Iron Man Popsicle

No Comments » Written on February 9th, 2012 by
Categories: Food
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Product: Iron Man Popsicle
Purchased at: Grocery Outlet (North Tacoma/6th Ave.)
Price: 3/$1 or 34 cents

One of my cherished moments as a child was the neighborhood ice cream truck. And not just the truck itself – the thrill of hearing a constant repeat of “Pop Goes the Weasel”, “Turkey in the Straw” or the classic Scott Joplin piece “The Entertainer” becoming louder and louder as the truck traveled closer to my neighborhood. Mind you, the music didn’t mean we would be going to be visited by the truck, since our neighborhood was a looped dead-end that saw the truck less often than we did a new year.

When we (my brother and I) could confirm the truck was actually headed towards us, we made the mad dash of emptying pig banks, scraping through the couch and grabbing those quarters out of conveniently placed spare change dishes.

Looking back, the selection was always generally underwhelming: maybe some Ninja Turtles with bubble gum eyes or a Mickey Mouse novelty molded to include ears. In fact, most of the treats were just popsicles instead of actual ice cream. But jack up the price of those suckers by 1000% and you’ve got scores of kids chasing after your vehicle. A $1 treat from the truck always tasted better that a Fudgesicle from Fred Meyer that your mom bought in a 48 pack.

Oh boy, fat free with natural* colors and flavors!

Liquid Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Syrup.

Sadly, now I’m too old to go chasing after ice cream trucks and buying things made of pure sugar that aren’t Starbucks Frappacinos. However, I am not immune to bright colors and movie tie-ins (the children’s cereal aisle is a no-fly zone for me) so I couldn’t resisted buying IRON MAN’S FACE – in popsicle form.

Contrary to my usual modus operandi, I actually have seen Iron Man 2, instead of catching it when it appears on Saturday night basic cable. I can appreciate Robert Downey Jr.’s sarcastic character and Scarlett Johansson’s skintight leather, though I’m not sure the target audience of this product would.

I AM IRON MAN.

Iron Man’s big identity reveal in the film was a little more well-received that this unveiling. Poor frozen novelty Iron Man didn’t hold up too well after melting a bit in my grocery bag and refreezing in the meantime.

Iron Man’s face was a sickly syrupy sweet frozen mass of cherry and lemon. If you’ve ever had a “Firecracker” Popsicle, this pop was reminiscent of the first two cherry and lemon sections. All in all, a syrupy sweet artificial tasting frozen novelty that’ll make your heart race and possibly overload your Arc Reactor.

UPDATE – Last time I visited Grocery Outlet, the price of the remaining stock of these had been updated to 8/$1 or 12/$1, can’t remember which.

Yves Veggie Cuisine Shrimp Scampi

5 comments Written on January 30th, 2012 by
Categories: Food
Tags: , , , , ,

Product: Yves Veggie Cuisine Shrimp Scampi
Purchased at: Grocery Outlet (Lakewood)
Price: $1.99

I recently remembered an intense conversation I had with a friend that took place years ago at a local popular Chinese buffet (shout out to Super Buffet in Dupont) on the topic of shrimp. As we peeled the clear shells off of our chilled crustaceans, she mused how gross it was to see the shrimp’s visible intestinal tract (now you know) before popping it into her mouth. Now even though that tube is pretty much filled with algae, plankton and other harmless goo, she just had to take it a step farther, splitting open the shrimp’s back and rubbing the brown innards between her fingers.

Recently, I picked up a box of veggie shrimp scampi (seen before) partly prompted by my buffet experience but also because I wondered what in the world faux shrimp could be made out of.

Now I am not vegetarian, but I’ve dabbled with all sorts of meat substitutes, just for experimentation. Things like the good old veggie burger/Gardenburger, Boca Burgers, weird soy based “ribs” covered with a goopy sauce, Chik’n nuggets but also less processed choices like tofu, seitan and TVP. These veggie shrimp are composed not of soy or grains, but glucomannan (used in lots of weight-control related foods), potato starch and whey protein. Nom nom.

