Friday, December 21, 2012

Potato Chip Pop-Up Visit: A Slideshow

Here's a slideshow of mine and Dante's visit to the Potato Chip Pop-Up at Iam8bit Gallery, 2147 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026. We went on December 21, 2012. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nutty Brewnette at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse

I went out with a couple of my old co-workers just to get together and celebrate a few things at once. I've always had really good experiences at BJ's and obviously like brewhouses, so, despite the fact that the particular location they wanted to go to was in a mall, and this is the holiday season, I was excited to go and see these folks. Plus, I remembered that this BJ's had an outside entrance so I didn't have to actually go into the mall. Yay!
Jeremiah Red and Nutty Brewnette
 I normally order their house-made Hefeweizen, which is where I discovered that Hef is actually really great by itself, sans the added squeeze of citrus.  But, I felt like I should try something new and different. I couldn't decide and the server was too busy to help, so I ordered a sample of BJ's Jeremiah Red Irish-Style Ale and the Nutty Brewnette American-Style Brown Ale. If they failed, I'd just get a pint of Hef and call it a night. But the server proved to be so busy he forgot my order. First he brought me a strawberry lemonade. Then, he brought me a full pint of the Brewnette and said he'd be right back with a sample of Hef. I took a quick sip, and told him to forget the Hef. The Brewnette seemed to be fine.
Nutty Brewnette: Not a blonde!

I took a minute to taste it and it was actually really nice. It was flat and mouthcoating. It had a very distinct and strong flavor of caramel, but it wasn't salty or too sweet. There was also hints of sweet spices such as cloves and cinammon, as well as a pecans. It had elements that can be sweet, but the ale itself was not sugary in any way. 

My experience with darker beers is that their flavor is usually lost or severely distorted by most food, but I must've chosen a good pairing in the Mediterranean Pizza, because the beer and the pie were delicious together.  

A fun night with people I miss seeing on a daily, a yummy pizza and a great dark beer.  

Learning How To Taste Beer

The Beer Flavor Wheel
As I've mentioned before, I wish I had a better vocabulary about tasting things. Luckily, my friend, Aram, showed me a tasting wheel. I'd never seen such a thing, but was happy that someone had fashioned one particularly for tasting beer. 

There are a few different beer tasting wheels that I've found after searching the internet. It turns out that all of these show basically the same thing, they're just organized differently. The Beer Flavor Wheel is the one Aram found and showed me on his phone while we sat at the bar. I like this one because there are more descriptions to choose from. I found that the Beer Aroma Wheel was the easiest to look at, but I would use as an initial tasting wheel. If I needed a further description I'd turn to the more inclusive Beer Flavor Wheel.

Beer Aroma Wheel
I was originally confused about the terms "odor" and "aroma," because in my mind they refer to the sense of smell. I didn't know you were supposed to smell beer! Well you are. Check out this guide on how to taste beer. Very informative. I always smell everything anyway, but I never thought to really sniff it like when wine tasting. My other problem with aromas, or the tasting wheels, rather, was that the wheels were really focused on the aromas and had very little about taste. Like I said, as I'm going through these wheels I'm thinking of the last beer I drank, which was very caramely, but according to the wheel, that's just supposed to be aroma and not taste. So, again, I turn to the guide

 Taste: Raise the glass to the lips and swallow enough of the beer to allow it to wash the entire tongue. Try to separate the hop taste and the malt taste. Are they well balanced for the style? Balance is the blending of all of a beer's properties - bitterness, acidity, esteriness, hoppiness, etc. The more malted barley used (in relation to the water), the more full and powerful the taste. Is the body full or thin? Beer can be dry, (lacking sugar) and with a usually strong bitter hop character, or fruity (the presence of sugar), or rich (a full taste of malt and fruit). How is the aftertaste? The aftertaste should confirm the taste. Is it clean and pleasant? You want to experience a slight degree of aftertaste... 
Flavor: By far the most important and enjoyed element of drinking a beer is its flavor. To best taste all the flavors of a beer, make sure the liquid visits all four areas of your tongue: bitter, sour, sweet and salt. Take special notice of the orchestration of the balance between the hop bitterness and malt sweetness.
Flavor as "Maltiness": Malt provides the yeast the food to make much of the beer flavor. This can be described as a sweetish or dryish "earthy" flavor. A heavier roasted malt will also contribute a degree of "roasted" taste to the beer. What grapes are to wine, malt is to beer.
Flavor as "Hoppiness": Hops provide an "herbal, crisp, bitter, palate cleansing" effect to beer. Aromatic hops provide the herbal "grassy" nose, while bittering hops provide the gentle bitterness or "bite" in beer.
That's very helpful and makes me want to go out and get a sampler and some beer glasses. To beer tasting, my friends! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Last Night the Music Killed My Taste Test

This evening, Dante and I stopped at Mendocino Farms for dinner before I dropped him off at work for the graveyard shift. They have really interesting and delicious sandwiches there, if you've never gone, I highly recommend ordering a familiar sounding sandwich because more than likely, there will be some ingredient that gives you a little pleasant kick in the tongue, as has been my experience. And their spicy dijon potato salad is truly divine.

