Friday, February 06, 2009

Starbucks Espresso Truffles

"Intense, indulgent dark chocolate delights infused with our bold Espresso Roast coffee"

Compared to the chai variety, the espresso truffles were much better. I enjoyed the strong espresso roast flavor. I've had better dark chocolate, though; it reminded me of hard shell chocolate used for ice cream.

I probably would not buy these again, as they are very rich tasting. Half of one piece was more than enough for me. I would recommend these as stocking stuffers for a coffee lover.

Starbucks Chai Truffles

"Creamy milk chocolate invitations to linger with sweetly spiced Tazo Chai black tea"

Each box of Starbucks Chai Truffles came with two good sized pieces. The Tazo chai smell reminded me of Kobuk Coffee, my favorite shop in Anchorage. The milk chocolate was smooth and creamy. But the filling was terrible. It was like eating a mouthful of flowery soap.

I had really high hopes for the Starbucks Chai Truffles, since I have enjoyed many other Starbucks products. What a huge disappointment.

Yumsugar had a detailed review of the many flavors.

Hebert Gourmet Chocolate: Fully Loaded Dark Turtle

"Dark chocolate with pecan pralines and toffee chips"

Walgreen's had a basket of Hebert's Full Loaded Dark Turtle at the register. I bought this because turtle chocolates are so delicious to me. What's not to love about pecans, caramel and chocolate ?

This candy had an aroma of rich dark chocolate and buttery toffee. The taste was not as great as the smell, though. The dark chocolate just reminded me of semi-sweet chocolate chips. It lacked richness and bitterness. The toffee and pralines were chopped up too small for my taste.

I found Hebert's Full Loaded Dark Turtle to be average. I would eat one if it was offered to me, but I would not buy these again.

Skittles Crazy Cores

"Two flavors in each piece"

I spotted the Skittles Crazy Cores while wandering around Walgreen's yesterday. I love mixing flavors together, so I thought I'd give it a shot:

- Mango peach (peach) = Definite peach and mango flavors, but way too sweet. I'll stick with peach Jolly Ranchers
- Cherry lemonade (red)= These tasted like cherry SqueezeIt drinks. Okay, but not great.
- Strawberry watermelon (green) = Light but tolerable strawberry and watermelon flavors. Pretty decent, although I don't care for strawberry or watermelon candies
- Melon berry (pink) = Horribly strong watermelon flavor. No clue what the berry flavor was or if that really was watermelon.
- Blue raspberry lemon (blue) = Tasted like blue raspberry Bubble Yum and lemon floor polish. Yuck! I would've liked the blue raspberry just by itself.

I would not buy these again. None of the flavor combinations really appealed to me. Thumbs down for Skittles Crazy Cores.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rocky Mountain Grill, Green Cove Springs, FL

Rocky Mountain Grill
2853 Henley Road
Green Cove Springs (Lake Asbury), FL 32043

Today I headed to Lake Asbury for lunch, after spotting Rocky Mountain Grill in a coupon magazine. I was interested because their ad mentioned pizza and the vague phrases "appetizers" and "entrees."


Rocky Mountain Grill is rather nondescript on the outside, aside from the blue sign above the front door. The inside of the restaurant has brown tile, brown walls with faux staining and wooden hutches. The indoor seating consists of tables, booths and a bar. The outdoor seating is in back of Rocky Mountain Grill, with the Winn Dixie Shopping Center behind that. There were a few framed nature photos scattered around.


A very bland mix of ground beef and kidney beans. It lacked any seasoning.

BBQ Burger With Barbecue Sauce, Bacon and Cheese
Mushroom, Onion and Bacon Burger

Both burgers had a smokey, grilled taste. Very thick and juicy!

Pesto Bites Appetizer

A basket of pesto bites is five large lumps of dough, drizzled with pesto sauce and olive oil. You can get cheese sprinkled over that, too. It came with a side of marinara sauce. The pesto bites were pretty good.

Our waitress came over to say "I'm sorry, it seems the pesto bites will take a bit longer than expected." She was told that was okay. Cue a couple more trips to repeat that. Later she said "I am so sorry again. The cook is now making them from scratch for you." That was a little puzzling. Our table was to the right of the kitchen window and the cook was there the whole time. Plus the restaurant was not crowded at all, just three other tables besides us. Again, we said it was not a problem. The pesto bites arrived a few minutes after our sandwiches.

Meatball Sub

The meatballs were rather large on this sandwich. They had a nice thyme seasoning. The bread and marinara sauce were uninteresting.

French Fries

One of our sandwiches came with french fries. The waitress said there was a choice of chili, cheese or both on top. Chili and cheese were requested. Upon bringing the fries, she commented "Wait. You asked for chili and cheese, right ? These just have cheese. I'm so sorry. I will get you another order." She was assured that cheese alone was fine and the fries didn't need to be exchanged. The waitress replied "Oh, no, he (the cook) is making an order of chili cheese fries right now. I'll bring you those. You keep these, too. I am so sorry!" Oy vey.