Obviously creating shrimp from starches is gonna bump the carbs up and knock the protein down (an impressive 1g per serving) but nevertheless, it’s a low calorie meal at 200 calories per box.

Click for large.

The box including the vacuum-sealed packet of “shrimp” (lovingly colored red with paprika extract) and a goopy packet of scampi sauce, made with garlic purée and canola oil. I’m glad they didn’t pre-mix them, because I can only take so much sauce with my meat-and-seafood free shrimp.

The contents.

Prep was pretty easy. The veggie shrimp is already pre-cooked so I took the liberty of using the fancy, non-bachelor route of actually putting the ingredients in a sauté pan as opposed to zapping it in the microwave.

This is another one of those products that I cannot find any official listing on the manufacturer’s site so I’ll go ahead and assume it’s discontinued, given the absence of information and the overabundance of these at my local Grocery Outlet recently (I saw the veggie tuna on sale last week for a measly 50 cents a box, so I might have to pick up one of those as well).

I cooked the shrimp until they were deemed “cooked” (lukewarm, in this case) and dosed them out on a plate. I did cook them with the included sauce, but only about a fourth of the packet, as to preserve the delicate glucomannan and potato starch flavor.

As far as the taste and texture goes, I was pleasantly surprised. The veggie shrimp successfully obtained a chewy, meaty texture without being too gummy or crumbly. They did have a slight fishy flavor, which I’m curious how this happened without using actual fish (anyone want to weigh in?).

I didn’t really care for the scampi sauce. Unlike the scampi I’m used to, it was mainly canola oil as opposed to butter which gave it a slick, greasy taste. Note that I didn’t eat the veggie shrimp with any sort of pasta or rice as suggested, but I imagine those would soak up a bit of the oil.

All in all, an interesting concept but looks like it didn’t catch on. I probably wouldn’t buy these again, mainly because I don’t feel real shrimp are that unhealthy (but I am a meat eater after all) and they’re definitely more filling due to the protein content. Worth a try though if you’re vegetarian and looking for something fishy.

Other Reviews for Yves Veggie Cuisine Shrimp Scampi:
Adventures in Fake Meat
Vegetablog

Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup

No Comments » Written on November 7th, 2011 by
Categories: Food
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Product: Stouffers Stuffed Melts and Soups (CORNER BISTRO® Steak and Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar soup)
Purchased at: McChord AFB Commissary
Price: free (prize from STOUFFER’S® Match ‘Em Up Game Facebook contest)

Now as someone who runs a site called “Clearance Cuisine”, one would assume that I’m probably extreme couponer, but I’m actually a sucker for in-store and online contests. This also saves me from scissor-induced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and aggravating grocery store cashiers on a daily basis. Not wanting to pass up a chance at winning something, I ended up playing an instant win game on the Stouffer’s Facebook page back in February, and hey, I happened to win a free frozen meal (well, a coupon for one that arrived a couple of months later).

Marisa,

We’re happy to let you know that you’re a winner in the STOUFFER’S Stuffed Melt and Soup Match ‘Em Up promotion! You’ve won a coupon good for a free stuffed melt and soup combo, which has an approximate retail value of $3.69. Congratulations! There’s nothing you need to do except look for your prize within 8-10 weeks.

After getting the coupon in the mail, I picked up the meal on a shopping trip with my dad to the local military commissary (hooray for dependent benefits) in March and it’s been aging nicely in the freezer since.

The front of the box proclaims “Bakery Fresh Taste IN MINUTES” (5 and 3/4 to be exact), but that’s a tough claim to back up for a frozen meal. The sad fact of the matter is that I live within 3 blocks of both a bakery that makes tasty goods AND a soup shop that makes an infinite amount (literally) of delicious, fresh soups. However, I must do my duty as a food writer/experimenter and try this concoction. Good thing the best before date is March 2012!

