The B4 Burger in Paris: Bean, bacon, brie, and booze

When we picked our housing for Paris, it was obvious that I was going to live in an apartment. I didn’t want to live in a dormitory for another semester, and although I wanted to get out and meet French people, I wasn’t too keen on living with a host family. What I was looking forward to, however, was the possibility of cooking and shopping for my own groceries. You’ve seen a selection of some of the things I’ve seen in grocery stores (with more to come!) so I thought it would be fun to show you what I’ve actually been cooking as well.
Buying groceries in Europe is very different from getting them in the US. Things that are typically imported into the States that are thus, more expensive, are less expensive in France due to their ease of manufacture and varied selection of items that do not have to be processed and distributed to transport overseas. This includes wine, cheese, cured meats, and bread. One can easily spend about 10 Euros, or roughly $13, on items that would add up to around $20-25 USD if purchased in stores. Recently, a 6 Euro purchase netted me a large baguette, a 250 gram wedge of fresh Brie, two 150 gram cartons of chopped bacon, and a half-bottle of Pays d’Oc red wine. This can be a very prosperous system if you do it correctly. Avoiding American brands, packaged, frozen goods (which I’ve found to be priced the most disproportionately) and fresh juices can help you stretch your Euro.

A few days ago, I picked up some ingredients that I knew I could cook in large quantities and hack around throughout the week if I had leftovers. So with some leftover white beans sauteed in bacon and thyme, wine, bread, and cheese. I made these B4 Burgers in Paris. They’re easy to make, very tasty, and can be customized to suit any flavor palate or combination.

B4 Burgers in Paris
Ingredients (makes 6 patties)
1 can of white beans, drained
1/2 stale baguette, crumbled
1/4 cup of red wine
1/4 cup of chopped bacon, cooked and drained
1 teaspoon of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil

1. Form the patties by soaking the bread crumbs in the red wine and thyme until soft. Mix in beans and bacon until fully incorporated. Shape into patties and chill for 30 minutes to twelve hours in the fridge.

2. When ready to cook, start heating oil. Season patties with salt and pepper and fry on medium-high until golden brown on each side, roughly five minutes per side. When finished, remove patties, pour out oil and deglaze pan with red wine, reducing to a thick syrup.
3. Drain patties on paper towels and serve with brie on top. Spoon red wine glaze over the top and eat alone or with bread.

Gü Puds Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake

I. Have. Been. Looking. At. These. Forever. I kid you not. These look like they came straight from an Ina Garten stuff-in-jars-the-equivalent-of-a-down-payment-on-a-Porsche photoshoot. They’re adorable and sleek in design while still managing to pack a metric lardton of calories into a small, reusable jar. Go green, everyone! I love them. And now they’re here. Gü Puds Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake may not seem like the most exciting or the most intriguing flavor out there. It was, however, the only one I could afford on my meager student’s budget of Gauloises, coffee, and KFC. This dessert features a chocolate crust base with a vanilla cheesecake filling and chocolate ganache on top. Mouth party, meet ecstasy! I screamed to no one in particular in the quiet of my apartment.
Except that before the mouth party, someone switched my ecstasy with baby aspirin. Is this it? My $3.00 didn’t buy me much. Not so much in terms of quantity, as I found this was sufficient enough dessert to last me a few hours or so, but more in terms of pleasure. I felt like I paid for a Ferrari and received a Mystique. The dessert had this irritating aura of seeming homemade, and not in a gourmet or nostalgic way, but a half-assed, 4th grade bakesale fashion.
The crust was crumbly and messy with a floury, bland flavor and dry texture, completely separating from the two wet components and managing to flake all over the place with each spoonful like faulty confetti. The cheesecake and chocolate ganache were one and the same: slippery, sweet, and milky, but little else to them aside from color differences. Pretty boring and quasi-industrial, like something you’d expect to receive in a dining hall or complimentary buffet at a casino.

