Tuesday, September 12, 2017

After a short hiatus, due to the start of the new school year and all that entails I am back with a new review of an items that might be a little bit more relevant considering the time period. This is the time of year when bottled protein drinks and smoothies are life. Considering our household, with one growing teen and a high school athlete we are always willing to try out something else to help supplement appetites, and if it can help be more balanced or to balance out their diets overall theb it's a plus. So with that we decided to give the Koia Vanilla Bean Protein Drink a try.

I spotted this in Wegmans which has a nice sized selection of these kinds of drinks as well as cold soups in the dairy case adjacent to the milk. While I'm not a cold soup and bone broth person so I highly doubt I'll be trying those, looking at the plant based smoothies and milk alternatives and trying them out is something that we can do in my house hold. The thing about Koia is of course the health benefits. Their drinks are Vegan with plant based protein and and almond milk. For people who can't have Soy, none of that here so it's definitely a sort of niche product. The Vanilla Bean flavor also has 18g of protein.

If you're like me and not the biggest fan of these types of drinks you might have some trepidation about drinking the Koia protein drink, but opening it up, it smells like a regular vanilla milkshake which is a good thing. One of the things that can turn you off of a specialized drink like this is that they can smell like a petri dish almost. Koia avoids this easily and both of my kids dived right in without pausing like they normally do. The texture is smooth and while it does have a slight powdery protein feel to it, it is nowhere near as bad as some of the drinks and mixes I've had in the past.

Now the color isn't the best but it's not going to turn you off of it. I mean it's a vanilla bean smoothie. The chocolate does look much more appealing however. The one negative I had was the pure cane sugar/monkfruit sweetener combination. I pretty much can say I hate pure cane sugar and this one has a serious after taste with it. If it weren't for that I would have polished it off. That's unfortunate because at 4.99 for one 12 ounce single serving bottle, this isn't cheap. However, if you do suffer from some food allergies this might be a viable protein drink option for you.

No protein drink is going to give you everything that you want so there are plenty of options out there to cover what your specific needs are. I've never had a truly "healthy" one that I felt like tasted so awesome I didn't notice the ingredients that gave benefits or weren't included for health reasons, but this one could have been very close. If you don't mind pure cane sugar, this could be a go-to for you, especially if you're trying to avoid Soy. If you don't like it though, this probably won't make the cut for you unfortunately so I will be giving two ratings.

Rating: If you like Pure Cane Sugar 4/5
            If you don't like Pure Cane Sugar 2/5

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

If you only sell one thing, no matter how good or unique that item might be, at some point you will need to start branching out and adding complimentary items to your menu. This is especially important as you franchise and build out your locations because you need new operators to see a plan for growing their revenue year after year. For the Fractured Prune, a Maryland based doughnut chain, they have added coffee and of course when doing that you're going to naturally expand to iced and blended coffee beverages. Once you do that, it's pretty simple to add smoothies, I mean hell, the blender is right there. It's not too much of a leap thereafter to add milkshakes and that is what took us into our local location after seeing the ads on instagram and facebook recently.

Much like the other items at FP, you use a card to place your order, circling the flavors that you want to try. There are about a dozen possibilities but none are too far out there as to make them a signature flavor. My son got a cookies and cream, my daughter a strawberry shortcake, while I had a banana cream pie shake. Now, these shakes are a bit pricey at just about 5 bucks apiece, but they are also a large size which mitigates that sticker shock a little bit.The process wasn't the fastest because they only have a couple of blenders so I could see there being a back up if the place gets exceptionally busy and people are ordering donuts as well.

My daughter thought her shake was just fine, though not great. It just tasted strawberry to her without a real hint of shortcake. It could have used some whole or larger pieces to drive that point home. The cookies and cream was cookies indeed and was also just fine. my experience was probably the worst. The banana cream pie shake had a gritty feel to it and tasted flat. There wasn't a bright banana pop nor a particularly whipped cream flavor. I'm not sure what happened but the kids agreed it wasn't hitting on all cylinders.

