Cheesecake pretzel sticks

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I’m used to trying out different flavors of pretzel sticks by now. My flavor of the week is cheesecake. This variety has the flavoring on the inside of a hollow pretzel stick. Inside the tube is a creamy filling that makes for a great mouthfeel in combination with the bread sticks.

Flavor wise, however, there’s nothing to it. It doesn’t remind me in the least of a great American cheesecake. That’s a real shame, because these creamy centered sticks have a great potential.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Fried ravioli

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In 2006 I was living in America on an exchange program from university. My hometown at the time was Springfield, Missouri, birthplace of Route 66. Over the 5 months I was there I must have gained about a pound a week as I had never seen such variety and availability of food before. I don’t blame American food, there is a lot of healthy stuff. I can only blame myself for systematically avoiding the healthier options, and going for fried food instead. Hey, can you blame me? Everything tastes better fried.

When I say everything, I genuinely mean everything. I’d eaten deep-fried pizza in Scotland before, and had heard of the mystical deep-fried butter. During my last week at university I ventured off campus to have a nice lunch at a local Italian restaurant, where a dish of fried ravioli caught my eye.

Fried ravioli was invented in St Louis, the biggest city in Missouri, not too far away from Springfield. It’s a normal beef stuffed parcel of pasta, but instead of boiling it, it gets fried in oil. The result is a crispy shell with a soft center. I can only assume that to Italians this must be sacrilege, but I must admit I rather enjoyed my fried ravioli. It came with a lovely marinara sauce for dipping.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Yak yogurt

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When I visited Xiahe a few weeks ago I sampled many local dishes I had never tried before. Many of these dishes had yak at their foundations. Yak yogurt is one of these dishes, though I had tried it once before.

Yak yogurt is not very different from regular yogurt in taste, but it’s much lumpier in texture. It’s almost as if it’s past its expiration date. The beauty of the yogurt is that it tastes so fresh and sour, not like most store bough yogurts. I guess that’s mainly because it’s locally made without any additives. If you want it sweet you can always add a little sugar yourself.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 9

Aberdeen Angus Chips

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There’s not much to say about these potato chips, other than don’t waste your money on these. There was no taste of steak, and certainly no distinction between these and any other plain salted potato chip.

Two sentences is all I got, well that makes three now.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 4

Larb bread sticks

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Larb is a classical northern Thai salad which can include all kinds of meat or fish, but I associate most with minced pork. The meat is cooked with fish sauce and lime amongst others, and then mixed with chili and mint.

It’s the mix of chili and mint that I love so much about larb, as well as the Thai style mixing of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. These larb flavored bread sticks I found in Hong Kong must have been imported from Thailand, as it had Thai writing on it.

The sticks tasted very nice and savory, though I couldn’t distinguish between sweet, spicy and sour. What was nice was that the sticks were not dusted with powder, but had big grains of the spice mix on it, which would give small bursts of flavor in your mouth and stayed true till the very last bite.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Molecular Xiaolongbao

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Xiaolongbao is probably the most famous food in Shanghai. It’s a dumpling filled with some meat or shrimp with a heavy dose of soup. When you eat it, you first poke a little hole in the dumpling and drink the soup. Only then do you eat the actual dumpling. If you don’t drink the soup first, it can squirt out and burn your lips.

I happened to be in Shanghai when there was a food festival going on. There were quite a few famous chefs who head many Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the world. One of them was Masterchef Canada judge Alvin Leung who helms the 3-starred Hong Kong restaurant Bo Innovation. He was in Shanghai to open two new restaurants on the Chinese mainland.

One of the dishes he presented was a molecular soup dumpling that I had heard so much about. I was presented with one big spoon with one big jiggly ball on top. It was a sphere of soup based on Ferran Adria’s method of spherification.  Through the magic of science the soup had formed an outer skin, leaving the inside fluid. When I bit into it all the soup came gushing out giving you a similar sensation to a normal soup dumpling. \

I was stunned. I couldn’t help but keep grinning. It was just such an amazing experience. Not only was it textural sensation, it also tasted superb. From that day on I consider myself a fan of Alvin Leung. Hopefully one day I’ll have enough money in my pocket to visit Bo Innovation.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 10

Red wine steak chips

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From the makers of the sweet mayonnaise chips I mistook for asparagus chips comes a red wine steak potato chip. That sounds promising to say the least.

I bit into the first chip expecting a savory umami overload. Instead I found myself biting into something that resembled charcoal. Not very nice to say the least. I get that steaks can be flame grilled over charcoal, but then please use the steak as flavoring, and not the actual charcoal.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test 4

Sea Salt Chocolate

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Savory sweet has been one of the most prominent changes in desserts across the globe for the past few years. Salt and chocolate is not something you would easily find ten years ago, but now it’s there for the taking.

I picked up a bar of sea salt chocolate by Lindt chocolatiers at a local supermarket. I was a little weary that it might be too salty, but for the most part I was expecting no flavor of salt whatsoever, as I’ve not been able to find traces of salt in previous experiments such as salty caramel cheesecake.

The salt was definitely there, though. It blended in with the bitter chocolate perfectly with an even distribution. There was no bite that was overly salty, just as there was no bite without. It took a little getting used to, but in the end I polished off the whole bar.

Imagine stirring a bit of salt through your hot cocoa instead of spoonful of sugar, and you can get what the taste is like. Not sweet, but bitter and a little savory.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test 8

Edamame bread sticks

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Edamame is a kind of snack food from Japan, or at least to me it’s a snack. You take a cooked soy bean pod, and pop out the beans in your mouth.  They taste a bit like peas and are usually salted. For me it’s a great snack and a healthy one at that.

From Pretz now come edamame flavored sticks. They are much thinner than the normal Pocky or Pretz sticks, making for a crispier snack than usual. There are 100 think biscuit sticks in the bag, and popping one after another in your mouth feels somewhat similar than popping one soy bean after another.

Taste wise there was that slightly earthy flavor that peas have, but it lacked the saltiness I usually associate with edamame. The crunch does make up for the lack of flavor, but not entirely. If the package says edamame, then give us edamame.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Cookies & Cream KitKat Chunky

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KitKat with cookies & cream doesn’t sound too bad, unusual or weird at all, so why pit it on this blog. Well I guess it’s just one of those things I never came across growing up in Holland, and therefore it was new to me.

I like KitKats and I like Oreos, so it sounds like a combination that would work. In practice though, I felt the flavor was a little flat. There was no crunchiness of the Oreo, and no creaminess of the stuffing. The only real difference with a normal KitKat was that this one was overly sweet. I could feel my teeth starting to loosen and fall out of their sockets.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 4