Category Archives: Food Items

All About Calamansi fruit

Yesterday I was introduced to a completely new ingredient to me: calamansi fruit. These tiny citrus fruits are also known as kalamansi, calamondin and Philippines limes or lemons. They are extremely sour, and their juice is used instead of lemon or lime juice in Filipino and other southeast Asian cuisines. They do have a more orangy taste profile than lime, and a common substitute for their juice is a mixture of equal ratios of orange juice and lemon or lime juice (though I imagine the result will be less sour). Calamansi start out green, and turn orange when they are ripe. I don’t know that their taste changes much, however, the ones I got were mostly orange (see picture) but they were extremely sour.

Sun Tropics Chilled Calamansi Lime Nectar - 64 Fl. Oz. - Safeway

I came across them in a recipe for Ambonese fish, which called for their juice. I was excited to see that calamansi juice was available at my local big-chain supermarket, but disappointed when I got my order and found out that what they sell is actually calamansi nectar, a drink whose first and second ingredients are water and sugar. Basically, it’s a lemonade made with calamansi fruit instead. As a drink, it’s rather good. I liked it much better than lemonade though les than limeade. It did feel the particular brand I bought was rather watery, but perhaps in my old age I just need more intense flavors (I don’t have a problem with commercial limeade, however).

As much as I enjoyed the drink, I still needed to find calamansi which, fortunately, was an easy task in California. Not only do we have a large Filipino population which consume these fruits, but it seems that we have a good climate for growing them. I found several ads on Facebook Marketplace for people who had trees in their backyards and sold them for $4/lb.

However, I ended up buying these at a local Asian supermarket with a large Filipino selection. A 1/2 lb bag was $2.25 and it produced 1/3 cup of juice. So it is definitely more expensive than lime/lemon/orange juice. I think there might be commercial brands selling calamansi juice, but I didn’t think it was worth my time seeking them out at the local Asian markets.

Juicing the calamansi turned out to be very easy if a bit time consuming. You basically cut off the side with the stem and then squeeze them by hand into a strainer – they are full of seeds. Alternatively you could just squeeze them into a bowl and then strain the whole thing, I imagine. At least when they are ripe, they are very soft and very easy to squeeze.

I’m actually looking forward to find another dish that calls for these little fruit, they are that cute and fun to cook with. Meanwhile, I’ll just drink the calamansi-ade.

Nature Nate’s 100% Pure Raw & Unfiltered Honey Review

Pretty Good

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I got this honey by mistake. I’d order a different one through Instacart, asked for yet another as a substitution, but ended up with this one all the same.

All in all, this taste like a pretty generic, uncomplex and yet very tasty honey. At 65°-70°F, it’s quite thin and flows very easily. It has a perfectly delicious, mild, not overly sweet, honey flavor. It seems like a sort of general purpose honey.

Despite its name, Nature Nate’s 100% Pure Raw & Unfiltered Honey is not really raw nor unfiltered. While the honey is not pasteurized, it is heated to some undisclosed temperature and studies have shown that heating for a short time will degrade the nutrients, enzymatic activity and water soluble vitamins in honey. So this honey is probably best left for uses that require heating it anyway – such as sweetening hot drinks or creating a syrup by mixing it with water and heating it.

Similarly, while this honey is “unfiltered,” it is strained. I’m guessing that what they mean is that the filter they use has holes too small for impurities to go through but too big for pollen.

My biggest concern with honey is adulteration. There is a big problem with adulterated honeys, and only one laboratory in the US has the capacity to test them. According to a lawsuit filed against Nature Nate’s in 2019, some of the samples of their honey were found to be adulterated with other syrups. That still means that other samples were fine, but it also means you can’t be assured you are getting what you paid for. The lawsuit, btw, was dismissed but on technical rather than substantive grounds.

In all, this is not a premium honey but it’s tasty enough and should serve most of your needs. If you are looking for a top grade raw honey, I’d probably hit the farmer’s market instead.

Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. Instacart refunded me the cost of this honey, as it wasn’t what I’d ordered.

