Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bourbon Petit Cheese Cracker

If you ever wondered what a Ritz cracker would look like if it could mate with another Ritz and reproduce, these cracker sandwiches will sate your curiosity. Imagine happy families of Ritz crackers and their tiny little babies sharing loving glances. Then, Bourbon comes along and rips the infants out of their parents hands, slathers them with cheese, and presses them together. Oh, the humanity!

Each cracker is about the size of my thumbnail and tastes a little buttery. It's easy to taste the cracker separately from the filling because they tend to fall apart. While the crackers are light and crispy and quite enjoyable, the filling is processed cheese and not quite, but close, to being flavorless. There is just the slightest hint of something cheesy, but it could be my imagination or smear of citric acid masquerading as a cheese-like substance at the dairy fancy dress ball.

As crackers go, these fill the bill pretty well. However, for cheese lovers, they just are disappointing. I didn't expect much, and the fact that there is only 8% cheese in the filling isn't helping matters. The packet contains about 25 cracker sandwiches and the whole lot is 245 calories. I didn't finish it because it just wasn't enjoyable enough. I'd rather go for crackers with real cheese.

Note: This item was part of my ZenPop "cheese" sweets box.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

ZenPop Sweets Box February 2019 unboxing (Cheese!)

When I was a child, I remember a commercial which showed a gorilla tossing around Samsonite luggage as a way of demonstrating how tough it was. Though I doubt gorillas tossed my ZenPop box around, it did encounter some sort of trauma in shipping. The boxes themselves are quite sturdy and this is the first time I've ever received one which took on any damage at all. Perhaps a gorilla did get to it to do such damage.

Whether or not the box is a beat up is not the question. The question is how the contents fared despite the hard knocks it took. Fortunately, not one item in the box was harmed despite the licking it took. It may have helped that many of the items were cheese-related and in puffy bags with air.

I am especially delighted with this box since the theme is cheese. I once told my husband that, if I had to eat one type of food and only one type of food for the rest of my life, it would be cheese. He even got me a cheese of the month club membership for Christmas. While not everything in the box is cheese themed, the overwhelming majority is.

There are more savory items, of course, because that's what one would expect from cheese.


Super Kari-Kari Cheese Pretz: This is supposed to be super crunchy because it's very thin.

Bourbon Petit Cheese Crackers: These are like tiny Ritz-style crackers with a cheese filling. They're a little like the Lance sandwich crackers that are so common in vending machines, except they are tiny.

Umai-Wa Cheese (corn snack rings): This is a ring version of the famous "umai bo" sticks. I'm guessing this will be little different than the sticks, but it'll likely be less messy.

Ura-Caramel Corn Double Cheese (corn snack curls): The information in the ZenPop box says these aren't "caramel" at all despite the name. Caramel corn is a brand in Japan as much as a flavor so I'm guessing that's why there is a misleading name.

Cheese Rice Crackers: These are small, hard crunchy rice snacks called "arare" (which I think means "hail", but it's been awhile and my Japanese is fading away). I loved this style of snack in Japan, though the did tend to be the least healthy version of sembei.

Horo Buono Cheddar Cheese (balls): I've never heard of anything like these, but they sound and look a lot like Planter's cheese balls.

Calbee Black Pepper and Cheese Potato Chips: Calbee makes the thinnest and crisipiest chips so I think these are going to be amazing.

Dagashi Cheese Snack: This is the funniest little thing because it is so tiny. It's supposed to be Camembert-flavored cheese with fish paste, but I'll have to take the tiniest of bites to get a sense of it considering it's smaller than the top half of my pinky finger.


Crunky Baked Cheese Tart: This is a weird one because it's a chocolate bar which is made with gouda. Most sweets that are made with cheese in America are made with cream cheese. This is a little like the baked KitKat though and is can be toasted to bring out a unique experience.

Cheese Tart Bar: This is a "healthy" bar fortified with vitamins. It is supposed to be a dough/cheesecake type of center with a cookie wrapped around it (much like a tart with cheese filling).

Choco-ball Chocolate Banana Flavor: This is supposed to be a chocolate biscuit covered with banana-flavored chocolate. It sounds terrible actually because banana-flavored anything tends to be disappointing.

Strawberry Chocolate: These are dagashi, or kid's snacks. They're strawberry chocolates on a stick (like a lollipop). I'm guessing these will be super sweet and artificially flavored.

