Tag: taste test (Page 1 of 2)

Third Trimester Ice Cream Quest

The third trimester feels like one, violent craving for chocolate ice cream.

It also feels tired, cranky, out of breath and sore. But muchly chocolate ice cream. Chocolate shakes, most specifically, but chocolate ice cream will typically do.

“How do you make a chocolate shake?” I asked Jake.

“I think it’s just ice cream and milk.”

“That can’t be it,” I said.

When I got home, I Googled chocolate milkshake recipes and they were actually just milk and ice cream.

Here are the chocolate ice creams I’ve enjoyed most recently – I guess I’ll have to keep trying them all until I find the perfect one.

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We Tried A Bunch Of Things At Trader Joe’s (Updated)

Living in cities hours from the nearest Trader Joe’s has left me really excited about living near a Trader Joe’s again. In St. Louis, we have so many types of grocery stores, specialty meat markets, and bakeries. There are farmers markets, too. I try to explore a different combination each week.

What I like about Trader Joe’s the best is that it offers reasonable prices for fancy-ish ingredients. Like every Trader Joe’s I’ve visited, the employees are friendly and the parking lot is a death trap. Here’s a rundown of some of the most memorable foods we’ve tasted, categorized on a spectrum between “Favorites” and “Meh.”

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Not Too Cool For Gas Station Breakfast Pizza + A Pizza Party

“Cause there ain’t no party like the pre-party
And after the party is the after-party
At the gas station pizza party (yea, pass me the chicken wings).”

I have no idea why this, but Lee Brice song comes to mind. We weren’t eating pizza in a parking lot and there were no chicken wings.

Gas station pizza is kind of a thing here, especially gas station breakfast pizza. In early February, actress Mila Kunis made the Des Moines Register when she commented that Casey’s General Store makes her favorite gas station snack, a “delicious breakfast pizza” in a Reddit AMA.

It’s not that we have bad taste in North Iowa, it’s that we have a lot of Casey’s and that their breakfast pizza is actually pretty good. North Iowa is composed of many small towns. We live in the biggest city in North Iowa which clocked in at 27,500 in 2013. Some towns like Plymouth are tiny with 373 residents and many fall somewhere in between like Charles City at 7,500. We drive a lot just like we did in the Twin Cities, but unlike a 30-minute commute between Apple Valley, MN and Minneapolis, there might not be as much between the cities. There’s usually a Casey’s somewhere in-between and there are some small towns in which a Casey’s in one of the only businesses.

During the first year I lived in Mason City, I worked at a small nonprofit in Osage, a town of 6,500.

Osage Fiargrounds

The Osage Iowa fairgrounds, summer of 2014.

It took me 40-minutes to drive to work on good-weather days. The only place to stop for gas, or anything, really, was Manly, Iowa. When my tank ran low or a train blocked Highway 9, I’d pull into Casey’s to fill my tank and grab a slice of breakfast pizza.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like Casey’s Pizza is Pizzeria Lola or Broders’, but you might also find their breakfast pizza tastes surprisingly good. It’s the only breakfast pizza that doesn’t gross me out and it’s available at gas stations in rural Iowa. I like the crust and the cheese is the real, chewy kind. After I eat a slice, I keep smelling whiffs of butter. In fact, I think it tastes better than many chain pizza joints.

After Mila mentioned Casey’s breakfast pizza, we began talk about it on Twitter. Gas station Kum & Go jumped into a conversation and offered to let us try their breakfast pizza, too. Before I knew it, my North Iowa blogger friends had coordinated a pizza party.

caseys box

Casey’s, Kum & Go and Godfather’s generously donated pies. Jenny brought Iowan beer, Donna contributed a frozen, gluten-free Udi’s pizza, and I brought a pizza margarita from our new, local Italian restaurant Pasta Bella.

Me and Pizza

Beth always offers to host our tasting parties and really is the hostess with the mostess. She made voting sheets complete with smiley face stickers for voting, pizza signs, and caprese salad.

Beths caprese salad

Val brought her famous Overnight Salad. It’s a layered salad of lettuce, cauliflower, onion, parmesan, mayo, and sugar that sits overnight and you toss before serving.

Val Salad Collage

Honestly, I preferred Val’s salad over the pizzas and returned for seconds. My version of Overnight Salad will never be as good as Val’s because it included bacon she and her husband made on their farm. They cut it into super thick chunks. It was like I was eating succulent pieces of pork belly instead of the bacon strips I usually find. Val said she and her husband chuckle when presented with what people typically refer to as “thick-cut bacon.”

There were so many types of pizza that I lost track of what I tasted. I filled my plate with pieces of cut-up slices and soon gave up keeping track of what they were. Plus, I kept wanting to eat that salad.

Pizza Collage
Everyone had their favorites. I posted about our party on my social media accounts and learned that Godfather’s has a very loyal following. I haven’t eaten it since college.

godfathers combo

In case you were wondering, this is what a Kum & Go breakfast pizza looks like. Why should let Casey’s completely sweep the gas station breakfast pizza game;) I was in a pizza coma when I tasted this pizza, but someone said Kum & Go’s also adds hashbrowns.

kumandgobreakfast

We voted for our favorites and Pasta Bella received the most. I liked that it had a thin crust and delicate tasting toppings that included fresh tomatoes and basil. Our newest blogger Loni said it tasted closest to the pizzas she enjoyed in Italy.

