Today’s my birthday and I figured I ought to kick off the bacchanal with a good breakfast. I’m a closeted oatmeal lover. As soon as the air gets nippy and the nipples get snappy, I’m heating up a cup of Quaker in the communal microwave. Today was different, though. To adequately prepare myself for the fall season, I prepared a cup of Rokit Fuel, a new brand I spotted at the school convenience store the night before.
The lull in posts has been, in part due to the fact that I’m now moved in and back to school, but also as I’ve been busy fending off stalkers and restarching my madras shorts. So sorry. With the back to school sales in full throttle and the opening day barbecues as fiery as ever, I’ve decided to unpack my bags and get back to the daily grind of bloggery.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but chocolate milk is an incredibly nostalgic beverage for me. It seemed like the social hierarchy of kids was divided into chocolate milk preparation and preferences like cocktails are today– did your mom make Nesquik? Buy you bottles of Yoo Hoo? Jugs of Guida? Were you one of those sniffly kids with a lactic intolerance and an eco-bottle of soy milk? The general consensus was that nobody liked the unsweetened Hershey’s powder in a can, and for good reason. While at the Fancy Food Show earlier on this year, I picked up a few bottles of Honest Tea’s answer to the brilliant beverage, CocoaNova, a new drink made mainly from cocoa beans and herbs.
CocoaNova, which I might add, is vegan for her pleasure, is made with cocoa beans in a similar fashion to herbal tea. They’re steeped in water and the cocoa flavor is infused without any of the added fats and sugars typically used in chocolate milk. For lactic die-hards, this may come as a bit of a culture shock. It’s not so much chocolate milk as much as a member of the tea family. Each flavor has a very earthy, slightly bitter base with a chicory and chocolate flavor. For the amount of sediment on the bottom, it blends well into the drink with a very smooth texture broken up by a slight solidity on the tongue. It’s a very well-made drink, one that I suspect wouldn’t be out of place in an organic, pricey coffeehouse in the middle of the East Village. The kind that boasts about booking Melissa Etheridge before she went famous. Namaste, ho!
There are three flavors of CocoaNova- cherry, mint, and mocha. Each is not too sweet or too rich, with a very rustic flavor. They’re all the same brackish, unsafe Jersey water brown color, but are fortunately potable. The base is smoothly interchangeable for each flavor, and I genuinely enjoyed them all, but my favorite flavor was probably the mint. This was a revelatory conclusion drawn on my part as I generally reserve mint to necessities like breath mints, toothpaste, and little else. This was best integrated with the chocolate base and imparted a fresh, herbal shade on the drink. It was incredibly refreshing and would probably taste delicious hot as well. The cherry was next on my list, another flavor combination that I generally tend to shy away from, and had a luxurious, bold fruitiness and natural tang similar to that in some wines. It’s a very sophisticated and deep taste. I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much.
The only one that didn’t quite strike the right chord was the mocha flavor, and that’s mainly because I’m spoiled with freshly brewed coffee and Kahlua milkshakes from my honey. It was tasty, but the strength of the chocolate and the coffee duked it out just a bit too much and rendered it more bitter than its predecessors. Tasty, but not my favorite, which confused me as it seemed like the flavor that would work best. Still, these drinks are delicious! A fantastic alternative to chocolate milk with ingredients that won’t weigh you down. Even if you do look like that hippie freak from next door, the one whose mom grew Dahlias and packed seaweed snacks and 8-grain flaxwiches in his Envirosack. A small price to pay.
After I work out, I reward myself with something small to eat. Usually, it’s gummies. Today I rewarded myself not for working out, but for sitting through the entirety of Ree Drummond’s premiere episode of her new show on The Food Network. Is there nothing that ginger buffoon can’t infiltrate? Even my sacrosanct workout ritual is now sullied with her pinched grimace. Soon, the grocery store. Soon, my sex life. So after my G ritual, as my pasty Swedish skin refuses to tan and laundry is for people with lives, I took a brief jaunt to Trader Joe’s to check out the latest goods.
Little did I know, of course, that the path of Hurricane Irene, mere incontinence when I arrived at the store, would lead me directly to the bombardment of bumper stickered Prius cars and corn oil powered bicycles hinting at the frenzy inside for the last cases of organic tofu chili and free range bottled kombucha. We escaped with a few necessities (read: frozen pizza) and these gummies, half of which we ate in the car on the ride home. These are new from Trader Joe’s, at least in our area, and are surprisingly made in Germany. Regardless of their provenance, they are exceptionally good. Their bite in relation to Sharkies or Haribo fare is very, very stiff, with an almost meaty, substantial chew. One gum takes about six or seven good chops to macerate it into oblivion.