The instructions call for peeling off the top cardboard part of the box, microwaving only the plastic-covered soup first for 90 seconds, then popping in the “stuffed melt” with the requisite crisping sleeve with the soup for the remaining 3 minutes and 15 seconds (in my case, I just did three minutes out of laziness and the high probability the extra fifteen seconds wouldn’t make or break the meal). The inside of the box also had a special code, most likely I had the winning box for three lifetimes worth of Stouffer’s meals.

As many of the popular reviews I also spotted for this product (The Impulsive Buy, Freezer Burns, Brand Eating) also mentioned, the “stuffed melt” is less of an artisan meat and cheese bistro treat (“Herb-Topped Focaccia Bread Filled with Beef Steak, Onions and Mushrooms in a Swiss Cheese Sauce”) and more of a small, pretentious Hot Pocket. The filling was almost the exact same filling as a Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pocket, but just a little tougher. The cheese sauce even spurted out while microwaving in traditional Hot Pocket style.

If I haven’t had read the box, I would have never guessed there were mushrooms also in the melt. Everything stuffed in there had the same texture. The watery cheese “sauce” had gooey cheese chunks as well. It’s also pretty small for a sandwich that’s half of a 400 calorie meal (see the photo with my little hands/diameter of the plastic soup bowl for reference).

The soup was just as disappointing – a viscous, orange solution with some bits of broccoli (most of it being the stalk, the least tasty part). I nibbled on some of the broccoli, trying to justify it as “eating healthy”, though most of it went back in the freezer to harden it up into an ice puck to toss in the trash later.

As a meal, you’d be more satisfied to whip up your own Hot Pocket (Lean Pocket for the ladies) or Campbell’s and pairing them together. You’ll probably save some calories too. At around $2.50-$3.99, you can do it for much cheaper as well.

(ICED) ENrG Frozen Bar Energy Supplement

2 comments Written on October 31st, 2011 by
Categories: Food
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Product: (ICED) ENrG Frozen Bar Energy Supplement (Berry flavor)
Purchased at: Grocery Outlet (North Tacoma/6th Ave.)
Price:
34 cents or 3/$1

While Halloween would seem like the ideal time to write about some discounted candy or some weird chocolate we recently found, sadly I’ll have to disappoint you this year. Admittedly, all chocolate products in this household are generally consumed within mere hours of its arrival here and the only candy I have is some mint gum (trick-or-treaters, you’ve been warned. Thankfully it’s not feasible to egg just one apartment door).

Under the neon lights.

In the meantime, I picked up this frozen bar last week and spent sometime researching it. This is a bad habit from my college days, with just a dash of obsessive-compulsiveness mixed in. Who made this product? Why is it only 30 cents? Who in the world thought an energy popsicle ice pop (Popsicle is a brand name) was a good idea? I could probably make it as an investigative journalist, but I’m afraid I’m much too non-confrontational and timid to do anything like that.

Curiously enough, I found no official product page from Dreyers/Nestle (the maker of the product) for the (ICED) ENrG. The only references I found online were some other reviews (linked at the end of this article) from late 2010. A couple of these websites also mention the complete lack of marketing. I ever went as far as emailing Nestle last weekend for an answer but no response yet. It’s apparently one of those products that’s been banished to the product marketing black hole. Keeping this in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if a huge batch of these were produced in late 2010 (perhaps around November, judging by the best buy date) and quietly phased out shortly afterward.

I'm gonna "RECHARGE"

Personally, I’ve never really been a fan of popsicles ice pops. They’re simply a lower calorie alternative to ice cream bars without the creaminess of dairy but still the pancreas-seizing amounts of sugar. But an energy popsicle ice pop? The (ICED) ENrG Frozen Bar Energy Supplement has caffeine (45 mg), taurine (150 mg) and some vitamins and additives (like Vitamin B, C and niacin). It also qualifies as one of the most annoying product names to type, since I don’t have time to superscript the R or insert superfluous parentheses (part of its downfall, perhaps?)

