Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mini Unofficial Taste Tests Notes to Self

I did a couple unscientific taste tests lately and don't want to forget my findings!  So here they are, in short, on the blog.

Plain Full Fat Yogurts

Nancy's -- the winner, creamy and good yogurt taste.  Awesome because this is the only one they sell at Winco; hence the only one I'd be likely to regularly buy AND it's nice and cheap. A wonderful surprise! :)

Pavel's -- brand I'd never heard of found at New Seasons.  Second best.  Nice yogurt taste, but a bit runny.

Straus -- too tangy.  Sour. I know plain yogurt IS sour, but this didn't have balance.

Stonyfield Farm -- kind of gross!  Watery.  I was surprised because I liked their YoBaby vanilla yogurt in my other test.  I also remember having S.F. at a friend's house as a child (various flavors and plain) and they were all way fattier/chunkier with the creamy bits.  There's no way this is the same yogurt.

Brown Cow -- eh, mediocre, boring, inconsequential.

Expensive Natural Chocolate Ice Creams

This began after A. and I tried Three Twins Bittersweet Chocolate and thought it was really good!  I had to sample more.  I was also curious about how the gum and carrageenan content affects flavor and texture.  My father-in-law hates the taste (?) of carrageenan but it doesn't usually bother me.  I wonder if he'd like to try some of these ones that don't have it!

Snoqualmie Mukilteo Mudd (2 gums, carrageenan, vanilla, no eggs) -- yummy, good chocolate flavor, creamy texture.  The only one with no eggs, but this didn't seem to affect anything.
Double Rainbow Ultra Chocolate  (2 gums, no carrageenan, no vanilla, egg yolks) -- I liked this one, though the texture wasn't as good as others.  The only one with no vanilla.  I thought it had a nice chocolate flavor, but A. was unimpressed.  Note: it was cheap, so that was good!
Talenti Double Dark Chocolate Gelato (1 gum, no carrageenan, vanilla, eggs, dextrose, vermouth!) -- We had tried this in the past and thought it was great, but this time around, I didn't like it as much.  It had a weird taste (from the vermouth?) and also chocolate bits which were distracting and not very melty.  So continues my bemusement with gelato . . .

Straus Dutch Chocolate (no gums, no carrageenan, vanilla, egg yolks) -- A. didn't like this one, but it may have been my favorite.  The texture was very airy so it felt like "cheap" ice cream (not premium), but the taste was fantastic!  It tasted like something from my past . . . Hood ice cream?  Something about it made me nostalgic!

Three Twins Bittersweet Chocolate (no gums, no carrageenan, vanilla, eggs) -- very good chocolate flavor and A.'s favorite.  I liked it a lot but it was a teensy bit too melty/watery for me.

These were all a tough call.  When you're sampling chocolate ice cream, none of them are exactly going to be bad, you know?  I would buy any of them again, though perhaps not the Talenti.

Also noted (from other recent ice cream shopping sprees):

Three Twins Dad's Cardamom sounded like it would taste like kheer, but it only had cardamom flavor . . . not that exciting.

Snoqualmie French Lavender was nice, but it needs some vanilla in there!!  My own homemade lavender ice cream was still the best (and I should make it again)!

Snoqualmie Creme Fraiche Gelato was no good.  I thought I'd be getting some pure creamy dairy experience, but it was too tangy-sour, like yogurt.  Still befuddled as to why this is "gelato" as opposed to "ice cream".  If I want a perfect sweet cream flavor, I have to go to the Ice Cream Smith back in Boston .  . .

OH!  And I discovered some valuable information!!  New Seasons sells ice cream from Ice Cream Renaissance (the shoppe on Main Street here in Vancouver) and I found out why it's so terrible!!  They list the ingredients on their pints, and . . . they make their ice cream with HALF AND HALF.  People, just because ice cream contains both cream and milk does not mean that you can just flat out use half and half and expect it to come out all creamy and delicious.  The fat content is going to be off (read: not enough) and your "ice cream" is going to taste like "ice milk" and be really sad and disappointing.  Oh wait, Ice Cream Renaissance ice cream IS sad and disappointing!  I KNEW there was a reason behind its lack of texture and flavor and why it always* tastes like some 15-year-old decided to "get creative" and make "homemade ice cream" by throwing some milk and sugar in the freezer and giving it a stir now and then.  Sheesh. Well, real ice cream makers don't go using half and half, that's all I "half" to say.  har har!