For five bucks I expect a better shake honestly, and I can't get beyond that. Just fine doesn't cut it and the size is overwhelming just because it isn't "great". I get the idea to tie in something that you already have supplies for, I'm sure they use some of the donut toppings for the shakes but I don't think it works out that well for me.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, August 24, 2017

State fair season is upon us and with that the myriad of fried items designed to gross us out and tantalize our tongues. From fried oreos (which are awesome) to poptarts and of course Twinkies. This time of the year is a race to throw the oddest item that we can into pancake batter and grease, but if you can't make it to the fair in your state, Hostess has you covered with their Fried Twinkies which you can find in your local grocer's freezer section.

So the first thing is that I think for an item like this, you get a good quantity of product. Often I see something like this and you're only going to get about four servings for 6-7 dollars. Each of the twinkies is a nice size as well. To me, each seems to be a little bit larger than than a normal twinkie and that may be true because of the topping process for these treats. Each of the banana flavored twinkies is covered with some sort of graham cracker crumb concoction. There are three ways to heat, oven, toaster oven or deep fry (of course). We chose to bake them in the oven at 350 degrees.

8 minutes after putting them in the oven they are ready to come out. Our first set had some of the filling overflowing and bubbling out. It wasn't too bad though. It takes a couple of minutes to cool down and then it's time to dig in. There was a decent shell crack but I can tell that if you deep fry it would be even more crispy on the outside, although you would have to watch it very closely to ensure the filling doesn't leak all of the way out.

The inside seemed a bit overly mushy to me, even considering that this is a sweet banana creme filling inside of a sponge cake. It wasn't too off-putting but I noticed it. The flavor was crazy sweet when I tasted the creme by itself. The banana flavoring was there, but you know this isn't a natural product. You can't even pretend that you don't know this these are bad for you. When you eat all the components together the sweetness is cut slightly with the graham cracker crust providing a slight contrast in flavor and texture. I was pleasantly surprised that it tasted as good as it did considering just what it is that I'm eating.

If you can't get to the fair, grabbing a box of these for the family to eat once or twice isn't the worst idea ever. You will have enough for everyone to have one or maybe two and be able to have something a little bit different. However, I wouldn't have these in the freezer regularly. They just aren't that great and are really sweet and you're asking for trouble if you indulge in these too often. One idea could be to add some actual fruit like strawberries to this and make it an actual full desert. The key is to add complimentary flavors that don't add sweetness because it has more than enough on its own.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One thing you have to do, is keep your eye out for the new local places when they pop up. A great way to do this is using your friends on facebook and instagram. IG is especially good because once you identify something that you like, they help you to discover more things just like it and since I love new food and to eat, getting the suggestion of new restaurants is always great. That is where I first got a glimpse at this new place located in Reisterstown Road Plaza, Belcibo Cafe.

Though they have been open for a couple of weeks, they just recently had their grand opening and for me, I'd rather not do one with the festivities if only to try and avoid a crowd, lines and wait times where possible. So I took the kids down on a Saturday morning in order to finally get a shot at the chicken beignets which had caught my eye via their ig page. The location itself isn't all that big but it's cozy enough and you have a seating area for eating or your wait (more on that later). The staff is more than pleasant and I witnessed them speaking to people walking by to draw attention to the restaurant. They also came and checked up on us and acknowledged our presence during our time there and it was appreciated.

The menu is simple enough, there is a nice variety of breakfast items which are available all day which include a variety of waffles, breakfast sandwiches and biscuits. The lunch menu has a nice list of sandwiches several of which I want to try. There was also a special of the day and they had something I haven't seen before, the "lemonade bar" where they can add one (or maybe more) additional flavors to their lemonade. I ordered the chicken beignets, a chicken biscuit and my daughter ordered a sausage egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. She tried a pina colada lemonade while I had original.

Now what you're waiting for the taste test. The chicken biscuit was solid. I'm not sure if the maple butter was on it, I didn't taste any but the chicken is almost perfect, though I felt like overall it needed a touch of salt. Subtle thing that made it better, they use thigh meat which means it stays moist and doesn't dry out like breast meat tends to do. The portion size was also great for the price. The Beignets have the same thing, nice, moist chicken that needs a touch more salt, however, the breading has a nice mixture of sweetness and savory flavor. Dipped into the syrup, it's the best part of chicken and waffles together in a bite sized package. My daughter liked her sausage, egg and cheese sandwich and everything is very fresh. Note, the sausage is turkey and they don't have any pork items on the menu, only turkey bacon on some of the sandwiches. The lemonade....man they are betaing chick-fil-a with this. I only got a medium but I should have just said give me all of it. Balanced, sweet but not overly so, I can't give it enough accolades. I didn't try my daughter's pina colada but I can imagine those flavors pair exceptionally well given what the base lemonade tastes like.