The (ICED) ENrG pop is “berry” flavor, though whether that’s raspberry, blackberry, blueberry or the ever mysterious mixed berry, is up for discussion. but the ingredient list only includes “pomegranate fruit juice concentrate, vegetable and fruit juice colors” and “natural and artificial flavors”. Fun fact: see “Karaya Gum” on the ingredients? Wikipedia notes it’s “used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, as a laxative, and as a denture adhesive”.

The pop is slightly larger than the norm, with a plastic stick instead of a wooden one (and no eye-roll worthy jokes either) and it tastes like pomegranate-raspberry followed by a slight chemical-like bitterness, most likely from the energizing additives. If anything, it was a strong recollection of chomping down on a purple Chewable Flinstones multivitamin as a kid. Nowadays, kids are spoiled with gummy vitamins, so they’ve never had to deal with that acrid, medicinal flavor of lots of vitamins and minerals attempting to hide in a sugary package.


The back recommends “Suggested Use: 1 Frozen Bar Daily”. (ICED) ENrG also warns that it’s not recommended for kids of pregnant women, though I can’t see anyone other than a kid trying to get a serious energy boost from something like an ice pop. At 24g of sugar (equal to an 8oz glass of orange juice) and 45mg of caffeine (same amount as a Diet Coke), you’re probably better off sticking to your morning joe than unwrapping this sticky mess.

Other Reviews of (ICED) ENrG Popsicle:
Caffeine A Holic
ED Junkie
Possessed by Caffeine

Tepache Frumex Original Pineapple Cider

6 comments Written on October 28th, 2011 by
Categories: Drinks
Tags: , , ,

Product: Tepache Frumex Original Pineapple Cider
Purchased at: Saar’s Marketplace (Lakewood)
Price: 95 cents – 12 oz bottle

In our forays into international grocery aisles, we’re constantly finding more and more fermented food and drinks we haven’t tried like canned kimchi, kombucha, and kvass (keep an eye out for a future review on that one). On one of my last visits to the Lakewood Saar’s (probably the same trip I bought the Frutiking), I spotted a bottle of tepache, below the familiar Jarritos, Mineraga and sangria. What’s tepache you say? Well I’m glad you asked, because I put way too much time on these posts doing background research on what the products we eat and drinks actually are.

Thank goodness for Wikipedia! It’s not just useful for college papers!

Tepache is “a drink made out of the flesh and rind of the pineapple, sweetened with brown sugar and cinnamon and sometimes beer. Tepache does not have a high quantity of alcohol, since it is left to ferment for only about three days. The alcohol comes mostly from the addition of a small amount of beer, the most common way of serving it in Mexico. It is a drink better served cold with dry chili powder to give it a spicy taste. Tepache is commonly made by inmates in Mexican prison, because the process of creating tepache is simple and quick. However, tepache can also be found in taquerias since it is a rather cheap drink. Housewives sometimes prepare tepache. In markets, you can sometimes find a vendor with an orange barrel full of ice-cold tepache.

Mmm…prison tepache.

Our particular tepache is non-alcoholic and made with 12% juice. Ingredients include: Purified carbonated water, fermented pineapple extract (skin and pulp), barley, spices, sugar, brown sugar, and vitamin C.

The drink is tangy, akin to the glaze on a slice of pineapple upside-down cake from last’s months work potluck or the fruit cup that you found sitting in the back of your fridge. The flavor is what you’d expect from pineapple juice that’s fermented minus the alcohol: it’s got a twang, it’s a little sour and it tastes much better chilled.

Okay it wasn't that good.

If you like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain and possible flings with people who may or may not be your significant other, then maybe you’ll “love” this pineapple cider concoction I crafted with the stuff that was already in our cupboard: a glass of cider, plus some unsweetened coconut milk/coconut milk ice cubes and some simple syrup (add alcohol if desired).

But if you’d like to try something that’s probably more palatable, you could always just try it the traditional way, paired with a Mexican beer.

Have you had tepache? Should I try making my own? Did I miss the mark completely? Feel free to educate me!

