Clamayto, Clamahto

27 03 2011

Don’t say it; I know.

I’ve been abandoned this blog for over three weeks now. I’m a terrible, horrible person.

Would it help if I said this has been the craziest three weeks of my life so far? No, probably not.

Well, at any rate, partly as self-punishment for taking three weeks off and partly for the entertainment value, I confronted one of my biggest fears today: Clamato juice.

I know it’s normal to some people. I know that, but I’ll never understand it. Ketchup is fine. Tomato soup is OK. Clam chowder is delicious. But mixing clams and tomatoes is just…wrong. So wrong.

In spite of my misgivings, I drank Clamato juice today. I sacrificed myself. I put myself through hell, just for you people. I hope you’re satisfied.

There are two great mysteries surrounding the juice: Whether Clamato is pronounced Clamayto or Clamahto, and why on earth anyone enjoys drinking it.

According to ChaCha, it’s pronounced Clamayto, which is awesome because that’s how I’ve always pronounced it and all these people have told me I’m saying it wrong. So there. In your face, all those people.

As for the second mystery, that’s what I was about to find out. Maybe.

With everything I try, I always figure someone, somewhere out there likes it. It’s what keeps me going when I’m faced with things like green pepper jelly and beet cookies. And it’s what helps me sleep at night afterward, despite my indigestion-induced nightmares.

Remember how I have this weird habit of smelling food before I try it? Well, I opened the bottle of Clamato juice, stuck my nose right up to the opening, took a big whiff — and nearly passed out. Don’t try this at home. If you’re going to smell Clamato juice for whatever reason, keep your distance in the process. If you’re a kidnapper or an aspiring kidnapper, this might actually come in handy. I mean, this stuff’s way cheaper than chloroform, and it pretty much has the same effect on people.

Holding my breath (yes, really), I poured myself a glass of the bright red, foul-smelling liquid. “Are you ready for this?” I asked my family, who were all watching in anticipation. (I did say entertainment value, didn’t I?) I’m not sure they were ready, and I know I sure wasn’t, but I threw back a hearty gulp anyway.

There are no words.

Nothing in the English language exists that is horrible enough to describe the taste of Clamato juice. It was like something had died and sat marinating in it for days. A clam, probably. Or many clams.

It was like watery clam chowder without all the milky goodness that makes up clam chowder…so really, just the clamminess. That, and slightly spicy tomato soup. Oh, and maybe some vinegar thrown in for good measure.

It smelled better than it tasted, which is normally not the case with any kind of strange food I try. If something smells like dead clams in ketchup, and it smells better than it tastes, you know you’ve got a problem.

In short, it tasted the same going down as it probably would coming back up. Or will. My stomach’s not feeling so good anymore.

I have a question for all of you insane, Clamato-loving people out there: What’s wrong with you? How do you do it? How on earth does this stuff taste good to you? Or is it really more of a masochistic method of proving your invulnerability to things that taste like death? Be honest with me, because I’m genuinely curious. And I can’t decide if your enjoyment of this stuff inspires awestruck respect or utter disgust in me. Maybe a little bit of both.

I’m going to leave you all with today’s lesson in the form of a simple mathematic equation:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go brush my teeth for the tenth time.

———

Ingredients: Water, tomato concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, salt, citric acid, onion powder, celery seed, ascorbic acid (to maintain color), garlic powder, dried clam broth, spices, vinegar, natural flavors and Red 40.
Price: $2.99 at Fry’s
Pros: It’s red. I like red. Red is one of my favorite colors.
Cons: You’re better off just eating rotting clams and washing them down with ketchup and vinegar. It probably tastes better.

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Clear, liquid Thin Mints

25 02 2011

When I think chocolate mint, I think Girl Scout cookies.

And when I think Girl Scout cookies, I think of the little triplets who live down the street and always come to our door asking us to buy a box of cookies … or two … or ten. I always end up with a million Tagalongs. I love Tagalongs.

