Friday, September 16, 2011

In My Opinion...

As a featured publisher of Foodbuzz, Foodbuzz often sends me emails about their "Tastemaker Program," where they send free food samples to bloggers in exchange for honest feedback (and a blog post or two). Since I was trying to get back on the blog wagon and increase the frequency of my posts, I excitedly signed up for products from three companies: (1) Ghiradelli, (2) Kikkoman, and (3) Sargento. I actually purchase products from this companies on a regular basis (especially Kikkoman), so I was pretty confident I knew what I was dealing with. I enlisted my mother-in-law to be my wing-man (or wing-woman) and partner-in-crime (or partner-in-tasting). We tasted five products: (1) extra dark chocolate, (2) chocolate squares with roasted almonds and sea salt, (3) ginger-soy karage coating for fried poultry or fish, (4) muenster cheese, and (5) swiss cheese.

First, as to the chocolates, both my mother-in-law and I shared the same sentiments. The bitter extra dark chocolate had a rich and potent cacao bean flavor. Because we prefer milk chocolate, we enjoyed the lighter and milkier chocolate squares with the ethereal flecks sea salt and mini shards of almond. The salt intensified the richness of the chocolate, and the crunch from the almonds gave the creamy candies nice texture.

We will definitely purchase the sea salt-flavored Ghiradelli squares in the future, when this stash runs out. (The stash may or may not have already run out. Okay, who am I kidding, the stash already ran out the day I received it!)

Unfortunately, the disappointment of bunch was the Kikkoman karaage coating. Throughout my life, the only soy sauce product my family has used is Kikkoman. I honestly believe their soy sauce is the best Asian sauce on American shelves. It is dark, slightly transparent, and rich in luscious umami flavor. The burnt caramel-colored and liquid ebony sauce is painstakingly distilled and beautiful to behold. Therefore, based on my experience with their soy sauce, I was expecting the same for the karaage coating.

To its merit, this karaage mix makes cooking fried karaage chicken very easy. The box says it is ready in five minutes, and it truly is. All you need to do is empty the seasoned flour in your own bag (no bag is provided) and dredge some chicken or fish pieces in it. The coating did an awesome job of keeping the chicken juicy, ultra-moist, and flavorful on its own. However, I was really-really-really put off by the taste. They overdid it with the ginger flavor, so much that it reminded me of Pine Sol or household cleaning chemicals.

My mother-in-law agreed with my assessment.

Finally, as for the Sargento cheese, Foodbuzz asked us to compare sliced Sargento natural cheese
with processed cheese. So I purchased my favorite brand of processed cheese and Sargento's muenster and swiss.

I toasted a few "everything" bagels (with onions, rye seeds, sesame seeds, and more), placed a slice of each kind of cheese on the bagels, and then microwaved the cheese for 30 seconds in the microwave. I wanted to see whether the cheese could stand up to the powerful flavors of the bagel.

My mom-in-law and I were pleasantly surprised. We thought the cheese was "delicioso" on the bagels (I also fried some eggs for the bagels) and particularly liked the sharp twang from the swiss. It goes without saying that Sargento's natural cheese beat out the radioactive orange, high sodium processed cheese (although I do admit that I love that salty and perfectly meltable orange stuff, just as I love cheese in can and cheez whiz).

All in all, I'd say my mother-in-law and I had a pretty fun time bonding over our opinions about these new products, and would now buy a few of those products for ourselves on a regular basis. Have you tried these items? What do you think of them? And yes, you can now call me a "sell out."
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