Buitoni Frozen Meals for Two

In July I received a nice, shiny coupon for a free “Buitoni Frozen Meals for Two” package as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program.

I didn’t see Buitoni meals in the freezer section at first, then realized that it just looked exactly like our local Wegman’s “Italian Classic” generic brand and grabbed a package. Out of the available options, I chose the Four Cheese & Spinach Ravioli.

A few days later, we cooked the pasta and sauce according to the package directions and plopped ourselves down to eat. The pasta tasted alright, though a little bit soggy. As is the case with all frozen pasta, the flavors were a bit muted in the filling. The spinach was basically just for decoration, not for taste. The sauce was alright as well, though too sweet for my tastes.

At the check-out register, I remember the frozen meal being around $8. While this does feed two people, I could see some people being left hungry. I also think that this is a fairly easy meal to make yourself for much cheaper. Cheese Ravioli + Pasta Sauce? That’s one of the cheapest, easiest meals to make, and I didn’t see a big flavor payoff to justify the price increase.

Thanks Buitoni, but I don’t think I’ll buy these again!

Below is a picture of the product from their website, for comparison.

Nature’s Pride Bread

A few weeks ago my doorbell rang and I opened it to find a large box from San Francisco. I opened it to find three packages of Nature’s Pride Premium Harvest Hamburger Buns and Deli Rolls from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program! Three packages of bread is a lot for us to eat, considering we’re a household of only two, but we tried our best! We ate sandwiches every day and grilled yummy Snappys on the weekend.

Unfortunately, we don’t like white bread, so the Country White buns didn’t really get eaten. I ate the Whole Wheat buns for lunches, and thought they were quite yummy. Many rolls we buy at the store for lunch sandwiches have too much bread and have a bad, chalky powder on the outside, leaving you with white-dusted lips. Not these! These were just the right amount of bread and I loved the dark, rich color.  I liked the fact that the buns were dense, but my boyfriend did not. I could see this bun standing up to a hamburger in strength, but it might stuff you until you were about to explode.

We like to think of buns and rolls as “treats” for a fancy sandwich, not for every day use. These would be great buns to buy for a grill-out, but my family is a potato-roll family! We can’t get away from that nice, orange-y color and mild, sweet after taste. I’m fine eating regular sandwich bread, or even sandwich “thins” since I like to taste my sandwich innards first, before the bread.

Sweet Charity 2010

Yelp (@yelpdc) had a contest recently via twitter to see who could think of the most inventive ways to use dessert in fashion. The prize was two tickets to the Sweet Charity event on June 21st!

I’ve been to events like this before — Washingtonian’s “Best of” party, and just the week before (via Yelp) Toast of the Town. This is by far the best event of this sort that I’ve been to. Maybe it’s because of my sweet tooth, but I loved every moment of it. Thankfully there were some savory stations–lest I go into a diabetic coma–but most of them were sweet. There were so many options that were so delicious that I didn’t have time to photograph everything.

My boyfriend (my +1) and I reached a consensus that Chef Geoff’s espresso brownie was the best dish of the night, followed by the dishes from the Ritz. Another great thing that set this event apart from others — the bar. This event was 100% open bar with beer, wine, and mixed drinks. The event was the whole bottom floor of the Mandarin Oriental, which contained many different rooms and hallways. Since it wasn’t just one big open space, there were a lot of different areas to explore and discover.

The end of the night was capped off with awards, a live auction, and a fashion show. The fashion show all had models wearing clothing that was a hybrid of chocolate, marzipan, and/or sugar and fabric. I think the theme was “movies” since there was a Cruella DeVil, “Birds”, Tinkerbell, and a few warriors.

All in all, the event had great people, great food, and it was for a great cause. I honestly would consider going again next year, on my own ticket!

Vegan Almond French Toast

A new Whole Foods opened near me recently. As part of their opening promotions, they invited Facebook users, Twitter-ers, and e-mail subscribers to take part in a “Rate the Recipe Challenge”. We were asked to visit their online Recipe section and pick a recipe that hadn’t been rated yet. After we submitted our recipes, we were given a $20 gift card to purchase ingredients and the promise of another $10 gift card as incentive to complete the challenge.

It was hard to decide on just one recipe to choose, but I ended up picking Almond French Toast. This recipe was french toast with a twist, it’s egg and dairy free! My review follows below.

One of my favorite foods of all time is french toast, and the best part is the spongy, eggy taste of the center paired with the crisp and sweet outside. This recipe came together very quickly and really delivered on the “french toast” experience. The protein and texture of the eggs are replaced with the almond butter and tofu, and the milk is replaced with almond milk. The batter for the last few slices in the batch had a more paste-like texture that sticks to the bread , but if you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty, just wipe the bread down a bit between your fingers and this problem is solved. The bread is also a little dry because there is less liquid in this batter so it would pair great with some yogurt or extra syrup.

The best part of this dish was definitely the toasted almonds. I thought that topping the french toast with almonds wouldn’t taste good, but toasting them beforehand gives a wonderful crunch and brings out the natural sweetness of the nuts while providing a strong textural contrast.