Thin Mints are pretty great, too. Even though I’ve never been a big fan of mint, I do like it with chocolate — and  Thin Mints are the epitome of chocolate-mint cookies.

I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten Thin Mints and drank water with them. I’m also pretty darn sure I’ve never had that Thin Mint flavor in my water.

But in the natural foods section at Fry’s, that’s essentially what I found.

The brand is called Metromint, and it sells mint-flavored water in a rainbow of varieties: cherrymint, lemonmint, orangemint … and the most intriguing, chocolatemint.

Flavored water is pretty normal. But chocolate-flavored water? I had to try it.

I’m actually almost positive I’ve seen this stuff before. Last year in one of my classes, a girl brought in a bottle of “chocolatemint water,” and everyone was intrigued. As I recall, she also sat with the girls who everyone suspected brought vodka to class in their water bottles … so maybe it wasn’t chocolatemint water after all. But I digress.

I put this stuff in the freezer for an hour or so before I drank it so it would be nice and frosty. When I opened up the bottle and poured some in a glass (just in case anyone else wanted some and was terrified of my cooties), I gave it a cautious sniff.

Wow. Definitely mint. In fact, I could barely smell chocolate — but it had a strong spearmint scent.

Mint water? I thought. I guess that’s not so weird.

I took a generous sip, and I was shocked.

It tasted like … well, water.

(That was “well, water,” people. Not “well water.” That’s an entirely different story.)

I poured myself some more and took several more sips, trying to discern a flavor. I could make out a very, very faint hint of mint (and maybe chocolate), but I suspect that had more to do with the strong smell of the water than its actual taste. There was a slight aftertaste of mint, which reminded me of the toothpaste they use at the dentist’s office — only way more subtle.

I don’t get it. How can something have such a pungent odor and be next to tasteless? Maybe I just have insensitive taste buds (death by green pepper jelly?). The ingredients say it contains mint and cocoa essence … does “essence” involve briefly setting the bottle next to an unwrapped Hershey’s bar and hoping it soaks in the ambience? Because that’s about what it tasted (or didn’t taste) like, chocolate-wise.

On the plus side, the water has no sugar (or Sucralose, or anything) added. It’s just naturally flavored (or supposedly flavored) water. So zero calories, zero carbs, zero fat … and zero guilt.

Except maybe the price tag, that is. $1.50 for a small bottle of water is a little pricey, seeing as technically it’s just water. But hey, if you’re willing to pay a little extra for a very, very faint hint of flavor (and the chic factor of carrying around a bottle of mint water), then hey, more power to you.

———

Ingredients: Purified water, mint and cocoa essence.
Price: $1.49 at Fry’s.
Pros:
It’s refreshing. But then again, it’s water.
Cons: Tastes like water — er, more accurately, doesn’t really taste like anything, except a faint aftertaste of dentist’s-office toothpaste.





The Fountain of Youth in a can

11 02 2011

For whatever reason, people always think I’m younger than I am. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I hear, “So are you 15 or 16?” or “What year of high school are you in?” I’ll be 20 this year, thank you very much, and technically I’m a junior. In college.

People tell me I’ll appreciate it when I’m 50. I guess so.

And as it turns out, in the event that my eternal youth proves to be not-so-eternal, there’s apparently a canned drink that will restore it.

It’s called “Self,” which seems narcissistic at best and redundant at worst, but I’ll roll with it. I found it at Sprouts among the “healthy energy drinks” and all that other stuff that may or may not work (but probably doesn’t).

It’s produced by Hansen’s, which makes those amazing all-natural sodas that I love so much … so that in itself made the drink sound promising.

They market it as a “beauty elixir,” which reminded me of wizards and alchemy and didn’t help quite as much with the promising factor.

There were three flavors on the shelf — tropical bliss, pink lemonade and blushing berry — and I went with blushing berry because it sounded the most cryptic. I mean, what kind of berries are we talking about … and why are they blushing, exactly?

The side of the can reads, “Revitalize your inner beauty with a sexy blend of exotic berries, botanical extracts, nutrients and antioxidants!” I’m not sure how berries can be sexy, but I was intrigued nonetheless.

