Sunday, August 31, 2014

Takenoko No Sato, Mellow Chestnut

I'm back from Japan! It was a lovely two weeks...week and a half, maybe - but it feels nice to be back home. We ate tons of good food, and I'll be looking back on the trip in big installments like my previous Singapore & Berlin series, but as a nice starter I've already snacked on one of my bring-home treats: these bamboo shoot shaped cookies that you may have seen in many flavors elsewhere.

Takenoko no Sato means Bamboo Shoot Village, and the inner packaging reflects that by showing you a relaxing old-timey village scene. Am I to believe that these cookies are living out normal, village-type lives inside this rattling box? And here I come, just eating them one of by one & in some cases, two by two. Life's not fair, cookies, get used to it.

This flavor particularly is 'Mellow Chestnut', and I had an interesting experience with it. When bitten into, there is a weird savory edge that is a bit unpleasant. If you've ever had mont blanc and felt like "gee, suddenly this tastes a lot more like what I expect an acorn to taste like than a delicious nutty dessert paste" than A) you're just like me, and B) you'll know just what I mean, flavorwise. Chestnut is certainly not the only nut that falls victim to this, it's happened to me with almonds & hazelnuts alike.

However, when allowed to melt in the mouth the taste is, in fact, very mellow. Nutty & creamy, seamlessly blending into the buttery cookie. It seems to be an actual chestnut flavored white chocolate given the melt quality, rather than a 'coating'. I think they'd be really nice with tea or milk, but they're quite tiny so no dunking.

 I did consider a cookie soup sort of recipe with these...Cookie soup of course being my childhood culinary masterstroke: as many cookies as you care to eat stacked in a bowl, pour milk on top, eat with a spoon. Do combos - multiple cookie types, different milk flavors, add toppings...Cookie soup truly is the most versatile dessert soup of them all. These would integrate very nicely into any form of cookie soup.

 The smell might put off some, as it is a bit earthy - but when you're eating chestnut flavored, bamboo shoot shaped cookies that's part of the charm, huh? It's only earthy in the way that some nuts are.

There are about maybe 20 in a box - I split it with my husband as a little snack and we both felt pretty satisfied.

If the flavor of mellow chestnut doesn't strike your fancy, there are tons more. NapaJapan has a good size selection, I'd love to try the Maple one sometime.

Look forward to more to come from Japan, both individual reviews and retrospectives & general thoughts on the food available this time around!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Watermelon Oreos

Another great pack of American cookies from my family! In case you missed the first one, I've already reviewed Root Beer Float Chips Ahoy.

Next up are these lovely Watermelon Oreos. I love the golden Oreos so much, it's great to see them getting so much love with the limited edition flavors in the last couple years. You can see my previous review of the Candy Corn variety from last year at Halloween here.

Basically, the golden Oreos are just the littlest bit salty & a lot of buttery. Like sweeter Ritz, or Lorna Doons with less sugar. It's just the right combination for me, whatever it is.

I can't imagine watermelon flavored cream easily, so I was quite intrigued indeed. At the very worst, I know that I could just scrape the cream out and eat the plain golden Oreos.

When I opened the pack, it definitely smelled like watermelon - and it reminded me how many dang cookies you get in the average American box of cookies. Here, you get what, about 16 digestives in a pack on average? I've got about 24 Oreos if not more! Let's hope I like them, then.

So, with the subtle smell of artificial watermelon taffy ringing in my nose, I gave it a try: first, the Oreo. Great stuff, as per usual. Then the cream...the watermelon cream.

It actually tasted quite nice! If you've ever had watermelon Laffy Taffy, that's about it - except more subtle, and a lot less tangy. Or maybe even more accurately, watermelon Hubba Bubba. It's actually not tangy at all - it's sort of like vanilla watermelon, or a watermelon ice cream flavor. Don't be scared by the idea of a tangy cream with Oreos (even though I think that sounds kind of nice, too) because it's quite gentle and more sweet than anything else.

The weirdest thing about this flavor cream was actually the texture - it was quite a bit 'stickier' and chewier than traditional Oreo filling - making the taffy comparison earlier all the more accurate. It isn't all that nice by itself, it goes much better with the cookie - making this the rare Oreo I'd suggest is better eaten whole.

