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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Archer Farms Zen Party Trail Mix

It's your moment of zen for the day.

This is the Asian equivalent of the previously reviewed Tex Mex Trail Mix. They're similar in that they both have sesame sticks, they're both really dry, and they both have random nuts in them. But I personally prefer this one, because I love wasabi and wasabi peas.

Peanuts wouldn't really have worked here, but the almonds and cashews blended in brilliantly. They added a meatiness to the trail mix that made it much more complete than it would have been sans nuts. Even the sesame sticks were a welcome addition, even though I complained about their presence in the Tex Mex Mix. I think sesame stuff just works with Asian food in general. It offsets the significant spiciness of the mix. And it's not just the wasabi peas that have some heat. The rice crackers seem to have a little kick to them as well.

The rice crackers are somewhat smooth, and they have a unique texture that's hard to describe. They're crispy and crunchy, but also delicate in a way. They do taste like rice, but it's not a bland flavor at all.

In terms of fat and calories, it's right in the middle of what we've seen so far with Archer Farms trail mixes. It's filling and easy to transport, but if you eat this stuff out on the trails, make sure you have extra water, because it'll make you hella thirsty. It's also the loudest trail mix we've ever reviewed. So don't be surprised if by eating it you scare away all the wildlife.

Sonia is a big fan of this mix, too.

I give this product 8 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Simply Balanced Sparkling Grapefruit Juice Beverage

Ever had Wink, Squirt, or Fresca? This stuff is just like any of those, but better for you and, in my humble opinion, better tasting.

It sparkles like a soda, and it has a citrus fruit flavor, but it tastes like they dumped an extra half cup of grapefruit juice into a can of one of the aforementioned citrus-flavored beverages. They also infused it with apple juice, so the resulting product is not only more tart, but also sweeter.

I had a nasty soda addiction for a good part of my life. I always had to have one with any meal. I think all the high fructose corn syrup did irreparable damage to my digestive system. I still have a soda from time to time, and I often have an energy drink for breakfast, but I'm always on the lookout for sweet beverage options that won't kill me as quickly as Coke or Pepsi.

I think they're trying to market these Simply Balanced beverages as semi-healthy soda alternatives. They were on sale, two for $5. I hope that doesn't mean they're having a hard time selling them, and thus, that they may be in danger of being discontinued, because these things are excellent. They had four flavors. I tried this one and one other, and enjoyed both.

Four little mini-cans come in each box. I'm not a huge fan of the smaller can size, because I always want more. But I get the whole "portion control" thing. And I guess on at least one occasion, I stopped at one little baby can, which prevented me from putting 90 more unnecessary calories into my body, which I suppose, in the end is a good thing.

I give this drink 9 out of 10 stars.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Simply Balanced Organic White Corn Tortilla Chips

I guess I don't really need to review these because I already examined Archer Farms White Corn Tortilla Chips, but hey, these are organic, and they have pretty new packaging, plus Target slapped the fancy new "Simply Balanced" label on them, so let's take a look shall we?

These are the chips I ate with the Pumpkin Harvest Salsa, and they paired up quite nicely if you ask me. I wanted a clean, simple flavor so the harvesticity of the salsa would shine through. And it did. I'm getting kinda good at this "foodie-hack" thing. FYI, harvesticity is a noun which means "Flavor or essence associated with harvest foods, such as pumpkin or squash."

I went ahead and considered the organicness of this product and upgraded the score to an 8. The AF white corn chips only got a 7. They must be jealous. And honestly, I'm not even sure they're still available.

Is the nutrition information too small for you? If it is, just go ahead and click on the image to enlarge it.

I give this product 8 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Archer Farms Pumpkin Harvest Salsa

We finally found a pumpkin product at Target!

It's a unique salsa. I'll give it that. But I wasn't quite sure how well anyone could pull off pumpkin salsa. And just as I had feared, their strategy involved creating a condiment that doesn't taste all that much like pumpkin.

Granted, it tastes more like pumpkin than any other salsa I've ever had, but that's not really saying much. More than pumpkin, I taste tomato, and that's to be expected, since tomato and tomato derivatives are the main ingredients of this and most other salsas. But I also taste more butternut squash than pumpkin. And that's not so expected. But it's certainly not a bad thing, either.

To me, this tastes like a combination of traditional salsa and butternut squash soup. There is a hint of pumpkin puree, but it gets overshadowed in the mix. There's a fair amount of spiciness, mostly from the jalapenos as far as I could tell. The label claims a "medium" level of heat, and I'd say that's pretty accurate. I've never had a spicy pumpkin product before, but in this case, it actually kind of works. There are whole corn kernels, which really add to the texture, but not only that, they create a sort of "flavor bridge" between the traditional spicy salsa and the butternut squash and pumpkin flavors. Corn works exceptionally well as an ingredient in spicy salsas and it adds a lot to butternut squash soup.

In summary, if you think pumpkin and butternut squash sound like they could work in a moderately spicy salsa, then you should deffo check this stuff out. I assume it's a seasonal flavor, so it might not be around much longer. I think it would have benefited from some more pumpkin puree, but that's probably just nitpicking.

I give this product 7 out of 10 stars.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Market Pantry Caramel Corn Bite-Sized Rice Snacks

When I was a young lad, allergic to a plethora of common foods including wheat, my parents would give me rice cakes to snack on. Most kids would turn up their noses at the blandness of rice cakes, but I grew to like them since I didn't have that many options.

