Thursday, November 30, 2006

Weird Japanese Candy Assortment

Price: $1.49
Rating: *** / *****

I have scared off armed criminals by flexing my muscles. Many women have turned me down for dates because of how manly I am. I think.

So it is perfectly okay for me to state that this candy assortment is the cutest thing I've ever eaten. Yes, "cute" is the word I use. It's fucking cute, okay?! This pack of five sealed boxes comes with flavors of lemon, grape, chocolate, fruit assortment jellybeans, and yogurt or vanilla pudding or something. The lemon, grape, and vanilla candies themselves are very odd. They are made like M&M's, but come with a sweet tart-like chalky center in a crisp sugar shell. The lemon and grape flavors are pleasant and cooling, not overwhelmingly chemical like you might expect. The lemon in particular is very vibrant and refreshing. There is an instant hit of brightness and aroma after biting into the shell, it was much better than what I was expecting. The chocolate ones were far better than they had any right to be. The chocolate was smooth and had hints of coffee, which I enjoyed immensely.

On to the bad...the white ones were throwaways and completely bland. I can't read Japanese, but I'm thinking that the flavor is actually "plain". The jellybeans were way too chewy - not stale, just chewy. Kind of like gum, actually. Like melon flavor gum.

Of course, the best part of the package is the box art. It is absurdly zany and fun. There's a box with a party animals putting their instinctive differences aside and living it up on a tropical island. There's even an anthropomorphic lemon happily drinking tea in the back of one of the boxes! LOOK AT IT!!!

It's almost as cute as this. However, it gets depressing when you wonder if the artist was a middle aged man desperate for work after failing to sell enough copies of cyborg hentai to support himself. And then you start there lemon in that tea? Is that lemon drinking itself? Is it like an ouroborus-type paradox meant to signify the cyclical nature of life, or a sick representation of self-cannibalism? I'd have to go to Japan to find out, but I have a feeling that I'd end up sold in a vending machine somewhere.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Maruchan Shrimp Cup Noodles

Price: $.25
Rating: **** / *****

Too classy for ramen noodles in a bag? Well, aren't you special? Then the next step up is Cup Noodles(or Pot Noodle to you crazy British people, though it contains no pot as far as I can tell). I've had around 40 million cups of shrimp Maruchans growing up, and have enjoyed it every single time.

The appeal of ramen noodles, of course, is the price. Even in cup form the most you'll pay is 33 cents, which is roughly the price of a chicken nugget and a half at Wendy's. However, have you ever thought to try it in recipes like these? Granted, most of the recipes seem downright disgusting, but it never hurts to try new things. These particular noodles are my favorite in terms of flavor and texture. The soup is not oily and the noodles don't turn into a gummy mess like the noodles of many other brands.

I tend to like my noodles on the firm side, getting hints of the chewy/crispy texture at first and then having it soften up in the soup. I achieve this culinary marvel by setting my microwave to 2:45. My favorite additions are peeled shrimp and a whole egg, but I know many people don't like eggs with their noodles. I used to call those people baboons, but was told that the word I was looking for was "buffoon." I have since gone to simpler insults to get my point across. I would have to say the greatest condiment of all, and in my opinion a must-have, is Asian chili sauce. The one in the picture is simply an unblended version of the Sriracha brand that is found in Asian-themed restaurants everywhere, but both have the same delicious effect.

Tip: Don't drink the soup unless you want to want your blood pressure to be high enough to shoot through a fire hose with.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Healthy Choice Creamy Dill Salmon

Price: $2.99
Rating: * / *****

My picture got messed up, so I had to use a tiny stock one. Sorry, folks! I'm certainly not buying another one for the sake of a picture. It really didn't look much different though...however, looks can be deceiving.

This meal by Healthy Choice is under the "Flavor Adventures" line. With a name like that, they should have a new tag line.

"You paid for the entire seat, but you'll only need the edge!!!"

Hmm...maybe it's not that adventurous. I can only conclude it's called that because Healthy Choice thinks that guys who eat frozen dinners have never had salmon before. On the contrary, I'm a well known salmon lover. Not in the Troy McClure way, of course, but on a bed of pilaf and topped with a lemon butter or caper sauce. However, I don't have a double boiler or know how to create a creamy dill sauce, so this meal piqued my interest.

The meal is "Wild Salmon Fish Slices in a Creamy Dill sauce over Pasta with Broccoli", which seems good, though I doubt that a salmon weak enough to submit to the fierce constriction of man's net was ever that wild to begin with. Apparently the salmon Healthy Choice chose were the ones that the bears had rejected. I saw Grizzly Man, so I know that a bear will eat any god damn thing it comes across. Anything EXCEPT THIS SALMON.

I don't even know where to start with the salmon. I know intellectually that seafood in the microwave is going to be sub-par, but I still can't resist the allure of a promising meal. I also know that I am an idiot that needs to follow his conscience when spending perfectly good money on meals that are guaranteed to disappoint. The salmon, in a word, is vile. You know how they tell you to buy fish that doesn't have a fishy smell? This is the complete opposite of that. When I opened the door to my microwave, I was shot in the face with an unholy mixture of dill and demonic marine life.

Despite my nausea, I decided to try a piece before judging it. After chewing twice, the flavor reached my brain and I proceeded to spit it out. I guess that's what they meant by "flavor adventure". Oh, those tricksters! The taste is offensively fishy...I don't know if Healthy Choice knows the meaning of subtlety. It's as if they added "artificial salmon extract" to the meal. The sauce is also a hideous disaster, making me think that "dill sauce" is "creamed death" in another language. The broccoli? Well, I have no problem with you, but I think you're hanging with the wrong crowd.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

It's A Celebration!!!

Happy Thanksgiving, my small but lethal legion of readers! May all good things in life happen to you and only you.

There are many things to be thankful for, but none greater than being able to review frozen dinners on a blog for you fine folks. A small miracle, really.

And for those people not reading my blog...while you're home today, eating your sweet, sweet holiday turkey, I hope you'll all choke - just a little bit.

Monday, November 20, 2006

KFC 2 Dollar 2sday

Price: $2.00
Rating: **** / *****

Here's my diorama. I call it "Leg and Thigh: Corruption! and Fried Decay Alongside the Watchful Biscuit and Container of Gravy Wrath Part II" it's really my dinner. I never realized how alien-like the individual mashed potatoes looked until now. How very, very odd.

I don't know if this deal is nationwide or even citywide, but it's pretty damn amazing. You get 2 pieces of genetically mutated chicken, 1 individual side, and a biscuit for just a measly 2 dollars on Tuesday.

So how's the food taste?

The chicken tastes like KFC chicken. You know what KFC chicken tastes like.

The mashed potatoes taste like KFC mashed potatoes. You know what KFC mashed potatoes taste like.

The biscuit tastes like a Pillsbury biscuit, oddly enough. Thought you had my pattern figured out, didn't you? Then, bam! The curveball.

Anyway, this was more of a heads up than anything. Those who know me know of my ongoing love affair with fried chicken. She left me back in the 70's, but she was only trying to find herself so I don't blame her. Now if only Popeyes would run a promotion like this...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Stouffer's Vegetable and Cheese Lasagna

Price: $2.50
Rating: **** / *****

Sometimes you just want a hug. Yes, I'm talking to you specifically. But sometimes I want a hug as well. Being barely legal(yes, that is really how I like describing my age. No, I don't think it's weird at all) and in a large college, it is not always possible to find one. Often times I feel that I am leading a life among peers who are as broken and listless as I am, only finding solace in their high-tech phones but dying on the inside with the tapping of every text message. Damn those phones, with their silly foody names: Chocolate and Blackberry?! That sounds like a dessert I should be reviewing! Alas, all of the ranting against expensive technology takes a toll on me.

So I look to food for my hugging needs. This used to burn my chest and stain my clothes, but I stopped taking my approach literally and started enjoying the food by eating it. I eventually found Stouffer's Cheese Lasagna. It is a hug in a bowl. The tender layers of pasta swim in a decadent, velvety, and damn near molten cream/parmesan sauce that has a rich yet mild flavor. Within the layers are a hearty combination of spinach, carrots, onions, and broccoli that manage to hold on to their texture and flavors. The panko-style bread crumbs on top are a welcome addition, giving the lasagna an extra layer of texture and a makeshift crust. I know it looks terrible in the picture I took, but trust me, it's really good!