I was pleased that these weren't as weird as I expected them to be, but they were still an interesting change up from regular Oreos. Now, the bad part - they're quite terrible with tea, something about the sweet fruit flavor mixed with the slightly savory, strong PG Tips I generally pair my biscuits/cookies with was bad.

With milk, the traditional American accompaniment to Oreos, they're great. Eat them with that instead!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dairy Milk with Chips Ahoy!

I'll start it off with a controversial statement: I'm not crazy for the Dairy Milk with Oreo.

There, I said it. I've tried it a few times, and every time I felt that I just wasn't getting it, or that my tastebuds were totally shot. Now though, I feel confident in saying this - there just isn't that much Oreo flavor at all. There is bits of crispy Oreo cookie, but the cream is quite plain...just sweet. It's a shame, I wish it tasted more like "cookies & cream" rather than just 'filling' and cookies. To be fair, Oreos themselves don't necessarily have a strong taste to the cream, but there is a rather large hit of vanilla that is pretty absent from the bars.

So, it was with a little bit of that same reservation I tried the new Dairy Milk with Chips Ahoy! Only just, though. See, the way I figured, the taste of Chips Ahoy! is stronger than the taste of Oreos. I recently reviewed the Chips Ahoy! Root Beer Float cookies, if you'd like to know more about what they're like.

I'm not sure why I initially thought this would be a block of actual Chips Ahoy! inside the bar, but I was surprised to hear that it was biscuit-flavored cream. Pleasantly surprised. That it is - it's not pure cookie dough flavor, which is kind of what I was expecting. It doesn't have that salty hit that cookie dough has, it tastes more like a sweet, store bought cookie but...soft like cream. It was really a cool interpretation, and very accurate! The big crunchy pieces of Chips Ahoy! helped it along on it's way to tasting like a big cookie.

Really, the only thing I could say is that I wish it was just a tiny bit saltier. As it is, it's very, very sweet - the only real respite from the sweetness is the cookie pieces which are a bit more saline. The good thing about this sweetness is that you will really be satisfied by 3 or 6 chunks at a time. With some of the more well-balanced bars, you could really just keep going and going. The Golden Biscuit Crunch bar, for example, I think I could eat my way through about 3 or 6 of them, unwrapped of course.

I know it's tempting in this weather, but I would advise against refrigerating this bar. Let it melt if you must - once my husband put it in the fridge it lost a lot of the biscuit taste that made it so special.

This is a bit of a short review I know, but I feel like everyone knows what Dairy Milk tastes like so I'm sort of just talking about the filling. It tastes like sweet cookies, and it's got nice sizable chunks of chocolate chip cookie in it - it's very nice, but easy to sum up!

I've also just recently joined Bloglovin', so follow me there if you'd like to! I like the way my blog appears so visually on there, you might find it a nicer way to browse recent posts that strike your fancy.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Special Feature - FILE, Japan Edition: Cream Puffs

You might think, "Cream puffs? How could you possibly spin out an entire blog post about cream puffs you'd like to eat - in Japan no less!" The answer is - I love cream puffs.

I could write an entire blog about cream-filled pastries. If I went to college I'd write my thesis on eclairs. Get it man, I love cream puffs.

I mean, you probably coulda guessed that based off of my blog name. I love all things creamy - and like all patriots - I also love steak. Cream comes first though. It's cream, red and blue to me.

Anyway, I can easily come up with a multitude of cream puffs I'd like to eat. Let's start with one that I've already had and love. If ever I wake up chewing my pillow, it's because of this.

Image from Beard Papa's Website

Oh yes. You're probably thinking something like, "Gee, that looks like a lumpy white brain. In fact, I'm not sure you even know what a cream puff is, Creamy Steaks." Well, let this photo change your mind, wise guy:

Image from Beard Papa's website
That's right - it's like some cuckoo nutzoid mochi cream puff. If I recall correctly, the filling is a bit 'cheesier' than the classic Beard Papa, as if it's made of cream cheese & cream. I'll be sure to uh...try it again to make sure. But that's not all, folks! The benevolent bearded patriarchy of Beard Papa also created Mocha 'Shiro' Puffs that is all mocha flavored with bits of coffee jelly inside the cream!