I really expected more from Gü Puds. I’d been hyping them up in my own mind for years and wanted the insides to match the sleek, polished package, label design, and imaginary baker named Fred. I’m happy to give these another try and suspect that I may have to upgrade to the larger packages. I’ll be curious to find out if the individually packaged ones are Gü’s diffusion (Güffusion?) line or if they are all of similar quality.

Vitamin Water i-Create (Peach, Raspberry, Vanilla)

It takes a special breed of creepiness to scroll through Facebook comments on corporate pages. Seriously, you’re better off finding more coherent reading in bathroom stalls. There you’ll find many a plea for coupons, usually in return for sexual favors or forehead tattoos, as well as some entertaining campaigns for spin-off products. (“Hey, Oreo, please LIKE my awesome new cookie product, SPOREO, the Oreo for gardeners!!!”) Sometimes, in rare moments of hilarity, corporate campaigns result in trolling. Anonymous has sent Pitbull to Alaska and Justin Bieber to North Korea. In the case of a recent Vitamin Water Europe contest to create the next flavor, it actually resulted in something delicious.

Coming straight to you from a tourist trap slash bagel kiosk in the heart of Paris, here’s the Vitamin Water i-Create in peach, raspberry, and vanilla. It smells like the latest perfume collaboration between Nickelback and Will Smith’s Daughter, Excretion Swag and has a similar color. Surprisingly, the vanilla is subtle and enhance the fruits without adding a fake, sugary flavor. The raspberry takes a backseat to the peach, the strongest note in the drink. It reminds me of a novelty hybrid rather than a layered set of flavors and eventually felt a little one-noted, if tasty.

Although this bottle was approximately 20% smaller than the bottles in the US and cost about 200% more ($1.50 vs. $3.20 USD) the serving size was just enough for me. I felt like any more of it would have been overwhelming to drink, as the quirkiness of the flavors, like many quirky things (Zooey Deschanel, giant eyeglasses, and Pinterest) gets irritating after a little while. Nevertheless, it definitely beat dragonberry and garbage (+grape) and whatever we’ve got going on across the pond. Also, it was released in the classiest of ways. “The party, hosted by Rick Edwards, was held in the sumptuous surrounding of Shoreditch’s Lounge Lover, where guests sipped on delicious peach, raspberry and vanilla i-create cocktails.” Bang, Coca-Cola. Your move!

Foodette in Gay Paree: Savories at the Supermarket

Bonjour from Paris! I’m settled in, navigating the metro system, and most importantly, doing more grocery shopping for your edification. Don’t think that all my time has been spent at the local KFC- I’ve been busy baking up a storm, prowling the local supermarkets, and eating all the horse steak and cheese that I can handle. Busy days.

Today, I thought it would be fun to feature some of the stranger drinks and savory items at the supermarket, as the last time was mainly slanted toward sweets. As a bonus, I also have a bizarre takeout menu that showed up in my mailbox that should give you a fun peek at the stereotypes and fashions that make it out of the States and into European culture and reference.

The drink selection in grocery stores sticks to a certain formula, slanted toward juices and water with some sparkling beverages and soda thrown in, and incorporates a range of flavors that we are not accustomed to back in the States, blackcurrant and peach making frequent appearances. Also, sweet panther soda. Thanks, Schweppe’s! For the record, I’ve seen all kinds of whacky Schweppe’s flavors but am not sure if it’s the equivalent of Polar flavored seltzer with Schweppe’s branding or if these are flavors added on top of regular Schweppe’s ginger ale. I do know that grape ginger ale sounds like an absolute recipe for disaster. You live and learn. Or you learn and DIE.

And really, what would a trip to the grocery store be without some bizarre, moderately sexualized beverages that in no way imply a hidden contract merger between Coke and Viagra? Meet Lxyr (Skyn?) the confident, self-reliant cola with what looks like a craigslist ad written under its name. Hot bubbles? Really? I didn’t buy it, for fear that I would dazzle all the ladies in Paris and would then have nothing to do for the next six months. Le sigh. Really. Best enjoyed with Orangina Rasta, which is apparently tropically-flavored with notes of drug rug and Bob Marley posters. These aren’t drinks so much as they are identities that you casually take a sip from every so often. Jeez.

