Archive for June, 2012

Picture from Foodzie. Click on the pic to go there.

Product Description:

This lolly is more than just a looker. It gets its cheery colors and creamy flavor from natural ingredients. We’re suckers for this lollipop.

These lollipops are available on Foodzie for a limited time.

Tea Suggestion:

I found this lollipop to be very enjoyable with a pure green tea like this Garden Bancha from BigTeaHouse.  The tea is mildly sweet and a pleasant earthiness, offering an agreeable contrast to the sweet, creamy taste of the lollipop.  This lollipop and a cup of tea is a really lovely way to spend an afternoon!

What I Think:

The first thing I noticed about this lollipop – besides the size (I like the size of this lollipop – not too small, but it’s not one of those monstrously huge lollipops that are about the same circumference of a baby’s head) and the colorful swirls – was the stick.  The stick is not one of those wimpy sticks made of tightly wound paper.  It is a thick, wooden stick … or perhaps it would be better described as a thin wooden dowel!  It is substantial enough to support the lolly without it drooping or falling apart midway through eating it, and it is a comfortable fit in the hand.  It doesn’t feel too thin, and because it’s made of wood and not paper it doesn’t begin to disintegrate in the hand … and that’s important because this is not a lollipop that you’re going to finish in a couple of minutes, you know?

And I like the size of the lollipop too, like I said, it’s not too small, but, it’s not so big that I get tired of it before it’s finished.  It’s just the right size.

This is a sweet confection, but it doesn’t taste like it’s been artificially flavored.  It tastes creamy, in fact, I taste more of the cream than of the strawberry in this.  I found myself kind of searching for the strawberry … and I wish that there was more strawberry to this.  The cream tastes very pleasant, though, and it is an enjoyable lolly, I just was hoping that a strawberry & cream flavored lollipop would have more strawberry taste to it.

My Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed this.  I don’t know that I enjoyed it enough to buy it by the dozen (as offered on Foodzie), but I found it to be a tasty treat, and certainly a welcome addition to this month’s tasting box!

Photo from Foodzie. Click on the pic to go there.

Product Description:

The ultimate balance of sweet and salty.  Infused with local honey from New York’s Union Square Market, mixed with creamy peanut butter, a hint of vanilla and lots of coarse ground sea salt, this is pure peanut heaven.  We call it the perfect pick me up snack.  It’s got a little sweet a little salty and some protein to keep you going. A fan favorite since our first batch.

Learn more about The Salty Road on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

These yummy treats do evoke thoughts of summer, and therefore, I suggest iced tea all the way!   One tea that I’ve been enjoying a lot lately and tastes really good with this taffy is this Organic Thai Iced Tea from Arbor Teas, brewed at double strength and then served chilled with a little bit of ginger ale instead of sweetened condensed milk (as I mentioned toward the end of the linked review).  YUM!  The creamy vanilla notes of the tea, as well as the hint of anise really seems to go well with the peanut-y goodness of these salty taffies.  (Taffies?  Taffys?) Delicious.

What I Think:

I like peanut butter.  I don’t really love the stuff, but I like it ok.  I’d prefer almond butter or hazelnut butter (and I’d prefer it to be from Justin’s) but I enjoy peanut butter now and again, although I don’t know that it would be a regular staple in my kitchen if I were single.  I just don’t eat it often enough to do that.  But my husband and daughter love the stuff, so I keep it on hand.

And if I were shopping for salt water taffy, I don’t know that I would have purchased this “Salty Peanut.”  Just a quick look at The Salty Road taffy collection, bergamot would have been my first choice.  Then, again, the salty caramel apple sounds divine, as does the vanilla.  All three of the other flavors sound like something I’d choose before I’d choose Salty Peanut.

And because of that, I can’t help but feel a little glad that Foodzie did the choosing for me this time, because I’m REALLY glad I got to try this flavor.  It’s really outstanding!  It has a distinct peanut-butter-y kind of taste to it, and just as the sweetness begins to swell around on the palate, I taste the sea salt start to cut through it.  As I eat these, I can really taste the “sea in the air” and feel the “wind in my hair” that Emily talks about in the Boardwalk Box video on Joyus!  These tasty treats seem to embody the spirit of the Boardwalk Box.

