Monday, March 31, 2014

Meiji Meltyblend Fruity Strawberry

When I recently reviewed the chocolate version of "Meltyblend", I remarked that these are usually called "Melty Kiss" in Japan. What's in a name? In this case, I was thinking it might be the potential for a lawsuit between Hershey's and Meiji if they tried to called their small bits of individually wrapped chocolate treats "kisses". The truth is that I have no idea why this is called "Meltyblend", but a little research revealed the unlikelihood that the product has been renamed because of what I'm sure are Hershey's armies of industrial grade trademark protection lawyers. 

Research into how Hershey's came to call their little drops of chocolate "kisses" in the first place provided an explanation, but not a very credible one. Hershey claims that the sounds that the chocolate makes when it's plopped out of the machine resembles the sucking wet of a kiss. They neglected to mention that, back in old timey days, "kiss" was a common name for any small sweet and that there were products of all sorts referred to as a "kiss". My guess is that that origin is lost, but that the concept comes from the idea that it is a small touch of a confection on the lips - sweet and often short - and you want more.

This "Meltyblend", not "Melty Kiss", but they actually are the same product is the last of my "winter limited edition" Japanese sweets in stock. It's only limited to winter because of the low melting point aspects. It's not because it's strawberry. Trust me on this. If you're around for the random picture I'm planning to use on Wednesday, you'll know that strawberry is anything but "limited" right now. In fact, spring seems to have sprung in an absolute explosion of this particular fruit.

As for the candy, I'm sorry to say that this is the biggest "miss" I've experienced in the Melty Kiss line. It's not bad at all, but compared to the almost sublime varieties that I've sampled before, it comes across as humdrum and lacking in flavor power. They smell faintly of strawberries, and have a pretty decent strawberry taste at the start, but as the taste develops on your tongue, it becomes too strong and isn't balanced out by the chocolate portion. If it has had a ratio of 1/3 chocolate to 2/3 strawberry, I think the bitterness of the chocolate may have provided for an interested contrast. As it is, it just came across to me as 90% berry and with an almost inconsequential bit of chocolate. 

If you're a bigger fan of strawberry than me, this might be the bee's knees. It still has the soft, almost truffle-like, qualities of Melty Miss and melts nicely on the tongue. I just really need more chocolate in my chocolates. If this were a real kiss, it'd be the sort which didn't end up igniting much passion, at least in me. Perhaps it's more someone else's type.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Weiss Anis-Plätzchen

I like to ask people questions that, perhaps, no one has ever asked them before, or, at the very least, ask a question which tells me something that I don't know about them. It's a good game that allows you to know things about your friends that you might not otherwise ever know and can shed some interesting light on to their past or perspectives. Here's a question that I'm pretty sure I have never asked anyone, but these cookies brought to mind. The question is, "what was the first German word that you ever learned?" Of course, this only works if you are not actually German. If you are German, you probably don't remember your first German word.

I asked my husband this question and he said his was "zugzwang". Her learned it when he was 12 or 13 from reading books on chess. See, you have already learned something about my husband from that strang question and answer. My sister said that hers was likely something heard on the old comedy, "Hogan's Heroes" and she guesses it might be "schnell." This tells you something about what she watched on T.V. as a child (re-runs of shows that thought being a prisoner of the Nazis was a great sitcom idea). I asked my friends on Facebook and they gave an obvious one which I completely forgot about, "gezundheit." I think they were raised with better manners and around more mannerly people than me. The same goes for the friend who said it was "danke" ("thank you").

My first word in German, to my best recollection, was "hasenpfeiffer." I recall hearing it again and again in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Now you know something about my mispent youth. Among the words that I did not know was "plätzchen". It turns out that it means "cookie" in German. I think that would have been a far more appropriate word for me to know as a child than hasenpfeiffer as cookies were much more to my tastes at that time than rabbit stew. And, for what it's worth, the only other person besides me who knew a food word as their first one knew sauerkraut. That told me something about his early exposure to German food in a manner which made me feel bad for him. No, I'm not a fan of sour, wet cabbage that looks like it spent some time in someone's dirty sock.