As for the food, they’re certainly more creative in the prepared lunch and dinner department. No longer do you have to settle for the banalities of Spaghettio’s. How about pasta carbonara? Pizza with ham? Happy hour salmon cornettes filled with cream cheese, chives, and mayonnaise for dipping? The world is your oyster- which, by the way, aren’t too difficult to come by either.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Speed Rabbit has some things they’d like you to know. For starters, Speed Rabbit would like to list what America is not: pussies, little girls, and Toyota Camrys. And according to Speed Rabbit, whose extensively documented menu will likely be the only record of the USA that survives the upcoming election/Mayan apocalypse/Adam Sandler film, America is monster trucks, car wash girls, Nebraska Beef, and Cap Code. I’ll let that speak for itself.

KFC Boxmaster Grande

One of my favorite restaurants in American really isn’t American at all—Marseilles, in Manhattan, is a replica of a French brasserie. So, given my love of meta-everything, it seemed befitting to hit up the least French restaurant on my second day in Paris—KFC. And yes, that’s a hostess desk you see off to the right. KFC Restaurant is extremely popular in Paris, especially among the younger set of students. On my visit, I didn’t see any American tourists, but the place was still packed. That being said, I wanted to get something a little over the ordinary on my first visit, and the Boxmaster Grande spoke to me in a way that only contextually removed “foreign” flavors can. Packed with spicy chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and inexplicably, a hash brown wrapped in a giant tortilla, it seemed too good (bad?) to pass up.

 And as an added bonus, even after a short walk and a sprint up the six flights of 124 stairs (but how about that view?!) to get to my apartment, it came out perfectly preserved, looking identical to the promotional photo. If you think that our advertising preys on our emotions because occasionally Big Ronald tosses out a “happy” in front of an item to make you feel good, French fast food packaging takes it to a whole other level. Look at the word cloud surrounding Limited Edition—the color blends in with the package so that on some level, you might not even notice it.
Look a little closer and you’ll see that the Boxmaster all but promises you ultimate success, fulfillment, and the energy to live a “100% good” life, at least while you’re eating. The Boxmaster Grande is good—maybe not 100% good, but certainly a tasty and consistent fast food item. The components stay true to the Mexican theme and deliver on the spice without depending on one particular flavor. The chicken was tender, but extremely dry. Luckily, it had a real paprika-boosted kick to it and wasn’t too salty. Because it was pre-made, patches of it were soaked and mushy, an unpleasant surprise, but for the most part, it was crispy.
The accompanying toppings were a mixed bag. The vegetables, three thin slices of tomato and lettuce, were fresh and crisp and gave a nice contrast to the fried and dairy components. The cheese was undistinguished and disappeared under the deluge of bolder flavors. The two side sauces couldn’t have been more polarized. The guacamole was thick and chunky, with pieces of tomato and onion inside. It was as good as Chipotle or On the Border’s guac, and came dabbed in the lettuce like a side salad of its own. The so-called “zesty” salsa, atop the hash brown, was thin and watery and ended up tasting like a ketchup someone had accidentally dumped a boatload of paprika into. The hash brown served as a filler item, albeit a clever one, and ended up squeezing into areas the chicken didn’t cover.

 Overall, I liked getting this, even if it was just as a novelty item. Fast food is not something that I’ll be eating often, due to the aforementioned strange prices, but the KFC looks like it tests out some pretty fun products from time to time. Even if the Boxmaster didn’t quite make the mark, it was still a clever and familiar set of flavors for me. I’m looking forward to seeing KFC take a note from Burger King Japan- caviar and lobster Boxmaster would be worth the price!

