Friday, January 31, 2020

Screamin' Sicilian Mambo Italiano

If you spend as much time reading about food online as I do (there is a 99.99% chance that you do not), you will inevitably come across food items that are just too cute by half. Sir Kensington's Gourmet Scooping Ketchup is a perfect example. Trader Joe's line of Asian foods that they label as "Trader Ming's" is perhaps another.

Enter Screamin' Sicilian. "Premium Frozen Pizza and Stromboli," they cheerfully dub themselves, bestowing their products with names like "Bessie's Revenge" for their all-cheese pie, or "Mother of Meat" (you can use your imagination to guess the toppings on that one).

Following that logic, the pizza topped with pepperoni, meatballs and mozzarella is not surprisingly named the "Mambo Italiano."

But here's the thing: I don't care how silly the product packaging is or how silly the marketing campaigns are, as long as the food tastes good. (The aforementioned Sir Kensington's is one of my top 10 favorite ketchups - and yes, I have such a list.)

The retail price on Screamin' Sicilian pizzas is usually $10, which is just too high for frozen pizza. However, they are one of those items that are perpetually on sale at every supermarket. I paid $6.99 for this one.

The box includes a mustache you can detach and, presumably, wear. I guess this is made for kids. Or hipsters.

While the pizza is by no means thick crust, it is noticeably thicker than you normally find with frozen pizza. The box calls it "medium crust" which seems like a vague and lazy description, but one that is nonetheless apt.

I actually have tried this pizza before, almost five years ago. Back then, the pepperoni were roughly chopped up pieces that were thicker. Now, they are the same slices you find on most frozen pizzas. That was disappointing. 

The meatballs, however, are the best meatballs I have ever tasted on a frozen pizza. No others have even been remotely comparable to these.

So overall this was a good pizza. BUT...

This was my pizza five years ago. It was better then. It was a four-star pizza.

This one?

THE RATING: πŸ•πŸ•πŸ•

Friday, January 24, 2020

Kroger Private Selection Doppia Pepperoni & Mozzarella

Kroger, the fifth largest retailer in the world, owns supermarket chains all over the country: Ralph's where I grew up, King Sooper's where I lived in Colorado, and Smith's where I live currently.

But it's only been in the last couple of years that their "Private Selection" line of products have begun to take things to the next level flavor-wise. In 2018, the company built a 12,000 square foot "Culinary Innovation Center" to experiment with creating products to compete with major brands. Long gone are the days when the store's in-house brand was synonymous with bland.

I have tried several varieties of their pizzas before and found them just fine; certainly, being the store's private brand, they are competitively priced. So spotting the "Doppia Pepperoni" (doppia being "double" in Italian), I figured Why Not?

The different sizes of pepperoni on the frozen pie were attractive, no doubt.

Unfortunately, they were not particularly flavorful. Frozen pepperoni cannot compete with fresh, obviously, but there are still several frozen styles of pepperoni that I enjoy. This was not one of them; they were mostly just chewy, porcine jerky.

More disappointing, however, was the sauce. All a pizza like this needs is a bland sauce to just stay out of the way.  Instead they went with an overly-spiced tomato sauce with an unpleasant flavor. I'm sure some people might like it, but it was not for me. Have you ever tasted tomato paste out of a can before it has been heated? If you like that flavor, you will like this.

I did not.

I will continue to eat some of the Private Selection pizza flavors, but I doubt I will ever again purchase this one.


Friday, January 17, 2020

DiGiorno Stacked (BBQ Recipe Bacon Cheeseburger)

Well, there is one thing I can say for certain about this pizza before I even try it: it's not going to be as good as DiGiorno's deep-dish pizza from long ago, and it's not going to be as bad as DiGiorno's "artisan thin-crust" that I wrote about the other day.

Okay, the "stacked" label is appropriate: this thing is loaded with sausage. That's the good news.

The bad news is it looks like rabbit poop.

