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Monday, September 20, 2021

Favorite Day Pumpkin & New York-Style Cheesecake Bites


Welp, looks like it's pumpkin season again. Apple is most definitely a harvesty flavor, too, but let's be honest: you can throw down with apple just about any time of year if you really want to. Apple pie in summer time? You betcha. Apple fritters in the spring? Why not? Hot apple cider in the winter? Oh yeah.

But if you break out pumpkin or pumpkin spice any time OTHER than between early September and Christmas time, that right there is a party foul, my friends. Whether you're a basic white girl pining for her first pumpkin spice latte from Starsucks or just a dude with a red beard, a blog, and a dream, if you're gonna eat pumpkin stuff, now's the time to do it.


And do it we shall.

Cheesecake. Oh boy. Time to put on those winter pounds. It's getting chilly out there. Plain NY style cheesecake AND pumpkin cheesecake is a bit of an odd choice to me. Why not another fall flavor? Apple? Maple?

At any rate, both of the included flavors are very good. The pumpkin ones have the perfect amount of pumpkin spice: not too strong, and not too weak. It's rare to find something that has juuust the right amount of PS taste. It's easy to overdo it. As you eat them, though, the pumpkin spices do build up on the tongue ever so slightly.


Maybe that's why they included a more neutral flavor in the pack. In case you're getting pumpkinned out, you can just grab a bite of the New York style cheesecake and reset the palate.

Both flavors are super creamy, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The wife and I will easily polish off this whole container over the course of a single day. The prep involves thawing for 2 hours in the fridge. That's it.

I give these cheesecake bites 8 out of 10 stars.



Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Favorite Day Apple Crisp Ice Cream

I usually think of fall foods and beverages as warm things. Stuff like pumpkin spice coffee and apple oatmeal goes great with crisp, cool weather. But there's a full five or six weeks, usually centered around September, when summer things don't feel entirely appropriate and neither do autumnal things. 

I guess some might call that period "Indian Summer," although that phrase might be seen as offensive now, considering what we're doing with all our indigenous people-themed sports teams and products like Land o' Lakes butter. So we'll just call it "late summer/early fall" in case the political correctness police are reading.

Late summer/early fall is the best time to enjoy harvest flavored frozen treats for obvious reasons. It's still warm enough for ice cream, and yet it's late enough for apple harvest time. So let's dive in to this pint of Favorite Day brand apple crisp ice cream.

From the moment you pop the lid off the pint, there's a nice brown sugary, caramel-esque sweetness that you can smell. It almost smells like apples and cinnamon, but unless they're part of the "natural flavors" mentioned on the ingredients, there are actually no real apples nor cinnamon in this product.


But in my opinion, it doesn't suffer from the want of those things. The flavor is sweet, creamy, and full of rich caramel and brown sugariness. It really does approximate the flavor of a hearty bowl of apple crisp. The oatmeal pieces round out the texture with a bit of crunch, and they round out the flavor with a nice nutty, grainy essence. They're really more like oatmeal cookie pieces, but I'm okay with that because hey, this is dessert we're eating here, not breakfast.


I'd love it even more if there were real apple pieces and maybe a more obvious cinnamon swirl throughout the product. But it's gonna get a thumbs up from me either way. I tend to score things on my own here on this blog, but when I'm torn between two numbers, I consult the beautiful wifey to break the tie. 7 or 8 for this product, Sonia? "Definitely an 8," she said. She liked it even more than I did. Between the two of us, we polished off the pint within 24 hours of it first being opened. Would buy again next late summer/early fall.

I give this ice cream 8 out of 10 stars.



Saturday, August 7, 2021

Good & Gather Sweet Heat BBQ Trail Mix


I've lived in the Northeast, the South, the West Coast, and now the Northern Midwest. Of all those regions, there's only one where you can get fried cheese curds instead of French fries with your burger at fast food places, fairs, malls, and amusement parks.

On the back of this bag, there's a serving suggestion: "...make your own snack pack with trail mix, cheese curds, and your favorite dried fruit, like pineapple." Okaaay.

I'm not saying it wouldn't work, because it totally would, but it just seems kinda arbitrary to me. I'm wondering if the marketing folks at Target included cheese curds because they're based in Minnesota, where cheese curds are common fare.


