Noosa Passionfruit Yoghurt

Now that I’m back home, my grocery shopping has been a little…weird. Weird is a good word, hazy is another. I’ll get out of the car, walk in the automatic doors of Stop and Shop, blink slowly, and suddenly look down, realizing I now have not one, but two carts. One is empty. The other cart has a jug of apple cider, frozen potato appetizers, and hair ties, all on clearance, in the baby seat. But I trust my judgment, so off I trudge.
This new frugality leads to both fun and despair later on in the week when I’m actually using the Ingredients Formerly Known as Chopped in my real, day-to-day life. I find myself making substitutes that negate my smug grin after leaving the store. “A dollar for all of those broken lasagna sheets? Watsky, you’re a genius, I swear.” But then pasta with tomato sauce turns into lasagna shards with hot sauce and condensed soup and I realize that things like hot pizza and chicken breasts are what the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs envied. (My sincerest apologies, Mr. Nabokov.) And I turn, in despair, to specialty foods once more.

This was one of the nicer things I picked up in my shopping haze, wholly moving forward with the intent of becoming one of those people who eats yoghurt for breakfast and decorates their home with old records and paintings by local artists whose work they “picked up” at an open studio in an abandoned warehouse. I will not let yuppies die, damn it. Noosa is Greek-style, Australian-inspired yoghurt made in Colorado, so it’s the cultural equivalent of those kids in your elementary school whose parents had sent them off to the first grade trilingual and fluent in karate. It’s intimidating and polished, despite its perpetually misspelled progressive name.
Noosa is delicious- finely crafted, rich, with the perfect balance between creamy and sweet and huge chunks of passionfruit. Were it not for the fact that it’s a visual trainwreck, it would blow the competition behind. Unfortunately, it’s the edible equivalent of the film Hostel. It literally plays tricks with your mind when something tastes like a fresh pannacotta and looks like the runny scrambled eggs you’d find at a complimentary hotel buffet. Even after mixing, it curdles, and the chunks on the surface never fully incorporate into the rest of the yoghurt. I want to buy Noosa again, but it’s the kind of thing that I only feel comfortable eating by myself, over the sink, alone.

Pago World of Nature: Asia, Africa, and Amazon

Sometimes my best-laid efforts tend to fall apart. It’s not that I don’t try hard, or that I don’t put enough effort into the game, it’s more what I see as a crossing of wires. A little bit of handiwork that trips me up every time. What I’m trying to say is, even when I make a grocery list, even when I set myself a budget, write prices down, and pass by the 15 Euro three-pack of truffled mustard, a salty tear in the corner of my eye, inevitably, strangely, somehow, 10 Euro’s worth of limited-edition juice makes its way into my basket.

I honestly don’t know how this happened, especially when I’d spent ten minutes mentally calculating the best value of juice I could potentially purchase, given the number of fruits in each bottle and the price per kilo. Why I’d then gone and picked up the most expensive juice, put it in my basket, and then hurried back for its siblings, remains a mystery to me.

And yet, here we are.

My initial reaction is to blame Dillinger for my Pago addition, yet realizing that this addiction manifested itself long before and after his departure brings the blame squarely back in my quart. I see what I did there. Regardless, I’m now the proud owner of three empty bottles of limited-edition Pago World of Nature juice, in Africa, Amazon, and Asia flavors. They sound like a majestic theme park attraction. These are special, not only because they are themed, much like a half-hearted Bat Mitzvah, like the above three continents/places-that-begin-with-A-because-gee-Pago-America-didn’t-want-to-anyway, but because their fruits are sourced exclusively from these continents/loosely-defined regions as well.

Pago Asia has Thai pineapple with Indian mango, Taiwanese lychee, pure coconut water and tamarind and 100% less Szechuan pepper, much to my dismay, Pago Africa has South African grapes with pineapple, pink guava, the marula “elephant” fruit, and hot pepper, and Pago Amazon has Brazilian oranges, passion fruit, bananas and the acerola, which I’ve heard some women find to be extremely sensitive to the touch. Pago Amazon, you devil!

