Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Mission: Summer Lime with Cilantro, Tortilla Chips Review

June 4, 2012

I am a salty foods person, through and through. I’d prefer a bag of chips to a bag of cookies. I’d prefer another entrée helping to desert. When I’m in a grocery store, I don’t look for sweets. I am always on the hunt for new bags of chips.

Enter this bag of chips from Mission Foodswith a mouthful of a name: Summer Lime with Cilantro (other descriptive words that might be part of the name include “Restaurant Style” “Tortilla Triangles” and “Limited Edition

For pure snacking purposes, Tostito’s Hint of Lime Chips are among my favorite in the Tostito’s line of corn chips (and are much better than their Hint of Jalapeño and Hint of some kind of cheese followups), so naturally I was drawn to this bag of chip. I picked up the bag and upon further inspection, I noticed a one main thing: The chips are green. Not the color of a frog, but kind of like the color of green popcorn you might have had on St. Patrick’s Day. This was a little off-putting, but by no means a deal breaker.

So I took the chips home, and opened them up. My expectations were for them to be a little overbearing and not quite as enjoyable as Tostito’s Hint of Lime. Wrong and wrong.

These chips are certainly more potent than their Tostito’s counterparts, but are not overbearing. While the Hint of Lime chips, as advertised, have a hint of lime flavoring on an otherwise uninteresting Tostito, Mission Summer Lime chips could be called “Punch of Lime, hint of Cilantro”. It is fantastic. These knock Hint of Lime out of the park as far as I’m concerned.

Some other thoughts’s:

  • Whereas I find Hint of Lime chips are best dipped in salsa, these chips are better by themselves. Maybe some queso would be good, but I don’t have any of that around.
  • If you don’t like Hint of Lime’s limey flavor, you won’t like these either. While the #1 ingredient is “ground corn treated with lime” – not sure what that means – these are definitely “lime flavored” rather than “lime” in my book.
  • Only seen these in a store once. I’ll be really annoyed if I can’t find more of them
  • These chips are nowhere to be mentioned on Mission’s website. Also, Mission Foods hates social media. (correction, mission has a Facebook page, which started posting about these chips about a week after I did.) What’s up with that??
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    What You Should Eat In St. Louis

    March 14, 2012

    This is an incomplete primer on a complicated subject. It is by no means definitive. I will make 3 guarantees: First, there are incredible places that aren’t on this list because I have never been to them, forgotten about them, or didn’t feel like writing about them. Second, I have never had a bad meal at any of the places on this list. Finally, this list is useless for vegetarians.

    Lunch

    Blues City Deli is my #1 Lunch recommendation in St. Louis right now. They do sandwiches. I normally get the Italian Beef, but everything is incredible. Get Billy Goat chips. They have live music Thursday nights.

    Crown Candy Kitchen is a St. Louis classic. It’s in a shit part of the city, but it’s a classic. Expect a wait. I get the chili cheese dog. It’s made with a staple St. Louis product: Edmund’s Chili. They are also known for their BLT which has a mountain of bacon on it. Get a shake. They also make their own chocolate if that’s your thing

    Papi’s BBQ is the #1 BBQ place in St. Louis right now. (also good, spinoff Bogarts). Get here early (11:30 or earlier) for lunch. There will be a long line. It moves pretty fast. I only ever get pulled pork at BBQ places, but I’ve heard everything here is good.

    Burgers

    Years of consensus say that the best burger in St. Louis can be found at Blueberry Hill. Thick burgers. Get it with scoop cheddar cheese. Grilled onions, bacon, whatever. It’s all good. Next door: my favorite record shop in the midwest, Vintage Vinyl.

    For a less touristy experience, and some (though not me) would say a better burger, get O’Connells. Just American cheese. They cook your burger to by-the-book definitions, so medium rare has some red in the middle. I also do grilled onions here.

    For a foodie burger, there’s a new place called Bailey’s Range. They also have booze milk shakes and a generally cool atmosphere. Really enjoyed this place the one time I went there.

    Carl’s Drive-In. This isn’t in St. Louis proper. It’s probably a 20 minute drive from downtown. They make flat burgers. Also with Edmund’s Chili (see: Crown Candy). Get a large root beer. They are closed on Sundays.

    Beer

    Drink local! Schlafly Brewing Co (2 syllables, first one pronounced last “shaft” with an L in it and no T, 2, “Lee” “Schlaf-lee”) has two locations. Tap Room and Bottle Works. Tap Room is more down-towny. Get any beers there. They are all good. They both have great food too (but different menus at each).

