Saturday, October 31, 2009
Before I get too far into my blog, I wanted to give a little background on me. It's been said, "Never trust a skinny chef," and I think the same runs true for food reviewers. I LOVE food. I get obsessive about food. I like food in every genre or regional cuisine I've tried. Sure, there are things I DETEST (like sweet pickles, horseradish, and walnuts) but on the whole I find joy in almost everything I eat.
I also love to travel. My husband is a regional airline pilot, and we have some sweet flight benefits. Almost all of my travel has been in the US and Canada, but I recently returned from a trip to the UK. One of the vital parts of any travel excursion if checking out the local eats. I try to buy something regional on every trip I take, and many repeat locales have the same rituals (like flying into LAX and getting snacks at the Trader Joe's on Sepulveda). I always keep some space free in my suitcase to fill it up with my food finds. I currently live in Spanish Fork, UT...but have also lived in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, Portland, and scenic Rexburg, Idaho.
I love to blog, and I've been at it since 2002 when the general public had no idea what a weblog was. My main personal blog is www.cuteculturechick.com , but I also guest post on several other blogs (music reviews, religion, travel, etc). I'm the only "cuteculturechick" that I know of, so if you see that alias anywhere on the interwebs...it's probably me. You can also hit me up on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cuteculturechic . I'm guilty of spending much too much time drooling over "food porn."
Hi-Chew Japanese Chewing Candy (fave flavors are cotton candy, melon, yogurt and mango. Just hold the Durian and Ume Plum.)
Caramel (homemade, dulce de leche, bananas foster, you name it...I like it)
KitKats (UK and Japanese versions)
I don't drink coffee, alcohol, or (non-herbal) tea. I'm a Mormon and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Top cuisine picks are Japanese, Thai, Argentinian, Italian, Tex Mex, Fresh Mex, and authentic Mex.
Milk chocolate has always been my favorite, and I'm trying to teach myself to like dark chocolate. I prefer caramel to chocolate if given the choice, but together is even better.
I'm aware that I need to lose weight, and typically on some weight loss plan or another. I try to select items on the healthier side for the vast majority of my eating (inversely proportional to all the rich foods that I obsess over and will likely blog about) I love fresh produce and frequent farmers markets when I can.
I have a particular obsession with foreign candy. I randomly pop into import shops in hopes that I'll find the new and exciting limited edition items that I read about on other blogs. I've got a couple of international friends that I do candy exchanges with. If you're interested in a swap, hit me up.
So that's me. Hope you enjoy my reviews.
Friday, October 30, 2009
When I was running some errands in Provo this week, I stopped by The Sweet Tooth Fairy bakeshop. They're a family-run sweet shop that opened up in January with totally cute decor. The have an array of deliciously tempting cupcakes, of which I'm hooked on VaNieLa Squared and strawberry shortcake. I'm also hooked on their baked goods, especially their nut-free butterscotch Blondies. In honor of Halloween, I went for the pumpkin chocolate chip cupcake. Oh, boy, it was good! The cake was the perfect consistency between gooshy and firm, most and flavorful. It was chock full of Guittard milk chocolate chips, with a tantalizing buttercream frosting. I've been a longtime fan of the pumpkin/chocolate chip combo (especially Great Harvest Bread's loaf) and I think this one took the cake (pardon the pun). I wanted to turn around and go back and buy a boxfull. I hope they keep it as a seasonal flavor through Thanksgiving, because I'll surely be back for more.
Nicole Rates It: 10/10 (Hall of Fame)
Check out The Sweet Tooth Fairy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sweettoothfairy
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I was shopping in a health foods store yesterday and was looking for something savory to munch on. My friend Esther had pointed out Popchips to me when we were at Whole Foods last week, and I found single serving bags for $.59 each. I grabbed a bag of cheddar and busted them open in the car. Popchips are an all-natural crispy potato snack food that isn't baked nor fried. A mysterious combination of heat and pressure is used to create these wafer-like disks that are addictingly crunchy, but with no trans fat, no cholesterol, no preservatives, and little or no saturated fat. A one-ounce serving has 120 calories. There was a good cheddar aroma and the appearance of the crisps reminded me of a puffed ricecake. I popped one in my mouth, and was a little suprised to taste potato (it looked so much like those Quaker Quakes that my brain had expected puffed rice). The cheddar flavor was excellent, not too salty, not too strong. It didn't taste super-fake like Cheetos radioactive orange cheese. I really enjoyed these crisps and was grateful that I bought only a single-serving bag. Otherwise I would have munched to my heart's content until my belly popped. These are a tasty snack that I'm sure I'll buy again.