However, it isn't without its flaws. The sauce, while extremely smooth and comforting, is a bit too lightly seasoned for my taste. This is remedied with a dash of garlic salt, but not everybody has a bottle of garlic salt implanted in their left arm like I do. And for those of you hoping for a healthy alternative to regular lasagna, you can just keep on looking. Though it is littered with vegetables, it is also covered in a sauce that is heavy on the fat. It's kind of like broccoli in cheese sauce...seems like a good way to get your broccoli until you realize that you finished a bottle of cheese whiz in one sitting. Not that I've ever done that. Stop looking at me with your accusing eyes. Okay, you got me, but I swear it was an accident.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Banquet Chicken Nuggets

Price: $1.00
Rating: **** / *****

Chickens don't have nuggets. But Banquet does. Take advantage of that. This is a meal that consistently delivers processed goodness. I know I have complained about the air bubbles in Chicken Parmigiana, but I don't mind it with the chicken nuggets because the flavor isn' know, repulsive. It's also not trying to be something it isn't. It's not called chicken tenders or premium chicken selects or anything. It's emulsified chunks of chicken and fat, that's it!

The tricky part of the heating process is combining convenience with yumminess. I tried combining the two words to come up with a clever name, but the result was a bit more sexual than I had imagined. Back to the meal: it is very easy to just toss the tray into the microwave for three minutes, but the nuggets get very soggy. The best way to go about cooking it is to take the film off of the nuggets and place a napkin under it. Let's see how much liquid it soaks up...

Are you disgusted yet? How about now? No? Good, now you can enjoy your non-soggy chicken nuggets. Dip liberally in ketchup and/or catsup to fully take in the nuances of the complex flavors. Like a fine wine, enjoy it slowly and experience the intricicies of the harmony of chicken and tomato paste. Sometimes when I'm feeling like going nuts I'll open up a thingamajig of barbecue sauce saved from a fast food establishment. If you really want to be fancy, you can cook it for two minutes and then finish it off in the toaster oven...but this method takes some semblance of effort, which is too much for a lot of us when we want a quick meal.

Now on to the sides. First on the menu are the crinkle cut fries. They are rather flavorless, but get the job done when dipped in your favorite condiment. Unfortunately, they tend to stick to each other, so you'll have to separate before eating. Think of it as if you are picking individual pieces off of a blooming onion and you'll be less disturbed. I'll be honest, I toss the frozen corn most of the time. The corn kernels are still cold by the time the nuggets and fries are done, and are generally bland and worthless - like YOU! Haha, just kidding folks, please don't hate me.

And yes, that really is an offer for a free game of bowling on the box. No, I don't see the connection either.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Amy's Indian Vegetable Korma

Price: $3.99
Rating: ** / *****

Those of you who have kept up with my blog may wonder how I'm still alive after eating all this crap. I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with voodoo and the alignment of certain planets. I'm thinking that this may not work forever so I decided to try a more organic source of food. The fine people at HeatEatReview are always talking about this mysterious entity called "Whole Foods". I have always been intrigued by this concept. Is food not already whole? Have I been eating half food my whole life? I still don't have that answer, but I made a trip down to Whole Foods for the first time today.

As soon as I stepped into the store, I felt like I had walked into a mysterious closet leading to some drug-induced land. The store was bright and bustling with people fighting over the newest tofu varieties and pita chips. There were products that I didn't even know existed. Out were Cocoa Puffs and Frosted Flakes, in were organic granola and grains that I thought only existed in ancient Egypt. I was grinning ear to ear like a maniac for a good five minutes, thinking "What have I gotten myself into?"

I eventually found my destination: the frozen food aisle. I picked up a few different meals, all with promises of organic pleasure. This one is from Amy's. She seems like a nice gal. The back of the box indicates that the Indian meals her company offers were developed by talking to three of their Indian friends. I'm too sure if three is a big enough sample size for a country of over a billion, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, the meal was a disappointment. It consisted of curried vegetables(onions, potatoes, peas, cailiflower, carrots, tomatoes, green bell peppers, cashews), dal(lentils and peas), and rice. While the vegetables were thankfully not pureed, both the dal and vegetables were far too mild for my taste. This is coming from a guy who eats Flaming Hot Cheetos with a glass of milk. I knew it would be mild, but it is downright weak. You only get a hint of the curry and not much else coming through. The dal was surprisingly soupy, so that didn't make eating it any more fun.

