Evol Pizzas Meatballs and Mozzarella

No, it’s not a Sonic Youth album, it’s one of our favorite brands- again! Evol Foods just keeps coming out with new products. And who are we to blame them? With the recent success of their flatbreads, it’s clear that this is a company that can deviate from one type of food, in this case, their burritos, and still come out on top. Now, we’re chomping through their pizza line, one pie at a time.
Despite the fact that we have to travel to our local Whole Foods to snare one of these, we love them so much that we don’t mind. Evol’s pizzas and flatbreads are the anacondas in a pet store world of easy-to-care for goldfish and hamsters. Yes, we’re talking to you, CPK. And no, we’re not calling you back. Make no mistake about it, though, the pizzas are not simply larger versions of the flatbreads. For one, the prices are a little higher for the pizzas, $1.50 higher, but they are only two ounces heavier than the flatbreads. This lessens their value compared to the flatbreads, but when placed against other one-topping pizzas, like Domino’s, ($10.15 for a medium thin-crusted pizza with sausage, they don’t have meatball or small) and Pizza Hut, ($8.56 for a medium thin-crusted pizza with sausage- is meatball being phased out?), it’s not a bad deal.
Out of the package, the first obvious flaw in the meatballs and mozzarella is the case of small balls it has going on. The photo on the box shows 24 adorable, miniature meatballs dotting the top of the pie like a lady bug. We got 13 1/2, and they are tiny. It’s a shame, because they’re really tasty, with a moist texture and a bold, herbed texture that stands up to the rest of the toppings. And honestly, for flaws, that’s about it. This is also a cheese-heavy pizza. There is an ass-ton of cheese, even though it might not look like a lot when shredded. This is the first pizza I’ve ever had where there was a drippy cheese overhang during the cooking process. It was intense and awesome.
The mozzarella is very present and doesn’t give off that bland mix-of-cheeses flavor that other frozen pizzas do. It’s chewy and buttery, with a nice hint of salt from the meatballs, and strings off substantially even after solidifying in a mass on the pizza. The cheese bubbles and crisps on top and all is well with the world. With this in mind, I’m now more inclined to try the four cheese and basil pizza. Even the prosaic gets a makeover here.
One thing to pay attention to is the thinness of the crust. Honestly, I was worried that with the brittle texture, the pizza would seize up and get crackery during the cooking process. The instructions will tell you that 10-15 minutes in the oven is a good idea. I was paranoid and monitored this more than any baby I’ve ever sat for, and after 8 minutes found that it was getting crispy and that was enough for me. The crust is substantial to hold up to the lavish amount of tomato sauce and cheese, and doesn’t get soggy or crunchy at all. The crust, with its varying degrees of charred edges, reminded me of a commercialized Pepe’s pizza. While I doubt this pizza will replace your favorite neighborhood joint, it’s a hell of a lot better than the pizzas we have up here and definitely bumps out its chain and frozen competition.

IHOP At Home Strawberry and Cream Cheese French Toast Stuffed Pastries, Griddle ‘n’ Sausage Wraps, and Sausage and Cheese Omelet Crisper