With all three juices, I could taste the raw, harsh Vitamin C radiating down my throat, scalding any and all germs on its way to my digestive system. The Amazon unfortunately bore the brunt of this vital assault, and combined with its overarching sweetness, ended up tasting like a fancy Juicy Juice, minus the story and the idyllic innocence of childhood. Pago Asia fared better, its sweetness tamed by the coconut water and earthy notes of tamarind. It was my favorite of the three, and had a nice tang to it. It was the only one whose components all shone through. Pago Africa was a tough one. I wanted to love it as I am conditioned to love almost anything that contains hot peppers and grapes and baby elephants, but was unimpressed by the muddled flavors and abrasive prank-levels of spice at the end of each sip. Pago describes its World of Nature array as having a “dazzling, worldly presentation.” Ultimately, though, this cross-continental trip was derailed by inconsistency and the juice equivalent of handsy TSA agents.

Guest Review: Burger King Pumpkin Burger

Foodette: An exclusive review, coming to you all the way from Japan! My study abroad friend has a sister in Nagoya, and we were lucky enough to persuade her to try the new BK Pumpkin Burger, topped with a ring of fried slices of pumpkin. Get her take here!

The BK pumpkin burger looked very grandiose on the giant poster in front of BK, maybe even appealing, but still sounded weird, so I was skeptical going in. But after a long 30 minute walk around Nagoya in search of BK and not having eaten much for lunch, I was ready to sit down and try it. After letting Nobu, my boyfriend, order for me, he brought back the white paper wrapped burger marked “HP” for “Heavy Pumpkin”, an option Nobu chose to add extra pumpkin on top as a 100 yen (about $1.20) or so upgrade, and it was indeed heavy on the pumpkin. It was ten layers of thinly sliced kabocha pumpkin with the green skin on the outside, fried and hot. 

I knew it was too much pumpkin so I began to pull some out so I could appreciate the teeny tiny burger meat below. This was a difficult task as the pumpkin slices were covered in chopped iceberg lettuce, falling in all directions, and the pumpkin was assembled in a doughnut pattern with a hole in the middle where they squirted the bland, not so flavorful mayonnaise dressing with what I assumed were little black pepper specs mixed in with the slippy, oozing, messy white sauce. So after reassembling my bun, a typical yellowish sesame seed covered BK bun, I bit into it. I made sure to get the burger, the fatty strip of thin somewhat crispy, somewhat soft bacon, the pumpkin, the mayo, and the lettuce all in one bite. The burger tasted like a normal BK flavor, kind of dry, the lettuce was average chopped iceberg, the mayo was relatively flavorless, and the pumpkin was on the sweet side, as expected. Nobu had a bite as well and agreed that it wasn’t so yummy.

Even the salty little bacon strip couldn’t redeem the lack of flavor. However, we redeemed ourselves it with our Heinz ketchup packets (Pittsburgh represent!) and dipped it into the ketchup, a nice contrast to the sweet pumpkin. It gave it a tang, and made it taste much like sweet potato fries dipped in ketchup on a burger (reminiscent of Primanti Bros but with sweet fries and no slaw). Much better that way. Then we ate the remaining pumpkin slices on the side, still hot and soft, and dipped those in the leftover ketchup like french fries and they were much better that way as well. In the end, we decided it was bland and not very good, and that a more kicky sauce would’ve gone a long way in improving the burger. Our expectations were low going in, and they were met coming out.”

OH MY GOD PUMPKIN FRIES. This is amazing, and I wish I had been there. Until next time, Japan!

