Foodie Friday: Trentino Artisan Gelato

It may be Fall, but it still feels like Summer. That means it’s still frozen dessert weather (though I argue you can have ice cream any time you want). Before I move to warm drinks and apple flavored everything, I’m reviewing a new brand of gelato I had recently.

If you haven’t heard of Trentino Gelato, don’t worry. They’re a Houston-based company and from what I can find most of their products are sold in Texas.  What made the product stand out to me was that they used goat’s milk. As someone who’s not exactly tolerating the lactose like I did in the past I’ve been looking into goat’s milk as an alternative (I’ve already try almond milk based frozen dessert). And when I saw that my local store had a coupon I knew I had to try it (shout out to all my coupon lovers!)

First, the sweet milk. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what possessed me to get this flavor instead of something more recognizable like strawberry. The name alone intrigued me. Either way, I’m glad I bought this flavor.

I was pleased that the pops themselves weren’t too small. For comparison, I placed my 7″ x 3″ hand (why yes, I did measure my hand) by the pop. As for the flavor, it pretty much lives up to its name. It was definitely sweet and very creamy, but the sweetness wasn’t overpowering and I think that’s because of the goat’s milk. I give it a 4/5.

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Next, I purchased the Vanilla flavor.

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I’ll be honest, I almost freaked out when I saw the black specks until I remembered that the specks were vanilla. After that rather embarrassing moment, I dug right into the pop.

I definitely rank the vanilla over the sweet milk flavor. Despite its reputation, vanilla has a very distinct flavor that when done right makes for an enjoyable experience and Trentino nails it. I recommend if you’re hesitant about trying these pops to go with the vanilla pop first. I give it a 4.5/5.

My only complaint, and it could be just me being cheap, is the price. Before the coupon, the gelato pops would sell for around $5 (I paid around $4). For three pops each, this could seem very steep. I would argue that since they are made of goat’s milk that the price is worth it. I also argue that it’s probably a better deal at roughly $2 per pop than going to a gelato or ice cream shop and spending $3 to $5 for a few scoops.

If you live in Texas or you’re visiting, I say give these pops a shot. They’re a nice, sweet treat and probably won’t be as harsh for those who are lactose intolerant.

 

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JL’s Summer of Ice Cream (& Frozen Desserts)

As summer starts to wane down (somebody needs to tell the heat that!), one of the big joys of the season is enjoying some frozen treats. This summer, I decided to embark on a journey of trying different low-calorie ice creams (or in one case, frozen dessert) all while avoiding a brain freeze.

Let’s first talk about Halo Top. I’ve reviewed the Birthday Cake flavor in the past and decided I needed to explore more of their options. After trying five of their flavors, I’ve come to the conclusion that the higher the calories per pint, the more likely the ice cream will be tasty. The Red Velvet has one of the highest calories counts of the Halo Top line, but man, it was good. And adding brownie chunks was a good move.

Runner ups were the seasonal flavors, Blueberry Crumble and Peaches & Cream. While the Blueberry Crumble wasn’t filled with crumbles, the blueberry flavor more than made up for it. The Peaches and Cream fared better with the peach chunks adding a nice bit of tartness to the sweet cream.

The Cookies & Cream was disappointing. It wasn’t bad, but I was expecting more chunks of cookies and got crumbs. It was so disappointing I went to an ice cream shop to get a proper cookies & cream ice cream. At least it tasted like cookies & cream which is more than I can say for their S’mores flavor which is currently my least favorite. I couldn’t really taste any marshmallow flavor and the chocolate and graham cracker crumbs were disappointing.

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Let’s move on to Enlightened. I decided to try this brand when I saw they also had a cookies & cream flavor. Let me just say that their version is better than Halo Top’s and that’s because there were actual chunks of cookie. Still not to the level of a full-calorie version, but enough to leave me satisfied.

