Archive | July, 2010

THE WEEK IN REVIEWS – 7/31/2010

Written by | July 31, 2010

Topics: Doritos, Energy Drink, Misc, Soda, Taco Bell

Here are a few product reviews posted this week from other blogs we like.

A company named Molotov has a mango and Tapatio Salsa Picante energy drink. Muy bueno? O muy loco? (via ED Junkie)

These man-shaped paper clips either have really large noses or they’re anatomically correct. (via Office Supply Geek)

Suck it, Pepsi Japan! We have rhubarb soda. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! (via Soda Giant)

It seems Doritos is getting better at making their chips taste like meat. I wonder if Taco Bell will start putting it in their tacos, because it might be an upgrade to what they have now. (via We Rate Stuff)

Speaking of Taco Bell, they’re now attempting to make real Mexican tacos found in cantinas. Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but how about they focus on why their food works well as a laxative. (via Grub Grade)

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REVIEW: Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Written by | July 29, 2010

Topics: 5 Rating, Microwavable, Stouffer's

I feel like I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. I’ve dubbed it the “4 out of 10″ rut. It seems like everything I review is either spectacularly underwhelming or just plain blech. Which is why I was so glad to see Stouffer’s new Stuffed Melt and Soup. It’s an ingenious idea with three available combinations that all sound like they could be really tasty. I chose the Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup over the Three Cheese & Ham Stuffed Melt with Creamy Tomato Bisque because I can’t seem to find a tomato soup I like, so I wanted to give Stouffer’s the best chance possible to succeed in making my taste buds give them a round of applause.

Apparently there’s also a Chicken Bacon Ranch Stuffed Melt with Baked Potato Soup available, but they didn’t have it at my store. If it had been there, I would have had some tough decisions to make. Actually, I probably would have just bought them both, after standing in front of the frozen food section for 15 minutes, paralyzed by my inability to make a quick trip to the grocery store last less than half an hour. I really shouldn’t be left unsupervised.

As a brief side note, food manufacturers really need to start cutting down on their product names. Seriously, “Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup?” Is the Stouffer’s marketing team working on the Dickensian pay scale? Can’t we trim it down a little? Also, who uses the term “stuffed melt?” It’s a fucking sandwich. Treat it as such. Or at least be less fucking redundant.

The entire description of the SCBSMSSSSMBCS on the front of the box is as follows: “Herb-topped focaccia bread filled with beef steak, onions and mushrooms in a swiss cheese sauce paired with creamy broccoli and cheddar cheese soup.”

Whew! Thank God they specified beef steaks. I thought I was in for some crazy fish steak and swiss cheese adventure.

There are no conventional oven cooking instructions, only microwave. That’s how fucking serious Stouffer’s is about giving you a bakery fresh taste in minutes. You are strictly not allowed to take your time. The top of the box tears away, leaving you with a handy little tray to hold your soup and sandwi…stuffed melt. You pop the soup in by itself for a minute thirty, then you add the melt with its convenient crisping sleeve for another three and a quarter minutes. Voila!

And yes, I spilled some of the soup into the tray by accident. Don’t worry, I scraped most of it off the cardboard with my spoon and ate it. No stone left unturned for you TIB readers! And also, no dignity for me.

I’m really sad to say that the finished product fell well short of my expectations. Let’s start with the soup. The broccoli bits were small but actually had a nice, crunchy texture, whereas you might expect them to be soggy, so that was nice. There wasn’t a whole lot of them, but then again, the soup was pretty small to begin with, so I guess ratio-wise they were on target. The cheese part of the soup was really disappointing.

The flavor was pretty much on par with Campbell’s broccoli and cheese soup, which I actually enjoy, but it was just so watery. It was like cheese water, which is a phrase that actually makes me a little nauseous. The little orange things as pictured on the box were also present. I guess they were supposed to be carrots? They were minuscule and tasted like nothing, but their shape did make me wish I was eating some sort of awesome Tetris soup, except all the pieces were the long, straight pieces that never dropped when I had that giant, gaping, straight chasm that was just begging for that piece. Now I’m mad at Stouffer’s AND Tetris. And I’m still thinking about cheese water, which is just…ugh.

I knew going into this that the “stuffed melt” portion of the meal was probably going to be nothing more than a glorified Hot Pocket, especially after I saw the crisping sleeve. And I was generally right, except Hot Pockets have about 50 percent more filling than this stuffed melt had. It was woefully under-stuffed.

The molten lava cheese, when you could actually find some, was pretty tasty, but the “steak” consisted of largely flavorless tiny pieces, and while I could taste a hint of onion, good luck finding any mushrooms. Who knows, I could have been eating mushrooms that I thought were steak the whole time. I wouldn’t be surprised. Also, they can call the shell herb-topped foccacia bread until they’re blue in the face, but seriously, once again…Hot Pockets. The bread was nicely chewy and texturally acceptable, but it was no artisanal masterpiece.

