Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Red Velvet Chips Ahoy!

One thing my husband has yet to adjust to/appreciate in America is our on-shelf cookies. He thinks they're too sweet (he's right) and are not worth the calories (he's wrong). So I know that when I buy a box of Oreos, or Chips Ahoy, or whatever - I know they're all mine. Which is both good and bad, because I also think on-the-shelf American cookies are really sweet, and therefore not something I want to eat an entire box of. That's what is keeping me from buying the Key Lime Pie Oreos - hear me, Nabisco? Maybe it's time to finally release just single rolls of the limited editions, huh? Your missing out on the illustrious Creamy Steaks purchasing market. How I fight against the sweetness, however, is by coupling them with black coffee.

So yes, I absolutely suggest trying these Red Velvet Chips Ahoy! with a hot mug of black coffee because they're very sweet. However, they're also very tasty.

The cookie base itself does have the delicate cocoa tones of a classic red velvet cake, and is slightly bittersweet. It's got the classic chewy Chips Ahoy! texture that's super moist and just the slightest bit mealy - not in an unpleasant way, just in a very 'processed cookie' way.

The cream cheese chips are mostly creamy, with a hint of vanilla - frankly, I think they're just white chips with some sweetness. The cheesiness & tang will ultimately come from the filling, which is a firm cream cheese style frosting. It's a very thin layer, but the taste is strong enough to come through and be identifiable cream cheese frosting.

While they're very nice, as a person facing the idea of having to chomp through the whole package by myself...well, I don't see that as a cause for celebration as I would with plain crunchy Chips Ahoy!, for example. If you have a spouse who can stomach sweets or better yet, kids, then this is a nice pick up. If you're a single person you'll probably enjoy the first serving but then wonder what you're doing with yourself as you stare down another 20 or so cookies.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

HoneyCreme USA

I'm alive! I've just got a new job is all - and as with all my jobs, it saps a lot of my writing energy, since it is based around...writing on a computer. It's cool, exciting work, but it doesn't necessarily leave a lot of desire to write in my leisure time.

Also, while San Francisco is a nice place to live in a lot of ways, you may be surprised to hear they just don't have the limited editions like middle America has. The new Blueberry Pie Oreos taunt me, the Fruity Crisp Oreos are laughing my face...and instead I'm cruising through the snack aisle faced with $8 chocolate bars and more plain Ghirardelli squares than I can shake a stick at.

They also have traditional & regional things that I just don't feel like anyone would be that interested in hearing about, like Mother's brand taffy sandwich cookies. Number one, they sound kind of gross to me. Number two, if you won't be able to find it or even order it online, do you really want to hear about it? ...Then again, today's review won't be easy to find for anyone outside of Singapore, China, or San Francisco...so....well, this one is unique enough to make up for that.

HoneyCreme is a chain from either Korea or Taiwan (really difficult to find specifics on this in English) specializing in 'Korean style' soft serve ice cream & honey based toppings. I've heard a bit about how massive soft serve is in Korea, it's apparently having a real moment throughout the Asia Pacific region. I've always been a fan of soft serve, see my review of Twirl & Dip, one of my first in San Francisco, for proof.

What I wasn't sure about, however, was how Korean style may differ from plain ol' American soft serve. I know that 'milk' as a flavor is utilized way more in Asian countries, so I expected it to perhaps be along those lines.

Well, I wasn't wrong - but it's so much more delicious than just ice milk!

Consider the richness of whole milk or cream, the sort of buttery sweet flavor that accompanies them. Now, top it with clear & warming honey. It's really an awesome sensation. So rich, with very little 'vanilla' to speak of, but you'll be surprised by how flavorful it is just being rich milk.

The toppings include: honey swirl, honeycomb, chocolate beans, salted dark chocolate sauce, cotton candy, affogato, mixed grains, and popcorn. Mixed grains is a powder, can't say what exactly it is, but I think it may be misu, a Korean mix of grains that is used to make a sweet & nutritious drink. Makes me think of malt powder, but I really have no clue as I've never tried it.

As you can see I ordered mine with the honey swirl topping, and I'd definitely recommend it. The dark chocolate sauce also looked good, but unless you're going for a photo opportunity I'd probably pass on the honeycomb (literally a chunk of honeycomb, no sauce accompaniment) and even, sadly, the cotton candy topped version. It's a cool idea, and it looks amazing, but I think it would be hard to actually eat and would contribute little to the soft serve.

