DC23: The Covidy One

I was going to title this TTWIHGFWPUC part 2 but that seemed awkward so an alternate had to be workshopped. I didn’t workshop it too hard as you can see. This is about food nominally anyway so let’s move on.

Most of my meals were from the usual suspects but I did manage to squeeze in a new place. First up was Amalfi Cucina & Mercato a nice little Neapolitan Pizzeria on the second floor of a downtown building. I’ve been there before so I knew they had great pizza. What I forgot was how big the pizza is and that I don’t eat quite as much as I used to.

As you can see they were not at all stingy with the pepperoni and the little char on the crust just made this such a nice slice. Or series of slices if I’m being honest. I didn’t eat it all but I did put a hurting on it. The sauce and cheese tasted fresh and the crust was reasonably thin. Adding to all this the Creature Comforts IPA that magically appeared (after I ordered it) and if I hadn’t been doing so much walking I’d have gone into a happy little food coma after this meal.

The next place I got something new was one of the usual spots, Pacific Rim Bistro. They are so convenient to the convention hotels and have great Asian food. I got a Dragon Roll, because DragonCon, and I’m at times a creature of habit. The new thing though was the soup of the day, a coconut chicken soup.

Wow was this good. It had some scallions and mushrooms as well but the coconut flavor bathing the little bites of chicken that was somehow both bold and yet subtle relegated them to a filler role . I would absolutely have this again. Fun fact, I have this same spoon at home. No, not because I stole the one in the photo but because I bought some years ago. I like the design.

The last place is the one new establishment within the con footprint I visited. I’ve walked by Cuts Steakhouse for I don’t know how many years without giving it a lot of consideration. Mostly because I figured a downtown steakhouse had to be a $$$ place. This time I figured I’d find out for sure and it wasn’t busy so I’d get away from the crowd. I was seated quickly in the bar area at a high top with a nice view out the window so I could see my fellow confolk but also enjoy quiet. I got the Manhattan steak sandwich and a cider to wash it down.

Holy Cow! Reference intended. That might not have been the best steak sandwich I’ve ever had but I don’t remember a better one. The steak was so tender I felt decadent eating it. There were just enough mushrooms and onions on the sandwich to enhance it without taking anything away from the flavor of the beef. The smoked gouda and warm semi-crusty roll just wrapped up the whole thing like a nice tie and matching pocket square set off a well fitting suit. I liked it is what I’m trying to get at. The cilantro garlic fries were ok but they were just an afterthought compared to the sandwich. Oh and that cider was crisp, mildly sweet and a little tart. Another fine accessory for that sandwich. It was the most expensive lunch of the weekend but dang it was worth doing the one time for sure. Maybe next year too. The menu had some other good looking options though so who knows.

From a culinary standpoint it was a good weekend at DragonCon and downtown Atlanta. On the positive front I did get my smell and taste back after just a couple of days so life is good.

That Time I Had Great Food While Picking Up Covid

So it’s been a while since I added anything new and since covid has dampened my senses of smell and taste I figured I may as well ruminate over the last meals I had prior too.

It was DragonCon time and per usual Thursday night was dinner with my hostess for the extended weekend, Sharon. She always has a good place picked out and this time was no different. When she told me it was in Monroe, GA I might have been skeptical because the last time I was through there it was not a culinary hotbed. To be fair that was closer to 30 years ago than not.

Her choice of the Brown Fig was a good one. Monroe is a small town but as people have moved further out of Atlanta they still want to have nice places to eat that aren’t all diners or fast food places and this fits the bill. They do have some outside seating for when nature’s thermostat isn’t set on Hell. The inside seating is non-uniform, on purpose, but comfortable. The Brown Fig bills itself as a Mezze & Martini Gathering Place. They are definitely Greek / Mediterranean inspired place. We didn’t get martinis but we did get a hummus & tzatziki appetizer.

Both tasted fresh and the generous helping of warm pita points made excellent delivery vehicles. I decided to have a Greek beer with my meal. It was nice and light, and a tad citrusy. The photo is a little blurry but it was a pale lager that you can’t see because someone was more interested in the hummus than getting a proper picture.