Look if you are in the area, you need to stop by Belcibo and give it a try. I said the chicken is slightly under salted however it is still tasty, cooked well and tender. Using thighs is a great choice that most places won't make. The lemonade is great and the staff is friendly. the only issue was it seemed to be confusion in the back of the house. Our order took kind of long to come out as well as another couple who was waiting. While they were nice about it, I do have to ding them a little bit because of it, I mean that's kind of important. Hopefully, this was an anomaly and going forward they will be a bit quicker. But if you have some time, don't let that deter you from going over and grabbing a bite.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Not gonna lie, I get on and off the granola bandwagon rather often. I try to get on it and make parfaits and also eat it as snacks instead of oatmeal or cereal in order to be a little bit more healthy. My biggest issue with granola is that it's too hard by itself and in order to use milk or something you need to heat it or let it sit overnight, which is an option worth trying for me. However, when I see something like The Toasted Oat Bakehouse Granola I get interested because much like the Woats! granola this is soft baked.

While they have several varieties, I chose the Macadamia chunk. They also make Blueberry cobbler, Cherry streusel, and Apricot Shortbread flavors. This granola is made with simple ingredients which is on the front of the package so you can see it clearly. I will also say, compared to some of the larger brands, the packaging is cleaner and looks like the nicer, more premium product that it is.

As for the taste, it's pretty darn good. You really taste the honey and vanilla. It's not a stale type of softness either. It also smells just great. I will admit, my first few tastes I thought it might be too sweet but after waiting and coming back to it, I felt as though the sweetness was actually right on point. These are almost like cookies that are from the older lady who bakes the best on the block.

These are a little bit on the pricey side for Granola and thus I think it's more of a dessert addition or a special indulgent snack, not for every day eating. For some the soft granola might be off putting and it might be a tad bit too sweet but at the end of the day I totally enjoyed it. I will say, I would have maybe liked a piece of fruit or something tart to bring slightly more diversity to the taste however. If you catch it you should give it a try.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

You remember potato sticks? I do. There were small strips of potatoes cut in a shoestring style mimicking the fries you sometimes see, or used to in some restaurants. They were small and only in regular salted varieties. I saw these snacks and it brought back nostalgia since I haven't seen those in a while. These aren't in a can but I feel like it is the same main idea.

Let's start with the packaging, these ain't ya momma's potato sticks. These come in a nice new foil bag and on the front you will notice the bevy of 'health' information such as the fact that these are Gluten free. This is a big deal because instead of having to fight for space in the aisle with chips and cheetos, these stand out when worked in with the other Gluten Free items. Opening it up you can see it's a little less than half filled, and while I could punish an entire bag easily, it's actually not a bad size. Break them up into baggies or eat a few at a time and it works just fine, and that's almost certainly because these are pretty much regular sized fries.

That's a good thing about these. You get a really good crunch and bite. It's almost like the best part of a kettle cooked chip with less difficulty eating them. I know several people who aren't fans of kettle chips because they find them hard to eat, harsh on the teeth and inside of the mouth. These are really satisfying in a lot of ways.

As for flavors, we tried Salt and Vinegar and Bacon Cheddar varieties. I have to say we all preferred the salt and vinegar because they had more flavor. It's a real balancing act with a product like this that seems to be trying to be somewhat healthy for you in some ways and since they are doing that, the flavor powder has to be managed carefully. With that the bacon cheddar has the faintest hint of smokiness and maybe a little bit of cheese taste. It's too muted for my liking. The salt and vinegar isn't as imposing as some salt and vinegar can be but provides more of what you want and works well with the potato.