Pikachu Ramune Candy: This is another dagashi with a ball that strawberry outside and melon inside. Despite the name, it doesn't seem from the description like there is any ramune (Japanese soda) flavor.

Anpanman Ball Chocolate: The center of this is a cookie and the outside is chocolate. It's like a malted milk ball with a cookie center instead of malted milk.

Tirol Kinako Mochi Chocolate: This is the only item that I've reviewed before and it is super tasty. Previously, I reviewed the "premium" version (larger piece) and this appears to be  the smaller version, but it tastes the same.

I've said before that I believe that ZenPop's package has the best value for a snack pack and this box continues to convince me of that. There is a decent mix of sweet and savory as well as dagashi (children's snacks) and snacks designed for adults. If you'd like to consider ZenPop's box, you can buy one or subscribe by going to their site. Note that I was given this box for review at no cost. Hopefully, I'll do better reviewing the contents than I did with the previous box. ;-) 

Friday, August 31, 2018

ZenPop Sweets Pack August 2018 unboxing

It may seem these days that the only Japanese snacks that I review come from ZenPop. Well, that's because that's the case. They provide the best value box for the money and they also send me free boxes. If I had to pay, I'd buy from them, but I'm just as happy not to pay.

When I lived in the Bay Area (of California), I was lucky to have access to shops that sold Japanese food at seriously inflated prices. There is one Asian market about an hour away from where I presently live, but its selection is weak and the prices are even higher than those I'd previously paid. That has dampened my enthusiasm for seeking out new snacks as it's frankly depressing seeing the same bags of KiKat matcha mini bars for $12 and little else during every visit. These boxes are a spirit lifter when they show up with an assortment of things I haven't seen for many years now.

This box includes a mix of salty and sweet with an emphasis on things which won't melt in the heat of summer. Since I'm currently living in a place where temperatures at their highest can reach 100 degrees, this is something I'm grateful for. There are a few chocolates in the box and I'll be curious to see how they fared on the trip when I get tto reviewing them.

As always, there is a pamphlet inside which details all of the items in English with some descriptions and I'll be talking more about each item when I post the individual reviews. Here is the breakdown:

Don Tacos grilled corn chips, Calbee "conomme punch" chips, "salad" sembei, karu jaga umashio (crispy rolled potato snacks, salt flavored)

Pineapple hi-chew, "Soda" puchitto (candy balls), ramune in a plastic bottle, mini home pies (a flaky French-style "cookie"), Juice-C color balls (soda flavored), coconut pies, orange marble gum, caramel corn chocolate mint flavored (a puffy corn snack), Hello kitty peach lollipop, lemon "fettucine" gummies, unchoco (milk chocolates shaped like poop)

In terms of what I'm excited about, the first thing is the chocolate mint caramel corn. The regular caramel corn is already one of the most enjoyable snacks you can get from Japan (and overlooked in favor of the flashier, but often less enjoyable KitKats) and a variation on the flavor has great potential. This isn't like other corn puff snacks. It's light, crispy and almost melt-in-your-mouth.

I am also quite interested in fettucine gummies and seeing how they differ from regular ones in texture. Japanese gummies, in general tend to be more flavorful, less sweet, and have a better chew than American ones. The shape may also lend a different experience to them.

Of course, because I became a sembei fan late in my time in Japan, I'm looking forward tot he "salad" sembei. "Salad" is a funny flavor in Japan. It doesn't seem to mean anything related to what we'd call salad and my experience with it has meant a more "salad dressing" (vinegrette) type of experience. We'll see how this one tastes.

In terms of things I'm fairly indifferent to in this box, that would be the kid's stuff and the orange marble gum in particular. It's not that the gum isn't tasty. It actually is, but I've had it before and the flavor lasts about a minute then it's just plain jaw exercise. I think the dagashi (kid's) snacks are more appealing to people who haven't lived in Japan for a long time compared to me. They are the most colorful and often the most unique, but they also have the simplest flavor profile. Still, I will be reviewing them with an eye toward their intended market and as novelties and not through my very narrow lens.

Luna plush box for September

If you'd like to get your own sweets box, the September box is available for ordering at ZenPop and it has a nice bonus compared to the one I'm reviewing. There's a "Luna" plush which is adorable that is included with that box (at the same price as regular boxes). It's a pretty good deal in general, but it's even better in the coming month.

