Bissinger’s Lemon Ginger Yuzu Gummy Pandas

I recently received these after previewing them at the Fancy Food Show. I am a closeted fan of gummies, often passing them by for saltier or more creamy snacks. However, there’s no denying that they’re a fantastic movie snack and orthodontia killer. The selection of gummy candy in the US is paltry at best, with a scant selection of flavors best described as generically fruity, but are about as far removed from fruit as Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation with enough artificial colors to kill Rainbow Brite and a fairly generic, albeit addictive sugary flavor.
Bissinger’s has changed all that. While, regrettably, this product did not win the coveted sofi gold award, it was nominated and received a silver sofi. I plan to do as much as I can to spread the word. These are not so much gummies so much as they are artisanal interpretations of the lowly gelatinous confection, something not out of place as the end result of a Chopped episode or a garnish on a plate by Wylie Dufresne. These are gourmet. Have you ever seen flavors like apricot green tea and blueberry acai? They even retain the classic ursine form, but this bear has new clothing.
It was the lemon ginger yuzu, now appropriately shaped like an Asian bear to pair with its Asian flavors, that won the silver sofi as well as winning over our taste buds. The gummies start like many others, with a satisfying, fleshy chew and a delicate spring in each bite. The texture is silky on the tongue and fingers. Very toothsome. As for the flavor, while I cannot say that the essence of the yuzu is accurately portrayed, having never bitten into one myself, Wikipedia tells me it is a cross between a sour mandarin orange and a Chinese Ichang papeda, a distant cousin of the lemon. Adding more to its mouth-watering qualities, Chef Norman Van Aken of Norman’s calls it “the sharpest note in the keyboard of flavor.” With that in mind, the overall citrus essence is clean and precise, though my palate, sullied by McDoubles and Cinnamon Chex, cannot identify yuzu over lemon, the strongest element in the gummy. It was not sour, but had a pleasantly tart aftertaste. The ginger pads the acidity of the lemon with a sweet spiciness similar to a honey lemon cough drop, and transforms the flavor from an everyday to an elegant one. It is very well executed and makes me want to eschew the temptations of Black Forest. This brings a whole new edge to gummies. I hope that more tinkering is done and that we will continue to see Bissinger’s blaze more trails with this candy.

Bulldog Gin and Q Tonic

This is your quixotic Keepitcoming Love. Tonight I made a classic G&T with Bulldog Gin and Q Tonic, with the aim of discovering whether premium products would distinctly enhance my gin and tonic experience. Upon my first sip, I noticed that both Bulldog and Q Tonic make a quietly elegant statement about their quality. In terms of style, this was an excellent pairing. It’s not so much about what they do, so much as which aspects of more commercial gins and tonics that they’ve studiously avoided. I went into this experiment ready to pooh-pooh these products for being marginally better than my old stand-bys, Beefeater and Polar Diet Tonic Water, but I have to admit that the difference is palpable and I am very impressed.
I mixed 3 ½ ounces of Bulldog with about 7 ounces of Q Tonic in one of my new Collins glasses, along with crushed ice and lime wedges. I drank it from a lovely glass straw (courtesy of Glass Dharma). You may be thinking at this point that the proportions of my drink sound rather generous. Perhaps. But I only did it because Bulldog is so smooth. Making this drink, I felt as if Smoov B himself had whispered in my ear, “Babygirl, I know you’re a lady who appreciates a stiff G&T, so I personally flew to London to bring you a brazen breed of perfectly balanced boutique gin, and I combined it with an organic, lightly agave-sweetened tonic water kissed with handpicked Peruvian quinine, because I need you to be my lady tonight …babygirl.” (Smoov B co-opts packaging copy to seduce the ladies, that’s right).But seriously, I really liked Q Tonic. It’s naturally sweetened, with only 38 calories in a serving, and it has a perfect sweet-bitter ratio. I also appreciated its small bubbles and gentle petillance. Commercial diet tonic water seemed saccharine and overwrought in comparison. The only drawback is that one eight ounce bottle costs approximately $2.75. I may purchase this for special occasions, but due to cost alone, I do not think I’ll be adding it to my repertoire.
Next, I wanted to see if Bulldog could hold its own outside the forgiving confines of the G&T. I made a martini-style cocktail to enhance its herbal flavors without masking them. I muddled 2 ½ ounces of gin with some crushed ice and chopped fresh basil leaves and a teaspoon of wildflower honey, then strained it into a glass. Still very smooth and mixable, went down easy even in this format. Could I distinguish the vaunted “natural poppy” or “dragon eye”? In a word, no. But Bulldog was still well above average, and I loved the visually sleek, yet weighty, black glass bottle design, reminiscent of vintage Guerlains.

