REVIEW: Limited Edition California Pizza Kitchen Spinach & Artichoke Pizza

The year is 1999. I have somehow managed to secure a computer and Internet access, despite the fact that I am living in my parents’ house, which is a museum of antiquities ranging from cassette tape players to avocado-green kitchen appliances. I have a Hotmail account with an incredibly dorky handle.

I check my email and am overwhelmed with quizzes sent by my friends, demanding information about my likes and dislikes. What is your favorite animal? (Unicorn!) What is your favorite movie? (The Crow! Shut up, I was like, 17.) When was your first kiss? (LIE LIE LIE LIE) What is your favorite food?

…

Paralyzed with indecision, I stare at the blinking cursor. How do I choose? I must pick something, because if I don’t complete this quiz and send it to five of my friends, I will be cursed with bad luck. For seven years. Those are going to be my most formative years! College! Binge drinking – legally! Actually getting that first kiss! There is way too much riding on this quiz. I have to choose something.

I usually went with something pedestrian, like steak, or spaghetti. Thankfully, my palate has actually grown less refined over the years, and I don’t categorize food I like as “favorites.” These days, I recognize the foods I like as “shit I am powerless against.” For instance, if I see a sandwich on a restaurant’s menu that includes au jus, that is what I am ordering. If there’s a pasta that uses pesto as its sauce, put down the menu, I’m ready to order. Salsa con queso? Move out of the way, I’m holding a chip that has a date with cheesy destiny.

This same compulsion also applies to spinach and artichoke dip. If you are dining with me at an establishment that offers this dip as an appetizer, you can kiss your desire to share a plate of potato skins goodbye. We are getting that dip, and I will reach across the table and cut you if you put up one word of protest. I’ll buy it frozen, I’ll buy it jarred, I’ll pretend I’m pregnant and have an insane craving for T.G.I. Friday’s shitty food in order to get at it.

I have a problem.

So when I saw California Pizza Kitchen’s Limited Edition Crispy Thin Crust Spinach & Artichoke pizza in the frozen food aisle, it was a no-brainer. Okay, so it’s not a dip, but it’s still spinach and artichoke getting sexy together, and that’s enough to send me knocking Jazzies over in order to get to it. The front of the pizza box describes it as “crispy thin pizza topped with spinach, diced artichokes, garlic, crème fraiche sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, asiago and romano cheeses.” So it really is just like they glopped some dip onto a thin pizza crust! My excitement is palpable. My excitement had to wait a little, as the oven had to pre-heat at 425 degrees, which actually takes longer than cooking the pizza, which only takes 10 – 12 minutes, which is pretty standard for a frozen thin-crust pizza.

I liked what I saw when I took the pizza out of the oven. The distribution of toppings was even and plentiful, both which are things I look for in a frozen pizza. The aroma was distinctly garlic, with a hint of cheese and spinach. The crust was, indeed, crispy, and I love that the toppings go right up to the outer edge. I honestly couldn’t tell you that all of the cheeses described on the front of the box are present; I am not, unfortunately, a cheese aficionado. However, you can see the parmesan sprinkled on top, and whatever cheeses are mixed up in there form a delicious, gooey, satisfying taste. I also can’t distinctly say that I detected crème fraiche as the sauce, but the sauce was perfect for a good white pizza. The garlic really made its presence known, but didn’t knock you over the head with it, which is what I’ve experienced previously with CPK’s Garlic Chicken pizza.

On this pizza, the garlic played really nice with all the other flavors. The spinach was flavorful and blended wonderfully with the cheese. My one complaint would be the artichokes – while they were plentiful, I would have liked to have seen more chunks and less thin little slivers. Because of their thinness, or perhaps because of the freezing process, the artichoke flavor virtually disappeared. Every once in a while I’d bite into one of the bigger chunks and get a burst of juicy artichoke, but for the most part the slivers add nothing to the table.

Overall, I thought this was a very successful white pizza experience. All the cheeses and the crème fraiche sauce gave it a much more sophisticated taste than your average frozen pizza, the spinach made its presence known, and the garlic tied all the flavors together nicely. The only thing missing was bigger, more flavorful artichoke pieces.