I opened it up and poured it into a glass (after giving the pretty blue tab to my little sister to put in her shoelace … I’m honestly not sure why). “Blushing” was a good adjective after all — the juice had a pale pink color like … I don’t know, embarrassed water or something. It actually looked a little gross.

But when I took a sip, I was pleasantly surprised.

It reminded me of raspberry lemonade somehow, which doesn’t make much sense because there’s no lemon in it, but it had the same sweet-and-sour taste.  The aftertaste wasn’t so great, though: a couple of seconds after taking a sip, I could tell for certain that the juice was made with Sucralose. A quick glance at the ingredients confirmed it.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t buy into the whole chemical-sugar-substitute thing. Give me pure cane juice any day, but keep Splenda away from me. I can taste a difference, and it’s not a good thing. Sucralose, to me, tastes nothing like sugar — and I’m not a fan of chemical substitutes to begin with.

On the plus side, the drink does contain natural flavors, lots of juice concentrates, green tea extract and other extracts that are apparently chock-full of antioxidants. (It also has only 35 calories in the whole can — thanks to the Sucralose, I’m sure.)

I suppose all this could technically make you look younger … or at least more revitalized and rejuvenated (it’s Big Word Day), but I’m not sure I’m buying into it. It tastes OK, it contains some good stuff … but I’d rather drink water and eat a banana every day, or whatever it is you’re supposed to do to keep the wrinkles away. This juice might be a better alternative to lemonade or soda, but I don’t think it’s exactly what Juan Ponce de León was looking for.

———

Ingredients: An infusion of reverse-osmosis water; apple juice concentrate; natural flavors; citric acid; vitamin E; ascorbic acid (vitamin C); blackberry, blueberry, red raspberry, strawberry and cranberry juice concentrates; fruit and vegetable extract (for color); Sucralose; acerola extract; chamomile flower extract; vitamin A; zinc sulfate monohydrate; niacinamide (vitamin B3); green tea extract; D-calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5); cocoa powder extract; vitamin B6; açai concentrate; mangosteen extract; pomegranate concentrate; biotin; selenium; vitamin B12.
Price: $1.49 at Sprouts.
Pros:
Only 35 calories per can; lots of antioxidants; tastes … decent.
Cons: Sucralose. Yuck.





If you milk a strawberry cow…

27 12 2010

When I was a kid, juice boxes and I had a love/hate relationship.

I was dangerously close to becoming addicted to apple juice, and those little boxes were the perfect containers to drink it out of: portable and convenient. But they were only big enough to last all of three minutes, tops — which is where the hate portion of the relationship came in.

It wasn’t just apple juice that I drank out of those boxes, though. I had fruit punch, grape juice, cranberry juice…

But never, ever milk.

So when I came across little milk-filled boxes sitting on the shelf, two things came to mind:

1.) That hardly looks legitimate.

2.) Wait a second. Isn’t milk supposed to be refrigerated?

As far as legitimacy goes, what concerned me the most was the Comic Sans text slapped across the side of the front of each carton: “R U thirsty???”  Uh, R U ten years old? The only plausible explanation for this slogan is that the company is trying really hard to market their product to grade-schoolers by using rudimentary chatspeak and excessive question marks in order to appear trendy. (And I mean “trendy” loosely, like oh-dear-Lord-my-mom-is-wearing-leggings-with-Uggs kind of trendy. So basically … not.)

As far as why milk was sitting out on a non-refrigerated shelf, I was stumped. The ingredients said “milk,” and there was even an allergy warning, so it had to be real. Even now, after further research into the ingredients list, I’m still stumped. Sodium phosphate is an emulsifier, carrageenan is another emulsifier, Vitamin A palmitate is a vitamin and Vitamin D3 is — you guessed it — another vitamin. Nothing special here, unless I’m missing something and one of these is a preservative.