This is too bad because the rice was nicely separated and tasted fine. If the curry gave me any reason to eat more of it, I am sure it would be a worthy side. It wasn't your fault, rice. Really, rice, you were the lone bright spot of the meal. There's no reason for you to get mad. I didn't want to throw you away, honestly. Put that down! Mr. Rice, don't take out your anger out on me! Get back! Get back!

Mr. Rice, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Uhh...I'm sorry, that really didn't happen or make much sense, I just wanted to throw in a Simpsons reference. Anyway, I really wanted to enjoy this meal, I really did, but I can't justify paying $4 for something that doesn't pack much punch in the flavor department.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Taco Bell Double Decker Taco

Price: $.99
Rating: **** / *****

I remember when the Double Decker Taco first came out. It was a big deal for me. Food with multiple layers blew my mind back then, which would explain why I couldn't go by a cake shop without passing out. So when it became a permanent addition to the value menu at a reasonable price, I gently nodded to myself and had a sangria to celebrate.

The Double Decker follows the same formula as the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, but pulls it off more successfully. It is a taco wrapped in a soft flour tortilla with a hearty layer of mashed beans. That's it. And it's really good. Why not just eat a soft taco with beans, then? It's superior to a soft taco with beans because you get to taste the texture of the beans separately from all the other ingredients. A bite is always soft, then you get the layer of taco resistance, and then the delicious innards of salty meat, hot sauce, cheese. All of the flavors are balanced and cut back because of the presence of lettuce. The beans keep the whole thing from getting too heavy in the salt department on your palette.

Some people don't like beans - maybe because of all the childish rhymes, or maybe it's because they've had a few bad experiences. Taco Bell beans, however, are actually very mild and are mostly added for texture in this case. I would liken it to a hummus of some sort. I find it rather delicious, though I wish Taco Bell would hype up the advertising, maybe like their competitor Burger King and his sick video games.

Double Decker Taco: Proof that an identity crisis can make you more delicious.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Taco Bell's Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Price: $1.49
Rating: ** / *****

The commercial claims that this tex-mex amalgamation of food is crunchy, soft, and melty. I call scruples to that statement! This Cheesy Gordita Crunch was neither melty nor crunchy, though it was Gordita-y I suppose...whatever a gordita is. You would think that a taco with such an advertising push would give you a small orgasm of some sort.

The CGC is a regular taco wrapped in a gordita shell lined with unnamed cheeses both white and orange. Kind of like in this classic SNL parody, it feels unnecessary here. I was expecting a ton of hot cheese that would stretch for miles when I bit into it. What I got was a few specks that were on the bottom and had no stretchability whatsoever. The gordita itself was tasteless and doughy. The taco wilted on the way home, which is about the length of two minutes. If the taco can't stay crunchy for two minutes, what's the point? I guess Taco Bell assumes that their eaters scarf down their items by the time they reach their second light. While I have such things in the past, I do not approve of this assumption that we consumers eat our food like we're sucking air from an oxygen mask.

I did have it very late at night, so it might have been sitting around for a while. Still, I deem that Taco Bell, king of stoner food everywhere, should be able to push out a good product at night. It is completely inane and uninteresting, and this is coming from a guy with very low standards(in both women and food, though I'm not sure if that's relevant in this review).

I also had the Double Decker Taco. I'll have that review up soon.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Jeno's Crisp 'N Tasty Cheese Pizza

Price: $.79
Rating: *** / *****

As I go down the freezer aisle, I am often saddened to see that companies like California Pizza Kitchen think it's okay to charge $7 for a frozen individual pizza. Is a chef going to come out of my box and cook it for me? Because that's the only way it could possibly be worth it. I'm not a man made out of gold(yet). So after minutes of mumbling and sulking, I'll go with cheaper alternatives. And when I say cheaper, I'm talking roughly 89% cheaper. That's where Jeno's comes in.