Foodette in Gay Paris: Exploring McDo and Franprix

Here I am in France! Not only will this be useful for communicating my status as an alive person in a foreign country, but it will also serve as awesome entertainment for my friends and readers across the sea. As I’ve alluded to before, I’ll be here for five months, and will be documenting my travels and consumption as I can. Right now, I am in a hotel (read: youth hostel!) in the 10th arrondissement of Paris for one night. Tomorrow, I go to my apartment, where I will be cooking and spending the remainder of my days. That is, when I’m not off doing amazing things!

Let’s get a few things out of the way. For starters, I’ve been in transit for the last ten hours. It’s noon here and I have the moral fiber and energy of an impaired zombie. That being said, I’ve adjusted swimmingly to the quintessential French diet of cigarettes, Cachou Lajaunie tablets, and juice in the last three hours. For another, I’m going to be formatting my reviews differently here. As much as I’d like to buy every single strange and bizarre thing that I come across, some of the grocery items here are priced strangely, so I’m going to have to be selective about what I review. For instance, basic sandwiches at McDonald’s can range from $2.50 to $8.50 before you add a drink. I’m going to have to be very careful about what I try solely for the lulz. However, this means that you’ll be seeing many a grocery selection post, like this one.

Today, I spent my first morning in Paris as a young, vibrant adult in a McDonald’s and a grocery store, nursing a sore neck and extreme disorientation. I know, I’m a blast and a half. But here’s an interesting fact: an interesting McDonald’s? In my planet? In France, it’s more common than you think. Take all of the quiet, brooding hipsters from Starbucks in the US. Put them in a McDonald’s. That’s the audience of McDo, and it’s pretty cool. The restaurant is modeled less like a 70’s-era cafeteria and more like a hip bistro where the youth languidly lounge. Desperately in need of coffee, I went for an espresso and a mandine, chosen because I secretly wanted a burger at 9AM and that was the first p’tit dejeuner item I saw. The mandine is like a muffin bottom on steroids. It’s extremely dense, crumbly, and heavy, filled with chocolate chips and chocolate blobs on top, and injected with a Nutella-esque paste, but with more chocolate flavor and salt. Me likey, but a croissant it was not. Tomorrow will bring tastier treats. It was tolerable along with the espresso, surprisingly strong and flavorful given its origin. McDo knows how to coffee here, that’s for sure.

After my breakfast, I wandered over to a branch of Franprix, a local grocery chain in Paris. They have a crazy selection of food. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed, especially in the yogurt/pudding/chilled dessert/specialty goo section. There were at least sixty types of semi-solid sweet food in the refrigerator case, in fascinating flavors like kiwi passionfruit, cheesecake, hazelnut, and almond. Lacking a refrigerator, I held off, but you can expect to see some of these pop up soon. My personal favorites in passing were Jockey yogurt, because I liked the name, and I was pleased to discover that Bonne Maman has a line of desserts using their delicious jam. Also pictured: something called Gü Puds that I want to take home and cuddle or display on the credenza, and Nestle EXTRÊME ice cream cones in an assortment of flavors. 

For a small grocery store, the selection is quite extensive. There were many flavors of cereal I hadn’t seen before, including Crunch bar cereal, and even some of their more mundane items were spiced up with interesting flavors. Mexican wings? Okay, then! There’s one thing I know I’ll be able to get cheaply, though: wine! This entire wall was filled with wines from small Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhone producers for well under $7 a bottle. I’m really looking forward to sampling many of them and giving my thoughts on Nobly Rotten.  Plenty of interesting candies to be found, too, ranging from Haribo gummies of all shapes and sizes to more traditional, nostalgic candies, likely from many peoples’ childhoods. 

I also bought this drink. I thought it was unsweetened coconut water, but it tasted like Hi-C and Fruit 2 O had babies and didn’t taste like coconut at all, despite the label. Maybe the parrot’s name is Coco? I’m not sure. I drank it, but it was pretty basic and heavy on the sugar.