Mendocino Farms also has baskets full of chip varieties you just don't find too many other places if at all. Well, Dante and I got our sanwiches, sides and chips and sat down to enjoy them. We were going to start by recording a chip tasting of the Sour Cream N Chive and Barbeque flavors of Route 11 Potato Chips, but almost right before we started, this mind-scrambling music started playing overhead and it totally threw me off my chip-tasting-game. My crazy response to the music influenced Dante and there we have the perfect storm of bad taste tests. It is funny nonetheless. Enjoy.

Oh, the music festival I refer to is the Moogfest, and if you go to the Live In Concert from All Songs Considered site, you will see some Moogfest concerts available so you can experience them for yourself. That's just not my kind of music.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Beer & Pizza in Jingletown: An Audio Tasting

Watch/listen to this, another audio tasting, done with my friend, Aram, while we were in Jingletown, an arts district in the Bay Area, for its biannual artwalk.

The beer you see in the slide show that we refer to as Steelhead, isn't one of the Steelhead Fine Ales, but made by a former Steelhead brewmaster named Larry Lesterud. So we should have probably called it Lesterud's Suds, at least that is what I'm going to call it from now on! Lesterud is also a fantastic photographer. That's how we came to meet him. While perusing the galleries and workspaces that were participating in the artwalk, I found an awesome print of some graffiti that spelled out my name (Crazy serendipity!). I bought it and we got to talking with the photographer. I asked him for a card or something and he gave me one of his old brewmaster business cards, which got Aram to asking questions. Turns out he brewed a special beer just for the occasion and well, we just couldn't keep ourselves from trying it.

The pizza you see in the pictures is from Fist of Flour Pizza Company. Owned and operation by a really awesome master of pizzas named James Whitehead. Other artwalk goers, Aram and I stood around and talked with him and his assistant in front of his mobile wood-fired pizza oven for a while. The pizza, by the way was Freakin' Delicious. I had 3 slices of veggie and 1 slice of Margherita. All the slices as you might be able to tell from the slide show, were a quarter size of the whole pie. Whitehead uses a distinct sauce that set all other toppings off beautifully. It was the perfect combination of spicy, sweet and tangy tomato. The veggie had arugula and some type of mushroom on it from what I could tell. And the crust was like a soft cracker, a bit lavash-like,  charred at the edges. It wasn't like any thin crust I've tried, but I'm no pizza expert.

I would highly recommend attending the Jingletown Artwalk, if not to experience great original works, but to at least sample Lesterud's Suds and grab a slice. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Drake's Hefeweizen at Elevation 66 Brewing Company

Norm and Cliff welcomed me.
I went up to the bay area for family event and thought it was the perfect time to hang out with my friend, Aram, who was talking about leaving the country for a few months, if not longer. First thing we did was to meet up at his favorite bar, Elevation 66, a modern looking joint, with half its seating at the bar, and beer tanks behind the bartender. Aram knew almost all of the brewpub's crew, but also a lot of the customers walking in, out and sitting around us. It was like an episode of Cheers and I was guest starring! Ha!
Bad picture. Good beer.
Elevation 66 obviously has their own house brews, but I ended up with a glass of Drake's Hefeweizen, one of the bar's guest beers. And I couldn't have been happier. Drake's had a really beautiful, almost floral mulling spice flavor. It was flat like all hefs. And didn't leave my mouth with any unpleasantness.
I was pretty hungry when I got there, and so along with the beer, I ordered cod and crab cake sliders, a side of chips and housemade pickles. It was like a festival of things I love!

Fries, sliders, chips, pickles and aioli. 
As far as the seafood sliders, I wish they would have had a little more seasoning, but I wonder if the food is prepared with the idea that you'll be drinking beer with it. In that case, it was perfectly seasoned not to throw one's tongue off of the beer's flavor. Plus, the sliders enlivened when a little curry aioli was smeared on them. The pickles couldn't have made me happier. They're the perfect accompaniment to beer and a great palate resetter. The chips were great for pub chips. They're not what I'll be coming back to this place for, but I will order them again....with the pickles! Aram ordered french fries, which were yummy, too.

This place is great. I love the care and attention they pay to everything they serve. The people were pretty cool, too. Thanks, Aram!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Mystery of the Haw Flakes

The first place I can remember living is in a 2-bedroom apartment with my mom in Koreatown where we lived until I was in Kindergarten, I think. We were surrounded by awesome neighbors who left me with a couple of really good memories. The apartment to the left of our door belonged to a Korean family with a little girl who's name I couldn't remember. We used to play together a lot and I remember being in her apartment, having fun and the smells of Korean food that came out of her mom's kitchen. Its amazing that these details are the ones that stuck in my mind.

Another thing I remember about this little girl is that she used to share with me a particular kind of candy. It was a flat round disc, dusty rose in color,  and it kind of tasted like tamarind. After moving a few times and years have gone by, I remember how yummy that candy was, but I never saw it in candy shops, liquor stores or grocery stores. I would remember and search everywhere I could think of, then I'd forget and wouldn't search at all.

