Saturday, March 28, 2015

There are so many new Quick Service Fast Casual Restaurants popping up all over the place it can be hard to keep up. One of the newest concepts you will see popping up everywhere is the on demand pizza model. I previously visited Pie 5 as one is close to me and the family enjoys it. For lunch this past week I visited another version of the idea, Blaze Pizza which is similar but it does definitely have some major differences.

First off the Blaze Pizza is bigger than the Pie 5 and where Pie 5 uses a dough that they have lined up in pans for baking in their conveyor belt oven, Blaze keeps the dough balls waiting until you arrive and press them right there. The ordering is little bit different as well, they have a variety of specialty pizzas and a make your own option which for the price and the variety can be beneficial if you can't make up your mind like me.  So you pick your toppings and they write them on the menu sheet which sits in front of them, which has to be helpful for prep, and put it into their more traditional style oven and it gets turned and cooked in under 5 minutes.

The one thing I have to say is that when it's crowded this area has to get hectic as the cook has to keep up and rotate the pizzas, this particular location in laurel could probably use more space between the oven and register from what I saw. Onto the pizza itself, I got two specialties put together, the Meat Lovers and White Pizza.

The ingredients are very fresh and it's amazing how much of that you can taste and tell. I did read reviews that the pepperonis didn't quite have enough spice to them and they were a bit mild maybe, but it could be from not aging and being processed as much as some other places. The sauce, while fresh had a lack of flavor, I mean it wasn't very tomato tasting nor was it really flavorful. They do offer a spicy red sauce as well so you might want to give that a try. The Meatballs on the meat lovers side were pretty good though.

The white pizza side the sauce was still slightly underwhelming. It could have used a little bit more salt and they sprinkle garlic over the top instead of having more of it in the sauce itself which would have been better so that it gets distributed more. It also has bacon on it which is cool but my preparer left off my arugula which I'm sure would have added some more contrast. it was fine though. My big issue is with a place like this the crust needs to be a star and it wasn't. It was very underwhelming and plain. I contrast with Pie 5 whose crust is very distinctive and worth eating on it's own this was the biggest disappointment for me.

Overall it wasn't a bad experience and the pizza isn't bad, it just doesn't make me scream out we have to go back. There are little tweaks they could make and the size and value are there for the price compared to pie 5 and so that is what makes it a more difficult decision, but if it's based on taste alone I'd choose Pie 5 personally. I almost forgot, I did get a heated SMore's cookie and it was good. I mean the cookie/cracker wasn't overly sweet but the entire composition was still tasty.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In the push to always grow a brand, the Frito Lay company has decided to take its Cheetos brand and expand the other way, from all of the spicy, explosive, and cheesy flavors into the sweet and indulgent space with it's new Limited edition Sweetos variety.

It seems odd and yet obvious at the same time, a cinnamon and sugar puff with shapes reminiscent of Cheetos Paws. It's odd because the name Cheetos just brings up thoughts of cheese, it's pretty much in the name. On the other hand the actual corn puff part of a cheeto has no discernible flavor so it is a good base for pretty much anything.

These cheetos themselves have a more Hispanic or Latino tinge of flavor to them. The cinnamon is a bit strong compared to the sugar and it reminds me strongly of a sort of churro which then makes even more sense. That is one of the largest growth markets currently so finding a way to siphon some of those dollars is huge for any company. As for my family, my daughter liked them a little bit but wasn't clamoring for more and she and I both felt like there was an odd after taste from these. My son ate it and didn't say much which leads me to believe he doesn't really care for them. If you're looking for something different, give these a try especially if you like churros.

Rating: 2.5/5

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'll tell you what, you can say what you want about Lebron whether or not he is or isn't the most imposing basketball figure these days and whether or not he lives up to his hype, skills, and potential on the court, but as a marketing machine he is unparalleled. He has many of the same types of endorsements that Michael Jordan had and with many of the same companies but MJ never had his own beverage flavor. This isn't the first year for Lebron mix, nor do I think for this particular variety but this is the first time I have ever had it.

