Kopparberg Pear Cider

Koppaberg Pear Cider

It was dark in there and I was sitting front row, so...

This weekend I saw The Bither Brothers Band play at The Bitter End in NYC….PAUSE –  I can’t even get through the description of this lovely night without a grimace on my face as I remember the taste of this god awful cider.

I know I sound like a hater, but if you’ve followed this blog at all you may have been skeptical of my honesty up until now. I know what I like (and let’s face it, there isn’t much that I don’t like) so I know what to order and how to order it; what to cook and how to cook it (most of the time).

Because of my keen sense of awareness of my taste, I rarely blunder in ordering, leaving all of the blundering up to the establishments – which just hasn’t happened to me all that often.

So, I’m not a hater, I’m just being honest. And no, “god awful” is not too strong of a phrase. None of my friends who tried Kopparberg Cider were able to swallow it with a straight face (TWSS).

Back to the story: we’re having a grand ol’ time at The Bitter End listening to The Bither Brothers  (Lady Gaga played here back in the day) and I’ve already enjoyed a few libations. BUT now I am looking to try something new; you’re surprised, I know.

I mosey on over to the bar, take a look at the scribbled list (just how I like it) and I see “Kapp???? Pear Cider.” I couldn’t quite make out the name, but I love me some cider! And pear – even over apple – happens to be my favorite.

the bither brothers band

Michael

The Bither Brothers Band

Patrick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am immediately mentally (and possibly emotionally) taken back to my alma mater to a local bar and restaurant, HomeGrown where I would frequently order – and even recommend – the oh-so-delicious Ace Pear Cider . My mouth starts to water  (then and now as I write this) and I’m pumped for my cider.

I am given my receipt, the bottle and… a glass of ice?! I was so befuddled that I’m sure I hesitated, but I chalked it up to the bartender’s ignorance of cider. It’s not all that common so I wasn’t holding it against her.

Leaving it up the “expert” I poured some cider over the ice and took a nice, long sip. BLECH! What the F**** is this?!

It is super duper, crazy-over-the-top sweet, syrupy, watery (I know, that sounds contradictory – think watered down syrup) barely carbonated and bland all at the same time.

I said to myself, “okay, maybe it’s this weird glass-of-ice-thing,” and took another big swig right from the bottle: EQUALLY BLECH.

It didn’t taste terrrrrrible in that it wasn’t expired, it didn’t smell bad, it wasn’t thick or even flavorful at all. For that reason, and the fact that it set me back almost eight big ones, I finished it. But not without a grimace on my face.

It wasn’t good. To confirm my thoughts I passed that puppy around the table..

You know, the oh-so-strangely-common “This is gross! Wanna taste it?!” thing…

(Why do we ask that? And why do so many people say “yes”?)

I got the same review from every. single. person. A grimace.

I do not recommend, under any circumstances, that you try this cider. Not if you are a fan of cider. Not if you aren’t a fan of cider. Not if you are the cider expert of the world and… okay, maybe then. Otherwise: STAY AWAY.

I know that this seems like a very strong opinion. And you’re right. And although I’m sure someone somewhere likes this – they do continue to sell it and they do carry it is bars (apparently) – so maybe there is some kind of “acquired taste.” However, for those of you who like Strongbow, Ace or even Woodchuck’s – you’re not going to like this. It tastes absolutely nothing like it’s highly superior counterparts.

Have you ever tried hard cider? What’s your favorite brand?

Apple or Pear?

Ever have an equally surprisingly displeasing experience after ordering a drink? I’d love to hear about it!

Sorry, Kopparberg. I SEO’d the shit out you and your god awful cider. Hopefully for you your SEO is strong and Google won’t index this blog on your first page… Oh look, it’s actually on page one. Whoops.

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Jazz! Apples

jazz applesThe power is still out due to Hurricane Irene and therefore this week’s grocery trip was short and sweet.. literally. I was only in the store for about 25 minutes (I check lots of labels and compare prices so this is short for me!) and I bought apples and new snack bars for work. I needed items that don’t need to be refrigerated, but I also didn’t want to completely sacrifice nutrition, either.