Let me apologize for not having an actual picture of these cookies. You can see them through the window of the bag, but that's substandard cookie-viewage. They do actually look the same as the illustration, though the actual cookies are quite tiny. Each is about the diameter of a nickel (or five-yen coin).

This close up of the window of the bag is from Amazon Germany's picture - it's pretty clear and it makes me feel less bad about not having a proper picture. 

These are two layers and the top is an anise-flavored meringue dome with a crispy little cookie base that lends textural contrast, but very little in the way of flavor. Most of the flavor comes through in the little meringe top and it is lovely if you're a fan of anise. The combination of the meringue crunch and sweetness with the spice of the anise is a big winner in my book, but I'm a sucker for anything meringue. Some people find this type of cookie too hard and dry.

I loved these. I really did. In fact, I'm definitely going to pick up another bag next time I'm at the little European shop in Palo Alto that carries them. If you can get your hands on a bag, and you like anise, I can't recommend them highly enough.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Baskin Robbins Easter Egg Hunt Ice Cream (product information)

Last year, I noticed that Easter is starting to pick up steam in Japan. Baskin Robbins is definitely one of the biggest promoters of it. This year, they've got ice cream that will allow you to hunt for Easter eggs without having to do any of that pesky boiling, dying, and decorating. You can just hunt for them in your ice cream. The three colors of "eggs" (chocolate) are the only ones. The ice cream is, and this is where this takes on a uniquely Japanese bent, cotton candy and melon. Yes, the traditional Easter melon flavor. I hope it sells well for them. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Random Picture #206

Sometime in the last year that I was living in Tokyo (that's 2012 for those who aren't keeping track), bagna caude caught on as a food fad. The bureau for Japanese food fads must have decided that they needed a more expensive savory option in lean times in order to drum up some revenue for restaurants. This Italian "dip" usually is made up of garlic, butter, anchovies, and olive oil (among other possible ingredients including truffle oil and cream). The latter two are pretty pricey in Japan and the dish not only is hard on the hips, but can be a little rough on the wallet.

Muji, a chain of stores that specializes in simple-looking "generic" goods, has solved the issue of how hard it can be on your coin purse by offering a "bagna caude kit" for a mere 210 yen (about $2.10). You still have to provide the cream and olive oil, but they've got the rest covered. I wish to a small extent that I had bought this and tried it. However, never having had real bagna caude, I would lack the frame of reference from which to evaluate this instant stuff.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

McDonald's Sakura Burger

Recently, I conducted a Skype lesson with one of my former face to face students from Japan. She pointed out to me that my picture for Skype was the McDonald's Sakura burger. I told her that it was an ancient picture that I really should change. The reason I put it up there was that I had the picture on my desktop, likely for this blog (though I think I never used it). My student pointed out that this burger was being re-released, so I checked it out and, it is back (released March 21).

The burger is supposed to have a "faint cherry scent" and you can see that the bun has some pink in it. The meat is a pork patty and it includes teriyaki sauce and an egg (it's called sakura teri tama - cherry teriyaki egg). The sauce is mayonnaise based and also includes ginger. Frankly, it all sounds like a real mess of flavors which probably don't have a good chance of meshing. I wouldn't touch this burger with a ten-foot-pole, but then I wouldn't touch any fast food burger. If you give this a try, let me know if all of the flavors play nice together.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Furuta Creamy & Crispy Pie

Recently, I read an article on a food news site in which someone was extolling the virtues of monaka. The notion of the ice cream encased in the cone rather than heaped on top of it was just too exciting for them. It's as if the writer felt the Japanese had done something truly remarkable.

The problem is that no one cares that much for a cake cone, and monaka are the equivalent of cake cones bricking up your precious ice cream. They're edible Styrofoam packaging with little flavor and a less than appealing texture. And I have to say that cake cones in the U.S. are actually better than the monaka coverings I experienced in Japan. That's probably because they aren't being sold with the ice cream already in them where it can leech moisture into the cone over time as the hapless confection sits in the freezer waiting for someone to find it appealing enough to buy.

I'm not saying monaka were never good. I found the Jumbo Morinaga one quite appealing, but that was more about the filling than the "wafers" that encased it. My point is that they don't taste like much, but that actually suits Japanese tastes pretty well. In fact, in my experience, the Japanese love things that are on the bland side. It's why I so often heard students complain about food in the U.S. being too sweet or too spicy. Note that they rarely said it was "too salty", but that would be a bit too ironic coming from the land of soy sauce.

