Friday, May 25, 2007

Japanese Snack Week: Amiyaki Surume

I pretty much love squid. Fried, dried, shredded, sauteed - it's all good in my book. Japan has all kinds of squid snacks - from the typical shredded kind to the super stinky ones that come on little barbeque skewers. Last time I went to JAS mart I picked up these ones which I've never seen before. The English translation on the back simply says "SEASONED SQUID" or "AMIKYAKI SURUME" and there's a little guy on the package with a squid hat and a beer so I assume this is kind of their equivalent to beer nuts. Seem harmless enough...

If the smell doesn't scare you away as soon as you open the bag, maybe the actual squid will. These suckers are big! It's the ENTIRE dried squid, as if it got washed up on the ocean and sat in the sun for weeks. The texture is tough as leather, I felt like I was gonna rip my teeth out when I tried to bite a piece off (I guess you should probably try ripping it into little bite size pieces and let it soak in your mouth till it gets soft). But on the upside, the taste is probably as close to actual "squid" flavor, being that they do not seem to be over salted or flavored with MSG or spice. Really natural and understated. Just don't try and talk to pick up on girls after drinking beer and eating these - squid + alcohol breath = not a good look.

TASTE (5) Kind of bland, but really good if you want a "true" squid flavor.

PACKAGING (7) You gotta love the little guy with the squid hat and beer. Bonus points for the resealable bag that keeps the freshness (and smell) in.

Overall snackability rating (4) If you're hard up for some tough squid action, go for it (and get a six pack of Sapporo while you're at it). Otherwise I'd recommend the shredded variety (SAKI IKA brand is good) or the barbequed stinky kind on a skewer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Japanese Snack Week: Crunky Caramel

I'm no stranger to Crunky and was pretty stoked to see the familiar logo hidden up in the Japanese snack assortment. Crunky is like the ultimate "DUDE LOOK AT THE NAME OF THIS CANDY BAR!" snack item in Japan, but the best thing is there are all these ill remixes like Air Crunky, Crunky Kids, White Crunky, and Black Crunky. This is one I'd never seen before and was anxious to try it. It definitely lived up to my expectations. The crispies have a malt taste to them while the usual chocolate coating is replaced with a smoky caramel. If you told me this was some kind of coffee-flavored candy bar, I (being a non-coffee drinker) would probably believe you.

Taste (8) Straight up Crunky is good, but can get old after a while, so the caramel variation is welcomed with open arms.

Packaging (8) The blockbuster letters are tough to beat, plus look at those intense opening instructions.

Overall snackability rating (8) Delicious, nicely packaged, fully crunked out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Japanese Snack Week: Bingo Bongo

I got a bunch of fruitish snacks sent over in the box and this one definitely stood out as the most interesting-looking. These are little fruit sucker things in both strawberry and orange flavors. The flavors are kinda weird - almost medicine-like. I was a little disappointed until I got to the core of the candy - a compacted sugar crystal which somehow manages to stay freezing cold despite being in the middle of that candy inside my 100º degree mouth for ten minutes. Paging Mr. Wizard.

Taste (6) Definitely not as sweet or flavorful as I was hoping for. The crystal center was dope, but I need more overall flavor enjoyment.

Packaging (8) The freaky fruit faces are off the hook. Nice work.

Overall snackability rating (わかりました) I'm more excited about starting the other snacks than I am about finishing this one.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Japanese Snack Week: Pretz Roast

What in the shit is that girl doing on the front of this box of pretzels? Who is she and why did she stop shopping for clothes and hairdos in 1980? I don't know, but I do know that Glico has brought it to your grill with these snacks. I assumed these would be just like Pocky, and although they are packaged just like Pocky and are shaped just like Pocky... okay they're pretty much just like Pocky, but without the chocolate coating. But wait, there's more... the pretzel has a very subtle sweetness, which is a quality only Japan has been able to perfect in its snacks. America, let's go. Step your game up. It's sort of like shortbread sweet, but has that nice pretzel snap to it. Very good.