This new Lebron mix is cherry and tropical flavors and the traditional lemon-lime flavor of Sprite. The drink itself is still clear which I thought was odd because I expected a slight tint of some sort. I didn't care for the flavor as much, it was subtle and cherry at first which went away and was kind of syrupy afterward. Both of my kids loved it however so it didn't go to waste. The one thing I don't like is that it's in a can which is an odd size so it's more than you may want to drink at once but no way to save it so if you're trying to cut back on what you give the kids then you will want to split it. Overall it's a cool drink but not my personal favorite.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tastefully simple is a brand of at-home business in the vein of Tupperware or Avon. (If you need some new Tupperware by the way go ahead and click the link to the right side of the page here and check it out.) They sell seasonings, sauces, mixes, pretty much everything but the meat chicken or fish that you would put the products on. I am a BBQ sauce fanatic and will try several brands and flavors every year and I will say this one does hold up with some of the best.

 I made up some chicken wings and used them for a quick sample and taste test. I will say this is everything advertised, it is smokey but not overly done and extra artificial like some I have tasted from big brands like Kraft and Bullseye whose Mesquite varieties I can't stand because of it. This sauce also has bacon and bacon is in right now. it manages to have a good bacon flavor that isn't too overwhelming, in fact, the sauce has a good balance on the hole and has a nice consistency, which as you can see in the pictures, sticks to something like chicken wings easily. The taste of this would definitely make me consider their other flavors. The downside for my family is they tend to like sweeter sauces and flavors and this had a bit less of that then they would like although I enjoyed it.

Now remember you can't get these in stores so look up your nearest Tastefully Simple rep and see what else they have to offer.

Rating: 4/5

Some of you may have noticed that the Hershey company is in the 'spread' business these days, joining the makers of peanut butter and hazelnut style spreads in the bread aisle, fighting for your sandwich and desert dollar. These spreads have multiple applications from sweet sandwiches to added dips for fruits or even as crepe fillings. Most of the Hershey's flavors have almonds or some 'nut' flavor added to them. In order to continue to drive that brand, they have brought out these portable snack boxes which are great ideas for lunches or just quick snacks when you're grabbing something from a local market or convenience store.

This is once again something my son and I both enjoyed. The graham cracker stick was solid with a good snap and flavor to it. It wasn't crazy bland but it didn't have too much flavor and odd artificial additions that would make it a bad mix for the chocolate-peanut butter spread that came for dipping. That itself was a good mix and managed to balance both flavors very good. I enjoyed it and will definitely try it again.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I normally do not ever buy these pre-packaged quick meal solutions because for whatever reason they never really quite taste right but the Campbell's brand is pretty reliable and I had coupons which made this pretty much free. I figured it wouldn't hurt on a day where my wife and I had to work late and I needed to throw together a quick dinner. So of course after a couple of weeks of these sitting around I ended up with an occasion to use this and I had everything needed in the building already.

Prep is simple, some chicken, frozen vegetables and the sauce. Throw it into a casserole dish and let it cook for about 45 minutes or so and you have a dinner for the family. The suggestion is that you also make some quick biscuits and serve on top which I did.

As for the taste of this, I wasn't fond of it and neither were my wife and son. my son especially because he pretty much eats any and everything with no problems and this is something he was vocal about not caring for. My daughter however, liked it tremendously. As for my tastes there is definitely something off with this. The seasoning is a little off or maybe it's the sodium or the the stabilizers that give it an off putting taste. it's slightly sour and bitter to me, not overwhelmingly so, but it is an odd taste that I couldn't really get past.

As a dish, it should be easy because you could easily get this type of meal set up with an extra 10 minutes using a few more ingredients such as cream of chicken soup and some simple seasonings and get a better tasting dinner than using this single packet if you have some discerning tastes. If you aren't as picky then this could work out for you in a pinch.

Rating: 2/5