Evol Flatbreads Italian Sausage and Caramelized Onion

We love a good pizza, as you may already know, but are squarely divided on the topping front. For me, the ideal pizza is meat and cheese, just is the ideal burger, the ideal sandwich, and in some cases, the ideal dessert. And the more the better! My one deviation to this standard lies in jalapenos, and if I’m feeling lazy, hot sauce. Keepitcoming likes peppers and onions on her pies, with light cheese and smoky paprika.

This differentiation makes it hard to order a pizza, so more often than not, we settle for frozen varieties or just make something else. The new flatbread pizzas from EVOL may just change that game, though, because I think we’ve finally found a pizza with toppings from both of our sides that we can agree on loving!
EVOL’s burritos are known for their plentiful toppings and flavorful combinations, as are their flatbreads. In four different varieties- Italian Sausage and Caramelized Onion, Chicken and Roasted Veggies, Goat Cheese and Portabello, and Barbecue Chicken, the flatbreads feature premium toppings and an insanely delicious crust. As the critical purveyor of excellence in the crust department, I figured I’d be the judge of that, taking into account that Rodzilla was not a fan of this feature.

I’m pleased to say that all it took to transform a pizza clumping mess into a delicious, chewy lunch was a little rearranging and careful timing- 10 and a half minutes in the oven to yield a puffy, bubbly pie. The toppings were all amazing- the sausage, which looked sparse on the pie, was enough to get a little in each bite, and even without it, carried a wonderful cheesy base with fresh garlic, onion, and parsley. It wasn’t too salty and was crispy from the lack of sauce.
Our sole complaint was the size and crust texture, two factors that eventually worked together in our favor. Although the pizza could easily feed one, the size is beneficial for the crust, a crispy, chewy variety.
The upskirt.

It does harden over time, but I don’t suspect you’ll have any leftovers to worry about. If the crust was a few millimeters thicker and the pizza bigger, I’d be hard pressed not to order this in a restaurant. This is definitely going to be a future favorite of ours here in Kitchen Foodette.

Archer Farms Sea Salt Caramel and Almond Indulgent Granola Bites

Sea salted caramel is no longer a real oddity any more. Having broken free from the confines of high-end restaurants and microbistros, it is now popping up in recipes and the freezer section of many grocery stores. I figure it’s only a matter of time before we see a McCaramel McFlurry with McSalt or a Dairy Queen Salted Caramel Blizzard.

I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to see this in a non-frozen form and from Target’s store brand, Archer Farms, no less. We picked these up as a treat, noting their “indulgent” nature but persevering nonetheless. With 15 80 calorie bars in a box for a mere $2.49, their exoticism, calorie count, and value sure beat out Chewy, no?
No indeed! What we didn’t count on was the weight and size of the bars- a hair thicker than a thumbdrive and possibly (scarily) more bland. When I first bit into one of these, I was taken aback at how chewy it was, almost nearing a stale texture. That’s unfortunately just how it is. The flavor and waxy, overly saccharine mockolate coating was reminiscent of one of those giant, chewy protein bars, but in miniature. It was immensely disappointing. The flavor was sweet with no nuttiness, no salinity, no richness to speak of. Just sweet with a textural crunch from the almonds and a chewiness. And that was all the caramel we got! Strangely enough, all the ingredients are natural, yet are combined in such a way that they are absolutely flavorless.
This was really disappointing and strange to eat. Where did all the calories come from? And why is it so small? Pats of butter don’t have this much caloric damage and this little flavor in their size. Quaker and Kashi have my business back, because this is one area Archer Farms’ risky flavors just don’t cut it in.

Osaka Takoyaki Drops

Another delicious food drop review from J-List. While we didn’t have a whole lot of success from the Sasebo Burger Drops, they were novel at the very least and a ton of fun to try. This particular drop attempts to imitate a difficult Japanese dish, takoyaki. I say difficult because from the item’s description of a fried ball of octopus, tempura, pickled ginger, and onions all lavishly lashed with mayonnaise, (thanks, Wikipedia!) it brings many flavors and senses to the table- somewhat difficult to emulate within the course of a small hard candy, no?