Will I give up spinach and artichoke dip forever and kneel at the alter of California Pizza Kitchen’s Limited Edition Crispy Thin Crust Spinach & Artichoke pizza? Of course not. First of all, while it’s a pretty good pizza, there’s no substitute for dipping a toasty wedge of buttered garlic bread into a warm tub of gooey goodness. Stealing the biggest piece of artichoke for yourself is the best part! Second, CPK frozen pizzas ain’t cheap – at $7.69 a pop, I could probably grab two frozen T.G.I. Friday’s Spinach Cheese & Artichoke dips, and then I wouldn’t have to lie about being pregnant all the time! I think my husband is starting to catch on to me.

That said, if you’re a fan of thin-crust white pizzas and the convenience of frozen food, I would recommend you try this pizza at least once. After all, it won’t be around forever.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/3 pizza – 330 calories, 150 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 14 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 25% calcium and 6% iron.)

Item: Limited Edition California Pizza Kitchen Spinach & Artichoke Pizza
Price: $5.49 (on sale; regular price $7.69)
Size: 1 pizza
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Flavors of toppings compliment each other well. Unicorns. Cheese blend tastes more sophisticated than on other frozen pizzas. Toppings were plentiful and evenly distributed. Finally getting that first kiss.
Cons: Not enough larger chunks of artichoke. Being a slave to certain foods. Expensive for a convenience food. Internet quizzes. T.G.I. Friday’s.

THE WEEK IN REVIEWS – 8/21/2010

Sorry for the lack of reviews this week. I’ve been in a generic NyQuil-induced haze for the past week. If you’ve read this week’s only review, you should know that NyQuil + review writing = most depressing review ever. Anyhoo, here are a few product reviews posted this week from other blogs we like.

You got your mozzarella sticks in my grilled cheese sandwich! You got your grilled cheese sandwich wrapped around my mozzarella sticks! Two great tastes that taste great together. And a pop culture reference that readers under age of 25 may not get. (via Junk Food Betty)

I didn’t think it was possible, but someone made a vampire movie that Twilight haters will hate more than Twilight. (via Pajiba)

I wonder why a mint would be labeled “professional.” I also wonder if sales of Count Chocula have gone up since this Twilight craze began. (via Sweets Blog)

There’s a loaf concoction called Yoga Bread. I guess I finally have something appropriate to eat whenever I’m lounging in my yoga leotard. (via Yum Yucky)

If wearing Ed Hardy clothes make one look like a douchebag on the outside, will eating Ed Hardy Coffee Rocks make one become a douchebag on the inside. Or for those who are already douchebags, does it make them douchebaggier? (via Caffeine-A-Holic)

REVIEW: Red Baron Supreme Pizza By The Slice

Somewhere out there someone is warming up the Red Baron Supreme Pizza by the Slice in the microwave and while watching it rotate to pass the time they think to themselves that the product is a metaphor for their forlorn life. And that person could possibly be the loneliest person in the world.

Who is the loneliest person in the world?

The loneliest person in the world wants a cat. Or maybe two cats. Or three. Or whatever the number of cats the Humane Society allows them to adopt. Or whatever the loneliest person in the world can fit in their studio apartment. However, the loneliest person in the world doesn’t want to be known in their apartment complex as “the cat person” who has a machine gun bunker’s worth of kitty litter bags stacked in their apartment. Fortunately for the loneliest person in the world, their landlord has prevented “the cat person” label from being affixed to them by neighbors because pets aren’t allowed in the building.

The loneliest person in the world chooses to work in the exciting 10-keyed realm of data entry because it’s the Solitare of the employment world. It’s one of the few things the loneliest person in the world excels at. The loneliest person in the world is amazingly accurate and has never made a mistake, but double checks their work because the company’s standard operating procedures say so. Even more impressive is the fact that the loneliest person in the world is ambidextrous when in comes to punching numeric keys in a robotic fashion. The loneliest person in the world wonders why there is so much interest surrounding the world’s fastest phone texter. The loneliest person in the world believes they would type circles around the world’s fastest texter, if the loneliest person in the world had a cell phone, which they have no need for since no one calls them.