Frutiking

2 comments Written on October 24th, 2011 by
Categories: Drinks
Tags: , , ,

Product: Frutiking
Purchased at: Saar’s Marketplace (Lakewood)
Price: 33 cents each (3/$1) – 6.76 oz bottle

Lots of showbiz families seem to have famous/not-so-famous sibling(s) such as the Baldwin brothers, Ben & Casey Affleck and my personal favorite, Ron and Clint Howard. In the food world, the infamous Burger King (now mysteriously out of the limelight/possibly booked for lewd and lascivious behavior) happens to have a lesser known Mexican cousin, who goes by the name Frutiking (who I like to imagine wears a very colorful cape and has a sceptre topped with a pineapple).

Anyway, the newest trend with food products seems to limiting serving sizes in the hopes of curbing the obesity trend in America. Who hasn’t seen 100 calorie packets of Oreos, single serving cups of ice cream (so I won’t feel guilty about eating ice cream from the tub, not that I do anyway) and now miniature cans and bottles of soda.

frutikingI picked up “Red” (or “Punch”) and “Orange” flavored Frutiking mini-bottles from Saar’s a few months ago (you can also find them in the bulk section at Winco, bulk soda – who knew?) and they’ve sat in my fridge ever since so I figured it was about time to try them before they turn into Frutiking Wine. On their website, Mexicorp, the makers of Frutiking describe the Punch flavor as “A blend of yummy tropical flavors that give a powerful taste” and Orange is “A delicious sweet citrus taste that everyone loves”. The website also features the statement (though more like command): “You will begin a new flavor adventure”.

Like the ever popular Mexican Coca-Cola, Frutiking uses “real” sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. In terms of content, it’s still got less grams of sugar than the same amount of Coca-Cola (18g vs. 21.8g), but in my beverage experience, brightly-colored sodas generally pack a syrupy saccharine punch.

Upon opening both of the little bottles, I noticed a distinct lack of psshh! despite the first ingredient being carbonated water (agua carbonata, if you prefer). Now I don’t know if this is because of the age of the soda/chilling in my fridge forever or sub-par carbonated water, but I’ve never had a soda lose its fizz from just sitting around unsealed unopened.

Despite the flatness, I still took a swig of each flavor. The immediately reminded me of a long forgotten childhood favorite: unfrozen/melted Otter Pops, just like their Poncho Punch and Little Orphan Orange counterparts. However, now as an adult and hearing daily warnings of diabetes and heart attacks, sadly Otter Pops and other such sugary things are not so suited to my grown-up palate.

frutiking

Ben’s photos are much better than mine.

While I applaud Mexicorp/Frutiking for making little bottles, the soda was just too sweet for me to enjoy on a regular basis. The flavors were nothing out of the ordinary, but Frutiking also comes in Apple, Pineapple, Lemon (Lime) and Grape. Sad fact: only 18 people like Frutiking on Facebook so maybe it’s not just me? If you’re really curious to try Frutiking, maybe pick up some of the bulk bottles at Winco for a sugar-alternative to Halloween candy (they carry the Pineapple flavor too) and pick up a bottle for yourself.

Somersaults Sunflower Seed Snacks

No Comments » Written on October 21st, 2011 by
Categories: Food
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Product: Somersaults Sunflower Seed Snacks, Pacific Sea Salt Flavor
Purchased at:
Valley Liquidation
Price: 33 cents a bag (2 oz)

The road to snack foods is paved with all sorts of things – oils, fats, salt, nuts and the ever popular bleached enriched flour. While my usual bachelor-style snack of choice is an uncooked ramen block, rather than choosing the epitome of unhealthy this time around, we picked up some bags of sunflower seed snacks made by the Somersault Snack Co. They’re a snack we initially picked out for FoodCamp253 and sampled back in April, I figured I’d take some more time to focus on these little nuggets.

They’re made with whole wheat flour (so they’re not gluten-free), they’re mainly composed of sunflower and sesame seeds so they are nut-free and well as vegan.