    Buffalo Brewing Co., Parrenial Ales, and Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. are also all St. Louis breweries that have their own bars. I’ve never been to these places, but they all make good beer.

    For the widest selection in town, hit up iTap in Soulard. 500+ beers or so. Good place to watch sports. (not sure about WiFi situation though).

    Review: Crust Be Dreaming USB Hand Warmers

    February 17, 2012

    Problem:

    I work from home in an old house that we are too cheap to heat properly. My desk is near 80 year old windows. My hands get cold and my fingers have trouble typing at full speed.

    Solution:

    The most obvious solution to this problem is a space heater. However, as my hands are really the only part of me that gets cold, a space heater seemed a little excessive for my needs. Also, they use a lot of electricity and as I mentioned before, we are cheap.

    Packaging

    Enter: "Crust Be Dreaming USB Hand Warmers", clearly these are not marketed to men.

    I wouldn’t have even thought that something like this existed if it hadn’t been brought to my attention by attention on Twitter by two friends(who I would have linked to but they both have protected accounts, boo!). But I saw them, I bought them, and now I’m wearing them.

    My primary concerns before I got them is that they would get in the way of my computer using. I am happy to report that they do not (for the most part). That’s not to say that it didn’t take some getting used to. It’s taken some trial and error.

    First off these things are comfortable (even off). They are made out of really solt plush material and fit well on my normal-sized hands. There is even a velcro strap if you need additional tightening (though for me, it is a minor nuisance.)

    crustbedreaming3

    Velcro strap: Good for some? Not for me.

    I have a desktop computer with an old-ish Apple Keyboard that has USB ports on both sides of it and I figured that these would be where I would plug my hand warmers in. I plugged them in and selected the lower of the two settings. (The packaging says they have 3 settings, but this is only if you count “Off” as a setting.) After about 10 minutes of use, it didn’t feel like they were any warmer than if I was just wearing gloves over my hands. I turned it up to high. Same general problem.

    I was a little bummed out, but I thought the problem may be that the outlets on my keyboard (which is plugged into my monitor) weren’t provided enough power to warm the mittens. Fortunately, the mittens come with a long USB cable (4 feet maybe?) that allowed me to plug it directly into my tower without any problem. After I did that, they warmed up rather quickly.

    Even from here though, Low was not the setting for me. I’ve had my warmers on high for over an hour now and my hands are pleasantly warm (though not hot). I’ve gone through my regular work day (typing, photoshopping, drinking coffee, etc…) and found that I can accomplish everything that I normally do, more comfortably than I normally would, with the help of my Crust Be Dreaming USB Hand Warmers.

    I bought them for $34.99 (a little under $40 including shipping) from ModCloth, and had them in less than 4 days. When researching this article however, I found them for $24.99 on ThinkGeek. I don’t know what their shipping prices are though. Either way though, assuming these things keep working, they are worth $40 to me. If you have a problem that is similar to mine, this is a good solution. Buy them.

    p.s. They are pretty cute.

    Top 10 Albums – 2011

    January 9, 2012

    So, I work in an office now and I think in terms of hours, I listened to more music than ever in 2011. I listened to lots of new music, some old music but explored little new territory. My goal to review 1 album a week fell woefully short, but I’d say I listened to 30-40 new albums this year, which is fine.

    I saw a lot of great bands live this year including (in alphabetical order): Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, Dan Deacon, The Decemberists, Destroyer, Mates of State, Mister Heavenly and Weezer (x2!). The most surprisingly good show I saw of the year was Tristen (opening for Ezra Furman and the Harpoons). I don’t want to rate these concerts from best to worst.

    I will, however, tell you the three worst:

    3 worst concerts of 2011

    3. Okkervil River – The Pageant

    This was my 3rd time seeing Okkervil River and the previous times had been fantastic. This show didn’t live up to my hype. Also, Will Sheff didn’t sing a verse of Westfall

    2. Girl Talk – The Pageant

    This was my 3rd time seeing Girl Talk. The first time was great. The second time sucked. blah blah blah (full review here).

    1. Oh No! Oh My! – Off Broadway

    So I didn’t find out about this show until the day before, and I got excited because I had seen these guys do a 30 minute set at Lollapalooza (2006?) and it was awesome. I had their first CD and the EP after that and I loved them. Apparently they had a newer CD that I never heard about. I wasn’t concerned about this though.