I'll be back very soon with a flurry of reviews of the contents of this box.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Coris SonoManma Peach Fuzen Gum and Kanro Fruit Rich Peach Candy

The peach on the bottom candy reminds me of "Call Me By Your Name." If you haven't seen it, don't ask. The defilement of fruit is just too disturbing to relive.

Like a runner struggling after a long, hard run to reach the finish line, I am slowing down on my progress with my ZenPop box, but I am determined to finish! However, I'm being slowed down by plans to take a very brief trip for vacation and the looming specter of grand jury duty. If I seem to be in a hurry, you'll understand why.

The pairings on my double reviews are not random. They make a sort of pointless logic to my mind. This one is a grouping of "stuff designed to keep your mouth entertained for a long time" or "stuff designed to remove bad tastes from your mouth." Choose whichever one seems more suitable.

The maker of the peach gum, Coris, specializes in dagashi (kid's snacks) and I've only reviewed a few of their items previously. If this gum is any indication, they are designed to be short-lived joys. The immediate sense is that this is the nicest, softests bubble gum I have ever had and it has a good, natural burst of peach flavor both from the gum itself and the little dab of goo in the center.

For about three minutes, this is a great chewing experience. After that, the flavor is tapped out and you're done. At that point it's time for another little ball of (peach-shaped) gum, or to focus on blowing bubbles. I can't say it's reasonable to expect a gum designed for kids to go the distance in flavor, but I never claimed to be reasonable.

Kanro's "Fruit Rich" peach candy is a decidely more adult and long-lasting experience. The candy is less sweet and intense than the gum, but it unfolds beautifully on the tongue and it's far easier to enjoy than sucking on a peach pit. Oddly, this includes herb extracts and menthol, but I couldn't taste those elements at all. Their inclusion means this is designed for soothing sore throats as much as for occupying a bored mouth.

If this were sugar-free, it would have my undying love rather than a brief flirtation. My teeth cannot only tolerate so much bathing in sugar before they cry "Uncle." So, while I'm happy for the lack of artificial sweetner aftertaste (or even present taste), I have to be careful not to overdo this lest I develop a cavity.

Coris Peach Gum:

Karno Fruit Rich hard candy:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Shimi Choco Corn and Anpanman Pero Pero Choco

I'm headed close to the finish line in my race to review all of my ZenPop box treats before I loose my free time to jury duty (which is coming up on May 2nd). I have to say that it's been quite refreshing to get back in the groove of steady reviewing, though I know that I'll run out of things to review pretty soon.

If aliens came to earth and looked at our food, would they be confused by the fact that we shape our food like humans and then eat them? There are chocolate Santas at Christmas in the U.S. Why would we want to cannibalize a jolly guy who wants nothing more than to give us free toys?

These are the thoughts that occur to me when I look at snacks like the Anpanman chocolate lollipop. He looks so happy, and I just snapped his head in half, took my picture, and then took a bite out of him. If it is any consolation, he didn't taste especially good.

Incidentally, "pero pero" means "lick, lick" which I guess refers to the fact that this is on a stick. However, this isn't really designed for licking. It's barely designed for eating at all because the texture is too soft and the chocolate flavor is fairly muted, especially toward the center where there is more pink chocolate. It's balanced in sweetness. It's vaguely milky, but mostly seems to be too adulterated with vegetable oil to have any sort of pure flavor elements. It looks cute, and it doesn't taste terrible, but this is largely for novelty rather than for flavor. I had my husband sample it and he said, "It tastes like inferior chocolate." That about sums it up.

The other item in this double review is best known for it's tasty animal crackers. The "shimi corn" like is made up of various flavors of a cereal like corn base. It sounds very unimpressive, but it actually was very satisfying. The flavor of the chocolate was excellent and the texture of the star-shaped corn tube was perfect. It was neither too dense nor too crispy. If you like eating sugar cereal dry out of the box (and I do), this is going to be the bee's knees. This was unexpectedly tasty and I wish I had a case of them around for future noshing. It just really played into my tastes.

So, the moral of the story? Cannabalism is wrong in every way. Don't go around eating the heads of fictional characters. It will not be nearly as much fun as you anticipate. The other moral? Corn is always king!

Anpanman Pero Pero Choco:

Shim Choco Corn: