Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chips Ahoy! Thins Cinnamon Sugar

Folks, thin cookies are in. Growing up I was strictly an ooey & gooey kinda snacker, but as I've gotten older I've grown to appreciate thin & crispy cookies. It's a good thing too, because that's basically all the new stuff coming out in America now, with the exception of dozens of Oreos. Heck, even they've got a 'Thin' variant now.

Cinnamon sugar is a less frequently praised combination than say, peanut butter & chocolate or birthday & cake, but it had big fans in my household growing up. Toast, butter, cinnamon, sugar. A real solid snack, if you ask me. So when I saw that Chips Ahoy! was going forward with a cinnamon sugar version of their new thins, I was in.

Of course, your standard Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies have also shed some inches and become Thins, but the Cinnamon Sugar version intrigued me far more.

Upon opening, you're hit with a very strong sweet cinnamon smell - not like Cinnabon, but like a snickerdoodle.

The base cookie has the same buttery & sweet flavor of your classic Chips Ahoy!, but it's enrobed by cinnamon sugar. There is also that hint of salt in the base flavor that always elevates Chips Ahoy! above store brand chocolate chip cookies, and it really makes this cookie sing too.

The creamy chips seem really tasteless, like they add nothing but a bit of creamy texture - personally, I think the cookies would be better without. They'd be crispier & no creamy chips would probably mean less calories as well. Not that these are particularly bad in that way, weighing in at about 150 for 4, but the cookies would be just as tasty minus those chips if you ask me.

Generally, I appreciate this new thin trend in cookiedom, but I think for my own personal taste I'd prefer a less sweet cookie that had a larger diameter. As it stands, these are small cookies that only satisfy in larger quantities, but you'll probably tire of their sweetness before you're satisfied by the amount. Think I'm going to have to accept that cookies, or rather...biscuits in the UK were really far superior to American ones. Had I known this, I would'v absconded with a few packs of HobNobs before I left London.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Choco Chip Oreos

I got one word for these cookies, and I hate to say it: boring.

I don't know how they screwed this one up, honestly. I used to eat Chips Ahoy Creamwiches until I popped - they were Chips Ahoy plain chocolate chip cookies sandwiched with Oreo cream. Yes I was a tubby young woman, but the late 90s - early 00s were a great era for junk food. Those halycon days of the movie tie-in soda pop...Makes me go all misty eyed.

Anyway, when I heard that the next batch of limited edition Oreos was going to include a 'Choco Chip' variety, I was pretty excited. Then I started seeing the pictures come in, and my excitement waned a bit. See, these are still flat Oreo cookies, and the flecks of "choco" chip don't really have any mass, they just look like flat, colored bits in the cookie. It's not chocolate chips - ergo, "choco" chip. They taste okay, but while I was expecting them to be like saltier, butterier Golden Oreos, they were more like sweeter & less flavorsome Golden Oreos. A real let down.

The biggest disappointment however was definitely the creme. I can honestly say it seems nearly tasteless to my palette. They would've been better off just using the plain creme. This was just sweet & gooey, not pasty like the usual creme texture in an Oreo. I felt no textured chip bits, it was just a smooth, gooey creme that tasted like sugar...brown sugar if I'm being generous. Take a look at the texture - it was really gummy. I've had that experience with a few other limited edition Oreos, think when they can't integrate the flavor well into the traditional cream they use more emulsifiers and it comes out like this.

I dunno, I'm really disappointed in these. It could be that my nostalgic desire for Creamwiches return has colored my opinion, because Creamwiches these ain't. But ... decent cookies these ain't, either. A real meh, wish I would've gotten any other Oreo.

Friday, July 8, 2016

SnackFever, June Original Box

Subscription boxes are a funny thing. The ones that I've subscribed to I've really enjoyed, but for some reason I find it harder to justify spending $20 - $30 on snacks when they come in the mail every month, versus spending that amount on snacks I've chosen at a store, online or in person. If I get right down to it, I think it's all about choosing things for myself. OyatsuBox was perfect for me as my taste seemed to run right down the line with theirs, but I'm waiting to renew my subscription until the autumn so I can get chocolate in my boxes without fear of melting. I'll be back, don't you worry.

In the mean time, I did want to get my monthly foreign snack box fix, but I didn't want to risk international shipping in the hot weather. That's when I discovered SnackFever, who are based in LA but send out Korean snacks. Sounds too good to be true, but at $20 a month for a good sized box I figured it was worth a shot. I also thought their social media was really charming, and being mere hours from LA I knew that my box would probably arrive ASAP. I'm impatient about shipping, what can I say?

One interesting thing I observed about SnackFever was that they have 3 sizes for the boxes but it's not just a matter of more stuff added on as you go along...The three boxes actually all contain slightly different things. There are some that carry-over but what your friend got in their mini box isn't necessarily going to come in your original box.

The Deluxe Box is $40, but apparently comes with more premium snacks. I'm not knowledgeable on Korean snacks in the same way that I am about Japanese snacks, so I can't say whether or not the items in the largest box are observably more 'premium', but there are definitely more of them!

The Mini Box is a pretty good deal at under $15, but I'm happy spending another $5 to ensure I get a drink & ramen, so Original Box it was!

The box itself was cool, it's nicely branded & seems very sturdy. Definitely was filled up with intriguing snacks, as well. Like I said, Korean snacks are a new world for me so I didn't recognize anything straight away. SnackFever didn't include an actual print-out explaining these specific snacks, but there was a print-out with some info on them as a company and I believe a coupon code - I lost it, though. However I did get an email explaining what was in my box, so you will have all the information you need!