Afterwards, I bought the Cold Brew Coffee flavored one. This one was definitely my favorite. It had a nice coffee flavor while not being sickly sweet. Not sure why they named it after cold brew and not just call it coffee. Do people just prefer cold brew over hot and iced coffee?

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Lastly, the vegan option. I’ll be honest, I only got this ice cream because it was on clearance. I was skeptical of an ice cream using almond milk as the base. Thankfully, it was pretty good. One weird thing was the gummy texture. It wasn’t quite like eating a gummy bear, but it was there and it disrupted any illusion that I was eating ice cream. I still need to try the other alternatives.

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What are your favorite flavors? Do you prefer store-bought, ice ream shops, or homemade? Let me know in the comments!

Review of Dr. Praeger’s All-American Burger

I finally bit the bullet and got this burger. For $3.79 for two patties, compared to our patties like their other offerings, I’ve been putting off buying this product. Fortunately, I caught it on sale at the store for $3 and decided it was time to put it to the test.

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Frozen patty

The first thing I noticed was that it was definitely bigger in size compared to the other Dr. Praeger patties. It also looks and smells the closest to an actual beef burger. No grill lines like the picture, but maybe I needed to use an actual grill. For this review, I decided to cook it in my toaster oven at 450° F. I picked this method because it seemed like the healthiest option and I have had past success with using the oven on their other patties. One thing to note is that the burger takes 17 minutes to cook all the way (9 minutes on one side and you flip it for the other 8 minutes) compared to the 12 minutes for the other patties.

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My assembled burger

How did it taste? First off, I wished I had an actual burger bun. Mostly because it seems to call for something more substantial. Even an English toast muffin would have been better. It reminded me of a falafel in terms of looks with a greenish-brown filling. The burger itself definitely has a meatier taste compared to the other patties, but doesn’t replicate the taste of beef. The exterior was very crunchy, though I blame myself for leaving it in the oven a bit longer (one of the perils of using an oven is forgetting about it!). One thing that separates it from the other patties I’ve had from the company is that it is very filling. I felt all 23 of those grams of protein!

Would I recommend it? For the price, it is more expensive compared to the other patties , but you’re getting a product that is getting close to an actual beef burger. I would also wager it would still cost less than getting getting a veggie burger at a restaurant. It’s also soy free so it’s definitely a great option for those averse or allergic to soy. As long as you don’t leave it in the oven too long, it should be good and even then I liked the crispiness of the burger. Overall, I give it a 3.5/5.

Dark Chocolate Japanese Kit Kats

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to review the dark chocolate Kit Kats from Japan. I’ve reviewed matcha, dark chocolate with pepper, but never plain dark chocolate. Especially since I prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate (and definitely against white chocolate). Well, that ends today as I do a quickie review of this flavor of Kit Kat.

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First things first, this flavor is not limited to Japan. In the U.S., Hershey (as I’ve mentioned before makes American Kit Kats) does have a dark chocolate version of the candy. Compared to the milk and white chocolate versions, I much prefer the dark chocolate version.

That being said, there is a difference in taste between Japan’s version and the one in the U.S. The U.S. version is pretty standard dark chocolate. No real “wow” factor, but it does its job. When I tasted the Japanese version, I was struck by the coffee flavor. This was odd seeing as how there’s no coffee anywhere in the ingredient list, but there was definitely something different in this Kit Kat that separated it from its American counterpart.

If you’re wondering which was better, you’ll be disappointed to hear me say that it depends on your personal taste. For me, the Japanese version edges out the American version, but barely. I’d recommend trying both to see which one fits your palate. Cost wise, you may want to stick with American version as it is cheaper and it’s no worse than the Japanese version.

Overall, I give the candy a 5/5.

 

Foodie Friday: Blue Dahlia’s Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is one of those desserts I don’t really think about until I see it at a party or it’s offered to me. Maybe it’s because it’s so rich or it’s not as easily accessible as brownies or ice cream, but I don’t usually seek it out. That changed a few Fridays ago when on my cheat day (a day where I indulge), I decided to try dessert at the Blue Dahlia Bistro in San Marcos.

