October 31, 2009

Marie Callender's Pasta Al Dente

mcpasta.jpgLet's start this review off with some background. I don't like frozen meals. Most of them just leave me unsatisfied, at best, or disgusted, at worst. That being said, when I'm pinching pennies and I buy some to avoid going out for lunch at work, I try and find some that at least look moderately appealing. Marie Callender's new Pasta Al Dente line seemed interesting. The claim on the box is that the heating method causes the pasta to "steam to perfection" (hence the "Al Dente" name). I grabbed two varieties, Beef Bolognese Rigatoni and Chicken Carbonara. As I pulled out the first meal (Beef Bolognese Rigatoni) to cook it, I saw how the heating process worked. The meal comes in a large bowl that holds only the sauce. Set inside the bowl is a steamer which holds the meat, veggies and noodles. The first thing I noticed is that you don't have to cut a slit into the plastic while the meal cooks, as the meal self vents. This is great because it saves you an extra step. When you place the food in the microwave, the sauce heats up which causes steam to rise and cook the rest of the meal. When it's done cooking, you simply pour the stuff in the steamer down into the sauce and mix it together. It's actually a pretty ingenious method, and I'm happy to report that the pasta prepared with it has by far the best texture of any frozen meal pasta I've ever had. As far as taste goes, the Beef Bolognese was OK. Aside from the great pasta, the sauce was good, but uninteresting, and the beef had slightly better-than-average consistency for frozen food meat. It certainly was a bit better than your average frozen food dish, overall, but not spectacular. As I was expecting it to be the better of the two, I had little hope for the Chicken Carbonara. Surprisingly, it was in fact the Carbonara that exceeded my expectations. The smokey, flavorful carbonara sauce was very tasty, and blended well with the chicken, peas and uncured pieces of bacon. When mixed with the great pasta, I must say that it was quite good. I doubt it will cause a culinary revolution, but it is great by frozen food standards. It's my humble opinion that Marie Callender's Pasta Al Dente line is above average in both taste and quality for frozen food. Though I was a bit disappointed by the Beef Bolognese, it was certainly not bad, and the Chicken Carbonara ranks amongst the best frozen food I've ever tried. If you like pasta and are on a budget, I can certainly recommend this line. I'm sure I'll try more Pasta Al Dente varieties in the future, which hopefully will be as good or better than the Chicken Carbonara.

Phoood ratings:

Beef Bolognese Rigatoni: So-so
Chicken Carbonara: Outstanding!

Posted by Edgar | Comments (12)

Taco Bell Black Jack Taco

blackjacktaco.jpgOK, I saw a commercial for a new taco at Taco Bell. It had a black shell. Yuck. Made me think it might be rotten. After the debacle that was the Lava Taco (gross sauce that created an overall yuck factor), I wasn't too excited to try it. So, I went out and got a couple of those puppies earlier today and I'm glad I did! Here's a run down of what it's made of:

A crunchy black taco shell filled with seasoned beef, zesty pepper jack sauce, shredded lettuce and a blend of three cheeses – cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella.

This taco is awesome. The cheeses are delish and the sauce is very tasty. It also didn't need any of the Taco Bell mild or hot sauce. Just take it out of the wrapper and demolish it. I kept savoring each bite, enjoying the zestiness of the sauce. The black shell tastes the same as a regular taco and ya know what? We got a great black President, why not a great taco with a black shell. GET WITH THE TIMES PEOPLE! And for 89 cents? Pick up 3 of these today and ask for a water cup (to fill up with soda when the employees aren't looking). Recession beaten.

Phoood rating: Good.gif

Posted by Joe | Comments (10)

October 29, 2009

Taco Bell Fully Loaded Nachos

fullyloadednachos.jpgI saw an ad for the fully loaded nachos and I was stoked. I love nachos. Who doesn't? No need for a fork or a plate. Just take the lid off and dominate.

These nachos looked amazing! Here's a quick run down of what's in it:

Double the beef, guac, fiesta salsa, sour cream, tortilla strips, nacho cheese, shredded cheese, beans, jalapenos and the whole thing is seated in a big taco shell.

Awesome, I'm in.

So, I went there and ordered it. Found out you have to pay extra for jalapeños. Bummer! Got home to enjoy my prize. The box it came in was ENORMOUS. Opened it up and what a mess. I don't expect the people at taco bell to be artists, but all the toppings were just slopped in so haphazardly. It would be have been fine if they were piled in layers, but these were sectioned off. Getting a decent bite required a lot of effort on my part. I had to take a chip and keep dipping it into the different subsections of the pile. The sour cream section on the upper right, the beef section in the lower left, the bean section in the upper right... you get my point. The whole thing was a total mess. On top of it, the guac tasted very strange. Sort of like what I would imagine that ninja turtle mutagen tastes like. And the shell, YUCK. I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be edible, but it tasted like cardboard. You would be better off eating the brown napkins they have there.