Uncle Matt’s Organic Orange Juice Review

Pretty Good

Order Uncle Matt's Organic Orange Juice, Pulp Free, Plastic Bottle | Fast  Delivery

I continue in my quest of finding a commercial orange juice that can rival fresh squeezed. Basically, I want something that tastes as good as Odwalla did back in the 90’s, before an e-coli crisis forced them to pasteurize their juice. I realize it’s quite hard.

At $7-$9 for a 52-oz bottle, Uncle Matt is priced as a premium supermarket brand (similar to Nature, Evolution and the former Odwalla), and it seems to achieve pretty much the same quality. It’s closer to orange juice than the cheaper brands, but not quite fresh. I still prefer the Costco brand more, but this will do in a pinch. I did find it too sweet for my taste.

Goya Beef Empanadas Review

I got these frozen beef empanadas by mistake in an Instacart order. They come 4 to a package, each individually wrapped. They are on the small side, each weighing about 2.5 oz. You are supposed to deep fry them, but I air fried them instead after spraying them with olive oil. The ones in the photo were cooked for 8 minutes at the default setting, but you can add a couple of minutes more to get them darker.

The little empanadas do pack a lot of flavor – both natural and “enhanced” -; while they don’t seem to have vinegar, they taste like they do. They’re aren’t bad, but not something that I would seek out. The dough is on the salty side as well, and I can only imagine it’s better if deep fried.

In all, I wouldn’t buy these even if they weren’t Goya brand, as they aren’t that special. But I’ll finish the box.

Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. You probably can get a better deal elsewhere, though. Links on the margins may also be referral links, check.

On Oxtails

The differences in prices are incomprehensible

Tonight for dinner, I made a fabulous oxtail stew from a recipe from Jerez de la Frontera – I will publish it shortly. Making the stew, however, was far easier than actually procuring the oxtails. They used to be a relatively cheap cut of meat, but I guess demand has gone up as prices are through the roof and all over the place.



I ordered my first four pounds of oxtails from Safeway, as they were on sale for $7/lb. This is what passes for a very good price right now for a cut that is mostly bone, fat and gelatin and, as a result, has very little meat. As usual, I asked for no substitutions as Safeway almost invariably substitutes the meat on sale I order for far more expensive stuff. Indeed, I’ve had to call to complain about these substitutions so often, that the day before I placed this order I spoke with two different Safeway employees about the fact that I did not want any substitutions, no matter how well intentioned they were.

Anyway, I digress, but as I half expected, Safeway did not send me the 4 lbs of $7/lb oxtails I ordered, but instead sent me two small packages of vacuum packed oxtails for $13/lb! To add insult to injury, those packages included some of the thinnest bones from the tail. I was not happy. I got a refund, but was still left in need of another source for oxtails to have enough for my recipe.

What do you think Safeway guarantees 100%?


Enter Cardenas supermarket, which also had fresh oxtails on sale, for $9/lb (though closer to $11/lb when you add Instacart fees and tips). That might seem a lot, but the price of oxtails at other supermarkets was even higher. They were $10/lb at Costco, $13/lb at Raleys, $17.3 at 99 Ranch Market and $23/lb to $34/lb at Hmart! Now, these are Instacart prices, but what the hell???!!!!

There were significant differences between the oxtails I got from Cardenas (those seen at the top of the pan) and Safeway (bottom). The former were all medium to large pieces, and had a fresh red color. The latter included quite a few small bones, and they had a weird purplish color, that didn’t quite show up in the picture, probably from the packing method. Still, once I cooked them they were all very good. Indeed, the tiny pieces had very little meat but what they had was particularly succulent, probably as it shared more surface area with the sauce.

I was telling my husband how this could have been an $80 dish if I hadn’t shopped so carefully (frankly, it’d have been more – I’d forgotten about the $16 bottle of sherry I’d pour into the stew). He said he felt it’d have been worth $80. He is a smart man.

Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. You probably can get a better deal elsewhere, though.

Carando Meatballs + Signature Reserve Pasta Sauce Reviews

Won’t buy again

Last time I made ravioli, I paired them with Signature Reserve Tomato, Porcini & Black Truffle Pasta Sauce ($6, on sale for $4 for 21 oz jar at Safeway) and Carando spicy Sicilian meatballs. I suspected the combination wasn’t going to work and it didn’t – but I also tasted each ingredient separately and I was not impressed with either the sauce or the meatballs.