For entrees I got the Primo Flatbread and Sharon got the Spanakopita. Both were excellent and plentiful enough that leftovers were carted home.

The toppings on the flatbread were so tasty. Fontina cheese, prosciutto, sweet peppers, arugula and fig jam. I was considering the spanakopita too but when I saw the Primo had a bit of fig jam and I was at the Brown Fig how could I pass it up. It was very delicious. The tang of the fontina, plus the saltiness of the prosciutto and bitterness of the arugula balanced by the sweet of the figs hit all the right taste buds. By all reports the spanakopita was also fresh and filling without being heavy. It looked amazing too.

Sharon noticed they had mead on the drink menu and called it out since she knows I make mead and enjoy it. Well it turns out the mead is made by a local Atlanta meadery that I know of and like their stuff, Viking Alchemist Meadery. It is on my DragonCon to do list since they set up in the Marriott lobby each year. I ordered the one that I think is one of the best flavored meads ever, a pear almond variety. It was delivered by the owner? / manager. She asked who ordered it and said she wanted to meet the person with such good taste that they liked her favorite of the meads. She said most customers preferred the blueberry which was the only one I hadn’t tasted before. She remedied that right then and there by bringing me a generous sample. As much as I like blueberries the Bliss (that’s the name of the pear almond) was still superior. We spent a few minutes bonding over the fact our palettes were more refined than the average mead novice and what a nice restaurant in an unusual locale she had. After that it was time to wrap up the leftovers and hit the trail. I had an early morning drive in Atlanta traffic.

Part 2 will be out later in the week(end).

Georgia On My Mind

This weekend gets back to the roots of the Culinary-Passport, adding a new stamp for the Republic of Georgia. A trip months in the making. I’ve planned and unplanned a visit to Keipi Restaurant in Greenville, SC several times for one reason or another.

Let me take a step back and explain why I was willing to make the 1 hour drive to try this place out. My friend Andy took a trip to the Republic of Georgia and he posted photos, as one does. One photo though caught my attention even more than the spectacular church he visited. It was this marvelous looking dish called khachapuri. There in all its glory was a bread bowl shaped like a canoe, or maybe a fat Viking longship and it was filled with cheese and an egg. I knew I would have one someday even if I had to try to make it myself.

Ok I wasn’t all that smitten with the cheese filled bread boat that I actually tried to make it myself but I knew I would absolutely jump at the chance to have one. Well the bride and progeny of said friend (waves to Melanie and Ian) wound up posting photos from Keipi Restaurant, a Georgian eatery in Greenville, SC. Sure enough they have khachapuri. That could only be a sign I’d have to go. So eventually I did.

It was a nice drive on a mild summer day and I was able to avoid the city of Greenville getting to Hampton Station where the restaurant is. Hampton Station is a cool little spot with a micro-brewery, meadery, coffee roaster, a couple of other restaurants, boutiques, pottery store that has classes and more. I’m definitely going back to see what’s at the meadery. Now to the main attraction.

I was customer number 1 when Keipi opened. The young lady working the front of the house was helpful when I told her I came for the khachapuri. They have several different variants of the standard on the menu. Since they had a flight of 3 “minis” I decided that was the ticket for me. I got the traditional as the benchmark, asked her what her favorite was (yes, she was cute and that might have influenced my decision) and she said the lamb and pomegranate. That was two and the bacon and brie as a top seller rounded out my trio. I got an Austrian beer, Steigl Radler Grapefruit, to go with it.

The grapefruit radler was a refreshing, 2% ABV beer with real juice added. I expected it to cut the richness of the cheese, which it did. The bay door was open to the beautiful day outside and a breeze was blowing, as was the fan on the floor next to my table. It was quite pleasant.

I also had a big old bottle of chilled water to sip from so I stayed hydrated while I waited. When my food was delivered I was a bit shocked at the size of the “minis”. These bad boys were at least 50% larger than I expected them to be and I knew I was going to be taking some home.

Of course I started with the traditional. That wonderfully cooked bread with the toasty cheese and runny egg was great. I savored every bite. Halfway through I knew I would be taking the other two home with me for a mid-afternoon snack and dinner.