I already know what you're thinking, "Why review a cheese pizza, Ace? I know what a cheese pizza tastes like." Do you really? Well...maybe. But still, it's worth knowing that a 79 cent pizza-style product is worth eating. This particular one is actually pretty decent. The sauce is flavorful and keeps the pizza from feeling dry. It is rather mild, not too tangy, and doesn't have the bitter aftertaste many pizzas have. The crust is crispy, flaky, and chewy enough to make it interesting. Nothing special, but you get a good value for what you're paying for.

The edibility of the pizza is dependent on the method of cooking. The toaster oven is really the only way to go. Well, I guess you could deep fry it, but you would need to have a blood transfusion immediately after consumption if you wanted to live. A few minutes of 425 degrees will reward you with a crispy crust and cheese that is melted all around. If you've ever tried microwaving a pizza before, you know that the cheese on the outside resembles charred plastic and the middle is somehow colder coming out than it was going in. Don't be lazy...use your toaster oven.

Plus, the customization level is off the charts! Throw some mushrooms on. Mushroom pizza! Toss some pepperoni on that cheese. Pepperoni pizza! Grate some cheese on it. Cheesy cheese pizza. WOW!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lunchables Ham and Cheddar

Price: $.99 (on sale)
Rating: **** / *****

I know what you're thinking. And yes, it is quite shameful when I have to qualify my food purchases with "it's for my little sister" at the cash register, but Lunchables are delicious. It's odd really...for all intents and purposes a basic Lunchable is crackers, processed cheese, and processed meat, but it captures my imagination like few other things. This is in stark contrast to the new and hipper Lunchables that arrived as I was hitting adolescence (ugh...whoever decided that uncooked pizza and cold tacos were good ideas?!). Lunchables are a seemingly simple product, but no matter how hard I've tried using things like Ritz crackers and "real" meat to make my own, I failed miserably in replicating the experience.

What's even stranger about a lunchable is that though the main varieties are turkey and ham, both meats taste essentially the same. I DARE you to try and distinguish between their Swiss cheese and American cheese as well. I never noticed this until later on in my life, but I'm now convinced that the only difference in food coloring. Sneaky bastards. This particular lunchable came with two cookies that taste more like Diabetes than shortcake. I tried taking it apart and eating it sandwich style with the meat and cheese to get a similar effect to the uber-hip Krispy Kreme hamburger. Sadly, my efforts only made it more unappetizing. It was a lost cause. I think I'll pass on this variety next time.

Then there's the stacking thing. Somehow in elementary school, the higher you stacked a Lunchable the more enjoyable it would be. I've seen people use up the whole box to build and unholy structure of lunchability. Foolish children, their mouths could not dare to fit the entire thing! I dare not tread that dreadful stacking territory, for fear of being struck down like the Tower of Babel.

To Lunchables!: Food of the gods and schoolchildren alike.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lean Cuisine Three Cheese Stuffed Rigatoni

Price: $2.00
Rating: ***** / *****

I don't quite get it...if the meals are presented on white bowls and plates, why does it come packaged with black plastic? It's such a waste of the colors of the vegetables that would otherwise cascade over the canvas of bare rigatoni, bringing the dimensions of the presentation into full bloom. A makeshift medley of amazingly mundane mixed veggies made magical in my meal.


I mean...

This stuff tastes good! And the vegetables, no matter how small a serving they actually are, liven up the dish enough to keep it interesting. Included are a few chunks of zucchini, yellow carrots(the future is now!), and regular carrots. I almost felt bad for the regular carrots, as they were easily upstaged by their tangier and more colorful cousins. There was more than enough for the amount of rigatoni in the bowl.

Of course, all of that would mean nothing if the pasta itself tasted like something that came out of Chef Boyardee. Fortunately, the rigatoni comes sealed like little edible presents filled with romano cheese. It was firm, but not enough to be al dente and definitely not mushy. I didn't find a single one that was broken. The sauce is well-seasoned and hearty without coming out like tomato paste...though I do question the merit of calling the sauce "fire roasted" as if they personally tossed hunks of hickory to delicately char it. There were real chunks of tomato which I am grateful for.

The rigatoni went very well with two drumsticks seasoned with lemon pepper and thrown on the Foreman grill. Unlike Tyler Florence, however, I do not claim generic meals such as sausage pasta or grilled chicken to be gourmet. This was, however, a damn good meal that I defy anyone to not enjoy. Hmm...that last sentence probably had bad grammar, but you know what I mean.