At the end of the day, is the advantage of drinking cocktails (versus wine, single-malt whiskey, etc.) the convenience and savings in cost that comes with doing it economically, or is perfecting the pursuit of the best cocktails an end in itself? If you agree with the latter point of view, I would highly recommend both Bulldog Gin and Q Tonic.

Sukhi’s Chicken Tikka Masala Naanwich

It is genuinely detrimental to shop while you’re hungry. In our case, it could mean the difference between wandering in the frozen food section to grab an extra pizza to hoarding artisanal, free-range, cruelty-free chocolate bars simply because of our gay homing mechanism that insists we shop at the organic local co-op. Dating a girl is hard. But seriously, shopping when you’re hungry is a terrible, terrible thing.

And like an orphaned puppy or a teenage runaway sitting sullenly in the bed of our pickup (there is no pickup) that’s kind of how we ended up with this “naanwich.” Like breakfast in bed and the musical stylings of Yes, it seems immaculate in theory yet proves to be disastrous in practice. Indian food? In my sandwich? According to Sukhi’s, it’s more common than you think. It seemed like one of those good-bad ideas. Take the messiest food you could find (was a spaghetti and meatball sandwich already taken? How about a milkshake sandwich for dessert?) and slap it in between bread. Luckily, chicken tikka masala is one of my favorite foods, and sandwichifying it only makes it more appealing to my childlike palate.
Not only is this Oprah recommended, it’s microwavable. Hot damn, hello, 21st century. And may the grand reign of Oprah rest in peace. $3 and 90 seconds later, which, for the record, took me longer to calculate to microwave than I’m willing to admit, and we had our snack. According to the nutritional facts, this is a mere 310 calories, bread included, with only 6 grams of fat. Eating at an Indian restaurant, a typical serving of tikka with the naan, hefts a total of 836 calories and 42.5 grams of fat. And that’s if you opt out of having it with rice. While I’m a little more willing to eat that kind of food in the winter when I can hide it under bulky jackets, in the summer it’s less than desirable. Being able to satisfy that craving for creamy tikka was a definite advantage.
However, this didn’t exactly deliver the type of comfort and satiation I desired. Keepitcoming Love and I split the sandwich as a snack. When it came out of the microwave, the pillowy-looking naan had dehydrated and ended up being soft and crumbly in the middle, with a fantastic herbed flavor, but chewy and tough on the edges. The ingredients were clearly top of the line and authentic, with a bold cilantro flavor permeating the filling, which was mixed with long strips of sweet onion and a thick, robust sauce. Personally, I felt that it didn’t have the creaminess essential to a tikka masala. There was plenty of chicken to speak of, though it cooked unevenly and left us with a few unpleasant cold spots in each piece. While the innovation in this is mouth-watering over pedestrian PB&J and the typical turkey and cheese, there are a few too many flaws for me to buy this again. Try as I might, I just couldn’t eat this without thinking, with a pang of guilt, that for a mere buck and a half more I could have gotten a loaded Roast Beef Smitty with homemade boursin cheese at State Street Deli.