I have been in the market for new snack bars that are low in fat, calories AND sugar – a combination, come to find out, that is hard to come by. More on my thoughts on sugar and snack bars in a later post. This post is about Jazz Apples!

As I walked through the produce section, admiring all of the need-to-be-refrigerated fruits and veggies, I thought to myself: Apples and Pears! Both are great snacks for me at work and don’t have to be refrigerated. AND I could keep them in the office. Looking around for my normal favorite, Fuji or gala apples, I was surprised that I didn’t see any. I settled on some other variety, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign that said Jazz! Confused at first and then intrigued, I put my apples back and made my way over to the Jazz! apples. They looked like both fuji and gala in that they were yellow and red in color. They were larger, though, and had a more of a “tall and skinny” look than the normal “short and fat” apple shape. Only 10 cents more per pound, I figured what the heck? Eat something new, right?

I snacked on one at work yesterday (and today) and they are delicious! Crisp, dense, NOT gritty at all – my number one attribute I look for in a good apple (the only macintosh I like is my computer) – and just the right amount of sweetness. Jazz apples have a distinct taste that is hard to explain, but nothing crazy or strange, just delicious!

This is what Wikipedia had to say about Jazz apples:

“Jazz is a relatively new apple variety from New Zealand. It is the result of a cross between Royal Gala and Braeburn made by Plant & Food Research in 1985.[1] It is also known as Scifresh. It was launched in April 2004.

The apple is sweet, crunchy and juicy. It has a firm, dense flesh and a complex flavor with the acid of Braeburn and the sweetness of Royal Gala giving it broad appeal.

The speculation about why the apple variety is named Jazz, is most likely the exciting color combinations that can be compared to the music style jazz which is often an advanced harmony with discoloration of a piecework.

Jazz apples are being grown under license in New Zealand, UK, Washington state in the US, Australia, France, Chile, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_(apple))

After doing a simple Google search I noticed that Jazz apples even have their own website: jazzapple.com.

Here are a few images they featured that I thought were worth sharing:

They also boast many health benefits including:

  • Lots of fiber
  • Cancer fighting abilities
  • Help facilitate easier breathing

Anyone ever hear of the 3-A-Day Apple Diet? Jazz Apples link to the 3-Apple-A-Day Plan, claiming that on average, those who participate lose 20 lbs. in 12 weeks. Let me know if you’ve ever hear of or tried this. Very interesting!

Do you have a go-to apple variety?

What do you look for in a good apple?

What’s your favorite way to eat an apple? (plain, peanut butter, pie?)

Any out-of-the-ordinary fruits you think I should try?

Omega Diner Reuben Sandwich

omega diner and cafe

I could do without the fries, to be honest 🙂

The history of the Reuben sandwich isn’t known for sure, but there’s a few stories that seem to host the most klout. If you’re interested, you can read about them here.

Several variations of the Reuben exist, but the traditional Reuben is either cornedbeef or pastrami on grilled rye bread with sauerkraut and either Russian or Thousand Island dressing. I prefer mine with corned beef and thousand island dressing.

What’s the difference between Russian and Thousand Island?

Thousand island dressing is lighter in color and chunky, containing finely chopped ingredients such as pickles, onions, bell peppers and/or green olives, among other things. Russian dressing is a darker, brighter orange color and does not contain any chunks. I prefer the former.

A Reuben sandwich is one of my favorite not-so-healthy foods. If you follow along here you know I prefer gourmet, healthy wraps to greasy sandwiches, but sometimes a Reuben just hits the spot. The good news here is that it is pretty filling, so I normally don’t eat more than half, saving the other half for later or sharing it with my date.

A few weeks ago I had been craving a Reuben, so before leaving for vacation we headed over to my favorite NJ diner: The Omega Diner and Cafe in North Brunswick, NJ. I didn’t even have to look at the menu, knowing that I wanted the Reuben sandwich. I did look, though, because you have to be careful! Like I said above, I enjoy mine with corned beef and thousand island, so it’s important to make sure that this is how they serve or that these are at least options. I’m not a fan of the pastrami and Russian dressing version.