Then after so many years, I was sitting down to eat lunch with some friends while in grad school and one of them pulled out this little colorful package with an Asian language on it and rips it open to reveal flat dusty-rose-colored discs, that were bigger than I remembered, but definitely it! I asked her what they were called and she said Haw Flakes. She let me try one and it was confirmed. I asked her where to buy them and she said any Asian grocery should have it.

I eventually found Haw candies at Wing Hop Fung. They had more than just the discs. It was like a cornucopia of Haw! I bought a reasonable amount, but went through it fast. I went back to Wing Hop Fung, but they didn't have them anymore. Sad! So, I visited Assi,  a Korean grocery. They didn't have any Haw, but they did have MSG. Hmmm.

Fast forward to June 2012: I was at a Polynesian festival in Bonelli Park with my parents where they had a booth of candy and snacks that I guess are popular with Polynesian folks. There they were and in bulk and on sale: Haw flakes, 6 packages for a $1!!! I bought about $8 dollars worth.  Yum for a long time!
That's my story of Haw. Here are a few photos and an interesting article. After reading this, I now only eat Haw flakes in the safety of my bed!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A. J. Stephans Birch Beer

I've has this bottle of A.J. Stephan's Birch Beer in my fridge for a while now. It's something Mr. Brown bought from one of the shops on the marina in Long Beach. He and I were going to share it, but never got around to it. This was a particularly bad week and I decided it was the right time to open it up. 
First of all, this was the first birch beer I've ever had that was clear and it was crystal clear. After pouring it out into my beer tasting glass it only took a few seconds to clear the bubbles and then it was just like a glass of water. I don't know why that bothered me so much, but it did. Maybe it's because it got my brain thinking of all the bleaching chemicals that went into it that made it clear, or even worse, all the dyes that went into all the previous birch beers I've had to make them brown. Either way, this wasn't an easy beverage.
The taste was a that of birch beer, which if you don't know is kind of like root beer, but with a splash of a medicinal, Pepto Bismo-like flavor. An important fact to note: I like the way Pepto Bismo tastes. In fact, after some research, I discovered that the original Pepto Bismol formula is flavored with wintergreen, a flavor which can also be derived from teaberry and birch bark! 
So with that in mind, this one was a little too sweet for my tastes.  I don't see myself buying another bottle of this stuff. Sorry, Mr. Stephan. You wouldn't happen to have a plumber in your family? Just a thought.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Beer Sampling at Pyramid's Berkeley Alehouse

A friend and I did a magically silly turn-around trip to the bay area. We drove up, ate, drank and changed clothes at Pyramid's, went around the corner to dance the night away at Havana Nights, then drove back, all in the same day. We were exhausted, but we had such a good time and I really enjoy how well you get to know people on road trips. Our friendship was truly strengthened.
But on to the beer!
One of the samples I got was Mactarnahan's Amber Ale. Funny how I find myself at a brewhouse, but end up with a guest beer. The Mac is a light lager and very piney. Very. I had a similar beer once at Father's Office. It was called pine beer. I do have to say, that our awesomely knowledgeable server, Cesar, warned me about the pineyness, but I figured it was only a sample. I didn't like it. Just wasn't my kind of beer.
Red Wheat, Apricot, Mac and Chai pint.

Another sample was Pyramid's Apricot Ale, which was a house beer. I'm pretty sure that I've had this out of a bottle before, either that or on tap at bar somewhere. But when I tried it at the alehouse, I found it not to my liking. the apricot ale was too sweet and watery like someone poured in some apricot juice into a beer. I like beers with distinct flavors but not overly sweet.
The house's Red Wheat with Fig is a really great beer. Its a pretty-to-look at medium-dark with a red tint. and had a nice dynamic flavor, although I wouldn't recommend drinking it while eating. I found the flavor of the beer was lost when the taste buds were distracted.  This beer made me want to strike up a bonfire and have a bunch of friends sitting around talking.
The winner of this tasting, and the beer I ended up with a full pint of, was Pyramid's Chai Wheat Ale. It presented a subtle yet distinct (if that's possible) chai flavor in a lightly carbonated ale. Maybe that's what ale is: not quite as smooth as a hef but not as bubble as a lager? I'm just guessing from what I know so far. It was a delicious beer that I wanted to take home and drink along with a plate of curry and roti at least once a week. But it's a limited release of this ale house and therefore not bottled for transport. But....according to the Pyramid website, it is bottled and I know its at least available as a part of the Winter Variety Pack

Friday, August 31, 2012

Where's the Beer?