Our first guest reviews had some widely varying opinions: crunchy, moist, sweet, salty, nutty, dry, bland. They were even jokingly described as “rabbit food” (Pro-tip: a little internet research tells me that rabbits shouldn’t eat grains, but sunflower seeds can be a rare treat.)

What mainly attracted me was not the ingredients or the price (though that was great too), was the whimsical sailor on the packaging. I am not above kid-style marketing tactics like bright colors and cartoon characters, though coincidentally, I dislike Froot Loops and Trix (Golden Grahams 4 life). After checking out their website, Somersaults has a different character for each packaging: Sailor (Pacific Sea Salt), Pirate (Salty Pepper), Cowboy (Santa Fe Salsa) and Crazy Ass Chef with checkerboard pants chocolate frosting all over his face (Dutch Cocoa). They’re pretty much the Village People of nut-free snacks, though I shudder to think what flavor the Construction Worker would be.

The quarter-sized nuggets are much more condensed that their chips and crackers counterparts, so they can’t be dipped in anything, but are more suitable for just popping in your mouth. I’d compare them to the energy bar of snacks in regards to their consistency. Despite the popular notion that “healthy” snacks are generally tasteless, bland, etc. I actually quite enjoyed them. In fact, most of the bag was gone by the time we finished doing our monthly bulk product photo extravaganza. Thank goodness the bag was only two ounces (they also come in six-ounce zip bags) or I would have been mindless eating them until who knows when, though they have three grams of fiber per ounce, so I suppose my digestive system would be pleased/shocked.

I’m gonna keep an eye out for the other flavors, but the salt is a nice touch to a snack that already tastes pretty good to me. If you’re looking for a nutty snack minus the nuts, a tasty nugget that’s also vegan or just an alternative to your Doritos/Funyuns/uncooked ramen block, I’d suggest picking up a little bag. Possibly try out the Dutch Cocoa if you’re looking for something sweet (though I haven’t tried it).

Are there any “healthy” snacks that have pleasantly surprised you?

 

Smucker’s Plate Scapers

3 comments Written on October 14th, 2011 by
Categories: Food
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Product: Smucker’s Plate Scapers (Vanilla Flavor)
Purchased at: Grocery Outlet (Lakewood)
Price: 10 cents

As a child, I astounded friends and family with my imaginative yet structurally sound architectural mealtime creations. From gothic carrot cathedrals with bratwurst buttresses to Frank Gehry-inspired Jell-O bricks, I almost won the award for masterpiece for “Most Creative Blob” but it was upsettingly passed over for the Experience Music Project building. Nowadays I keep my building talents to myself, especially in polite company who may not appreciate my natural gift, though I long for the days when I can bust out my spoon and craft the next edible Washington Monument or Cascades mountain range (Richard Dreyfuss ain’t got nothin’ on me).

Sadly, as I grow older, my inherent eye for spotting building materials on my plate is slowly fading and my broccoli looks more and more like a vegetable instead of trees for my dinner dioramas. Pretzels are now baked salty sticks instead of sturdy pines for my little log cabins.

Thank goodness Smucker’s introduced Plate Scapers, a tool for my land…er…platescaping needs and packaged in a convenient squeeze bottle as well! Never would I have considered an edible white goo as part of my building plans (unless you count Elmer’s glue as edible). I’ve actually had this stuff on hand for a while now, but was mulling over what exactly I would use it for. Would you believe Grocery Outlet had a giant cart full of bottles, only for 10 cents?

In addition to Vanilla flavor, Plate Scapers also come in Caramel, Chocolate, Chocolate Fudge, Lime, Raspberry and Strawberry. Never would I have spent $10 per tube of paint in college if I knew I could get all my colors from Smucker’s and eat them too.

However, if a quick Google Search is any indication, the general population thinks this product’s name is “Plate Scrapers” (about 378,000,000 results) instead of “Plate Scapers” (about 11,700 results – “Did you mean: smuckers plate scrapers”) prompting me to think that people assume that swirling around sweetened goo on your plate with your regular slop make it that much more appealing and delicious, literally causing you to scrape it all into your mouth.