There was a bit of seating in the cafe, just a long bench by the window but it could probably sit maybe 6 people max?

I think I paid a little over $4.00 for this, and it's not a bad deal really. It's a fair sized portion and a high quality soft serve, and if you're in San Francisco you've got to be used to these prices by now, right?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oh Yeah! One Bars - Lemon Cake, Birthday Cake, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

I tried a few of these popular new Oh Yeah! One protein bars. As a fan of the Quest bars they're kind of emulating, who also dabbled in the original Oh Yeah! bars, I feel qualified to give my opinion. Not that being qualified to give an opinion has ever stopped me from doing it before.

Generally all these bars are softer & less chewy than the Quest bars, and covered in a thin layer of chocolate or choco-style coating. If you're sensitive to the aftertaste in protein bars I don't think these will change your mind - however if you can handle Quest bars, these are no worse. Some flavors will mask it better than others, like the first two I review. From what I've read and my own rudimentary knowledge, these are nutritionally sound with 20g of protein and just 1g of sugar. They're not 'natural', but see my dearth of Japanese novelty candy reviews to see how little I care for nature, anyway. I'll break down the first three flavors I tried, and will be updating again once I've tried the remaining 8.

Lemon Cake - I'm kinda 'meh' on lemon flavored things, but this is so accurately sweet, 'wholesome' and lemony, I actually love it. There's something to be said about accuracy in flavor making up for whether or not that flavor is actually great or not. I mean, the texture of these bars lends itself so well to something dense but not chewy, like a lemon bar.

Would I ever choose a lemon cake over a spoonful of cookie dough or a birthday cake? No. Would I choose this bar over those flavors? Oh yes, because it tastes exactly like a lemon square. I'm putting out an APB on APB - accuracy in protein bars. This one is the main suspect.

Birthday Cake - This is the flavor everyone else seems to go nuts for, so my expectations were high. I wouldn't say I was let down, but I did think it was inferior to lemon cake. I think it comes down to a personal preference thing though, as I prefer more 'strong' flavors rather than subtle. This birthday cake is pleasantly sweet & has a good base of vanilla, but it just didn't knock my out.

To be fair, I just don't think anything birthday cake flavored really would at this point. I've had it a lot, it's been a trending flavor for a few years now... while it is pretty tasty, it is basically sweet vanilla and not exactly mind blowing. I can see why people love this one so much because it does hardly taste like a protein bar (that protein taste is very well masked here!) but as someone who doesn't mind that protein bar aftertaste, I'm looking for something a bit more...esoteric. The sprinkles were cool, though.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - This one gets very few admirers, as Quest really cornered the cookie dough fan market. You can see my review on that ol' classic here. Right away you can see that the Oh Yeah bar is covered in chocolate, while the Quest bar is left unadorned. The base flavor is pretty similar, which is salty, sweet, and indeed a lot like cookie dough.

 The main difference is that the Oh Yeah bar is covered in a thin layer of chocolate, but the Quest bar has large chunks of it throughout the bar. That emulates cookie dough far better than a thin coating. I think that the Oh Yeah bar has maybe one or two chips, but definitely no chunks at all. Then there's the issue of microwaving - the bar is coated in chocolate which would definitely melt, and make it too messy to experiment with in that way. The Quest bar, however, is elevated to perfection when microwaved - gooey & texturally accurate.

It's not a bad bar by any means, but I'd always choose Quest for this specific flavor. Over all though, Lemon Cake wins over all other protein bars I've had before!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pancake KitKats

I know these are pretty late, but if you can still find them out in the wild - spoiler alert - definitely get them. So yes, technically these were an Easter promotional KitKat in Japan (hence the bunnies) but I don't really get what pancakes have to do with Easter, or really, any season at all. The only holiday that I can vaguely connect to pancakes is Mother's Day, just because of all the mothers in advertising who love brunch.

It's the same format as Japanese KitKats usually are, small two finger bars in a sharing bag. These are special as the two fingers are fused together to create the ears of a bunny face. Pretty cute, but forget about splitting them in two. Frankly these are so teensy I don't think anyone would be sharing a single bar, anyway!

The flavor is intensely maple and therefore incredibly sweet. The crispiness of the wafers really does bring to mind the edges of a stack of diner pancakes with tons of syrup & melty butter.