Taste (8) Sweet, savory, salty... it's all here. Coat these in chocolate and you'll be on your way to 10dom.

Packaging (8) Creepy girl illustration, cool type design, excellent screenprinted inner bag design. Very well thought out.

Overall snackability rating おいしい!!!

Emerald Tropical Blend Trail Mix

Big NEWS at Snack Attack. Your trusted (not so trusted to some) snack author will be taking a break from the sugar candy and replacing it with fruit, nuts, berries and anything I can find growing in a ditch off of 35W. The Snack Man really let me down this last month and dropped my snacking level to "eating pretty much anything with sugar in it." I will be trying to offer snacking alternatives when you gotta have that fix.

Today's find is Emerald Tropical Blend Trail Mix featuring; glazed walnuts, natural cashews, granola clusters, shaved coconut, dried mango and pineapple. I ended up getting some of this because I could not find the pistachios and was not let down. I like coconut, always have, probably always will, so I grabbed this variety. I don't know much about Emerald Trail mix, but it looked like something I could enjoy. What I didn't know is that Diamond Foods, Inc. (Nasdaq: DMND), developed a patented process for producing great-tasting glazed snack nuts. This is what they claim and I now trust them fully, you may want to also.

Taste (8) I could go to 9 with this but will keep it a little lower because I have only had it once.
The blend is the perfect amount of salt and sweetness and every ingredient is doing is part in making my mouth happy, hopefully my appetite too.

Packaging (6) I am into simple packaging, this really doesn't do it for me. I bought it because I saw a coconut on the front and something that looked like a peach, later to find out it was a mango. The back illustration is pretty nice, it breaks it down with little icons to tell you what you will soon be sticking inside your stomach. This is what moved the packaging up a notch. I also noticed they use the words "blend" and "mix." Two words that will always grab my attention.

Overall snackability rating (8) Even though they say this snack is for active lifestyles, my lazy self still enjoyed it.

Japanese Snack Week on Snack Attack!

I just got laced with a giant box of Japanese snacks courtesy of my good friend Chikara in Osaka. Each day this week, I'll be reviewing one of the many items included in this box. I've always been a big fan of Japanese snacks for the innovative ideas, explosive flavors, and mind-melting packaging, so this should be a very exciting week for all you snack lovers out there. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Junior Mints

If Taste (7) Good thing they are in little bite sized bits, you will get a headache if you eat them all too fast. I know, because I just did it and now have a headache. The taste is pretty okayish when enjoyed with moderation.

Packaging (7) I am really thankful that they have kept their retroish-minimal style. Looks like something you would have eaten in the 60's and that is okay with me. Because we all know most packaging designers are a bunch of loosers with photoshop. Yeah, I said it.

The package gives me all the false information I need to know, and communicates their snacking message to my taste buds.

Overall snackability rating (5) I wouldn't eat these a lot. Only when I am forced to when other people horde the candy. They are not fulfilling at all and can only fill a 'sugar fix.'

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I got the juice now.

Veryfine® Pineapple Orange Flavored Juice Drink from Concentrate with Other Natural Flavors

Taste (8) This stuff is delicious. They keep nuff cans of it in the vending machine upstairs in our building and it's always my first choice. So much better than straight up orange sodas like Sunkist, Fanta, etc. It taste more like juice with some zip to it than a bubbly soft drink, but it's not super syrupy or overly-sweet like some pineapple orange juices can be.

Packaging (4) What a shitty can design. They totally took the worst typeface ever...

...and added an outline to the inside of the letters, making it even dumber and skinnier. Illustrator amateurs - please add your strokes to the OUTSIDE of your type.

The Veryfine machine design is really fresh. A complete Minute Maid knockoff, but it still looks dope. How did this new can design slip manage to through the cracks?

Overall drinkability rating (7) Recommended stuff.