La Fermiere Creme Gourmande au Chocolat et Piment

I could talk about the differences in food and eating habits between France and America for hours. I could bore you all to tears and it wouldn’t make a dent in the new discoveries I make each day, the slight changes to my habit that I note and watch before my eyes and lips. One of the most critical, one of the things I thought would never change about me that was almost instantaneous, is the attention and care the French pay to yoghurt. And the quality is evident in the product. I’m not a yoghurt person. I’m not even really a mousse guy. It’s different here, the flavors are adventurous and the product finer. It delivers on its promises with more variety than the American brands, of that I’m sure. My school cafeteria served candy apple (pomme d’amour!) yoghurt the other day and lo and behold, it tasted like a candy apple with chunks of fruit and a hint of burnt sugar. 
So with the combined entrancement of the bizarre as well as a desire to eat healthfully and cheaply, I’ve taken up a yoghurt habit. Yup. Never thought I’d see the day. It’s my favorite form of entertainment. And with every wholesome yoghurt flavor, there exists a dark side. Yes, lumped right alongside the Danone and yaourt Grecque is crème gourmand, a cruel, delicious partner. Very easy to confuse it for its low-calorie counterpart, in its svelte pots and attractive packaging, but it’s richer, more luxurious, and obviously more caloric. Being next to a breakfast item, it takes almost no convincing to assume that its proximity to an early-morning treat makes it suitable for the wee hours as well. So I bought one for breakfast. An experimental breakfast, for the site of course.
This particular crème caught my eye because of its bewitching combination of flavors—dark chocolate and chili pepper, not unusual in solid form, but highly coveted in creamy dessert. I was curious to see how the added cream and change in texture would affect the spice, as lactose products are notorious for soothing the burn of spicy foods. This was one of the most attractive products I’ve ever purchased. 
I didn’t buy this at a specialty food store, nor pay specialty food prices—this was about $3 and change for two substantial pots. I fell in love with how utterly naturalistic they looked, both in and out of the package. They resemble clay paint pots filled with pure, chocolate, brown paint and are wonderfully solid and easy to reuse. Both fortunately and unfortunately, I intend to reuse them to make a better crème piment.
 It turns out that my initial assumption was correct. The spice, though present in enhancing the flavor of the woodsy, dark chocolate base with a cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice perk, was completely devoid of heat, smokiness, and the clean bite of pepper and paprika that I sought this out for in the first place. Nevertheless, it’s a flavor that begs for experimentation, and if the initial product didn’t succeed, I’m confident that my version will certainly do the trick. Until then, I’m content to explore the rest of the crème section.

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!

3 Musketeers Hot Cocoa with Marshmallow

France, I love you, but you’re not exactly known for your strange candies and treats. While green tea pastries and a menagerie of macarons can be found almost anywhere, they lack spin-offs of classic American products a la Japan (with the ignoble exception of the Croque MacDo) and such, find me longing for Twix’s sugar cookie and caramel apple releases this fall.
Luckily, after reaching out to Mars, they sent an early release of their 3 Musketeers Hot Cocoa with Marshmallow minis, an exciting addition to their 2012 winter line. It’s definitely a candy I’ll be stocking up on before I’m surrounded by Haribo and Nestle Lion bars! And hopefully, gummy Eiffel Towers, too, if sixth grade memory serves me correctly.

The chilly confection comes in 25-calorie minis and will later be released in a regular sized 2.13 oz. bar as well. This tastes more like cocoa with marshmallows than you’d expect- the milk chocolate enhances the bittersweet flavors in the nougat, a puffier, airier example than the regular bar. In appearance, nothing differentiates it from the regular 3 Musketeers bar. I would have liked to see some marshmallow pieces or a stronger visual cue toward the wintry theme. The texture is squashy with a firmness and bounce to it suggestive of a marshmallow, but has a density more akin to marshmallow fluff. The flavor is creamy and satisfying, and even incorporates some of the powdery cornstarch and sugar notes of marshmallows melting into a mild bittersweet cocoa flavoring. One or two bites was really satisfying.

I wanted to test the integrity of the marshmallow filling, so I popped a few into the microwave to see if the texture was more than just the power of suggestion. Whoa! Within fifteen seconds in the microwave, one of my candies was obliterated and working its way down the side of the bowl. I’ve seen videos of the regular bars having similar results, but in these, the toasted marshmallow flavor was even more intense after it melted. It hardened up into a very crispy treat! I think this is a successful snack, even if it doesn’t radically reinvent the wheel, and offers a seasonal twist far better than differently colored packaging or the ubiquitous winter mint flavoring.

