Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ruffles Ultimate: Kickin' Jalapeño Ranch Chips & Smokehouse Bacon Dip

I have to admit, I do enjoy being one of the first to try the newest stuff, especially when it comes to food items.  I also tend to be adventurous when it comes to wanting to try all the "wild" snack flavors that come out--most of which don't end up staying on the shelf long, but hey, I was one of the ones that got to taste them.  So, that means that when I saw these new "Ultimate" Ruffles chips in the store the other day, there was no question that they were going to take a ride in my shopping cart.  I settled on the Kickin' Jalapeño Ranch flavor to try first, and I noticed that on the bag it suggested that they should be paired with the Ruffles Ultimate Smokehouse Bacon Dip, so into my cart that went as well.  I had to try the combo, right?

Ruffles Ultimate Kickin' Jalapeño Ranch Potato Chips
Made By:  Frito-Lay, Inc.
160 calories per 1 oz. serving (pictured)

The first thing I notice about the chips once I open the bag is that the shape is a little different than regular Ruffles chips; instead of the tiny "ridges" that everyone is familiar with, the shape and texture is very similar to Wavy Lay's chips, except the "waves" are a bit more angular.  I guess the sharp corners make them more edgy and cool or something.  The flavor is really quite nice!  The trend in novelty chip flavors recently had been to just make things extra spicy and call them "extreme," so I was kind of expecting something along those lines.  Instead, these are just mildly to moderately spicy, and the main flavor note is a fairly good rendition of the 'green' flavor of a jalapeño pepper.  I am pleasantly surprised!  :)

Ruffles Ultimate Smokehouse Bacon Dip
Made By:  Frito-Lay, Inc.
70 calories per 2 tbsp. serving

I'm just going to get straight to the verdict and say that the dip is another pleasant surprise!  In this case, the "Ultimate" factor seems to be the thickness of the dip; it is really rather thick, and loaded down with a generous amount of real bacon bits.  The sauce is very creamy, and seems to be somewhere between a sour cream and an alfredo-style flavor.  I actually had to warm up to it, but I think that's because of what I didn't taste more than what I did--my 'usual' is a Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix in sour cream, and I think I was used to the tartness of the buttermilk and sour cream, which is really not present in this dip.  After I got used to the flavor, though, I started really liking it on most things I tried it with, especially raw veggies like snap peas and baby carrots.  Even my sweetie, who is not really a big dipper, told me she enjoyed this.  I really only bought this because the potato chip bag told me to, but out of the two products, this one is the one that stands out to me--I don't feel like I would have to have more of the chips once the bag is gone, but I've already purchased another jar of this dip for when the first one runs out.  :D

And finally, of course, I had to try the two of them together!  I would have to say the bag was right--they do pair together very well!  The flavors seem to combine to make something new; the creamy base of the dip seems to mute the jalapeño pepper flavor a bit, which lets the underlying ranch flavor of the chip come through more.  The result is a nice balance of creamy ranch and bacon, with the jalapeño becoming the undertone.  So I guess the bottom line is, if you do get the chips to try, go ahead and get the dip to go with them and you shouldn't regret it.  And if the chips don't sound like your kind of thing, the dip is really good anyway.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Yamachan Shoyu Ramen

Made By:  Nippon Trends Food Service (Product of USA)
Required to Prepare:  Saucepan & Range, Boiling Water
360 calories per package

While I was browsing the aisles at Uwajimaya Bellevue on my last visit, I found a section of fresh noodles in the refrigerated section, away from the extensive dry-goods instant noodle aisle.  Since they are fresh and need to be refrigerated, they obviously have a shorter shelf-life than the 'normal' dry ramen, so I just picked up one to try this time.

Inside the package there is a styrofoam tray that holds the pack of fresh noodles, and a little foil packet of liquid soup base.  To prepare, we need to boil water in both our saucepan and our teakettle; we add the noodles to the saucepan and cook for 1-1/2 minutes (or 2-1/2 minutes if frozen), and meanwhile we mix 1-1/4 cups of boiling water with the soup base in our bowl.  Once the noodles are cooked, we drain them and add them to the bowl, and the noodles are ready to serve!

The noodles have a wonderful texture, much more like "real" restaurant ramen than the dry ramen everyone is used to.  The broth tastes a bit different than I was expecting from a shoyu broth; there is a strong taste of sesame oil which really overpowers the other flavors.  Overall, the soup is kind of plain, honestly, but I don't hold that against it, because it's clearly meant as a base for you to add your own ingredients (much like restaurant ramen).  So, although I think it is just okay on its own (and I felt obligated to review it that way), I am definitely looking forward to having it again--and adding my own green onion, crab stick, boiled egg, and other nifty ingredients to make this into a really awesome bowl of "real" ramen.  :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Little Cook TVP Curry Chicken

Made By:  Namchow (Thailand) Ltd.
Required to Prepare:  Boiling Water
500 calories per package

It's been quite a while since I've been making regular updates here, but I did have a good reason for it--I've been busy trying to get my new candle business off the ground!  The website is far from done, but at least things are started up now.  Yesterday I finally made another run to Uwajimaya, so there are new noodles to review!  So, for a light dinner tonight, I decided to have this Curry Chicken flavored big-bowl noodle from Little Cook.  I thoroughly enjoyed the previous Little Cook product I tried, so I'm hoping this one will hit the spot as well.

Inside the bowl is the block of wide noodles, a small packet of seasoning powder, and the foil retort pouch that contains our curry sauce and meat.  We open the powdered seasoning and add it to the bowl, fill to the line with boiling water, close the lid, and place the retort pouch on top to warm up.  Three minutes later, we remove the lid, add the contents of the pouch to the soup, and stir it up.  While adding the pouch, I find myself slightly taken aback by how much the contents resemble the canned "Kibbles & Bits" food that we get as a treat for our German Shepherd... but it does seem to have a decent curry aroma, so I try to stay optimistic.

Once the soup is all stirred up, I note that the meat bits bear absolutely no resemblence to chicken whatsoever; they also have an unpleasant and unnatural spongy texture.  It is at this point, far too late, that I realize that the "TVP" on the package must stand for "Textured Vegetable Protein."  Beyond the distastefulness of the "meat," the broth is much more bland than I expected.  I am not sure how this happened, because something with 2,080 mg of sodium in it really shouldn't taste like it needs salt.  The noodles have a decent texture, but don't even manage to pick up the small amount of flavor that is present in the broth.  As a final insult, toward the bottom of the bowl I encounter a lot of gritty stuff that basically makes the last bit of the soup totally inedible.  If there is a high point, I guess it would be the little bits of potato that were included in the retort pouch, I kind of enjoyed the bites that included those... but if potato is what I was after, I probably should have just eaten a french fry.  :b