Also...dried pineapple? Really? Okay, Captain Random.

Again, not saying it wouldn't work. But the funny thing to me is that this trail mix is actually pretty splendid on its own. It lives up to its name with a decent amount of sweetness as well as spicy heat.

It's very crunchy. Every element in the bunch is crispy and salty. There are corn nut things, sesame sticks, almonds, and "cracker-coated peanuts." The peanuts are probably my favorite, although every ingredient in here is delicious. It's that spicy barbecue flavor that permeates every element in the bag that really sets this mix apart from other run-of-the-mill trail mixes.

I recently had a wisdom tooth pulled, and I'm still in the process of healing, so I really shouldn't be eating something this crunchy, but lemme tell ya, this resealable bag keeps calling my name. Mmm. So good it hurts. The wifey keeps offering to take one for the team and finish the bag herself—you know, to help with my teeth. One way or the other, this bag will be finished soon.

I give this trail mix 8 out of 10 stars.



Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Favorite Day Cinnamon Churro Cookie Bites

Ah, there's nothing like a fresh churro.

Growing up in the 80's and 90's in my white bread central Pennsylvania hometown, there were no churros. I'd never even heard of a churro until I moved to Los Angeles in my twenties.

I was introduced to them by my then-girlfriend, now-wife and some of her friends. We'd buy them while visiting Disneyland for something like 15 bucks a piece. Way better and way cheaper than those Mickey head ice cream bars.

I loved the cinnamon and sugar flavor, but the thing that stood out to me the most was the dough. It was always soft and supple, and it melted in my mouth like a warm, bready wad of butter. Since then, I've had really good churros from a lot of different Mexican restaurants, donut shops, and even street vendors.


While this product pretty much nails the flavor of a churro: cinnamon and sugar up front with something bread-like in the background, it obviously can't duplicate the fresh-baked aspect of a real churro. Some people might be fine with that, but I just find myself wishing these cookies were soft and chewy.

As crispy cookies go, these are among the softest I've had. There's a sandy quality to the texture, and it makes me crave a tall glass of milk every time I eat them. The back of the bag suggests pairing them with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. I bet they'd be delicious that way, too.

I think these will be a hit with folks that love good-quality crispy cookies, but I'll almost always reach for something soft. Still, not a bad purchase at $2.99 for the 7 oz bag.

My wife was a bit more into these cookies than I was, and I must admit, she's more of a churro expert than I am. She probably would have scored them somewhere in the ballpark of 8 stars, in case you're curious. 

I give these cookies 7 out of 10 stars.



Monday, June 14, 2021

Favorite Day Orange Crème Trail Mix

What is this new devilry? Favorite Day? We just got used to "Good & Gather," and really I would say we're just tolerating GAG, rather than embracing it. Are you trying to confuse us, Target? If so, mission accomplished.

/rant

Honestly, I like "Favorite Day" better than most of those homespun Targety brand names. It's happy. "What day is today, Piglet?" "The day we eat some orange creme trail mix from Target, Pooh." "My favorite day!" Yep. A.A. Milne would approve.

I've never had orange creme trail mix ever before from this brand or any other. It sounds delicious. Let's dig in.

First impressions: one of the best tasting trail mixes I've ever had from Target or anywhere else. Absolutely dessert-tastic.

Let's go in order of the ingredients' prevalence in the mix. First, there are lots and lots of dried cranberries and dried mango pieces. Fruit is always good in a trail mix. They taste sweet and tangy and are fairly high quality by my estimation. I've had a lot of dried fruit in my day, so you can trust my semi-expert opinion.


Next, I'd say the next most ubiquitous element in the bag are the white chocolate chips. They provide a vanilla creme-esque element to the mix. They're sweet and creamy and will melt rapidly if the ambient temperature reaches the mid-80's. 

Likewise, the orange candy cups will smear gobs of pastel goo all over your fingers, hands, and mouth if it's hot and you're not careful. Be prepared to do some finger-lickin', because they're not only uber-melty in the summer heat, but they're also really, really tasty. 

The cashews are cashews. I didn't notice much seasoning. Nor could I conceive of a seasoning that might go well with cashews and orange creme. Who cares? They're mostly good whole cashews.


Finally the vanilla creme almonds—they're the scarcest commodity in the bunch. They also might be the best. This product might have received our first perfect score in a long, long time had there been plentiful quantities of these vanilla creme almonds. They're sweet, crunchy, nutty, and delicious. I think there are about five in the whole bag. Boo.

Still, even considering the obvious dearth of vanilla creme almonds, this is a must-purchase if you like orange creme, orange creamsicles, orange dreamsicles, or 50/50 bars, or just things flavored like desserty orange. I hope we see more of this Favorite Day line of foods and I hope it's all this good.

I give this trail mix 9 out of 10 stars.



Friday, May 28, 2021

Good & Gather Organic Blueberry Fruit & Grain Bars


I used to be absolutely crazy about Nutri-Grain bars. I'm not sure why. I mean, most people will agree they're convenient and tasty as far as snacks or quick breakfast options go, but I used to excited about Nutri-Grain bars the way most people get excited about cheesecake or apple pie. I loved everything about them.

And I still do. But I'm more or less past my "Nutri-Grain bars are the best thing ever" phase. I'll still grab a box from time to time, or I'll try newfangled versions as they release them—you know, like when they started filling them with yogurt. We even saw a unique, gimmicky cereal bar from Target once before: the Market Pantry Banana Fudge Bars. I liked them okay, but I'd just as soon reach for a blueberry Nutri-Grain bar.


Or these. They're the exact same thing. Yep. Pretty much dead ringers for the original Kellogg's cereal bar product. I think Target used to make them under the Archer Farms or Simply Balanced brand name. There's nothing wrong with them at all. 

There aren't any improvements on the original, and there aren't any shortcomings, either. Well, I guess using certified organic ingredients is a step up from the originals. To the best of my knowledge, Nutri-Grain doesn't offer any organic cereal bar options. Price-wise, they're comparable, as well.


$2.69 for 6 bars. I would buy these again, but maybe I'll try a different flavor next time.

I give these fruit and grain bars 8 out of 10 stars.



Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Good & Gather Sesame Teriyaki Sauce

Since my wife's family speaks Spanish, I've been using Duolingo to brush up on my Espanol for the past year or so. It's a free download, and it's a fun and effective way to learn a language. Just for kicks and giggles, I also started checking out Japanese. It's crazy difficult, and it makes Spanish seem so much more familiar by comparison. But just in the very beginning levels, out of a total of maybe a dozen words, they've already given me "teriyaki" as a Japanese vocabulary word.

I suppose it's just one of those Japanese concepts that Americans are probably already familiar with, but it's also a testament to how integral the flavor is to Japanese culture. I, personally, love good sushi, but eating raw fish might not be quite as accessible to other cultures, while a sweet, salty, and savory condiment that goes on grilled meats is right up the average American's alley.

This sauce flaunts that familiar sweet, salty, and savory teriyaki flavor, as well as a bit of sesame essence, too. The sesame lends a nuttiness to the product that blends well with all the other teriyaki flavors.

Texture-wise, it's a medium thick liquid, brown in color, and it's very smooth. We had it most recently with a pre-packaged stir-fry meal with noodles, vegetables, and shrimp, and it worked splendidly.


We've also tried it as a glaze for salmon, and it's just as good like that. I'd even try putting it on a burger with some grilled pineapple rings and provolone cheese for that Hawaiian teriyaki effect. $2.99 for the 12 oz bottle. Would definitely buy again.

I give this sauce 8 out of 10 stars.



Friday, April 16, 2021

Good & Gather Everything Cashews

Ah, it's time for Target's Everything but the Bagel Cashews. Oh, no wait. Must be thinking of another brand. 

These are Everything but the Girl Cashews, right? No? 

Everything but the House. That has to be it. 

Everything but the Kitchen Sink?

Nope. Just "Everything Cashews." 

Or "Everything Seasoned Cashews Made with Sesame Seeds, Garlic, Onion, Salt & Poppy Seeds" if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

Let's dive in. GAG has blessed us with another relatively tasty snack. If you're going to pick a single nut to mix with everything bagel seasoning, I think cashews are probably your best bet.


I feel like everything seasoning might clash with some other tasty nuts like almonds or peanuts, and nuts I'm not as fond of, such as Brazil nuts or pine nuts, would ruin the salty seediness of the everything seasoning. The rich creaminess of cashews balances out the potent taste of onions, garlic, and sesame seeds fairly well.