The container, though, did say “ultra-pasteruized.” I’m not sure I want to know what goes into that process, but I guess it made me feel a little better.

At any rate, when faced with the choice of buying regular milk or strawberry milk, I opted for the strawberry, purely for the containers’ disgusting Pepto-Bismol hue.

And when I got home, I refrigerated it for a solid two hours. I didn’t care that it had been sitting on the shelf at room-temperature this whole time (or well actually, I did care a little) … I knew lukewarm strawberry milk would be automatically nasty.

When I finally pulled one out to drink it and poked the little straw through the aluminum-covered hole, I felt a sense of nostalgia that was immediately replaced by the reminder that I was about to drink something I was probably going to hate.

I took a sip.

Sweet. Very, very, very sweet.

But other than that, not actually that terrible.

I drank some more — slowly, because it really was a sugar overload. This stuff was definitely more strawberry than milk … and really just more sugar than strawberry, since the strawberry flavor hardly tasted like fruit.

It shouldn’t have surprised me: The second ingredient, after milk, was sugar. And with 20 grams of it in that little 6-ounce container, the stuff was loaded.

I’m still not entirely convinced it was milk, even though the carton promised it was. (Announced it, actually, in a speech bubble on the front emitting from a crazy-eyed emoticon — which brings me back to the trendy-but-not point.)

Much as I love (and sometimes hate) boxes full of drinkable things, I can’t see myself sipping on this stuff anytime soon. But if you’re looking for a cheap, portable, low-spillage-risk variation of milk for kids, this could work. Just be warned: despite all the vitamins in it (a whopping two), it’s also chock-full of sugar — and that’s apparent from the very first sip.

———

Ingredients: Low fat milk, sugar, natural flavors, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, Red 40, Vitamin A palmate and Vitamin D3.
Price: $2.50 at Fry’s Marketplace (four per package)
Pros: It does have vitamins and calcium in it, and it comes in nice little boxes with straws. Oh, and apparently you don’t need to refrigerate it, somehow.
Cons: Sugar. Lots and lots and lots of it.





“I’ll take a Venti café mocha. Carbonated, please.”

14 12 2010

Across the street from the local high school, a new soda shop called Rocket Fizz opened up a short while ago. They sell almost every kind of soda you can think of.

But whoever thought of Cola Azteca must’ve had a pretty twisted imagination.

My friend Mike referred me to this stuff for the blog, and I was hesitant at first because Rocket Fizz isn’t a grocery store … but when I heard what was in the soda, I knew it was worth reviewing.

The brand is called Taylor’s Tonics. If that moniker wasn’t enough to make me uneasy, the description on the label certainly was: “Sparkling and spiced café mocha.”

I’ve had café mocha before. It’s not a bad drink, even though I’m partial to caramel in my coffee.

But a café mocha shouldn’t sparkle. Glitter sparkles. Cider sparkles. Heck, even vampires in sad excuses for literature apparently sparkle.

Coffee does not sparkle.

So basically what I got out of the label is that if a Starbucks specialty drink and Coca-Cola hooked up on New Year’s Eve, this would be the product of that unholy union.

Oh yeah, and it has something to do with the Aztecs.

The ingredients list included coffee, cocoa, cinnamon bark and cayenne. Now do you see why I said “twisted imagination”? It sounded like it would be great as a hot drink in a mug on a cold winter day, but as an ice-cold, carbonated soda?

Drinking it almost felt like an adventure. And I don’t mean the good kind.

I poured some into a glass (because it’s so much more ladylike than taking a swig from the bottle — or actually because I wanted a photo), and I took a generous sip. My taste buds reeled from the attack.

Cola? Nope. Mocha? Possibly. Cayenne? Check. Coffee? Check, check, and triple-check.

Carbonated, spiced black coffee with a hint of mocha. That’s what it boiled down to.

I took another sip (much more tentatively this time) to see if it would taste any better the second time around. It didn’t.

My coffee-loving sister chose at that moment to wander through the kitchen. When she saw the soda, she eagerly grabbed a glass and took a gulp. Her reaction? A face I rarely ever see from the least-picky person I know.

