Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lean Cuisine Grilled Chicken Caesar

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

Another Lean Cuisine review, or "gay food" as a friend of mine calls it. There's just so many of them, I feel compelled to try them. Though Lean Cuisine sometimes fails to deliver on taste or portion size, it usually comes out looking the way it does in the picture. This meal is no exception. It is "grilled white meat chicken with broccoli and garlic flavored radiatore pasta in a parmesan-caesar sauce". I had never heard of this type of pasta, but it looks like a shape that you would find in a limited edition Power Rangers pasta can. There are also some pieces of red bell pepper thrown in for good measure. This is not a surprise, as Lean Cuisine seems to put red bell pepper into every meal to make them seem more colorful than they would normally be.

I, however, see right through this. This is especially concerning when they add it to dishes that should have nothing to do with red bell pepper. This would be fine if bell peppers didn't have such a distinctly bell pepper flavor. Someone needs to a create red parsley or herb that adds color to everything but doesn't offend any taste buds. I'm also waiting for my strawberry sushi, GMC scientists!

But while the garnish is a knock, the chicken actually tastes pretty good. It appears to be grilled(or run through a blistering tunnel...I'm not convinced that there are chefs firing up grills for these things) and well-seasoned...and isn't processed chicken cubes! I've spent too many years eating Banquet turkey meals...this "real meat" business is such a shock to the system.

The sauce is very different from typical creamy pasta sauces. The sauce was slightly tangier than I had expected. I was thinking that it would be like an alfredo sauce, but the consistency and taste is closer to a salad dressing. This is not necessarily bad, as the broccoli helps to cut this and helps with texture contrast. The meal is alright...but there are many better chicken and pasta options. Try it if you want a tangy change of pace.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ham and Cheese Pocket from Champagne Bakery

Price: 1 for $1.00 or 6 for $5.00
Rating: ***** / *****

When I was a younger child, my mother would take me to the Asian Garden Mall for a treat when I needed one. This, unfortunately, was all too often. But it also led me to my appreciation for the ham and cheese pocket. It comes from the fine people at the Champagne Bakery, a small little shop located in the mall. They also sell tons of other baked goods and many varieties of pockets(cream cheese, barbecue pork, shredded chicken, and the scare-inducing hot dog and cheese) made fresh daily, but none compare to this one.

After you've had this ham and cheese delight, you'll never walk down the freezer aisle of your supermarket again without flipping out and knocking over all of the Hot Pockets. "Lies!!! Lies!!!" you'll scream as you're flailing down the store before the security comes and drags you away. The pocket here truly does put everything else to shame. The bread tastes as divine as a cherub's cloud. And as soft as a cherub's ass, I am told by popular media, of course, I have never seen or felt a cherub personally. It is a wonderfully decadent wonder of butter, flour, and shortening that makes the pocket crave-worthy. It is slightly sweet, but the sweetness is very subtle and isn't overwhelming like supermarket or fast food bread.

Inside the bread is a perfect amount of real cheddar cheese and a delicate ham that doesn't knock your mouth out with saltiness. Everything is wonderfully balanced and goes great with each other.


Damn, I could go for another one right now.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Amy's Pesto Tortellini

Price: $3.49
Rating: **** / *****

Amy disappointed me last time, but I decided to give her another chance. She happened to offer me pesto tortellini this time, a meal which certainly sounds light and delicious. The dish itself is pretty good, but I am more interested in the back story involved with the product. To make the product and company seem wholesome, there is a completely contrived and strange story behind every box. This one claimed that their chefs invented it for Amy's 15th birthday when they wanted something good and healthy that all the kiddies would like.

Let's think about this for a second...are we to believe that a team of chefs were cooking for a girl's birthday party and they didn't think of a dish until the last minute? Even the dish itself, pesto tortellini, is not some original invention. Pesto and pasta...incredible! The whole situation makes for creepy stuff, it leads me to believe that "Amy" is either a byproduct of years of human testing or a robot acronym A.M.Y. which stands for something insidious. Was it Amy's that developed such oddities as pheromone spray and the food dehydrator? So many mysteries left unsolved.

But there are things more important than speculating about the origin of the company. Most notably, the food. The pesto tortellini was plentiful and stayed tender throughout the microwaving process. The trick is to mix it about halfway through so that all the pasta is covered and the edges do not get burnt. The best thing about the dish is that the tortellini is packed with creamy cheese, not like those crappy frozen tortellinis you buy where there's nothing in them but some waterlogged curds along with the sour taste of disappointment. None of the tortellinis broke either, which is an accomplishment I have never seen before in a frozen dinner.

The basil in the pesto has a slight medicinal quality to it, but is fine overall. I have tried a few types of pesto and prefer the heavier versions, but this one is a lighter one, which is good if you're into that kind of thing. And it's organic, so you know it must be good for you! Try it, it'll make you feel better about your life in between the hits of heroin.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Double Review: Crab Udon and Crab Shumai

Myojo Crab Udon Noodles
Price: $.33
Rating: **** / *****

The noodles come in a myriad of flavors ranging from hot and sour to mushroom. As a seafood enthusiast, I decided to pick up the crab variety. I feared that it would be something like that crab juice Homer bought from the Khal-Khalash stand in New York. I thought about how crab possibly couldn't be translated into soup form, especially from a packet of powder and some bare noodles. In my head, it was going to be over-the-top pungent or taste more like tree bark than crab meat. Don't ask me why I know what tree bark tastes like.