The texture is smooth and creamy, but every once in a while, I come across a little crunch from the sea salt.  In the aforementioned video, it is suggested that these have a milkshake-like flavor to them, and I get that.  They are so creamy, soft, and fluffy!  I love how soft these are … I’ve had gourmet salt water taffy before, and even though the gourmet taffy is quite a bit softer than a typical supermarket sweets aisle taffy, these are even softer!  It’s like they were freshly pulled, with that marshmallow-y soft smooshiness to them.  Yes, smooshiness.  It’s a word.  I just made it up!

My Final Thoughts:

These are easily the best salt water taffies I’ve ever tried.  And, yes, I’ve had some locally made salt water taffy – and loved it! – but this is even better.  This tastes and feels fresher than even that locally-made stuff, which had been made THAT day.  This stuff is AWESOME!

Picture from Foodzie. Click on the pic to go there.

About CC Made:

Cassandra Chen’s first career was on the trading floor, but after spontaneously asking for a job in the kitchen of one of her favorite restaurants, found she preferred the even more intense energy of working on the line. She gravitated toward pastry, and ultimately decided to take her caramel corn commercial when her youngest son started pre-school. The rest is sweet, sweet history.

Learn more about CC Made on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

You’ll want some iced tea with this tea … because it has a spicy kick to it!  This Cucumber Mojito Green Tea from Inspired Leaf is really refreshing when chilled, and I like the way the crisp peppermint cools the palate after I’ve had a bite of spice from this Caramel Corn.  A very refreshing way to enjoy this amazing snack!

What I Think:

I grew up loving cracker jacks.  Well, think of this as cracker jacks … all grown up.   We have the popcorn, but instead of the little bits of popcorn that are all clustered up because of the sticky caramel, each piece of popcorn is light, fluffy and whole … and completely coated in delicious, golden brown caramel.  Sweet and chewy, the caramel isn’t as sticky as I remember cracker jacks being, and instead it is buttery.  It seems to be dripping in butter.  I can feel Paula Deen smile as I eat this!

And instead of the peanuts of cracker jacks, we have whole almonds.  Crunchy and delicious, these pack a good punch of nutty flavor and just enough salty taste to add to the overall profile of sweet, salty and spicy.

Oh yes.  Did I mention the spicy?  Yes, that’s where this treat and cracker jacks really part ways, because this has some real kick to it.

Every bite of this is an adventure:  with the first bite, I notice a rich, buttery flavor like a popcorn kernel that’s been dipped in real butter.  YUM.  The next bite, I’ll notice a bit of the salty flavor and the crunch of the almond.  A moment or two later, I feel the heat start to radiate through my mouth and tickle the back of my throat.

The heat is powerful, and just when you think your mouth can’t take another bite of it, some sweetness comes through to temper the heat enough to encourage you to take another bite!

My Final Thoughts:

This Spiced Almond Caramel Corn just made the boardwalk box the BEST box yet.  OK… well, maybe it’s #2, just after the Tea Time box, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I’m a tea nerd (that’s what my husband calls me!) than the true merit of the box.  Because if they had put tea in this box (maybe instead of the root beer?) this would definitely be #1.  I guess my heart will always belong to tea first.

When I saw the LivingSocial offer for Manao Thai Restaurant, I was very excited (more Thai food!) so I checked the location, and immediately purchased it without checking the menu.  I figured, they probably have Pad Thai … most places do.  But then, when I checked the menu when we got ready to visit Manao, and noticed that they didn’t have Pad Thai on the menu, I was a little worried … uh oh!  I had won my husband over on Thai food based on the flavorful dish, but, what was he going to eat when there was no Pad Thai on the menu?

Haw Mok Kai

Location:  7202 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland, Oregon

Order:  I ordered the Mii Krob Lad Na with Chicken ($8.50) while my husband ordered the Haw Mok Kai ($9.50).   We shared an order of Spring Rolls ($4.50) for an appetizer.

