Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Ito Ham Tomato Cheese Hamburger Calzone
Today, I came to a realization about food blogging that would never have occurred to me had I not found myself pressed for time and very, very hungry. I came to realize that snack reviewing is a lot easier than any type of food writing which deals with meal-oriented processed food that is reheated and eaten. With snacks, you have all of the time in the world to take a picture, and you usually eat them when you're slightly hungry, but not ravenous. If I'm really in the mood to eat a snack and don't want to take a picture right away, I also have the option of snipping a hole in the back of the bag and easing out a little bit for sampling and taking the pictures later. With prepared food, you don't have this freedom.
I had a lot of work the day that I consumed this particular item and just wanted to dash out, grab something junky, rush home, and chow down before the next round of work came my way. What I didn't want to do was set up a picture of the packaged item, take another picture of it after unwrapping, and then heat it and take another picture of it cut open for detail purposes. All of those food bloggers who deal with this type of food all of the time, I salute you. Your life is much harder than mine.
I chose this "hamburger calzone" (at Family Mart convenience store for 210 yen/$2.33) despite knowing full well it was neither of the things it professed to be. I've lived in Japan long enough to know better. I just hoped it was going to be relatively inoffensive junk food rather than something with funky, peculiar modifications for the Japanese market.
When I opened the package, there was a faint pizza-like smell, albeit one with unfamiliar spices. As it cooked, it actually smelled like a hamburger. The size is 16 cm long (6.2 in.) and 8 cm (3 in.) wide at the widest point. I also knew that this wasn't going to be a meal in itself, though it had almost 276 calories. I ate this with an entire small sliced carrot and about a cup of homemade tomato soup. At the end, I was quite full, though that was almost certainly greatly contributed to by the warm soup. I was hungry enough to eat a small packet of almond sembei about 2 hours later.
The burger portion was thin, but reasonably expansive. It didn't go into every corner, but it covered most of the bread surface. It tasted like elementary school cafeteria food. The "hamburger" tasted like meatloaf and the sauce is a thick, moderately ketchup-like pizza sauce type of thing. I have to give the maker, Ito Ham, credit for not making the sauce too thin or watery (as is often the case) and giving it enough flavor to pack a little punch. There was nothing that resembled cheese in it in texture, taste, or appearance. The outer shell is soft and bread-like and nothing like a proper calzone crust. It is completely inoffensive, though slightly tough around the edges where there is no meat or sauce.
Mainly, this is like a mass-produced meatloaf sandwich. It's better than average for this type of conbini offering mainly because it's comfortingly familiar and has no strange tastes (unlike the wiener-based burritos you often find in the refrigerator cases of convenience stores in Japan). I was on the fence about an indifferent rating and a happy one, but the bottom line is that I could see myself getting this again under similar circumstances despite the fact that it is hardly a thrill to eat. When presented with a mediocre to poor crop of options, sometimes inoffensively familiar and moderately tasty is good enough.