I did at least try the lamb and pomegranate so I could let the server know if she steered me right or not. She did. I had it for the mid-afternoon snack after mowing the grass. It was freaking delicious. The lamb was tender and flavorful and the pomegranate seeds added that little burst of tart and sweet when I bit them. The bacon and brie was dinner. It’s bacon, it’s brie, on top of more cheese and (plot twist) a light layer of fig jam all contained in a bread bateau. Of course it was fabulous, even reheated.

I have to say that was quite worth the trip even if Google maps tried to have me visit somebodies lake house 20 minutes off the route I should have been on when I came home.

Must thank the McGehee clan for alerting me to the existence of khachapuri and then doing the legwork of finding the restaurant.

And staying old school here is the Tell Me More page.

Parking Lot Deal for Shrimp

I joined a Facebook group. What are things you might regret Alex? In this case it worked out well for me. Specifically it is a group of people who post about Oconee County SC food places. Like a good group the opinions vary on what’s good and what’s not and either people are generally willing to agree to disagree or the moderators quickly put the hammer down on trollish behavior. I mean it runs the gamut of someone posting about how tasty the Waffle House is to someone else talking about the grade of bean at a coffee house. Since the international food scene is kind of thin in these parts I figured it would give me a heads up on new places. I might also discover new options I haven’t considered.

There was a post saying the Blue Ridge Grill food trailer was parked in the Advanced Auto parking lot just a few miles from the office. I dig mobile food venues and I needed a valve stem cap so it was like fate was pushing me there. Good old fate.

There was no line so I knew I shouldn’t have any issues with time but I also wondered if that was a sign of the quality of the food. Only one way to find out. I checked out the menu board and then just asked them what they were particularly proud of today. The lady taking orders deferred to the guy making the food who said the Coconut Shrimp were something else today. I told them to hook me up because that was what I had been leaning towards anyway. While they prepared my food I ran into the auto parts store and took care of business. By the time I came back they were just closing the lid on my lunch.

I smelled that shrimp all the way back to the office and by the time I got to the table I was salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs. There were 9 shrimp, some coleslaw, fries and cocktail sauce in the box. Oh and the lemon garnish and two weird pieces of lettuce I assume were to add color. I was pleased with the look of those shrimp because the shredded coconut was abundant. Here’s a close-up.

These were some of the best coconut shrimp I’ve ever had. After trying the first one au naturel I decided to dress one up with a little cocktail sauce. I’m not a big cocktail sauce fan but I did want to judge the quality. It was decent but honestly it took away from the taste of the shrimp and kind of felt like an insult using it. I ate them slow to savor them. The slaw was ok and I almost skipped the fries but apparently the close proximity to the shrimp imparted some goodness on them and I ate few.

Overall I was well pleased with the parking lot deal I’d made with the folks in the Blue Ridge Grill trailer.

Wicked Sausage Lunch

Well it was more like impish than truly wicked which is ok. That’s what lunch was too, OK. Not great, but good enough.

This Saturday would have been my Dad’s 83rd birthday and the last trip we took together was to Cherokee, NC and the casino there. I figured I’d celebrate his birthday by donating some dollars to the Cherokee tribe and grab some lunch from one of the several restaurants available on site. After an up and down morning at the slots & video poker machines and some mixed luck at the craps and roulette tables it was time for lunch.

I thought about the Gordon Ramsay Food Market but decided I’d go looking for Guy Fieri’s Kitchen & Bar instead. Turns out it’s in the Hotel section not the Casino section so I didn’t find it. However, I did find the Wicked Week Brewpub. I like pub food and beer and they weren’t that busy so I opted to give them a try.

Seating was done quickly and the lady who would be my server was Jenny on the spot. They had flights of beer and I’m not one to pass those up since I love variety. I asked her to give me a minute to pick them out and I’d probably be ready with the food order too.

They have 3 flight options, a set 4 mostly IPAs, a fancy flight from the Funkatorium options and a flight from their Special and Seasonal selections. I wasn’t feeling all that funky so decided to save the extra $ (I was down $50 for the day at that point too) and get some of the seasonal / regular options. This is where disappointment started.

