Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Uncle Bud's Deep Fried Peanuts

As I was shopping at my local high-end grocer the other day, I noticed a new snack product on the shelf near the organic lettuce where I found Snapea Crisps: Uncle Bud's Deep Fried Peanuts. There were a few varieties available, and I chose "Hot." According to Uncle Bud, these are "so good you can et 'm SHELL-N-ALL" (capitalization courtesy of Bud himself).

Normally eating peanut shells would be quite terrible, but I was feeling adventurous. It was nearly 10:30 and I just had two beers, plus I was already in a mood for insomnia, so I figured "anything goes."

The first peanut, shell-on, was nearly flavorless and spiceless, minus the slightest hint of garlic. Perhaps the gum I had been chewing just 10 minutes earlier was interfering. I ate on.

Three peanuts in, the spice was barely growing. I was expecting to wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night with my innards on fire. It was time to try one without the shell. Luckily, many of the shells were split in half, just begging to be removed. Unfortunately, the minimal seasonings did not make it to the inner goodness, so the peanuts tasted plain, if not slightly altered.

Well, now I had a lonely shell sitting there, and I was not about to waste it. Once again, garlic, spice -- a little bit more this time, particularly at the rear sides of the tongue -- and weird peanut shell texture.

I ate the next peanut whole, and it tasted exactly like normal mashed potatoes. At this point, I was not sure what the hell was going on. The most exciting thing that happened during my snacking was the discovery of a single peanut in a single-peanut-sized shell.

Yet, somehow I ate on -- probably because these tasted a lot like normal peanuts, which are pretty damn good. And I did find myself eating them "shell n all" because the soybean oil must have softened the slightly charred shells up. Uncle Bud did one thing right, though: He found a way to get the spice to linger on the tongue for an extended length of time to increase snacking duration.

In a nut shell: You should buy these if you love normal peanuts, are lazy and have a low tolerance for spice.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The legend of Thunder Crunch

Ah yes. Food package essays. They’re great because I know that if I am hungry for a delicious snack and I am having trouble making up my mind, I can just read a few paragraphs and make an informed decision. Here’s an essay found on the back of a bag of Alaska Chip Company jalapeño-flavored Volcano Chips that my beautiful and exciting girlfriend Jayme brought me from her trip to Alaska.

The essay gets even better when you replace the word “miner” with “minor” and my thoughts on the actual product follow it.

The Alaska Chip Story
People in the Matanuska Valley have long known the secret of Alaskan potatoes. Potatoes so full of crunch they aren’t grown, they’re mined [1]. Potato miners don’t seek the spotlight, you won’t see them in many headlines, they are searching for a potato so elusive, so robust, that many said it was just a story told by old sourdoughs[2, 3]. Some laughed at the potato miners, mocking their epic quest for a spud known only as “Thunder Crunch.”

For others, just hearing the words Thunder Crunch fills their hearts with fear. They blame the many earthquakes, aurora borealis and other phenomena in the Northland on these hearty vegetables [4, 5]. Some even said searching for the legendary spud should be banned, due to the many dangers involved.

In the spring of ’03, legend became reality when deep below the Matanuska Valley a rumble was heard that would forever change the way we think of chips. Thunder Crunch was discovered by the miners, and those unsung heroes have brought them to the surface to be enjoyed by everyone.

There are still those who fear the legend, but for the brave souls willing to reap the rewards of the potato miner, life just got a little better [6].

[1] Does “crunch” imply that they grow in caves, or tens of feet below the surface?
[2] This is a really great sentence.
[3] WTF is a “sourdough”? Is this really how they talk in Alaska?
[4] I thought there was only one Thunder Crunch.
[5] I thought potatoes were “tubers,” not vegetables.
[6] I disagree. Read on to see why.

The first thing you will notice about this product is its uncanny resemblance to a bag of Cape Cod Chips. I have not researched this further, but this can only mean two things: There is a chip company out there that only has factories in quirky geographic locations, or the Alaska Chip Company loves plagiarizing.

Any way, I was pretty excited about eating something with “volcano” in the name because I was such a huge fan of the short-lived Volcano Taco from Taco Bell. Although Volcano Chips were indeed delicious, the experience of consuming them was not entirely pleasant.

