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.

Davio’s Northern Italian Frozen Reuben Spring Rolls

Happy Super Bowl, Davio’s is at it again, engaging in the time-honored tradition of publicly ousting a waitress at the minimum-wage pay scale for her love of non-Northern Italian Steakhouse food. I can only assume she was later fired. Who needs benefits and SEP plans when you have sandwiches, though? And Davio’s menu includes sesame-crusted tuna and macaroni and cheese. At this rate, a Reuben could be considered Northern Italian Steakhouse cuisine, seeing as their business model seems to be founded upon “food that people ingest.” Without further ado, here’s the Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse Reuben Spring Roll.

Accompanied by a package riddled with errors– really, Davio’s, with your propensity for stuffing inappropriate things inside spring rolls, this puts you well on par with a college stoner tapping out an English paper. Rueben? She’? Missing commas and crappy punctuation? These are the most basic of issues. Stop trying to focus on your open mic-esque comparison of Jewish and Italian cuisine (“They’re different cultures! They’re not the same! Am I right? Right? Right?”) and open up Microsoft Word before you send these off to the printers.
Also, I hate to gripe, but how does turning a Reuben sandwich into a spring roll make it Italian? The only mentioning of “Italian spring rolls” on the vast internet archives is from Nadia G, an apt partner in crime to match with Davio’s, now that I think of it.

These babies feature corned beef, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing wrapped up in a spring roll wrapper and fried. Of all the features, I was most afraid of the dressing, a trepidation that turned out to be well-founded. The beef and sauerkraut were delicious and portioned well. The fat in the beef melted from the indirect heat, and as a result, never got stringy or chewy, and the cabbage added a vinegary kick without getting too salty or mushy.

My main gripe lay in the dressing, as I mentioned before. It was concentrated on the ends of the roll, likely so that when cooked, it would evenly distribute throughout the roll. This was effective, but unfortunately, the concentration of dressing at the ends caused those sections of the roll to burn at a much faster rate than the rest of the roll, perhaps from the sugars in the sauce? I’m not sure of the cause, but it was not ideal. Luckily, the roll was tasty, although the predominant flavor was definitely the spring roll shell, followed by the heavily spiced meat. Apparently there was also Swiss cheese, but I didn’t detect it at all. 

These are tasty, but small and easily absorb grease. They are not going to satisfy your sandwich craving, or your spring roll craving, or your craving for Italian food at a Northern Italian Steakhouse that serves everything but Italian food. However, they’re not a half-bad Super Bowl snack, so I guess that gives them some edge over the standard reheated wings and pepperoni pizza at most shebangs.

Red Velvet Pop Tarts

Bless me, France, for I have sinned.

I have left mopeds for mad bus clogs, and subway musicians for homeless men who smell like pee. And now, I have committed the biggest cultural sin of all, trading fresh, warm croissants and baguettes for Pop Tarts.

And I regret not a thing.

Why? Because Red Velvet Pop Tarts, that’s why. Red Velvet, the Snooki of cake flavors, has finally paired with this timeless stoner classic. Okay, not that I’m happy that I left gay “Paree” and all of its glamour, but my departure was timed impeccably. Apparently, I was wandering around the grocery store at the right time of night, because the Portal to Slumping Back into American Habits opened and out popped these gems, along with “scratching the place where balls are in the boxers you sleep in” and “drinking milk out of the carton” and “unabashedly ogling people wearing yoga pants in 0 degree weather.” So this was my reward, and damn, was it sweet.

According to the never-ending and meticulously maintained archives of the internet, coupon hoarding websites tell me that these are new Pop Tarts, approximately 4 days old, or 65 years old in internet years. I need to encapsulate their novelty and review them before they are officially old news! The ‘tarts are red velvet cake shelled with a cream cheese frosting, cream cheese glaze, and sprinkles, because sprinkles improve everything.

Surprisingly, they are actually good and taste like their namesake. Albeit, you’re not going to find a distinct resemblance to Aunt Sarah’s homemade from scratch, vinegar in the batter red velvet cake with mounds of frosting, but these will definitely save you the time and labor you would normally take in making a red velvet cake from a box. They have that raw flour, not-sweet cake batter flavor that I personally adore, and the filling adds a touch of sweetness and a little creaminess, too. Warm, they fared somewhat less successful and tasted like pancake batter, probably because all the frosting evaporated out.  