 Unfortunately, they are already gone. They were a monthly special, now replaced by Golden Pineapple regular puffs. The good news is those also sound quite tasty...but they would've been better as chewy, stretchy puffs. Oh well!

It's not just Beard Papa though, oh no - cream puffs are really quite popular in Japan it seems, and there certainly were lots to choose from when I was there in 2011. It seems the trend has not waned, and really, cream puffs are timeless...not trendy. Back home in the USA they actually aren't that common, at least in Indiana, but me and my dad used to get these freezer tubs of mini-eclairs and mini-cream puffs, and I would just eat until I couldn't eat no more. They truly are one of my all time favorite foods - it's like that Wu Tang song C.R.E.A.M., you know, the one about how you need to get money to get more cream.

Image taken from FamilyMart Website
This one is from Family Mart, a line of convenience stores in Japan that is everywhere, and awesome. I think we may have went to even more Family Marts than we did 7-11s, as at the time they were running a super cool promotion with Rodney Alan Greenblat, the guy who did Parappa the Rappa. No puffs involved there, but this one is in fact banana cream. Specifically, whipped cream atop banana custard, and the puff itself is apparently covered in banana coating. Interesting! I'll definitely keep my eyes...peeled for this one.

Not to be outdone, 7-11 Japan also has a fruity cream puff out this month!

Mm, melon puff! Now, I suppose this looks a bit more like bread, but it's hard to tell without eating it. Regardless, it is filled with melon custard cream - so I'm sure it's tasty. Does it count as a cream puff or is it a cream bun? I'll find out when I eat it.

Then there is this one, available at the otherwise fairly 'classical' Ginza West:

Image from Ginza West
I had to leave the name on lest people not believe me - but this is a cream puff with added gorgonzola. It simply must be tried. I've had the 'European Cheese' flavored KitKat, and a few other strange 'cheese' sweets from Japan - they're usually not that strange, tasting more like cream cheese than anything else. However, since this specifies that it is using gorgonzola, I can only imagine that it will in fact taste like that. I'm looking forward to finding out!

So that's most all of the cream puffs I want to try in Japan. They'll come before the random things, but probably after the drinks. Melon puff & melon milkshake? Don't mind if I do.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Chips Ahoy! Ice Cream Creations Root Beer Float

In honor of the UK's recent introduction to Chips Ahoy! via Dairy Milk, I am reviewing one of the weirdest varieties of Chips Ahoy! that comes from across the sea. Thanks to my family (and primary readership!) for sending these along with a care package - there will be plenty more reviews where these came from, thanks to them. :D

Root beer - most English people I've met aren't fans, so it makes sense that you'll never see a cookie like this over here. I mean, you can barely get just root beer over here. It's a shame, it's a nice flavor if you grew up on it - but I suppose it's a bit like Dandelion & Burdock is to just sounds bad, and tastes weird if you don't know it.

Anyway, even as a root beer-swillin' American I find these cookies quite strange - they're less weird when you realize they're from a line of ice cream themed cookies that include safer bets such as Dulce de Leche, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Mocha Chunk. America is going through a real weird food phase if you ask me; one of the recent winners of the Lay's flavor competition was Cappucinno, and Oreos also have a Root Beer Float addition to others, such as Fruit Punch & Watermelon, which I will be reviewing later.

The Chips Ahoy! come off as even stranger than those, however, as when I lived in the US Chips Ahoy! was always quite pedestrian. I remember the excitement I felt when the chewy/microwavable variety came out...Then of course, there was all that business with the Cremewiches, which I would happily beat somebody up for a box of. Or agree to only ever listen to their annoying jingle again for the rest of my life. They were one of my very first 'new food excitements' in the early 2000s, haha. After that, it was all countdowns to Vanilla Coke & limited edition Snickers for the rest of my life. Cremewiches were Chips Ahoy cookies meets Oreos, basically.