There were 7 options to choose from and the flight was made of up of 4. The Strawberry Kiwi Burst Session Sour, check. Watermelon Burst Session Sour, oops they were out. Lunatic Blonde Belgian, sorry out of that too. Fresh Pressed Wheat Ale, maybe out of that too. At this point she goes away to see what they do have. I ended up with the Fresh Pressed Wheat Ale, Player’s Club Pale Ale, Strawberry Kiwi Burst, and the Hefeweizen Weissbier.

They were all ok. The Fresh Pressed was brewed with pineapple, mango and guava. It tasted tropical but not especially of any of the included fruits. The Player’s club was a very hoppy ale. The strawberry kiwi was mostly strawberry and not much of a sour. The Hefeweizen was actually a nice palette cleanser between the others. All of them went ok with my lunch which was a brat and sweet potato fries.

Again, OK was the theme of the day. The brat is supposed to be chargrilled with caramelized onions and Lusty Monk whole grain mustard. Honestly Johnsonville has a more flavorful brat and if you’re going to name your mustard it should be better than my Food Lion brand mustard, this was not. The caramelized onions though they nailed. The sweet potato fries looked like they were the bottom of the bag where all the little pieces gather. They did taste good but it was kind of sad picking through the little bits and bobs to get a decent sized fry. It was (wait for it), OK. A filling lunch and for being in a Hotel / Casino the price wasn’t bad. Next time GR’s food market will be where I go or maybe a trip to the hotel side for Guy’s joint.

I did manage to have a bit of luck at the roulette table on the way out and not only recouped my losses but paid for lunch and gas. So pretty good day.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

This entry is as much about lessons as food. Saturday is my eat breakfast out day and today I wanted to try someplace different and since I had two errands that would take me towards Anderson I opted to see what options I had. I decided to try Mr River’s Breakfast Joint downtown even though I had a quibble with them calling themselves a breakfast joint and not opening until 8:00 am. Off I went checking off one errand to kill time until 8:00 and going down a cool little stretch of road that at certain times of the day feels like you’re going through a green tunnel.

I was almost there when I saw a road closed sign barring my path. Pivot and discover downtown Anderson likes their one way streets almost as much as downtown Atlanta. Make the next turn and another block. Apparently they have something going on and Main St is blocked off and the place I want is in the middle of the blocked off area. I could have found someplace to park and walk but I was mad at being inconvenienced and having to drive around looking for a solution so I said “shucks”, or something to that effect and decided to go home mad.

The route home was different and out of the corner of my eye I saw Grace’s Restaurant sign. They were actually the runner up in my search this morning and had the good grace (see what I did there) to open at 6:30 for breakfast. I did a u turn and pulled in to a pretty full parking lot.

I wouldn’t say Grace’s is off the beaten path but it’s not on the main drag either. It’s one of those places that if you know you know. Rather than take up one of the precious open tables I hopped a stool at the counter. It took a minute for someone to get me a menu and some coffee but not much more than that. The menu is fairly standard diner fair and I kept my selections from their Build Your Breakfast section standard too. 2 eggs – over medium please. Pick your meat – sample 2 bacon & 1 sausage patty. Pick your side – buttered grits. Bread – biscuit, thank you.

That out of the way I got to look around a bit. The tag line for Grace’s is Faith – Food – Family and they have a family atmosphere and a reminder to check out John 3:16 in chalk under one of the specials. All they needed was decent food to live up to the billing. One other thing I noticed. The staff weren’t a bunch a chatters. They were pleasant, attentive and purposeful. It was busy and they were efficient which I very much appreciated. My food was delivered.

I was pleasantly surprised at the split grilled biscuit. I hadn’t seen one of those since my list visit to Red’s in Rock Hill a few years ago. As simple as this was it was a very good breakfast. Every element was just about perfect. The grits, ideal consistency. The eggs, just runny enough. Bacon, crispy without being overcooked. Sausage, could have been hotter but otherwise very good. Grilled biscuit, butter or jam would have been extraneous.

To paraphrase the Stones, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. I’m glad I made that u turn literally and attitudinally.

Kind of Wrong But Also Good

This feels a little contrary to the blog premise but I kept it very local this morning for breakfast. The closest to international I got was considering the huevos rancheros and pimento cheese and bacon quesadilla on the menu. What menu? Where? Don’t worry I’m getting there.

I wanted someplace new and maybe different for breakfast today so I drove into Clemson to try the Sunnyside CafĂ©. It’s in a place new enough my car’s GPS didn’t have a clue, however Google maps got me there just a few minutes after they opened. I was impressed there were already 4 cars parked when I got there. When I first walked in there was only one person greeting and seating so it took like 3 minutes before I was led to a table. Since both the young woman that seated me and the one that waited on me both apologized for the wait I figured I could overlook the horrific wait time.

Sunnyside can handle a fair number of folks with about 30 or so tables in the main area and a side room with a few more. By the time I got my coffee and made my choice from the menu there were 3 more people working the floor and 3 or 4 more tables occupied. The menu had some standard breakfast fare in addition to the above mentioned hispanic inspired dishes. There is a Cuban inspired breakfast sub and shrimp and grits plus a vegetarian benedict dish right next to one with 2 meats, 2 fried carbs and eggs. Good variety.

There was a dish that intrigued me because it skated on the edge of blasphemy but sounded delicious too. The Sweet Fried Grit Patties were something I just had to try.

Now being a good southerner means putting sweet stuff in my grits is taboo. If others do it I chalk it up to poor upbringing or ignorance of how grits should be treated. These however were grit patties so I could rationalize the choice by the fundamental change in grit structure. The meal comes with 2 eggs and either home fries or cheese grits. I doubled down on the grits. Cheese being savory is acceptable in regular grits in case you were wondering. I did get a side of sausage since it doesn’t come with a meat option standard.

The titular sweet comes in the form of a sorghum peach compote that I was kind of scared was going to be cloyingly sweet but it was a very pleasant surprise. It was sweet but lightly so which allowed the peach flavor to be prominent and go nicely with the grits. I have to say the grit patties were also cooked perfectly. Lightly fried so the outside was crisp and the inside was firm and warm. Great texture and taste combination. The cheese grits had a bit of cream or something in them to make them a bit more, well, creamy. The sausage was good and the eggs were scrambled just right. There was actually so much I had to walk away and leave a bit on the plate.

Doing a call back to the first paragraph I have to talk about the localness of my meal. It’s something they tout and I’m glad to support. The eggs are from one of 3 nearby farms, the sausage is from McCall’s in Honea Path, the grits from Hurricane Creek Farms in Pelzer, and the sorghum was from furthest away, Monterey, TN. Even the coffee was from a nearby roaster.

As a parting thought I have to say the employees were all very friendly and the fact there were at least 15-20 tables occupied when I left testified to that being the normal state of affairs. Along with some good food of course. I will definitely be going back to try a few more items on the menu.

I Went to Wakanda, There Was No Vibranium

If you don’t get the title that’s ok, it just means you’re not a Marvel nerd.

The mission Saturday was to find an African restaurant for the blog and hit the road. Turns out the closest one I could find on Google or Yelp was the Wakanda Lounge in Greenville, SC. It was a 50 mile one way drive but the next closest was in Atlanta at 90ish miles away so to Greenville I went.

It was a gloomy grey drizzly day so the drive wasn’t spectacular. I took the interstate to get it over faster rather than the more scenic route that would have acquainted me better with the upstate of SC. Next time I’ll go rural.

Wakanda Lounge is in a little strip shopping area with a couple of other restaurants and it anchors one end so there’s plenty of parking. I got there right after they opened so there was no crowd. It is a fairly good sized place with a bar and 20 or more tables to seat diners / patrons. There is also a stage or a very small dance floor in the center of the main floor. The server was just firing up the smooth jazz background music when I walked in. He waved at the tables telling me to pick my spot while he went off to get a menu.

As we chatted it was obvious he wasn’t from around here, which made me feel like my chances for some authentic food were good. I’ll finish with the ambiance before getting to my food choices. The walls have murals of African villages painted in a sort of stylized manner. The chairs are all covered with black cloth chair covers and the place was very clean. The patrons that came in while I was there were all picking up or placing take out orders except for the guy and his wife who came in to decorate several tables for a birthday part later. They too weren’t SC natives as they were speaking an African French with one of the ladies who worked in the kitchen that they obviously knew well. More good signs for authenticity.