The gummies came in three flavors, all incorporating mango into the chew. There was a plain mango gummy, a mango and yogurt, and a mango and passionfruit. Personally, I would have liked to see a mango chili as well. The molding was decent and did a good job at mimicking the rough shape of a mango. The texture wasn’t filmy or overly oily, but slick and smooth. Each flavor replicated the flavor of a mango, with a tangy, creamy, somewhat mild peachy flavor. They were quite jammy, with a richness similar to fruit leather with the sweetness coming mainly from the fruit without relying on too much extra sugar. The yogurt flavor added a sweet creaminess to its gummy, but didn’t really taste like yogurt. Of the three, our favorite was probably the passionfruit and mango as the tartness from the passionfruit complimented the mango beautifully. Unfortunately, there were very few of these in the bag. It was roughly 60% plain mango and 20% each of the yogurt and passionfruit gummies.
These were phenomenal and very well made. The chew of these was enough to tire our jaws out after half the bag and we finished the bag over the course of an afternoon. For a mere $1.99, these were not only an excellent value, but were a sophisticated way to enjoy a classic childhood treat. I’ll definitely get these again, and am hoping that Trader Joe’s continues to tinker with gummies.
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.
It’s no secret that I’m addicted to strange products. Weird flavors of chocolate or the latest frozen pizza flavor of the month has me salivating and panting at the freezer door. But sometimes a product comes along and is so striking in its simplicity and minimal presentation that I am forced to revisit my perspective on foods and whether there is a time and a place for exoticism or whether it is to be generously doled out.
While I’d love to say that the thousand layer cakes by Euforia could be more appetizing with a light dusting of cocoa-chipotle powder, a bacon and salsa verde infusion, or a slather of cream cheese and red wine frosting, the unadulterated truth is that they are phenomenal and perfect just the way they are. These are cakes that are beautiful on the inside. But unlike the fallacies your mother told you as a child, you zaftig beast, this is one hundred percent true and accurate.
The layers of the cakes meld into one smooth, textured bite, each mouthful buttery yet light, tasting of a pound cake with nicer ingredients. There’s a subtle nutmeg, cinnamon, and brown sugar flavor, but no one spice came out ahead of the others and blended together wonderfully. The cakes are extremely moist, and the flavor is the most familiar taste you’ve never had. I say this because each bite is never alien in form, but somehow better than the snack cakes and commercial baked goods I certainly grew up with as a child. There’s a delicacy to these that is clearly carefully crafted.
God, flavors like this just drive me bananas. Every time I think something I have is good enough, something better comes along. Knowing that these exist in the world, with their six ingredients and petite, soft forms, will forever drive me from the lands of snack cakes and zanily frosted cookies. With cakes like these, less is more, ingredient wise. The only time that doesn’t apply will be when you’re eating them by the boxful.
People who legitimately enjoy Twizzlers are assholes. I mean, seriously. It has a slightly crumbly consistency and each bite is like chewing on a GI Joe. And don’t tell me you can use it as a straw. You can use leftover pieces of tin foil as straws, too, if you’re deluded enough. There are definitely certain candies that are on their way out. And by out, I mean Babe after James Cromwell pats him on the head and the credits start rolling. Gotta eat somehow. One of them is Twizzlers. And once that reign has ended, the licorice market will officially be closed.Newman’s Own Organics will change that if I have anything to do with it.NOO’s PR firm was happy to hook me up with some of these candies. (as well as many other goodies) And lately I’ve been staying up after work to watch Mrs. Beasley-centric episodes of Family Affair and cry. It’s obviously a sign of early menopause. While I’m watching, I need something to keep my hands and mouth busy. Obviously, adding oral sex into that equation would be far too strange for even me, so I turn to these licorice sticks as a means of distraction and complete satisfaction.This particular flavor is pomegranate. The fruit comes out delicately, but obvious, within the flavor and chew of the candy. It is lightly scented and immediately recognizable. As you chew on each piece, the flavor gets stronger, much like the sensation of chewing a piece of bubble gum without the eventual tapering off. The chew of this candy is what really hooked me. I don’t like foods whose textures border on plastic. This is a very toothsome chew and reminded me more of gummy bears than licorice. Combined with the sophistication in the flavor, which has orange nuances as well as a bold pomegranate flavor, this marks it as one of my favorite fruity candies. Be warned, the trade off in having all organic ingredients is an almost Spidey sense-like sense to detect the wheat flour in a somewhat pasty afterthought of a texture. But you get used to it.Its ability to serve as a cocktail or drink straw just speaks to how freaking awesome it is. Its best pairing is clearly cranberry juice and seltzer. Cheers to Newman’s Own Organics and cheers to this incredibly versatile, quality confection.
