03/12/14

Birthday Cake M&M’s Review

Apparently,Mars wasn’t discouraged by the lackluster response to White Chocolate Carrot Cake M&Ms’. They are back with another cake based M&M’s flavor. This time around, it is a Birthday Cake M&M’s being introduced as a limited edition.

When I saw the Birthday Cake M&M’ on the shelves of my local CVS, I wasn’t immediately sure that I wanted to try them.  When I see ‘birthday cake’ as a flavor my mind goes right to a vanilla flavoring. The sort that tastes oddly sweet and not particularly like like actual vanilla.  Has anybody else noticed that all those girlie vodka versions from cotton candy to (of course) birthday cake are all just variations of vanilla?  Serious, the vanilla thing has been overplayed.

birthday cake m&m's

Eventually though, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up a pack to take home for a taste test. The first thing I noticed when opening the pack of Birthday Cake M&Ms was that the actual M&Ms were bigger than normal. Not the size of the the new Mega M&Ms but more like they had been overstuffed enough that they began to bulge and the seams.

When I started to eat them, I couldn’t help but notice that the chocolate filling had a different texture than normal M&M’s.  In particular, there is a creamier feel to it. Not at all unpleasant but different enough to notice.

So, how did the Birthday Cake M&M’s taste? It turns out that they are pretty dang good.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the birthday cake was a chocolate cake. I’m not sure why I didn’t figure that out before tasting. It isn’t like they show a big slice of chocolate cake on front of the packaging or anything, right? They are successful in creating a flavor profiles that is a chocolate cake batter taste with a hint of vanilla frosting. I’ll give them slack for the vanilla since it really is just a note and it compliments the chocolate.

So, thumbs up to the Birthday Cake M&M’s. They might not be quite the caliber of the dark chocolate peanut M&M’s (which are amazing!) but they are well above most of the limited edition M&M’s flavors of recent times.

03/1/14

Vampire Slayers Pickles from Pickled By Hattie

Society can be divided in to two types of people. Those that take the pickle off the hamburger and those that don’t. I am most certainly one that does not.  Maybe it has something to do with my Pennsylvania Dutch blood that predisposes me to like anything pickled but I really I love pickles.

When I was at the Hollywood Farmers Market this weekend, the Pickled By Hattie stall caught my eyes. Normally situated in the Spice Alley section of the market, this week they stood out in contrast the the fruit and vegetable stalls that surrounded them.

Pickled By Hattie Hollywood farmers market

There are a good number of artisan products available at the market but I think this was the first time that I saw artisan pickles. A variety of pickles available on the stall, most of which were spicy. Sadly, I am a wimp when it comes to spicy. Spiced is a great thing but spicy not so much. My heat boundaries have been pushed back since moving to California but I am still not going to be actively buying something labeled as hot and/or spicy.

Pickled By Hattie

Being spice-challenged, those varieties of pickles from Pickled By Hattie were out for me but what did grab my attention was the ir Vampire Slayers pickles. Garlic and pickles? Jackpot!

Vampire Slayers Pickles

Vampire Slayers Pickles

When they say garlic, boy do they ever mean it. My nose was twitching like Samantha as soon as I popped the lid off the jar of Vampire Slayer pickles. It was great to look into the jar and see real ingredients such as herbs,garlic and even a lone whole chilli floating around. It gave me the impression that I was truly getting a handcrafted product rather than factory produced in faux rustic style.

Pickeled by Hattie Vampire Slayer Pickles

There are few things as sad as a limp pickle, right? Not an issue with these super crunchy pickles. To say that the Vampire Slayer pickles were bursting with flavor would be a massive understatement.  Immediately, my whole mouth was tingling from the intensely zesty garlic. The chili took my taste buds to the edge of too much spice but managed to still keep it pleasurable.

These aren’t a pickle that you are going to forget moments after they have been eaten. That flavor bomb of garlic and spice stays with you. That is good for your taste buds but does mean that you probably do want to have a stick of gum ready.  Unless the person you speak to next particularly enjoys the smell of garlic breath.

