Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Little Caesars Pretzel Crust Pizza - A Review

I don't generally buy ready made take out pizza, simply because I like to choose my toppings.  However, being hungrier than normal a few nights ago, I shelled out $6.00 for Little Caesars' Pretzel Crust Pizza.
Little Caesars Pretzel Crust Pizza
Subject: Little Caesars' Pretzel Crust Pizza | Source: Little Caesars' Press Release |

Divided into eight large slices, the pizza consists of a soft salted pretzel crust topped with a Cheddar cheese sauce, cheese, and pepperoni, all sprinkled with an additional blend of Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan, and White Cheddar cheeses.

With the understanding that ready made take out pizzas sit beneath heat lamps before they're ordered, I knew, going in, that the pie would be lukewarm, rather than piping hot and fresh.  Thus, it didn't bother me.

In fact, I enjoyed the first slice.  The Cheddar cheese sauce was creamy, the pepperoni was spicy & salty, the four cheese blend was flavorful, and the pretzel crust, which the pizza is named for, tasted like a soft, ball park pretzel.

Yet, after the first slice, the salty Cheddar cheese sauce, salty/spicy pepperoni, salty blend of; Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan, and White Cheddar; and soft salted pretzel crust pummeled me with saltiness on top of saltiness on top of saltiness on top of saltiness.  The addition of mushrooms, bell peppers, and/or sun dried tomatoes would of added some badly needed balance to this one note pie.

A single slice of Little Caesars' Pretzel Crust Pizza would be a nice snack, alongside a beer, while watching sports with a large group of friends.  As a meal pizza though, I have to give Little Caesars' Pretzel Crust Pizza 5 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Common Dilemma Sees Freezerburns Saying Goodbye As Daym Keeps On Keeping On

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about Gregory Ng, the self-proclaimed "Frozen Food Master," and host of Freezerburns™. Gregory began his frozen food review vlog in 2008 with a series of, five to ten minute, frozen food reviews. Between the publication of my blog and now, Freezerburns came to an abrupt, and rather dramatic, end.

While reviewing the $2 Kid Cuisine How to Train Your Dragon Chicken Nuggets Meal, Ng snapped under the impression the meal delivered, "breading with a hint of chicken on the inside." With utter disgust plastered across his face, Ng exclaimed, "You know what? I can't do this anymore. This is horrible. We should not be feeding our kids this. We should not be eating this frozen food anymore. I'm done with this." Ripping his microphone from his chest, the "Frozen Food Master" stormed out of the camera's view, and hasn't produced another episode since.

I understand his frustration.  Food critics can easily pass something off as tasting good, without considering what's going into the eater's body, especially kids' bodies.  Not wanting to mislead children, by glorifying junk food, Gregory Ng removed himself from the culinary arena.

Coincidentally, the fast food critic, whom I wrote about in the same blog, recently faced a similar dilemma.  Daym Drops became concerned that kids were watching his reviews and getting the idea a  normal diet consisted entirely of fast food.  Rather than walking away from his show though, Daym has decided to do vegetable themed episodes for kids, beginning with Carrot Talk.

I applaud both men's concern for children's health.  Lord knows, food manufacturers don't seem to give a rip.  When faced with the idea that they may be negatively influencing children, each man took action in his own way.  I respect that.  Personally, I like Daym's educational solution better than walking away.  However, if Gregory Ng felt he couldn't walk the fine line between promoting flavor and considering health, then I respect him for addressing the problem as he thought best.
OK, I hear some of you out there calling me a hypocrite.  No, I get it.  I give good reviews to high calorie burgers, steaks, and cheese laden (everything), and I'm applauding two other food critics for being conscious of chlldren's health.

Keep in mind though, I've always maintained that if someone reads my review of a bacon cheeseburger & fries and buys their kids such a meal multiple times per week, then allows those kids to watch TV and play computer games all day, instead of burning energy outside, those kids WILL become obese.  That's not my fault.

Such meals are perfectly fine when consumed as a bi-weekly, or even monthly, treat. In between special trips to their favorite burger stand, kids should be getting; fruits, veggies, dairy products, and whole grains; at home, and burning those calories in fun and/or productive ways.

Friday, September 26, 2014

I Love You Pulled Pork, But Stay Off My Burger

Pulled pork is a method of cooking a tough cut of pork, usually the shoulder, which allows the meat to become tender enough to be "pulled", or easily broken into individual pieces. The meat is seasoned with a BBQ rub and/or sauce, then cooked slowly at low temperatures (8 to 12 hours at 225°F) to break down the connective tissue and eliminate toughness.
Carls Jr BBQ Pulled Pork Cheeseburger
Subject: Carl's Jr.'s/Hardees' Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork Cheeseburger | Source: Carl's Jr.'s/Hardees' Press Release |

While I love pulled pork, as such, I have to say, I hate these Pulled Pork Burgers which are popping up all over the place. Famous Dave's BBQ has one, Carl's Jr./Hardy's has one, Burger King has one, and yesterday Wendy's told the press they'll adding one to their menu.

