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.