    So there were hardly any people at the show and the band… (it makes me angry to write this) ONLY PLAYED ONE SONG OFF THEIR FIRST TWO RELEASES. The entire remainder of the (short) show was all off their new album. I respect artists for sticking to mainly songs off their new albums. It’s good to be accountable to your new albums. But when you only have TWO FULL LENGTHS, how can you not play at least 3 or 4 songs from each of them? poo-on-you I say. I downloaded their new CD after the show, and I thought it sucked. But I am 100% sure I am just bitter.

    The Top 10!

    Now for the top 10. Some notes: I’m particularly short on real critique this year, so these reviews will be no longer than necessary. About 1/2 of these CDs I reviewed earlier this year, and I’ve put links up to those reviews. There’s no rap and very little not-real-music on this year’s list.

    If you click the images, you will be taken to a magical land where you can download the CD

    Jan. 19 update: Yo, Megaupload got shut down. Maybe will rehost files elsewhere if there is interest. Leave a comment.

    10. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

    Click image to download!

    Listen if you like: Summer, big guitars, chilled out but with pop hooks and not boring.

    9. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

    Click image to download!

    I was pretty sure I was done with Iron & Wine prior to this CD. Turns out, no. I’ve reread my earlier review and I stand by it.

    My initial review of Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

    8. Mister Heavenly – Out of Love

    Click image to download!

    So, the Nick Diamonds/Nick Thorburn is a favorite of mine. He’s been in bands like The Unicorns and Islands. Here, he’s the front man of Mister Heavenly with the drummer from the Shins & Modest Mouse (Joe Plummer) and Honus Honus from Man Man. Michael Cera also toured with the band as the bassist for awhile.

    Diamonds at his best writes some of my favorite weirdo pop songs and he’s near the top of his game here. Standout tracks are Bronx Sniper and Pineapple Girl. The whole CD is pretty great though.

    7. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

    Click image to download!

    My favorite songwriter. Becker family favorite. Lead singer John Darnielle triumphs again. My earlier review is just fine. However, I wouldn’t say the CD bloomed as much on repeat listens as I thought it would. Also, it is still my goal to do a mashup of “Teach Me How to Dougie” and “Never Quite Free.”

    My initial review of The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

    6. Tristen – Charlatan at the Garden Gate

    Click image to download!

    Tristen Gaspadarek is the only artist on this list that I had never heard of when 2011 began. All of a sudden I was at a show for a band I wasn’t familiar with, (Ezra Furman and the Harpoons) and the opening band comes on and it’s just a duo, a girl singing and playing the guitar and a guy doing… whatever the song called for.

    So I’m sitting at a table when Tristen starts, just talking to friends. They start, and (the way I remember it) we stop talking, not to be polite, but because this singer’s voice was a force to be reckoned with. With a sound that I imagine only a special combination of whiskey, cigarettes and touring can produce, this tiny 28 year year old girl belted through a set of fresh stripped down country songs and made her voice the primary instrument. I was blown away.

    I bought the CD and was a bit disappointed to find a full band and a bit prettier more restrained vocals. That said, it’s a great CD full of songs about murder, sex, drugs and other things that make for decent stories.

    5. Moonface – Organ Music, Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped

    Click image to download!

    Not too long ago, you may have read that John Darnielle is my favorite songwriter. Now, you will read that Spencer Krug is my favorite musician. Here are some things these artists have in common: I’ve done art projects on both of them and they are both pretty well respected in indie-rock circles.

    This CD, Organ Music, is the second (or third, depending on how you look at things) release from Moonface, which is Spencer Krug’s solo project. Their prior release was called “Marimba and Shit Drums” and was just one long track. Much as “Marimba and Shit Drums” was a CD of marimba and crappy sounding drums, this one is a CD of organ music. There’s also drum loops here.

    It’s a kind of short CD with kind of long songs. While most of Krug’s work with Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade has been pretty well structured, this is a little more exploratory. If you want to listen to it, give it a shot, but it may require some getting in to.

    4. Mates of State – Mountaintops

    Click image to download!

    What do 4 of the 5 bands ranked 4-8 on this listen have in common? They put on kick-ass shows at the Firebird this year. I saw Mates of State on Halloween and they were dressed up with the lead singer, Kori Gardner dressed up as a police officer, and husband Jason Hammel (and the two other male members of the band) dressed up as prisoners. Great already… but then towards the end of the show, they all stripped off their costumes to reveal Cardinals shirts… a week after the Cardinals won the world series. The crowd went wild!