If you’re scared of corned beef, don’t be! It is salty, tender and juicy. Especially on this sandwich with the cheese, sauerkraut and dressing it all comes together in your mouth as a perfect flavor combination.

It is traditionally served as a hot, grilled, open-faced sandwich with cole slaw, a pickle and fries. Let me tell you, Omega hit it out of the park. It was a great sandwich; the meat was tender and juicy, not too much cheese, the rye was perfectly grilled and the thousand island came on the side, just how I like it. It was absolutely delicious! Seriously as honestly.

So much so that a few weeks later we went back and I got it again!

What’s your favorite not-so-healthy indulgence?

Do you like Reuben sandwiches? How do you like yours?

Brennan’s Lobster Salad

lobster salad
Brennan’s Lobster Salad Sandwich

Whenever I visit two of my best friends in their hometown we head to the beach, but not before stopping at Brennan’s Delicatessen in Rumson, NJ. Famous for their extensive selection of gourmet wraps, not to mention homemade salads, sides and sandwiches, they are the must-try lunch spot if you’re in Central Jersey.

Having been there a few times and having loved their food, I said YES! when I was asked if I wanted to try the one in Oakhurst. It did not disappoint.

It sported the same big board of numbered sandwich options, the same glass counter filled with delicious and obviously homemade salads and sides, and the same cozy beach-town atmosphere.

First I ordered a roasted vegetable wrap, but quickly asked if it would be too much of a pain to change my order. They were offering a Lobster Salad Sandwich special that I simply could not pass up! I didn’t order it at first because “Lobster salad” makes me think of Lobster Rolls which, believe it or not, are not my favorite.

Last summer I tried a lobster roll and a lobster ale at The Lobster Roll on Long Island, supposedly the original and creator of the sandwich. It was a cute, fun place and the lobster ale was great. The roll, however, not my thing. Not bad, just not my preference.

This is why I was nervous to order it at Brennan’s… until I saw the big bowl of it on the counter. I saw that there were HUGE, and I mean HUGE chunks of lobster with shopped veggies and a light layer of dressing. I am always afraid that chicken, tuna or lobster salad will have too much filling or mayonnaise, thus hiding the supposed feature ingredient. Not the case here.

lobster rollBrennan’s lobster salad was chunky with gigantic pieces of lobster that were complimented with a little bit of mayo, and some fresh, crunchy raw veggies – mostly carrots, red onion and celery. It was served on soft, multigrain bread that stood up to the salad, even over night in the fridge! Yes, that means I could only eat half per sitting. It was a delicious and big sandwich, enough for lunch on both Thursday and Friday.

The only thing I have to say, and only because this blog is honest, is that I did not care for the chips. They make homemade potato chips, which I usually love, but this time they were a disappointment. They were soggy and some tasted like BBQ chips – something else I am not a fan of.

BUT the lobster salad sandwich was so good I was willing to over-look the chips and still give Brennan’s my utmost approval.

Not a seafood lover? Not in to Lobster salad? Try any one of their other gourmet sandwiches or wraps – you will not be sorry!

Summer Salad Series [Review]: Buffalo Shrimp Salad at Kildare’s Newark

Kildare’s Buffalo Shrimp Salad

I have dreams about this salad. And I wish I was kidding. I was out with friends for someone’s birthday and the dinner spot chosen was Kildare’s. Now, Kildare’s isn’t my favorite place for food. I love the atmosphere and all of the amazing beers on tap, and their french onion soup and nachos are good. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the rest of the food, it’s just not my cup of tea, if you will. Not bad, I just don’t prefer it. However, last summer I tried their Chicken Cobb Salad and absolutely LOVED it, so I thought I would get that again.

Looking over the salads on the menu I noticed a different salad, the Buffalo Shrimp Salad and was intrigued. So i ordered it.