America!!

Apericubes Limited Collector’s Edition Saveurs: Grilled shrimp, sweet spice, blue and nuts, and truffle

Happy New Year’s Eve. I thought it might be fun to ring in 2013 with this new, awful level of cheese fuckery. There hasn’t been this much tampering with lactose since the Nesquik bunny got arrested for coke possession in ’06. I’m not sure what to say about these. I think they speak for themselves. Apericube Limited Collector’s Edition Saveurs features four clever, awful flavors for all of your party-ruining needs. All of them. Truffle, grilled shrimp, blue cheese with nuts, and sweet spices await your poor, wretched tongue.

The package is classy and also larger than most Apericube commitments. 48 cubes is a lot of cheese for one person. On the package is a chance to win a trip to the Lapland region of Scandinavia, for skiing or something. In French, it’s “Laponie.”

I prefer to think that Apericube has come up with a whimsically branded term for winning a French pony. I may be clinically depressed. The package is also filled with all sorts of hyperspecific humor gems for enhancing your holidays with little flavored cheese cubes.

For instance: trivia and cheese ornaments? Ain’t nobody got time for that shit, I got partying and drinking to do, in a world where “partying and drinking” is synonymous to eating an entire pizza alone in your apartment with the soulful croons of Johnny Cash. 2013, you devil! Besides, why bother going out when I can subject my guests to the musky, most certainly artificial flavor of truffle, a $350 trendy tasting menu with truffles all over the place compressed into one cube? And who could forget the allure of grilled shrimp, the cheese that forgot the grill? Grilled shrimp, you taste and smell like wet cat food.

Moving down the line, we have the surprisingly inoffensive blue cheese and nuts, surprising as I am usually disgusted by blue cheese, so for this to be very, very removed from its original inspiration is a boon. It is also perfectly smooth. Nuts? Finally, we finish off 2012 with the enigmatic “epices douces,” which translates to “sweet spices.” Is it gingerbread? Gingerbread cheese? I wouldn’t put it past the criminal masterminds at Le Vache Qui Rit. Regardless, it tastes like cinnamon and crushed pink peppercorn.

None of these are very good.

Happy 2013!

La Fermiere Riz au Lait au Rhum-Raisin

Cole Porter’s song has a few things right. Paris is great in the springtime, yes. Romantic in the fall. Sizzling in the summer, attractive in the winter. However, we encounter a loophole of dastardly clever proportions when he casually brushes over the ever-generic and wide range of “drizzling.” What kind of drizzling, Cole Porter? Because right now, in Paris, it’s definitely not the kind of liplocking drizzle featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or even A Perfect Storm. It’s spastic, cold and drives people indoors. If you tried to kiss, your lips would bleed profusely from the brush of friction against chapped, dead exposed body parts. 

Which is why I picked up this pudding. Fumbling its glass jars in my gloved, frozen fingers, I realized I needed some sort of summery diversion to distract from the slow transformation from Paris to dark Gotham City at 10AM. Recently, for reasons yet unexplained, La Fermiere has released its new Negrita rum-spiked rice pudding in the middle of winter. Intrigued by the bright packaging and summery motif, I decided to give it a try.

I’ve written about La Fermiere before. They make a solid quality pudding with some of the best, if superfluous, packaging I’ve ever seen. I hadn’t had the opportunity to try their new rice pudding line, so I figured this would be a good one to cut my teeth on, so to speak. To my surprise, it was spiked with a healthy dose of booze, its sharpness softened by the milky pudding base. In turn, the deep flavor of the rum, almost molasses-tinged, ensured that the pudding would not be too sweet. A very symbiotic combination.

The pudding, looser in texture than your average Kozy Shack, felt more homemade and rustic than the starchy puddings of home. It had less rice to cream, making it more like a soupy creme anglaise, but was still very pleasing. The coup de grace was the addition of raisins– they absorbed most of the rum and were plump, adding a bright burst of flavor to the base. It was a clever take on an old classic– something that I imagine might be fun to whip up for the family at home, grandma included!