At almost 3 bucks for regular price, these aren't the worst deal you can get in the category but on sale for 2 bucks it works out fine. The original sea salt is probably a good flavor because salt works in general. If you're a decent enough fan of salt and vinegar you shouldn't be disappointed by that either. The Bacon and Cheddar overall is a miss for me and that brings the grade down somewhat.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Yoplait is trying to step up and not get beat anymore in the Yogurt wars. They were late to the party on the Greek train and it has been rolling along for some time now. Since us Americans apparently act like we like food from other places, they have dropped French style yogurt on us to try and get some attention and thunder from the other brands like Chobani that have been kicking their butt.

The first thing that you notice is the glass jar that the yogurt comes in with it's unique foil label. It is designed to stand out and get your attention immediately. Like some of the new plastic cups you can see the fruit mix-ins if those are the varieties that you choose to try.

Opening it up, the yogurt itself is slightly different than a normal Yoplait cup. It's almost like there is a touch of the whipped style that they also sell, but it isn't all of the way there. It's a 'heartier' consistency for those who aren't fond of whipped yogurt. The taste is also a little bit different. I feel as though it straddles the line between our "American" style and Greek yogurt. It's not as sweet as the normal Yoplait and not as tangy as Greek and that is a good thing to me. I dislike Greek yogurt because I don't like the taste although I think that people like the benefit of less sugar and higher protein from it.

As something different, it fits the bill and seems like it could be a good move in direction, but maybe for all the traditional Yoplait, not as it's own category. I'm not sure how well this will go over especially when looking at the fact it also seems to be less friendly to the environment because it comes in the glass jar. I am already saving mine to recycle somehow because it seems like a waste of material. The taste is fine if for some reason you don't like regular yogurt or Greek. Try it while you have coupons and the offers are out there to get one for free if you're really interested.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Healthy snacking is the thing we are all looking for right, less salt, more protein, different flavors right? What's more unique than chickpeas which are a staple of today's snack world with the massive varieties of hummus that are in your local store's cases these days. You can even get hummus in the snack aisle with small sets of Pita chips perfect for lunches. Why not try a new snack that seems to be bridging the gap for people as they move into healthier and more varied lifestyles. To that end, these Chickpea snacks caught my attention and the flavor varieties made me interested enough to give them a try.

Now, I'm not a guy who eats chickpeas on any regular basis, or ever at this point so this is an entirely new experience for me to try these. For nutrition, a serving contains 5 grams of protein which means as a snack it will fill you up for a little bit longer than say chips. It also includes some fiber and the package says they have less fat than peanuts. It would be easy to blow through the entire bag because they are very poppable and crunchy. The honey roasted flavor is very good and present in every single bite. These aren't just drizzled with honey and roasted, they are fully covered and that is a tremendous positive.

Now for the one negative that I have before I wrap up, these chickpeas are a little bit gritty as you chew them up. Now when you eat them, I think the issue is that they do have less fat than comparable peanuts or cashews. Those fats aren't necessarily a bad thing and I feel like the chickpeas could benefit from them slightly which would make them a little bit smoother to eat. With that said, I haven't stopped eating them since I picked up the bag so something is working. With a large variety of flavors from Honey Roasted, Barbecue, Habanero, Cinnamon Crunch, and Ranch, there is something for everyone. They are also releasing chocolate covered varieties soon. I think they are worth a try.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I'm a little bit late on this trend but I was in the area and there was a place that makes one of the new hot trends of the dessert world, rolled ice cream. Rolled ice cream is cool mainly because of the way it looks both as its made and as you take it and eat it. I wondered if there was any noticeable difference in taste and I will say not particularly.

Ice and Pan is in Town town center locally and they also have smoothies and bubble tea. I was there for one reason and chose to get strawberry cheesecake flavored ice cream. The biggest fun is watching them spread and mix the cream and items together on the cold drum. My daughter got a birthday cake flavor and they mixed in vanilla base and sprinkles. The proces takes about 5 minutes and then you're allowed three toppings from the bar. I got strawberries and frosted flakes.

The ice cream itself is fine. It's nothing great and it's not bad. It's just regular ice cream and while the products may be somewhat freshly made, the freezing process makes a lot of that not matter. At the end of the day, it was a decent cup of ice cream, it looks cool and it's not too expensive at 5 bucks.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Coolhaus is one of the hippest new craft ice cream companies and as they grow, items that have been maybe in other locations are starting to make their way here. Enter the Coolhaus Ice cream sandwich, which I must say is a pricey summer treat if you can find it. In my area, they are only at Harris Teeter and regular price for a single one is over 5 dollars! Catching it on sale I had to grab one and give it the once over and see what it tastes like.

