweet hint of brown sugar. It was basically all of that, reversed.
Imagine the weak, generic scent of a votive candle- the vague mishmosh of spices that somehow loosely translates to the flavors of fall and appeals to the sensibilities of people who consider Jersey Shore quality theatrics. That’s what this taste like. It’s overly sugared and smells synthetic, and completely lacks pumpkin. The sugar content in this is through the roof. It tastes closer to some of the pumpkin-shaped candies of the season than it tastes like its gourd brethren. And let’s be serious- simply saturating it with an asston of orange food coloring doesn’t make it taste more like pumpkin. Keepitcoming Love liked this soda because it did have a persistent and strong fresh nutmeg and cinnamon stick flavor, slightly sticky, dry texture included, but I wasn’t sold on its weak flavor. I can’t enjoy anything that wins the first place slot in the Family Feud question, “Soda that best resembles a Yankee Candle.”

Japanese Sweets Deli Mochi Cream Choco Banana

It just goes to show you how far a little research can get you when getting the scoop on foreign snacks. What I initially dismissed as exuberant Engrish on the part of the maker (mochi mochi mochi cream choco-banana?) was actually the full name of a high-end mochi emporium in Hong Kong and Japan. Granted, it still read like Engrish, but now it was gourmet Engrish. This particular snack was found in a subway convenience store in Tokyo, looking for all the world like a random, strange snack food.

After doing my homework, I found out that this store packages and sells their mochi as well as vending it freshly made from their boutiques in flavors like apple pie, honey cranberry, and darjeeling tea. This pre-made snack was in one of their most popular flavors, chocolate banana, and boasted an array of fresh ingredients stuffed into the tiny mochi balls. The chocolate banana flavor had a very appealing package with a photo of a plate brimming with slices of fresh fruit and chocolate drizzling all over. The back of the package broke down the composition of the mochi dumplings in a diagram form, helpfully stating that snackers would expect bittersweet cocoa powder coating a layer of soft mochi, chewy marshmallow, and a banana and chocolate chip center.
Inside, the mochi are wrapped individually and are very neat. The product is a victim of the potato chip cushioning phenomenon- despite looking as though the bag could hold twice the amount, it is filled with nine of the little dumplings. The mochi are much less messy to touch than I expected, with a conservative amount of cocoa powder coating each piece. They are cool and springy to the touch, with a pliable bite and depth of texture. Though some could argue that the packaging was a little excessive, I found that it protected the mochi and didn’t let them scuff up against each other so that each one was in perfect condition.
Each piece is fairly weighty and is roughly the size of a small walnut, and is very soft. Not a trace of cocoa powder fell off the sticky mochi. They immediately start to sink around the shape of your fingers as you hold them, a good sign of freshness. What I was impressed with was how precisely sweet these were with all the layers of sugary elements- marshmallow, chocolate chips, banana, and chocolate usually make for a fairly toothachingly saccharine bite. But whenever a sweet element showed up in the bite, another, more neutral part (like the mochi skin) masked its sweetness in a deft way so that no one bite was overwhelming. The flavor was delicious. The chocolate’s two bittersweet and sweetened forms were one of the highlights, but the fresh banana puree inside really won me over. It was soft and chunky, evident of having real bananas inside, and had a sweet, creamy texture. The only off flavor in it was an artificial banana note, which I couldn’t quite comprehend. I’m not sure if it was used to boost the natural fruitiness, but it didn’t help and came across as a little cloying. Still bomb-diggity with the chocolate chips, which made it taste like chocolate chip banana bread!
I was impressed with the craftsmanship of these- they were some of the tastiest mochi I’ve had and lacked that rough, overly glutenous texture of their larger counterparts. They were delicate and all too easy to graze on.

Back to Nature Cupcake Bites

When certain concepts are trendy, everyone jumps on the bandwagon. No sooner did the word “cupcake” make home cooks shiver with delight did news spread, and in a matter of months, trendy cupcake boutiques, recipes, and artistic renderings of cupcakes were the new “it” treat. Of course, all flash-in-the-pan products fall wayside to the trickle-down effect. In the case of cupcakes, they were first relegated to children’s birthday parties and baby showers. Their prices went up as did their twee factor, and as they got to be a more exclusive, “artisanal” item, varieties were made so that the novelty of cupcake trendiness could be available to the general public. Basically, a roundabout way of explaining why these Cupcake Bites are cheap and awful.