I know. I've been slacking in my beer drinking and reviewing. That should be a good thing, but its not because the blog is about beer, too. I should be downing a sixer a week and posting review blogs while intoxicated, sloughing my phrases about. Just kidding! No, I haven't had anything to drink this morning except some liver-wake-up lemon water (A great liver starter tip for you beer drinkers).
So where are all the beer reviews? I have to be honest, folks. I don't really feel like I'm in a beer mood this summer.
I've had a couple that I didn't take the time to review, such as the summer staple, Sam Adams' Summer Ale, which I think is the best Sam Adams beer. Then Mr. Brown brought a sixer of Trader Joe's Summer Brew, which was nice and light.
Dante and I went to Stout in Hollywood and had burgers, fries and beers.I think we ordered three different beers and I tasted all three and drank one. Thanks, Dante!
Later, during the hot weeks of summer, Mr. Brown and I went to
The Stand and split a big cup of their house Honey Blonde Draft Ale.
Nice and smooth. I think there was an Asahi at a sushi place sometime,
but I wasn't taking note.

I type this post as I watch Ken Burns' Prohibition and after a quick trip to Ralph's where I discovered that Sam Adams' Summer Ale has already been replaced with the Oktoberfest selections and the Halloween candy aisle is already in full swing. Where have the summer beer-drinking months gone? I know now that I've let them slip by, while crunching heartily upon mostly potato snacky yum yums.

So what's my point? I don't really have one and I like to wax poetic. I just was trying to give a good excuse as to why there aren't many beer reviews as of yet on the Potato Chips and Beer blog.
Either way, I hope you keep reading.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oishi Ribbed Cracklings in Old Fashioned Salf & Vinegar

Dante and I went exploring at an Asian grocery store on Sunset Boulevard called Grocery Warehouse. We combed the aisles and I came across several items that I wanted to try including shredded papaya, Seasoning (that's what the sauce is called!) and this here bag of chips. I was intrigued by the "old fashioned salt & vinegar," but I was sold when I read that "'Beer Match' series of snacks are cut in big, big bite-size pieces. Flavors were selected specifically for a beer drinker's [sic] enjoyment!" Chips flavored and shaped for beer drinkers? I've got to try those!

When you open the bag you get a whiff of typical salt & vinegar smell, but these are not like any
S&V chips I've ever seen or tasted. First of all, these are not potato chips. They are starch chips made from wheat, tapioca starch, corn starch, oil and flavoring. They have the same texture as Shrimp Chips and even the same background fishiness.

The first taste...There is a spicy flavor as if there's some pepper in the mix, which there very well might be since listed "spices" as an ingredient. I feel like the tang is supposed to be the tang of vinegar, but the flavor chemists didn't quite hit the nail on the head. So instead of vinegary flavor, its vine-peppery!
There is not an unpleasant aftertaste, but the spicy flavor leaves a light tingly sensation in your mouth for a while. Also, after having ate a quarter of the bag, I feel like I have a slight balloon head going on right now. I'm not dizzy, just a little floaty. I'm going to blame that specifically on the MSG without any evidence or facts to back me up. Darn skippy!

I kinda like them because the flavor is different and as a potato chip taster, it is so pleasant to taste something out-of-the-ordinary. But I will never eat them again, because I felt like I dropped a sample size LSD dose after eating them. Chips aren't supposed to give you balloon head. And finally, I try to avoid MSG and artificial pork flavoring as much as one potato chip eater can. A solid Two Potato for Oishi's Ribbed Cracklings.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Deep River Snacks Rosemary & Olive Oil Kettle Cooked Potato Chips

Sometimes I have no business being in a store. Sometimes I'm just bored and want to shop. Sometimes I'm just on a snack hunt. That's what happened one work day. On my lunch break I walked to Walgreens for no particular reason and I found these chips on a side-of-the-aisle display. They had the Rosemary & Oil flavor as well as Zesty Jalepeño, but I'm not a big jalepeño person, and who can pass up the mystery of rosemary flavored potato chips? Not I, said the fly!
So I walked back to work, passed the day, went home and into my secret chip storage (a liquor store black bag hidden behind my dining room table) the Rosemary & Oil chips went. That was probably over a month ago. I'm actually quite surprised that I was able to keep these chips for so long. I guess my secret chip storage is doing a great job!

Upon first opening the bag you are introduced to a lovely fragrance of rosemary and kettle cooked chips. Most people don't know, but rosemary is a cousin to the pine tree. Its an evergreen and is super fragrant both fresh and dry. I know that it is often used to season meats and roasted potatoes, but I was doubtful, yet intrigued to taste how it paired with potato chips.

The mystery of rosemary flavored chips is solved! They are quite toothsome! The rosemary flavor is pronounced but not overbearing. The salt perfectly compliments... no, enhances that amazing evergreen taste. They're beautifully chips. These are definitely a Four Potato.

I ate these with a yummy turkey and balsamic mustard wrap (home made). Rosemary & Oil chips are for food pairing. They are not just for snacking by themselves so don't sit back, crack open a bag and catch the latest episode of Hard Knocks Miami Dophins. Don't do that. Sit down with a good sandwich and enjoy these chips. From a BLT to a French dip I think these will go so well!
And, oh! The bag size is perfect. It doesn't come in those mini bags they put in children's lunch boxes. They're not Grab Bag size, which I think are too big. They're a great Goldilocks in between. Perfect for tasting, perfect for sandwich pairing, even though the Nutrition Facts says it holds two servings.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ruffles Ultimate Sweet & Smokin' BBQ

Dante, on his tour of liquor stores, found another bag of experimental chips. Ruffles seemed to have come up with a line of what they're calling "Hardcore Flavors." The back of the bag says: "You're hunger's about to get blown up by a spicy, sweet and smoky taste bomb. Boom."