Back then, there weren't many different flavors like there are now. We certainly didn't have caramel corn rice cakes. But now, there are almost as many different rice cake varieties as there are flavors of potato chips.

And like potato chips, I'm not sure these lend themselves to dessert-ish flavors. As much as I still like rice cakes in general, I definitely have them filed away under the "salty snack" file in my brain. They go well with cheeses, herbs, and barbecue-ish flavors. But this product is a good example of why they don't work as well as sweet snacks.

The texture of these cakes is a little too rigid. It almost feels like they've been laminated. It's a plastic kind of feeling. They're both salty and sweet like you might expect from traditional caramel corn (and yes, there's both rice and corn in this product) but the sweet dominates, I would say. The caramel flavor is prevalent, but it doesn't taste like fresh caramel. It tastes fake to me.

Originally, we were going to focus only on Archer Farms and Simply Balanced foods, but there are so many things in the Market Pantry line that might be worthy of reviews, that we are considering checking them out from time to time. Although, in my experience—and this product is no exception—I feel like MP products might take the backseat to AF products as a rule.

I give these rice snacks 6 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Archer Farms Sun-Dried Tomato & Grilled Chicken Flatbread Pizza

This is the least dessert-ish of the AF flatbreads we've sampled thus far: the Chocolate & Strawberry one being at the sweet end of the spectrum, and the Pear & Gorgonzola one being somewhere in the middle.

This one could be served as dinner or as an appetizer. It sits a bit heavy in the stomach, and the tomato flavor is pretty strong for me, and for those reasons, I would say it works better as an appetizer. But some people would probably disagree.

I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm not a huge fan of raw tomatoes, but cooked, stewed, or dried tomatoes I'm okay with. I also like most tomato derivatives like marinara sauce, ketchup, and tomato soup. The sun-dried tomatoes on this product are plentiful, and they taste a good bit like raw tomatoes. It wasn't a deal-breaker for me, but I think I would have preferred just regular old pizza sauce. You tomato-lovers would probably enjoy them. They're basically tomaisins, the tomato equivalent of raisins, with a comparable shrivel-factor, texture, and size.

Thus far, pretty much all AF pizza and flatbread doughs are apparently created equal. So, no surprises with the crust. There were little pockets of mozzarella and Gouda here and there, and there was a good amount of diced chicken breast. All the elements combined to make a nice, fresh-tasting chicken pizza. I'd say the product is a little too big for one person to eat in one sitting, and yet it's not big enough for a meal for two. So again, it works best as an appetizer in my opinion. You could probably couple it with soup and/or salad to make a well-balanced dinner.

I think it was around five bucks, and it heats in less than 15 minutes. All in all, it's not a bad purchase, though not quite as novel as the other flatbreads we've tried.

I give this flatbread 7 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Archer Farms Garlic, Ginger & Sriracha Cream Cheese Wontons

Over the last few years, I've grown to love Sriracha. It's a fermented hot sauce from Thailand, and it's delicious. It's also tangy, red, and very spicy.

But I'm not sure what it has to do with this product, because these appetizers taste nothing like the Sriracha I know. There's a hint of spiciness, but it's not even a fraction of the heat from one teaspoon of Sriracha.

But don't get me wrong, this product isn't bad. It just doesn't particularly taste like Sriracha to me. Garlic and ginger, yes. Cream cheese, yes. In fact, there are so many different flavors present, it's one of the most complex-tasting hors d'oeuvres I've ever had. It's spicy, sweet, sour,
garlicky, salty, tangy, and creamy all at the same time. It's an extremely complicated conglomeration of essences all coming at you at the same time.

I thought it would be less confusing for my poor tongue if I tasted just the wontons without the sauce. And it was. But I definitely like them better with the sauce. It's like shock and awe for the tongue.

You have to be pretty open-minded to try and enjoy something like this. The closest approximation I can think of might be the Habanero Lime Wontons. Not that they taste the same as these wontons, but both products are uncategorizable, unique, and pretty tasty.

I know I've been stuck giving every product a 7 or an 8 for quite a while now. And I'm torn between the two for these things. I think I'll go with a 7, just because I think I'd take the aforementioned Habanero Lime dealies over these guys. But I suppose you might like these better if'n you consider yourself a garlic kinda person as opposed to a habanero kinda person.

I give this product 7 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Archer Farms Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Lattice-Cut Kettle Chips

These are very similar to my least favorite chips ever, except a thousand times better. They're better because they're lattice-cut, and because they don't have a weird piggy flavor to them. They are indeed sweet. These are the sweetest barbecue chips I've ever had. On the other hand, they're not all that spicy—and I certainly wouldn't have minded a bit more spice. But we'll forgive them for that, because these are still pretty amazing chips.

Ever wonder why some chips are labeled "bbq," and others "barbeque," and still more "barbecue"? It makes one wonder which is the preferred spelling. I'm guessing that most of you do not wonder about such things unless you studied English in college like I did and have some weird, nerdy spelling fetish.

But that's neither here nor there. We're here to talk about food. And these chips are very crispy, very salty, and fairly pungent in the flavor department. They almost have a ketchupy taste to them, but just a tad more tangy. We've had some other decent Archer Farms potato chips recently, and while they're not particularly good-for-you like some of their Simply Balanced chips, they're starting to make us think Archer Farms has the salty, flavorful, snackable chip thing down to a science.

I'd try these unless you're looking for something truly spicy, or if you're averse to very sweet chips.

I give this product 7 out of 10 stars.

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