I was sold on the retro-looking “new, with sprinkles!” endorsement on the box because I am a pretty pretty princess. They’re pretty unattractive out of the bag, though. Small orbs, no bigger than a pea, with ice cream sprinkles haphazardly mashed onto a chalky, greyish coating. According to the box, they’re along the same lines of Cookie Dough Bites (same company, in fact) and have a wheat-based center with a candy coating. And sprinkles. Don’t forget the sprinkles.
While I give kudos to the company for explicitly stating that the chief ingredient is “white birthday cake,” I can’t help but shudder at how unappealing these are to eat. I’m still not sure why a company called Back to Nature makes these Frankensteinian creations with artificial flavorings. That being said, eating these is a bit purgatorial. I can nosh them with no enjoyment or sentiment, knowing that they’re absolutely terrible and really not caring. They inspire my most indifferent tendencies with a bland flavor. Bland is the kindest thing to say, though. Opening the bag, I was struck with a clinical, powdery scent, like the coating on a pair of medical disposable gloves. That alone was so unappealing that I almost didn’t eat these at all.
The texture of these is really offputting. While the appeal of an element of graininess was desired in Cookie Dough Bites to mimic the sandy, sugary texture of actually eating cookie dough, the same is present here and feels disgusting consumed out of context. The graininess makes me feel like I’m chewing on a tablespoon of pure granulated sugar mixed with greasy shortening. There’s no cake flavor to speak of and the mushy, irregularly textured center is a far cry from the fluffy, fragrant plushness of actual birthday cake. There were quite a few sprinkles in each bite which threw off the ratio of sprinkles to cake and turned them from a garnish to an ingredient. Those of you who have eaten raw sprinkles know that they taste kind of gross, with a crumbly, chalky waxiness and a strangely fruity sweet aftertaste, like that of an artificial sweetener. These were terrible. As a child I’m sure I would have been attracted to the bright pastel colors and sweet flavor, but there’s nothing appealing about them now. Even for a dollar, I’m pretty miffed.

McDonald’s Big Mac

Everyone’s first time is supposed to be memorable.

At least, that’s what Hollywood told me. Note that I didn’t say “special”- we can’t all have Rick James, satin sheets, and a gorgeous body when we get down to business. I came to the shameful realization one lonely evening that, no matter how hard I tried to push it to the back of my mind, the facts were glaringly obvious. I was a 21 year old virgin to one of America’s iconic symbols of happiness and prosperity.
How did it happen? I don’t know. It could have been my staunch parental upbringing. A fear of commitment. However it came to that point, I knew it had to change. So I hiked up my jeans, I put on a special playlist of the Indigo Girls, Rod Stewart, and the original Broadway cast recording of Spring Awakening, ponied up $3.95 for what was promised to be a life-changing experience, and dug right in with a paper towel for a napkin. After living 7,714 days on this earth, I was about to have my first Big Mac.
Let me preface this by telling you that this was a completely blind tasting. I never heard the jingle, never took a bite of one, and never smelled one from afar. The closest I came to eating one of these was watching Morgan Spurlock maneuver one into his mouth in SuperSize Me. I was curious. Perhaps even fry-curious. My first gripe with this was the bulky, extensive myriad of plastic and paper packaging. The Big Mac, for all intents and purposes, isn’t really that big. With the economy-sized bag and cardboard holding facility, I was a little disappointed to lift out a sandwich no bigger than a small portable hard drive with a somewhat emaciated-looking mere two ounces of beef. But as we all know, it’s not about the size of the fries, it’s about the motion of the ‘Mac. Or so they say.
Flavor-wise, the sandwich is perfectly balanced. And not only balanced, but layered with textures and savory sensations. The first bite was as beautiful as I’d imagined it, with an initially sweet, slightly sour crunch of pickles and onions mingling with the seductively creamy Special Sauce. I was surprised that the beef took such a backseat to the veggies but came together so well, letting the more superfluous elements in some sandwiches take first billing with each bite. The buns were cotton soft, but not chewy, and melted into the meat. I had to admit I was pretty impressed.
Structurally, we’re in a whole other ballpark. That was my main beef with this, (please pause to laugh) as by my third bite roughly two minutes in, the sandwich had completely disintegrated in my hands, spewing lettuce shreds and special sauce all over the place. What had once been a regal skyscraper of a sandwich was now a hot, wet mess in my hands. And then, things started to get a little weird. It was like all the integrity of the burger was in its perfect structure and balance. After that one stupendous bite, flaws started to perk up as the sandwich entered Bizarro territory. The flavor of the onions started to linger with a briny, salty aftertaste. The buns got mushy and soggy and tasted greasy and buttery when eaten alone. I lost the flavor of the beef completely.
If the euphoria of that perfect bite had been consistent throughout the sandwich, I’d have no qualms giving it my highest rating. It is, after all, engineered like the McGriddle to max out our pleasure and tantalize us long into the night. But in all things, I value consistency, cleverness, and maximum pleasure (which makes Keepitcoming Love my McGriddle) and in five minutes, this went from amazing to falling apart. It was like making out with a cute guy and realizing that underneath his perfectly coiffed hair and sweater vest, he had a tattooed quote from Twilight on his bicep. Not abhorrent, but not ideal and certainly not what I initially expected.
I soon realized that despite its perfect exterior and legendary reputation, it wasn’t perfect. Did I learn from my mistakes? Yes. Do I regret it? Not for a second. I may not ever order this again, but for one brief moment in time (what is now a stunted timespan due to this consumption) I had the Big Mac, and that is a moment that will forever remain special.