What I Think:

The atmosphere reminds me very much of a “ma & pa” type of place with it’s simple, home-y decor.  Nothing really overly stylish or glamorous, this place looked like a typical kitchen table at dinner time in the 60s, complete with retro-style vinyl tablecloths. The place was empty when we arrived, but as we waited for our lunch, more diners arrived.

I know that we should not judge a book by its cover, but based upon this setting, I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot from Manao.  The Spring Rolls seemed to further support my low expectations, because, while they were tasty, they were kind of boring.

Then I tasted my Thai Iced Tea!  YUM!  Easily the best Thai Iced tea I’ve had since we moved to the Pacific Northwest.  You might be thinking … how can one mess up iced tea?  But, trust me, I’ve tasted some not so great Thai Iced Tea, some average Thai Iced Tea, as well as some good Thai Iced Tea.  But this stuff – this is the way Thai Iced Tea should always be.

Mii Krob Lad Na with Chicken

The deliciousness of the iced tea raised my expectations, and I had high hopes again for what was to come with the entrees.

The Mii Krob Lad Na … amazing.  This is so good – good enough that if I find this on another Thai restaurant’s menu in the future I will order it.  I don’t know that I like it as well as I like Pad Thai, but, I certainly found it to be incredibly filling and very satisfying, definitely the kind of meal that you would want to sit down to if you were ravenous, because it is so good that you’ll want to finish it!  Sadly, I couldn’t finish it, but not because I didn’t want to.  I was just too full!

The gravy/sauce is rich and savory, and very flavorful.  The crunchy noodles soak up the sauce and become somewhat soft – and the softened/soaked crunchy noodle has such a delightful texture to it.  It’s one of those very satisfying kind of experiences with both taste and texture – like soaking up a delicious stew gravy with crusty bread.  This is Thai comfort food.  The broccoli and carrots add a nice flavor as does the chicken, but really, the real stars of this dish are the gravy and noodles.

My husband’s Haw Mok Kai seemed promising based on the menu description of the dish:  seared chicken thighs that had been marinated in herbs and served with a chili sauce.  Unfortunately, this dish was just alright.  The chicken was a little on the dry side and not really flavorful, and its real redemption came from the sweet chili sauce which I found very tasty, and seemed to add a much needed flavor boost to the chicken.  My husband found himself wishing he had ordered the Mii Krob Lad Na.

My Final Thoughts:

I don’t think there are enough fine words that I could come up with to describe the Mii Krob Lad Na.  I really, really loved this dish.  I am getting hungry now, just thinking about how good it was.  I had not expected to enjoy it as much as I did!  I do wish that my husband’s experience was as favorable as mine, his enjoyment of the meal would have made the experience even better.  I left very satisfied … him, not so much.  But I don’t think that will stop us from visiting again in the future, because he knows now to order the Mii Krob Lad Na!

Photo from Foodzie. Click on the pic to go there.

About Spun City:

Seeking a way to satisfy snackers who had both a serious sweet tooth and an eco-centric sensibility, Spun City fluffed up its first batch of cotton candy using organic sugar in 2008, starting with classic grape flavor and ultimately spinning out to cherry vanilla. Their cotton candy has no chemicals, dyes, or pesticides, and is vegan, fat-free and sodium-free.

Learn more about Bernod’s Spun City on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

Cotton candy has a way of drying the mouth, so I recommend something you can gulp down quickly and easily … it’s iced tea to the rescue again!  Because I really wanted to explore the cherry and vanilla notes of this confection, I went with something simple:  Green Rooibos from Shanti Tea.  This unflavored, pure green rooibos has a light, natural fruit-like taste to it that really seemed to bring out some more of the cherry and vanilla tones, which I found to be a bit delicate with this cotton candy.  A perfect pair.

What I Think:

Cotton Candy has always been a favorite of mine, especially when I was a child.  As a youngster, whenever I’d visit an amusement park, there were two culinary delights I wanted:  corn dogs and cotton candy.  So, something inside me gets very excited when it comes to cotton candy, and it was this item that prompted me to select the Boardwalk Box this month.

But let’s face it, packaged cotton candy has nothing on the freshly spun sugar floss that is found at the amusement park, and sadly, the same is true of this packaged cotton candy.  Don’t get me wrong, this stuff is really good, sweet, fluffy and melt-in-my-mouth delicious, but, it doesn’t have that lighter-than-air taste and texture that I miss from the amusement park.