Pasta Bella Pizza

And so a North Iowa Pizza Part: Part II is in order. Obviously we are missing many places like Little Chicago, Pete’s Kitchen, Breadeaux, Azzolina’s, and The Other Place. We’re just taking it a few pizzas at a time.

pizza party group

Photo taken by Donna with a selfie stick. Carrying on our dear friend Amy’s tradition.

Fifteen months ago, four of us North Iowa bloggers met for dinner for the first time. Now, our group’s grown to nearly 30 people. Comparing life in a big metropolitan area like Minneapolis-St. Paul to North Iowa is like comparing apples to oranges. Sure, I miss the lakes and ordering eggplant pizza from Broders’ anytime I’d like. But the skies here are big and I hope I’m never too cool for gas station breakfast pizza.

I miss Amy and I love these women. Life with these friendships is good.

Taste Testing Four Retro School Cafeteria Foods

We’re a little stir crazy, so we decided to taste test retro food products.

I want to complain about the snow, but also feel pride that this weather makes us tougher. When 20 degrees rolls around, I’ll be gleefully running errands without a hat while people in warmer states will shiver at the thought.

Yesterday read -6 with a doomsday windchill. The snowflakes remind me of the fake snow found in department store displays. It’s so light and fluffy that the winds whip it into white outs. Our little dog is stir crazy, too. Yesterday, I asked him if he wanted to head outside and go to the bathroom.

Trayse Collage Blizzard

Well, OK then. I suppose I wouldn’t want to either.

How does one fend off cabin fever during a week when school’s cancelled due to the cold? Taste test wacky retro products, of course. For this project, I visited Fareway‘s meat counter and Martin Bros. Food Market in Mason City, Iowa. I appreciate how the butchers at Fareway treat every product with the same dignity, from ribeye steaks to processed Mr. Rib patties. They carefully measure each item and wrap them tidy little packages with brown paper.

Fareway goodies wm
Martin Brothers sells bulk foods and party supplies. You’ll find items like big bags of vegetables and every fried appetizer you could possibly imagine in their coolers.

I selected four items that harkened back to my grade school cafeteria days: Pizza Patties, BBQ Rib Patties, and Chicken Crispitos from Fareway and Mexican Pizzas from Martin Bros.

Pizza Patty: I fondly remember “Pizza Burgers” from grade school. Of course, that was over two decades ago, but, then again, I still like corn dogs so there’s that. I remember our Pizza Burgers looking a lot different from this patty, but wanted to try it anyway. Think of the pizza patty as the center of a butcher wrap blossom. $1.66/each

Pizza Patty wm

Meet the Crispito. Back when I wrote a post about school cafeteria memories, I noticed a funny thing. Minnesotans raved about Italian Dunker Day while Iowans fondly remembered Crispitos. I bought two of the chicken variety. Price $1 each

Crispito wm

Hello there BBQ Rib Patty. Why our school never called this Mrs. Rib, I don’t know, but I won’t fight the gentlemen for this honor. You’ve got to appreciate the artistry that went into creating the pressed and formed rib shape complete with three rib nubs and painted on grill marks. I can only compare this product to my grade school memories, for I have never eaten a McRib. $1.25 each

Mr Rib wm

And finally, who remembers Mexican Pizzas? Our elementary school offered pizza once a week and always listed them as “Tony’s Pizza.” Pizza day was special because we could choose from big rectangles of cheese, pepperoni or sausage pizza or this hexagonal oddity, the Fiestada.

I was surprised to find bags of Fiestadas at Martin Bros. In fact, they carried bags of the other pizza rectangles, too. I did some research and home and read Martin Bros. sources this Mexican Pizza from Schwan’s who sources them from Tony’s (or something like that), meaning they’re the closest I’ll get to the real deal. $0.83 each

Mexican pizza

I baked the products at 375℉ until pizza was bubbly and the Crispito was, well, crispy.

Taste Testing Verdict:
Drumroll. . .

Everything Labeled

Pizza Patty: A reader mentioned this product is best fried. It crisped in the oven and oozed cheese. Long story short, this wasn’t our thing because we didn’t enjoy the strong sausage flavor. There’s a lonely Pizza Patty, whom I shall call Patty, chilling in our fridge. Any takers?

Mr. Rib: This was our favorite item. Baking the patty gave it a firmer texture while the sauce formed a glaze. We split the patty in half and them in small buns with dill pickle chips. Jake commented Fareway’s tastes better than the McRib. It’s so naughty-good we’re going to eat the second Mr. Rib. Sorry if you’ve gotten attached to him Miss Pizza Patty.

Crispito: When I first pulled the tubular Crispito from its wrapping, I knew my main goal was to make it crisp. Afterall, it is a Crispito, right? What appeared to be a corn tortilla shell did, in fact, crisp up in the oven. I have no idea what comprises the filling, but it tastes similar to the El Monterey Taquitos my mom used to purchase. Jake and I dipped each half into salsa and concluded the product tasted pretty good. If you like Taquitos, there’s really nothing objectionable about this. Jake still prefers Taquitos, but I prefer Crispitos.

*Some friends added Fareway’s Crispitos taste closest to the ones served in their school cafeterias while others nominated Martin Bros‘s.

Mexican Pizza/Fiestada: This hexagonal wonder still tastes like it did in grade school.

Fiestada Cooked

The only difference is the crust seems puffier. According to Schwan’s website, the crust contains 51% whole grains (not just 50%, but 51% lol) which lends a heartier texture.

“It tastes good. No wonder it’s still around,” observed Jake. While we want to space out our Fiestada consumption, we won’t cry over the five left in our freezer.

And this concludes my foray into revisiting school cafeteria foods. Is there a specific food you’d like to revisit or leave in the past?

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