I was trying to wait for Dante and I to get together one day to taste them, but I gave in to peer pressure (and Dante's insistence) to open a bag. Mr. Brown and I tasted them today:

Mr. Brown: The texture is phenomenal because usually when you get barbeque flavored chips they're flat chip but this time its Ruffles so its a nice change. I'd like the flavoring to be a little on the sweeter side especially since its the first word in the flavor title and they could be less spicy. The flavor is good because it tastes like its cooked into the chip and not just dusted on top. I give them a 3.75 out of 4. By the way, the caption on the front of the bag says: "Chip enlarged to show texture." Did they think we were going to really believe that they were really that big?

Me: Someone must've sued them for misrepresentation! I thought they were too spicy. I agree with you, the "Smokin" took over the"Sweet." I thought the Ruffles texture was distracting. With that much flavor, I'd much rather have a flat chip, but then again, I really like flat chips. These kind of reminded me of the Sweet Southern Heat Barbeque, but I liked those better. These get 2 out of 4 potatoes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Boulder Canyon Red Wine Vinegar Kettle Cooked Potato Chips

I have to admit, this was my second bag of chips this week. I had to break down and rip open a bag when I was dealing with some frustration. Yes. Chips sometimes help me deal with life. C'mon! You can't have just figured that out! I have a blog dedicated to snacking...duh? So you've moved on and are wondering what was my first bag of chips? Well, friends, I stuck to my old, reliable and delicious stand-by: Lay's Barbeque. They never let me down.

So, back to potato chip tasting. This week, while at Big Lots with Dante I came across this here bag of Boulder Canyon Red Wine Vinegar Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. Red wine vinegar? Now that's different. I picked those up and headed straight for the register with an armful of other items.
After the two-chip taste I found the flavor to be nice. There was a detectable difference from other vinegar flavored chips: These were sweeter, less acidy and the flavor was weak in comparison. As far as texture, these did not crunch like your normal kettle style chips. In fact, I wouldn't even have thought these were kettle style if it wasn't for the bag telling me so. They appear, and crunch like a slightly thicker cut of a regular potato chip.

Dante found the flavor pleasant and thought the wine really came through, but described them as a Goldilocks bag: One chip has too little flavor, another has too much flavor and then some have just the right amount of flavor.

Mr. Brown says "If I didn't read the label I would have thought these were BBQ flavored chips." An interesting take, and after I tasted them again, I totally see where you can get BBQ from, and I 'm sure it has something to do with the flavor intensity level. These get 2 out of 4 potatoes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Margarita Chips, Lay's Brand in Colombia

Frito-Lay (owned by PepsiCo) has many labels around the world. Their label in Colombia is Margarita and at the time I was in Colombia, they were having a flavor contest for consumers to vote try these limited edition chips and choose which one will become a new Margarita flavor.

Hamburguesa flavored actually tasted like a hamburger. When I crunched on two or three chips at one time, I got distinct flavors of a grilled patty, pickles and tomatoes, maybe even mustard. I'm always amazed at chips that are able to accomplish that feat. I enjoyed these.

Pollo (Chicken) flavored chips unfortunately tasted and smelled like a Vienna sausage. There was no sense of chicken in there at all. That bag was never completely consumed, although I kept trying a chip here and there for a little while, just in case the chips needed to breath. This flavor was not apart of the flavor contest. It was already a regular flavor in Margarita's repertoire. Ugh.

Costillitas flavored chips were basically barbeque flavored. In fact, Ruffles was circulating Smokehouse Style BBQ flavored chips in limited quantities around Los Angeles. The Costillitas and the Smokehouse Style were virtually identical in flavor. The difference was one was a smooth Lay's style and the other was the crinkled Ruffle's style. They were good, but not distinct enough to warrant searching out Costillitas over any other BBQ flavored chip.

Onduladas con Sabor Tomate flavored chips tasted like potato chips with ketchup. It was a very simple flavor despite the length of their title. I did enjoy them.

Zapp's New Orleans Kettle Style Spicy Cajun Crawtators

This bag of Spicy Cajun Crawtators chips (SCC) is the last of three bags I bought from World Market during a hang out trip with my best friend. This is also the worst tasting flavor of the three. I can demonstrate that by telling you I haven't finished the bag. If you haven't guessed from my love of chips, bags of chips don't last long in my presence. So if I don't finish the bag, that is significant.

Back to SCC: These kettle style chips have a great crunch. The scary thing is that after weeks of leaving this open bag of chips at various locations in my kitchen, the crunch is still pretty great. Does kettle cooking add a preservative quality? I don't see any crazy preservatives in the list of ingredients. Seriously, I'm writing this review weeks after I originally tasted the chips and I just tasted one now and its fine (as far as crunch quality).