The sausage was insipid. It was not bad sausage, just flavorless. Have you ever had extra-lean turkey sausage? It tastes okay when you slather it with mustard or barbecue sauce but on its own, it is quite flavorless. That's what we're dealing with here.

The label claims there is "hamburger" as well, but I could not taste any.

Fortunately, the pizza was saved by two things. First, the bacon was tasty and there was plenty of it.

But, most importantly, the "tangy bbq sauce" was fantastic. The decision to use barbecue sauce instead of standard pizza sauce was a good one. DiGiorno does not offer a barbecue chicken pizza, and that's a shame, as they could probably make a very good one with this sauce as the base.

If they had eschewed the sausage and just went with beef and bacon, this would have been a much more enjoyable pizza. Instead, it was good, but not great. Which happens to be the exact definition of:

THE RATING: πŸ•πŸ•πŸ•

Friday, January 10, 2020

DiGiorno Artisan Thin Crust ("Cheese Board")

How much money do you think DiGiorno spends every year on product development and packaging? It's gotta be massive, right? It seems like they come out with half a dozen new styles of frozen pizza every year.

Overall, though, I would call them one of the better makers of frozen pizza, if only because, once for such a beautiful while, they made that spectacular deep dish pizza, which was the best frozen pizza I have ever had.

So, when I spotted this new product with the (admittedly ridiculous) label of "ARTISAN THIN CRUST," I decided to give it a try.

I've had many three-cheese and four-cheese frozen pizzas over the years. Never have I tried - never have I even dreamed I might one day try - a pizza with seven cheeses. What a world.

As pictured on the box, large pools of red sauce dotted the pie.

First the good: the cheeses were tasty and the garlic cream sauce did not taste fake. That sounds like damning with faint praise but often you will encounter cream sauces that taste of margarine and nothing else. This tasted strongly of garlic and real cream.

Now the bad: the crust was not thin crust. Not even close. Thin crust pizza is my favorite style (followed by deep-dish; "regular" is my least favorite style as it is just... just so....  just so regular) and this was false advertising.

And now the ugly (the really ugly): the red sauce was the worst-tasting pizza sauce I have ever encountered. Let me repeat that key word: EVER.

I decided to only eat the bits of pizza without any red sauce on it, but after a few more small bites, I gave up. I was no longer hungry.

With a good red sauce, this would have earned three, maybe even four slices. But, as it was:


Friday, January 3, 2020

Trader Joe's Bambino Pizza (Pepperoni)

"If I can't live in Tuscany or the South of France, I refuse to live more than ten minutes from a Trader Joe's"
                              - T.E.L.

It would be possible to create a blog like this one just using Trader Joe's pizzas, I suppose. I am not sure how many they offer at a given time, though years ago my cousin and I cooked six of them in one evening; in my memory, that was less than one-third of the number they had available that day, when you consider frozen and fresh.

The Bambino pizzas, sold under the too-cute-by-half "Trader Giotto's" label, come four to a box for the absurdly low - but typical of Trader Joe's - price of $3.99.

There are instructions provided for both the regular and toaster oven. There are no instructions for the microwave but this matters little, as I know you, dear reader, would never even consider cooking a frozen pizza in the microwave.

The best way to cook these, as I have discovered over the years, is actually in the air fryer. 330ΒΊ for twelve minutes in my air fryer, though every air fryer in the universe seems to work differently, so your mileage may vary.

The only thing I do not like is the cheese; it's that cheap cheese that doesn't melt so much as harden.

The dough is good in that bagel/English muffin way that satisfies and reminds you of childhood pizzas when you got home from school before anyone else in your home and English muffin pizza was just on the right side of your culinary comfort zone.

The sauce is wonderful, a deep flavor of oregano and roasted red peppers. Most frozen pizzas would be elevated by the inclusion of this sauce.

But the star of the show is the pepperoni: a beautiful combination of spicy, peppery, salty and greasy that you might find unappealing in anything but, well, pepperoni.

When you consider that low price and the high quality, there is only one possible rating.

THE RATING: πŸ•πŸ•πŸ•πŸ•