After a few repetitions of “Ew!” and “Gross!” she summed up her opinion: “If you added cream and sugar, it might be edible.”

I don’t know. I think even if I poured in some cream and dumped in some sugar (even though it supposedly contains cane juice — which is undetectable at best), it wouldn’t be any more palatable. Besides, since cola is acidic, wouldn’t it curdle the cream anyway? Food for thought.

Coffee was never meant to be carbonated. It’s that simple. The flavor itself wasn’t awful (especially if you like strong black coffee), and the aftertaste was bearable (cayenne and then — finally — a hint of cola), but let’s face it: there’s a reason coffee is usually sold as either hot or iced, with no “carbonated” option.

An exception to this rule, I guess, could be Coca-Cola BlāK — coffee-flavored Coke. I’ve never tried it, but if it’s anything like Cola Azteca, I think I’ll keep my distance. (Plus, it was discontinued. Maybe there’s a reason for that.)

Dear coffee and cola: You’re both great; you really are. But please keep to yourselves. It’s better that way.

———

Ingredients: Filtered water (infused with certified organic fair trade coffee, cocoa, cinnamon bark and cayenne), evaporated cane juice, natural flavors of vanilla, mocha and spice, citric acid and natural caffeine (40 mg).
Price: $1.29 at Rocket Fizz
Pros: Well, it would be great as a hot, non-carbonated beverage…
Cons: It’s a cold, carbonated beverage.





Liquid gold

24 10 2010

Unhealthy as they are, I’m a sucker for energy drinks.

After working at Dunkin’ Donuts for nearly two years, I built up a tolerance to coffee. A daily dosage of caffeine does nothing to wake me up; I need something more along the lines of a complete caffeine assault. This will most likely give me a heart attack someday, and it’s why I rarely drink energy drinks anymore, but when I saw this, I was so amused I had to try it.

I found this baby at the dollar store (99¢ Only, to be exact), which isn’t exactly a conventional supermarket, but half the store is filled with groceries of some sort, so I’m going to say it counts. The store has an entire section of energy drinks, all off-brands I’ve never heard of. What caught my eye with this one was the brilliant packaging.

Exclusive Energy, it announced in a shiny calligraphic font. Three gold bars, emblazoned underneath the logo, also danced around the rest of the can in a smaller format. Now, I’m a journalist and therefore (on principle) know nothing about PR or marketing, but it seems to me that repeating the exact same image around your product in random places isn’t going to do much for its marketability.

I know, I know — the packaging isn’t as important as what’s inside.  This particular packaging, however, was trying to tell me something with all those repeating gold bars.  When I turned the can on its side, it read:

Success…stamina…gold…  I liked the sound of this.  If the price of success is only 99 cents and can be found within a metal can of highly caffeinated sugar-water, I think I’ll go ahead and drop out of college right here and now.

With such (ahem) convincing advertising, I wondered if this inexpensive pot of gold would live up to such the standard it set for itself.  Great-tasting power drink?  There was only one way to find out.

When I opened the can, my nostrils were immediately greeted by the scent of Sweet Tarts.  I got excited.  If someone were able to translate Sweet Tarts into a carbonated, liquid form, I’d probably be in love.

When I took a sip, though, it didn’t really taste like Sweet Tarts. In fact, it didn’t taste like anything at first — just carbonated water.

Then the flavor kicked in. Yep, Sweet Tarts — exactly the way it smelled. Beautiful sugary goodness.

And then came the aftertaste. Not so sweet, not so sugary…decidedly rancid.

It was a strange experience, to be honest. Energy drinks tend to have that affect: each sip brings a myriad of flavors. This was no different, just slightly more drastic than most.  I expected it to be sweeter, but the sweetness only lasted a second before that bitter, metallic aftertaste set in.

I went to the official Exclusive Energy website to find out more about the drink, and one of the things the site advertises is “no aftertaste.” Either I’ve gone entirely bonkers, or whoever taste-tested this had some tongue issues, because there is definitely an aftertaste — as there is with most energy drinks.