Twix Fino

Turns out America isn’t the only country with snack foods that pander to feeding the obese, hulking mass of good old fashioned misogyny. I first saw this ovary-themed bar on Jim’s Chocolate Mission, and Keepitcoming Love picked this up for me to review. Let me preface this by telling you something you probably already know. I’m a big girl. I like big foods. I like weird foods. So blahed-up, sized-down versions of snacks like 100 Calorie Packs just don’t turn me on. However, I do like new versions of old classics, so with this in mind, I checked out this candy bar.
As Jim mentioned, the bar was designed as a “healthier” option to expand the brand to the female professional market. In replacing the shortbread cookie layer for a less bottom heavy wafer, it opens worlds of opportunities for insult. Y’know, for when you get bored during those stuffy suit business meetings and just wanna eat an entire pint of ice cream. Amirite, ladies? From the get-go, this sounds like a product that just begs to be backed by a sunny KT Tunstall single and at least one shopping montage. Single professional girl in the city seeks…a lighter future. Fatass.
The Twix Fino isn’t too much lighter, in weight, than the normal Twix, which, for all intensive purposes, will be the UK version. Weighing in at a svelte 38 grams compared to the bulky 50.7 grams of its big sister and clad in a sexy, totally unexpected silver wrapper, the Twix Fino just begs to be seduced in a bar and swept up in the moment of a rom-com later at night. Unwrapped, the bar is flatter and a little wider than the original, but looks like your basic Twix knockoff. The mockolate melts creamily, imparting very little substance or nuances to its flavor, and the caramel was gooey but virtually nonexistent. As for the wafer layer, biting into it, it’s clear that this is just one gigantic laugh at the progress of babymakers everywhere. What’s inside? Empty space. Of course.
Aside from being a walking, edible version of “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” this bar is largely unsuccessful in providing a product that would captivate its target audience. I’m taking liberties and assuming here that the average buyer of these is a smart, working, weight-conscious consumer, with a focus on looking sharp and having a snappy appearance. With a bar that sheds its crumbs everywhere and tastes mainly of sugar cones and mockolate, this is more geared toward Jersey Shore watching, filthy mouthed middle schoolers whose biggest fiscal year quarter end goals are to master the art of the no-handed bleacher blowjob. This bar’s demographic is not looking for a product that cuts corners. We can do better than this.

Seminars and Events at the 2011 Fancy Food Show

Well, it’s been a long day of traveling, and after nine hours in the car and on the bus, I’m back home and ready to post again. On the second day of our travels, Swagger and I were invited to two events by the Italian Trade Commission and the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade, an olive oil tasting and discussion with writer Bill Marsano and a dinner and seminar on Italian food in the Kosher market at the Italian Embassy that night.
After a long day of tasting, we made our way to the room where the seminar was being held. It was filled with reporters, distributors, and members of the ICE. We were given a short introduction about I.O.O%, the campaign by Unaprol, which promotes the sale of high quality extra virgin olive oil produced from Italian olives in Italy. The partnership with Unaprol and the olive oil producers has the added benefit of being able to trace the origins of the oils and analyze each step in the production process. As the provenance of some olive oils is quickly leaving Italy, the campaign is being implemented in order to place stricter sensory and analytical perimeters than those in the current production legislation. These olive oils are marked with the phrase “Alta Qualita” on them to designate that they have passed these tests.
In leading us through our tastings, Bill started by saying that like wine, when he consumes olive oil it is “like having a conversation with the person who made it.” With this in mind, we began our tasting of six different olive oils from six different regions of Italy. All were marked AQ and were mono cultivar, that is to say, of one olive versus a blend of different olives. In tasting the olive oils, we were encouraged to molest it and warm it in our hands to release the flavors. And then, we began.
The first was an olive oil from a producer called Redoro, from Verona. I should start by mentioning that there is a lot of competition around Italian olive oils. Aside from soccer, it is one of the biggest heated cultural controversies to speak of! After all, food is such a vital part of Italian culture. The Redoro smelled fresh and somewhat bitter, with a leafy, organic flavor that reminded me of sticking my face in freshly mowed grass. It was surprisingly spicy at the back of the throat, too, but did not burn. It was more of a tickle.