Signature Reserve Pasta Sauce Tomato Porcini & Black Truffle - 21.2 Oz

Signature Reserve appears to be a premium version of Safeway/Albertson’s store brand. They cost more than twice than regular Signature pasta sauces and this one, at least, was imported from Italy and claimed to be made from a “Porchettini family recipe”. I’m not sure who they are, but a recipe needs to come from someone or other.

This particular sauce wasn’t bad, if you really like the flavor of artificial truffle. Basically what you get is a pretty fresh, tomato forward sauce, immediately followed by an intense black truffle flavor that lingers on. Now, I learned last year that the flavors of actual truffles and artificial truffle is quite different, and what most of us understand as black truffle is artificial – so I was expecting this sauce to taste that way. Perhaps not as intensely as it does, however. It’s not bad, but the truffle in the sauce will obfuscate any other flavor that surrounds it.

While I wouldn’t order this particular pasta sauce again, I might try one of the other ones – they have at least five other flavors.

Carando Meatballs Italian Style Sicilian Recipe Hot - 16 Oz

I am a huge fan of meatballs but I don’t make them often enough because if I have ground beef and I’m going to eat it with pasta, I end up making a meatball instead and then it feels redundant. I figured that if I buy the meatballs already made, I could would just eat them with pasta and store-bought tomato sauce for a very quick dinner. I have yet to find a good brand of refrigerated or frozen meatballs however and these, despite its fancy packaging, weren’t them.

The main problem is that they are too dense and heavy. Indeed, these meatballs only contain ground pork, cheese and spices. They don’t have bread to make them light and airy. Baking them as per the instructions, doesn’t contribute to making them any lighter.

I wasn’t thrilled by the flavor either, but that’s my fault for buying spicy meatballs. Who knows what prompted me to do that. Still, having tried them their dense consistency is enough of a deterrent to try any other flavors.

Genova Delicatessen Ravioli – Review

Love them!

Ravioli has been one of my favorite foods since I was a little kid. My Italian-Argentinian grandparents would make them by hand, and my first birthday was celebrated with a huge raviolada. I kept the same tradition when I celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, over 18 years ago, though in that occasion, as well any subsequent ones, I bought the ravioli already made, from the supermarket.

Genova Delicatessen Ravioli are, by far, my favorite ravioli in America. They have the softest, most supple pasta shells of any – fresh or frozen – that I have eaten. Indeed, as far as texture goes, I don’t think I’ve had any served at restaurants that surpass them.

The fillings are OK. Good without being too special. They are mildly seasoned, so they don’t stand to very flavorful sauces. In this occasion I paired them with a truffle pasta sauce from Safeway, and it was too much for it. Butter and Parmesan cheese are sufficient.



The ravioli come frozen and require that you separate them before boiling. They are rather small, so it’s a quick 5-minute boil. They do cost about twice as much as Safeway-brand ravioli, but they are a whole level above them.

Goya Platanos Maduros – Fried Plantains Review

Good, quick dessert from an evil company

As a matter of course, I try to avoid buying Goya products, but I needed to get a few things to meet the minimum for deliver through Instacart, and I figure I might as well tried these. I was pleasantly surprised. The frozen fried plantains are heated up in the microwave for a couple of minutes, so it’s basically an instant dessert. They are quite sweet, and not too mushy, and they pair well with either ice cream or whipped cream. It’s a rather rich dessert, so though the 11 oz package (pictured above after microwaving) doesn’t seem like much, it should be able to feed 3-4 people. It was on sale through Instacart for $3 at Cardenas market. I’m going to look to see if there is a similar product from a manufacturer other than Goya.

Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. You probably can get a better deal elsewhere, though.

Where’s The Beef?

Review of Cardenas Markets’ T-bone steaks

Cardenas Markets is a relatively small chain of mid size Mexican supermarkets in California. They have regular groceries, an expanded section of Mexican and Latino groceries, as well as a bakery and deli which offers a small variety of hot meals. I discovered it when it joined Instacart during the first year of the pandemic. I have since ordered from it occasionally, it’s the only market serviced by Instacart that carries empanada shells (albeit the Goya brand).