Todd English’s Tuscany at Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT

What do you get when you have three friends, four hours of sleep, one shower, two beds, and three massive hangovers? The answer is brunch at Todd English’s Tuscany at Mohegan Sun. The restaurant beckoned to us from beneath the waterfall and the glowing Chihuly sculpture and after a night of Krispy Kreme, we couldn’t say no to their hearty breakfast specials.

The restaurant has an inside and an inside-outside part to it, with a balcony by the waterfall. We sat out by the water and perused the menu. Three things stuck out like sore thumbs (and by that, I mean that I bullied my two guests into ordering them so I could sample everything), the castagnaccio pancakes, Tuscan smoked pork, and breakfast risotto.

Miss Love ordered the castagnaccios, pancakes made with chestnuts and pine nuts, a rosemary honey mascarpone and pecan-fig jam topping, and chestnut syrup. The pancakes were very fluffy and not too dense with the nuts mixed in, diner-style pancakes with a chewy crust sweet flavor. With the toppings, the powdered sugar seemed superfluous, but the flavors were able to shine through in each element. The mascarpone sauce was our favorite, but the pecan notes got lost in the jammy fig flavors. 

None of us knew what to expect from Dillinger’s dish, the Tuscan smoked pork and apple pierogies. I thought it would be more of a shredded, Mexican-style pork with Italian flavors, and Miss Love expected a thinly sliced charcuterie meat. Imagine our surprise to see the huge slabs of roasted pork shoulder, smoky and tender. There had to be at least a pound of meat there. Needless to say, it was tough to finish! The crispy pork, flavored with rosemary and a sweet smokiness, came with a side of apple pierogies, another fascinating menu item. The pierogies were hearty, but tasted a little like fried apple pies with a sweet filling. It would have been nice to see the Italian flavors transcend to this side as well, perhaps  with an apple, sage and fontina filling? It was still a very clever dish.

However, it was my breakfast risotto that visually stole the show and baffled us all. The moment I saw it on the menu, I knew I wanted it. And oddly enough, the most unusual dish seemed to be the most healthy of them all. After all, it’s not every day that you get to order maple-glazed lobster, steel cut oats, and cranberries. Atkins meets Bellagio? It was a quirky dish, to say the least. To its credit, everything was cooked perfectly, despite the risotto not being…well, risotto. And I love lobster, and I love oatmeal. I’m just not sure that I love them together. The sweet, buttery flavors of the lobster clashed with the underseasoned oats, creamy on their own but seasoned with little more than a dusting of scallions and the cranberries were nowhere to be found. I wanted to like this dish, but it just didn’t come together as I thought it would. I would have liked to see more zest, more seasoning- a maple, sage, and brown sugar Arborio risotto with soy and sugar-glazed lobster and scallions with toasted pine nuts. It had the potential to be exciting, but came off as over the top without exceeding expectations.
I definitely want to try Tuscany again- I’m a huge fan of Todd English’s other restaurants and am pleased to see him set up in Connecticut. And I think that this brunch menu has massive potential but needs some tightening up. Perhaps they do a better savory spread. In any case, it was a hearty breakfast to start the day with, and we appreciated the extra flair and class in the design.

Red Robin Cry Baby and Fiery Ghost Burgers

Happy 6th of July! All the fireworks are now 90% off. But in other, more important news, Happy I’m About to Reach 1,000 Reviews Day! We’re just a few away from 1,000 reviews of fancy, funky, freaky food, guys. It’s extremely exciting. But today, here’s a patriotic pair of burgers that will have your tongue singing Sousa marches all day long. If you happen to know Sousa marches. Okay, so there was a brief (eight year) period in my life when I played the flute in the local adult band. Not nearly as fun, erotic, interesting, or clever as it sounds outside of proving that in high school, I was that guy.