    Anyway…

    Mates of State is a long-time favorite of mine. They are a husband & wife, organ & drums duo from Austin, TX and they’ve been writing great and cute pop songs for a long time. This is my favorite CD of theirs since Team Boo. It’s so good that it is featured on Burger King commercials.

    3. Destroyer – Kaputt

    Click image to download!

    Already reviewed this! Like it now more than I did when I reviewed it. If this was a list of 80’s saxophone revival albums, this would have been #1.

    My initial review of Destroyer – Kaputt

    2. Decemberists – The King is Dead

    Click image to download!

    Who would have thunk that restraint, focus and lack of narrative could make for the best Decemberists album ever? I say best, but I’m not sure if it is my favorite. Anyway, this CD was the first one I reviewed this year and it is full of great short songs. Put this on a shelf. It will age well.

    My initial review of Decemberists – The King is Dead

    1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

    Click image to download!

    Jon Becker has the same #1 as Pitchfork 2 years in a row. What a loser.

    …pfffft. I say.

    I was late on the Bon Iver bandwagon. I didn’t listen ’til their first CD until a year after it came out, and I thought it was great. This one is even greater though. I would like to think that we’ve all gotten to the point where we have gotten over Bon Iver’s narrative and can just love his tunes.

    This CD warms the heart. It’s beautiful from start to finish. Most importantly, I don’t think any of it is boring. I could not have said the same thing about For Emma. While I wouldn’t call this a particularly strong best CD of the year for my list, I would say it definitely deserves the spot.

    So, that’s my list. What can we take away:
    1) No rap this year. I probably listened to more rap than ever this year, but nothing cracked my top 10 list.
    2) If you tour in St. Louis, there’s a good chance you’ll make this list. Smith Westerns, The Mountain Goats and Iron & Wine are the only bands on this list that I didn’t see in concert this year.
    3) Office jobs are great for listening to a lot of music but not necessarily great for taking in and making impressions about music. That still requires a bit of attention and work, and I feel I lacked in that department this year.

    More blogging this year? We’ll see how it goes.

    Related:
    2010 Best Albums of the Year

    For now, iPhone 4s is better than the iPhone 5 you wanted.

    October 5, 2011

    Note: so my previous headline was written before some tragic news broke. Rest in peace Steve Jobs. The world won’t be the same without you.

    When people said they wanted an iPhone 5 yesterday, as far as I can tell, there are 5 things that they think it should have included that would differentiate it from the iPhone 4s that was introduced. I’d like to evaluate all of them.

    Different Shape

    The iPhone 4 and now iPhone 4s are 9.3mm thick. According to the UK Advertising Standards Authority that makes it the thinnest smartphones in the world.

    People wanted a new design in their iPhone 5, and since Apple design is a one-way street by “new” they meant “thinner.” The most popular of these thinner mockups included a tapered design like the bottom of these two 9to5 mac images.

    So this shape is different, but it better than what we have now? John Gruber made the point before the iPhone 4s event that a tapered iPhone would make the phone awkward and unbalanced to hold in landscape orientation. I’d suspect that for this reason, when the iPhone 5 does come out, it won’t be tapered. It will probably look like a thinner iPhone 4(s).

    All of this ignores the fact that a thinner phone means less room for a battery. I don’t believe Apple is willing to sacrifice on battery life in order to make the world’s thinnest phone thinner. The iPhone will get thinner when a thinner battery can provide the same battery life to an even faster processor.

    Larger Screen

    People wanted two things from their screen: A screen that takes up a larger percentage of the face of the phone and a screen that is 4”+. The first one of these will probably happen eventually (next model?). The second one will probably not happen any time soon (I’m thinking years).

    The iPhone, iPhone 3g, iPhone 3gs, and iPhone 4 had 3.5” screens. Do you this trend is because Apple is incapable of making larger screens? No. It’s because Apple thinks 3.5” is the right size for a phone. It’s the same reason that Apple only makes 10” iPads.

    From a developer’s point of view (I am not a developer, this is just what I understand) the less resolutions that one has to deal with, the better. The iPhone 4 had 4x (2x height and 2x width) the pixels of the iPhones before it.

    To me it seems obvious that all iPhone will have their current resolution 960×640 resolution. A 4” screen would have that same resolution, but it wouldn’t look as good. Not going to happen. Maybe when there exists a 1,920 x 1280 4.5” screen, Apple will make their screen bigger. Until then, if you want a bigger screen, buy something else.