 

When I looked at the menu, I was tempted to get the brownie since it’s a relatively safe bet. Ultimately, I took a chance on the bread pudding and I was not disappointed. First, thing I noticed was that it was big. The waiter serving me said it was, but like the Grand Canyon you have to see it to believe it. Second, it came out nice and warm that the ice cream was starting to melt on top of it. I’ll admit, the ice cream was a bit much, but hey, cheat day.

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The real question is how does it taste and I can say it tasted amazing. The pudding had a nice crisp on the top and was soft and warm in the center. The rum flavor was very present throughout the pudding, but it didn’t overwhelm me with its flavor. The fruit and ice cream were a great addition, complimenting the pudding without overwhelming it. This is personal, but I’m glad the restaurant didn’t put raisins in their pudding.

Now, was it worth the price at $8.50 ($6 without the ice cream) before tax? Honestly, yes. While definitely more expensive than getting a McDonald’s apple pie, you’re getting a hefty amount of pudding. I had to actually take some home with me! (By the way, it still tastes pretty good after a day)

Overall, I would give this a 5/5 and would definitely recommend this dessert if you’re feeling something that will warm you right up.

JL’s Takes: Jonghyun’s “Hallelujah”

If you’re not privy to the K-Pop world or follow international news, you may have missed the news in December of the unfortunate passing of Jonghyun Kim at age 27. I’ll admit, I first heard of him through BBC’s coverage of his death and funeral. I was only just starting to dig at the surface of K-pop in 2017 with older groups like Shinhwa and Shinee, the band he was a part of, wasn’t on my radar. Still, curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to know what kind of music he made with his group and as a solo artist.

I was not disappointed.

Today for Thursday Takes, a news series where I tackle music reviews, I’m looking at my new favorite song, “Hallelujah” from Jonghyun’s mini album, BASE. Full disclosure, I don’t speak Korean so I have to rely completely on others’ translations.

Using hallelujah to describe any love interest could have been corny, yet Jonghyun imbues the song with a sincerity that will make a person sing hallelujah along with him. This isn’t just a sweet little love from your boy next door. This is a proclamation from a man so amazed by his love that he has to get down on his knees and wonder how this miracle happened to him.

There’s no music video, but there are a few live performances on YouTube and a video where we see him practicing the song. The performance only enhances the song as Jonghyun spreads his arms wide and accepting the gift from God. It’s only fitting that at the end he gets down on his knees as if he was about to pray.

I give this song a 5/5 and definitely recommend y’all listen to Jonghyun’s other work.

 

Foodie Friday: Arepitas

A while back, I blogged about my time in New York City and all the wonderful food it has to offer. What I didn’t mention was missing out on trying out an arepa. I got my chance yesterday thanks to Arepitas, a Venezuelan restaurant located in Harker Heights.

First things first, you might be wondering what is an arepa. It’s a type of bread made from cornmeal and is most common in Venezuela and Colombia. They can be eaten as is or stuffed with various meats, cheeses, and vegetables. And believe me, they are truly stuffed.

Arepitas

I ordered the vegetarian arepa which had white fresh cheese, plantains, avocado, and cabbage. I will admit that I was hesitant about having plantains in my arepa, but I was proven wrong by how well the sweetness paired with the savoriness of the cheese and the sauce. The avocado provided that nice creaminess and offset some of the sweetness from the plantains.

As for the restaurant itself, the service was awesome and our cashier was very knowledgeable about the cuisine. She was also very patient as I tried to make a decision about which arepa to get (I almost got the Pimped Out Queen). It is small so I wouldn’t suggest hosting big parties in there.

Overall, I give the whole experience a 5/5 and would definitely come back again!