I played it sort of safe and got the jollof rice with goat. Jollof rice I’d had before and knew I liked at least one version of it. You can get it with no meat or tilapia as well as goat and even the goat could be fried or goat stew. I went with fried. As you can see there were some fried plantains on the side and a nice batch of multicolored bell peppers with the rice and goat. The goat was well fried, to the point that the fat was a little crispy and it was lightly seasoned. In fact the whole dish didn’t have strong flavors that punched you but just a really nice melding of flavors that was quite delicious. Often goat can be gamey but this was just rich with goaty goodness. The portion was generous so I left very sated and with dinner for the evening in hand.

No it wasn’t lunch leftovers. I decided to get some peanut soup and fufu to bring home. I got the small because I didn’t expect to be very hungry after the big lunch and it was a smart move. The peanut soup was tasty but I honestly think they should have spiced it up with some heat to make it better. I will also say the soup to chicken ratio was very favorable. The chicken tasted grilled and the peanut soup was properly peanutty. It made for a great dipping sauce for the fufu.

What the heck is fufu, you say? Well it’s a starchy dish made from one or more of several things. Traditionally from cassava it is now acceptable to make it from other starchy foods. The consistency is somewhere between paste and playdough. The flavor is neutral so it goes with anything. It is really just a carb delivery system that’s fun to play with if you don’t mind getting your hands on your food.

It was a trip worth taking and I’m glad I made the drive even if there were no super heroes or vibranium in this Wakanda.

ISO Good

Well this post was supposed to be a quick one, but not so much.

Earlier in the week I wanted some noodles and decided I’d go to a relatively new spot just up the road from the office, ISO ISO Ramen & Boba.

One of the first things you notice when you walk in are the two big tablets set up in the front. This is how you order. I’d been once before so I knew the drill but they have an employee behind a counter to help you navigate the process if you need it. Another thing you notice pretty quickly, assuming it’s not out roaming around, is the roomba on steroids.

It’s a robot delivery system. How they choose when it is used I’m not sure as both times I’ve been my food was delivered by a flesh and blood server. I think it may only be delivering boba since they have lids and aren’t likely to spill. I didn’t pay that much attention since it didn’t come my way.

As I mentioned I’d been before and I got a rice bowl that time. The presentation was nice and it was certainly colorful but honestly it was just ok. I told a coworker that if I went back it would only be to try the ramen.

And that is exactly what I did. I got their namesake dish the ISO ISO ramen.

It wasn’t as visually appealing as the rice bowl but it was, to me, much more flavorful. You can’t see the noodles because they are waiting to be fished from the depths of the bowl with either fork or chopsticks. I opted to spoon up some of the spicy broth first and then alternate between chopsticks and spoon. The egg gives you some sense of scale on the diameter but the bowl was quite deep too so this was a lot of ramen. It was also no joke in the spice department. I was literally sweating and the old nose was running after a few minutes. My lips were still burning a little when I got back to work so it was properly spiced.

Honestly I was feeling kind of wimpy as I was contemplating leaving it unfinished because there was so much. When I saw the 6″ 300 plus pounder who was there with his daughter tap out and not finish his I didn’t feel too bad leaving a few noodles in the bowl. It was flavorful and filling and got the endorphins pumping so yeah I’ll go back. Also even though you order and pay using a tablet the employees were very friendly. If you’re in Seneca / Clemson and have a yen for ramen check them out.

Treats From Taiwan Are a Treat

I still get international snack boxes from TryTreats.com and for the most part I enjoy them but haven’t felt compelled to write up any of the recent ones up until now. The box from Taiwan was a perfect example of what I enjoy about these random boxes. Let me go ahead and tell you this is going to be photo heavy compared to most of the posts.

Were the all good you might ask. No, but they were each an interesting experience and mostly different from something I’d grab at the store here. That’s been the “problem” with most of the others recently. I mean I like cheese potato chips and chocolate wafer cookies but at the end of the day I can get those all over the place here. Taiwan though, they brought their snacking experience A game. My first grab was the big pink bag.