So let's do a quick run down of what I received - not everything has photos because some things got eaten in a gluttonous haze:

Snack Ramen
This was a delicious instant noodle - while Korean candy & snacks are new to me, I've had a lot of Korean instant noodles & I love them. This one isn't knock-your-head-off spicy, but it's got some definite red pepper heat to it. It's a soup noodle and a bit smaller of a portion than your classic instant noodle...ergo, 'snack' ramen. There was some heat & a bit of meatiness to the broth, and the noodles had a substantial chew. Basically you can't go wrong with Korean instant noodles, in my opinion, if you love a bit of heat. This would be a good beginner-to-intermediate noodle.

Margaret Choco Cookies
Mm, this was a lovely thick cookie with a firm, almost crumbly chocolate filling. It reminded me of chocolate-filled pastries, as the surrounding cookie wasn't too sweet and wasn't particularly crunchy. More of a soft pastry texture, with a bit of chew. Went really nicely with a cup of tea - unfortunately I had to share this with my husband so I only got to try one. What a one it was, though! I'd pick up a box if I spotted them somewhere.

French Macchiato Pastry
This one was really cool, I suppose it's meant to taste like coffee but I felt it tasted like maple syrup. The SnackFever blog suggested having it with a cup of coffee, and it did pair very nicely. Could be the name is actually just meant to say, 'Have me with coffee!' not...I am coffee. It was a very crisp & thin bit of proper pastry. Again, I'd happily pick up a box.

Poteau Crackers
These were interesting! I didn't know what to expect as the blog described them as cream cookies, but they're really more like sandwich crackers in the style of Ritz or Tuc for my UK readers. Buttery & just a little salty, but instead of having a cheese filling as is customary for sandwich cracker snacks, they a butter flavored filling, that was actually a bit sweet. It was cool & I happily scarfed down the pack I had but I think my tastebud's prefer a more savory filling than these had. If I got another set in my box I'd eat them, but I won't seek them out. Unless they come in other flavors!

Candy Kitchen Hard Candies
These come with three flavors, Broccoli & Kiwi, Tomato & Grapefruit, and Carrot & Apple. Yeah, weird huh? You guys know I'm not nuts for hard candies, I understand their place in the world but I'll choose something I can chew any day of the week...That being said, these were cool and very unique. My favorite by far was the Tomato & Grapefruit, because I can taste both in equal measures. The grapefruit is the first flavor that hits, and it's a very true, not too sweet grapefruit, it has elements of bitterness that I didn't expect in a hard candy. The tomato comes out as kind of a vegetal sweetness - it's just cool & accurate. Seems like I should be eating it as an expensive salad, not a hard candy. The Apple & Carrot just tasted like an apple, which makes sense as carrots are actually pretty sweet & unassuming vegetables. The Broccoli & Kiwi tasted just like kiwi to me, but kiwi is one of my least favorite fruits so I can't judge. These are very cool, and something I never would've tried had it not been for this box!

My Chew
Nice addition to the box, but if you've had Hi-Chew you'll know what to expect. I got the grape flavor and it's a nice little taffy, but hard to shout from the rooftops. Still, good candy is good candy.

Aye-Shyuh Candy
They're not kidding folks, these are sour! Really small but powerful melon (?) flavored balls of chewy sour-osity. I had one to try it, but I'm not a sour candy fanatic so that's all I needed. if you like sour sweets though, these are the ones for you. I appreciated that they were gently chewy, and didn't get stuck in my teeth like a lot of other similar candies would. I'd buy a pack for a kid and watch their face, haha.

Pineapple Drink
My least favorite thing in the box, but I do understand the difficulty with finding interesting drinks and shipping them from overseas. Says the person who commissioned a box with two new Japanese Pepsis in it and shouted out loud about the shipping...you'll see that review sometime later. Anyway, this pineapple juice drink was not bad, but it didn't feel particularly special. It was pulpy and sweet, probably could've used a shot of rum or something... Considering how awesome I thought everything else was though, it was just a bit of bonus juice really.

Kkokal Corn Honey Butter Snacks
These were delicious, and I'm just the kind of person who loves the fact that they had a League of Legends tie-in. I don't play LoL much (laptop can't take it) but I know tons of people who do, and I've watched every documentary about e-sports there is, so seeing that it ties in to the national league for Korea...that was cool. These are honey butter flavored, which was a flavor that took Korea by storm awhile ago. They're a bit salty, a bit sweet, have some of the unctuous taste of buttered popcorn but by far the best thing about them is they're basically Bugles. I haven't had Bugles in years, but they're dunce-cap shaped corn snacks that had a particularly satisfying crunch, much like these. Nice one, Kkokal Corn! I'd love to try a more savory flavor sometime.

Pororo Yogurt Mix
Okay, you mix this powder with milk to make yogurt, I think, but I actually don't much keep milk in the house. I eat cereal with, funny enough, yogurt - so I don't need milk. We do have half & half though, so I followed the instructions on the packet but subbed for half & half where it said milk. I don't know if that messed something up, or if I just didn't spend enough time mixing (about 5 minutes), but it never really thickened up much. I took a sip and it was like unsweetened plain yogurt milk. Can't say I loved it, but I definitely appreciate the sentiment & the chance to try something I'd never even heard of before. What I do love, however, is that duck & frog combo. Nice.

Over all my experience with SnackFever was great - for $20 shipped that's a load of snacks, and plenty that I would've otherwise not seen or tried. They do an admirable job of sourcing Korean snacks from within LA, and I think they also have deals with some Korean snack companies in order to bring out exclusive snacks, too! I'm looking forward to future boxes indeed.

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.