The Ice cream sandwich is actually a nice size upon further reflection on it. It is packed with more ice cream than a traditional chipwich. The ice cream layer is nice and thick and it is high quality vanilla bean ice cream. The cookie is thin and chewy, which is good. Some of the cookie ice cream sandwiches can be too hard and thick to be useful. However, it's not all good. The cookie is pretty much flavorless as are the chocolate chips which means you don't get anything to enhance, or balance the vanilla ice cream. That leaves me with a treat that is 85% of the way there but missing one thing that would make it really stand out and that's a little bit unfortunate. Truthfully for the price, the cookie needs to be a little bit more special, with some chunks and sea salt to enhance the ice cream.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, July 27, 2017

This is a sort of an odd review. It is a hybrid restaurant review, a little bit, and a taste test of the products at this new entry to the eateries in Owings Mills, Maryland's Foundry Row development. Unlike a lot of the shops over at Foundry Row, this is a smaller business that isn't a huge corporation. I was excited to be able to come in and try these bowls because I have seen them on instagram but never had a place to go and actually try one until now.

Sunset Raw is sparse on the interior but it also seems to fit with the healthy concept. There is a bar seating area for ordering and enjoying as well as a few tables and chairs both inside and outside. They also have a cooler for their prepared juices which you can buy to go and looking at their social media pages, they have been successful with that part of the business for sure. Ordering was quick and painless and I chose to try the sunshine acai bowl while my kids both went with mango smoothies.

My son for some reason had a problem with his drink, I wouldn't put much stock in it however because he still drank it. I think it was the idea that dates are in it and he doesn't know what they actually are. My daughter who is the smoothie expert said the smoothie was filling and good, however she still prefers Tropical smoothie cafe and another local place, The Flying Avocado better. I ordered the sunshine acai bowl which comes with bananas, blueberries, strawberries, coconut flakes and granola. I passed on the coconut but had everything else.

It's always a big question when trying something you have never had when you don't know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised by this. The acai berry mixture reminds me of a slightly "grape" flavored strawberry concoction. It tastes good, and just very normal. The granola settled in just underneath the layer of fruit and you get some with every spoonful of acai. It's weird, just because this is pretty much a smoothie, but you're using a spoon. The fruit was fresh and blended well with the 'smoothie' mixture. That's the biggest rub for me, it's kind of hard to eat, especially in this large container. I live maybe 5 minutes away and the melt by the time I got home was a little bit much. There is also no way to really save it for later, I have it in the freezer, but I don't want it to completely freeze. This might be a good item to share with another, especially when coupled with the prices which are a bit high for a smoothie concoction. Acai bowls are about $10-$12 and smoothies are close to 9 bucks starting out. It's not a budget friendly item. However, other than that, everything was solid overall.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I picked this product up just wandering through the aisles of Giant food, however it isn't unique to this chain. There are also variations on this every from Harris Teeter to Safeway. It's a smart move by the stores to get a simple version of popular desserts for those who aren't the most inclined to break out the cookbook and a mixer. Just grab one of these bags, pour and bake and by the time your favorite show goes onto their first commercial break, you have dessert.

Now aside from Salted Caramel Lava cakes, there is a chocolate lava cake option available but I haven't seen it in stock at my local Giant recently. A third variety, your basic chocolate brownie also exists though I haven't ever tried that. As for the chocolate lava cake and the salted caramel variety, they are incredibly simple to use. Preheat your oven, grease your muffin pan and cut open the bag and pour, but only after squeezing it for a little while to make sure the ingredients haven't settled. In ten minutes, you have a nice dessert that might normally take an hour or so to mix and bake altogether. Now I have made chocolate lava cakes before and the chocolate variety from this bag is decent, if not completely as 'fresh' and bright as from scratch is. Also, making them from scratch gives you a slightly more molten core than these do.