Essentially, these are sandwiches with a burger patty, pulled pork, cheddar cheese, and barbecue sauce, all topped with Cole Slaw, deep fried jalapeño peppers, or onion rings.

Keep in mind, I love bacon on a burger, it adds a smoky saltiness which one simply can’t get any other way. However, bacon is THE ONLY OTHER meat I want on my burger.

I’ve had a few of these Pulled Pork Burgers. The thick layer of sauce drenched pork, atop the beef patty, initially tastes good. The sandwich is so heavy with meat though, that after the forth bite the sandwich becomes a laborious chore to finish.

Ignoring the portion which winds up on one’s lap, because the thing is so messy, one is forced to either leave part of the burger uneaten or spend the rest of the day feeling stuffed and bloated.

Give me a simple cheeseburger, or a delicious pulled pork sandwich, any day. Just leave them separate please.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Salted Caramel Band Wagon

Sometimes food trends sneak up on eaters, wiggling their way into the cracks and crevices of culinary pop culture, before we even realize they're upon us.  The early to mid 20th century saw sweetened bowls of milk drenched cereal slowly, but surely, replace eggs, bacon, and pancakes as typical breakfast fare.  The 80s saw the rise of micro brews, which would eventually horn in on Budweiser's & Miller's virtual monopoly on the American beer market.  Today eaters find themselves surrounded by foods flavored to taste like salted caramel.

Photo courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.

When I first heard of the trend, I figured chefs & food manufacturers were trying to capitalize on the long running popularity of Cracker Jacks, candy-coated popcorn and peanuts, well known for being packaged with a prize of nominal value inside.

As it turns out, the famous salty/sweet snack, registered in 1896, has nothing to do with the current fad.

According to a New York Times article, America's love affair with the flavor of salted caramel was imported directly from France. Heavily salted butter caramels are, apparently, a traditional treat in the coastal town of Brittany, France.

With this tradition in mind, Pierre Herm, the Parisian pastry chef known for his experimentation, invented a salted caramel macaron, an almond meringue cookie with a salted caramel filling. The cookie quickly inspired a loyal following among American foodies who became intent on producing their own salted caramel something.

Today, multiple products feature this flavor combination, including, but not limited to:

  • Boxed Sea Salt Caramels,
  • Lean Protein and Fiber Bar - Salted Caramel,
  • Monin Gourmet Flavoring Syrup - Salted Caramel,
  • Salted Caramel White Chocolate Bars,
  • Torani Sugar Free Syrup - Salted Caramel,
  • Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Sticks,
  • Kind Nuts & Spices Bar - Caramel Almond & Sea Salt,
  • Funky Chunky® Sea Salt Caramel Snacks,
  • Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels,
  • Sea Salt Caramel & Chocolate Dipped Strawberries,
  • Snyder's of Hanover Salted Caramel Pretzel Pieces,
  • Smucker’s Simple Delight Salted Caramel Topping,
  • and BEN & JERRY`S Salted Caramel Core Ice Cream.

  • My good friend, Sarah B., even made salted caramel popsicles for her kids, the recipe for which, I'm still waiting to receive, by the way.

    Perhaps the most surprising incarnation of this flavor profile was Buffalo Wild Wings’ use of it as a wing sauce on their recent summer time menu.   One doesn’t often think of candy coated chicken.  However, when coated in the sauce, the wings deliver the initial taste of sweet BBQ.  After three or four bites though, I noticed a pleasing burnt caramel taste on the back of my palette.

    The flavor of salted caramel will undoubtedly find its way into dishes and commercial products for some time to come.  One day it may even be considered to be a run of the mill flavor alongside chocolate and vanilla.

    What’s your favorite salted caramel flavored food?
    Supplemental Note Added 09/05/14:

    Since posting this blog, Sarah B. has provided me with the following recipe.

    Salted Caramel Popsicles

    Mine take about three cups of liquid to fill, so I play around with the proportions, but it's typically just simple syrup and fruit. The fruit can be left raw, roasted in the oven or stewed in 1/2" of water, then it gets puréed. These have 3/4 cup of simple syrup, 1/2 cup of salted caramel sauce and 1 3/4 cups of apricot purée. They are by far my favorite of any pops I've made, but I've also done strawberry-rhubarb, strawberries and balsamic vinegar, ginger-peach, raspberries & cream, vanilla bean-pear, roasted nectarine and basil.