When I buy any snacks from Japan, I keep in mind that their tastes are different. A lot of the time, I have to look for subtlety and texture rather than strong tastes. When things are good, there is flavor depth which reveals itself in the absence of a high amount of sugar or spices.

When things are not so good, well, it's rarely actually bad, but is something I tend to be indifferent toward. In general, one of the more popular types of crispy cookie-like snacks that falls into the "indifferent" category are these "pies". When they say "pie", don't think "Hostess fruit pie", think "pie crust". That's my way of saying not to expect a lot of sophisticated flavor.

The cookies smell of margarine which is desperately trying to convince someone that it is actually butter with a faint hint of coconut. The strange thing is that coconut is nowhere in the ingredients, so it must be some sort of olfactory hallucination. The cookies are about half the size of my palm. Each is 48 calories.

The flavor of these is definitely on the muted side. They are lightly sweet with the fake butter and fried flour being the outstanding flavors. Each is light and flaky and like layers of concentric pie dough. There's not a whole lot going on in the front end, but there's a back end flavor which is very reminiscent of the edge of the crust on a pumpkin pie. Most of what you're getting from these is texture, not taste and there's very little in the way of depth. These are a snack that cries out for some sort of addition, whether it's a little jam, a side of cream, or a cup of tea or coffee.

These aren't bad at all. In fact, I think they'd go over well as a garnish on ice cream or even used as a heart-shaped decoration on the side of a frosted cake. In fact, they'd be ideal for the latter since they add a textural contrast and could match nearly any flavor of frosting or cake. At $1.50 (150 yen) per package for 7 "pies" (at least at Daiso), it also wouldn't break the bank to buy them. Mainly, however, these are for people who want a variation from the tea time butter cookie and really aren't much of a taste event.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kettle Foods Corporation Cheese Kornados

Some natural disasters are sadder than others. I don't mean to belittle the effects of any unfortunate instance when nature unleashes her fury on man, but I can't think of anything more devastating than a kornado. Kernels are whirling at high speed, pelting each other and innocent objects like the ammo from millions of BB guns. On hot days, they can get up enough friction to fling popcorn everywhere. The next day, you'll be overwhelmed by enough hungry birds to remake one of the scarier Hitchcock movies.

OK, some products beckon to me by name alone and this is one of them. I have a "special" relationship with corn, or at least the idea of corn. I think it is the king of grains, or at least the evil overlord of them depending on your perspective. I like the flavor of corn in various foods, but I'm not a fan of corn itself unless it is pureed in a nice potage. It's something about the texture. It just grosses me out.

Fortunately, the "kornado" has not only removed those pesky fibrous kernels, but rolled them into little semi-cones. This is called a 3-D snack because these are supposed to resemble tornados, but they look pretty flat. Fortunately, they taste better than they look. The "risk" with salty snacks like these is that they won't have enough cheese flavor, but the flavor powder is very reminiscent of "Cheetos". It's salty and cheesy in that fake way we all know and love and has a very nice, light crunch.

No one is more surprised than me that such a cheesy concept (truly, no pun intended) works. Perhaps they can try other natural disaster-themed snacks? Rye-phoons... Corn-canos... Wheat-storms... OK, none of those works as well as a kornado, but that comes as no surprise.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Country Ma'am Banana Bread and Brownie Cookies (product information)

Country Ma'am is releasing two new flavors, one of which is a bit on the unusual side for Japan. The web site mentions that "banana bread" is "like pound cake" in the U.S. That's not quite right, and it actually is irrelevant to the cookies, but the fact that they feel it is necessary to explain that shows just how unusual banana bread is in Japan. It's not strange to find the occasional "banana cake" or muffin, but not "bread". The promotional material tells us that the banana version is made with Philippine bananas and has the smell of wheat. The brownie version boasts California almonds and, again, the promotional material asserts that mixing nuts in brownies is an American thing.