The second olive oil (and here, I have to resist from typing “wine” because it was so similar to a blind wine tasting, controversy and all!) was from the producer Marella from Northern Sardinia. This oil had a similar coy bitterness to its flavor but was more mild and fruity, with soft, pear-like flavors. The third was from a producer by the ever lyrical name of Oro delle Donne, from Nero. Of the three so far, this had the most rounded, smooth mouthfeels. Not a small feat for an oil. Its flavor was sweet, as was its scent. While I wouldn’t say it carried the complexity of its piquant counterparts, in a cooking application it would probably highlight the flavors of some nuttier, sweeter cheeses.

The fourth one had a similar zippy note to it. It was an olive oil from Rome by Olivastro. I was beginning to recognize this as a sign of brazen youthfulness in the oils. It had a thick, pungent mouthfeel like a hot sauce, and was very strong and bitter. I imagine this would be a wonderful stand-alone condiment with some crusty bread or drizzled on top of a thick slice of tomato, perhaps a leaf of fennel. Yum. Not something to smother away. The fifth was the spiciest of all of the oils, from the producer Figoli out of Calabria. This was an olive oil described as “mosto” for its musty color. Still delicious. It had a faintly acidic nose but its flavors were nothing subtle. Spices all around the tongue and in the throat. Extremely full bodied. We finished off the tasting with a sweet, flighty olive oil with a vinegary nose. The flavor was sweet and bright, with the least amount of bitterness on the palate. This was an olive oil from Apuglia, made from the producer Olio Gugliermi.
This was a wonderful break in the day and I found the presentation to not only be informative, but entertaining and approachable for olive oil novices like myself. The fact that it proceeded similar to a wine tasting gave me good grounds to test it on. The only real low point of the presentation was the insufferably unnamed woman, we’ll call her “Bartha Learnstein” who would not shut the hell up about attempting to expose the “controversy” behind the lack of expiration dates on olive oil bottles. Seriously, serious reporter, there isn’t some sort of massive scandal in the olive oil industry. There aren’t expiration dates because, wait for it, olive oil really doesn’t go bad. I almost missed making an awesome quip because of you, you borderline psychotic moron.
After the seminar, we meandered over to the lounge at the Italian Pavilion and drank Prosecco before hitching a ride to the Embassy for the seminar. Special thanks to Kristine Heine for facilitating a part of our transportation. The Embassy is a stunning place, and I was glad to have had the opportunity to get an intimate look inside. It is a sprawling estate built in a distinctly modern style, all sharp edges and atriums, but with touches of Italian culture discreetly placed throughout its interior. It makes me wonder if this was the original site of the Italian Embassy or if it had been commissioned for another country, for you’ll see none of the classic Neoclassicism or Mannerism here. Nevertheless, it’s a stunning place. We were mainly in the Atrium, the main hall for events and dinners, and in a conference room off to the side.
We started off by having a few drinks and checking out the Atrium, which was quickly filling with rabbinical scholars, Italian and US officials, and reporters. Around the top of the room, modern furniture peeked out and suited bartenders quickly served drinks. The program was supposed to start at 6:00, but did not commence until around 6:30. By this point, the conference room was packed with people, some sitting on the floor or standing outside.The conference was edifying and gave us an interesting look at the insurgence of Italian food, a traditional cuisine typically laden with non-Kosher treats like prosciutto and pancetta, moderated by the ever-avuncular food writer Fred Plotkin with panelists Rabbi Umberto Piperno (not pictured- do you know how hard it is to take these far range photos? I felt like a camera sniper), Thomas Gellert of Gellert Global Group of Companies, and the Italian Ambassador to the US, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata. Unfortunately, while gestures were made to make the connection between the Jewish and Italian love of food to hurry the tardiness of the seminar in time for dinner, the cultural need to speak at length outweighed that need. Dinner, which was slated for 7:15, was supposed to start at 8 after the ceremony and was not even prepared when the hungry crowd of over 100 people left the room. When it was finally served it consisted of a buffet of prettily prepared but scant amounts of food, a pasta, risotto, bread, and salad buffet set up at two small tables. Did it feed 100 people in a modern-day retelling of the oil in the Hanukkah story? We didn’t stick around to find out. We were tired, irritated, and busy searching for a ride back to our motel.
This was clearly a presentation with high aspirations and changes for the future of Kosher cuisine, but presenting it in a way that came off as stingy and tardy to the public and press put a negative spin on the overall message. While we highly appreciated the invitation and were more than happy to attend, I wish that more effort had been put into the culinary aspect following the seminar. After hearing about clever Kosher alternatives to traditional components of Italian food, like replacing bechamel sauce with a soy-based alternative and using cured goose as an alternative for prosciutto, I was disappointed that all they were able to offer us was the quintessential lukewarm fare of elementary school pasta Wednesdays.
Can’t deny that the view is spectacular, though. We’ll be back.