It’s pretty sad when what seems to be a really great concept fails so badly at execution. It’s also pretty sad when I can tell Stouffer’s that Campbell’s makes a concentrated broccoli and cheese soup that costs 99 cents per can and tastes better than their soup, and that a Hot Pocket has more plentiful and flavorful filling than their stuffed melt. Furthermore, I have a pretty dainty appetite, and after finishing off the Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup, I was actually still a little hungry. This could have been a great five-minute, stomach-warming lunch to take to work on a rainy day, but instead it just makes you wish you’d rushed to the bakery down the street and ordered their half-sandwich and soup lunch special.

Looking back on this review, I’m making it sound like Stouffer’s killed my whole family, when what they really did was just offer up a mediocre frozen meal. I guess I just really wanted them to win with such a great concept, which made my disappointment all the more tangible. In all fairness, it’s edible, it’s convenient and probably tastes better than whatever horror show sits in your break area’s vending machine. It just wasn’t the comfort-food-in-a-box that I was hoping it would be.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 stuffed melt and soup (283 grams) — 400 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 880 milligrams of sodium, , 41 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugars, 17 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 40% calcium, 15% vitamin C and 10% iron.)

Other Stouffer’s Stuffed Melt and Soup reviews:
Freezer Burns
Epic Portions

Item: Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Price: $2.99 (on sale; original $3.89)

Size: 1 stuffed melt and soup (283 grams)

Purchased at: Safeway

Rating: 5 out of 10

Pros: Broccoli bits were crisp and tasty. No fish steaks involved. Easy to prepare. Fun carrying tray. Swiss cheese was tasty. Stouffer’s did not kill my whole family.

Cons: Under-stuffed stuffed melt. Cheese water. Good concept, bad execution. Incredibly long food product names. Steak bits too small. Made me want Tetris soup, which does not exist.

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ANNOUNCEMENT: AXE Twist Travel Pack Winners!!!

Written by | July 29, 2010

Topics: Announcement, Prize Drawing

Here are the five AXE Twist Travel Pack winners and where they would like to go on their next vacation:

1. Anna who “would LOVE to go to Phuket, Thailand!”

2. Tyler who “would like to smell all AXE-like in the land of England, where they call it Lynx.”

3. Adam G who is “thinking somewhere in the South Pacific region all the way up to Japan area.”

4. Chuck who “may try and head to California.”

5. Andrew who would “love to visit Louisiana, mostly New Orleans and the beaches that now are safe and the cleanest they’ve been in years!”

The winners have been emailed and they will soon be enveloping themselves in the scent of AXE.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who entered.

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REVIEW: Nature Valley Granola Thins (Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter)

Written by | July 28, 2010

Topics: 6 Rating, Nature Valley, Snack Bars

The square-shaped Granola Thins by Nature Valley makes the company look like it has become bored with producing long rectangle granola bars.

Good.

Because I’m bored with eating long rectangle granola bars.

As a matter of fact, fuck eating quadrilaterals! How about an enneadecagon granola snack? Or if Nature Valley has the nuts, and the ability to channel the spirit of M.C. Escher, a dodecahedron or apeirogon granola snack.

But I guess until then, I’m stuck with quadrilaterals.

The Nature Valley Granola Thins come in two flavors; they are either partially dipped in peanut butter or dark chocolate, which I’m not 100 percent sure is actual dark chocolate because of the words “naturally flavored” printed on the front of the box.

The folks at Nature Valley describe the snack as, “The uniquely delicate crunch of crispy, toasted granola paired with an irresistible, melt-in-your-mouth taste.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced that “melt-in-your-mouth taste” very often because I live on a tropical rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the first couple of individually wrapped Granola Thins I opened encountered a phenomenon I like to call “melt-in-its-own-packaging-because-the-temperature-rarely-drops-below-80-degrees.” It causes most of the dark chocolate and peanut butter to stick to the cardboard that’s included in each wrapper.

To overcome this, I suggest sticking a Granola Thins in the refrigerator for a few minutes before opening.

Can’t wait a few minutes? Oh, I think you can, because while the Granola Thins are good, they’re not irresistible like the marketing copy on the box claims. How do I know? Both boxes have been sitting on my desk for the past two weeks. If they’re “irresistible,” why have I consumed only two of the ten 2.5-inch Granola Thins from each box?