Whatever. Red Robin sent over a gift card to us to review their newest, sexiest burger selection, featuring the first usage of the elusive ghost pepper in a casual dining chain restaurant. The Cry Baby burger and Fiery Ghost burger are two new additions to the chain’s Tavern Double line, which allows you to choose between two sizes of burger, and then, for $1 extra, upgrade with a set of toppings. This is a great, streamlined way to get the Red Robin experience without agonizing over topping selection. One thing that has always confused me about the menu is that they emphasize customization, yet the menu lacks a complete list of toppings, sauces, and bread selection for you to create your own burger with. Instead, you’re picking and choosing elements from other burgers like you’re picking out items from those prefab, modern homes and tallying them up in your head. This way is easier, and includes a row of additional items at the bottom that you can add for an additional surcharge. Much better.

We ordered the two smaller Tavern Double burgers, and shared the latest beer from Blue Moon, Summer Honey Wheat. I’m not a beer person, but I loved this beer. It was fantastic and light, and didn’t weigh us down before our big meal. The flavor was identical to a honey wheat pretzel twist with a little citrus thrown in, and all I could think of when I was drinking it was how cool it would be to cook with this and infuse that phenomenal flavor into chicken or brisket. It was great.

Our burgers arrived shortly, and if you’re wondering now whether the Tavern Double is big enough for your appetite, stop wondering. These are enormous. While both burgers do go light on the dairy-heavy toppings (neither sauce is mayo based) they clock in at roughly 1,200 calories apiece. We chose to each eat half and save the rest for later. Let’s start with the two new sauces. The Fiery Ghost comes with a ghost pepper-infused hot sauce, a thick sauce with a flavor profile better suited toward sweeter sauces, like a curry, than a hot sauce. 
It had notes of cumin, cloves and cinnamon that gave some depth to the meat, but lent a sweeter aspect to the burger that didn’t really scream “heat.” However, the Fiery Ghost was hot enough to make tears run down our faces…why? You’ll see. The Cry Baby came with a ketchup, also infused with ghost peppers. We preferred this one because it had a little more of a bite, a cleaner flavor with jalapenos at the forefront. Can’t say that either sauce was extremely hot, but then again, there must be restrictions for the number of Scovilles a restaurant’s sauces can have. Still a decent attempt, and each sauce made an excellent zippy dip for onion rings.

The Fiery Ghost burger was insanely hot. Not due to the aforementioned sauce, but because there were three whole jalapenos chopped up on the burger. You can see one of them sliced in the above photo. This is both good and bad. Good, because in the initial phases of the debut, some reviews had comments complaining about the weak topping distribution. I’m pleased to report that there were a ton of toppings on these burgers. The Fiery Ghost had three fresh chopped jalapenos and around six fried jalapeno coins on top, and the Cry Baby had plenty of fried and caramelized onions. However, this did mean that the Fiery Ghost was incredibly spicy, and the bite of the peppers overwhelmed most of the other flavors.

The Cry Baby had a better balance of flavor. The combination of the sweet caramelized onions and crispy onion strings really brought out the natural flavor of the beef, and the cheese and sauce gave it a bit of a kick. This was more like a steakhouse-style burger than an explicitly spicy one, but it still tasted wonderful.
These were solid burgers, and really fun additions to the summer menu. I think they’re more of a step outside of the norm than the bacon on everything and combined farmyard animal burgers that a lot of restaurants have been debuting. The creativity of the ghost pepper is in the right place, even if the heat is not. I can’t wait to see what else Red Robin concocts!

SNACKDOWN: Chocolove Pretzel in Milk Chocolate vs. Zoe’s Pretzel Bar

Fifty Shades of Single Origin Hell (Part 2 of 13) 
Erotic chick-on-choc action in the style of E.L James
By Winterbottom Foodeater

 They were on my table, unwrapped. In my dreams, it was like eating a Snickers bar, but better. I didn’t quite know how to express it, but it was more wholesome, more elevating. The deep, thick milk chocolate coating a barely contained layer of silky, chewy nougat, caramel, and crunchy roasted peanuts. It was almost too much for me to bear. I picked the bar up and turned it around in my hands, admiring the contours and weight of it, before I lifted it to my lips and–

A knock rapped at the door, urgently, interrupting me from my thoughts. Who could that be? I wasn’t expecting any guests. My dear, wonderful father lived a few states away, fishing and grunting in his endearing, monosyllabic way after mom died last year. And as an internet famous, notoriously funny food blogger, my company was spent with only my cats and my computer as companionship.