Platescaping for the novice, skilled and expert.

Good news, it's gluten-free!

Unfortunately, Smucker’s was not available to comment on this naming snafu, though I feel this product has a bit of an identity crisis. One on hand it’s advertised as a dessert topping on their main site yet the bottle specifically notes it’s for “plate decorating”

Vanilla Plate Scapers consists of:

Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, nonfat milk, fructose, glycerin, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean and cottonseed oil), salt, carrageenan, natural and artificial flavor, potassium sorbate added as a preservative, titanium dioxide added for color, sodium citrate, disodium phosphate, locust bean gum, soy lecithin.

It’s as delicious as it sounds.

Despite my displeasure with the taste (a delightful mix of chemicals, corn syrup, oil and a hint of dairy), the real test was to gauge how good this stuff could scape my bare plate.

I’ll think I’ll stick to leaving my plates…unscaped. Saves me some time washing the dishes too.

Scharffen Berger Roasted Cacao Nibs

4 comments Written on October 12th, 2011 by
Categories: Food
Tags: , ,

Product: Scharffen Berger Roasted Cacao Nibs
Purchased at: Grocery Outlet (Lakewood)
Price: $3.49

Chocolate now falls into the category of “things that people can be snobs about” (joining including beer, wine and Terrence Malick films). While some might enjoy a fine aged 2010 Indonesian truffle-caviar infused truffle, I admit to “indulging” with a block of unsweetened baking chocolate or an unusually waxy Palmer chocolate peanut balls around Halloween and/or Easter. Different strokes for different folks, right?

On the heels of the recently vague news that “chocolate is healthy“, most likely more people have been justifying their chocoholism with a daily dose of Hershey’s or Nestle’s. No joke, as I was typing this, the radio announced another study regarding women eating chocolate and reducing stroke. But telling women to eat chocolate feels like telling them to read Twilight. Today we go to the source of everyone’s favorite addiction.

Pre-nib cocoa bean – thanks to my bro for being some back from Costa Rica.

Cacao nibs are the little pieces of the crushed cocoa bean, to which cocoa butter, sugar and other things (nuts, fruit and the like) are added to make the final product. They’re about the size of an almond, but a little fatter. If you’re interested in learning more about the bean-to-bar process and you’re in the western Washington region, I would highly suggest visiting Theo Chocolate in the Fremont area of Seattle and taking their factory tour. They’re an organic, fair-trade chocolate maker that do all their roasting in-house. It’s $6.00, but you get more chocolate samples than a human should eat at a time including dark chocolate, milk chocolate, spicy chocolate and even handmade truffles (mine had an infusion of jasmine pearl tea).

Anywho, one of the samples on the tour was a handful of cacao nibs right from the roasting room. After enjoying them on the tour, I was excited to pick up a bag of Scharffen Berger nibs at Grocery Outlet. Scharffen Berger (I’ll occasionally refer to it as SB to rest my fingers) is based in Berkeley, but purchased by Hershey’s in 2005. While I’m pretty indifferent to Hershey’s own milk chocolate bar, I’m a fan of SB’s dark chocolate, which we occasionally see at Grocery Outlet in either bar or baking bit form.

If you’re wondering the difference between cocoa and cacao, long story short: cocoa = powder or butter, cacao = tree, pod or bean (or something entirely different if you watch Portlandia – link is NOT work safe/for the kiddies).

Now if you like chocolate, I’ll have to warn you that cacao nibs are a very different animal. Instead of the sweet, creamy melt-in-your-mouth square, the nibs are more akin to a gravel-like potting soil, in both texture and color. They’re a bit slick and shiny from all the delicious saturated fats in the cocoa bean.

I would describe the nibs as earthy, somewhat bitter and a fermented taste that reminds me slightly of red wine. They’re bit of an acquired taste and something you might have to adjust to. Over the past couple years, I’ve trained myself from eating milk chocolate to easing into 85%-100% cocoa content bars. Then again, I’ve been told I’m a chocolate Jedi.