Zotter Mitzi Blue “Chinese” Taste Machine

Happy day after Thanksgiving, everyone! Unfortunately, my attempts to expose the French to the joys and wonders of Jones turkey-flavored, or Jones Pepto Bismal-flavored, or Jones Hackneyed Press Release-flavored novelty soda beverages have been rebuffed by the grand old customs agents of the European Union. Apparently those sodas, novelty lip gloss, and my fitted camel-colored wool pea coat constitute a threat to French security, which is why it has taken them three weeks to arrive in the mail. Until then, it’s lightweight cardigans and bleary-eyed chocolate reviews for everyone! Yay!

Despite all the trouble I’ve been having with the post office, one package did make its way through the mangled hands of justice and into my dim apartment. The Austrian masterminds at Zotter chocolate found me in France and passed off two of their latest Mitzi Blue bars, new on the market for the holiday season. And what better way to emphasize the Christmas spirit, the love of Kwanzaa, and the balls-out awesome of Hanukkah with the “Chinese” Taste Machine?

Yes, you heard correctly, non-sequitar aficionados, gingerbread and fruitcake are out, “Chinese” Taste Machine is in, quotation marks not included. Now you can have the loving caress of gojiberries and bird’s eye chilipowder alongside your buckeyes. Chinese Taste Machine, presented in the classic circular Mitzi Blue form, contains white and dark soy-infused chocolate with the aforementioned spices and berries, plus some powdered star anise for good measure. A punk zimtsterne, if you will. Out of the package, it’s another stunning Zotter bar, this time in a swirled pattern. It broke during transit, but even its original shape looked a little cumbersome to share amongst friends.

Flavor-wise, the Chinese Taste Machine is difficult to love. Very, very, very difficult. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that its jarring set of flavors make it impossible to consider the high quality of the ingredients in the bar. The smooth white and dark chocolate are smothered by the musty flavors of the soy powder, at best, reminiscent of a soy Chai latte in solidified form. At worst, it recalls eating an old chocolate stashed in a winter coat, five years after putting it there. Even the strongest spices, cinnamon, star anise, and nutmeg, don’t hold a candle to the strange powdery flavors from the soy.

For all of the flack that gojiberries get, namely, from me, they enhanced the flavors in this bar quite a lot, imparting a sweet, slightly sour flavor to the chocolate and somewhat masking the soy. They are covered with a slight dusting of bird’s eye chili powder, which emphasizes the tang of the dried fruit and gives it a little heat. Still, it never quite meshes with the chocolate and ends up feeling like another candy entirely. It’s a shame as the concept is whimsical and clever, but the execution falls flat.

Apéricube Soirée Filles: Goat Cheese, Sun-fired Veggies, and Fried Scallops Cheese Cubes

Scratch all that effluvium from yesteryear about how Pernes’ website was the best website in the history of all websites. Maybe a 3D model would cut it- if this was 2002! (editor’s note: Can we calibrate a record scratch for each time someone silently mouths that to themselves? No? Well, screw you, me.) That information is now as obsolete as an iPhone 4 with a Crazy Frog app and Bing set as its homepage. That frog is dead to me! A new reigning champion has entered the scene of disposable allocation of revenue toward Flash-generated advertising campaigns: Bel’s Apéricube!

You know them from such family-friendly products like Babybel, The Laughing Cow, and rapping bull GIFs! Say whuuuuuuuh?! (editor’s note: Seriously, that record scratch is money, and you’re an asshole.) Allow me a brief pause to take you through the World of Laughter (yes) and introduce you to the 27 (yes) cows whose bodily fluids are responsible for the Apéricube Girl Party/Soirée Filles selection I’m about to review for you today. (yes, and I’m sorry in advance.)

We start with an agonizingly long wait, presumably while all the freelance website designers of the world collectively sob into their shirts, and are amused by a hot vat of cheese precariously tilting while we wait. Protip: it never falls, which is good? Ish? Once we’re securely in the world of cows, greeted by ominous lowing and prefabricated bird sounds, we meet this guy like eight times and he progressively haunts my nightmares.

