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Sunday, March 21, 2010

SousVide Supreme Review

posted by snekse
SousVide Supreme
If you read our thoughts about Sous Vide for the Home Cook, you'll know that I've been wanting an immersion circulator for my home for a very long time now. You'll also know that I've recently come to the conclusion that cooking in a water bath isn't going to be practical for every home cook. If, however, you feel that sous vide fits your needs, then you currently have very few options. Because of that, when I first heard about the SousVide Supreme, a home appliance meant to bring sous vide cooking into the home, I immediately contacted the company and asked for a chance to play with a review unit. A few weeks later were are cooking our first 65 degree egg.

I'll cut to the chase. The SousVide Supreme does exactly what it says it's going to do. It brings water up the the precise temperature you set it for and it will hold the water at that temperature for a very long time, with very little fluctuation. What more do you really want a "water oven" to do?

SousVide Supreme
The controls are easy to use and fairly intuitive. The unit is attractive looking, so I wouldn't mind it sitting on my counter all the time. The construction seems pretty solid, and the thermal wrap keeps the water warm for hours after it's unplugged which makes me believe it's probably pretty energy efficient. Some small design features like the offset handles to facilitate pouring the water out are a nice touch. It's easy to switch between a Fahrenheit and Celsius display which comes in handy if you're following instructions and you don't want to do the conversion. These are all just little things that add to the total package, but it's really about the fact that it does it's main job well.

Two advantages that the SousVide Supreme has over traditional immersion circulators is it's lid and the mechanics, or lack of. The lid just helps with heat retention and water evaporation. Probably not a huge deal, but still nice. The real cool trick is that it uses the currents within the water to keep the temperature stable instead of using a pump to move the water around. This results in a completely silent operation.

The biggest drawback to this unit has to be the price. Just like microwave ovens when they were first introduced, this unit is going to be cost prohibitive for many. Some may find it costly, but will find it's usage justifies the price. Others will not. That's why I recommend first determining if sous vide is right for your needs and if a dedicated water oven is the best solution.

Inside of SousVide Supreme
Other minor gripes are little more than nit-picking. It's stainless steel might add to the attractiveness, but it collects finger prints like all stainless steel appliances. The wire rack meant to separate the pouches just doesn't seem designed correctly and was starting to rust on one of the welds. And though I can't imagine it being much smaller, it does have a fairly large footprint on the counter.

The other thing I see people mention in reviews is more of a bit of a poke at the name. For all the marketing that I'm sure when into this, the one thing the SousVide Supreme doesn't do is...sous vide. I've been told that the company hopes to have a vacuum sealer in the near future to resolve that.

Rating: 89+
I would give this an extra point for every $50 in price that this drops from the original $450 that it initially sold for.

***UPDATE***
Sur La Table no longer has an exclusive distribution agreement for the SVS. You can now also find the SousVide Supreme on Amazon.

RELATED LINKS:
Official SousVide Supreme Site
Order the SousVide Supreme
Sous Vide Moves From Avant-Garde to the Countertop
The Tenderest Meats, From the Science Lab To Your Home Kitchen
The $449 SousVide Supreme: Worth It?
Sous Vide Supreme Countertop Immersion Circulator
Sous Vide Supreme - Revolution For the Home Cook?
DIY Sous Vide Heating Immersion Circulator For About $75

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

REVIEW: ThermoWorks Splash Proof Thermapen

posted by snekse
It looks like someone at ThermoWorks saw my Review of the Original ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen and liked what I had to say. They offered to send me their newest model ahead of it's official release date (June 1st, 2009). Um, hell yes, bring it on.

Introducing the all new and improved, been in design for 2 years...

ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen thermocouple thermometer

Yeah, they could have picked a smaller, catchier name.

So I'm not going to rehash all the things I loved about the Original Thermapen. I'll let you read that review first to get up to speed. Go ahead - I'll wait. Alright, now that you're back, let's talk about what's been improved, what's been messed up and what flaws were never addressed in this new design.