JL Reviews Black Panther (Spoiler-Free)

It’s still Black History Month and what better way to celebrate it than by watching Black Panther. Shoot, this movie would make a good option for Women’s History Month next month because of how well-written and varied the female characters are in this film.

Full disclosure: I haven’t been keeping up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I’ve seen clips, gifs, and so much fan art, but haven’t taken the time to watch a film all the way through and certainly not in theaters. That is the power of Black Panther.

The movie follows T’Challa after the events of Captain America: Civil War as he returns to Wakanda to become the king of this isolated and technologically advanced country in Africa. As someone who hasn’t seen the film, I wasn’t lost as to what was happening thanks to some exposition and flashbacks that didn’t drag the movie down. T’Challa is a serviceable hero and frankly, I’m amazed it took us this long to get a movie about him.

He is joined by his hilarious yet down to earth scientist sister, Shuri, love interest, Nakia, and leader of the Dora Miljae (his all-female special forces), Okoye. If you haven’t noticed, quite a few main characters are women in the movie and it works well for the film and its message. I won’t go in detail about it in this post as it gets into spoiler territory, but it’s refreshing seeing dark-skinned Black women being love interesting and kicking butt!!

But a superhero movie always needs a good villain and Eric “Killmonger” Stevens delivers. His character inspires fear yet slight acknowledgment that maybe he’s in the right and the realization that his whole being is built on tragedy. To lighten the mood, secondary villain Ulysses Klaue brings the laughs while maintaining an air of menace which is not an easy feat to accomplish.

The most surprising character is M’Baku. Known as Man-Ape in the comics, the film crew decided to avoid the more problematic imagery in favor of having him be more of an anti-hero and being funny to boot. Trust me, you won’t be able to take your eyes off of him when he’s on the screen.

Overall, I give this film a solid A. This is definitely a film to go see in theater!

JL’s 2017 Favorites

It’s the end of the year, everyone, and that means end of the year lists! For my list, I’ll do a mishmash of media, food, and events that I’ve enjoyed this past year. So let’s get into it! Here are my top five favorite foods, songs, discoveries, and miscellaneous for 2017.

Favorite Foods/Drinks

  1. Starbucks Peach Citrus Infused Iced Tea: As I talked about in my review earlier this year, it’s a very refreshing drink
  2. Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars: I know Halo Top is the cool kid on the block, but I much prefer these amazing frozen yogurt bars to satisfy my sweet tooth.
  3. Cranberry and Almond Japanese Kit-Kat: The more of these Japanese Kit-Kats that I have, the more I think we Americans are getting ripped off of having good candy (Hershey is in charge of Kit-Kats in America whereas Nestle is the owner.)
  4. Sawdust Pie: Up until this year, I’ve never heard of this cool pie with coconut and banana and I can’t believe it took me this long. After getting a slice from a local cafe, I’m totally hooked and can’t wait to try and make it at home!
  5. Fried Tomato Sandwich: If you’re looking for vegetarian options, I definitely recommend this sandwich from Punch Bowl Social.

Favorite Songs

  1. “Heaven” by Shinhwa: A great breakup song to get you into your feelings and a great showcase of Kim Dong Wan’s vocal talents.
  2. “Move” by TAEMIN: If I could use one word to describe this song it would be sensual. It’s the kind of song that gets me up and dancing in no time. Plus, the 3rd version of the music video is superb.
  3. “Charger” by Gorillaz feat. Grace Jones: While short on lyrics, the beats and Jones’ super cool voice creates a great song for those long car drives.
  4. “I’m Better” by Missy Elliott feat. Lamb: Missy continues to be one of the best in the music game. And the aesthetics of this music video makes me want to visit the future that she comes from.
  5. “Super Power” by Shinhwa: Still not sure why this song wasn’t one of the singles instead of Touch (which I enjoy as well). Either way, this song goes hard and features some of the best rapping I’ve heard from the group.

