GoPicnic ExploreMunch

It’s my first day of school, so I’m opting to review a children’s lunch pack. But this is no ordinary children’s lunch pack! No Lunchables for you! No hot lunch, no mystery meat, no Oscar Mayer sandwiches! No Lean Cuisine, fat kids. This is GoPicnic. It’s for the healthier, curious child. The one in your class whose name is Gunther and has parents who were once roadies for The Dead, yo.

This pack contains a multitude of snack items in it, all of them extremely twee and organic. Seriously, with Mrs. May’s sunflower crunch and Sweet Perry applesauce, I can’t tell if I’m in a Whole Foods or a corporate team building meeting. Keepitcoming thinks this is exactly the type of snack pack a company would give their workers at an off-site workshop. The kind involving trust falls.Most of the general food groups are represented. We have a little crunchy in the form of Snapea Crisps, which are shaped like snap peas, but for the life of me, I can’t fully grasp whether or not they’re actually made out of peas. They’re cute, though, and they’re addictive, so I’m erring on the side of a more robust Sensible Portions. Almost there, not quite.The applesauce is inoffensive and thick, a pleasant surprise. I’d have liked a little more cinnamon flavor, but really, for applesauce, I can’t complain. Mrs. May’s sunflower crunch looks like fiberglass and tastes pretty good. It didn’t try to break all of my teeth like the almond crunch did. It was tasty and crumbly, with the right amount of sugar.The cheese, a “white cheddar” was absolutely odious. It reminded me of the cheese and crackers one normally receives on airplanes, the kind that also serve as small flotation devices should the plane encounter any difficulties mid-flight. It was rubbery and tasteless and ruined the turkey jerky when combined.

I rather enjoyed the turkey jerky. As much as I hate beef jerky sticks, I was surprised to see how much I liked this. It was chewy, but snapped cleanly in the mouth, and gave a nice, almost spicy flavor. I would have liked to eat this with crackers.The dessert in the pack, Surf Sweets gummi bears, will be covered in a future post, so I can’t divulge too much, but these might be the new Sharkies. They are chewy and juicy, and don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are. For a kid’s lunch, there are a shitton of these in the pack, and they were accurately fruity and yielded a nice, toothsome chew. Really good.

I should also mention that inside the box there are really gross facts that I did not wish to know and a word search. I found the words “munch” and “picnic” and gave up. There are also jokes that I may or may not tell my new suitemates. Jokes about pretzels. LOL!Everything in the pack was, for the most part, passable, and gave a balanced, wholesome feel to the meal. This isn’t a bad thing to receive as a free lunch, and certainly feels like more of an indulgence without as many calories. It even comes with a spork and wet napkin. This did lack one essential component of a meal that I sorely missed after all the salt and meat- a drink. Even a small cup of water would have been highly appreciated. But this wasn’t as bad as I expected, and even entertained me with a museum-related theme and rewarded me with a tattoo for finishing my lunch. Not a big accomplishment, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m looking forward to trying more of these when I’m stuck on time and not interested in cooking or chewing on my desk.

Bacon Hot Sauce

I’m a creature of simple pleasures. I like my reading pillow, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, (not Young) and the occasional foot fetish model. And when I’m not living it up as an esteemed blogger and exploring the exciting side of molecular gastronomy, I’m eating relatively simple foods. Pizza. Meat. Eggs.One of my favorites is bacon, and to Keepitcoming’s chagrin, I try to weasel it in in as many dishes as I possibly can. Bacon chocolate chip cookies. Sandwiches with bacon. Bacon on pizza. Bacon with eggs. And now, thanks to bacon hot sauce, I can officially infuse everything we eat…with meat.Surprisingly, the bacon hot sauce isn’t as overwhelming or as porcine as I’d thought. It balances farmyard and firehouse with an equal preference to both, and is spicy, but does not burn. We tried this on pita chips, pizza, and on a fork, and on all three applications, found that the smokiness of the bacon shone through but still kept its properties as a hot sauce.I’m so glad this wasn’t overwhelming. It has the potential to shine in any dish it is used in and compliment any of its ingredients. It chooses not to captivate your attention, but rather, reward the palate with its array of sensations.

Theo Fig, Fennel, and Almond

With another trip to the natural foods store comes another intriguing selection from Theo, this time a bar with fig, fennel, and almond. The former two are very earthy, gritty flavors, the latter, a little bitter and creamy. How the hell would this play out?

Once again, we encounter a package that’s just as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. I know this is an oft-used high school guidance counselor cliché, but in this case, it’s true. This package features two squirrels sharing a fig. I, ever attentive, shrieked, “They’re sharing a gourd!” in the middle of the store, and Keepitcoming confirmed that it was actually a fig. Because the bar has fig in it. Too bad there’s no squirrel. LOL! But the art is adorable and definitely eye-catching.The bar is composed of small, dried bits of each ingredient surrounded by dark chocolate. The chocolate melted extremely quickly, even faster than the milk chocolate bar did. There was a distinct crunch from the fig seeds and almonds. I liked this seedy texture. It felt natural and crumbly, like the seeds on a poppy seed bagel, and gave the bar an almost crust-like texture.I did notice a regularity in the mouthfeel, though. I think I would have appreciated the individual components of the bar more had one of the toppings been a paste or filling, like marzipan or more of a fig layer, similar to Zotter’s hand scooped bars. Without that differentiation, the textures got muddled and it was difficult to distinguish any individual component.
The flavor was sublime. Each special ingredient played off the others. Upon the first bite, the dark chocolate melted away, leaving behind a raisiny flavor that was only accentuated by the fig, an adult’s remembrance of a Fig Newton. This had all of the texture and none of the goo, but backed up the dark chocolate’s more primitive flavors and added a sumptuous layer of its own. The almonds were more present in texture than in flavor, but gave a creamy softness to the chocolate and a bitter aftertaste to the fennel, which pierced the dark chocolate and made it even more intense. The fennel added a natural and licoricey snap to the entire bar.

