Soul Indian Wraps – Review

soul_butter_chkn_3dIf you’re tired of having the same old frozen burrito for lunch, Soul’s Indian wraps provide a reasonable alternative.  They have four flavors, butter chicken, chicken vindaloo, chicken tikka masala and vegetable curry.  I’ve tasted the three chicken ones, and I can’t say I could really distinguish their flavor. They all tasted like mildly spicy generic chicken curries, acceptable but not exciting. Of the four choices, the tikka masala has slightly less calories/fat (370 c/11 g. fat) than the others, so that may be your best choice.  The vegetable curry, which I haven’t tried, has the greatest fat content.

The wraps were about $1.50 at Grocery Outlet and they cook in the microwave in about 3 minutes (you have to turn it half way).

Not really ice cream reviews: Gelateria Italiana vs. Tempt

First of all, let me start by saying that I feel like a complete jerk for blogging about ice cream after reading this article about the torturous conditions in which California inmates find themselves, and hearing from a friend of mine who is a prison lawyer, that water was being rationed in California women’s prisons during the heat wave we had last week.

Be that as it may, not blogging about ice cream won’t change any of that, so here it goes.  These are two new, for me, brands of ice-cream-like products that I found at Grocery Outlet, here in San Leandro.

Gelateria Italiana

I tried both their Hazelnut & Chocolate and Pistachio flavors.  The Hazelnut & chocolate one was divine.  It tasted exactly like you would expect it to taste, but it was lighter that your regular gelato.  The Pistachio was pretty good as well, but less exciting because, after all, pistachio ice cream gets boring after a whole.

The ice cream comes all the way from Italy and I would fully recommend it but for its ingredients.  The first two ingredients are what you’d expect: milk and sugar (I guess no cream in gelato), but we then encounter “glucose syrup” – which is basically like corn syrup, but not necessarily from corn – and then “refined vegetable oil”.  Say what?  What is oil doing in my ice cream? I’ve made ice cream many times and gelato a few, but never, never have I heard of using oil.  I might have thought the oil was for cooking the hazelnuts, but it comes before “roasted hazelnut paste” as an ingredient, which means there is more of it than hazelnuts.

The gelato came in a 30 oz tub (so not quite a quart) and cost about $3 at GO.


What tempted me to try Tempt Coffee Biscotti “frozen dessert” ($2 for a pint at GO) was that it’s main ingredient: hemp milk.  Sure, I knew there would be nothing “naughty” in the ice cream, but I like the idea of supporting the hemp industry.  Alas, the “ice cream” was very disappointing.  The texture is nice enough, quite creamy, but the ice cream’s flavor is very mild and somewhat off putting.  According to my daughter, the after taste is better than the taste, however.  Tempt could probably improve this flavor, at least, by using more coffee so the coffee flavor is stronger, but they should also forgo the soggy, flavorless, gluten-free biscotti.

Tempt uses mostly organic ingredients, chief among them rice, but it also includes oil in its formula.  In all, it’s probably not a terrible choice for vegans, but others will probably want to avoid it.


Three Twins Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Review – Yummm!

3twinsChocolatePeanutButterI found this gem of an ice cream at our local San Leandro Grocery Outlet for $2.  It was the first time I came across a three twins product, but I’m one of those people who absolutely loves peanut butter and chocolate (as I write this, I’m plotting to make my husband go and get me the ingredients for a peanut butter shake), so I had to try it.  I’m glad I did.

Unlike most ice creams of this type, this wasn’t chocolate ice cream with swirls of peanut butter or vice versa. Instead both the peanut butter and the cocoa powder are mixed together into a combined flavor.  I think I still prefer the traditional type, but this is quite good too, albeit more peanut butter would be better.  Then again, nothing stops you from adding your own.

My oldest daughter pronounced it the “best ice cream ever”, and while my youngest wasn’t as enthusiastic, this is a girl with a limited like for sweets.