I think these would make a really good permanent edition to some KitKat line, somewhere. They're very sweet so I don't think it's something you'd necessarily binge on, but a mug of coffee or tea coupled with one or two of these would make a very tasty treat, no matter what time of the year.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ritz Crackers Ultimate Butter

Ritz Crackers are an American classic that everybody loves; like Lucille Ball, Tillamook cheddar, and Sinbad...both the comedian and the legendary sailor. They're salty, a bit sweet, and have a buttery flavor & flaky texture. They pair well with savory toppings or sweet ones, and Ritz Bits are one of the best examples of American fake cheese snacks.

What happens though when that classic gets coated in more artificial butter flavor than it's usually coated in? Let's see!

Visibly, they don't seem all that different from standard Ritz crackers - there are visible grains of salt, cute little scalloped edges, and a golden brown color.

When you taste them, however, you can really tell the difference. They're indeed more 'buttery' in flavor, but what seems even more evident to me is that they're a fair bit sweeter than standard Ritz. That I kind of don't like...where regular Ritz can stand up to toppings and accompaniments both salty & sweet, these seem like they'd really only work on their own, or topped with like...peanut butter. I do think they'd be a nice ice cream topping, or macaroni and cheese topping. I do get a hint of nutmeg as well, which is why I think it'd couple quite nicely with mac & cheese.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Graeter's Cheese Crown Ice Cream

I'm visiting family in Indiana right now, so I thought - hey, now's my time to try out things that really only exist in the Midwest. There is lots of cool stuff about San Francisco, things you can get there that are really difficult to find most elsewhere in the United States...but some things I know I'll be missing. Like a lot of chains - I know it's not all that cool but I wish I could, if I so chose, go to a Red Lobster or something. In San Francisco, they just don't have 'em. Nor do they have Graeter's ice cream parlors - a very small Midwestern chain that must've just recently expanded to Indiana, as I'd never heard of them before.

They had a special flavor this month based off of a cheese danish pastry that they refer to as a Cheese Crown. Apparently in the Kentucky & Ohio region they have bakeries, but in Indiana it's just ice cream...for now. Graeter's also sells lots of their premium chip varieties in grocery stores across the nation, so keep your eyes peeled for this flavor at shops near you. (no, I'm not sponsored by Graeter's ;) )

The mix-ins for this flavor include cinnamon sugar pastry pieces & fondant icing flakes. As you can see, there are plenty of both - as I went further into the pint, the amount only seemed to increase. Very generous!

The ice cream itself seems to be a cream cheese base with a hint of fresh, sweet lemon. It's very reminiscent of cheesecake, and is thick & rich rather than icy & sweet. You can really feel the quality of the ice cream itself - it's not just good because of the bits, like a lot of other ice cream parlor flavors out there in the world.

The icing flakes had a very creamy, smooth texture and were truly thin slivers. The flavor was very sweet, it was really similar to the light frosting that tops danishes & cinnamon rolls. The pastry was soft, and had a taste very similar to graham crackers - or perhaps more specifically, Cinnamon Teddy Grahams.

It was a great flavor, very well put together (cinnamon sugar & cream cheese is hard to go wrong with) and high quality, smooth ice cream.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wild Ophelia Caramelized Banana Peanut Butter Cups

There are so many new brands in the US right now - being here not really on vacation opens me up to finding different stuff, as there is no harried kinda "gotta get these before I go back to the UK!" feelings. That way I can be like, "eh, I'll get the limited edition Oreos soon. In the mean time, these banana peanut butter cups sound good."

So it was - at Target all of these Wild Ophelia Peanut Butter Cups were on sale, but only by like 10%. They sounded awesome, but this caramelized banana variety was definitely the most unique. It's about $2.00 for 6 miniature Reese's size cups, which isn't a great deal - but isn't too expensive compared to other more gourmet chocolates.

The top is covered with bits of tough caramelized banana chips. To be honest, I don't care for the firm crunch of banana chips (never have) but since they're minced up in a small way they're easier to handle. The peanut butter seems to be a bit sweeter than usual, probably has a bit of banana flavor or puree blended in it.

The chocolate is milk based at 41%, so again it was pretty sweet and creamy. Everything was really smooth in texture, minus the crunchy bits of banana chip. They were nice with coffee, but in all honesty I feel like the quality wasn't that much better than Reese's, and actually these old Reese's Elvis Peanut Butter & Banana Cups were significantly nicer in my opinion. Bring them back, please!