The Root Beer Float Chips Ahoy! are a less obvious pairing, but are they as good? Well, how dare you even suggest that - nothing will ever top Cremewiches - nothing. However, these are pretty nice!
They're the chewy kind, and really loaded up with chips. They're a bit smaller than a Crunch Cream and much dinkier than a digestive or Maryland. American snacks can pack in the same amount of calories as UK snacks in about half the surface area. Hey, we call it exceptionalism. The chewiness is unique to these sorts of cookies, it's a really specific kind of easily torn and crumbless texture...Almost, nearly like cookie dough rather than actual cookies. This softness is great for me, it just really takes me back home as 'chewy' cookies here are usually much more chewy chewy, whereas these are a very soft chew.

They taste like root beer & vanilla - if that sounds good to you I'd seek these out. Root beer for those of you who haven't ever really tried it, is probably best described as a bit of wintergreen mint, a bit of vanilla, and some vaguely 'spicy' herbs. Man, I have no idea how accurate that is - root beer has to be tried to be understood!

The vanilla comes from the cookie base and the white chips, whereas the brown are where the root beer flavoring is. These were nicely accurate - not overly strong and therefore too chemically or artificial tasting, although keep in mind you're eating root beer float cookies so you should expect some artificial taste.

I was a big fan of these, and while they were small the unique flavor made two cookies at a time feel like a fair amount. Dunk them in milk for an even more authentically moist root beer float experience! Or even more wild, do some kind voodoo (or foodoo as I like to call it) and make a root beer float at home with extra vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and crumbled Chips Ahoy! Root Beer Float cookies. Go on...I dare ya.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fox's Crunch Creams, Mint Choc Flavor

I was initially attracted to these biscuits based off of the color scheme - really, a great choice. Pale mint & pale pink, just my style! These are the colors my childhood room was painted, actually.

The flavor just cemented my desire to buy - Mint Chocolate Chip - or, distressingly informal - Mint 'Choc', is a great choice for a biscuit. Being a fan of those mint Penguins I knew that mint can go nicely with tea, even if at first it sounds crazy.

I'm really surprised I haven't seen any other reviews of these, as the colors really make it stand out in the aisles. Perhaps they've been overshadowed by the Vinnie's Taste of America line?...By the way, I hate Vinnie. The accent is so stupid, and he's just such a bald-faced attempt at a 'quirky' character it makes me frown. Also, why is he not a fox? They're "Fox's" biscuits, clearly the mascot should be a fox. A fox that likes biscuits. Not a panda that is inexplicably from Fictional New York where everyone has an annoying accent. Fuggeddaboutit 

Anyway, say what I will about Vinnie, this is a quality biscuit. I like the Crunch Creams in general, the ginger one being a great stand-by biscuit for me when I feel like stuffing myself. What the line all has in common is a crispy biscuit sandwiched with vanilla or chocolate cream - except in the case of the Mint Choc Chip, which is mint cream with chocolate crispy biscuits.

It's a nice thick dollop of cream as usual - these biscuits are thicker than an Oreo all around, a bigger cookie and more cream. The cream itself also has a nicer texture than Oreos, smooth & not too sweet - these ones particularly are just right.

The biscuit portion is super crunchy as usual, so maybe eat them over a plate if you're eating them dry - they soak up tea or milk very quickly and that makes them not as messy. The chocolate flavor is there, but quite weak - chocolate is only ever really strong when it's actual chocolate, and not just 'flavoring'. Fair enough though, it tastes nice regardless!

The mint cream is thick & tastes a bit like the garden mint that I find kinda gross. It's not peppermint - that's kind of the problem. Believe me, it's not bad - and it actually approximates the taste of mint chocolate chip ice cream fairly well, but I think it would've been nicer had it been 'peppermint' rather than the more herbaceous garden mint. Dunked in tea it was better, as it melds the chocolate & mint flavors together more.

Would I buy them again, probably not because of the slightly herb-y mint, but that's just me. Would I buy the other types of Crunch Creams, absolutely - I think they're some of the best biscuits in the supermarkets! I'd like to see more limited edition ones come out, too. For instance, a vanilla biscuit one with strawberry cream? I can see that going down well!

PS I just looked at Vinnie's Facebook...I gotta imagine he's for kids, but all this crap about 'associates' and the accent even being written out, haha.

 Fox's, keep it up and you're going to have the Italian American Anti-Defamation League on your case! Why not play it safe and hire me to be your mascot, I'm an authentic American who loves biscuits. Call me.

Finally got on this Bloglovin' bandwagon, thanks people for already following me on there! :D