Avoid this item and stick with the classic nachos bell grande!

Phoood rating: Don't Waste Your Money

Posted by Joe | Comments (7)

October 26, 2009

Warsteiner Premium Verum

warsteiner.jpgWarsteiner Beer and Brewery is Germany's largest privately-owned brewery, located just outside the town of (believe it or not) Warstein, Germany. Their best-selling brew, Premium Verum, is a pilsener-style beer which boasts impressive sounding ingredients (forest spring water, two-row malted summer barley and all German hops). It's also brewed in accordance with the strict German Purity Law of 1516, which states that only these three ingredients may be used for making beer. The big question that the big speil about the ingredients and purity raises is "is the beer good?"

Yes, it is. The brew is a deep golden color with a medium-bodied texture. The entry is robust and the finish is very hopsy. It has just the right balance of strength, smoothness and taste. It is a slight bit bitter, but not excessively. Overall, if you like a pils that is both powerful and drinkable, this isn't a bad choice. While certainly not the best pilsener I've ever had (that title would go to Huari, which is sadly only available in the South American country of Bolivia), it's quite good. It's easy to see why this beer is Warsteiner's best seller. If you don't get overpowered by the bitterness of it, it's a fine brew.

Phoood rating: Good.gif

Posted by Edgar | Comments (2)

October 21, 2009

Limited Edition Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's

strawberriedpb2.jpgThese new M&M's were originally released as a limited edition tie-in to the new Transformers movie. When I first saw them, I thought that concept was interesting, but never felt the urge to try them. Recently, I saw these at the store in their (non-licensed) red and brown striped packaging and finally decided to give them a shot. I love peanut butter and I like strawberries, but I usually end up getting disappointed by new candy flavors. Even regular peanut butter M&M's don't taste as good to me as I think that they should. As such, I was ready for a truly mediocre candy experience. I am happy to report that I was wrong. M&M's has hit a home run with their new candy. The peanut butter flavor is sweet and creamy and the strawberry flavor actually tastes like real strawberries. This combination works in a good way. It's hard to say where Mars got the inspiration for this new mix, but they're so good, that you probably won't worry about it too much. If you're yearning for something different when you're out candy shopping, these great new M&M's won't disappoint.

Phoood rating: Outstanding!

Posted by Edgar | Comments (9)

October 19, 2009

Pringles Extreme Blazin’ Buffalo Wing

pringlesextreme2.jpgI guess the word "extreme" is subjective. You would think that a product labeled “extreme” would really knock your socks off in some way. And you would think that a product labeled both “extreme” and “blazin’” would have a flavor that would set your mouth on fire. You’d be wrong. Pringles Extreme Blazin’ Buffalo Wing have a moderately hot Buffalo wing flavor that will warm up your mouth a little bit, but that’s about it. Not exactly blazin’, Julius Pringles. I don’t claim to be a Buffalo wing expert (I can’t remember the last time I ate them. Too messy.), but I think the flavor is pretty generic and easily forgettable. You should pass on these and get another flavor of Pringles instead.

Phoood rating: So-so

Posted by Jim | Comments (3)

October 15, 2009

Cheese Nips (New & Improved Cheese Taste)

cheesenipsnew.jpgWhile shopping at Safeway recently, I noticed that the Cheese Nips box was labeled “New & Improved Cheese Taste.” I was immediately interested, as I’ve always though that Cheese Nips had a slightly odd favor and they were never my first choice when buying a cheese cracker. After eating a handful or two of the crackers, I was pleased to discover that the new Cheese Nips taste nothing like the old ones. Gone is the unique flavor that Cheese Nips used to have, which I don’t miss at all. The cheese flavor is significantly better than it used to be, but it’s still not as good as the cheese flavor of Cheez-Its, the king of cheese crackers. The cheese flavor of Cheese Nips is mild, whereas Cheez-Its have a more sharp cheese taste that I prefer. New and improved Cheese Nips are a marked improvement over the old version and come pretty close to the iconic Cheez-It – but not close enough to dethrone the king.