2011 Summer Fancy Food Show, Day 2

Holy cow, we’re back in the hotel. We made it through pouring rain, boring people, and roaring reporters. And readers? It was a fantastic exhibition. Honestly. If last year’s Fancy Food Show was a smashing success, this one is easily twice as good. If you’re around tomorrow, we highly suggest you attend. It’s totally worth it. Special thanks to Louise Kramer for facilitating our press badges and making sure we were happy and enjoying the show.

This morning, our plan of attack was to cover the third floor of the show, the smaller of the two rooms. This was clearly the party floor. Why? Well, let’s see.
For one, there were mobiles. Meat mobiles. We were not allowed to bite the meat mobiles, despite insisting that it was one of the duties of the press to bite them.
For another, an automatic pitching machine with oranges, lemons, and limes instead of baseballs, and slicing instead of pitching. Okay, so that last one was a stretch. But it looks like an awesome and potentially dangerous vending machine.
You want mascots? They had mascots. They made our panda friend look like a cuddly, harmless beast compared to Banjo McFurryPants over here. Yeah, I still gave him a hug.
Mexico bequeathed us with black pepper watermelon cocktails…
And Beemster gave us a gigantic cow cheese wheel. We watched it being carved as well, and it was gorgeous. I think their mascot liked it, too…
He gave Swagger a pretty awesome fist bump.
One of the definite trends of this year’s show was the surge of naturally colored nectar, juice, and sauce. In eye-popping colors and clear packages, it really captured our attention and tastebuds. This was just one of many differently colored treats.
But the third floor was definitely a wild card. We were surrounded by things like…
Energy drinks for children!
New chocolates and old books from Vosges!
Rick Bayless and salsa by Rick Bayless!
Chocolate fracturing!
Scary popping rice cakes!
Nitrogen blowing ice cream!
And while we weren’t walking around and being amazing, we were eating meat sticks and checking out glowing towers of sparkling fruit juice. Loved those towers. Notice how Swagger rocks the Myspace angle shot and I resemble a very happy Laborador Retriever.
Of course, that’s not saying that the first floor wasn’t just as awesome as the third. After all, the third floor didn’t have a food truck with wonderful ladies handing out lunchtime necessities.
And it certainly didn’t have gigantic, baseball bat sized hot chocolate stirrers or the newest product from Honest Tea.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in case you haven’t figured it out, we love the Fancy Food Show. We love the friendly photos with Natalie’s Juice people…
And we love the anxiety-inducing potential of imbibing naturally black water and quickly vomiting it upon realizing that there is a distinct possibility of us (yes, US) making an appearance on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. The Dalai Lama would be proud. The two least Italian or New Jersey-looking people ever.

GTL stands for grenache, tamarind, and limoncello, ya n00b.
Washington, DC is a beautiful place with beautiful people and wonderful memories. We’re proud to have been a part of this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show and are definitely coming back next year, hopefully with Miss Love. Thanks again to everyone who facilitated and cheered us on, including, but not limited to, Keepitcoming Love, my mother, Rodzilla, FF, the Dalai Lama, Louise Kramer, Kristine Heine of Global Communicators, and anyone else who let us in or pointed us on our way. This is just the beginning of many wonderful experiences with both Foodette Reviews and Fighting Varietal.