* When I say "always", I mean the 3 chances I gave it when I tried out their shoppe (hey, I do give second and third chances, FYI!), and then when I've had it out of pints at people's houses.  I don't know how everyone around here is so easily fooled into thinking it's the best ever . . . . the only nice thing I can say about I.C.R. is that the shoppe does serve a really good cup of coffee.

New Seasons still has a wealth of weird ice creams to try, without straying into "that's not ice cream" territory (you know, all the ones without milk or gluten or what-have-you -- they have PLENTY of that stuff, too).  I'll be back for more!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A new direction in meat

So, the time has finally come for me to try and "make a difference" and all that and start buying local, pasture-raised, and/or organic meat.  Let me tell you why!

First, I read a really disturbing article (in Oprah magazine, click link only if you want be totally depressed) about CAFO's, or the factory farms that are just no good, and that most normal meat comes from, I assume.  I know there is lots of talk on the subject out there, but I'd been avoiding it because, well, it's depressing.  I prefer to not be depressed in my day to day life.  So sue me, it's true!

Anyway, after reading the article, I kept thinking about the factory farm topic -- it sort of haunted me for a few days.  My thoughts shifted over from, "wow, that's terrible and I wish it was different, but hey, gotta eat" to, "Say, you know, I could start buying all that free-range pasture-fed natural happy meat if I wanted to, and my small choice could make a teensy tiny difference, maybe, and then I could feel good about NOT supporting those factory farms."

Up until this point, the "happy meat" was way too expensive, and my frugal side won out.  I simply didn't care enough about the situation to actually pay THAT much money for my grocery staple.  Why the shift now?  I don't know!  I've already made the mental shift to paying more for food in order to be healthy, so perhaps this meat plan goes along with that.  Yes, I now go to the store and instead of cringing over the cost of fresh veggies, I actually buy them and eat them.  Yes, I'm willing to pay more for things like pre-cut baby carrots, etc. because the convenience means I'll actually eat them.

(Let me interject and say I do my main shopping at Winco, where food is already cheap.  If it were not for Winco, I may still be resistant to the crazy high prices out there.)

Oh, and when it's open/in season, I now freely spend my money at the farmers' market for fresh FRUITS and other things, because they're all so good, and my health is WORTH the high price.  I think before, I only wanted to save money and wasn't thinking about being healthy.  Maybe the shift has come from living here in the Northwest, where it's easy to do healthy things!  We've actually lowered our meat consumption over the past couple years as part of this health thing, so I wouldn't even need to buy as much as I used to.

When I looked into how and where I could buy happy meat, it didn't seem so bad.  We have a deep freeze, so if we wanted to buy, like, half a cow in bits and pieces from somebody at the farmers' market, we could.  I checked some local grocery stores and the new Vancouver Co-op, and settled on the meat at New Seasons Market.  Apparently all their meat is happy, so you don't have to worry.  They also have these value packs at a great discount, which make ME very happy.  And, they have a new location in East Vancouver, which means I will actually go there because I don't have to cross over into Portland.  THANK YOU NEW SEASONS IT'S ABOUT TIME!

Oh, and apparently the Foster Farms chicken we've been buying at Costco is also fairly happy, so I don't have to worry about that, either.  It's a good price, and we're mostly eating chicken these days anyway. (The FF fresh chicken is also grown in the NW, to boot!)

So, yesterday I picked up my value pack from New Seasons!  I froze most of it in the deep freeze, but made a Madras curry with the chicken breasts.  I have to say, there was not much flavor difference or anything, but I felt like a do-gooder for once.

Will I now buy happy meat exclusively?  That is the plan!
Will it be the first thing to go if money gets tight?  Probably.
Will I stop eating meat?  Hells no!
Will I refuse sad meat if someone serves it to me?  No.  And yes I will keep eating the Costco hotdog, YUM!
What about deli meat?  I don't know!  We tried the happy Lebanon bologna at New Seasons and it was AWESOME, but their pastrami wasn't very good.  I used to roast and cut up my own pork roasts for lunch meat, but that was decidedly Sad Meat . . . but it's super-cheap for something we eat every day.  I don't know!!
Will I buy organic produce and milk now, too?  Probably not -- I'm not ready for that yet.  I do buy organic here and there, but I think local is more important.  I love the farmers' market!  I also grow my own fruits and veggies in the summer, but the amounts are so paltry, of course I have to supplement with purchased produce.

Anybody else switching to happy meat?  I know it's a luxury, but it's probably an important one in the long run.