At $12 a jar, there is no pretending that the Pickled By Hattie Vampire Slayer pickles are the cheapest around. However, the jars are big,the pickle spears substantial and they are the best pickles that I have had in a long time.

 

02/24/14

Sunday morning at Hollywood Farmers Market

Should I eat before I go? Inevitably that is the question I ask myself before heading out to the Hollywood Farmers Market.

It is a mental toss up between knowing that my tummy will be grumbling as I pass by all the glorious food stalls and wanting to wait so that I have an excuse to tuck right into something I bought once I get home. Today, I opted for the empty tummy plan.

What foodie doesn’t enjoy a good farmers market? Especially in an area like Southern California where the weather allows for such lovely local produce all year round. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve tried out a few local farmers markets. None have clicked with me as well as the Hollywood Farmers Market. Initially a bit of a surprise because I assumed that one smack dab in the middle of Hollywood with the sign visible in the distance, would be the snobby one with ridiculously hiked prices.

Pleasantly,that isn’t the case. The fruit and vegetables are all fairly priced. In many cases, on par with local supermarket prices but for a superior product. Some of the more artisan products such as cheeses and oils from mom and pop sort of start ups might feel pricier than your normal shop. There too, it will often be better than whatever brand you would buy in the supermarket. Normally, my plan of attack is get the fruit and veg that I need for the week and then pick out one of the artisan products to try as a treat.

The Hollywood Farmers Market takes place each Sunday from 8am to 1pm. Even if the apocalypse,otherwise known in LA as rain, should occur. It is on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Street. There is reasonably priced parking available at the nearby Cinerama Dome parking lot. Just go to the markets information booth for validation.

For me though, part of the charm of the Hollywood Farmers Market is how easy it is for me to get there from Koreatown by public transport. I just hop on the underground Metro at the Wilshire/Western station, get off two stops later at Wilshire/Vermont and jump onto the red line headed towards North Hollywood. That takes me all the way to Hollywood/Vine, which is the nearest station to the market which is just a few minutes away by foot. If the trains match up, the whole thing takes me about 15 minutes.

I find the produce selection at the local supermarket chains rather limited. The same apples and the same oranges each week and only the sort of vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, that they know will be sold in large numbers.

At the farmers market, you will find whatever is in season. Look at the size of the leeks this lady is pondering. I have barely seen leeks in a supermarket since leaving the UK and when I do they are small and uninspiring.

Note to self: Those and some of the wide variety of potatoes found at the market would work well together to make a lovely leek and potato soup.

Hollywood Farmers Market Leeks

Soft fruit such as these strawberries always look so much better at the farmers market too. You can practically taste them with your eyes.

hollywood farmers market strawberries

As somebody who,more often that not, is cooking for one, I also like that I can buy as much or as little as I like of an item.  These sugar snaps, as an example, looked so good. I can snack on fresh sugar snaps like candy but I just needed enough for me. I grabbed a few handfuls and ended up paying two dollars for a farm fresh and organic product.

Hollywood Farmers Market

Did you notice the ‘try me’ written on the sugar snaps sign? That is another reason I enjoy the farmers market. You can taste practically anything before you decide to buy.  Not only does this allow you to go between stalls and see who has the best tasting strawberries (or whatever) that week. It has also encouraged me to stab one of the provided toothpicks into a sample of a fruit I have never tried before.

I didn’t know what a persimmon tasted like until I tried one at the market. Without having that opportunity, I may have remained a bit unsure and never given it a chance.

Certainly, it helped fruit stall owners get a sale out of me today. After a taste test, I ended up picking up this bounty which includes several super juicy blood oranges, an Asian pear, some mandarins, Meyer lemons and some perfectly crisp pink lady apples.

hollywood farmers market fruit

Whereever you go in the market, you will find ladies,such as these, tucking in to bit of citrus.

hollywood farmers market people

The people of the Hollywood Farmers Market is another one its charms. As you can likely tell from my street photography efforts, I am a people watcher and there are few better places to people watch in Los Angeles than at this farmers market.