If you order fries at RMG, specify "Just a handful on the side." Otherwise the fries come in huge bowls with enough to feed four people.

Bananas Foster Bites

The white part tasted like cheesecake. The brown bit reminded me banana bread. The outer crust had a French toast flavor. This dessert didn't remind me of bananas Foster at all, but it was delicious none the less.

The dessert course brought yet another round of apologies. Our waitress commented "He overcooked the bites. So he's making another batch for you right now." She brought us a basket of six perfectly fine, not overcooked bites. "Here is your dessert. I'll be back with the new basket." So we received two identical baskets of dessert bites. I have no idea what was wrong with the first batch.

Other items available

Blue corn chips, pizza, chicken sandwiches, salads, lots of items with Italian meats, brownies

A few problems:
- There's a lack of pictures and keywords on the menu. The listings are organized but need something that makes a diner go "Wow, I want to order that!" Table tents would probably help, too.
- The restaurant is missing personality, warmth and charm. It's a few nature photos, beer buckets along the bar top and a sea of brown.
- RMG fails to inspire a "Let's come back again" feeling. The food is good and the prices are super low; but other places in Lake Asbury already sell the same things. Duke's BBQ, located behind them, has the inexpensive barbecue and sandwich menu. And Pulcinella down the road has the Italian food for nice evening outings.
- Rocky Mountain Grill doesn't have a signature entree to be known for.
- They need a new cook and better training for the wait staff. I like free food as much as the next person; but there was no reason to remake our orders and send "fixed" seconds. That's too costly for the owners in the long run.

Rocky Mountain Grill gets neither a thumbs up or down, just a "meh" from me. It isn't even one of those "If I happen to be in the area anyway" restaurants. I probably won't be going back. I do not see Rocky Mountain Grill lasting very long in Lake Asbury.

Kraft Natural Cheese

"Blend of reduced fat white sharp cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses"

I was intrigued when I saw this at Super Wal-Mart. White cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan mixed together sounded iffy but a little interesting,too.

The smell reminded me of white American cheese. That's not a scent I care for. The actual taste was better, though. Parmesan was the most noticeable flavor, followed by the Swiss and the Parmesan. This is a strong, sharp cheese that I wouldn't snack on by itself. It would be really delicious on bacon mushroom burgers or in an Italian casserole. I would definitely buy Kraft Natural Cheese again.

Planters Nut Temptations: Winter Spiced Nuts & Fruit

"Cashews, peanuts, raisins and cranberries"

I spotted Planters Nut Temptations at Super Wal-Mart this afternoon. It is a mix of cashews, peanuts, raisins and cranberries. The Winter Spice nuts have a light cinnamon and brown sugar flavor. The ingredient list is very vague about what winter spices are:

"honey, sugar, natural flavor,spices."

The Nut Temptations are pretty good. I would buy these again.

Nabisco Toasted Chips

Ritz Toasted Chips: Main Street Original

Nothing interesting about these. They tasted like thinner, blander Ritz crackers. There's a really lame story on the bag about "...every town has a Main Street, where all the special things are..."

Wheat Thins Toasted Chips: North End Parmesan and Herb

This variety was named after the Italian restaurants and bakeries in Boston's North End. The chips had a sharp, pleasing Parmesan scent. The flavor reminded me of garlic-Parmesan rolls. Quite tasty!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Orville Redenbacher's Natural: Buttery Garlic

"Natural whole grain goodness with a buttery taste and a hint of garlic; no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. It's naturally delicious!"

Today I decided to try Orville Redenbacher's Buttery Garlic popcorn, from their Natural line. I initially thought "Oh, boy, I bet the house will smell after I cook this." Surprisingly, the only scent it gave off was butter. There was also no garlic flavor in any of the pieces I ate. Very strange. Thumbs down for yet another disappointing product from Orville Redenbacher's Natural variety.

Previous Orville Natural reviews:
Buttery Salt & Cracked Pepper

Garden Herb & Olive Oil, Lime & Salt

Monday, February 02, 2009

Santioni's Cucina Italiana, Orange Park, FL

Santioni's Cucina Italiana
3535 Highway 17, Suite 15
Fleming Island
Orange Park, Florida 904 32003

A few months ago, I spotted an ad for the recently opened Santioni's. I walked away without eating when I saw the super expensive prices posted outside. Several friends had a similar experience. The handful that actually dined inside said "I liked the food, but I am not going back. That was way too expensive."

Right before Christmas, I saw another ad for Santioni's in a coupon magazine. The ad had much lower prices than before. I stashed it away in my purse until yesterday, when the choice came down to Burger King, Olive Garden, Woody's or Santioni's.

Upon arriving, the comment our group made was "Um, yeah, let's check the prices. Make sure it isn't bait and switch." Fortunately, the lower prices were the same ones in the ad. So we decided to give Santioni's a try and headed inside. We passed through a foyer with two desks and displays of Santioni's coupons, take out menus, catering menus, etc. Our group almost decided to leave because there were no servers to be seen for two minutes. And we only saw one table of customers in the restaurant. But a chef soon appeared and took us to our table once he spotted us.

The first thing I noticed about Santioni's was the decor. It was gorgeous. The whole place was decorated in creams, reds, and greens. There were Italian pictures on the walls. The tables and chairs were dark cherrywood. The soft Italian music playing added to the ambiance.

Chef George started us off with a round of iced tea. (That's how the owner referred to him. More on that later). Then he brought us a basket of diamond shaped rolls and a bowl of herbed olive oil. The bread was amazing. It tasted similar to the Ramadan bread I made in October. I'm not sure what spices were in the olive oil, but it was a good pairing. George told us "We mix up both (the bread and olive oil) ourselves here."

Later in our meal, the owner of Santioni's joined Chef George to serve the food. I did not catch his name but I assume he's named George, too. One of the flyers I grabbed said "George [last name too blurry to read], Chef and Owner." Both men were friendly and helpful. Our group enjoyed talking to them.

Here's a breakdown of the menu:


The lasagna and eggplant both came with salads, as part of the early special (a drink, salad, bread and entree for one price). The salads were very pretty! The tomato slices were thick and sweet. George the owner said "Those are our bruschetta tomatoes. We slice and marinate them each day, then use them for the bruschetta."

Lasagna: Our fresh baked pasta with meat sauce, mozzarella, ricotta and parmigiana cheese

All of us loved the lasagna. The meat sauce was thick, rich and delicious. The noodles were succulent. The lasagna also had a perfect mix of cheeses.

Eggplant Parmigiana: Lightly breaded eggplant, pan fried and baked with tomato sauce and topped with melted mozzarella cheese; served with spaghetti marinara.

The eggplant was thick but nicely crispy and well seasoned. So good!

Smoked Salmon and Capers Pizza

This was ordered in the individual size. The pizza also had chopped tomatoes and feta. It was well worth ordering. The salty taste went well with the sweetness of the tomatoes. If you don't care for salmon and capers, I recommend ordering this pizza with just the feta and tomatoes.


The spumoni was served in a large ice cream sundae glass. It was drizzled with chocolate sauce. Two of us loved it. A third person said "I've had better spumoni at other places. This didn't have the licorice taste I like."

Crème Brûlée

This was served in a small, rectangular glass dish. The burnt sugar glaze was wonderfully sweet and crunchy. It was topped with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. The custard layer was cool and creamy.

Other desserts available

Mocha chocolate cheesecake, tirarmisu, cannoli, plain cheesecake

Needless to say, I was very impressed with Santioni's. The service was wonderful. The food was flawless. I plan to visit Santioni's again very soon.

An Occasional Cookie, Dillsburg, PA

An Occasional Cookie
47 South Baltimore Street
Dillsburg, PA 17019
(717) 432-5099
Fax:(717) 432-7859

Today I received a sample in the mail from An Occasional Cookie. AOC is located in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania and sells cookies, gift tins and cookie cakes.

My sample was a chocolate chip cookie. It was a nice, hefty size. AOC bakes with butter and Hershey's chocolate. That results in delicious, buttery soft cookies with oodles of chocolate chips. If you don't like chocolate, they have several other flavors such as Ginger Crinkle and White Chocolate Almond.

I was excited to see the cookies and gift tins are available for sale online (Cookie cakes are only available in the store). I would definitely recommend you try these cookies. I know I'll be ordering a batch soon. Thumbs up for An Occasional Cookie.

Weight Watchers Carrot Cake

"This portable, lightened-up version of a classic dessert is a treat that anyone will enjoy."

Last night, I bought a box of Weight Watchers Carrot Cake miniatures. The box had 6 individually wrapped cakes. Each piece was two inches long and about the size of a Matchbox car. The topping was cream cheese icing.

There was a yummy spice cake smell to the treats. However, that did not translate to the actual taste. The cake flavor was similar to dry banana bread, if you took out the banana and the spices. The icing posed a similar problem. It had a enticing cream cheese smell, but was rubbery and left a heavy chemical aftertaste. Also, each cake had twelve grams of sugar. Ouch.

A bad taste, too much sugar and tiny portions make this is a "never buy again" product. Thumbs down for Weight Watchers Carrot Cake.

Hershey's Raspberry Bliss

Last night, I bought a bag of Hershey's Raspberry Bliss candy. I might've said a bit too loudly "Eeep, there they are!...Are you kidding me, four dollars for one bag ?" Whoops. But hey, what do I care what random people at Walgreen's think, right ?

That aside, let's get to the taste. The bag smelled of artificial raspberry. Each piece was milk chocolate with a "raspberry meltaway center." The milk chocolate was smooth. The raspberry filling was thick, pink and tasted like raspberry Sweet Tarts. I do not like artificial raspberry or Sweet Tarts, so I was not pleased with the taste.

Thumbs down for Hershey's Raspberry Bliss.