I can’t say that IHOP and I are very well acquainted. It might be because all the IHOP locations near me are in crappy areas of town, or out of state, or shadowed by better restaurants. The only one within a 20 mile radius of me is next to Connecticut’s first and only Sonic, and when push comes to shove, I’m happier eating burgers in my car than I am eating pancakes next to high school stoners. Oh wait, the stoners flock to Denny’s. Disregard that.
Because of my IHOP jeunesse, I look at my experience with the new IHOP At Home line as an anthropological study, as I have never viewed the majestic Cinn-A-Stick Pancakes in their natural, greasy habitat, nor had I watched the brilliant mating rituals of the compote and whipped topping upon a pancake horizon to create the Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘n’ Fruity. But I knew what to look for. One winter, long ago, Dillinger and I journeyed to an IHOP and feasted upon its bounties.
Needless to say, if eating at IHOP can be considered a journey into Bruce Chatwin-esque territories, eating IHOP At Home is like going to a pet store and playing with abandoned, slightly defective puppy mill dogs. The IHOP At Home line, which I’ll abbreviate as IHOPAH, consists of three varieties of frozen breakfast-inspired items, all of them coated or fried before cooking. I took a little trip to my local Walmart Supercenter and checked them out. All of the products were cooked in what seemed like the hellfires of New Jerse- er, hell itself, in a 450 degree oven. Before cooking, they resembled edible, bulbous building blocks.
Starting with the Strawberry Cream Cheese French Toast Stuffed Pastries. The SCCFTSP look pretty when you open the package and when they’re cooking, are fragrant, like fresh beignets. They consist of a slightly sweet, crispy dough that, when bitten into, yields a sauce that looks like the end result of a Strawberry Shortcake gang-related stab wound.
The sauce, which appears to be the bulk of the pastry in the photo, only occupies a scant third of the midsection. It congeals after cooling and has a mild, sweet taste when isolated from the pastry- very creamy and fruity, but when eaten together, is really buried in the fried dough flavors.The next generation in the noble line of the IHOPAH dynasty is the Griddle ‘n’ Sausage, the McGriddle-inspired maple, sausage, and pancake combination in yet another form thrown together in more ways than Taco Bell products. Well, don’t get your hopes up, breakfast-craving late-night McDonald’s goers. It’s just another classic textbook example of “frequently imitated, never duplicated.” The Griddle ‘n’ Sausage smelled like syrup when I opened the package, smelled like syrup when it was cooking, smelled like syrup when I lifted it to my mouth to take a bite, and tasted like grease and meat. What gives? I felt as though this phallic phinger phood was trying to woo me by wearing syrup-scented perfume, much as I tried to woo Keepitcoming by dousing myself in a caustic dose of BK Flame, both equaling in massive failure. Though these were juicy and salty, they gave me a headache and just tasted like fried sausages rather than pancake-wrapped ones.The last of this divine trio was the one I was most curious to try, the Sausage and Cheese Omelet Crisper. Billed as the love child between a McDonald’s hash brown and a microwaved omelet, it actually tasted pretty close to its roots. The result is a somewhat bloated rectangle of egg and potato, which took the longest to cook with twenty minutes in the oven, and smelled burnt and greasy when it came out. After letting it sit for a few minutes, I found that it had crisped up and yielded a fluffy, soft interior. Okay, it was more like mushy. The exterior was the crispiest and least greasy of all three, probably because it was the only one that lacked a dough or batter around it.
With the Omelet Crisper, the crust comes from a potato-based coating which crisps up like the outside of a hash brown in the oven. The mouthfeel wasn’t quite exactly like a hash brown. It was definitely more dense and floury. It’s essentially a giant stuffed tater tot, which makes it delicious. Though I think that the flavor could use more sausage chunks and spices, the overall texture and sensation was definitely that of a crispy omelet. The cheese was gooey and creamy inside and the eggs were more like McDonald’s egg squares, but two out of three ain’t bad. This was the best of all three, which is like saying that Big Bird was the least gay of all the Sesame Street characters. Nobody wins.
That being said, none of these made me feel very good. I forgot the third and last reason for why I don’t go to IHOP very often- it makes me feel bloated and gives me a headache. I have a free monthly biological reaction for those symptoms that I don’t need a $10 frozen breakfast gamut of products for. I threw the bulk of these away and went for a walk. If you’re not a giant lardass, they’re not for you.

Edy’s Slow Churned Rich and Creamy Shakes Cookies ‘n’ Cream

This was a flavor I had tasted before.