Nicole Rates It...8/10
Nicole Rates It...8/10
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I'll be doing a weekly highlight of some of the top posts I've read by other reviewers. Take a look!
The Impulsive Buy: Nabisco Dipped Delight Bars 100 Calorie Packs (Oreo and Nutter Butter)
Gigi Reviews: Trader Joe's Paneer Tikka Masala
Would I Buy it Again?: Another review of the Taco Bell Blackjack Taco
Candy Blog: I cannot tell you how excited I am for PRETZEL M&Ms!
Grub Grade: In-n-Out Double Double Animal Style
Jen's Kit Kat Blog: Roasted Sweet Potato Kit Kat
Candy Addict: Bubble Chocolate - An American version of the Nestle Aero Bar
Monday, October 26, 2009
I'm quickly nearing the end of my UK sweets stash. I gave away most of the sweets to those who helped pay for our trip and watched Rosie while we were gone. I did have one of each item for myself, so here's a quick rundown of what I snacked on:
Nestle Toffee Crisp: Reviewed in a previous entry. 6.5/10
Nestle Aero Bar: A chocolate bar filled with tiny bubbles of air. Sweet and melty. On the trip I had both the milk chocolate bar, and the mint chocolate Aero Bubbles bites. I've been a fan of Aero since I tried it in Canada on my high school choir tour. Not the most superior chocolate, but it's novelty increases eating enjoyment. 7/10
Nestle Smarties: Milk "chocolate beans" in a crisp sugar shell. Similar to M&Ms, they come in eight colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, pink and brown. Smarties were my first foreign candy experience as a child, and I always felt cheated that US Smarties were those little citric acid monstrosities. You can buy a Smarties McFlurry at UK McDonalds (although I went for the Mint Aero sundae) After having much higher quality chocolate in my life, I'm less impressed with the Smarties as I once was, but I love the colors and the crunch of the shell. It's worth a try if you come across them. 6.5/10
Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles: I discovered these at a specialty shop in California a few years ago, and was immediately hooked. I purchase them occasionally when I can find them, but they're usually $1.50-$2.25 per tube. I was on a mission to bring back a bunch of these, and mission was accomplished. I brough back 6 regular size tubes (25p) and 2 large gift size tubes (99p). These round jelly-like discs come in lemon, lime, strawberry, blackcurrant and orange. The gift tubes have fruit shaped candies. The pastilles are the right amount of sweet and tart, with a perfect chewing consistency. These pastilles are tied with my other all-time fruit chewing candy, Hi-Chew. 9/10
Milky Bar: Very sweet, very milky white chocolate. Nothing too unique but I enjoyed it. 7.5/10
UK Kit Kat: Kit Kats are typically my preferred candy bar when I am craving a chocolate bar, even though the American version is nowhere near as tasty as the UK version. The UKKK chocolate is sweet and rich with a smooth texture, the wafer is a bit more crisp with a great malt aftertaste. I hope to get my hands on some of the crazy Japanese Kit Kat flavors to review on this blog, but for now...the original UK Kit Kat was my favorite sweet of the bunch. 9/10
Jammie Dodgers: I heard about Jammie Dodgers in one of my favorite book series by Louise Rennison, "Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging." Because of this book, I also was determined to drink some (sickly sweet) blackcurrant Ribena. Georgia, the main character, talks about her little sister eating the Jammie Dodgers, and I have to say these biscuits probably appeal more to children than adults. They are two crumbly shortbread discs with strawberry jammie goo splotched in the middle. Rosie wasn't very impressed and ate only two bites. I've been snacking on the rest of the sleeve and enjoy them well enough. 5.5/10
Tesco Milk Chocolate Digestives: Oh my, I'm hooked on these bad boys! Digesties are a sweetmeal biscuit with milk chocolate on one side. I bough the Tesco brand because they were cheaper than McVities, but I actually preferred the Tesco digestives. It's kind of like a dense round graham cracker dipped in delicious chocolate. Taylor and I devoured two sleeves while in London, and we're almost done with the second sleeve that we brough home. Completely delicious. 9/10
I have a love/hate relationship with Carl's Jr. They have a few menu items that I love, but I don't let myself eat there very often because I know how unhealthy most of their menu items are. My husband, on the other hand, truly loves "CJ's." Since he can't get his Carl's fix on the east coast (and he still hasn't given Hardee's a try - not that I blame him) he usually wants to eat there almost every time he's with me in Utah. I had a 2-for-1 coupon in my car, and we each went for the Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburger.