All that said, this stuff IS good.  Very good.  It melts as soon as it hits the tongue, dissolving into a sweet, slightly grainy crunch of sugar with a hint of cherry and vanilla flavor.  My sweet tooth approves.

My Final Thoughts:

I loved this product.  Will I buy it again?  Well, I don’t think I’ll go searching for it, or pay shipping charges to purchase it online, but, if I found it while shopping, I might pick up a bag or two.  I think I need to save my pennies and get myself a cotton candy machine, though.

Product Description:

Pistachios are certainly better when they are processed with love. CB’s Nuts USDA Certified Organic Pistachios are treated with care from day one. Grown on soil that is protected from environmental threats by fastidious farmers and picked when they’re ripe, these pistachios are naturally delicious. (Ever wonder about pistachios that haven’t opened? Don’t break you’re teeth – the shell opens when it’s ripe, so if it’s not open it was picked early – Mother Nature wanted it to be easy for us!)

Learn more about CB’s Nuts on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

I would normally suggest an iced tea with these, because snacking on pistachios seems to go naturally with iced tea, but, just for fun I decided to brew up a cup of this Honey Nut Biscotti tea from Kally Tea and drink it hot.  The delicious, nutty flavor of the pistachios really brought out the nutty tones of the tea in a beautiful way.  A really nice, somewhat unconventional tea time snack!

What I Think:

While I love pistachios, I wasn’t all that excited about receiving a bag of these pistachios in the Boardwalk Box.  I mean, I’ve had pistachios before, and I’ll be honest, I always bargain shop when it comes to these nuts.  They aren’t cheap, you know?  So, paying $7.00 for an 8 ounce bag of pistachios seems a little steep for me.

All these thoughts occurred to me BEFORE I opened the pouch and tried my first pistachio.  These are SO good… and seriously, they are better than any pistachios I’ve had in the past … err, with the possible exception of the Garlic Onion Pistachios … so I guess it would be more accurate for me to say these are the best roasted and salted pistachios I’ve ever had.

The first thing that I noticed is that my hands are not covered in salt.  These say “Lightly Salted” and they mean it.  They are salted just enough to bring out some of the natural goodness of the nut without making them taste like a typical salty snack.  Drawing from the theme of the Boardwalk Box from which they came, these taste as though they were seasoned by the sea air… salted, yes, but, they don’t taste like I just ran my tongue across a salt lick.

And this makes a huge difference.  I can TASTE the pistachio.  As I mentioned before, I love the taste of pistachios, but this may be the first time I have actually been able to explore the true flavor of the nut uninterrupted by excess flavoring.  The result is a delicious, toasty, sweet, nutty flavor.

Now that I’m more than halfway through the bag, I’ve noticed something else as well.  Every single shell is opened.  With the bargain bags of pistachios, I usually find at least one closed shell out of every ten pistachios.  That’s an estimate, of course, I’ve not actually conducted a study or anything.  But based upon what the description from the CB’s Nuts website, a closed pistachio shell means that the nuts were picked too early.  And the fact that these have been carefully selected and I’ve not found one shell that’s closed, that’s pretty impressive!

My Final Thoughts:

I really liked these much more than I thought I would.  I mean, I knew I’d like them, I love pistachios!  But, I wasn’t expecting to be as impressed with them as I am.  I didn’t expect them to be so different from the bargain bag of pistachios.  But they are!  And I love that these are a locally crafted product.

Recently, we visited a few places that I had previously visited, enjoyed and reviewed, but, I think that most restaurants deserve a second visit, don’t you?  I like to see if my first impressions of places hold true to the second visit…

Kesone Thai Lao Bistro

Pad Thai with Chicken

Shortly after redeeming our first LivingSocial voucher for Kesone Thai Lao Bistro, I got an opportunity to purchase another one.  Since both my husband and I enjoyed the place, I jumped at this opportunity … I mean, hey, it’s Thai food!  This time around, I definitely wanted Pad Thai, mostly because I knew my husband had planned on amplifying the heat on his Pad Thai plate, and while I do enjoy the spicy, I wanted to enjoy it a little less spicy than he desired.