You get all sorts of people from the expected hippie types to the the long-haired rock veterans and the hip good looking LA types. The market is good for the occasional celebrity spotting too or so they tell me. So far, the only celeb that I have noticed on my trips has been America Ferrera.

hollywood farmers market people

hollywood farmers market people

hollywood farmers market people

It is Hollywood though and so there is no shortage of creative people making themselves known at the market. Musicians are at every turn from a rather nice looking and rather talented male harpist (must remember to find out his name!) to ragtime bands and much in between.

hollywood farmers market people

Hollywood Farmers Market

Then there are the folks that show their creativity by being the characters of the market. Which is great. Whether it has been London, San Francisco or Los Angeles, I have loved that every city in which I have lived, no matter the size, has their local characters that everybody recognizes.

hollywood farmers market dog

hollywood farmers market poet store

hollywood farmers market busking

Before I left the market for this week, I had to make a stop at the Homeboy Bakery stall. It is always the first stall that I see when I walk into the market but I force myself to wait until the end. Mmostly so that I don’t end up squishing the bread I buy under the weight of the fruit and veg.

homeboy bakery hollywood farmers market

You have seen me mention my appreciation for Homeboy Industries before when I used their tortilla strips to make my Drunken Sloppy Joe Nachos for the Super Bowl. As yummy as those are, there is something wonderful about about seeing the program in action at the farmers markets they attend. Plus, the bread is really good. So are the cookies they sell.

homeboy bakery hollywood farmers market

This week, I walked away with a loaf of the Homeboy Bakery’s  Multigrain Pan Bread. The first thing I always notice when I buy this variety is the weight of the loaf. None of this so light that you wonder what is in it type of bread. This is a dense loaf that feels like it really is packed with all those grains and oats that are promised on the label.

Homeboy Bakery Bread

Since I had left for the market on an empty tummy, thinga were getting to critical hunger status by the time I made it back to my apartment. The Homeboy Bakery bread came to the rescue. Which was a good thing because just the rich color of the bread slices had my tummy threatening to stage a coup.

homeboy bakery bread

homeboy bakery sandwhich

So, excuse me while I go enjoy my tuna salad made with fresh dill and lemon that I picked up at the market. Of course, on top of this great bread.

02/15/14

Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy Oreo Reviews

Today, Chris and I kicked off our Valentine’s Day festivities by going out for a meat-filled lunch at Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills. Every piece of meat we ate was better than the one before. I’m nuts for lamb. So, I was particularly happy to find lamb chops amongst the selection.

As good as that was, later in the evening a very ‘Chris and Sarah’ sort of celebration took place. Both of us have been intrigued by the new Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Krispy Oreo flavors. We read good reviews but couldn’t bring ourselves to buy a whole package on our own.  When I saw them in the supermarket, I decided to grab one of each and save for us to try together over our Valentine’s Day weekend.  It didn’t sound any worse than munching through a box of chocolates.

Of the two new Oreo flavors, the Cookie Dough Oreo has had the most media attention. Consequentially, our expectations were fairly high.

Sadly, neither of us really enjoyed the Cookie Dough Oreos all that much.  The flavor of the filling had a coffee sort of taste that didn’t remind us at all of cookie dough. If anything, it brought Tia Maria to mind. It would have been more accurate if they had been called tiramisu Oreos. I’ve never really enjoyed tiramisu.

cookie dough oreos cookie dough oreo

Neither of us knew what to expect from the Marshmallow Crispy Oreo flavor. We couldn’t conceptualize how the crispy part would be integrated. I was worried that the cream part would be overly sweet. I never tried the Candy Corn Oreos because my teeth hurt just thinking about them. So, with trepidation, we opened the pack and gave the Marshmallow Crispy Oreos a shot.

Woah! We loved them!

Marshmallow Crispy OreosMarshmallow krispy oreo

Rather than be silly sweet, the Oreo filling has a toasted marshmallow flavor. There are just enough crispies added to the mixture to give it an interesting and pleasant crunchy texture. The sweetness that there is in the Marshmallow Crispy Oreo is brought from the golden Oreo cookie itself.

Now, we just have to forget we ever tried them or we may end up having to head to Oreo rehab.