If you've never had Country Ma'am cookies, they're known for being crispy on the outside and a bit soft and fudge-like on the inside. If you pop them in a microwave for a short time, then they heat up as something akin to a fresh-baked cookie... or akin to a freshly baked mass-manufactured shelf-stable cookie. They're actually pretty good and occupy a unique niche in the Japanese market. These two varieties are sold currently in small five-packs. My guess is that they are most easily located in convenience stores and I'm unlikely to encounter either variety at Japanese markets here. If I find one though, I might give it a try.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nestle Baked KitKats (product announcement)

This is a party I'm a little late to so you may have already heard of this. Nestle Japan is offering a KitKat that you can bake and it won't turn into a melted pile of goo. It's supposed to brown up and taste like custard or vanilla pudding. Apparently, this is availabel at the Chocolate Cafe in Ikebukuro in Tokyo. The cafe is open from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm (except closing at 8:00 on Sundays and holidays) so you can get your baked KitKat on between those hours.

You're supposed to bake them for 2 1/2 minutes in a toaster oven at 1000 W. They say you should put foil down on the tray first and keep an eye on it because it could catch fire if you overdo it.

This is the brainchild Yasumasa Takagi, their chef in residence it would seem. The concept is supposed to yield a result which turns the outside the texture of candy-like sugar, caramelize the flavors, and create a unique textural experience once it has cooled down to safely eat.

This sounds like an absolutely awesome concept, but I have my doubts that it will be a great flavor experience. Still, if these come up in shops around here, I'll certainly buy one and try it.

A bag of 13 bars is 525 yen (about $5.25). It will be available from March 24 for general purchasing at supermarkets. Let's hope that a spate of housefires are not the outcome of this experiment.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Glico Bisco Caramel Cocoa

One of the first things I learned about feeding babies, a task I was never destined to actually carry out, was that Cheerios were a "safe" solid food when you were trying to wean them off of an all-liquid diet. I learned that from one of my aunts, who had recently had a baby pass the point of needing to suckle a bottle all of the time (my mother's family weren't about to breast feed - to them, it was barbaric). She had Cheerios stocked up and I asked her why and I learned something new.

When I took home economics, the teacher felt that we needed to be indoctrinated into the ways of baby-rearing. Since I'm 49, I grew up in an age where birthin' dem babies was considered my lot in life at least to some extent. Considering my utter lack of maternal qualities, this education was just short of an utter waste of time for the likes of me. I did, however, score some brownie points for knowing that Cheerios was one of the first solid foods that were safe for infants to eat.

At no point in my limited education did anyone suggest that sandwich cookies were a part of a baby's diet. Glico puts a happy baby on the package of its "Bisco" cookies, but I'm not buying that these are for babies. In fact, they seem more suited to calorie-conscious mothers looking to lose those last few baby pounds while keeping a sweet nibble on hand, ostensibly for their young child. One of the nutritional benefits of these, supposedly, is that they put lactic acid bacteria (the good bugs in yogurt) in the cookies and it's supposed to help with digestion.

I've reviewed these tiny little packets of Bisco before and I really liked them. Note that the regular version (vanilla cookie with white cream) is in a bigger box. The limited edition flavors come in tiny little five-packs. They're definitely well-suited for carrying in ones purse. Each packet has five extremely dainty little cookies that come in at 20 calories apiece.

If you sniff these, the caramel flavor is pretty intense. There is just a small amount of cream in between two cookies which are a hybrid between a cracker and cookie and are therefore pretty crispy and a little airy. The caramel flavor is the stronger first wave flavor when you bite into the cookie. The second wave is a bit of a floury, grain-like quality followed by extremely weak, nearly anemic, cocoa flavor. It's only on the second bite that the cocoa builds up to fairly discernible levels.

These are actually pretty good. They wouldn't be my first choice for a Bisco cookie, but I still liked them and I'm not a fan of caramel. It should be said that the caramel is very artificial tasting. I think it's only decent because there is such a small amount of cream filling that it is relatively diluted. The bottom line is that I'm good with having bought these and will eat the rest without reservation, but I can't see buying them again because of the strongish artificial caramel flavor.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lays Spanish Tomato Tango Potato Crisps

As children, we are often admonished for our limited palates and our squeamishness about trying new foods. The old "eat your vegetables" business is the most cliched example, but children in general are not fans of adult flavors. I've mentioned before that I believe this is because strong flavors are more intense for children, who have not yet deadened their taste buds with a variety of abuses, but also it is true that they have not developed their palates.