Phoood rating: Good.gif

Posted by Jim | Comments (5)

October 13, 2009

Carl's Jr. Jalapeño Burger

cjjalapeno.jpgAfter glancing back through Phoood's archives, I've noticed that the site's contributors have been truly nice to Carl's Jr., with 5 out of 6 burgers reviewed having a designation of "good" or better. This is no coincidence, as Carl's Jr. is one of the best fast food franchises out there. The company has taken pride in being proliferators of delicious (albeit high-calorie) comfort food, while not seeming to care about their competitors trying to integrate so-called "healthy" options into their menus. Plus, you have to love a restaurant that has so many different burgers. The point is, heart health aside, CJ's hamburgers are good, and the Jalapeño Burger is no exception. This particular sandwich is a standard charbroiled burger on a bun with lettuce, tomato and onion. To give it that extra kick, they throw on jalapeño peppers (hence the name), pepper jack cheese and Santa Fe sauce (which is a spicy mayonnaise). Needless to say, this combination is a winner. It has just the right mix of flavor and spice. The jalapeños have a good amount of heat, but they aren't extreme in any sense. Overall, if you like spicy food and charbroiled burgers (which I do), it would be almost impossible to be disappointed. My only gripe is that sometimes my local Carl's Jr. is a little light on the sauce or the peppers, which detracts from the intended flavor (but when it's well-made, it's truly excellent). I wouldn't say that this is Carl's best sandwich (I'd give that title to the classic Western Bacon Cheeseburger), but it's definitely a great one. If you're in the mood for a top-notch fast food burger with a kick, head over and pick one up.

Phoood rating: Outstanding!

Posted by Edgar | Comments (6)

October 12, 2009

Subway Low-Fat Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

subwaybuffalo.jpgI like Subway subs, and I love Buffalo Wings, so when I heard about Subway's new Low-Fat Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, I was intrigued. I'm sorry to say that this sub is nothing but a tragic disappointment. My first impression upon biting into it was "where is the buffalo sauce flavor?" You'd think that because the sliced pieces of chicken are sitting in the so-called buffalo sauce for a while, the taste would be pretty strong. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. I thought my senses were deceiving me, so I popped a piece of chicken by itself into my mouth, and still could barely taste anything different from plain chicken. As for the new light ranch sauce, it too had no flavor. I might as well have gotten the Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast sandwich. The only difference I would have noted is that the "Buffalo" Chicken Sandwich has the chicken cut into little strips. I'm immensely disappointed by this sub, especially since Subway has made some great and original low-fat subs before (like the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki). Though this sub in itself doesn't taste terrible (it tastes like a regular chicken sandwich), its lack of flavor kills it. To call Subway's newest creation a Buffalo Chicken sandwich would be culinary blasphemy.

Phoood rating: Don't Waste Your Money

Posted by Edgar | Comments (6)

October 10, 2009

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

saoctoberfest.jpgA couple weeks ago, I heard a radio commercial for Samuel Adams Octoberfest. The commercial said that the beer had won a gold medal at some beer festival. It must be pretty good then, I thought to myself. I picked up a six pack of it recently and was looking forward to drinking some great beer that would make me think I was actually in Munich eating Kaasspotzn and Würstl. Although Octoberfest is a decent attempt at a malty, Marzen-style lager, I’ve had better. I liked the maltiness and hint of sweetness, but it also had an aftertaste reminiscent of inferior beers. I just wasn’t as impressed with it as the judges evidently were. How could they think this was worth of a gold medal? Either I know more than the judges that gave Octoberfest a gold medal, or I know absolutely nothing about beer. Maybe it’s the latter, but I still can’t recommend Samuel Adams Octoberfest when there are so many other great beers available.

Phoood rating: So-so

Posted by Jim | Comments (4)

October 5, 2009

Doritos Collisions Cheesy Enchilada and Sour Cream

collisionsenchilada.jpgOn occasion, Doritos comes out with some awesome snack chips (the Toro Habanero flavor comes to mind). However, just as with any product that comes in a wide variety, some selections are destined to fall flat. This is one of them. For those of you who haven't seen Doritos' "Collision" line, the gimmick is that there are two different flavors of Doritos in one bag. The idea was definitely intriguing, so I decided to try the Cheesy Enchilada/Sour Cream mix. While not the worst snack chips I've ever tasted, the taste definitely leaves something to be desired. The Sour Cream flavor is similar to the Cool Ranch variety that Doritos has had on the market forever. The only difference is that in order to taste like sour cream, they removed all of the seasoning that gave the Ranch variety its definitive taste, leaving a bland flavor with no kick. The Cheesy Enchilada is a bit harder to describe. I suppose that it is comparable to a cheap microwave enchilada meal that initially tastes like nothing and then briefly leaves a faint enchilada sauce aftertaste. Overall, I suppose that this product isn't terrible, so I can't honestly give it a bad rating. On the other hand, its boring flavor and lack of bite leaves it unable to be considered anything other than mediocre.

Phoood rating: So-so

Posted by Edgar | Comments (0)