The everything seasoning adds a little bit of an extra crunch, too. I think most of the elements in the seasoning are crispier and harder than the texture of the average cashew. They tend to be soft, as nuts go.

The resealable bag is always handy and welcome. No matter what product it is in the package, it'll stay much fresher with that convenient ziplock seal. 

$5.99 for the 7.5 oz bag. That's a fair price point in my opinion. Cashews aren't generally cheap, since they only grow in frost-free tropical areas. 

I'd buy again if I were in the mood for cashews—and yes, I do think I prefer this seasoned version over plain cashews, just ever so slightly.

I give these nuts 7 out of 10 stars.



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Good & Gather Banana Nut Granola

Ah, another Good & Gather cereal. We used to try a different Archer Farms brand granola every other month back in the day. I don't know how many varieties we looked at on this blog. At least a dozen or two I'm pretty sure.

Anyway, this is only the second I think as far as GAG is concerned. Banana Nut. Yummy. Let's dig in.

We'll start with the negatives first and get those out of the way. Number one: some chunks of granola are enormous. They're way too big to shovel into your mouth and too big to fit on the average spoon. There's a good bit of breaking apart and size reduction to be done by smashing the boulders of granola. 

Second: if this is banana cereal, why not throw some significant amounts of dried banana pieces in there? The ingredients say there's dried banana, but I don't really see any dried banana. I mean I taste a banana essence of sorts, but to me this product is just begging for larger chunks of dried banana and/or full on banana chips.

Third: it could use a wee bit more chocolate.

Other than that, this is a solid granola cereal. The overall taste is very enjoyable. As aforementioned, there is a nice sweet banana essence. It's not overbearing or overwhelming, and it's not too sweet, either. 

There are a fair amount of almond slivers that fulfill the "nut" part of the equation. Why do most people put walnuts in banana bread and other banana nut products? Almonds are so much better. Nothing against walnuts. I'm just saying next time you bake banana bread, use almonds instead. They're at least as good, right?

The texture is nice and crunchy, even after a significant amount of time submerged in milk. Other than the enormous mountains of granola all wadded together, everything else is bite size and crispy.

$3.79 for the 12oz bag. The wife likes it even more than I do, although she doesn't think she tastes banana at all. Resealable bag is a plus. Would definitely buy again.

I give this granola 8 out of 10 stars.



Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Good & Gather Creamy Chipotle Sauce

There's a fine line between things that taste like they've been genuinely smoked and things that taste like they've had liquid chemical smoke added to them. This condiment falls very much into the latter category, unfortunately. There is, in fact, dried chipotle pepper in this product, although it's on down the ingredients list a ways. In my opinion, there's very little to suggest there's any significant amount of actual smoked, dried peppers in this sauce.

There's plenty that suggests it's made of water and canola oil, because it's mostly just oily and bland. You'd think it'd be a bit more tangy with sour cream, buttermilk powder, and greek yogurt powder in the ingredients. And yum, there's "bacterial cultures" in the mix. Twice! There's a hint of spice, but it's not enough to push this condiment into the category of "hot sauce." It's a very mild level of heat.


I shook the little squeeze bottle vigorously before pouring, as the oil had visibly separated from the rest of the mixture in the bottle. You can almost kind of see it in the picture at the top of the post—and that's already after a moderate amount of shaking the container. I absolutely manhandled the thing after snapping the pic to try to really get it blended well, but even after pouring, there was evidence the oil still hadn't reintegrated with the rest of the composite fully. Kinda gross.

I'm generally a fan of chipotle-flavored things. We even reviewed a chipotle salsa on this blog many moons ago. I think it's one of those flavors that has a lot of potential, but it's easy to screw up. I also think most Americans don't know what good chipotle flavor should taste like. In my humble opinion, this isn't it. Oddly, my Mexican-American wife wasn't quite as turned off by this sauce as I was, although she wasn't exactly wowed and agrees that the spice level is too low.


$2.79 for the 8.4 oz bottle. Not a repeat purchase for me. Maybe if it were cooked into some ground meat or poultry it would blend a bit better. We'll try it that way and report back.

I give this sauce 4 out of 10 stars.



Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Good & Gather Roasted Garlic & Cilantro Salsa

It's been a hot minute since we've looked at any salsas on this blog, and this one here would be the very first of the Good & Gather (GAG) line that we've tried. I'm a big fan of garlic and I like cilantro okay, so this flavor is just screaming "try me! try me!" 

Okay, salsa jar. Just calm down.

First impressions: it's nice and chunky. That's good. I'm honestly surprised how chunky it is. There are large, robust pieces of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers in there. A lot of time salsas claim to be "chunky style" and they simply don't deliver. There might be bits or shreds of veggies, but nothing so big you could call it a "chunk." Despite not bragging about its chunkiness or thickness, this salsa is both thick and chunky in this author's humble opinion.

The taste? Well, now that's a different story entirely. The first thing I taste here is salt. And I must point out I'm eating it with completely unsalted tortilla chips, so you can't blame the saltiness on the chips. 10% sodium per serving in the salsa. That's par for the course for your average salsa or chip dip. Not sure why I feel like I taste it here more than usual.


Next, I taste tomato. Makes sense since tomato puree and tomatoes are the top two ingredients. Again, pretty common for a salsa to have a tomato base and taste somewhat like tomato. But for some reason here, I feel like they needed to up the garlic flavor a little more. After all, this is called "roasted garlic" salsa. Yes, it's there. Yes, I taste it. Maybe I just like garlic a little too much. Maybe I'm used to the taste of freshly-chopped raw garlic, rather than this kind of faint, smoky garlic essence desperately trying to claw its way through layers of tomato and salt. I like that biting, harsh garlic that clears your sinuses and warms your throat. That's definitely not what this is—probably good for most American consumers, but not for this guy.

I didn't expect to taste a lot of cilantro. Cilantro isn't a very pungent flavor, usually. It's just a background taste normally, and that's exactly what it is here. I wouldn't have minded whole cilantro leaves floating throughout the mix. Again, that might be overkill for most people, but if the salsa has "cilantro" in its name, I'd err on the side of "too much" rather than "not enough."


The texture of this salsa is great. The flavors just don't deliver if you ask me. I'll salvage it by adding my own raw garlic pieces.

We've seen much better salsas from Target in the past. See the Summer Fruits Salsa and Fire-Roasted Pepper and Habanero Salsa.

I give this condiment 6 out of 10 stars.



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Wondershop Sour Drops

I don't think of gumdrops as particularly Christmassy, so I hope you'll forgive me for reviewing a Wondershop product in January. I mean, it's still technically the Christmas season until January 7th or so. Epiphany or Three Kings Day or Dia de los Reyes is today, January 6th. And did you know the Russian Orthodox/Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th? It's true. I'm all about extending the Christmas season, so let's just go ahead and do that in the U.S.

Anyway, gumdrops aren't particularly festive or holiday-ish in my opinion. Spice drops, perhaps, are. Although I find most spice drops totally unappetizing at any time of year.

So yeah, "sour" drops. I had to put the word "sour" in quotes because these are not particularly sour. Why can't anybody make truly sour candy? The only candy I've had that was actually and honestly very sour were Extreme Sour Warheads, and they don't come in a chewy variety as far as I know. Sour Patch Kids are tasty, but I wouldn't mind an even more sour version.

These gumdrops fall just below Sour Patch Kids in terms of general sourness as well as overall taste and quality. They're quite edible and mostly sugary sweet, with just a hint of tang and mouth-puckering pungency. They come in a fun little tube and would make a decent stocking-stuffer.

I'm not thrilled that corn syrup is the second ingredient in these, but at least it's not high-fructose corn syrup, and at least it falls after "sugar" on the list. There's just a whisper of crunchy grit from the sugar crystals on the outside of the drops. Other than that, they're soft and chewy, like any other decent quality gumdrop. We had ours sitting around for a month or so before we opened it, and the product still felt and tasted remarkably fresh.

The wifey and I both agree that the only major weakness of these Wondershop Sour Drops is that they're not particularly sour. Still, they're not a bad purchase. I'm pretty sure the price was in the ballpark of two or three bucks, but don't quote me on that. Also, you might be able to pick up a deeply discounted pack at the end of the holidays since Target will no doubt be clearancing Wondershop products to make room on shelves post-Christmas.

I give this candy 7 out of 10 stars.



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