In his book, Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser describes attending a “tasting” in a food flavorist’s chemistry lab and the dissociation of placing fragrance strips beneath his nose to smell a grilled hamburger, as fresh and fragrant as though it were being grilled next to him and opening his eyes to see nothing more than a small paper strip in front of him. Going into this, this was sort of what I expected to experience.
While I’ve never had takoyaki, I can imagine what they taste like, and this seems to be the borderline McTokyo version versus the standard street issue snack. It’s not fishy, which was good because I wasn’t sure my stomach could handle a fish-flavored candy, but it had a predominantly sweet, spicy flavor from the ginger, an aspect that I expected to be widely ignored. There wasn’t too much more to speak of, and it lost that fried, oily flavor I thought would be most prominent. Not disgusting, but not what I expected.

Heater Meals Plus Hearty Scrambled Eggs and Bacon

“Son, just give me all of the bacon and eggs you have. Wait, wait, I worry what you just heard was, “Give me a lot of bacon and eggs.” What I said was, “Give me ALL the bacon and eggs you have.” Do you understand?” -Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

As soon as I opened this package, I immediately thought of Parks and Rec, our favorite television show, and one of its characters, Ron Swanson, a man whom I’m convinced was created for Swagger. He has a framed poster of bacon and eggs on his wall! I found it duly appropriate to review this while watching the latest episode.
The packaging is pretty badass. Minimal. It knows you want it. It did lack, to my crushing disappointment, the freeze-dried watermelon I salivated over on the package. Another time, Heater Meals. Another time.
The Heater Meals Plus contains all the things you need for camping or alien nuclear war raids, two activities I greatly despise. It has trail mix, an off-brand Lovin’ Spoonful fruit cup, fruit punch, MOAR RAISINS, and the requisite bacon and eggs, one in a soft package, one in powdered form.

GAZE INTO THE GAPING MAW OF SIN, HUMAN.
The weaponry, er, heating device, sometimes sets off carbon monoxide detectors but does not contain carbon monoxide. Whew. It took about twenty minutes to cook the bacon and eggs inside the steaming, quivering container, during which time I witnessed the creation and scent of Hell itself and also could have prepared a dozen eggs and a pound of bacon. Seriously, though, Hell itself. The package, while cooking, releases gritty steam that reeks of sulfur. I may have heard demons laughing inside. But I persevered because I loves me some bacon.

The artillery. It said it would only take ten to fifteen minutes, but it took almost twice that and required a good deal of finagling to make sure the water didn’t spill out of the bag and that the eggs and bacon heated evenly. If I was camping, I’d have just hunted and eaten a bear by now. While I was waiting, I snarfed down the trail mix. It was delicious and salty in all its components. A little raisin heavy, but it gave me the energy to focus on the rest of the meal instead of listlessly wandering off to Burger King in my bathrobe.More evidence of possible Satanic intervention. ZOMG, call Beatrice Sparks!

Unfortunately, not even the black magic of Red Devil hot sauce could save this meal. As you can see, something’s not quite right. That something is the fact that I didn’t adequately mash around the eggs pre-cooking. A justifiable hesitation, as I didn’t want to accidentally risk the bag opening up and barfing liquified eggs all over the kitchen, nor did I care to fondle it for over thirty seconds before it bought me dinner. Er, breakfast. Thusly, the eggs alternated between clumpy and hard pieces and soft, liquidy custard bites. I pretended it was the yolk and cried into my plate softly.

The whole thing was a lukewarm mess, the bacon included. No amount of sauce or salt-free condiments could save those eggs, and the bacon was so far removed from pork it may have well been cat. Transparent, paper-thin slivers of smoke-flavored paper, they were. Jesus Christ. I eventually made it out of the trenches of creepy camping food and made myself a sandwich.

Homemade Peanut Butter, Two Ways

Tina Fey, in her new book, Bossypants, (thank me for the advertising later, Tina) says that she knew she was a woman when some guy yelled obscenities at her from his car window. Likewise, I knew I was a woman when, at fifteen, I was approached by a 26 year old male wandering around my neighborhood with a jar of peanut butter, asking me if I wanted to lick it off his scrotum. I declined, but we sat in his mom’s minivan and he started crying because he was living at home after failing to get a job in stand-up comedy. Man, middle school was awesome.