But, again, I did enjoy both flavors. The peanut butter one reminds me of a Nutter Butter in flavor and in the fact that the peanut butter doesn’t taste like any peanut butter I’ve ever had. As for the dark chocolate version, the crispy granola is a bit more noticeable than the chocolate. Strangely, the combination of granola with the chocolate makes it taste like a graham cracker. Maybe the fact that the chocolate is “naturally flavored” might have something to do with the light flavor.

As good as they are, the Nature Valley Granola Thins aren’t as satisfying as their long rectangle granola brethren. It would take three or four of these to equal the hunger-crushing power of Nature Valley’s regular granola bars, which come with two per wrapper. Also, I wish the peanut butter and chocolate were baked into the crispy squares, like Nature Valley does with their regular granola bars, so that they wouldn’t be so messy to eat on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pouch/17 grams – Dark Chocolate – 80 calories, 4 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein and 2% iron. Peanut Butter – 90 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein and 2% iron.)

Other Nature Valley Granola Thins reviews:
Stuff We Like

Item: Nature Valley Granola Thins (Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter)
Price: $3.49
Size: 10 pack
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Dark Chocolate)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Peanut Butter)
Pros: Enjoyable. Crispy. Peanut butter one tastes like a Nutter Butter. Dark chocolate one tastes like a graham cracker. Looking at M.C. Escher pieces. Looking at M.C. Escher pieces while on an illegal substance.
Cons: Seems pricey for what you get. “Naturally flavored” dark chocolate has a weak flavor. Not irresistible to me. Messy if you’re eating it on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. No enneadecagon granola snacks.

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REVIEW: Pepsi Strong Shot

Written by | July 26, 2010

Topics: 4 Rating, Japan, Pepsi, Soda

When I first received the Pepsi Strong Shot from Japan, I instantly noticed the five warnings printed all over it. But because my ability to read Japanese is so poor that my college Japanese professors should deeply bow their heads in shame for passing my Japanese illiterate ass, I didn’t know what they were warning me about.

Perhaps the can contains an evil tengu. Or a tentacled demon that wants to stick its tentacles in every single one of my orifices to torture me. Or maybe it’s a Pokemon. Or perhaps it’s telling me I watch too much anime at Crunchyroll.

After doing some research on the internets, I learned the warnings on the Pepsi Strong Shot tell potential drinkers that it’s HIGHLY CARBONATED and we should wait 15 seconds before opening it.

Really? Honto ni?

Does extra carbonation really warrant the five warnings printed on the can that’s four and a half inches tall? Because, seriously, the best case scenario from opening the can would be thirst quenching. The worst case scenario? A little more burping.

However, if the can’s warnings said it contained a tentacled demon, I believe the multiple warnings would be justified. Because the worst case scenario from opening the can would be a tentacle entering every hole in my body at the same time. The best case scenario? A tentacle entering every hole in my body at the same time, but leaving a three dollar tip after it’s done.

The Pepsi Strong Shot not only contains extra carbonation, it also includes extra caffeine. However, I’m not sure how much caffeine, since, again, I’m quite illiterate when it comes to Japanese. But I did get a small energy boost from it. Although, I have to admit, tentacles slithering into every hole in my head would do a better job of waking me up.

Even with a small energy boost, the Pepsi Strong Shot isn’t worth it, whether you pay 120 yen for a can in Japan or five dollars a can plus shipping via eBay from an expat living in Japan. It tastes just like regular Pepsi and the extra carbonation is probably the worst Japan Pepsi gimmick ever. I expected something spectacular from the company that developed cucumber and baobab flavored sodas.

The only thing the extra carbonation did was provide a little more pressure than usual when opening the can. If I want a Pepsi that provides a little more pressure when opening it, I’ll just get a regular can of Pepsi and shake it a bit. Even after it explodes, it’ll still probably have more soda left than what’s in the Pepsi Strong Shot’s small can.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 47 kcal, 0 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of sodium, 11.7 grams of carbohydrates.)

(NOTE: Thanks to Orchid64 from Japanese Snack Reviews for sending me the Pepsi Strong Shot.)

More Pepsi Strong Shot reviews:
Mike’s Blender
Crunchgear

Item: Pepsi Strong Shot
Price: 120 yen (about $1.35 US)
Size: 190 ml
Purchased at: A store in Japan
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like regular Pepsi. Caffeine gave me a small energy boost. 0 grams of fat. Tentacled demons leaving a tip. Crunchyroll.
Cons: Nothing spectacular from the company that made cucumber and baobab flavored sodas. Extra carbonation is the worst Pepsi Japan gimmick ever. Excessive amount of unnecessary warnings. A demon’s tentacle entering every hole in my body at the same time. Available only in Japan. Being Japanese illiterate despite 2.5 years of college Japanese.

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