Lonely God rose salt potato twists. Since I didn’t taste or smell any roses I guess they meant the interesting pink color. First bite of these tasted artificial but after a couple the salty potato taste ruled the palate to make for a nice TV watching snack. I have to say the bag size was pretty generous too and the pink kind of grew on me. The next snack though was not so visually appealing.

This little block of stuff was in a plain plastic wrapper with no label or anything. Honestly the picture makes it look better than it did in person so let that sink in. It looked like someone was going to rice krispie treats and had to settle for using grubs. It was not pretty is what I’m saying. Fortunately the taste was good. It was a bit dry and like eating a soft packing peanut (you know you’ve tried biting one). The flavor was a bit like brown sugar with a hint of fruit flavor. You’ll notice that theme of subtle flavors as I go through these.

Teriyaki Shelly Senbei was the next one I tried. I very much enjoyed these crispy crunchy crackers.  It started with a tiny bit of savory and then the sweetness kicked in.  Not very sweet but enough to make it a dessert cracker in my mind.  Simple and tasty. You can’t see the scale but they were about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 to a pack.

Nutrition Biscuits? These are just as yummy as the name implies.  They are dry and crumbly kind of like eating vaguely sweet particle board.  It’s the kind of thing you might find in a preppers bunker. However, as I finished the first one I thought they might be tolerable with a dark black tea or a bit of sharp cheddar.  Since I had both I was able to test my theory.  I was right.  Dunking in the tea softened it and the bitterness of the tea highlighted the sweetness that was there.  The cheese added some creaminess to the crumbly biscuit which improved the texture and the tanginess enhanced that trace of sweet. So if you’re a prepper with dull biscuits pack some tea and cheese.

Bubble Milk Tea Mochi. Typical mochi character, not too sweet and kind of an odd filling.  Didn’t taste milky or all that much of tea honestly. The kind of chewy gelatinous consistency was another recurring theme. Not bad but I’m ok if I don’t have another.

Cheese Slice Strawberry with a My Little Pony spokespony. Super weird. Triangle shaped, hard candies.  I think it’s supposed to be a cheese wedge.  They have an almost sweet tart consistency but a little chewier and more cheese flavored.  There is a faint strawberry aftertaste so it is as advertised.  Really weird and it stuck to my teeth hard. I had to go brush and break out the waterpik to end the cheesiness.

This was the smallest pack in the whole box and I think it might have been my overall favorite. Haw Flakes is what they are called. These little discs were very pleasant. Kind of a sharp sweetness.  Maybe like rhubarb.  Never had hawthorn before but I liked these and would definitely have again. Another simple and tasty treat.

Surimi Bean was another odd treat.  Bean curd formed into a fleshy rectangle and smothered with chili oil and a random sesame seed here and there.  First bite was kind of offputting both in flavor and consistency but by the end I didn’t hate it and that kind of scared me.

Lychee Jelly cup. A little cup of sweet clear gelatin with bit of lychee fruit suspended in it.  Kind of like those jello fruit cups but with only one fruit. The gelatin broke down faster than the regular jello you’d get here in the States.  The lychee was nice and overall it was enjoyable.

This is called a Jelly Straw. It’s like an artificial worm you’d use for fishing. Very moist and floppy. It was not as dense as a gummy worm. It kind of slid right over the tongue and down my throat leaving a slimy trail of indistinct sweet flavor behind. Did I mention they love their jellied stuff?

I saved this one for last because I had a premonition. Konjac Shuang. I don’t know what that means but they were jacked and I shuang don’t want to have them again. These were my least favorite in case you weren’t picking up on the negative vibe. Although it is vegetable matter it was like eating squid that had been cooked and then gone cold but with a spicy orange sauce on it.  The flavor wasn’t bad but the squidiness was, shall we say, unpleasant. And do you see how that orange was staining that innocent paper towel? That can’t be good for you.

I have to say I didn’t love any of these except maybe the haw flakes but this was one of my favorite boxes in a long time because of the shear differentness it provided. I’m hoping the next one is even half as interesting.