As for the salted caramel, they taste just fine if maybe slightly dull. You would expect the salt to pop a little more and the caramel to be a little bit 'lighter' but we are looking at a prepackaged dessert here. I have never made a salted caramel cake, though I have made salted caramel to go on top of cupcakes and for icing so I can't say whether or not the cake itself should have more or less flavor but the filling I feel like could have had more differentiation and taste to it. As it stands these are a nice quick stand in for people who aren't cooks or who want something that is extremely quick. You can't beat ten minutes and one pan getting dirty when it comes to opportunity cost. Pair with some ice cream and you are good to go. If you have some cherries and whipped cream and you have just capped off a great meal with minimal work and that raises the rating on this.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, July 21, 2017

So I heard about this on a food marketing podcast and filed it away to take a look around and taste it if possible. I first tried some of the stores more known for the organic and varied selections like Harris Teeter and Wegmans. I also checked shoppers which surprisingly has a lot of new items almost as soon as they hit the shelves. No luck until i happened to amble down the organic section at my local Giant food and well, score one for the hometown leader. I grabbed the bottle and figured I'll get everyone to try it or just use it around a day at the track.

We didn't get that far. My wife tried a Core watermelon juice or something and didn't like it. It was the Stevia. My son ended up drinking it...because juice. So after that I grabbed the maple water out of the fridge and passed it around for a taste. Now, it is interesting. I mean it's water, so there isn't a lot of flavor to it and there is only one ingredient, pure maple water. You know what you're getting. It does taste fresh...like fresh tree, with a hint of maple. It's just odd. Now we didn't drink it all, and I still plan to go and try it during a workout and see what it does but just as a beverage....I don't see it. It's just too odd, and maybe thats double for me because I dislike flavored water in general but I could see how when thirsty, the maple in this could be helpful to when trying to recharge the muscles. Otherwise, I couldn't see myself using this in any other context.

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

If you have any semi-health conscious friends you most likely have heard or seen something about overnight oats somewhere. One of the latest trends in health and nutrition, you will see plenty of options and recipes on pinterest for add-ins and methods. Why not, it's simple, takes little work and on the surface makes a lot of sense. Not content to just sell you regular oatmeal, the Quaker company has decided to make it even easier for you by packaging their oatmeal and some toppings for you. For those of us who are skeptical, this might make some sense, especially if you don't normally keep oatmeal around, so here is a review of Quaker overnight oats, Raisin, Walnut, & Honey Heaven.

These small Quaker cups will be found in the cereal aisle and tied in somewhere around the dairy at a lot of stores. There are four flavor combinations, Orchard Peach Pecan perfection, Blueberry Banana and Vanilla Bliss, Toasted Coconut and Almond Crunch, and the aforementioned Raisin Walnut & Honey Heaven. None of these is too crazy and should fit into the mass market of the health conscious pretty easily. I do wonder what the need is for the adjectives at the end of each flavor set.

At 2.61 ounces, each cup is a single serving of 300 calories (before dairy). Instructions are simple, add your choice of milk or yogurt, let sit overnight, at least 6 hours and enjoy at your leisure. I must admit, cold oats is an odd sensation at first when your mind has you used to warm/hot oatmeal. Now, you can warm this up in the microwave if you want to take some of the chill off but you don't want to 'cook' it by heating it too much. Here is why, after trying these I realize that you get a firmer texture when you haven't cooked the oats and broken them down. It is a very satisfying feeling to chew on and once you get past the temperature it's actually very good. After trying it I get it. Now as for the flavor of this particular brand, maybe I didn't mix it well but it seemed a little bit dull for the most part. The bottom seemed to have more taste to it and the raisins and walnuts bring something to it but are a little bit skimpy. It also isn't going to fill you up at this size.

I never really thought that I would like overnight oats but Quaker has managed to bring me into the folkd with an easy way to give it a try without too much work. While it isn't enough to replace a breakfast, as a meal combination of some sort, or to have a few sitting around as a mid-day snack if you take them to work, these cups aren't a bad idea, even if the value probably isn't the highest. I do wonder how they will taste with maybe yogurt, I don't really do soy or almond milk but they can probably bring something else to the table. I might not fill it up to the line the next time either because it was slightly more watery than I would have liked but that was fine in the end. If you're scared to try overnight oats, maybe give Quaker a try.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, July 14, 2017

Local restaurant Dooby's is a local Korean inspired breakfast place in central Baltimore. Now I haven't been to experience the full menu but there is one thing that they have started that has had me running to their stand at the Farmer's Market on Sundays in downtown Baltimore, their special donuts. They call it "Sunday's bakehouse" and they create sweets that are limited for the restaurant. One trend that I am loving, is these new independent donut makers so I had to make sure I got a chance to try these out.