Martinelli's Gold Medal® 100% Apple Juice

Taste (9) Really really really damn good apple juice. The whole "it's like drinking an apple" phrase is played out, but whatever, It's totally like drinking an apple.

Packaging (9) It's like drinking an apple out of a glass apple. Gorgeous and timeless design. Thank you for not allowing the corporate offices to force you to change the container design.

Overall drinkability rating (9)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Snacks on Film

Wheat Thins Chips: Veggie

From the NKOTB files comes another Kraft product of imagination, Wheat Thins Chips. Before we get started, let me introduce myself. I used to be a unofficial (and unpaid) spokesman for Wheat Thins: Reduced Fat. Don't believe me? Google my real name with the words 'wheat thins' next to it and you will find at least 5 results from me mentioning them in interviews. The "reduced fat" kind were not as greeezy as the regular kind, and would give you less-to-no heartburn. Anyway this is about the Veggie Chips. I love "veggie kinda stuff" normally. Am I the ONLY person who had Veggie Sticks in grade school? If you know where to get Veggie Sticks in the Minnneapolis area, holla at a snacker (me). I will drive up to an hour for em. Seems like I keep wanting to talk about other things that I enjoy, hmm. These "Chips" boast 60% less fat than regular fried potato chips, but they overly compensate in the sodium category. Believe that. They should have just been marketed as Salt Lick alternatives. I did not like them. Bad taste covered in salt, which is probably what the salt was for.

Taste (4) Would never eat these again unless I was starving, literally. Then I would enjoy them. I threw away the half-eaten bag last night. You may ask why I ate half the bag if they were that bad? Well to keep wondering if they were really "that bad." And they were. They ruined a nice night I had planned with a block of cheese and some Czech beer.

Packaging (4) Reminds me of every other package you see in the grocery store. I did however like the picture of the vegetables on the bottom left. Made me feel like I was making the 'healthy choice,' yeah I said it.

Overall snackability rating (2) It will piss you off realizing that you spent around $3 dollars on a 9 ounce bag of "variety salt." I think I said all there was to say for you to make an educated decision on what to do next time you think about buying these.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Butterfinger Crisp

I am ALWAYS open to anything that has sugar inside some sort of packaging... and one day a little change happened in our Snack Machine. They replaced the Twix with a new kid on the block (NKOTB), the Butterfinger Crisp. I think that was a travesty, in my opinion, as Twix is pretty much one of the kingpins on Candy Lane. I will try almost anything once, and my finger pressed the magic Twix (RIP) code and this fell out. Here are the results.

Taste (7) Much better than a regular Butterfinger, yet I long for the layered carmalization that this one lacks. Yet somehow magically it has the wafer texture that I like so much so it's just a small setback. The taste is not so sweet, yet it brings in a saltyish dimension that blends great with the wafers and chocolate. Making a pretty dynamic taste overall that finishes with a wax-like experience. And that is where the 7 rating comes in. Kit Kat still owns in the wafer category, especially the ones from Europe.

Packaging (5) I like the background pattern that was inspired by the wafers, yet it is Americana-ized with glows, metallics and blurs that always makes my eyes twitch. Get the feeling I may be able to wash some clothes with it, or eat it at 3pm when I get a little hungry.

Overall snackability rating (7) I have eaten two now in two weeks. It will not beat out some of the others top dogs in the Stinson Snack Machine, but will get picked up now and then, just like I take the Junior Mints downtown for a 75 cent date every now and then.

Smoky Mountain Taffy Logs

(Click image for full view)

I grew up in Nashville, TN. About once a year, we'd take family trips to Gatlinburg, TN. It's right near the Tennessee / North Carolina border, it's right near Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park, and there's enough ephemera there for me to start an entire new bloggue site about... but I won't. I'll just talk about the taffy available at the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen.