See you next year! We’re sad to go!
Don’t leave just yet, because tomorrow we’re going to recap our two events from today, an epic olive oil tasting and prosecco drinking with the one and only Bill Marsano and dinner at the Embassy. We’re heading home tomorrow with treats in tow! This definitely isn’t the last you’ll be hearing of the Fancy Food Show…

2011 Summer Fancy Food Show, Day 1

God damn it. My feet are aching, my belly is full of one-inch cubes of samples, and I’m ready to cry if I see another nut-based, gluten free snack. We have just finished the first day of the 2011 57th Summer Fancy Food Show, in Washington, DC. We kicked it off yesterday by meeting the Dalai Lama, too. He was pretty cool.

We started the day by getting our press badges. There was a press room at this venue, with many important and interesting people. None of them talked to us. It was okay. From there, we went into the show and headed over to the Italian area to toast the inauguration of the Italian Pavilion with members of the Italian Trade Commission.
The three golden scissors.
The ribbon cutting…
And the toast. A little Zonin prosecco in the morning, and I’m good to go.
I know I have crazy eyes. The crazed, blank stare of someone who elbows her way to the front and sometimes bites people with sharp, tiny teeth. It’s not easy being three feet tall. You give an eight year old a camera and tell her to follow Miley Cyrus. You’ll see.
After that, we had the whole day to mill around and experience the show. It’s pretty much the equivalent of trick-or-treating, except everything is awesome. Lots of sumptuous stuff, all unique and tasty. Some of it is on display as edible works of art.
Rusty tools made of chocolate.
Gorgeous bread with the D’Artagnan Gourmet Food logo baked on top.
Two legs of meat, one Spanish, one Italian. Both succulent.
The day before, we received an invitation to attend a tasting of the sofi award nominees. Each one received a silver award for being nominated, but will get a gold statue (think Oscar with a chef’s hat) if they win. 125 finalists, 33 categories. We tasted them all.
Nothing was bad here. These were the cherrypicked creams of the crop, and we ate our fill. It was a quiet and serious environment of judging and speculation.
Nielsen Massey Bourbon Vanilla Paste on a piece of baguette. Nothing short of excellence.
Vosges Black Salt Caramel, in all its gooey glory.
Delicate, paper thin pieces of fried okra.
Even after the tasting, there was a lot to see at the show. With two massive arenas, all sorts of events, and over 1,300 booths from over 80 countries, there’s a ton of great stuff, like the portrait of a horseless Daniel Radcliffe made of Jelly Belly jelly beans.
And here’s a panda who looks like a rabid baby raccoon!
A giant pile of truffles. They were slicing these up like apples and putting them on hunks of fresh baguettes with jamon Iberico and salted butter. Best sandwich ever.
Gorgeous tomato and pear nectar in all their natural glory. The taste of summer in a bottle.
And it wasn’t just food! There were celebrities to touch! Oh, the celebrities! Here’s me standing next to Cat Cora, while a portrait of Cat Cora looms in the background and I hold a signed photo of Cat Cora. Three against one. I was outnumbered. Cat Cora is actually pretty small, about my height.
And here’s Swagger standing next to Baracka Flocka Flame!
The chocolatier and founder of one of our favorite companies, Michael Antonorsi of Chuao poses with a canister of the magical ingredient inside their newest bar- potato chips!
We enjoyed cheese marbled with elderberry wine…
And made our inner five year old’s fantasies come true with endless piles of Haribo gummies.
It wasn’t just good stuff, that much was apparent. It was weird stuff, too, just what we like. Innovation pushing the envelope and sending it right over. Mascarpone gelato with a balsamic fig topping? Hell yes.
A bouquet of purple artichokes would make any gourmand blush.
Runny, creamy cheese. The Sasha Grey of food porn, yessir.
It was a pretty phenomenal day, filled with samples, snacks, friendly people, and of course, enough food to feed Michael Moore. Tomorrow’s highlights include dinner at the Italian Embassy, an olive oil tasting, and all of our favorite companies back for more. See you bright and early!

Phillips Seafood Crab Pretzel

Swagger and I have officially hit the nation’s capital for the Fancy Food Show in Washington DC, from tomorrow to Tuesday. We have all kinds of awesome features lined up, the first starting with the farewell to all things fast food for the next three days, that farewell coming in the horribly strange amalgamation of everyone’s favorite snacks, the pretzel and the ummmmmmm, crab. Yeah. Nacho mama’s cheese. There is cheese on this, though, spoiler alert.