    I see the iPhone getting smaller around a 3.5” screen before I see it getting a bigger screen.

    4G

    If you thought Apple would include 4G, you aren’t paying attention. Apple won’t sacrifice on battery life (and probably form factor) for a feature that only a small percentage of their buyers would be able to take advantage of. As it is, networks don’t maximize potential 3G speeds and Apple raised the bar there for the 4s.

    NFC

    See above. Form factory and battery life for something that people don’t use. Apple pioneers technologies that it can control. If NFC catches on in a big way, maybe they’ll put it in their next phone. But maybe not even then. Blu-ray, anyone?

    Larger home button that allows for swipe gestures

    Well shoot, I actually like this idea. See the 9to5mac article again for what I’m talking about.

    Conclusion

    If the iPhone 5 included everything these people asked for, it would be worse and it would make the iOS ecosystem worse. I would be more likely to buy the iPhone 4s.

    March, a month in review.

    March 29, 2011

    I’ve tried not to do too many “life-update” type blog posts on this blog thus far, instead focusing on analysis of things that other people are doing, but a lot of stuff happened to me this month, so I’m just gonna roll with it. Everything is divided into sections. There’s still some music stuff here. Just skip over the things you don’t care about. Click through to read the rest!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    The Mountain Goats: All Eternals Deck

    March 8, 2011

    The Mountain Goats; All Eternals Deck
    all eternals deck
    Artist The Mountain Goats
    Album All Eternals Deck
    Label Merge Records
    Release Date March 29, 2011

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Dan Deacon 3.4.11 The Gargoyle, St. Louis

    March 6, 2011

    Dan Deacon at The Gargoyle
    In my last review of the Jan. 18 Girl Talk concert at The Pageant, I commented that the first time I saw Girl Talk, Dan Deacon opened for them and arguably made the show the fantastic experience that it was. Friday, I saw Dan Deacon again, headlining this time. How did he fare? Read on to find out.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Bright Eyes: The People’s Key

    February 24, 2011

    Bright Eyes: The People's Key Album Cover

    Artist: Bright Eyes
    Album: The People’s Key
    Label: Saddle Creek Records
    Release Date: February 15, 2011

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Yo Quiero New Products: Beefy Crunch Burrito

    February 10, 2011

    Taco Bell, like other fast food locations, has pretty tasty food at very reasonable prices. What I find interesting about it is their ability to crank out new products on a monthly basis, and also advertise them. So throughout the year/as long as I continue this blog, I will do my best to review new Taco Bell products. Reviews will fall under 4 segments: “The Commercial”, “What’s New Here”, “Taste & Volume v. Price” and “My Current Order” I hope that you enjoy this segment 1/4 as much as I enjoy Taco Bell.

    Beefy Crunch Burrito

    Product: Beefy Crunch Burrito
    Release: December 2010
    Price: $0.99 (varies by location)

    Commercial

    Plot: A dude is sitting at a Taco Bell by himself, eating a Beefy Crunch Burrito. He is admiring these two good looking women who are at a different table, and thinking about how they are probably pretty impressed that he is eating something so adventurous. He is playing out a monologue in his head, pointing out the benefits of the burrito and by association, him. When the ladies finally do look over at him, he is predictably embarrassed and awkward. Cut to product voiceover.

    Analysis Eh, it’s alright. Stays pretty safely within the bounds of standard Taco Bell commercials, making the assertion that hot girls like guys who eat Taco Bell. Strong message. But, it isn’t very memorable. I had to go back and look up this commercial in order to remember what it was about.

    What’s New?

    Flamin Hot Fritos

    Everything else in this burrito already exists on the menu.

    Taste & Volume v. Price

    This thing is a steal. It is the Taco Bell trifecta, delicious, filling and cheap. This is the gold standard for which future Taco Bell products should be measured. Granted, I am not a huge eater, but 2 of these is more than enough for a meal. The Flamin Hot Fritos add a unique spice that can’t be found anywhere else on the menu, and also give it almost a crunch wrap supreme mouth feel in burrito form.

    The other things in the burrito are pretty much what you’d expect, but I can’t overstate what a great value I think this is. This item will stay in my order as long as it stays on the menu.

    My Current Order

    (don’t know if this still exists, but this is what I was getting after this product debuted)
    $5 Touchdown Box:

  • Crunch Wrap Supreme
  • Beefy Crunch Burrito
  • Regular Taco
  • Cinnamon Twists
  • Drink