Well! Peanut butter, like hummus, is one of those spreads that I am okay with, but really not enthusiastic about. Sort of like Nick’s hairy scrotum. Par for the course, I like my foods savory, sandwiches included. I’d die if I had a nut allergy, but my enthusiasm has kind of waned for the sticky, smeary stuff. Until now. I don’t think I’ve ever found a recipe so immensely satisfying and so simple. Two base ingredients and an infinite number of possibilities. Spicy curry peanut butter? Check. Chocolate peanut butter? Easy. Even white chocolate peanut butter is as easy as chucking it in the blender.

Spread the Restaurant makes over 70 kinds of gourmet peanut and almond butter, but at around $10 a jar, you can make pints of it at home for that price. For our first test run, we made a regular sea salt and honey as well as a butterscotch flavored peanut butter. Both were delicious and all too tempting to eat out of the jar.
Butterscotch Peanut Butter
Ingredients (yields 1 cup)
12 oz. dry roasted, unsalted peanuts
4 oz. butterscotch chips
1/3 cup of canola or peanut oil
Sea salt to taste
1. Weigh ingredients. Place all the dry ingredients in a blender and use the pulse setting to crush the ingredients until combined.
2. While you are letting the ingredients blend, slowly pour in your oil and keep blending until the mixture is smooth or at the consistency you like. We like smooth. Store in a jar for up to three months.
Sea Salt and Honey Peanut Butter
16 oz. dry roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup of honey
1/3 cup of canola or peanut oil
Sea salt to taste
1. Weigh ingredients. Place peanuts, salt and honey into a blender and crush on an even setting for about three minutes. Be persistent- the mixture will look like soft, sticky candy, but still needs to be blended completely.
2. When the mixture is fully incorporated, pour in the oil as the machine is running. When it’s at the desired consistency, pull it out and jar for up to three months.
This makes any sandwich or spoon the star of the show. Nom.

Tijuana Taco Company, Branford, CT

On the streets of New Haven, you’ll be able to find any number of street food carts within a stone’s throw of Broadway or Chapel. The multicolored, multicultural carts are a staple to the city- think food cart and you think of urban landscapes and gyros from a truck. But now they have infiltrated suburbia with delicious flavors on quiet streets, thanks to the efforts of Branford restauranteurs, the Franco-Camachos.Swagger and I tried this lone food truck back in December on a cold, frosty day. The cart lies parallel to its big, upscale sister, The Suburban, in Branford’s center, and the two siblings couldn’t be any more different. Where The Suburban is haute, Tijuana Taco is hot, and where The Suburban is fancy, Tijuana is rustic. But how did it taste? I ordered two carnitas tacos with the works- a healthy topping of black beans, salsa fresca, guacamole, cheese, crema, lettuce, and chipotle hot sauce. Maybe the two aren’t so different after all.Unfortunately Tijuana Taco was out of their special filling, turkey mole, when we arrived, strange for noon on a Tuesday, but I dealt with it. The fillings are standard, but prepared well. While I appreciated the flavors and homemade ingredients, there were just so many and so much of each component that the tortillas swelled under the weight and burst apart in my hands. The toppings seemed to mask the real problem- a scant helping of meat underneath all the frippery.I ordered tacos because I wanted to avoid the dreaded burrito pitfall and its filler ingredients that charge higher prices while simultaneously covering up for less protein. With this dish, it felt like I’d paid burrito prices for burrito levels of topping overload and was less satisfied than I thought. I ended up eating my tacos like a salad and picking listlessly at the sides. Shoulda gone the Swagger route. That man does enjoy a steak burrito. “Oh man,” he says, hefting it up. “Feels like I’m eating a baby.”Next time, I’d try their burrito. Don’t go to this taco truck if you’re expecting the bare necessities. They pile it on pretty thick here. Even though this wasn’t my favorite truck, I find the novelty of taco trucks in Branford irresistibly intriguing. I’m curious to see what else will pop up in the next few months and I look forward to returning this summer to try their new restaurants and older ones. I have high hopes and high expectations. Expect reviews!