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.
With the warm weather impending (hint hint, Massachusetts, stop raining now) I’m starting to become a cereal convert. While I’ll be quick to admit that it’s a lot of fun to whip up a big, hot breakfast, it’s certainly less fun to slave over a hot stove in the middle of the summer. But while I may have been won over by Honey Nut Chex, I wanted to test my theory and see if I’d enjoy other cereals as much.
Annie’s sent over a few of their products for Healthy Month, one of which was Cinnamon Roll Bunny O’s. As soon as I pulled these out of the package, I knew I had to review these. After all, where else am I going to find a product that combines not two, but three of my favorite things? Ooey gooey cinnamon rolls, an adorable product name, and disembodied rabbit heads. Man, it sounded like a winner.As I opened the package, I noticed that these had a decidedly different texture than the Chex. They were much thicker and less crispy and had an airy, oaty texture that seemed if they were left out too long, they would get chewy and stale. I tested this theory by opening my box and storing it as I would any other cereal. Within a week, it was stale. Unless you’re living the purgatorial life of a perpetual college student, there’s no way you’re going to finish this box in such a small window of time. The flavor reminded me less of cinnamon buns and more like cinnamon toast, the main difference that they were not coated in neither sugar nor butter. Probably better to err on the healthy side when starting out in the morning, but not the best manifestation of a cinnamon-based breakfast I’ve seen.
There was just too little to enjoy about these. With the small aging window, the poor ratio of sweet to spice, and the lack of resemblance to its namesake, I wasn’t enthralled by the whimsy of rabbit shapes and the organic promises to ensure a place in my cupboard for these again. Bummer, too. Those bunnies are too damned cute. I’ll have to stick to my Annie’s Easy Mac, a form of quick cooking that brings a whole new level of sadism to the epic Bunny Suicides.
Things overheard at The Roost:
“Have you heard the new Girl Talk album? It’s deck.”
“I put off paying my rent because those new Nike collectible shoes were a must.”
“Really, because I think Nietzche’s sentiments were just echoed by Charles Bronson in a cooler way.”
“Has anyone even been far as decided to use even go want to do look more like?”
Things not overheard at The Roost:
“Are there fries with that?”
“I love my new non-Mac computer! It is sufficient and perfect for all my needs!”
“No, I’ve never read What Color Is Your Parachute, why do you ask?”
“Kombucha? What is that, Japanese fellatio?”
Needless to say, The Roost looked like the exact kind of place I would resent. Surprisingly, it’s the first of its kind to open up in Northampton- a hipster cafe, complete with upcycled picket fence and pallet board sign construction and fake rust accents. Open for a mere week, it already had its staples of Mac lovers and Khalil Gibran touters. Because this seemed like the kind of place with a hipster dress code and 3 PBR minimum, Keepitcoming and I went in disguise.The menu takes a good deal of getting used to. For a place that boasts a relaxed, vintage atmosphere, there are stringent hours regarding when one can and cannot eat breakfast or lunch. I omit dinner because the “dinner” menu is paltry at best, with nothing under $10 providing adequate sustenance for one person. The staff is also apparently unable to whip up a cold sandwich after four PM. They do not yet have menus for takeaway, yet have taken liberties to print recycled house menus with alternating capitalization.
We went for lunch, as that seemed to provide the most variety and value. Surprisingly, Four Loko was not listed as a special. We ordered two grilled cheeses in their savory and sweetvarieties, a blondie, an iced chai tea, and one of their specialty cocktails. Props to a restaurant (with this level of pretension) with no moral quandry about serving booze at one in the afternoon. Musta been the weather. The staff is clearly still getting used to the lay of the land, because during the 45 minutes we were there, we heard two loud crashes coming from the kitchen area. The decor was funky, and clearly malleable enough to progress as the restaurant grows. I especially appreciated the gender-neutral bathrooms, but felt a little put on the spot when given the choice to enter “number one” or “number two.” I suspect the latter had a longer wait time.