The main ingredient in all french toast dishes is the bread, so this recipe can go all sorts of different ways depending on the type of bread you use. I made one batch using some whole grain bread and another batch using challah bread. I liked the challah bread better because it had a crispier outside and the lighter center of the bread soaked up the mixture better, but it really comes down to personal preference (and if you’re making an egg-free recipe, you should probably use an egg-free bread). The egg-free, whole wheat batch was served with some bananas drizzled with brown sugar syrup on the side while the challah batch was served with a smear of chocolate-hazelnut spread between slices.

This is a great recipe for those that love french toast, but can’t have it the traditional way due to dietary restrictions. This could be seen as a bit expensive to make if you didn’t have any of the ingredients, but most people have at least some of them. Also, this would be a great opportunity to utilize the “make your own nut butter” and bulk food sections at Whole Foods since this recipe only calls for a little of each ingredient.

Masa 14

MASA 14
ASIAN FUSION
http://masa14.com/
Food Decor Service Cost
19 20 19 $32

October 15th, 2009
I was contacted via survey by Masa 14 after my recent visit with my friend Stephanie. Stephanie was in a great position to help me fill out this survey since she’s a fellow foodie and was able to provide her unique vegetarian point of view on the menu. The survey asked diners for their thoughts on Decor, Food, Menu, Service and “Thankful-ness” from the staff for our patronage. I’ve included our slightly edited responses below, divided into the sections they asked for our feedback on. They also asked for rankings out of a possible five points–we ranked all categories either 3/5 or 4/5.

Chopsticks Centerpiece

Ambiance, decor, comfort

Love the wood detail, the layout of the place was okay. the outside made it seem like it was going to be smaller, and I was suprised at the size once I got inside. It was a bit hard to tell it was a restaurant outside since I couldn’t see a sign for “Masa 14”.

Menu variety and Choice & Food Quality and Taste

There were some interesting ingredient combinations, so this is a good place to get exposed to ingredients you haven’t tried before. The menu is not very vegetarian friendly–there were a lot of dishes that I think could be “made” vegetarian that would taste delicious. I would also like to see sushi rolls as well as temaki. A lot of dishes seemed like a good dish to try, but not good enough to order given that the prices would make the bill add up very quickly. I had the “Eastern Breeze” drink and it was very good.

Overall, the menu was interesting, but I was a bit confused. The dishes seem to be Asian with Mexican ingredients, making dishes “mash-ups”. Is masa 14 supposed to be Japanese-Mexican, or Asian-Latin (like Zengo)? If it’s the former, we would like to see more traditional dishes that use a mixture the flavor profiles as a way of modernizing, instead of these “mash-up” type dishes. Also, I think the majority of the menu was Asian with Latin ingredients, and I’d like to have seen some more traditional Latin dishes with Asian ingredients.

We ordered the seaweed/jicama salad, pork buns, ham/melon flatbread (1/2 with ham, 1/2 without), yucca fries, green tea tres leches and the mango panna cotta.

The salad was yummy. The texture could be improved a little bit, but the flavor was good. I think there needs to be a little more of a crunch element, which I thought would be provided by the jicama. Seemed simple, but had complex flavors.

The pork buns were alright. I liked the strong acidic flavors provided by the lime and pepper, but the pork got a bit lost in the mix in terms of flavoring. The “bun” was a bit too small and so it was awkward to eat. I think if the “bun” were larger, or an actual bun, it would do a good job of soaking up of those delicious juices that ran down the side of my arm instead~

The pizza had some very interesting flavors. I didn’t think I would like the melon with the ham, but it worked surprisingly well. I would have liked the ham to be a little crispier so that it was easier to bite into, but it was alright. The greens had a very strong dressing on them and the bread could also have been used to be a little bit crispier. I really liked the idea though, and the kitchen’s willingness to custom-make the pizza and it came out very quickly.

Mango panna cotta was great. Light but rich at the same time, and the coconut milk flavor was really pronounced. Green Tea Tres Leches was good, but it was a little bit off. I think the passion fruit “sauce” wasn’t integrated well into the dish and didn’t go with its overall flavors. Maybe something less acidic and more savory, like red bean or coffee on top?

Service

Our waitress was very helpful in explaining the menu when we asked questions. There weren’t any untimely delays in service and she was quick to repair an order that was served to the table incorrectly.

I was contacted to fill out a survey about my recent experience. I like when restaurants ask for opinions of their customers. I also liked that Masa 14 confirmed our reservation by calling us.

I really enjoyed talking to Chef Kaz, it seemed like a real treat that he would take the time to come to our table and ask our opinion.

Overall, We would both go back again after viewing the full menu (our waitress told us it was 50-70% of the menu). Masa 14 has some really great ideas, it’s in a convenient location, and I love Zengo!

Ham & Canteloupe Flatbread Yucca Fries Pork Buns
Seaweed/Jicama Salad Interior Green Tea Tres Leches
Mango/Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Eastern Breeze Cocktail Menu