When I was a child, I had certain foods that I hated based on texture, taste, or smell. My parents often gave me grief for this, but the interesting thing is that I understand now that their palates were quite limited as well. They weren't trying to expand my gustatory repertoire, but rather trying to align it with theirs. My parents, as adults, are extremely fussy and limited not only in what they eat, but how they will accept the foods they eat. If meat isn't cooked to the point of being dried out, it's too raw and unsafe. God forbid their chicken show any signs of juice inside! Salmonella! Danger Will Robinson!

My mother and father also never met a vegetable that they couldn't under-season or overcook. If it has anything other than salt and pepper, doesn't come from a can, and isn't pretty much mush, they will turn their noses up at it. My sister, who resides with my parents and does most of their cooking, is constantly frustrated that she can't diversify her menu or eat food flavored in the manner she'd like lest she elicit bitter complaints from my parents about how inappropriate the food is for their tastes.

I don't know if my parents are extreme in this regard, but my father-in-law is similarly limited in what he eats, so it could be a generational thing or an old person thing. All I know is that I'm willing to try pretty much anything and am often on the look-out for new and interesting flavors. One of the reasons this blog exists is so that I can continue to experience unique combinations of flavors. Sometimes, I find new appreciation for the way in which other cultures combine tastes, textures, and aromas, and, at other times, it falls pretty flat.

This is the second in a line of internationally themed flavors of potato chips that Lay's has released for the market in India. My husband bought these "Flavour Team" chips for 99 cents (about 100 yen) at an Indian market in our city. I already reviewed the "Magic Masala" version and was looking forward to trying the Spanish Tomato Tango. Incidentally, there are supposed to be 6 of these and we haven't seen them all, but there is also an "American sour cream and onion" variety. We're unlikely to try that one because it sounds pedestrian, but I wouldn't mind finding the others.

At any rate, the robot arms should have started flailing at the ingredients list which lists "sugar" as the third ingredient after potatoes and palm oil. Any time a heap of sugar is added to tomato flavoring, it signals "ketchup" (or "catsup", if you like). Now, imagine your ketchup flavor with the added twist of ginger, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, and cloves. The cinnamon, ginger, and especially the cloves add a funky spiced dimension to these which simply does not work in the opinion of my taste buds. It's like someone put their chocolate in my sunflower butter instead of my peanut butter. It's not horrible, but it doesn't quite work on some level. Much as I try to be open-minded to new flavor combinations and foods, this was more of a stretch than I could manage - yes, shades of my parents limits come to mind.

Potato chips are not my favorite thing in the whole wide world. I'll admit that. They have to be really, really great for me to decide to indulge in them at all because I'm not big into fried food in general. I'm more of a cracker/sembei/pretzel type of person and the fact that these not only failed to impress but kind of let me down means that I won't be having more of them.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Starbucks Vanilla Latte with Lemony Swirls (product announcement)

I once read a former high-profile model say that she was encouraged to "drink her calories" instead of eat them. This applied to alcohol and, I guess, was supposed to not make one gain as much weight. I'm not sure how that works, but I think Starbucks has been onboard with the entire "drink your calories"  notion for the entire time that it's been in business.

As you can see by the picture, Starbucks is offering a new limited editions drink to help you get your calories. While I don't know how caloric this is, that rich head of whipped cream is a hint that this probably isn't going to trim your thighes any time soon. This is a "creamy" vanilla latte with lemon peel and lemon-flavored whipped cream. It's supposed to evoke lemon cream pie in the silky texture and sweetness. A short will run you 430 yen ($4.19), a tall 470 yen ($4.57), a grande 510 ($4.96) and a venti 550 yen ($5.35). It'll be around from March 19 to April 15 and you can have it hot or cold.