My first thought upon picking up this box was, "Wow, this is a heavy burger!." I'm used to getting the cheapo $1 value burgers, and this had to weigh at least half a pound. I immediately took off the onions and lettuce, because the Carl's Jr. iceberg lettuce always tastes bland and dirty, and the onions are so pungent my nostrils burn for hours. The sesame seed bun was unremarkable, but held up well with all the sauce inside. The guacamole was tasty with a good kick to it. The meat was moist and flavorful. The pepper jack cheese was not as prounounced as I prefer, but it mixed well with the burger. My favorite part was the bacon...just the right chewiness and flavor. I could only eat about half of it with my fries and Coke, so I finished the rest off for dinner. It's probably my second favorite Carl's Jr. burger, behind the Western Bacon Cheeseburger.
I've thought about purchasing it again, but then I punched up the nutritional facts. In my newly-motivated attempts at weight loss, I know I've gotta avoid this one. But maybe I'll sneak a bite of my husband's if he gets it again.
Nicole Rates It...7.5/10
Nutrition Facts – 1 burger
55 g of fat,
16 g of saturated fat
105 mg of cholesterol
1430 mg of sodium
55 g of carbohydrates
10 g sugar
4 g dietary fiber
32 g of protein
*photo courtesy of Carl's Jr Website
Sunday, October 25, 2009
The Toffee Crisp Bar's slogan is "crispy crunch, chewy munch." I was expecting bits of toffee, similar to the butter toffee found in a Heath or Skor bar. Instead, it was a crisped rice bar, with a bland hint of malty toffee flavor. The bar is milk chocolate, very sweet and milky. My favorite part was the layer of caramel. The bar was reminiscent of a Whatchamacallit or 100 Grand. It was tasty, the chocolate far superior to most chocolate you can get in the States...but I had other favorites from my trip that outclassed the Toffee Crisp. It's worth a try if you love milk chocolate, crisped rice, and caramel.
Last week I returned from a trip to London. One of my favorite parts of traveling is trying out the local fare, especially pastries and candy. I got a Nestle variety pack of sweets from Tesco, consisting of Milky Bar, Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles, Kit Kat, Smarties, and Toffee Crisp. I probably wouldn't have purchased the bar on its own, but I decided to give it a try since is was included.
Nicole Rates it...6.5/10
Growing up, Taco Bell was one of my favorite fast food restaurants. My parents wouldn't spring for meals outside the home very often, but I could usually talk them into Taco Bell or Wendy's. In college, I would drive 30 miles into Idaho Falls to get my TB fix (until they opened the Rexburg location, with opening day line all the way back to Broulim's). While I was pregnant with my daughter in 2000, I got food poisoning from my Meximelt, and I swore off Taco Bell's food for several years.
Last year in Michigan, I was having a mad craving for nacho cheese, and pulled into Taco Hell on my way home from work. They had just introduced the Why Pay More? menu, and I ordered the (no longer available) 89 cent Cheesy Double Beef Burrito. I was immediately hooked. I started eating one every few days, and then branched out to other items. Then after a few months, I was really burned out on their food again, but haven't sworn it off.
On the way to the airport last week, I heard the Blackjack Taco commercial on the radio. It intrigued me, so I picked up some Taco Smell and gave the BJ Taco a try. The Taco Bell website describes it as
"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."
At first look, the taco itself felt kinda empty. Way too much limp lettuce. It reminded me of Halloween, with the orange cheese and black shell. The black shell didn't have any unique taste to it, just bland with not enough salt. There didn't seem to be much meat or zesty cheese sauce. After my first bite, I didn't really want to finish it...but I didn't want to wait in line again so I ate it anyway. It was less flavorful than even a regular crunchy taco. I wasn't impressed, and I don't plan to buy it again.
Nicole Rates It....5/10
Nutrition Info – Black Jack Taco
Calories – 210
Fat – 17 grams
Saturated Fat – 4.5 grams
Carbs – 6 grams
Cholesterol – 35 milligrams
Sodium – 430 milligrams
Sugars – 1 gram
Dietary Fiber – 2 grams
Protein – 8 grams
Monday, October 19, 2009
I've been kicking around the idea of doing a review blog for months. I wasn't sure if I wanted to have it be specific (like candy, food, movies, music, etc) but I might as well throw it all into one place. I can't promise it'll be updated regularly, but if you think I've got good taste...stick this one in your Google Reader and have fun.