Overall all of Dooby's donuts start with the same base, a yeast donut with some filling and at times an iced topping. The first variety that I had the pleasure of tasting was French Toast. This was a donut with simple sugar and cinnamon on the top and a sweet pastry cream filling that was excellent. They also had a Dirty Chai tea flavor which my sister and mother both said were excellent.

This past week I was looking forward to trying their oatmeal cream pie variety but they weren't available at the farmer's market (it might behoove me to actually head to the restaurant). However I was able to get the Dunkaroos and Cosmic Brownie varieties as the theme this week was a visit to the childhood of a kid who grew up in the 90's. The dunkaroos donut was pretty good, a cinnamon and sugar donut with cream that was to be just like the frosting from the kid's snack. Now, for me the cream was a little bit off. This was more cream cheese and the dunkaroos I remember was more Duncan and Hines cake frosting taste. It wasn't bad but it was off just slightly. The Cosmic Brownie was good especially if you like chocolate, and I was especially fond of the milk chocolate mousse-like filling. It paired well with the other flavors.

Now I don't want to forget the actual donut itself. The donuts are fluffy and springy. They have a nice bite to them and just a hint of both doughiness and flavor. It's really hard to describe and quantify, but it serves as a good base for whatever flavor they want to throw onto them.

The flavors can vary wildly at times but I think that most of the time there is something for everyone at Dooby's when they decide to make donuts. If you're ever at the Farmer's Market on a Sunday be sure to stop by and pick up a couple and maybe even be better than me and actually head over to Dooby's for a full meal.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, July 13, 2017

There are a lot of smaller local chains that are around these days. Restauranteurs are getting much better with getting a concept up and running and having the process worked out much more quickly in the past. This allows them to try and stay around with economies of scale and to return some of the money to investor much more quickly. Matchbox American kitchen fits into that mold. With not more than a handful of locations, they are prevalent enough to be accessible, yet somewhat special. At least that's the goal.

Matchbox fits right into the mold of too many new restaurants. Exposed steel, reclaimed wood, very hipster chic. I get why, it looks clean and nice, and is less expensive than other designs. However, at this point, it's not a really good way to separate yourself visually from the swaths of other restaurants selling new age 'pub fare' or bar food. This particular location located in Rockville, MD was fine, but it didn't seem too inviting overall. For comparison, I would look to Iron Rooster which is very similar but has more down home colors that bring it some warmth as opposed to the red of Matchbox.

Outside of the decor, the menu is standard fare and my wife started with cream of crab soup. The soup was nice in it's flavor and the amount of crab. No complaints. However it did come out lukewarm, for her that's fine but if I had ordered it I would want it to be actually a hot bowl. I ordered a double pepperoni brick oven pizza. My wife ordered a burger which came with a ridiculous mountain of onion straws. The onions were good though, nice flavor and texture but in my mind the presentation was crazy overdone. I don't need that many onion straws, it seems like it could be very wasteful. They also put a little bit too much arugula on the burger itself. My pizza was somewhat disappointing. The pepperoni was very good. It definitely was the star of the show because the sauce was boring and the crust was bland as well. Regarding the preparation, the crust wasn't as crispy as I would like it to be in the middle.

Matchbox might have had an off day in terms of preparation. That happens. However I don't know if the food itself warrants giving them a second chance. While it wasn't bad, it wasn't groundbreaking either. For my pizza I would prefer to go to Blaze or somewhere like that which is less expensive but tastes better to me. The soup was good, but lukewarm and the burger, while presented nice, and decent flavor, doesn't do enough to warrant a repeated visit. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and other times...it just is. This was one of those times. The one thing that does still interest me, is the opportunity to try their short ribs....I am there for that.

Rating: 3/5