Three Twins seems to be this century’s answer to Ben & Jerry’s.  The company is based in the North Bay and makes organic ice cream from locally sourced milk and cream.  They have four stores and they seem to mostly sell through Whole Foods (which would explain why I never heard of them).  In addition to regular flavors, they have some interesting sounding ones such as cardamon, lemon cookie and sea salted caramel.  They sell ice cream through their website for $10 a pint, so the $2 Grocery Outlet price is particularly tempting.

Earl Grey for Cheap: Dilmah & Taja Tea

There are many things I love about having Grocery Outlet so near my house, and one of them is their ever changing brands of tea.  I used to pretty much only buy Twinnings tea (waiting for it to go on sale, as it’s usually $4 for 20 bags), but so many of the teas I’ve found at Grocery Outlet are comparable in flavor, that I am no longer tied to that venerable branch.

I’m usually a black-tea girl, but I do make an exception for Earl Grey, a black tea flavored with bergamot orange oil.  I’ve recently had those produced by Taja Tea and Dilmah, and they were both excellent.

Taja Tea specializes on “saffron” teas and offers five flavors.  The Earl Grey is made with black tea from Argentina, and artificial bergamot flavors (I checked).  Still, it is delicious.  Other Taja Tea flavors also get good reviews, and I may try the red rubio and the assam if I catch them at GO.

Dilmah is a Sri Lanka based, family company, established soon after Sri Lanka gained its independence.  They specialize on Ceylonese tea, as you’d expect, and their Earl Grey is very satisfying.  It’s not as flavorful as Taja’s, but it has nothing to envy Twinnings.  It uses Ceylon black tea and artificial bergamot flavoring.

They are both cheaper than Twinnings as well. I’ll check the actual prices next time I go to GO, but they’re about $1.50 to $2 per box of 20.


Starbucks Via: So 20th century!

I will admit it.  I’m an instant coffee drinker.  I know I’m not the only one in America, but I’m one of the few who will admit to it.  I drink instant coffee because it’s easy to make, but also because I like my coffee fairly mild.  I do have a strong preference for Taster’s Choice and Nescafé – so I do have some standards of sorts, but clearly they are not very high.

I first heard of Starbucks VIA last May when I won a raffle for a Starbucks gift card and the card came with a 3 individual samples of French Roast instant coffee.  I tried them and they were great.  The coffee has a rich flavor, stronger and more developed than any instant coffee I drink, but without the bitterness of the real thing.  As far as instant coffees go, it’s by far my favorite.

But… it’s expensive.  Ridiculously expensive, about 83-cents per cup, though if you buy it bulk you can get it down to 60-cents a cup.   A cup of Taster’s Choice costs less than 10-cents by comparison.  So needless to say, I haven’t been buying it.

Soon after I received my sample pack, I saw VIA at Safeway, and not too long after that, at Grocery Outlet.  But even at Grocery Outlet it was too expensive, though I don’t remember exactly what the price was.  Today I noticed that the 3-cup packages are down to 99-cents (though they expired in June).  33-cents a cup is not too bad, so I bought a few packages to have it as the occasional treat.  Lately, I’m drinking tea anyway.

The biggest problem with VIA, besides the price, is all the needless packaging.  I guess they need it to make you think you are getting more from your money than you really are.  It’s unlikely that anyone seeing a $40 7-oz jar of VIA placed next to a $10 jar of Taster Choice would reach towards the former.  But all of this means a lot of wasted materials which come at a significant environmental cost.

I’m sure that Starbucks did a lot of market research before introducing this product, but I just don’t see who it would appeal to.

Raymundo’s Caramel Flan – Product Review

I got this at Grocery Outlet last week.  The 21 oz package was on sale for about $2, I think.  Its first ingredients were milk and sugar so I thought it was worth trying.  It wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t but it again.

I found the flan both a bit insipid and too smooth for my taste.  I prefer flans that are a bit rougher, with air bubbles throughout.  I assume this is because this flan is made with whole eggs, but I imagine the fillers don’t help either.