Runner Ups: “Smile” by Sechskies, “The Best Present” by Rain, “The Gate” by Bjork, “Icon” by Jaden Smith

Best Discoveries

  1. Shinhwa: This year saw the expansion of Kpop songs and groups in my Spotify and no group has taken up most of it than the legendary boy band, Shinhwa. With great hits, great music videos, and great personas, these six men are now one of my favorite acts and one of my favorite discoveries this year.
  2. Candy Raptor: This small, yet inviting restaurant in San Marcos, TX was a great find. Their vegan burger was very excellent and their homemade soda was topnotch.
  3. ProPublica: With cries of “fake news” it’s good to find some great organizations doing some great work.
  4. Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers: Look, sometimes you’re feeling a bit lazy and you just want to pop in a veggie burger in your toaster oven. So far, these are the best frozen veggie burgers I’ve had (and for roughly $4 for 4 patties they better be!) with my favorite being the super greens. Would definitely recommend trying these out.
  5. Tous Les Jours: Oh man, this bakery is the bee’s knees! I went with my friend as part of her birthday celebration and they have some of the best baked goods. You can see one of the baked goods I got at the top.

Runner Ups: Sechskies, TVXQ!

Other Things I’ve Enjoyed

  1. Queen Sugar Season 2: The show didn’t suffer from the sophomore slump as it goes deeper into not only our three main characters, but our supporting characters. I can’t wait for season 3!
  2. Neo Yokio: I’m still not sure if I like this show or not. One thing that’s for sure is that it stuck with me as I tried to figure out what was going on in the minds of the creators.
  3. Power Rangers 2017 reboot: I’ve already made a post discussing why it succeeded, but I want to reiterate that this was a great reboot of the franchise. While a sequel seems out of reach, I’m glad this movie exists.
  4. Lady Gaga: Five Foot 2: I’ll admit, it took me two times to finish the movie. Not because it was bad, but because it was struck a nerve deep inside me concerning success, family, and trying to cope with forces outside of your control.
  5. Samurai Jack: I hesitated to put this show on here because it faltered severely towards the end. That said, it was still a great way to end the show and the adventures of our main character with great animation and voice acting.

Runner Ups: Alice in Paris, Quinta Vs. Everything, Lindsay Ellis’ Video Essays,

Foodie Friday: Cookie Butter Flavored Oreo (Quick Review)

Y’all, it’s October and it’s that time of the year where sweets are everywhere! One new sweet from Oreo cookies is Cookie Butter Flavored Oreos.

Now, cookie butter is one of those spreads that was just meant to be a taste test and has ended up with me (and my mom) keeping a jar in our respective pantries (which reminds me, my jar is starting to run low…). So of course, I definitely needed to try this new Oreo. And when you compare it to other flavors they’ve offered in the past, it seems downright normal (sherbet, seriously?) and a pretty good idea for a flavor.

So what did I think of it? Ultimately, it was okay.

The execution was much better than Ben & Jerry’s attempt at incorporating cookie butter into their ice cream. For one, the flavors are very simple: a graham cracker cookie with a cookie butter spread. You could do this yourself at home and get the same results, minus the weird grainy texture found in the Oreo.

Of course, that’s the main problem with this cookie. Yes, we can all make homemade Oreo-like cookies at home, but they can be time consuming and sometimes you just want a cookie now and they don’t sell the cream filling in a jar (that I know of). This cookie, however, can be easily replicated and the upside is you still use the graham crackers and cookie butter for other things besides smushing them together in a sandwich.

One thing I appreciate was that it wasn’t super sweet. Despite its name, cookie butter itself is actually pretty tame in its sweetness, thanks to using the speculoos cookie as the base. I’m glad Oreo realized that and didn’t try to add more sugar than was necessary.

I don’t think this cookie will be a crowd favorite like the birthday cake flavor or the red velvet flavored (seriously, why are those good??) Oreo cookies, but it’s definitely not a bad flavor.