Sigh. It seems complicated and involved. And it is. But every bit of this was really quite decadent, and despite the textural boredom, it was decidedly interesting and combined flavors I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to enjoy with chocolate.

Sensible Portions Sea Salt Vegetable Chips

I had a much bitchier post planned for Sensible Portions, but I guess being sick today weakened my written artillery.

Sensible Portions make me angry at the world. If ever there was a product specifically designed for mommy bloggers and bored housewives in the Hamptons, this is it. It’s homogenized to the point of freakishness and infantilizes the consumer to a degree that would embarrass most adult babies.Sensible Portions. The name alone implies that you, the buyer, does not know how to take care of yourself and needs to rely on the cradled hands of packaged goods to guide you on your way to a more sensible lifestyle. This particularly annoying product touts “vegetable chips” with three different kinds of real veggies. Hold the phone!That being said, the vegetables look and taste like Styrofoam packing peanuts. They start crisp but then attain a certain strange chewiness that sticks in the teeth. We could distinguish no individual vegetable from these, their only underlying characteristic being the color of each chip, mild greens, reds, and off-white. I’m not saying to load the chips with food coloring, per se, but I am rather convinced that everything is so mildly colored to either match with the Mark Hampton living room or to dissuade you from eating at all. They’re so bland looking and unpalatable.Chip segregation.

And really, that’s all they are. Bland and dry and by no means resemblant to actual vegetables. The packaging and marketing is sterile and unapproachable, hence our minimal photography. They’re not worth your time or your heartbreak.

Sonic Spicy Southwest Breakfast Burrito

It’s September 1st. The first day of school for many, but for me, the date that marks exactly five days before I leave my hometown and head back to Amherst for the next year. It marks big changes, the scent of fall in the air, darkening nights, and a lingering last presence at some of my old favorite haunts and new stations since I’ve been here.

Granted, I’m not too nostalgic. I’ve had a whirlwind of a summer and I’m ready to get back to the boonies, but I can honestly and sadly say that I will lose a piece of my heart when I leave the comforting embrace of Connecticut’s first Sonic Drive-In.

Sonic knew my pain and reached out last night, offering a new menu item to cushion my pain and satisfy my brooding, restless hunger as I drove home. That item is the Spicy Southwest Breakfast Burrito, and it is delicious food.

Longtime Sonic attendees will know that this isn’t exactly “new” new. In August of 2006, Sonic released this burrito as well as a midday counterpart, the Spicy SuperSonic Burger with crispy jalapeno strips, . This is now rehashed under a duo of Loaded Burgers, the latter combining chili, cheese, a handbreaded onion ring, and bacon. I knew that if I reviewed another chili and cheese related item from Sonic, Keepitcoming would cover me in chili and cheese and throw me to a pack of wild, hungry puppies.Because I was feeling like breakfast so late at night and the idea of bringing a treat home for the morning was increasingly tempting, the burrito it was. As I brought it home, I felt its heft in the paper bag, straining to get out. Not a small burrito, yet not one filled with meaningless carbs, either.

In the morning, I bounded out of bed and proceeded to nuke the goods. The kitchen was filled with a nice, spicy scent. After cutting open the burrito, I was pleased to discover that its spiciness had a soft counterpart in all the egg and cheese inside. The burrito had the obligatory proteins plus sausage, chipotle sauce, and crunchy jalapeno strips. It was the last of these that scared me the most, as I feared that during the night, time would have reduced them to a soggy, slippery, sorry state.But all was well. The proteins, though unremarkable, were tender and creamier, thanks to the generous layer of cheddar cheese and the additional lubrication from the sauce, and the jalapeno strips were crispy and spicy. The sauce was also adequately spicy on its own. As a bonus, the maker of this burrito had also deigned to include some tots. Bitchin’! Crispy potatoes, crispy peppers, and a delicious meat. The whole burrito was an ultimately satisfying experience and I’d highly recommend this for breakfast or lunch. The only thing that would make this even more tempting would be chorizo, but this really hits the spot.

479 Madras Curry and Cashews Popcorn

On most nights, Keepitcoming and I love to make curried noodles. They’re cheap, incredibly tasty, long lasting, and are so easy to throw together, an infant could cook them. We’ve been trying out a few different flavors of curry sauces and have a lot of fun coming up with new concoctions to eat for dinner.This popcorn reminded me of our adventures in noodling because of its gentle caress of curry spices in the seasoning. On top of the popcorn was a layer of seasoning and sugar with a bright yellow hue cast over the pieces. The aroma of curry wafted up from the pieces, combined with a nice coconut scent. The curry was not very spicy, with a slight heat that grew as you ate, but this was a popcorn we could not stop eating. It was just like kettle corn, with a very heightened savory element as opposed to the kiss of saline delight that one normally experiences.Mixed in with the popcorn were whole cashews. We found four in about a third of the bag. This was enough for us, but die-hard nut lovers might yearn for a few more. The cashews were liberally seasoned with the curry powder as well and provided a tasty flavor to the overall structure of the popcorn. Like the last flavor we tried, the crunch was spot-on and crispy.
479 has done nothing short of brilliant thus far. The boxes are attractive and minimal and the flavors are ingenious and very exciting. We look forward to trying more of their flavors, and can’t wait to see what they cook up next.