It starts with a bed of iceberg lettuce with shredded celery and carrot sticks (very clever, I think) and topped with buffalo shrimp and crumbled blue cheese, I got the dressing on the side (and never even needed it!).

I went back 2 weeks later and got it again. That’s how good it is.

For starters, the shrimp is cooked perfectly. Shrimp can be tricky like chicken and get tough and dry very easily, but not at Kildare’s! It was lightly breaded and fried and the buffalo sauce was delicious without being overpowering or too wimpy. A very good balance of taste and heat, something I always look for when it comes to buffalo sauce.

The iceberg lettuce made me skeptical since I’ve never really been a fan. However, the light, fresh taste and insane crunch were perfect in the salad – all traits that Romaine lacks. The shredded celery and carrots – absolutely genius – added even more crunch and freshness to balance the buffalo. The blue cheese crumbles were fresh and acted like a dressing, eliminating the need altogether. And no dressing means that all of the other flavors have a chance to shine on their own.

This salad is spicy, refreshing and salty all at the same time. An absolute must-try if you go to Kildare’s for a meal!

Perfect Foods Bar

 

 

Perfect Foods Bars are high-protein, organic and gluten-free large snack or meal bars, depending on your food schedule. I had seen them on lots of blogs, but never in stores and was super curious. They were nice enough to send me a sample pack of their flavors, so here it goes!

Almond:
This is the first perfect foods bar I tried and I wasn’t a fan, to be honest. You can read my review here, but to summarize: It wasn’t terrible, I didn’t need to spit it out or anything like that, but I didn’t finish it.

In an attempt to find other opinions, I brought some bars to the office and had a female colleague of mine give this one a try.

Here is what she said:
“I liked how I could taste the honey – it was a prominent flavor. The almond flavor was also good. Overall I liked it!”

Cranberry Crunch:
This one was much better! This is the “Lite” version, with 199 calories as opposed to 304. The peanut butter taste isn’t overly intense, but it is prevalent. The cranberries and the “crunch” which taste like tiny pieces of rice cake, were great. Looking at the label, one of the ingredients is brown puffed rice, so there you go – that’s why I taste the rice cake! (But better – if you’re thinking rice cakes are bland- these are not!) I think I would really like this if the other ingredients had smaller proportions in order to make room for more cranberries.

Peanut Butter:
I alerted Katie at Perfect Foods Bar that I am not a big fan of things that are primarily peanut butter flavored, but she sent them along anyway so that I could have some peanut butter lovers in my life give them a whirl. So, I brought them to the office and this is the response I got.

“They’re OK. They really taste like peanut butter, like organic peanut butter. But I’m really not picky.” By the looks of it, he needed some milk; he was struggling to speak between bites. And judging by the fact that he finished it in less than 3 minutes, I would say he liked it.

If they sound like something you would like I would definitely recommend giving them a try. They are really, really nice people and this is a good product.

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Full disclosure: I had seen Perfect Foods Bars on other blogs and could not find them in stores anywhere. When I e-mailed them, they offered to send me some if I would give them a review. This is my 100% honest review of their bars.

Heartland Brewery, NYC

One recent Friday afternoon around 2pm I found myself in NYC, and to celebrate the commencement of  summer hours, we decided to take advantage by having a late lunch during happy hour. I had a coupon for a retail establishment, and we noticed that just around the corner was a place called Heartland Brewery. Although I hadn’t been there before, Phil had, and he highly recommended it, suggesting we go there for an appetizer and to try their seasonal Summer Apricot Ale.

He had me at Brewery.

Being that it is a brewery, I thought it would be best to try one of their house beers and one of their seasonale, allowing us to share and sample each. We ordered their house lager, the Cornhusker and the Seasonal Summer Apricot Ale. We also ordered the appetizer sampler. Get this: it’s called the “Heartland Pu Pu Platter” – if I wasn’t in to sampling as many things as possible, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to ask for it out loud.