Photo courtesy of dcwriterdawn- I couldn’t grab a photo of the sign due to a pack of roving children. The rabies danger was high. But this was roughly the gist of it.

Phillips is a relatively well-known restaurant and frozen food mogul. Sometimes my mom buys their little crab cakes. Originally, we had stopped at a rest stop in Baltimore for some quintessential road trip Roy Roger’s, but when I saw this, it was essential that I get it. It’s described as a soft pretzel with pieces of lump crab meat embedded like jewels in its surface and in its wide belly, a trait that later becomes the visual equivalent of your belly’s later bildungsroman, and drizzled with cream cheese and topped with cheddar cheese.
When I first hefted it up, it really didn’t resemble a pretzel. It was more like a cheese biscuit on steroids, with a diameter of roughly the size of my little hand. After breaking it apart, I was immediately skeptical. This was clearly a snack that excelled as a pretzel, but failed as a crab-based treat. The pretzel part, comprised of roughly 80% of the overall composition, was soft and yeasty, with a natural moistness that benefited from, but did not need the addition of copious amounts of cheese. The crab meat was a bit of a misnomer, as it was combined with the cream cheese to form a bastardized crab dip that was dotted on top. And man, we’re talking about edible pink Dalmatian spots. It was like crab for the elderly. There was no texture to speak of, but a nice, strong cream cheese flavor and a hint of crab. Hell, it could have been clumps of Old Bay for all I know. That makes up another 10%. The remaining 10% was the blanket, nay, Snuggie’s worth of cheese melted on top. The kind of stuff that makes grilled cheeses blush. And frankly, it was unnecessary, despite being good, sharp cheese. It made the pretzel crispier, but super greasy. Sophie’s choice, if you will. Or maybe Auntie Anne’s. Either way, could have used a little spice to break up the monotony of the dairy orgy inside and on top.
Overall, this is not the best snack to get when there are plenty of other reliable options at a rest stop or a restaurant. Although my curious, grease-loaded mind can’t help but wonder what a sandwich of two of these as buns and a crab cake in the middle would taste like. Probably like 2,000 calories of ass. At $8.54 for this half-baseball sized greaseball, the premium price a result of the extra teaspoon of crab, I was surprised I finished half of it before losing interest and passing it off to Swagger.

Scarpetta Pink Pesto

Gotta be honest, sometimes I don’t feel like pulling out the calcium chloride or veal escalopes when I need a quick dinner after work. And when the heat reaches 95 on a good day, the oven is the last thing I want to use. On lazy nights like this, Keepitcoming and I reach for some fresh pasta and sauce. I’m a firm believer in the difference quality ingredients make even the most mundane foods taste good. And quality doesn’t have to be expensive. Fresh, warm bread with a smear of homemade peanut butter and crushed fruit or a piece of soft cheese on a cracker are favorites of mine.
But I need to admit, and for this, I’ll get a lot of flack from the Italian part of my family, most boxed pastas and canned sauces aren’t my thing. Last month we made a homemade three meat bolognese with papardelle that was incredible. Throughout winter, I made gnocchi in all shapes and flavors to warm our bellies with the snow. I’ve made two fantastic permutations of pasta carbonara. But homemade tomato or vodka sauce seemed daunting and laborious. And the best part is that thanks to Scarpetta’s awesome sauces, now I don’t have to make it at all.
Vodka sauce is one of my all-time favorites, thanks in no part to the gratuitous amounts of cream and cheese that generally go into it. Scarpetta makes a version of regular vodka sauce as well as this pink pesto. While I can’t that is really maintains a balance of the two flavors, it’s a very delicious sauce with a bold, creamy flavor and adhered well to our fancy pasta, seductively curved torchetti that resembled artistically drawn mushrooms. For roughly a pound of pasta, it generously covered half the batch. At $11 for a large jar, this isn’t very economical for a family or someone on a budget, but it’s a fantastic treat when you want to impress but don’t feel like lifting a finger.

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.