I opened the door to find Chocolove, the pretzel candy bar I’d been lusting over for the last few weeks! Oh my god…they looked so lost, so vulnerable, the chocolate coating slightly melting in the sun. I just wanted to hug it like I hugged and cuddled my best gay friends.(AN: Love you Zack and Ross! Let’s get married tomorrow.)

“Chocolove…what are you doing here?” I put my hands on my hips to convey the impression that maybe I was a little mad, but I mainly wasn’t, because seeing Chocolove in a place like this was so awe-inspiring, so beautiful, so jaw-dropping. It was like seeing a Monet in a gas station bathroom.

“I came to tell you that I…I…” Chocolove, so normally composed and brilliant, always handy with a note or love poem, was at a loss for words. “I love you, Jessica Jasmine Isabella Marysue Hershey Omnipotent McProm-Wedding!” For a moment, I paused, struggling to comprehend the gravity of those eleven incredible words. America’s most eligible, romantic, wealthy, pretzel-studded bachelor loved…me!? But we couldn’t be any more different! I, the lowly food blogger, and Chocolove…a household name!

It was almost too much to bear, so I stopped thinking and started doing, my inner goddess cheering and grinding against my temporal lobe, and I let Chocolove enrobe me. “Chocolove, your pretzel pieces are rock-hard!” Chocolove murmured against my ear, “And they’re salted, too.” I groaned and took another bite. The pieces, so small and yet, so infused with the salinity and crunch of tinny pretzels, were melting within me, overpowered by the sweet, sweet chocolate.

“Jessica…you shouldn’t,” Chocolove said, pulling away with a tortured glance. “I’m no good for you.” I gasped. “Chocolove, don’t say that…I’ve seen the articles and the reviews. You’re made with premium beans- you’re even certified kosher by the Scroll K Kashruth! You’re completely free of GMO’s! Please, don’t say that…I love you, too.” My lips shuddering and my stomach growling- damn it, I needed Chocolove now to satisfy my hunger, I moved closer, caressing the delicately embossed milk chocolate as we…

“Am I interrupting something?” Chocolove and I tore apart, breaking off like pieces of a Kit-Kat and turned to face my neighbor, Zoe’s Pretzel Bar. Zoe and I had been neighbors in the apartment complex for years, and I’d always sensed a tantric connection, a chemistry, between us. Life was so hard! Wasn’t there anyone around here who didn’t want me to eat them!? YOLO, I thought to myself sadly, YOLO. Chocolove backed away, the milk chocolate darkening at least 15% as they left in the elevator.

“I have to go,” I tore myself from my computer, pausing the episode of Grey’s Anatomy I’d been watching. “Chocolove, no!” But it was too late, and I could see the doors shut on the bronze-wrapped demigod I had loved for so long, too late, but too sweet for my affections. I turned to Zoe, or P, as I called them. “P, you shouldn’t have done that,” I said. P came toward me, dark chocolate up front and bold in my face.

“Don’t you see? I had to. That Chocolove is no good. Jessica, you could do better. I’m artisanal. I’m sophisticated. I locally source my pretzels.” P’s aromatic dark chocolate glistened in the sun as they lowered their voice. “Do you know how Chocolove gets those pretzels?” Smiling, they turned toward me. “I’m more cost-effective and I’m wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing, brown paper casing.” I took another look at P, realizing that its dark chocolate was alluring. It did have more pretzels per bite than Chocolove, and a slightly saltier, much darker flavor, an exotic flair hinting of smoke and lavender wrapped up in its imported dark chocolate. Turning once back to see Chocolove leave, I gazed into the dark soul of P, realizing that I never really did like Robert Browning’s poetry anyway, and my lips fell open in arousal as I licked the chocolate slowly, but surely. P was the winner, sure as I was of anything in my life, including my love of romance novels and baby squirrels.