You would think the loneliest person in the world would have some friends at work, but due to poor social skills caused by an extremely sheltered childhood, the loneliest person in the world doesn’t interact with co-workers, but does acknowledge their greetings with smiles and nods. The loneliest person in the world doesn’t have anything in common with fellow employees. The loneliest person in the world doesn’t think anyone in the office is into hobbies that the loneliest person in the world enjoys, like medieval horseback archery, duct tape art and egg shell carving.

So the loneliest person in the world sits alone in the corner of the office’s break room, eating the Red Baron Supreme Pizza by the Slice, which is perfect for the loneliest person in the world since they have no friends to share the other slices with if they had a whole pizza. The loneliest person in the world wishes that it didn’t take so long to prepare, which included microwaving it for 60 seconds on the edge of the microwave oven’s turntable, then 70-85 seconds in the middle of the turntable and then, if the cheese isn’t completely melted, continue cooking in 15 second intervals. The loneliest person in the world has to microwave it an extra 90 seconds to get the cheese completely melted. Although it’s no problem for a data entry expert to press the numbers one and five repeatedly on any kind of keypad, the loneliest person in the world wishes they didn’t have to do so during a lunch break.

Although the life of the loneliest person in the world isn’t very exciting, it’s much more exciting than the flavor of the Red Baron Supreme Pizza by the Slice. While the packaging brags about the fact that the two pizza slices included were “fire baked,” I wonder why that matters much since it’s going to be put through a microwave for more than two minutes. Sadly, during those two minutes, the “special crisping tray” doesn’t do a good job of crisping the crust. The amount of toppings on each slice was sad compared with what’s on the front of the box. Perhaps if each pizza slice had a decent amount of sausage, pepperoni, bell peppers and onions, it would’ve tasted better because it’s not a very flavorful pizza. Not even the sauce could save it because it was neither spicy or sweet.

If I were the loneliest person in the world, I’d avoid the Red Baron Supreme Pizza by the Slice. Although, since the pizza is kind of sad and pathetic, perhaps it would make the loneliest person in the world feel better.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 slice – 350 calories, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat*, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 910 milligrams of sodium, 200 milligrams of potassium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, 15 grams of protein, 8% vitamin A, 25% calcium 4% vitamin C and 15% iron.)

*made with fully hydrogenated oil

Item: Red Baron Supreme Pizza By The Slice
Price: $3.49 (on sale)
Size: 2 slices
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Microwaveable. Comes with two slices. Being really good a data entry. Made with real cheese. Good source of calcium.
Cons: Tolerable pizza. Not very flavorful. Difficult to make cheese melt completely. Not a lot of toppings. Special crisping tray kind of sucks. Awesome source of sodium. Not being able to have pets.

THE WEEK IN REVIEWS – 8/14/2010

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

Maybe it’s just me, but: Clone Troopers + Mexican Frozen Treat + Review = Win. (via Food Junk)

Wanna make a wine cooler sound even more feminine? Just add the word “Escapes” to its name. (via The Grease Fire)

Isn’t having 7 Up AND Clear in a product’s name a little redundant? (via Japanese Snack Reviews)

I could see the Sharpie Liquid Pencil being popular with those who vandalize public restrooms. The three days it takes to completely dry gives vandals time to correct mistakes so that those who are looking for a good time won’t get a wrong number. (via Office Supply Geek)

REVIEW: McDonald’s Angus Snack Wraps (Mushroom & Swiss, Deluxe and Bacon & Cheese)

If you’re expecting the new McDonald’s Angus Snack Wraps to taste exactly like their bigger brothers, you should know that, just like Owen Wilson’s nose alignment, they’re slightly off. This can be attributed to the use of a soft tortilla instead of a bun. But the folks at McDonald’s have captured almost all of the great taste of their Angus Third Pounder Burgers with these burrito-ized versions of them.