With this visit, I noticed that again, our appetizers were brought out at the same time as our entrees.  Again, this is not a complaint, because the food was brought out so quickly it wasn’t as if we were waiting very long at all for anything.

This time, we selected the appetizer sampler plate ($9), which included three different appetizers – two summer rolls, six golden bags and two chicken sa-tay.  I found the chicken sa-tay to be somewhat dry, but the golden bags were crispy and delicious, and I loved the fresh crunch of the summer rolls.  I have been wanting a good summer roll for a while now – I mean, sure, I love the crispy, golden-fried deliciousness of a spring roll, but, there is something about that fresh, minty taste of a summer roll that really brightens the palate.

The Pad Thai was just as delicious as I remember.  The chicken was cooked nicely – a little dry, perhaps, but not to the point of being overly chewy.  And really, when it comes to Pad Thai, it really is less about the chicken for me and more about the noodles.  I love the delicious rice noodles that have been coated with the spicy sauce, the crunchy texture from the bean sprouts and the crushed peanuts… Pad Thai really is a culinary delight.

Will we be returning to Kesone Thai Lao Bistro – YOU BET!

GRILLED CHEESE GRILL

Photo from Grilled Cheese Grill website, click on the pic to go there.

We’ve actually been to Grilled Cheese Grill a couple of times since my last review.  What can I say, I love a good grilled cheese sandwich, and I really like how the folks at Grilled Cheese Grill take a good thing (the classic grilled cheese) and push the envelope with it!

Case and point would be my newest favorite sandwiches from GCG:  The Jalapeño Popper ($5.75)!  Oh. My. Goodness.  This sandwich is GOOD!  Spicy, yes.  Be ready with something refreshing to cool the palate.

The sandwich is made with freshly roasted jalapeños (not the jarred stuff), colby jack cheese, cream cheese and corn tortilla chips sandwiched between two pieces of sourdough bread and grilled to golden perfection.  I ordered mine with bacon (add $1.75), because, what doesn’t taste better with bacon, right?  This sandwich is absolutely incredible.

I think that the GCG prepares the jalapeños themselves, because I didn’t notice any of the seeds or membranes of the pepper in my sandwich.  This helped to reduce the heat a little in my sandwich, and thus allowed some of the fruit notes of the pepper to emerge.  It was still HOT, make no mistake, but it wasn’t too hot.

The colby jack is melted and gives a nice, chewy texture to the sandwich.  The cream cheese is a little on the light side, but, I don’t think more cream cheese would have made this a better sandwich.  As it was, the cream cheese added a little bit of sweetness and curbed the heat of the jalapeño just enough.  The tortilla chips did not add any real crunch to the sandwich (although the crispy, grilled outer crust of the sandwich certainly did!) but it did add a nice dimension of flavor, and really added to that “popper” kind of taste as promised with the name of the sandwich.  The bacon … well, let’s just say that without the bacon, this sandwich was delicious.  But WITH the bacon, this sandwich becomes insanely irresistible, absolutely memorable, and completely crave-able.  I really, really liked this sandwich, and I’ll definitely order it again sometime.

On another visit, I ordered the Southsider ($5.75), which is artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms with mozzarella on sourdough bread.  This sandwich is also really outstanding, tasting a bit like a gourmet pizza in sandwich form.

The artichoke hearts were pickled and added a tangy flavor to the sandwich from the pickling, while the sundried tomatoes gave this a delicious base flavor … although, if I had been putting the sandwich together myself, I think I would have added more tomatoes (but then, I love sundried tomatoes).  The mushrooms I think would have been a little better if they were thicker cut, but they still added a nice, earthy flavor and pleasing texture to the sandwich.  This sandwich was very filling and satisfying, and one I’d recommend if you’re really hungry.  This one filled me up.

Will we be visiting Grilled Cheese Grill again – ABSOLUTELY!  It’s become my favorite cart in Portland … although, I admit that I’ve not visited many carts YET!

I’ll be reviewing a couple of “revisits” again soon … specifically, the Burger Bungalow and Soi 9 Thai Eatery.