“Come,” said P, “I can show you things far darker than that,” and we turned, entering the apartment to explore places heretofore unknown, and I knew my 120 days of chocolate were to commence…

To be continued…

DiGiorno Three Meat Pizza Dipping Strips

I like my food to be interactive. Of course, there’s only so many ways you can jazz up lift food, insert in mouth, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to make it more exciting. I blame it on my parents, whose authentic airline-related commentary while flying the fork plane into my mouth as an infant would have made any TSA agent proud. So these days, where a spoon would suffice, I’ll stick a straw in. I like arranging plates to have as many condiments and dips as there are items on the plate itself, and a dinner just isn’t a dinner unless it has at least one experimental cocktail.

DiGiorno sent over some of their pizzas last week, in a bizarrely paradoxical “is it delivery or is it DiGiorno” situation. In this case, it was both, which seems to defy the laws of time and space, but whatever. Funny story: sometimes the press kits companies send over can be very convincing. In this case, I got a text from Miss Love while on my way home from work. “digiorno sent 1 pizza just put in freezer.” Curious to hear more, I called her, and we both expressed our confusion at having received one pizza in what she said was such a large box.

I came home later and found this in the freezer, with these inside.

Yup, they made their press kit so convincing that it fooled my poor girlfriend. Shit is crazy like a Foxwoods, I tell you. Luckily, thumbdrives can take a licking, so despite the fact that these were frozen, they turned out just fine. I also need to point out that this is one of the most impressive press kits I’ve recently received. They made a thumbdrive that’s meant to resemble a Dipping Strip. The operative word here is “meant,” as it errs more toward the side of skin disease demonstrative display (“Pepperonitis Simplica”) but it’s still freaking awesome.

I ran to the store and grabbed the Three Meat pizza for my first test. Maybe I’m just used to the slender, compostable Amy’s boxes we usually get, but this pizza was hefty. I swear I saw my triceps cry when I lifted it out of the freezer case. The Three Meat Pizza is topped with pepperoni, sausage, and beef, and comes with two tubes of garlic and marinara dipping sauce. I can understand the former, which seeks to deliver a certain pizza restaurant’s certain magical sauce to a certain masses, the likes of which rhymes with “Ploppa Han,” but the latter baffles me ever so slightly. I’ve never known anyone to add extra sauce to a pizza.

I’ve always liked DiGiorno’s pizzas, and this one was no exception. While I find the crust a little too thick and dense, the flavor is tasty without being oversalted and the toppings are generous. The execution of the dipping strips is a little unwieldy, though. The cheese extends and separates in a net-like form, leaving small pieces of beef and sausage in its wake like the children of divorced parents. As the cheese breaks off, they ultimately fall by the wayside until you plop them back on the pizza. The toppings are fairly nondescript- the pepperoni is gamey and fatty, distinctly reminiscent of packaged Hormel sausage or the cold slices you’d get in a Lunchable, and the sausage and beef are virtually indistinguishable. But still, meat toppings FTW. The real fun is in the dipping.

Both sauces feature easy-to-tear pouches and a slightly greasy exterior as well as the heady implications of explosion should you microwave them. Once again, I’m reminded of Lunchables. This pizza feels more and more like the adult version of the deep-dish pizza creator you were jealous about in the 4th grade. You know, the one with cold cheese and an animal-based crust that you’d have given a kidney for. Now it comes in 1 lb increments and has garlic sauce. You’re all grown up, baby. The marinara sauce was surprisingly, my favorite condiment, likely because it served as a zesty lubricant for the craggy pizza strips. The garlic sauce was congealed with oil and it had a thin, watery texture. It had a salty, non-garlicky texture and I ended up throwing it out.

This is a pretty successful frozen pizza, and it’s definitely a fun, easy way to portion out food. Many an argument has broken out chez nous over the last slice of pizza, and this way you can divide up your strips as evenly as we divided up land back in the 1800’s. While I’d love to see a thinner crust and some more diverse toppings and dips, it’s delicious, moderately nutritious, and better than the DIY version we had as kids.
Now with 100% more data!