If you've ever had any seafood flavored chips, Utz Brand's "The Crab Chip" come to mind, you know they usually use that Old Bay type seasoning, which is salty and has so long been associated with seafood flavor that once you smell or taste it your brain (if conditioned) thinks "seafood," but really its just another seasoning salt. This flavoring is what they use on the SCC chips, but in their case the flavor is harsh. Its like they put more of the seasoning salt so that they are uncomfortably salty. You know when the flavor hits the base of your jaw on both sides of your head... then stings? That. And then added a mean extra dash of pepper, meaning that I like pepper, but when I eat these I imagine an evil scientist looking guy adding one and a half portion of extra pepper than the originally recipe required. He's pushing a wheel barrow people.

Wouldn't you know, Zapp's is owned by Utz. I won't totally write them off, but it seems that evil scientist has too much liberty in the Zapp's factory. Terminate that dude, or get him his own laboratory to terrorize late at night. These chips get 1 out of 4 potatoes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Potato Chips Buffalo Bleu

During a random stop at an AmPm on the way to a wedding, I picked up a bag of Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Potato Chips Buffalo Bleu. I thought I had tried every flavor of Kettle Brand, but I couldn't remember what the deal was with Buffalo Bleu. So I decided to buy them. Why not!
Yum! After three weeks of not-so-great chipping, these were a wonderful surprise. My only experience with buffalo flavor is with the chicken wings. I didn't really have that flavor come through. It was more like a mild spicy yummily buffered by bleu cheese. I checked the ingredients and they include “bleu cheese flavor,” which, not surprisingly, is made from real bleu cheese! Ha! I thought that was funny.
So, back to the wedding. I know you're asking: “why are you stopping at convenient stores before a wedding and buying crunchy chips to leave a trail of crumbs on the front of your dress. ” Well, maybe you're not that curious, but I'd like to explain. We got there an hour and an half before the wedding was set to start and we were all hungry. And the wedding started about 45 late, so we had our convenient store snacks plus hors d'oeuvres! These get 3 out of 4 potatoes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lay's Dill Pickle Potato Chips

This is a potato chip I discovered on the East Coast, specifically in Pennsylvania, while visiting family. Finding these in a Walgreen’s in San Francisco while inspecting their chip selection for anything of note was a great eureka moment. I didn’t think I would see these ever cross the Mississippi, but here they are, in my West-Coast-residing-hands and they are good! The dill pickle flavor is not mean and overpowering like you’d imagine adding the flavor of a salty pickle to a salty potato chip would be. The chip tastes like they took a potato and marinated it in pickle juice then cooked it. I like pickles so that works for me.

After I first ate these in PA, I returned home and attempted to create a homemade version. I mandolin-sliced some potatoes and soaked them for about an hour in a jar full of leftover pickle juice. Then I cooked them in the microwave. They came out delicious! The flavor wasn’t as pronounced as the Lay’s, but still distinct.

I’m looking forward to tasting other pickle chips!

Pop Nation Ice Pops (aka Paletas)

At the San Francisco Carnaval Festival my friends and I came across an interesting looking paleta vendor. I can't pass up good ice cream, so I put the booth on my short list of things I was definitely going to get myself into. I ate three Pop Nation ice pops over the weekend and for $3 a pop (Ha!), it was totally worth it! Here's a brief description of my exploits:

Spicy Bangkok Night Market

Rich and creamy coconut milk or cream (probably cream) mixed in with a lot of chili and some other seasonings/herbs is what this delectable paleta tasted like. I asked the pop creators why it wasn’t spicy as advertised and they said it was a mild batch, explaining that you have to add more chili to the mix because since freezing causes chili to loose its potency. I do have to say that by the end of pop, I was a little tired of it, since it was so rich, but that ‘s another good thing about these pops, they’re the perfect serving size to just get a good go at the flavor and then its over. Its like a satisfying walk around the block: You wanted to get out of your apartment, but you didn’t really want to go anywhere. Okay, so I’ve gone off in a totally different, and strange direction. I’ll stop here.

Lemon-Lime Kiwi Ginger

Tart and serious is the best way to describe this paleta. Serious? How is food serious? Well, thank you for asking! What I mean by that is that it tasted like it was good for me and going to do great things to my body, especially my digestive track. This flavor wasn’t as fun as the others, but it was still an yummy blend of tangy and sweet, and the only pop that I tried that didn’t have cream in it.

Strawberries N' Cream with Basil

My friends and I were leaving the San Francisco Carnaval Festival and I wanted to try one more paleta. There were a couple flavors I was considering but I took a risk on Strawberries n' Cream with Basil. I’m not big on strawberries and cream flavored stuff, but I tried this paleta because I figured it would probably taste better using fresh ingredients and not the artificial or “all natural flavoring” that you usually find down grocery store freezer aisles or the candy rack. Of the three I at this one was the best. A big smile formed on my face every time a bite captured both the creamy strawberry flavor and a bit of basil. What a glorious combination!

Yay for Pop Nation!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lotus Root Chips at Burma Superstar

I just got back from a weekend in California’s bay area and I had a blast! Did lots of dancing and came across some amazing tastes as well. One notable place in Oakland is Burma Superstar, specializing in Burmese cuisine, which is a mix of neighbor’s influences (i.e. India, China, Laos, and Thailand).