Brunch at Gypsy Apple

Keepitcoming Love and I decided to take a jaunt through Shelburne Falls today and grab some lunch and some sun in the nice weather. While the Bridge of Flowers was ever lovely and the falls were spectacular, we lamented the fact that our favorite restaurant, Gypsy Apple, didn’t serve lunch. Luckily, the gods (or restaurateurs) must have felt the need to answer our prayers, because when we walked by to peek at their summer menu, lo and behold, they were open! And to top it off, they were test running their first brunch in three years.

Of course, we had to go. From that point on, the hardest part of our day was choosing what to get. Would we try Chef Michael’s homemade hash with poached eggs? Or go for the sweeter side of brunch with waffles? We decided on two of the more eclectic offerings, an omelet with ricotta and tomato with sausage, homefries, and toast for Keepitcoming, and huevos rancheros with homefries for me. To celebrate our pleasant surprise, we ordered pomegranate and orange mimosas.As usual, this is going to be less of a review than an absolute food porn bacchanal, because at this point, everything this restaurant puts out is the epitome of perfection. Like Bread Euphoria, incidentally, one of their suppliers, neither one of us has ever had a bad meal there. With the huevos rancheros, I got a unique view at how painstakingly Michaelangelo prepares even the simplest and rustic of breakfast foods. All the elements of the dish shone vibrantly throughout each spoonful. The dish was masterfully composed, starting with a layer of homefries with a little sauce. On top of that was a freshly fried tortilla shell with cheese, beans, and poached eggs on top with another healthy ladleful of sauce, sour cream, and scallions. It was just sublime. The sauce wasn’t spicy and integrated beautifully with each element, giving every bite a smoky, zesty flavor and seeping into the crannies and pores of the potatoes and tortilla. I could have eaten an entire plate (or two) of just the sauce and potatoes alone.Everything had some sort of surprise beauty to it that really brought out its natural flavors. The beans were flavored with lime zest or lime juice which made them creamy and vibrant. The eggs and the cheese melted together, which gave me gooey strands of cheese and yolk with every spoonful, and the potatoes were crispy and held up to a dousing of sauce. I ate all of mine and some of Keepitcoming’s, too, and these were some generous portions. When I was done, I knew my stomach was at its full capacity and yet I just wanted more. I felt so utterly satisfied with that meal.
Keepitcoming’s dish was also prepared artfully. She had the same homefries as I did, soft on the inside and loaded with spices, but her omelette came with two other surprises- juicy, crispy sausages (one half of which I promptly snagged) and crispy toast which we later learned was from Bread Euphoria! The real star of this dish was the ricotta. Whisked away from Goat Rising, it could have easily stood on its own and was creamy and delicate in contrast to the juiciness of the tomatoes. Another phenomenal, yet simple dish.

I was so pleased to come here on an already perfect day and experience the Michael Wescott and Ami Aubin brunch experience. It really made my thoughts wonder to what else they have created outside the realm of their seasonal menus. Personally, I’m dying to see his take on a burger and fries or steak frites, because I’m sure they would be stellar. For now, though, we’ll keep you posted on our anniversary dinner when we return to this gorgeous little place.

Larabar Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Looks like Foodette Reviews is on its 666th post. Hopefully none of the Healthy Month treats will rear up in our digestive system and kill us, but you never know. At least I didn’t choose to review kombucha or something today. Which brings us to our (relatively innocuous) reviewable today, a Larabar in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

There exists a phenomenon amongst products geared toward women that seems to force us to a point where if we eat anything remotely healthy, it MUST taste like a facsimile of something “guilty,” “tempting,” or “forbidden.” Case in point, energy bars. Things like Luna Bars and Larabars promote the concept that women can’t just scarf down an energy bar because it has to be a treat, hence flavors like chocolate peppermint stick, dulce de leche, and chocolate covered strawberry.
Today’s desserted bastardization is chocolate chip cookie dough. Spoiler alert, it tastes like neither cookie dough or a protein bar, which is surprising as protein bars’ grainy texture usually lends itself to resembling cookie dough.

This particular company really excels at their fruit flavors, but just lacks that prowess in their synthesized desserts. The bar had many chocolate chips in it but somehow tasted only of rich figs and nuts. The texture was chocolatey and could be recognized as such but was totally overpowered. The figginess in this bar was about as subtle as crotchless panties. Something about this felt like I was eating a “special” granola bar from a friend- something I wouldn’t do now and in my reviews.