While I personally think that the lemon/coffee combo (this is an espresso drink) is a bit strange, I'd probably buy a short and give it a try provided that my husband was also willing to be a taste tester so that we'd both have a chance to hate it before throwing away what was left. ;-) If you give this a try, I'd love to hear your opinions of how the two tastes come together in this drink.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Random Picture #205

The picture above is of a poster for a restaurant near my old apartment in Tokyo. The characters on the left say "samurai" in katakana (the phonetic alphabet used for foreign words - at least usually). I was looking back through my pictures from Japan and something I hadn't thought about in many years occurred to me and that was the fried chicken and the way it is prepared. I don't eat fried chicken, but I did have some many, many years ago when I first arrived in Japan and it is quite different from what you get in the U.S.

You'll note that it is lighter in color. It is more like tempura in terms of the coating than fried chicken in the U.S., which tends to have a redder, darker, and much spicier coating. I also have a vague recollection that the Japanese version tastes of white flour and a hint of soy sauce and ginger, but the years may have dulled my taste memory. Of course, I'm not talking about Japanese KFC, which is almost the same as American KFC, but rather traditional pub-style (izakaya) fried chicken. Also, you'll note the thick slabs of chicken skin on the skewers of (thigh) meat in the center. That's actually supposed to make it more appetizing to people since the Japanese like to eat the skin.

If any of my readers has had non-KFC fried chicken in Japan, I'd like to hear your recollections of the taste. I have to admit that I haven't eaten it for more than 20 years and can't really trust my memory, but the appearance of what is in the picture is exactly what I remember.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Haagen Dazs Mango Crispy Sandwich (product information)

If I had any doubt that the mango fad continues to march ahead unabated in Japan, the choice of mango ice cream for a Haagen Dazs crispy sandwich proves that fact. In fact, I'm starting to wonder if mango is going to join tiramisu as one of those fads that never fades away and remains in the mainstream for decades. I can't say that it would surprise me since mango is, of course, pretty awesome. However, I was not a fan of this line of ice cream sandwiches in Japan. The "crispy" shell in my experience took on moisture form the ice cream and lost some of its snap. It was also fairly brittle and tended to flake and crumble more than a conventional ice cream sandwich.

Beyond that, I made my own mango "ice cream" by buying bags of frozen mango pieces from "Lawson 100" (100 yen per bag) and adding a little milk to it and blending it in a Magic Bullet or food processor. You can't really get more "mango" than that. Sorry, Haagen Dazs. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meiji Chelsea Butterscotch (from Candy Japan)

Today's item for review comes to you and me courtesy of snack service "Candy Japan". You can check out their web site here or you can read my service review. Their package this time included both Chelsea candies and Bontan Ame. I reviewed Bontan Ame (quite favorably) in the past here

I recently saw a sequence of product redesigns on Foodbeast in which the artist removed most of the design and offered minimalist versions of such venerable logos as Nutella's and Pringle's. It's my opinion that all product design in the modern age is relatively informed. That is, it is purposefully inclusive of certain elements in order to build brand identity and catch the eye of consumers. Nothing is there that doesn't mean something. While the minimalist versions are striking, even beautiful and absolutely less overwhelming, they aren't what would be conducive to sales.

That brings me to the design of the Chelsea hard candies. This brand has been around for what seems like ages. Meiji has offered a variety of flavors over the years including an Earl Grey and chocolate one, but their web site currently only shows this butterscotch, brown sugar, and some yogurt varieties. The package design is based on the Chelsea area of the United Kingdom and it is still a little funky, but it used to be even funkier (see picture above). I'm not sure if those who buy these candies these days think twice about the design, but it is meant to evoke a certain image and it doesn't seem to be hurting sales and it does provide strong recognition and distinguished Chelsea from other hard candies.

There is another way in which Chelsea distinguishes itself from other hard candies and that is its quality. This is the most amazing buttery hard candy I've ever experienced. It's smooth as silk and super rich with a good balance between sweetness and buttery flavor. It's as refined a hard candy as you can experience. 

Often, I will say that something is limited by its presentation. It's "only" a hard candy so it can't be that great, but I honestly think this is that great despite being a hard candy. It's the sort of thing you can keep at the bottom of your purse and be actually happy when you rediscover it after having forgotten it for a month.