The Angus Snack Wraps come in the same three varieties as their bigger brethren: Mushroom & Swiss, Deluxe and Bacon & Cheese. All of them come wrapped in a soft tortilla and with half of an Angus third-pound patty, which, if my math is correct, equals more meat than what’s attached to the bones of a waif supermodel or more meat than the amount a waif supermodel has eaten in past six months.

The Deluxe also comes with half of a tomato slice, a leaf of lettuce, red onions, pickle slices, American cheese, mayo and mustard. The Bacon & Cheese is also made up of red onions, pickle slices, a strip of bacon, American Cheese, ketchup and mustard. And the Mushroom & Swiss has sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese and mayo.

When you compare these Angus Snack Wraps with all previous Snack Wraps, it makes the older varieties look as sad and pathetic as I do whenever I put on running shorts and walk around with my pale hairy legs exposed. Each Angus Snack Wrap has a nice heft and look much more substantial than the chicken and Big Mac Snack Wraps.

Because of their weight, I wondered if eating one could be more of a meal instead of a snack. But after chomping down the first one, I forgot about what I was trying to do and ate all three varieties in one sitting. I ended up consuming 2,800 milligrams of sodium, not including fries. It made me wish silly ol’ me looked up the nutrition facts before eating them, which might’ve prevented the gluttony and future high blood pressure.

Because I really enjoyed the Angus Third Pounder Burgers, I knew the likelihood of me enjoying the Angus Snack Wraps would be as high as the percentage of failed attempts to find love via reality shows. The Deluxe Angus Snack Wrap (view innards) tastes like a classic burger and every ingredient was noticeable. But none of them overpowers the others, even the red onions. It’s probably the most appetizing of the bunch because of the vegetables, which look surprisingly fresh. The Bacon & Cheese Angus Snack Wrap (view innards) is also very flavorful, but the bacon disappoints a little. While it’s a nice sized slice of bacon, it wasn’t noticeable enough when mixed with the stronger flavors of the mustard and ketchup. It was also extremely soggy, but that’s par when it comes to fast food bacon. As for the Mushroom & Swiss Angus Snack Wrap (view innards), I definitely could taste all of the major ingredients, especially the mushrooms. However, I think whoever made mine went all Duck Hunt with the mayo gun, since a lot of it oozed out from the Snack Wrap.

I like all three varieties, but a few items bother me about them. First of all, the patties are slightly dry, which isn’t surprising for McDonald’s and will probably never change. But despite being dry, I like the meat’s flavor, which is definitely of a higher quality and is better than the usual McDonald’s patties. Also, at $2.49 each, they seem a bit pricey. Fortunately, for most of you, because you don’t live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you’ll be paying $1.99, which is what they’re worth.

Overall, I really enjoyed all three varieties of these slightly less guilty versions of McDonald’s Angus Third Pounders, and I believe they are the best menu items McDonald’s has in Snack Wrap form.

Just don’t eat all three of them in one sitting.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 wrap – Deluxe – 410 calories, 220 calories from fat, 25 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 990 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar and 20 grams of protein. Mushroom & Swiss – 430 calories 230 calories from fat, 26 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 730 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar and 22 grams of protein. Bacon & Cheese – 390 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1080 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar and 21 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Angus Snack Wraps (Mushroom & Swiss, Deluxe and Bacon & Cheese)
Price: $2.49 each ($1.99 at most McDonald’s)
Size: Varies
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Mushroom & Swiss)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Deluxe)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Bacon & Cheese)
Pros: McDonald’s best Snack Wraps. All three were very tasty. Captures almost all the flavors of their Angus Third Pounders. Their heft makes previous Snack Wrap varieties look sad and pathetic. Slightly less guilty than McDonald’s Angus Third Pounders. Lettuce and tomato in Deluxe were colorful and fresh.
Cons: Patties are slightly dry. Having to pay $2.49 for them and not $1.99 like most people. Great source of sodium and trans fat. Mushroom & Swiss had too much mayo. Bacon in the Bacon & Swiss was limp and was overpowered by the mustard and ketchup. My pale hairy legs in running shorts.