January 27, 2012

Morningstar Italian Herb Chik Patties

This week, something with fond associations in my mind. Can it live up to my expectations? Let's find out. I'm going to test out Morningstar Italian Herb Chik Patties.

Now, when I say fond associations, I have to go all the way back to living in the dorms at college. After the first, oh, couple weeks there, the exciting food choices weren't so exciting, and I settled into a routine of mostly breakfast cereal and chicken patties. Of course, hangover Sunday was greasy chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, but that's a whole other story. The chicken patties at my dining hall were delightfully reliable. Not spectacular, by any means, but I could count on them being tasty and available when other choices didn't seem too tasty. So I ate a lot of them, back in the day. I hoped that these could live up to my memory of my dorm years.

I opted for the cooking option most likely to result in deliciousness - the oven. Yes, it takes a really long time, but when you want something with a crispy breaded exterior, there's really no other choice. After the designated time on the box, the patty was not quite hot enough, so I kept in in there a bit longer, until it was fully crispy. I ended up going about 7 minutes longer than the upper recommended time, but with chicken patties, the crunch is key. Finally it was ready to taste.

First of all, it looked great, and it smelled great. I opted to just eat it plain, rather than on a bun, just to get the full effect. I was not disappointed. This patty had a nice herby flavor, as promised, and a mildly chicken-y flavor, which isn't too tough to do, since chicken doesn't have a terribly pronounced flavor to begin with. I was really pleased with this.

I think this patty would be great on a bun, or on top of some spaghetti with some mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce, or on a Caesar salad. Or, like I had it, just plain on a plate, like the old days.

The experience:
Texture - Nicely crispy, eventually, with a pleasing chewy middle
Flavor - Very much like a chicken patty with Italian flavors - no complaints here

Final grade for this attempt: A+

January 20, 2012

Morningstar Veggie Corn Dogs

Something weird I've noticed over the years of writing this blog is that fake meat hot dogs seem to be universally bad while fake meat corn dogs are actually pretty good. I'd heard some really good things about Morningstar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs but for a long time they were discontinued. Apparently they're back!

I cooked these up two different ways, just to be thorough. First up, the oven, which is the method they recommend. Also the slowest possible way to get a corn dog into your mouth. So, into the oven for 20 minutes they went. Much much later, they came out, all hot and crunchy. Also cracked all the way up one side. Not the prettiest corn dogs around, but whatever. Time to give them a taste! Unfortunately, these were not that great. The corn bread part was okay, but the dog inside was…unpleasant. I made it through about a half of this corn dog before I just didn't want to eat it anymore. It wasn't horrible, but if I'm going to eat something, I want to enjoy it, and I wasn't enjoying this. Just not worth it. My German exchange student ate one of these, and declared it fine, but he's never actually eaten a real-meat corn dog, so he doesn't know what he's missing out on.

Next cooking method - the microwave. This is so rarely a good idea - I just figured since I didn't want to actually eat another one, I should see if the microwave could, against all odds, improve the situation. And it turns out, it does not. It still cracked up one side, but now, instead of having a crispy exterior, it was tough and chewy, and still tasted not great. And now my microwave smelled super strongly of funky hot dog. Bad situation all around. The only up side was that it tasted slightly better from the microwave than it did from the oven, but the benefit was totally outweighed by the ruined texture. Don't microwave these, trust me. And while you're at it, don't buy these - there are better corn dogs out there.

The experience:
Texture - from the oven, crispy on the outside, cheap-hot-dog-y on the inside; from the microwave, tough and chewy all the way through
Flavor - the corn bread part wasn't bad, but the mediocre hot dog inside ruined it for me

Final grade for this attempt: C

January 13, 2012

Gardein Ultimate Beefless Burger

Here comes another veggie burger! This time, it's Gardein Ultimate Beefless Burger. Sounds exciting!

As usual, I cooked it up in a skillet with a touch of oil. Not much to say about this part. I flipped it a couple times, to evenly brown it. I don't remember it having those attractive grill marks they show on the package, though. Hmm.

Let's get to why you're here: the tasting! We eat first with our eyes - this looks like a very burger-y burger. I wouldn't feel terribly self-conscious if I were one of those people who bring veggie burgers to a barbecue with meat-eaters. Once on a bun, I gave it a thorough tasting. First bite was a little weird - sort of meat-like but with an off-flavor that I couldn't immediately identify. Then I placed it. When I was in Europe way back when, this is what fast-food burgers tasted like. Something about the beef they use (probably higher quality than we get here in the states) had a different flavor to it, and this veggie burger tasted like that. After I figured that out, I gave it another taste and decided that, if I were not a meat-eater, I could get behind this burger. It's pretty darn good.

The experience:
Texture - nicely chewy, like one would expect a burger to be
Flavor - like European fast food burgers

Final grade for this attempt: A

January 6, 2012

Trader Joe's Veggie Burger

Another year, another veggie burger. This time, Trader Joe's Veggie Burger. Man, I kind of can't wait until I finish testing all existing veggie burgers. Okay, enough whining, let's get to the reviewing.

The first problem I ran into was that, while cooking this, it totally started falling apart.  This did not bode well for a patty. Once I got it onto a bun, things did not improve. It was really mushy, which is not a texture I strive for in my burgers. The catch was that the flavor was actually pretty decent. I didn't mind scooping it up and eating it.

So I started wondering: what could this be marketed as, if not a burger? When I removed the patty-expectations from my mind, this wasn't too bad to eat - maybe served crumbled on a salad? Or in a casserole? I don't know, but I'll do some experimenting with my extra patties to see if I can render them more palatable, and get back to you.

The experience:
Texture - very mushy - bad as a patty, potentially good as… something else
Flavor - kind of a stuffing-y flavor - sort of generically veggie-ish, but pleasant

Final grade for this attempt: B- (for now)