This is a great little package from Candy Japan with two thing which I truly enjoy. Though these may not be "exciting" options, they are tasty and unique to Japan.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Biscuit Chocolate Orange Marmalade Lobes

So, the way I've  named the product in the title sucks, but I can't read much of anything on this box and am flying blind here, so, give me a break, okay? You try to translate Cyrillic without having any experience whatsoever with the language and see how far you get in figuring out company names. Harrumph.

My husband and I picked these up because we love jelly slices and these looked very appealing indeed with their large sugar crystal coating. One might think "sugar-coated" = cloyingly sweet, but the sugar on these has more of the effect that powdered sugar has on donuts or waffles. It adds a light exterior sweetness rather than an enormous wallop of sugary overload.

Though the center is not super sweet, they are still very tasty. The orange flavoring is strongly reminiscent of orange juice, though that is not one of the ingredients. The ingredients list includes "flavour" (orange) and citric acid. I'm also pleased to note that this does not contain artificial colors and is dyed with curcumin. If you are keeping up on dietary supplment fads, that's a hot one right now.

The slices are a little hard on the outside, like a slightly crispy sugar shell and quite soft on the inside. They are not like a gummy, but rather like a pate de fruits inside. This is a splendid combination. You also get good crunch from the sugar granules. There could be a touch more of a citric acid bite for my tastes, but I'm not complaining.

The company that makes this, Biscuit Chocolate, makes a fair number of confections with a much heavier focus on chocolates than this type of fruit candy. They do make jujube, which is a lot like these slices except in a different shape. They offer a lemon slice version in addition to this orange one. I'd try the lemon one in a heartbeat if I can find it. Note that this uses pectin and agar to jell the candy, so I'm guessing it may be safe for vegetarians. It uses egg white though so it's a no-go for vegans.

I found these for $3.49 at a market in Palo Alto that specializes in Eastern European and European food (a lot of it is Ukranian). I found them on Amazon without a price in different packaging, but they are definitely the same thing though the Amazon one is a mix of lemon and orange. If you like pate de fruits and are looking for something more low rent than what is generally available at the types of stores that sell it (which tends to be the expensive kind), then I recommend giving these a try. They'll satisfy your desire without hitting your wallet too hard.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pizza Hut "Greedy Meat" Pizza (product information)

I'll be upfront and say I'm not sure if I'm translating the name of this pizza properly. And, in all honesty, I'm good with a bad translation because it makes for a much funnier product name. Being wrong in the service of being funny is something I do often, and more often intentionally than not. This sometimes gets pedantic people up in arms and makes them want to bitch slap me into "rightness", but that's okay. It's a win-win. They feel superior to what they perceive as my stupid self and I (hopefully) was funny. This is one of the small ways in which my meat-sack's presence on this planet is of a tiny service rather than simply taking up space.

Speaking of "meat sacks" (see how I cleverly segued there?), this is supposed to be an insane amount of meat though it is probably pretty anemic by American standards - of course, anything which isn't a bacon crust covered in meat is anemic by such standards. This is one of the very common types in Japan which offers four pizzas in one. The Japanese do enjoy and prefer variety, after all. This is Italian sausage with garlic, bacon, BBQ chikcen, and bulgogi.

Now, when I translate this, it comes out as "special horse" bulgogi, but I figure that can't be right. It has to be beef bulgogi prepared in a particular way that translates as "horse". It's not that I don't think that it could be horse as the Japanese do eat horse, but rather that it's really expensive. I'm sure someone out there who needs to feel smarter than me (and may indeed be smarter than me) will correct my bad translation and it'll all be win-win again.

(Okay, the truth is that "uma" is short for "umai" which means "delicious" or "tasty" in this case, but also means "horse" Sorry, smart people.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Random Picture #204

I'm not sure if these are supposed to be intelligent or if they're supposed to be sparkly and bright, but I was intrigued by these Bourbon Brilliant Truffles. It seemed to me as if they were positioned as a competitor for "Melty Kiss".  It's not only the fact that they have a similar-looking confection with a creamy interior and a powdery dusted exterior, but even the package design is similar. The Melty Kiss boxes (which you can see if you follow the link to previous reviews) have snowflakes in gold embossed printing all around the pictures of the candy. These have little lens flares/sparkly illustrations.