Rappe-T, or as he’s known on the street, Mayor McSleaze, has an extensive bio, and as a result of reading it, I now know more about him than I do about our current president. Sorry, Barack, but have you released a hit single with MC Rosbif? Didn’t think so. So, anyway, this guy exists and raps and apparently, also makes cheese while upsetting real live people on the real live bus and referencing “Twitter” and “blog” with the same apprehension that my grandmother has when she uses her iPad.

On to the review! Apéricube manages to accurately capture what women like to put in their mouths more accurately than any romantic comedy or yoghurt commercial ever will with their Soirée Filles line: fried seafood, fire-roasted vegetables, and goat cheese, all in soft cheese form. Where my Cosmo cheese cube at, Apéricube!? And they throw in trivia to boot. I will admit a brief moment of intense nostalgia for these. Apéricube existed briefly in the States where, like most delicious foods from the 90’s, they moved quietly to Europe once boy bands started being classified as “a thing.” I ate them as a child and now I am warily writing about them as an adult.

The trivia questions are about as much fun as you could make the timeless experience of squinting to read gooey, cheese-covered facts about sports teams and prime ministers. Fun fact: Two out of three trivia questions are cut off by the packaging. Want to know which sport Axel Pons plays? Well, too bad. You’ll just have to Wikipedia that shit like I did. Uh, well played, Apéricube.
The cubes are smooth in texture. Starting from least offensive to terrifying future food: chevre is unsurprisingly innocuous. Chalky, goaty, and forgettable with the remarkable consistency of toothpaste. Soon! The vibrantly-colored fire-roasted vegetables fares much better, with a surprisingly deep smokiness and lingering paprika and red pepper aftertaste. Definitely something I would toss in an omelette to give it an element of surprise and dairy. 
And now, the wild card. The Charlie Sheen of cheese. Why would anyone want to make fried scallops into a cheese flavor? Poêlée de Saint-Jacques is a classic French dish that apparently, the French hate enough to immortalize in soft cheese form. I spat this one out because it was repulsive. It was too close in color and texture to raw scallops to not make it a creepy experience. And it tasted just like them, too, with the beery flavor of fried batter and an oniony aftertaste. Basically, the only cheese-like thing that remained was the creamy texture.

Well, that was awful. Until next time, my compatriots, when I review such dainties such as the Man Party, featuring pizza-flavored cheese, tuna-flavored cheese, and ham ‘n’ olive-flavored cheese. No, wait, that’s not true, because I am not self-destructive. I am done with this noise. Peace out, Rappe-T. Godspeed to you and your pile of lady cows. Farewell, Girl Party. You were the sparkliest, and now you shall hold my hair ties for eternity.
Ladies? I hear he has an OKCupid account!

Pernes Long Wasabi Potato Chips

Another SIAL goodie! This time, a chip hailing from Romania with a Japanese flavor profile, picked up in Paris by an American. So, a multi-cultural delight by proxy. As soon as I saw these, I knew I had to pick up a package of them. According to their website, they are the longest chips in the world. They follow the same format as Pringles- extruded potato snack, but are thicker and also packaged in a structure that, if switched with a similar package containing a hand-painted portrait of Vladimir Lenin in porcelain on a human tooth, would be packaged with similar care. Seriously. They are sheathed in a cardboard barrier, around a plastic-sealed foil package. Condoms go through less protocol than this and they prevent babies from happening

Once these wonder-chips are out of their shuttle, they are pungent with wasabi. And cardboard in scent, but that disappears about five seconds in. They are thicker than your average chip, but lacking oil, are consequently much more brittle. The flavor powder is applied much like the spray paint from your favorite 90’s airbrushed tee. Yes, the one from Sharon’s bat mitzvah with a blatant generic ripoff of Goofy on it- gradients all up in this bitch. As a result of the inconsistent spraying, the intensity of each bite ranges from sinus-clearing to weaksauce. The company also has the best website I have ever seen. There’s a moveable 3D model!
The texture is bizarre. Their structure straddles the line between object and food, creating somewhat of a dissonance when snacking on them. I feel less like I’m eating them and more like I’m processing them for some wasabi-generated all-natural machine, possibly from the mid to late 90’s (do I sense a trend?) when dot-matrix paper was still utilized, minus the soul-numbing frustration of visiting a parent at work. However, once you get past that, they are all too easy to eat and have a wonderful flavor. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any reviews of these- although Dave’s Cupboard did write about some chips similar to these back in 2011.