For an appetizer, I shared lotus root chips with my friend (Terrible picture, I know, but its what I got!). Thinly sliced lotus roots, which look like uncooked chicharones de harina, are fried until they turn a golden burnt orange, then seasoned to perfection with chili and salt. Delicious, simple and amazing! You can’t just have 5 or 6 of these chips because with the large holes in the root, you have to eat at 20 to equal a heaping handful of regular potato chips.

We also ordered the Burma Cooler: Ginger and lemon mixed into beer. At first we found all those bitter tastes too much for our palate. In fact, the Burma Cooler was bordering on unpleasant, but I’m not one to waste beer so I was drinking it anyway. After we started on our entrees and adding all the tangy, sweet, salty flavors to our tongue, and especially after the yummy garlic sautéed pea leaves (Say what? Yeah.), the Burma Cooler’s bitterness melted into a yummy, smooth palate cleanser. It was like a ginger-lemon wine cooler, easy to drink and flavorful, but not overpowering.

The rest of the food was great, too. They don’t have a huge selection of beers on their list, but a few microbrews and I don’t remember seeing any of the major brands available.

Burma Superstar!
4721 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609

Friday, May 25, 2012

Zapp's New Orleans Style Kettle Voodoo Potato Chips

Perusing through Cost Plus World Market, I found a bag of chips I recognized from my Austin trips a couple of years ago. For two years in a row, I visited a friend in Austin, and as I am prone to do, I would go the store and pick up bags of potato chips that looked yummy and interesting. I think I may have bought and tasted these chips then, but I couldn’t remember whether I liked them or not. So, flash back to the aisle in World Market, I decided to grab a bag: What the heck!? Then, I discovered that there were two additional Louisiana-inspired flavors, so I bought all three bags.

Open bag. Select a chip. Initial crunch followed by some chewing. I usually follow that up with a double-chip taste just so I can get a good sense of the flavor, but that wasn’t necessary with these chips. They were potently flavored! Once you open the bag you are assaulted by the salty, tangy smell. Then the first bite was so salty that I felt my tongue tingle and wither like a snail when you sprinkle salt on it (Don’t try that at home. It’s a mean thing to do.) . Man! And don’t get me wrong the flavor was good: Slightly sweet, tangy and salty or how about this: Seasoned rice vinegar with seasoned salt. But it was just too strong. They could have cut it down 50% and had a nice flavorful, crisp chip. I will admit that a day or two after opening the bag, the chips were easier to eat. Maybe they just needed to air out a bit? But they were still really strong. These get 2 out of 4 potatoes.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lay's Classic BLT

My BFF, Dante (of Dantania) found these chips at his local liquor store (a great place to discover new and limited release chips) and saved them for me. The next chance we got to hang out, we sat in my car, cracked open the bag and gave them a go.
I tried one chip, then I had to try two at a time to really get the flavor. My tongue sent this information back up to my brain: Sour cream and onion with bacon flavored salad topper thingees. Not particularly pleasant. Not something I'd like to repeat.
What was your take on these chips, Dante?

Dante: I felt lied to. A BLT is like one of the best sandwiches ever and the fact that I didn’t taste B, L, or T was shocking. When I first bit into one I said “Hotdogs.” I think at the factory they just had some random flavor sitting around and asked someone “What does this taste like?” and they said “Bacon.” Then they went home laughing at the fact that Lays believed them. Even the multiple method didn’t work for me. I hope 7/11 has this flavor done the right way.

Oh, yeah! You did taste those 7-11 hot dog chips with me! They were good! Have you found any other chips of note in liquor stores?

Dante: Not yet but I will keep you posted. The latest thing I have seen there but haven’t tried yet was the Cheeto’s Popcorn. This is a product that was out when I was a kid and I wonder if they’ve managed to make it taste good. Companies are sneaking old products onto shelves. When they bring back bacon flavored Cheeto’s my heart will jump with joy.

Thanks for tasting potato chips with me and I hope your chip dreams come true! I give these chips 1 out of 4 potatoes.

Sudsy Joints: Village Idiot

Village Idiot
7383 Melrose Avenue, 90046 (Beer list on website)

I’ve eaten at Village Idiot a couple times, but it wasn’t until recently that I paid attention to their beer menu. They have an interesting selection in bottles and on tap. The only typical beers are Guinness, Pacifico, Bud and Beck’s, but they are the outliers on a list full of microbrews and imports. That makes me happy. You can go to the corner store and get a Miller, Bud or Heineken, but I think sudsy joints, are the places you can go to find beers that are harder to find, full of interesting flavor and mixing different styles, and ingredients to create a-typical brews.
Other than their interesting selection, Village Idiot also has a list of Mixed Suds. I want to try a few different things on this list, but in warmer weather, sitting by the restaurant’s very large windows looking out at the fashion victims and fashionistas of Melrose, I have found myself ordering the light, sweet, refreshing combination called the Snake Bite, 1903 lager and Woodchuck Amber cider. Ahhhh!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reed's Original Ginger Brew

A friend and I went out for Indian food one, fine, sunny day, and they ordered a ginger beer as an accompanying beverage. I knew I must have tried it at least once, but I couldn’t remember if I liked ginger beer or not. So I decided to order one, too. The restaurant had two kinds of the same brand, Reed’s Original Ginger Brew, so I went with the lighter one, just in case.

