April 30, 2010

Lightlife Smart Deli Ham

No veggie burgers this week! Finally picked up some other stuff. This week, we're back to Lightlife's Smart Deli line with Smart Deli Ham. I'd had a pretty good experience with their pepperoni, so I was cautiously optimistic. However, as soon as I opened the box, my concerns were alive and well.

Dear Lightlife, ham is not brownish-orange. Ham is pink. See what you can do about that.

I grudgingly opened the plastic surrounding this brown meat, thinking that if I ever encountered real-meat ham that looked like that, I'd throw it right in the trash. Outside. Actually, the neighbor's trash can, maybe. That might be far enough. But I boldly put some of it into my mouth.

Lo and behold, it actually tasted pretty good. And not only that, but remarkably similar to ham. I was a little worried about the almost-first ingredient being wheat gluten, because usually highly gluten-y products have a super gross taste, but this one was pretty much just ham-flavored. So, all you practically-life-long vegetarians who haven't ever eaten ham or just forgot, this is pretty close to what ham tastes like. Now you know.

I even tried it with a cracker and some swiss cheese (my favorite thing to do with lunchmeat ham), and it tasted just like real ham with swiss cheese. I'm very impressed.

The experience:
Texture - nice and chewy, just like real ham
Flavor - very hammy - I like it!

Final grade for this attempt: A+

April 23, 2010

Morningstar Garden Veggie Patties

I feel like I've been reviewing a lot of veggie burgers lately. I really need to get to the co-op and pick up some non-veggie-burger fake meat soon. Any requests? I can't promise my co-op will carry it, but I'll look.

For now, you get to read about Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patties. This seemed like it would be the standard veggie burger experience. I did my usual oil-in-the-skillet routine, flipping it a couple times until it was hot and crispy, tossed it on a bun with some ketchup and a slice of tomato and gave it a bite.

Unfortunately, this was not the standard veggie burger experience. I'm not sure exactly what I was tasting, but there was an unpleasant off-flavor. Then I bit into a water chestnut. Those things are so gross. Why would anyone use them? The texture makes my teeth shiver, and they contribute no flavor. What a stupid ingredient. Ultimately, I decided not to eat the rest of my burger and gave it to my wife. She found it tasted much better with mustard, if you're into that sort of thing.

The experience:
Texture - the standard veggie-burger texture lightly fried in a skillet - pretty nice
Flavor - something unpleasant and unidentifiable

Final grade for this attempt: C- on its own, A if you like mustard, apparently

April 16, 2010

Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger

This week, it's another Morningstar veggie burger - their Spicy Black Bean Burger. I was a little nervous of the fact that it actually contained the word "spicy" in the name of it, since I'm a big spice baby, as I've mentioned before, but I gave it a shot anyway.

First note - the cooking directions say to thaw the burger in the microwave first, then cook it in a skillet for 6-7 minutes. This sounded like way too much time, especially for a thawed burger. I was right. I flipped it about every 15 seconds, and only got about three flips in before it started to turn black on the edges, so I pulled it off the heat. Why would they think it would take a burger 6 minutes to get hot?

Anyway - I didn't know what to put on this burger - the picture just showed more of the same stuff that was in it piled on top, so I just put it on a bun plain, since I didn't have any of the ingredients on hand. Then, I bit into it. First impressions were that it definitely wasn't as spicy as I'd feared. Once I got past that, I realized that it didn't actually have much flavor. I decided it needed something tomato-based, and since it's a black bean burger, I added some salsa. Now it tasted like slightly mushy salsa! As weird as that sounds, it was actually pretty tasty. I'd eat this again.

The experience:
Texture - crispy on the outside, kind of mealy on the inside
Flavor - aside from being slightly spicy, it was fairly bland by itself

Final grade for this attempt: B

April 9, 2010

Trader Joe's Beef-less Strips

Ever since the major disappointment with Trader Joe's Chicken-less strips, I've been hiding their beef-less strips in the freezer, afraid to try them out. Today, I finally dug them out and decided to give them a shot.

I wanted to give them the best chances of succeeding that I could, so I went with a flavoring that I expected to drown out any flavors inherent in the product - taco seasoning. I decided to whip up a nice taco salad for lunch. I chopped up some lettuce while the strips thawed out, dumped some taco seasoning on the strips, and added the requisite amount of water. Then, since I think the strips absorbed some of the water, I had to add some more, as the seasoning hadn't fully dissolved and was looking a little chunky.

Finally, they were ready to eat. I topped the lettuce with a generous portion of the strips, since I wasn't going to be sharing them. Then, before adding the rest of the ingredients I was planning to add, I decided to taste one of the strips. I'm very glad I did, because I wasn't going to be able to eat that salad. These things were even worse than the chicken-less strips. The texture actually wasn't too bad - it was kind of chewy - not exactly beef-like, but not unpleasant.

However, they actually managed to overpower the flavor of the taco seasoning. All that remained was the spiciness of the seasoning - any taco-like flavors were gone. Where did they go? Who knows? All I could taste was that disgusting beef-less beef strip flavor. I thought about trying to add more seasoning, but at this point, I didn't want to waste it. Time for a new lunch plan.

The experience:
Texture - interestingly chewy
Flavor - terrible and overpowering

Final grade for this attempt: F

April 2, 2010

Morningstar Grillers Turk'y Burger

This week, I'm reviewing Morningstar Farms Grillers Turk'y Burger. These patties have avocado and tomato cooked right in. In the picture on the box, it looks like you'd be able to see them in the patty itself. Not so. But that's okay - we all know by now that food doesn't usually turn out looking like its picture. The real question is: how does it taste?

Once again, I disregarded the preparation instructions in favor of something I've used before. The only options on the box were the oven or the microwave. The oven would take 16-18 minutes, and I knew I wouldn't get a crispy exterior in the microwave, so I threw it into my fancy non-stick skillet with about a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Just a few minutes later, the patty was ready, and nicely crisped.

I put it on a bun with some lettuce and some sad winter tomatoes. I ended up scraping off the tomatoes, because they added nothing, and detracted from my enjoyment. The lettuce was a nice touch, and I think the next time I eat one of these, it would benefit from some cheese of some sort. In any case, I'm here to talk about this burger - not the next one. So I took a bite of my assembled burger. I was kind of excited because it smelled pretty good, and it looked nice. The first bite registered as "yum" in my mouth, but then further processing (the next couple bites) told me that I think I was just really hungry. The burger itself was not terribly flavorful. It had a small amount of spiciness to it, just the right amount, in my opinion. Aside from the slight spiciness, and the generic protein-flavor, it didn't have much going for it. Like many poultry (and simulated poultry) items, its main goal seemed to be to provide a chewy texture for the condiments and toppings.

Overall, not bad - nothing special, though.

The experience:
Texture - basic frozen poultry patty texture - nothing unpleasant, nothing noteworthy
Flavor - ever so slightly spicy, but no other flavor to speak of

Final grade for this attempt: B-