This was a taste I knew very well.
The unmistakable smack of disappointment across my lips! The Edy’s Slow Churned Shake not only provided a barely passing bastardization of its iconic idol, its instructions for preparation violeted the fundamental core of maintenance this very beverage is based upon. Edy’s. It’s called a milkshake. Not a milkweaklystirandgiveup. I ate it with my breakfast of minute champions. A small shake and small sliders.
The Edy’s line of shakes and smoothies is certainly easier than digging around in the blender, mixing a quantity of shake no human should consume, drinking said quantity, and vomiting later, but it’s also very easy for me to plop a scoop of ice cream in a glass along with some milk and halfheartedly mix it. Or melt ice cream and attempt to slurp that out of the glass. Easy. Not satisfying. Edy’s attempts to equate the two, resulting in a rather sad beverage.I chose the Cookies ‘n’ Cream flavor as an impulse buy along with my weekly stash of sliders, curious as to how it translated into a shake and entranced by the minimal packaging- a feature that would later prove to be not ingenious, but simply lazy. The ice cream alone looked like it could be easily repackaged with a packet of instant fudge in a pinch and labeled as a sundae on the go. The preparation called for a third of a cup of milk, the entirety of which slopped and poured over the edges. This amount was also the bare minimum I got away with using without having to dirty another glass. I was determined to see how far I could get on the flimsy receptacle alone. As it turned out, not far at all.
The end result was like trying to drink soft serve. Thick, slow, and bland. The cookie pieces dissolved to nothing and the flavor was cold and flat. The resulting FDA-approved edible Dirty Sanchez moustache I received was the most indignity I’ve suffered on behalf of a product, and this is coming from the writer who has willingly eaten buffalo chicken salad. I rest my case with this photographic evidence- this is not a product for consumption, much less child consumptions.Also, no less than thirty mommy blogs are seething in rage at my audacity and hatred of the Beloved Mother Grocery Product. Bless Her Eternal Cold Reign! Spoiler alert: They reduce the average milkshake-capable human being into an adult-sized toddler incapable of operating a button-based electronic. SARRRRRY.

California Pizza Kitchen Pizza and Appetizer: Sicilian Pizza and Flatbread with Spinach Artichoke Dip

Keepitcoming is sick, and while purchasing her industrial sized bottles of Aspirin and Vitamin Water at the grocery store, I spied this frozen delight and figured I’d take her on a date just as average as the one I took her on last week when we went to see Water for Elephants and I burnt her house down, neither one worse than the other.

California Pizza Kitchen is quickly turning into the Cheesecake Factory of pizza-based restaurants, if that makes little to no sense at all. Whatever. It made more sense than the entirety of Infinite Jest, which says a lot. With a menu of over 100 items, including appetizers and small bites, the difference between which I cannot determine, and a gazillion pizzas, the total number of which amounts to more teeth than in Robert Pattinson’s mouth, you’d think they’d step out of the box for their frozen counterpart, the perpetual ugly stepsister to the restaurant glory, and create a new, different package deal, perhaps avocado club egg rolls with dipping sauce accompanied by a roasted artichoke and spinach pizza, or sesame ginger chicken dumplings with a four seasons pizza, but no, they chose Sicilian pizza and spinach and artichoke dip with flatbread. Yawn. Wake me up when the guy who makes this at home to save time getting laid instead of taking his date out asks her to go halfsies on the cost from the grocery store.
Anyway, at least the food looked decent, looked being the operative term here. Despite my initial disappointment with the selection- CPK’s guacamole is one of the best I’ve ever had, I persevered and started cooking. The cooking process was more complicated than a LEGO instruction book, forcing me to keep the box out and take up half of my cooking space. While cooking this, I noticed that almost everything required either lifting or tearing molten hot foodstuffs with the aid of my bare hands, a fate I neither requested nor deserved.
From a menu-based point of view, the pairings here are kind of strange. For starters, the spinach and artichoke with flatbread combo isn’t actually on the menu- the flatbread comes with hummus dip and the artichoke dip comes with chips, but frozen chips would have been pretty gross. Point justified. And the Sicilian pizza doesn’t seem to exist, its closest relative on the food chain in the form of the Meat Craver’s, the former being a pared down version with less meat. The flatbread was popped in the oven along with the pizza and came out cooked to perfection. The pizza looked really good, littered with spices and herbs and powders and sprinkled with a pretty decent meat topping with visible bacon chunks, large slices of salami, and sausage.
And yet, it had no flavor. The pizza, which was lukewarm by the time it and the accoutrements were whisked to the table, was thick and bland, not unlike a pompous ex of mine. The only indication of meat on the pizza was a slight anise flavor from the sausage, and when the sausage had to share space with the weaksauce-inspired ham and salami, there was little room for it to shine. Neither of us felt inclined to eat more than a slice, and even then, it was like pulling teeth. Robert Pattinson’s unicorn teeth. I zoned my sorrows into the flatbread, which was oddly enough, more soft and toothsome than the pizza crust. There was a lot of spinach artichoke dip, and although it was somewhat pureed together into a kid-friendly or Midwesterner-friendly sauce, it was tasty and garlicky and allowed me to occupy my mouth outside of criticizing the pizza.
If going to CPK and taking your date to dinner gets you laid at the end of the night, this boxed set is like falling asleep in front of your computer with your dick in your hand and waking up to photos of your semi-hot second cousin’s pool party on Facebook. Come on, man, she’s 13. I’d have been happier if this came with a few double vodka Caribbean Sunset Sangria so I could drink and forget about this depressing pizza. Alcoholism has surprisingly practical benefits, kids!