And that’s what I’ve been up to so far! For now, I’ll leave you with this pithy bit of wisdom found on a brochure in the hotel: “The champagne helps wonder.” Huzzuh! I’ll be back with a review tonight, and also, remember- next week starts sauce week! Just to spice things up, though, I thought it would be fun to pair French hot sauces and condiments with American jerky, so you’ll be seeing many a review from some of my favorite jerky companies as well. Stay tuned!

Oreo Soft Cookies Banana Milkshake

Back to the land of delicious artificial appeal we go, readers. Back to Bananaville, though all of these banana-infused products have about as much fruit inside of them as your average fag hag. Regardless, Oreo Japan has cranked out another seasonally appropriate flavor (because screw you, chocolate mint!) in its soft cookies line, a selection that has previously featured fillings of all shapes and sizes, like lemon ice, green tea, coffee caramel, and the ever-popular, ominously generic “cheese.”

These Oreos, however, are ambassadors of their kind. They embody everything that an Oreo Cakester ought to, without many of the flaws and shortcomings of the American version. For starters, they’re tiny. I’ve used my lens cap for comparison below, but if that’s completely useless to the remaining 95% of you, it’s a little larger than a half dollar in diameter. They are far more petite than our engorged pastries and clock in at a svelte 84 calories apiece.

The Oreos are secured with the level of paranoid packaging of most stealable electronic devices, in a large bag with eight small individually-wrapped cakes inside. The package design is a clever riff off the classic Oreo package, retaining some of the original design features (Oreo and Nabisco logo, background cloud) and adding some others to draw attention to the flavor, as well as the fact that this is definitely Japanese. I particularly like the banana leaf, dual Nabisco logos mere inches apart, and stylized floating milkshake- you classy thing!

To their credit, the packaging successfully protected each cake from squashing. The cakes are disturbingly scented, part mild chocolate cake and part aggressive acetate, the primary chemical component in fake banana flavoring. They also cut a striking profile- dark brown, almost black cakes with a scrambled egg-colored filling.
It’s not a bad flavor, but it’s a distinctive one, very sweet, fruity and concentrated, almost alcoholic. FoodGuy commented that this scent often shows up in whiskeys. It definitely has a boozy note to it. However, the banana flavor works well here. The fluffy texture of the filling is light and plays off the dense chocolate biscuit quite nicely. This is a really cool, flamboyant snack.

Quinn Popcorn Vermont Maple and Sea Salt

Unless you’re the child of megalomaniac supervillains, chances are, you were probably taught to not be an infuriating asshat from a young age. Maybe your parents told you to quit stabbing your neighbor’s pets, or to help our around the house more. And if I’m ever a parent, my list will definitely include those, (do you know how damned stubborn terrier blood stains are?) but my ultimate goal will be to prevent said anonymous children from ever indulging in a self-indulgent, masturbatory fantasy like Kickstarter.

Call me bitter, but in the past year, I’ve seen a lot of things, man. I’ve seen a lot of things come of Kickstarter. I lost a good friend, good kid, to a band of Westchester-born roving accordian-playing lunatics singing bluegrass. Another friend? Let’s just say that guerilla knitting landed her 25 to life in the clink. So when I saw this Kickstarter-spawned popcorn prominently displayed in my local organic co-op next to quinoa bites and cruelty-free banjos for a mere $6.05, it was essential that I pick up a box. Ladies and gentlemen, I have won the internet. I have found what I believe to be the worst, most simpering product in the world. Quinn Popcorn, featured here in Vermont maple, grey sea salt, and shame, has met its pretentious match.

Your six dollars, which, I might remind you, could potentially purchase you anywhere between 1.5-1.75 gallons of gas, buys you two small bags of popcorn. Which you have to pop yourself. With a cutesy, minimal label reminiscent of craft fairs, handpainted jugs, and parents who want to embrace “the simple life” by forcing their children into hemp clothes so they can Instagram it later. Oy. Did I mention that the aforementioned flavoring also has to be added on its own after you shake a giant bag filled with popped corn and oil? And tossed together with a lackluster jingle so the toppings are evenly distributed? The price tag is like a giant middle finger on top of all that, complete with an idea tax for being the first to come up with such an audaciously shitty idea.