Pringles Rosemary and Olive Oil

It’s a bright, sunny day in Paris. What’s that, you say? Something about a hurricane? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m living in the middle of an Annie Liebovitz photoshoot and have received a free puppy and newly minted sack of cash in the mail every day for a week now. I jest, I jest, I’m actually sick in bed and procrastinating on a group project. Glamour = my life, I assure you that. There are a few perks to living in the City of Lights, though, not the least of which is NEW AMERICAN BRAND FLAVORS, said the Moderately Attractive, yet Paunchy American. (Redefining the stereotype, I say!) Yes, while “lightly salted” inexplicably passes for a sensation back home, stores are filling the shelves with the latest and greatest Euro-flavor of the month, Rosemary and Olive Oil Pringles.

And yes, don’t adjust your TV set, that image of two nonsentient, yet seductive Pringles-brand Pringles chips getting down and dirty on the package a la Romeo and Juliet is one hundred percent not photoshopped. At least, not by me. Pringles wants you to know that this will beat out oysters, raspberries, Ferrero Rocher, flavored condoms, Four Loko, and crude Snoopy-shaped molded peanut butter cups as THE Valentine’s Day snack of 2013. Prepare to get it on, saddle-shaped potato snack style.

Well, needless to say, the bold advertising and graphics had many things raised in my bedroom that night, not the least of which were my expectations. Simple flavors like rosemary and olive oil are easy to make and hard to screw up, so I expected Pringles to go big or go home crying and playing “Mean” by Taylor Swift on repeat. I’m pleased to say that these chips delivered unexpectedly well. The thing that I dislike most about Pringles is Pringles themselves, unfortunately, but the well-seasoned crisps, entwined in the throes of starch-based ecstasy, are bold and vibrant with distinct olive and rosemary flavors.

I was most impressed with the way that the olive oil was infused into the chip. While it was definitely bolstered by garlic, onion, and parmesan, undercutting the simplicity of the featured flavors, there was a musky, buttery undertone and distinctly briny aftertaste of olive oil that was impressive, given how devoid of grease these typically are. There’s a sour, slightly bitter bite not unlike Sour Cream and Onion Pringles, but with a sweeter complexity.  

The rosemary, in addition to the sugar preceding it in the ingredient list, softened the strength of the savory flavors and added a bright tough of sweetness to the chips. Definitely classier than your average Pringles, though the iconic shape would make them difficult to use as a bait-‘n’-switch appetizer in lieu of bruschetta.

Monoprix Tiramisu au Speculoos

I know, I know, and I apologize in advance. I am actively trying to make speculoos the new pumpkin spice and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s everywhere in Paris! It’s completely unavoidable. Soon, I wholly expect to see the homeless men by the Metro selling corn cobs out of a gas drum topped with speculoos butter. And I will likely buy them.
This is an amazing dessert hybrid, a store brand product made by Monoprix. Tiramisu and speculoos, as they say, “un gout bilingue.” Miss Love and I had a version of this on the train to Bordeaux, and I was ecstatic to see it grace my little grocery store with its exotic presence. Bilingue it is- it perfectly encompasses the best of both desserts, neither one encroaching on the noble territory of the other. It’s composed of a quasi-tiramisu base, with an espresso-flavored mascarpone cream layer topped with bittersweet cocoa powder, covering my absolute favorite part- in lieu of ladyfingers, the entire bottom quarter consists of a speculoos cookie and espresso paste

This is genius, I cannot express this enough. Two ingredients mushed together make all the difference. It’s gritty, strong, and spicy, and is easily the lynchpin of the entire dessert. Did I mention that this comes with speculoos cookie crumbs? This takes Yo Crunch and makes it the laughingstock of the refrigerated dairy section. Take that, yogurt!

While not completely perfect- the mascarpone is a little too sweet and runny for my liking, the interplay between the wet and dry speculoos cookie sections is amazing. Light and crispy meets sweet and dark, with enough shared elements to resemble a beautiful cookie duet. It is absolutely delightful.