If the non-sweetened nibs are not your cup of tea (or cocoa), I suggest trying Scharffen Berger’s Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate nibby bars or even Chocolate Coated Cacao Nibs (CandyBlog. net review here) that include sweetened chocolate to take some of the edge off. You can also use them to add crunch to banana bread or mix them into a homemade granola. For those who want a more savory nibby alternative, Scharffen Berger has an alluring “Cacao Nib Rub on Tri Tip Roast” with brown sugar and red pepper flakes. What’s a more perfect combination that chocolate and steak (maybe chocolate and bacon)?

Bonus tip for our Tacoma-area readers: if you’re hesitant about purchasing an entire bag of cacao nibs in fear you won’t like them, I have it on good authority the newly opened Tacoma Food Co-Op carries them in the bulk section. That way you can feel free to purchase as much as you’d like (and you don’t have to be a member to purchase, but you should join!).

Ever tried cacao nibs? What’d you think?

Buy Scharffen Berger Cacao Nibs on Amazon.

This Week at Grocery Outlet

No Comments » Written on October 10th, 2011 by
Categories: Deals
Tags: , , , , , ,

Since we’re getting back into the swing of things and every week we see stuff in the store we’d like to try but don’t always purchase, we’re starting a little section featuring some interesting products we’ve seen during our weekend shopping trips. We’ve already got a handful of potential review material in the queue/fridge at all times, but this is a chance to let our friends in the Tacoma/South Sound area about some neat eats. It’s like a mommy coupon blog minus the coupons and maternal wisdom.

We stopped by Grocery Outlet on 6th Ave. yesterday evening and found some good candidates…

1. Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water – $1.99 (4 pack)

Back in March we tried Fever-Tree’s Naturally Light Indian Tonic Water and Ben was instantly hooked. It’s a constant fixture on our gin-dominated drink shelf (which happens to be an IKEA Billy Bookcase), especially when we find it on sale. A pack of the UK-based tonic normally seems to retail for around $6-8 so if you’re looking for a decent tonic, I’d suggest trying some out. If you don’t trust our admittedly unrefined palates, it’s got some rave reviews on Amazon as well. Availability in the states seems to be limited – I’ve only seen it sold at Whole Foods and Amazon.com.

Bonus food photobomb: Little boxes of Silk PureAlmond Dark Chocolate – 2/1.00. Includes sippy straw to make you feel like a big kid.

2. Batter Blaster, Whole Wheat – $1.99 (aerosol can)

Okay, I admit: I’ve never tried this product and the novelty of making pancakes using something called a Batter Blaster is terribly amusing, much less downright lazy. But I know that deep down, every person who bashes this product secretly wants to get in on that batter blasting action. Plus I imagine it makes creating pancakes words and phallic flapjacks that much easier.

Plus it’s organic! And has whole wheat! And brown sugar and cinnamon! And CO2 goodness!

3. Laloo’s Goat’s Milk Ice Cream, Strawberry Darling and Capraccino flavors 

- $2.99 each

While normally I wouldn’t get terribly excited over ice cream at a great price (okay, I get really excited), Laloo’s piqued my curiosity. First of all, because it’s goat milk-based ice cream. While my last experience with anything goat-related was petting one at the Puyallup Fair, goat milk ice cream is something I’m not opposed to trying. Secondly, the Strawberry Darling flavor is not your typical Baskin Robbins fare. It’s strawberries combined with a balsamico syrup in a sweet and tangy combination that I absolutely recommend next time you want to living up a green salad.

Apparently a pint of this stuff normally cost ~$7 at Whole Foods, according to my sources. Additionally, it earned an A+ review from our friend Rodzilla (and he’s pretty discerning when it comes to ice cream). I may have to do my own taste test in the future before this stuff sells out.

So readers (Pierce County or otherwise), seen any good deals lately?