The Atmosphere

The sign out front says “Brewery and Rotisserie” which has me skeptical, as the vision in my head that of Boston Market with beer on tap. Can’t judge a restaurant on it’s tagline, apparently. I was impressed from the second I walked in. Dark wood on the floors some of the walls, with a design theme that is chic yet sporty and homey. There are stairs everywhere. If you aren’t seated on the first floor you will be led down a curved staircase to the bar area where there is a mix of seating options, great lightening and a very, very comfortable feel.

Drink Something New: The Brews

House Cornhusker Lager

This beer was very, very light and refreshing without lacking in the flavor department. If you’ve read my earlier Drink Something New posts, you know that I have come to enjoy malted beers and Belgians, and that I am not a big fan of hops. This beer had virtually no hoppy taste and was very smooth. A great light lager for anyone who likes that kind of beer.

The Seasonal Summer Apricot Ale

This was absolutely delicious, and up there on my favorite beers list for sure. The second you fill your mouth with a sip of this beer there is a rush of flavor. It isn’t overly sweet or fruity, just a strong classic ale taste with citrus notes. It has a smooth finish, not too hoppy and definitely no “dirt” taste. Although it is a very strong taste, it isn’t too heavy or thick, which is perfect. I STRONGLY suggest that you try this beer if you’re in New York City this summer.

Eat Something New: The Food

Like I said, we ordered the Heartland Brewery Pu Pu Platter appetizer sampler, a sampling of their “5 house dishes.” The presentation was great and extremely unique, unlike any other plating I’ve ever seen, especially for a place this casual. It came in a stacked tower, as you can see here, each level devoted to one of the five dishes.

From the top down:

Pulled pork sliders:

I am not a big fan of pulled pork or BBQ in general because I like to taste all of the ingredients I am eating, including the meat. Often times I have found that BBQ style food is drenched, even sometimes drowning, in BBQ sauce, not allowing for any other flavors to come through. These pork sliders surprised me and I liked them more than I had thought I would. Cooked very well, tasty sauce, soft, fresh bun. I only ate half because I wanted to save room and it was the first thing I ate, but if you like pulled pork or even just BBQ, these would be a good choice.

Fried Pickle Spears:

These were, hands down, the best fried pickles I have had to date. And yes, I’ve had fried pickles a number of times. It was a pickle spear cut the way they are usually served with a burger or sandwich in a restaurant. It was fully intact, breaded and fried. The pickle was still perfectly crispy and juicy and tasted like a pickle. Sometimes, when left in the fryer too long I assume, the pickle part of a fried pickle loses its pickle tastes because the breading is too thick or it is too greasy. Not the case at Heartland. The breading, and this goes for all of the breaded items, was perfect. The food obviously is not frozen and the breading is added by hand. It is crunchy and crispy, not at all soggy. The best fried pickles I have ever had.

Mozzarella Sticks:

Like the pickle spears, the mozzarella sticks were perfectly breaded and came in long strips that almost looked like they could have been string cheese in a former lifetime. Very tasty!

Skewers:

The skewers were my least favorite of the five, to the point where, if I was to return and order this sample again, I would ask to substitute a second helping of one of the other 4 to replace this one. The meat was cooked perfectly, not tough or dry and slid right off of the skewer. However, there was almost no seasoning, they were cold, and they alternated with what I think were pieces of tomatoes. It just didn’t go. Very bland and the fact that it was cold didn’t make it any better.

Buffalo Chicken Wings:

Pretty standard appetizer, but Heartland did them very well. I don’t like Buffalo Wild Wings’ wings because of all of the thick breading. I like to still taste some of the chicken. Heartland’s wings are tender and juicy, and the sauce has a great taste and has just the right amount of heat.

 

Overall I highly suggest this place, hope to return, and think you should try to make it there this summer. Being a brewery, they brew their own beer and it is really very good. The food was good and the atmosphere was classy and relaxed all in one. A great place for happy hour, a dinner date, or even a casual night out.

 

Have you ever been to one of the Heartland locations?

Do you prefer Breweries to other types of restaurants?

What’s your favorite Brewery in NYC?