Evol Flatbreads Italian Sausage and Caramelized Onion

We love a good pizza, as you may already know, but are squarely divided on the topping front. For me, the ideal pizza is meat and cheese, just is the ideal burger, the ideal sandwich, and in some cases, the ideal dessert. And the more the better! My one deviation to this standard lies in jalapenos, and if I’m feeling lazy, hot sauce. Keepitcoming likes peppers and onions on her pies, with light cheese and smoky paprika.

This differentiation makes it hard to order a pizza, so more often than not, we settle for frozen varieties or just make something else. The new flatbread pizzas from EVOL may just change that game, though, because I think we’ve finally found a pizza with toppings from both of our sides that we can agree on loving!
EVOL’s burritos are known for their plentiful toppings and flavorful combinations, as are their flatbreads. In four different varieties- Italian Sausage and Caramelized Onion, Chicken and Roasted Veggies, Goat Cheese and Portabello, and Barbecue Chicken, the flatbreads feature premium toppings and an insanely delicious crust. As the critical purveyor of excellence in the crust department, I figured I’d be the judge of that, taking into account that Rodzilla was not a fan of this feature.

I’m pleased to say that all it took to transform a pizza clumping mess into a delicious, chewy lunch was a little rearranging and careful timing- 10 and a half minutes in the oven to yield a puffy, bubbly pie. The toppings were all amazing- the sausage, which looked sparse on the pie, was enough to get a little in each bite, and even without it, carried a wonderful cheesy base with fresh garlic, onion, and parsley. It wasn’t too salty and was crispy from the lack of sauce.
Our sole complaint was the size and crust texture, two factors that eventually worked together in our favor. Although the pizza could easily feed one, the size is beneficial for the crust, a crispy, chewy variety.
The upskirt.

It does harden over time, but I don’t suspect you’ll have any leftovers to worry about. If the crust was a few millimeters thicker and the pizza bigger, I’d be hard pressed not to order this in a restaurant. This is definitely going to be a future favorite of ours here in Kitchen Foodette.

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.

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.