Immaculate Baking Co. Ready-to-Bake Pie Crusts – Review

I found these at Grocery Outlet (in San Leandro) for $1.50, and I figured they were worth a try.  I don’t think I’d buy them again.

The crusts are refrigerated, rather than frozen, but you still need to bring them to room temperature before unrolling – which takes about half an hour.  Otherwise, they’ll easily break.  Even fully room-temperature crusts don’t stay together that well. As they come rolled in, there is no pan included – so make sure you have your own.

My real problem with them, however, was the flavor.  Even though they are “all natural” they have this very unpleasant bitter taste that you feel at the back of your mouth.  It lingers. Not pleasant.

Whiting Fish: the Best bargain around?

I came across this fish yesterday at Grocery Outlet.  I was a bit reluctant to buy it because it was only $4 for a 2lb bag – at least one third the cost of most fish I buy.  But it was the only fish I could find at that store that didn’t come from China or Vietnam (instead, it was wild caught in the US), so I figured it was worth the risk.  I think it was.

Pacific whiting, also known as Pacific hake, is a relative of the merluza I grew up eating in Argentina.  It’s a medium-sized fish, with relatively fragile flesh and a distinctive, somewhat sweet, flavor.  It has a greater oil concentration than other species, so it tastes fishier than most of the white fish I usually eat (catfish, cod, sole, tilapia, etc.).  This flavor was too strong for my daughter, and didn’t particularly thrill my husband either.  I liked it, but probably because it took me back to childhood.

That said, if I was cooking just for the adults I would definitely buy it again, specially at $2lb!

La Lechera Dulce de Leche @ Grocery Outlet – Review

As an Argentinian I grew up eating dulce de leche every day.  We ate it on sliced bread and toast and in pastries and cakes of all types.  We use it as a topping for flan and, of course, in panqueques (crepes).  And as an Argentinian I still LOVE dulce de leche.  For years, I made the fake kind by boiling cans of condensed milk.  Then a bit over a decade ago importation of Argentian products took off and I started being able to get the *real thing*, all the way from Argentina.

Alas, in recent years the Argentinian economy has been doing relatively well, and the American economy has not, so the peso is relatively strong now against the dollar.  This means that authentic Argentine dulce de leche is pretty expensive,  about $10 for a 1.5lb jar at Los Angeles Latino supermarkets (where I usually get it, as it’s cheaper over there).  Needless to say, I don’t get it much.

For that reason I was thrilled to find La Lachera Dulce De Leche at only $2lb (at the San Leandro Grocery Outlet).  I compared the ingredients with those in regular dulce de leche and they’re pretty close (milk and sugar) – though La Lechera’s doesn’t contain vanilla but includes salt as well as sodium and disodium phosphates, in addition to a preservative. I’ve no idea why.

As for the taste? La Lechera’s dulce de leche is pretty good.  It’s thinner than dulce de leche I’m used to, but then again it comes in a bottle with a picture of pancakes, so clearly it’s marketed as a topping not a spread.  The taste is pretty close, though perhaps a bit more intense.  It may be left to caramelize for longer than regular dulce de leche (though I’m not sure why it’d be thinner, then).  In all, at $2lb it’s a great alternative to the real thing.  These bottles retail normally for about $3.50 to $5.  The ones at the San Leandro Grocery Outlet expire in May 2012, but they should last longer than that.


Rougette Bavarian Red cheese @ Grocery Outlet – review

I just found some Rougette Bavarian Red triple cream cheese at Grocery Outlet, and I had to try it.  I *love* it.  The cheese is super creamy and tastes pretty much like any good brie, though it’s not as bitter as most.  It also has a thinner rind.  It retails for about $20 a lb, but it was just $7lb at the San Leandro Grocery Outlet.  The catch? It expired yesterday (March 1st).  Unopened brie should be good for a whole week after its expiration date, but that still means you need to eat it by next Wednesday.   Still, if you are around town before then, it’s definitely worth it.

I ate it on Sensible Portions Pita Bites, and they went amazingly well together.