As difficult as this may sound, the inside of the box is almost worse than the outside. The bags are covered with keyword spam that lovingly massages the reader’s balls and ego with promises of no GMO’s, no artificial flavoring, and no susceptor, which is a bummer because I hear Captain Planet was looking for a new sidekick. Susceptor! At my side! The box informs you that the toppings are packaged separately because “it’s just not as good without your help,” despite forgetting that you “helped” by buying the damned thing at the store. Now they want to put you to work, too.
Popping the corn was easy, and while I was waiting I happened to glance at the “Pro Tips” on the other bag and happened to notice that-Shut up! Shut up! Just shut the fuck up, Quinn! I am an adult with a life and an income and a partner and bills. Do not congratulate me for popping my own popcorn. Do not inform me that dud kernels are a “fact of life,” you Granola University-educated douche.

These flavorless tidbits are ironically the boldest aspect of the popcorn. 80% of the kernels are left unaltered, despite a vigorous shaking (I use the “3%” method, meaning that if more than 3% of the kernels are unpopped, I dropkick the bag into the nearest trash can) and the remaining coated kernels are soggy and sweet. So far, this is underperforming the popcorn from Big Y that you can use as beanbag stuffing.

I enjoyed the flavor until about ten minutes after eating a few handfuls. The maple and salt was flavorful in the pieces with powder on them, despite my inability to orally recognize their origins. However, there’s a strange, filmy cardboard aftertaste, slightly sour and off in flavor, after eating the kernels. That’s what I find the most strange as the ingredient list is pretty transparent. Not knowing where that flavor is coming from is even more disturbing than eating Big Popcorn’s latest soma snack.
I wanted to love this, because in some aspects, I’m sure I’m as pompous of a fuck as Quinn Popcorn is. I’ve knowingly purchased a handcrafted leather wine pannier for my now-purloined vintage motorbike. I’m the one who wanted to name our new kitten “Patina,” for Christ’s sake. So, Quinn, you win. You’ve successfully created an edible Anthropologie store and have officially outpretensioned me and not only do I hate you for it, I implore you to recognize that you cannot rise from this. Please, go back to Jiffy Pop and save the world a bad taste in its collective mouths.

Thomas’ Banana Bread Bagels

Thomas’ has meta food down pat. A breakfast food flavored like another breakfast food in breakfast food form. With food like this, who needs enemies? Take note, ye Pop Tarts and Toaster Strudels of the world, now might be the time to cash in on that unlikely partnership with Ruffles or Jif. This is meta-food at its best…and worst.

So this is the Thomas’ Banana Bread Bagels, made of neither banana bread nor bagels. Instead, it’s classic supermarket bagel-bread taking the form of bagel only to provide a scantily flavored vehicle for cream cheese, butter, et al. And it smells. That’s the first thing you’ll notice. The second thing is that it’s impossible to photograph these correctly without looking like you’re intentionally trying to create a moody, trash-laden urbane piece for a high school photography show with the theme “hope.” Thomas’, I need these in a box next time. The good thing is they went apeshit (you thought I was going to say bananas!) with the fruity clip art, throwing bananas all over the place and even on the logo. I wholeheartedly approve of this and refuse to buy another product that doesn’t smack me in the face with its protruding flavors and additives.

That being said, they weren’t abhorrent. Granted, I see absolutely no situation where this would be sufficient grounds to settle between wanting a bagel or banana bread. It lacks the crumbly, moist vivacity of the latter and doesn’t bring the same flavorful contrast to the toppings as either bread does. Instead, it falls somewhere in the middle. It is more scented than sweet, with a sugar and cinnamon bread base and small chunks of walnut and banana fondant sporadically scattered throughout, like a streusel. 

Thankfully, the flavor is not too artificial. It’s decent for a sweeter bagel as it’s nowhere near as indulgent as a sugar-topped or cinnamon swirl bagel, but it still has a restrained base flavor that disappears with cream cheese or yogurt toppings. Even honey comes across as cloying and overpowering on this. Its shock value flavors fall flat when it is called upon to perform. It’s the Gael Greene of bagels. It’s best with a little salted butter, as the savory flavors bring out the spices in the bread, but ultimately, it doesn’t stand well on its own and is, at best, a banal novelty item.

Duncan Hines Frosting Creations Starter and Chocolate Marshmallow Enhancer

Suffice to say, I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on French customs and culture before I leave. I’ve been to Paris before, but never for this long and not on my own, and I want to acclimate myself as quickly as I can to avoid being the ugly American in the supermarket, pawing through the canned goods in search of Doritos. Many of the ways of living are out of convenience and basic mannerisms. I’m still reeling from the fact that in all of Paris, there are only six membership-based health clubs that I can find. Wherever shall I tone my pecs and strengthen my abs, I say? The bulk of changes should be easy to adjust to, with the exception of one killer Achilles’ heel that seems to come up on every site: peanut butter and chocolate.

According to my research, the French aversion to peanut butter comes from a combination of respect for an already refined product, chocolate truffles, as well as a natural apprehension against fattening, caloric products like the PB&J. Nutella, seen as a snack on its own versus a condiment in a many-layered ‘wich, is in another class entirely outside of chocolates you’d find in a shop. That being said, it was this classic combination that inspired me to think of a few other things that might be harder to find outside of the US, one of them being the iconic s’mores flavors.

So I’ve been whittling down the days that I have left (9!!) enjoying some of the classically American flavor profiles I know and love. I was sent the new Frosting Combinations from Duncan Hines a month or two ago and decided to give them a whirl with some cupcakes this evening. The frosting comes in a container slightly larger than most canned frosting with ample room for stirring in the flavor powder, available in 11 varieties. I went for the slightly tamer chocolate marshmallow, but bubblegum and chocolate mint are also available. The base is gummy and sticky, with a texture similar to Elmer’s glue, a dull sheen, and a pasty, powdery aftertaste. Again, also strangely similar to Elmer’s glue. It’s not flavorless, it’s mildly vanilla tasting and smelling, so inevitably, whatever you make will have undertones of vanilla frosting. If that’s a bad or a good thing, I’m not sure.

The flavor packets are sparse, but pungent. Chocolate marshmallow was intensely scented, smelling not of chocolate or sugar, but of dirt, black tea, and plant matter. Definitely not what you’d expect out of a frosting enhancement. I can’t say that the base flavor of the frosting was drastically enhanced by the powder one way or another. It vaguely resembled chocolate and marshmallows in the same way that knockoff Coach bags resemble the real thing. Both smell strange and are slightly sticky and are fairly far removed from their original inspiration. It also takes a lot of elbow grease to mix this. Three minutes into stirring, the frosting was still granulated and streaked. Five minutes later, it was brown and shiny and smelled like baking cocoa.

You can see here that my cupcake-making quest was successful. What you can’t see is that the inevitable passage of time, in this photo, approximately sixteen seconds, wrenched these cupcakes from the land of Twee, Adorable Things on Pinterest to Hashtag Blobby Baking Failures. Even after 45 minutes cooling and a stint in the fridge, the frosting slip-slid off these cupcakes both naked and anchored by graham cracker crumbs, into a sad pile on the counter. The flavor was muted in comparison to the cupcakes, the toppings, and the counter it sat on, and had all the edgy appeal of a 3PM television premiere on TNT. I didn’t like it. I think the ratios are off, and while the idea is in the right place, the intensity and accuracy of the flavors isn’t enough to make me want to try this again. You’re probably better off tinting plain frosting with extracts and natural coloring.