Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Smoky Cheese Cratz
In Japan, you can't buy boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese or a knock-off variety of that carb and chemical bomb. You can only get your hands on it via importers. Because of this, I make my own cheese sauce and pasta from real cheese. It's not really that difficult, but it is messy, time-consuming, and, to be perfectly honest, lacking in that special something that has drawn generations to the powdery packet over real cheese.
The thing about artificial flavoring when it comes to cheese is that you can get just the right hint of cheesy sharpness. Using real cheese and mixing it in with other ingredients tends to undermine the tang. In the case of macaroni & cheese, the milk that is necessary to create a sauce mellows the cheese a bit unless you can get your hands on something extra sharp. I live in Japan. There is almost no extra sharp cheese.
When it comes to some foods, fake is actually better than real. In the case of cheese-flavored snacks, I think that there's really no point in using real cheese most of the time. I want my salted crap food to prioritize flavor over authenticity. I'm not fooling myself into thinking this is anything like real food. The people at Glico don't seem to understand that as they list that there is 1.6% natural cheese in this salted pretzel snack. My response to Glico is, "who cares?"
At any rate, this is the latest in the Cratz line and replaces the "spicy cheese" variety that I reviewed previously. I wondered how this "smoky" cheese was going to differ from its predecessor. The answer is, not very much at all. In fact, except for a hint of heat, these are almost identical to the spicy version. They are the same price (100 yen/$1.13), smell the same, have the same satisfying crunch, and they have nearly the same number of calories (229) for the same quantity (44 grams/1.44 oz.).
These are good, but I preferred the nice hit of heat on the spicy cheese ones. I'd probably have liked these more if I could detect any sort of smoke flavor. It's as if they just took the old recipe for the slightly hot Cratz and stripped the spices out of it that gave it some heat without adding anything back in. I can highly recommend these if you've got a "cat's tongue" (as the Japanese say) and can't tolerate hot spices much, but if you're accustomed to the old spicy cheese Cratz and really enjoy smoke flavor, you might be a little letdown.