Freschetta By The Slice Six Cheese Medley

Freschetta sent me a couple of coupons for their new pizzas, one of which seemed perfect for Healthy Month. Recently, Freschetta has come out with a new “by the slice” pizza, which is, as the name suggests, a lone slice of pizza. While this isn’t necessarily a new concept, rehashed by Red Baron and CPK, Freschetta certainly puts interesting spins on their slices.There are four varieties, and they all seem oddly hyperspecific or bland. On the hyperspecific side, we have a vegetable medley and a chicken, spinach, and mushroom, and on the bland side, the omnipresent BBQ chicken and a six cheese medley. This seems to eliminate a vast majority of people who don’t like some of those ingredients. For me, two of them were out of the running because I hate mushrooms. I decided to choose the six cheese medley for consistency’s sake. But geez, Freschetta, was pepperoni too prosaic for you?Because I had some free time today, I decided to dally and make this in the oven. I should note that this carries a $3 price tag and is roughly the size of 1/6th of a large pizza. This a little irritating for me. About a mile down the street from us is Mimmo’s Pizza, a joint that makes massive slices made to order, roughly the size of three of these put together with one topping for $2.50. If I didn’t feel like doing that, Red Baron sells two of their “by the slice” pieces for $3.49. What could possibly justify this?
Not a whole lot. After 14 minutes in the oven at 425, it was unevenly cooked, with crispy burnt edges around the perimeter and a white, barely melted center. It was cooked all the way through but the top made me wonder if I ought to have put it back for a few more minutes. Eating this with a glass of MiO fruit punch made me feel like I was eight years old, cooking Ellio’s at my grandmother’s and sitting down to watch an episode of Rugrats. The pizza crust was crispy on the outside, but flaky and airy in consistency. The “blend of six cheeses” was indistinguishable and gooey on top of the sauce, a salty Chef Boyardee-esque mess on top. It really seemed as though Freschetta had imitated the delicious mediocrity of Ellio’s, slapped enough cheese on it to cover the surface, and upped the price.

I wanted to like this more than I did, but there was something a little creepy about sitting around shirtless on a Saturday morning eating a lunch my childhood self would have high-fived me for. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the Freschetta Inspired line.

Cooper’s Cream Cheese Jalapenos

One of greatest things about being a bachelor and living on my own is that I don’t have anyone to try to control what I eat. Unlike how Keepitcoming keeps strict limits on Foodette’s dietary intake, I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I can make my meals as rich or as decadent as I want. When I go to Burger King, I can get a Triple Whopper with bacon and not have to deal with the constant nagging and guilt that poor Foodette would have to endure from the old ball and chain if she even thought of the words “triple whopper” and “bacon” in the same paragraph. One time when I wasn’t feeling like making dinner after work, I decided to make a meal out of a pack of Oreo cookies and about a quart of milk. It wasn’t a few Oreos, or even a sleeve of Oreos, it was the whole damn pack and it was glorious.

I saw these frozen cream cheese jalapeno poppers in the store one day and thought they would be a very nice addition to any meal I decided to make. It might even be something that was easy and quick to make to satisfy those late night munchies. After a hard day of work, I decided to grill up a burger and nuke these bad boys and have them on the side. The instructions to make these were quite simple. All one had to do was to empty the box onto a plate and put it in the microwave for a few minutes. I grilled up my burger to perfection and poured myself a stiff drink and was ready to enjoy.

Yes, that’s a glass of scotch. In case you were wondering…

The first thing I noticed about these cream cheese poppers was that it suffered from the Hot Pocket paradox of microwave heating. For some of them, the cheese center was still stiff and icy cold, while on some of them the center had turned into sticky napalm lava. The only way to make sure all were going to be cooked evenly was to rearrange the platter and put it back in the microwave for another few minutes, of course this resulted in lava filled gushers after a while.

After a few rearrangements of the platter and a series of reheating and cooling, they were finally ready to eat. The taste of these things turned out to be pretty average. The people at Cooper’s definitely did not bring anything new to the Cream Cheese filled Jalapenos market. The cheese was rather greasy and flavorless. The layer of jalapeno pepper was a strange leathery texture and eating it felt like chewing on a thin belt. The breading on each of the poppers was soaked with a strange liquid that was a mix of water and grease. These poppers weren’t good but they were edible. It wouldn’t be something I get to eat on a special occasion but it would probably be something I could bear to eat during one of my late night episodes of the munchies, or at least with much help from my good friend Jonathan Walker.