The eight Macbooks in a ten foot vicinity were old hat, but the wood tables and drinks served in Mason glasses were a unique touch a la summer camp in the Poconos. Lunch for two came to thirty bucks, generally a little more than I prefer to spend on sandwiches and dessert.Our sandwiches were pressed panini, oozing with filling. This was what would separate The Roost from Wheatberry and hopefully soar it into the platinum plus status of a Woodstar or Bread Euphoria. Sweet baby Jesus, I said to myself, please, please don’t let this be another Wheatberry. Perhaps even become the mayor of Foursquare or whatever. My wallet is crying in my back pocket. But lo and behold, it was not! It was fresh and filling, if a tad on the greasy side. The savory sandwich contained tomato, avocado, whole grain mustard, and swiss cheese, and was juicy with a panoply of textures, but somewhat of a lack in flavor. The whole grain mustard was especially enhancing, but little else seasoned the sandwich. The ingredients were clearly of a high quality, so it was a shame that they weren’t salted to their full potential.The sweet grilled cheese had a similar seasoning problem. The ingredients were quality- peppery arugula, fig jam, brie cheese, and green apples, but seemed to be haphazardly thrown together in a way that was deliciously messy, but a little inconsistent. The one bite I had with all the ingredients was sublime, but for nine other bites with small amounts of filling, it wasn’t worth the price. Both sandwiches were stuffed and grilled to a crispy shell, but lacked the tang and intensity I often crave in a good sandwich.Our drinks fell down in quality. Keepitcoming’s specialty cocktail, though innovative and summery, consisted of roughly two ounces of cava (an already cheap alternative to champagne) and three ounces of ice halfway filling up a tumbler. The concept was tasty- cava with thin slices of lemon and confetti strips of chiffonaded basil at the bottom, but lacked the finesse and portion that one regularly expects in a cocktail. Or maybe I’m just an alcoholic. But for eight dollars, they really cheaped out on this one. It was slightly astringent at first, and was improved with a little simple syrup.Opting for a cool drink from their coffee list, I ordered an iced chai and was pleased to discover that it was light on the ice without even asking for it to be. It was a large serving, but was a little light on both the sugar and spice. The contents were definitely milky without being watery, and struck a good balance between liquids. It grew on me as I drank and was especially good with the peanut butter blondie. From the right angle, these resembled the foodstuff equivalent of a lead pipe. We didn’t know they were wedges and assumed they were just inch-thick squares of dense blonde action, able to kill a man at a glance.But she was more delicate than her appearance, far more so. The blondie fell apart at the slightest nudge from a fork, dissolving into crumbly, sandy morsels infused with a delicious nutty flavor in both the batter and the dough. I was pleased to have a little sweet with my salty, coming in the form of soft white chocolate chip morsels. A tasty bakery treat, but unfortunately nothing I’m dying to run back for anytime soon. For the crowd it aims for, The Roost is an inclusive alternative to Starbucks, but doesn’t quite cater to the expectations I typically have.
My suitemates and I are obsessed with Target. Ever since we won a gift card for the third most awesome looking suite, we’ve been buying snacks by the dozen. Third most awesome. That’s going on the resume. Likewise, Keepitcoming and I love the snacks at Target, so most of my life is infused with Target joy. When I reviewed the Sharkie-like fruit twists a month or so back, I was enamored. Now there’s a new flavor in town. A powerful flavor. A powerfruit flavor. Blueberry pomegranate.Pomegranate is hit or miss. For that matter, so is blueberry. When done correctly, it can be satisfyingly sweet with the perfect balance of herby, tea flavor and fruity love. When done badly, it’s astringent yet achingly sweet, like being saddled up and strapped by Daria. Or Pepper Ann. Ah, Rule 34 at its best. In this case, they straddle somewhere in the middle. The chews are very aromatic, moreso than their strawberry mango counterparts, and smell sticky and slightly chemically. Luckily, their flavor fares much better. They are not very pomegranate heavy, but rely more on the sweetness of the blueberries and taste natural rather than relying on artificial additives.Again, I loved the chewy texture on these, because they had that organic graininess and jammy lush mouthfeel, but they had to be at least twice as sticky as the last ones with that strange wet, slippery feeling. It made me want to wash my hands or wipe them on the couch. Overall, though, not a bad snack.