So I prepared the noodles as directed, by dropping it in some simmering water and bringing it to a boil with the soup mix. There were little flakes of what appeared to be crab, but it really only showed up in trace amounts. That was okay, though, as the flavor was very mild yet distinctly crabby. If you've ever eaten a whole crab that's been boiled or steamed, you'll know that it can be messy. The soup tastes like what you slurp out of a crab in a very pleasant way. But then again, my favorite part is the crab brains, so I'm not sure if my tastes would appeal to everyone. I know I'm probably making it sound disgusting, but let's just say it has essence of crab down pat!

The noodles stayed firm throughout the cooking process but had no chewiness whatsoever when eaten with the soup. There really isn't enough substance to eat it by itself, though. Compared to ramen noodles, it is a bit lacking in texture and versatility. I really recommend buying a few of these packets and seeing which flavors you like. It's cheap and a nice change of pace from the regular ramen foodstuffs. I find that it goes best with a nice compliment though...would that be shumai?

Ajinomoto Seafood Shumai w/ Crab Meat
Price: $2.78 for 15
Rating: ** / *****

Well, I've had some good frozen shumai, but this isn't it. This is odd, considering that this company makes a shrimp variety that I really like. However, crab is literally a completely different animal. Since crab is more expensive, I discovered that there is very little actual crab in these little dumplings. Most of the crab actually comes from imitation crab meat, which is a mysterious entity made of pollack and the dreams of our youth.

Upon opening the microwave, the first thing I noticed is that it smelled like I had thrown a few whole onions in there. Indeed, it tasted and smelled strongly of onion...probably because onion is the first ingredient in the filling! Yuck. Onion wasn't even mentioned on the front of the box. Still, I finished my serving with the udon and masked the taste with soy sauce, though my breath could not be masked at all.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Benihana Marina

Benihana Marina
Price: $26.99
Rating: *** / *****
Since it was free: ***** / *****

I resented and hated them, the screech of their cackling was resonating against the building fury of my hunger and anguish.

"You bitch!" I shouted in the middle of the Staples.

The manager came up to me, "Insane fantasy episode of your friends making fun of you at lunch while you're making your third trip around Staples pretending to look for a USB cord?"

"Fucking right," I proclaimed.

He nodded knowingly, "Right this way, sir." The billowing doors opened and I stepped through without a fight.

And that's the story of how I ended up institutionalized the first time. Wait...actually, this was the time I went to Benihana's with my good pals Pillin and Ariana. You see, I was supposed to take them there for a work banquet and then find a way to kill time and wait for them. So after dropping them off, I moped around inside a Staples across the street to kill time. Soon after my third trip around Staples, however, I got a phone call from Ariana and it wasn't her telling me to go buy one of those ridiculous easy buttons that were on sale. She said to come join them. Awesome. Apparently her boss wasn't paying any attention so I could sneak in, eat, and make him pay the tab without ever having to meet the guy. Kind of like ninja-eating, though I'm not sure ninjas wore glasses. That may have been embellished a bit, but that was the general timeline of the day.

After the chef person came out, I ordered the Benihana Marina. The menu said that the Benihana Marina came with scallops, calamari, and shrimp. To my surprise, the chefman threw down some fish on the hibachi instead of calamari. I thought that I had read the menu wrong, but I looked it up online and indeed, the calamari was somehow replaced with fish. Damn. Well, that just threw the whole thing off. The delightfully rubbery texture of the squid would've made for a more interesting meal. What I got instead was ho-hum fish that was very forgettable.

The first course handed out was a simple mushroom broth garnished with fried onion pieces. It was mild and nice, but nothing out of the ordinary.

We also got a salad doused with Asian dressing, which I'm not a big fan of. The bitterness made it rather inedible and it was nothing more than filler for the real food. Eventually, the teppanyaki chef started preparing a simple chicken fried rice that was quite delectable. I appreciated the fact that he teased the small child at the table with a bowl trick, as tormenting young children never grows old. He went on to prepare my meal and make those fascinating onion volcanos.

As mentioned before, the fish was nothing special, I found it to be a bit bland and too firm for my liking. I like my fish either fried or steamed. The shrimp, I eat shrimp all the time so it was nothing special. Not to say that it wasn't good and well cooked, but I wasn't in love with it. I thought the best part of the meal was the scallops. They were done just right, firm but soft to the tooth and not at all overcooked. I could eat those scallops with the fried rice all day. I ended up stealing some of Pillin's steak, and that stuff melts in your mouth. That was excellent stuff.

(here is a picture of Pillin happily eating fried rice and Ariana cringing at the thought of being around me.)

Overall, it was a very good experience that could've used a bit more food flinging and perhaps some live fireworks. I was disappointed that I got fish instead of calamari, but that was a simple mistake. The other main courses were tasty, if not overpriced, and I would gladly go again, especially if it were on the house.

P.S. - Happy New Year, everybody. Hope you all had a good time, I know I did.