The Candy Kitchen is a crowned jewel amidst a seemingly endless strip of gift shops, Baskin Robbinses, Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museums, and at least a dozen pancake restaurants, Old Tyme Photos, Olde Timey Portraits, Old Time Photo Portraits, and cuckoo clock shops. The store is split in half, with the 360º walkaround display counter on the right and the taffy production area on the left. At any given moment, you can watch the taffy machine pulling a batch of this fantastic snack. Available in a multitude of flavors, the taffy can be purchased in 1/2 lb or 1 lb boxes and you can have a box custom-filled with whatever combination of taffies you want. I really think chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter are the ways to go.

Taste (7) The flavors are all mild, but they're there. It's just the right amount of flavor.

Packaging (9) This truly is about as good as it gets. All those little scenes of leisurely mountain life. The dude fishing, the bears approaching the beehive, the hoedown, it's incredible.

Overall snackability rating (9) They're delicious, the box is awesome, and they remind me of days of yore.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Wedges

This snack was introduced to me by my homie and business partner (that sounds weird) Wezz. He's less about the ready-to-eat snacks as he is about the accumulation of snack-like ingredients which can be combined using some sort of simple recipe. For example, slices of apple topped off with a spread of Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Wedges.

I'd heard of the brand before, but had never really gotten up into this territory of cheese. I've dabbled in the realm of Brie, but this was pretty snacktastic (I promise that's the first and last time that adjective will ever appear in this blog). The wedges are individually wrapped in foil and arranged in a pie structure. After meticulously opening each tiny chunk, you'll find yourself face to face with a lovely little cheese morsel whose consistency is not unlike that of cream cheese. But it tastes like Swiss cheese!

Taste (7) Pretty damn tasty. Swiss isn't my favorite cheese, but this is good stuff... Smooth and subtlely salty.
Packaging (8) Outstanding. The wedges arranged into a circle is so deceptively simple. Unwrapping each wedge is like opening a new toy. The cow illustration is pretty hot shit itself.
Overall snackability rating (8) Try it on apples, carrots, celery, sourdough or French bread, or maybe even graham crackers.

Jack N Jill Chocolate Pretzels

I picked this up at a little convenient store near the Mission in San Francisco. It looked basically like Pocky, which is always delicious, but I'm always down for a nicely-packaged ripoff.

Taste (5) You can't help but compare it to Pocky, its clear superior. The pretzels have a sort of graham crackery taste to them, which isn't bad, but just isn't amazing. They don't have that same snap in the bite that Pocky has.

Packaging (7) Funny lookin' kids and a great step-by-step guide on how to enjoy the snack written on the back. Might have been an 8 but man, why these kids gotta be Native Americans? What the fuck? Stupid racist ass snacks.

Overall snackability rating (7) The packaging is great and really steals the show here, but the actual snack itself fails to really satisfy this snacker.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Peanut Butter Special K Bar

This bar, referred to only as "Bar" upon purchase, is available at Butter, a coffee shop on South Grand Ave in Minneapolis. On the weekends they have brunch which is pretty decent. Out-of-town guests get taken here often. But on to the bar...

This snack is based on the classic Rice Krispie Treat... breakfast cereal, in this case it's Special K, mixed up with melted marshmallows, butter, and, in this case some peanut butter, and covered with a layer of chocolate. It's much more engaging than a Rice Krispie treat and altogether more satisfying. I've purchased several of these and they're usually perfect, but the one I picked up this morning was a little chewy... I'd say even painfully chewy... like don't eat it with fake teeth chewy. I'll chalk it up as an isolated incident. Maybe I got the last bar from the old batch. Maybe you could even call ahead to make sure a fresh bar would be available.

And now here's the part where I rate the snack, on a scale from 1 to 10:
Originality (6)
Taste (8)
Packaging (1) (Just some stupid cling wrap. Not even a sticker? C'mon dudes)
Overall snackability rating (7)

Welcome to Snack Attack!

YO. This is my new blog where I'll be talking about snack foods. There will be detailed reviews of snacks, both classic and contemporary, local and international. There will be occassional guest reviews and maybe even some good merchandise on the horizon. Holler so hard.