“OU-LA-LA!” said my tongue! It was delicious, crisp and refreshing. Perfect for sitting outside and looking at passerbys on fine, sunny days.

After inspecting the label more thoroughly, I discovered the difference between the two bottles: One was red and held Ginger Beer, the other was yellow and held Ginger Ale. I had the ginger ale. I am already a fan of ginger ale and of course enjoy Canada Dry, but I have come across some other brands, micro brews and homemade ginger ales that are just fantastic. Reed’s All Natural Jamaican Style ginger ale was different than most ginger ales. It still had the basic flavor, but it tastes like it has some spice to it, maybe cloves or allspice… definitely sensed a hint of a mulling flavor, which was a much welcome and pleasing addition.

Reed’s All Natural Jamaican Style Ginger Beer, which my friend let me taste, has a deeper, richer flavor. Maybe ginger beer brews longer than ale. I’ll have to do my research about that. I liked it, but I’m still a ginger ale girl!

Addendum August 31, 2012:

Reed's All Natural Jamaican Style Ginger Beer is available at Trader Joe's and has been my summer refresher beverage for the past couple of super hot weeks we've been experiencing in Southern California. Whole Foods carries the Ginger Ale, but I don't make it there quite as often as TJ's.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sweet Potato Tortilla Chip Rounds

From Trader Joe's May 2012 Fearless Flyer:
Think of these chips as the comestible equivalent of a musical mashup, only instead of pairing the Beastie Boys with Adele, we’ve paired the venerable corn tortilla chip with the orange wonder of the tuber family, sweet potatoes. Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Tortilla Chip Rounds have only four ingredients: stone ground yellow corn, sweet potato powder, oil and sea salt.

Sweet Potato Tortilla Chip Rounds (SPTC) are denser- less crispy than regular tortilla chips, making it really a perfect chip for nachos or other heavy chip toppings and/or dips. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the addition of the sweet potato or not, because I've had thick tortilla chips before. Uhm....Yeah, I'll go ahead and venture to say its because of the sweet potato.

The exact ingredient is sweet potato powder: Sweet potato, maltodextrin, corn starch and sunflower lecithin. Sweet potato powder is supposed to be high in fiber, vitamin A, iron and calcium, which are all present in these chips, but not in any sort of exciting amount. Imagine a multi-vitamin tortilla chip? Ha!

SPTCs have a distinctive tuber-y flavor, that is not a mean, bully flavor. It blends very well with the corn flavor.

The question is: Is it worth it to pay $2.49 for chips just because they have sweet potato in them when Trader Joe's has tortilla chips for $1.99, or you can even get tortilla chips from the 99 Cent Store? I would say yes because I'm a chip fanatic, but if I were really being frugal, which I am with almost everything else, I would go with cheaper, 99 Cent Store tortilla chips because they're good.

Tonight I ate SPTC with my Black Bean Salad. They were great with the salad's mix of tangy flavors and mushy textures.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cerveza Club Colombia

I like beer so I was really excited to find that the beer named after the country I recently visited was pretty darn good and was relatively cheap, too. I encountered two kinds, Club Colombia and Club Colombia Roja. I really liked the Roja, but it was harder to come by. So drink up if you’ve got it!
Very much like the difference between Modelo Especial and Modelo Negra, Club Colombia Roja had a more dynamic, mature taste, while the regular Club Colombia is light and refreshing.
If these were available in your local grocer, liquor store or beverage specialty shops fridge, you could interchange them for the Modelo options, but faced with the choice (and the cash to pay for it), I'd choose Club Colombia. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it available stateside, yet.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

7-11 Big Bite Hot Dog Potato Chips

7-11 brand chips are great. They’re cheaper than the name brand right next them on the rack, but they’re right on par with quality and flavor. So when I came across a bag of hot dog flavored chips I didn’t hesitate to buy them. Dante was there, so we cracked open the bag right then.
The first chip was good, you could taste something familiar going on there, but when I did the double-chip taste that’s when it really hit me: Relish, mustard, hot dog! It was pretty amazing that they were able to successfully capture those flavors on the chip, but the really Willy Wonka part (insert link to everlasting gobstopper) about it was how the flavors hit my palate separately. I’m just glad I didn’t blow up into a giant hot dog and have to be rolled away by 7-11 uniform wearing Ooma Loompas.
Dante... Whadayasay?

Dante: I loved these chips! I was afraid to have one of those weird Columbian chicken flavored chips that tasted like Vienna sausages flashback. This was not the case at all. Like you said, the flavor came in waves of taste. 7/11 has rows and rows of chips that I haven’t tried yet. These were a good start.

I gave these 4 out of 4 potatoes!