At first bite, they were immediately spicy, with a prominent and genuine jalapeño taste. The spice wasn’t too intense though, so the only eruption was my nose as the medium spice level caused it to run. I went through half of the 5-ounce bag (if not more) then told myself to go dormant [7].

Five minutes after consumption, there was a chive-like aftertaste in the back of my throat. This was nothing compared to the rumblings in my stomach. I was feeling nauseous and had a headache. It was like an instant hangover from the chips. I was actually dizzy. I needed a nap.

I suppose I can’t blame the chips entirely though. Prior to eating them, I had finished a breakfast which had included an “everything bagel,” a donut, some coffee and some hot chocolate.

So there you have it: Volcano chips taste pretty good, and I have terrible eating habits when I am at work.

[7] This is a volcano joke.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Alaskan reindeer sausage

If you know me (and you probably do, because why would you be reading this if you didn't?) you might be aware that when I go on a road trip, I need two items with me: Pizzeria Pretzel Combos (The cheese snack of NASCAR) and some sort of dehydrated meat product. In light of recent events, I now know what I will be buying if I ever find myself on the road in Anchorage, Alaska.

My lovely girlfriend Jayme recently returned from a trip to Alaska, bearing goods both edible and otherwise. Despite her limited meat intake, she was kind enough to bring me an "Alaska Jack's Red Pepper Hunter Steak with Reindeer Meat."

After last week's sabbatical I knew my return to the blogosphere had to be really special. I could think of no better way to do that than by consuming some reindeer -- our friends who help Santa bring us gifts at Christmas!

I can't wait any longer ... Let me open my present!

Upon opening the package, which was thankfully incredibly easy to do -- unlike many kinds of jerky, my nose was filled with a rather typical "summer sausage" odor. And by typical, I mean 100% mouth-watering.

The sausage was about the size and color of an overdone 7-11 hotdog (normal ones were a childhood post-church staple for me) without the wrinkles. The rounded ends had been cut off, like a fat cigar ready to be smoked so the flavor lingers on your tongue for hours, no matter how many times you brush your teeth. I was hoping the flavor of Alaska Jack's hunter steak would stay with me for an equal period of time.

After one bite of the meat cylinder, the aforementioned desire for lingering flavor grew even stronger. The first taste tasted like your typical damn-good non-meal sausage. Then a slight burn developed, grew ever so slightly, and tapered off.

I have never tasted reindeer so I can't tell you how it affected the flavor. However, I feel 100% comfortable telling you that I wish this sausage had been two feet long. Perhaps I can persuade Jayme's vegetarian uncle in Anchorage to mail me a crate.

I guess the lesson here is that delicious food is key to brevity.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Food tattoos: A plate of shrimp

As seen on a fellow Moped Army member.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Point of sale genius marketing: NOH Hawaiian iced tea

Once upon a time, I was invited to a "shrimp and white wine party" with some friends. On the way to the party, we stopped at the store to get a shrimp tray and I noticed something in the checkout aisle: NOH Hawaiian Iced Tea. Their slogan is "Say yes to NOH!" and that's exactly what I did. Its placement combined with the tagline made it ideal for point of sale impulse purchases.

NOH sat on the counter in my kitchen for a month. I knew I was going to write about it, but lately I have had higher priorities than drinking a pouch of iced tea. After crawling exhaustedly into bed to read at around 8:30 last night with no pending review, I knew I'd be consuming NOH this morning.

To me, NOH smells familiar but not like iced tea. It smells like weird oatmeal or something. But maybe I am wrong, since my friend Erika who bought NOH for the exact same reasons as me claims it smells like regular instant iced tea to her. Maybe we're both right and instant iced tea always smells like weird oatmeal regardless of whether or not it came from a volcanic island.

"Weird oatmeal" does not really do this iced tea justice though. Why? NOH is damn good, and probably refreshing too. I didn't even have to add sugar, since cane sugar is already in the mix. The package says you can even alter how much water you use "for personal taste" -- how intimate.

There's nothing remarkable about the flavor (as in "a slight hint of volcanic ash is what really makes it") but it's remarkable that I want to drink a gallon of this stuff on a frigid March morning. The variety I bought is lemon flavored, so it tastes fairly close to an Arnold Palmer Iced Tea, one of my summer staples, which is probably why I am saying "yes" to NOH.

And in case you are curious, I have no idea what NOH stands for.