This offering from Bourbon even shares the very high price that Melty Kiss often carries. However, I wasn't intrigued enough to pay such a fee just to sample them, but, if they go on sale, I'm likely to give them a go. However, I'll be gravely disappointed if they don't sparkle like a vampire in a Twilight movie. (Note: I have never seen one of those movies nor read the books, but I have read a fair number of snarky reviews and lists about them so I know the vampires don't combust in sunlight as they properly should - as is the case in real life.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

McDonald's American Funky BBQ Beef and Chicken Burgers (product information)

I have to admit that I've resisted posting about this release because it's almost too easy to talk about McDonald's "American Vintage" releases. I'm never sure of what makes them more "American Vintage" than the original Big Mac. I'm thinking that it's the fact that old-fashioned cartoon figures are used to promote them. While Roy Lichtenstein might be impressed, or he would be if he hadn't already gone to the great art studio in the sky in 1997, I think that "vintage" should mean they're cracking open old bottles of barbeque sauce from the 1980's and slathering that on the burgers. Of course, they may actually be doing that since the sauce is "funky".

As you can see by the carefully staged pictures, the beef comes with bacon, two patties, pickles, cheese, and lettuce with cheese. The chicken is a simpler affair with a fried chicken patty, lettuce, and cheese. Of course, both have the "vintage" sauce. People who have sampled these have mentioned that the chicken is very crispy and that the cheddar cheese on the burgers is pretty nice. Most like the barbeque sauce, but a few felt it was too strong or sweet. One even referred to it as "stinky". I'm thinking "caveat emptor". If you've tried one of these, let me know what you thought of it.

This is the sort of thing I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole whether I was in Japan or America. In fact, I'm pleased to say I've been McDonald's free for quite a number of years now. That isn't because there is anything wrong with MickeyD's. It's just that I only resort to fast food when I haven't planned my eating well enough for something more nutritious.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Kasugai Yuzu Gummy Candy

I recently saw a picture of a Japanese granny in her bathtub on Facebook. No, I wasn't "liking" the Japanese old lady porn page. The truth is that, while I'm pretty sure such a page exists, I'm very, very frightened of doing a search to verify that possibility. The picture was there because she'd bonded with a cat, probably a stray cat, and they supposedly are now inseparable. I guess that's why the cat was watching her take a bath. It doesn't explain why someone with a camera was there watching her take one, too, but then we're right back to the Japanese granny porn.

You might wonder what this topic has to do with yuzu. That puzzlement would certainly be understandable, but that's only because I'm slow in getting to the point. The old lady in her tub was nearly surrounded by floating citrus fruit. That obscured her old-lady parts and made the picture far less terrifying than it might have otherwise been. (Note: I have nothing against old lady parts. In fact, at 49, I'm close to having those myelf. I just don't really want to look at them. If you do, then more power to you so long as you're indulging with a consenting granny.)

That picture reminded me of the fact that many Japanese folks like to put yuzu in their baths and that it was more common at one point to bath with it than to eat it. That was before it became a trending flavor (in the past five or so years) and got pleasantly rolled into so many sweets. As a tart citrus fruit, that is where yuzu can truly shine, though it also works in a number of savory implementations.

The candy smells a little lemony and a little floral. The flavor bursts onto your tongue the moment you start chewing. It releases a sweet flavor which has hints of lemon, but is closer in total flavor to an orange. There is a whisper of grapefruit at the end that reveals itself in a tiny, bitter end note.

The texture is on the softer side and they are easy to chew. They're pleasant in this way, and much nicer than some of the tougher gummy candies I've tried, but they're almost too soft in that they separate too fast and divide in your mouth such that it's harder to keep the little blobs on your tongue and savor the flavor. This makes it a better flavor experience to suck on them, but that defeats the purpose of a gummy.

These are very tasty and the only "fault" I can find with them is the price. Usually, Japanese gummy candies are over $3.00 per bag for about a 3.5 oz. bag. I picked these up at Lion Asian market on sale for $1.99, but I had seen them around in other stores for $3.50 in the past. I had to wait a long time for a price reduction.

I whole-heartedly recommend these and would definitely have them again, but I'd still wait for a better price. They're excellent gummy candy in a fairly unique flavor, but they're still gummy. And, as an aside - admit it - you want to see that granny bath picture now, don't you?