In all, though, it wasn’t bad. I can’t say it’s the first thing I’d go out and buy if I were in desperate need of an energy boost, but it’s certainly not a terrible bargain for only 99 cents.

The caffeine content is comparable to most other similar energy drinks: 140 milligrams per 16 fluid ounces compared to 144 milligrams in Full Throttle and 160 mg in both Monster and Rockstar. The entire can has 220 calories (also standard) and 54 grams of sugar, which is about 11 grams less than the sugar content of a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola.

Oh, and as far as the energy aspect of the drink… I was falling asleep all afternoon and I’m wide-awake after drinking about half the can’s contents, so I think it’s safe to assume it’s effective. Whether or not it’ll make me wealthy and successful, however, remains to be seen.

———

Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, taurine, sodium citrate, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, caffeine, glucuronolactone, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, guarana seed extract, panax, ginseng extract, niacinamide, inositol, l-carnitine, pyridoxine hydrochloride, calcium pantothenate and cyanocobalamin.
Price:
$0.99 at 99¢ Only (which is shocking, I know)
Pros: Inexpensive energy drink compared to others on the market; still effective; tastes like Sweet Tarts — kind of.
Cons: Bad-breath-inducing aftertaste.





Smurf juice

16 10 2010

When I see a gallon jug, I usually expect it to be filled with milk.

But not always. Sometimes it’s filled with water, apple cider or fruit punch.

This was pretty close to fruit punch…except it was bright blue. And maybe a “blue raspberry fruit beverage” isn’t all that strange, but when it looks like someone stuck a Smurf in a juicer over a gallon jug, I’m going to question the edible (or drinkable) nature of what’s in that jug.

After lugging the gallon home, I poured some of the liquid into a glass, which seemed oddly incongruous. I felt like I should be drinking it out of a sippy cup, or at least one of those plastic restaurant cups with a squiggly straw. (Maybe it’s because if I were eight years old, I would’ve begged my mother to buy the pretty bright blue stuff as soon as I saw it.  Years later, it failed to excite me as much.)

As I lifted the glass to my lips, I was reminded of that scene in Star Wars when Obi-Wan is drinking glowing blue…something. (Yes, I’m aware this makes me a nerd, and that I probably need to…well, rethink my life.)

The liquid (I hesitate to call it juice, because it’s really not, and calling it juice reminds me of that Smurf) didn’t really taste anything like blue raspberry.  Then again, I’m not really sure what a blue raspberry tastes like, since I’ve only ever seen and eaten red raspberries, and all the “blue raspberry” flavored things I’ve consumed have essentially been sugar-flavored.  So actually, in that case, this tasted exactly like blue raspberry…because all it was was a sugary beverage with some sort of ambiguous artificial flavoring thrown in.

Now, don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t bad.  In fact, it tasted kind of like watered-down Kool-Aid. But that leaves me wondering: what’s the point of watery Kool-Aid?

The upside is the price: $1.19 for a whole gallon. So if you’re looking for a good beverage for your kid’s alien-themed birthday party — or you’re just getting tired of buying fruit punch — this is a decent option. But be warned: as far as flavor goes, you get what you pay for.

Oh, and one last note… The longer I stared at this stuff, the more it started looking like windshield washer fluid. So if you store your windshield washer fluid in a gallon jug (for whatever reason), and you’re fond of putting it in the fridge (for whatever reason), you may want to either leave this drink on the shelf or rethink your storage habits. Because you really, really shouldn’t drink windshield washer fluid. Smurf juice, though, is okay.

———

Ingredients: Water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, propylene glycol, natural and artificial flavors, gum acacia, potassium sorbate (preservative), neotame, Blue #1 and brominated vegetable oil.
Price:
$1.19 at Fry’s Marketplace
Pros: Great price, good kids’ drink except the sugar content (22 grams per 8 oz).
Cons: Watery, sugary, indiscernable flavor.








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