I don’t usually order beef at Cardenas – though I was very happy with the beef chuck I got from them over the summer -, but their T-bone steaks were on sale ($6/lb), so I decided to give them a try. I was grossly disappointed.

A T-bone steak gets its name from the T-shape form in which the vertebra is cut. It includes a strip steak on one side, and a filet mignon or tenderloin in the other. It’s supposed to let you indulge in the tenderness of the filet and the flavorfulness of the strip, without having to compromise for either. They are supposed to look like the photo below, which I took from the Cardenas page at Instacart. What I got, is what you can see in the photo above. It was basically a bone-in strip steak with little to no tenderloin. I felt ripped off – $6/lb is super cheap for a T-bone (but supermarkets often have loss leaders), but I still expect to get a T-bone when I order a T-bone. If you are going to put a photo of a T-bone and call it a T-bone, make it a T-bone

Cardenas Beef T-Bone Steak
The second problem was that the steak was cut very thin. As Cardenas does not indicate the grade of meat they sell, I’m going to guess they are “select,” the grade with the least marbling and therefore toughest meat. If these are particularly tough, it makes sense that they cut them thin. But be forewarned that that’s what you get.

Now, flavor-wise they weren’t bad. They were pretty generic, tasty steaks. The type I did grow up eating as everyday fair for lunch without giving it much thought. Nowadays I expect a little more from a steak, of course, though for $6/lb perhaps I shouldn’t.

In all, I wouldn’t buy them again.



Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. You probably can get a better deal elsewhere, though.

Chipotle Quesadilla Review

Good but Expensive

I’m not the biggest fan of Chipotle – mostly because it’s boring and expensive. I understand why people might seek it in places that don’t have a great taqueria (or taco truck) in every corner, but I fail to understand its appeal in California. Still, my daughter likes it, so we ordered it for lunch a few days ago.

This time I decided to try the quesadilla, which is basically a deconstructed burrito grilled long enough to melt the cheese. It’s served with 3 “sides” which really mean the ingredients you’d otherwise have inside the burrito, things like rice, beans, salsas and sour cream Burrito extras, like guacamole, are still extra for quesadillas.

The steak quesadilla was tasty, but it felt smaller than a burrito (probably just my imagination), and having the salsa/sour cream/guacamole (the latter came in a different container) outside the burrito only made it more difficult to eat. The shape of the quesadilla, and the fact that it’s cut in two diagonally made it even more impractical, the filling kept falling out as I tried to dip it.

At $11.40 (prices vary by location*), it was a pretty poor value – though I’m sure no worse than anything else at Chipotle.

On the plus side, the ingredients were fresh and the beef has less gristle/fat than that at some local taquerias. Also on the plus side, Chipotle is very vegan friendly. Not only do they offer sofritas, a plant based protein, as a vegan alternative to meats, but their rice, beans, tortillas and chips are all vegan. Often times, Mexican restaurants use chicken broth for their rice, or lard for their beans and/or tortillas.

Chipotle – San Leandro
1505 E 14th St.(510) 667-100310:45 AM – 10 PM

* For the sake of looking at how minimum wages impacted on Chipotle’s prices, I used their very helpful website to price a steak quesadilla at different Chipotles. This is what I found:

In Seattle, WA, with the highest minimum wage in the country at $16.69/hr, a Chipotle steak quesadilla is $9.85

In San Francisco, CA with a $16.32/hr minimum wage, it’s $11

In Berkeley, CA with a $16.32/hr minimum wage, it is $10.25.

In Manhattan, NY with a $15/hr minimum wage, it’s $11.15

In my city, San Leandro, CA, with a $15/hr MW, it’s $11.40

In Fresno, CA, with a $14/hr MW, it’s $9.65

In Peoria, IL with an $11/hr MW, it’s $9.65

In Tulsa, OK, with a $7.25/hr MW, it’s $9.55

In Hinesville, GA, with a $7.25/hr MW, it’s $9.65