First let's go over what Thermoworks considers to be the highlights of their new Splash-Proof Thermapen:
  • 3-second readings!
  • Improved accuracy and durability
  • Water-resistant design
  • Biomaster anti-bacterial additive
  • °F to °C reconfigurable
  • 0.1° resolution full range to 572°F
  • Auto on/off—no buttons!
  • 1,500 hour battery life
If you're interested in the nitty-gritty spec details, you can check out their website. I'll cover what I think is important.

We'll start with the name. I wouldn't have felt the need to seal the case and make it splash proof until a couple of weeks ago when my mother was hand washing dishes and washed my original Thermapen. It came out fine, but I'd have been less worried if the case was sealed. It's still not meant to be submerged, but it's a good start. Now if they made it dishwasher safe, that would be really cool.

Speed and accuracy are next on my cool improvements list. This thing is even faster and more accurate than the original. It's usually in the ballpark in under 1 second and will have a pretty accurate reading in about 3 seconds. And by accurate, I mean within ±0.7°F with the digital display now showing the temperature measured in 0.1° increments, so you'll know if that 64°C for your perfect molecular gastronomy inspired soft boiled egg is really 63.6°C or 64.4°C. These are actually my favorite improvements.

Jumping back to the splash proof design, let me point out what's changed. There is now a rubber seal merging the front and back of the Thermapen. This seal makes rotating the pen into the "ON" position seem stiff at first, but I've read this should only impact new thermometers. The new case design has also made it almost impossible to stand the device upright. I have mixed feelings about this, but I don't think it will be something that will bother me at all in a couple of weeks.

The area around the digital display has also changed. The screen is now flush with the Biomaster anti-bacterial molding to prevent grime build up; it is also slightly larger and has been moved to the left. This makes the numbers a little easier to read, but I think it lacks the contrast that the original screen had, which makes it a little harder to read.

The opening for the battery compartment has also been re-designed. The new battery, which is expected to last 15 times longer than the original, sits in a round compartment on the back with a tethered cover. Unfortunately I think the plastic latches are too thin since mine either arrived with one of the latches broken or it broke soon after arrival. I'm sure ThermoWorks would address the issue if I sent it back to them, but still a spot for improvement. ***UPDATE*** ThermoWorks called me on the Monday after I posted this. They are sending me a new unit with a return shipment label so I can send the original back to them. I've heard from others they have great customer service; I'll concur.

Inside that battery compartment are a series of tiny switches. These switches allow you to customize some of the behaviors of your Thermapen. Are you like the folks at Cook's Illustrated and would prefer the unit to not automatically turn off? Just flip a switch. Want readings in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit? Flip a switch. Nice options to have, but I like the defaults.

The unit is still expensive, but again, there's really nothing else close on the market. The new Splashproof Thermapen is about $20 more than the original super-fast Thermapen. Is it worth it? Well if you have the original, I think there's no need to upgrade unless you work at Sea World or something. But what about those who don't have either? Is it worth the extra money to get the newer design? I guess it depends on what you plan on using it for. For me, the quicker I can get a ballpark temp, the better. And at this price point, an extra $20 doesn't seem like a whole lot more.

So I still highly recommend either of these Thermapens, I just can't flatly recommend one over the other. I've given them both the same score based on functionality and price. Now if I could get them to send me an Infrared Thermometer to review...

Rating: 90

RELATED LINKS:
REVIEW: The Original ThermoWorks Super-fast Thermapen Thermometer
BUY: The Original Super-Fast Thermapen from Amazon
BUY: The Original Super-Fast Thermapen from ThermoWorks
BUY: The New Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen from ThermoWorks

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

REVIEW: Canon Rebel Xsi 450D dSLR

posted by snekse
* Some of you may have noticed a slight improvement in the foodporn pictures posted here over the past month. There's a reason for it. Say hello to my little friend...

The Canon EOS 450D / Rebel Xsi Digital SLR

We'll, not so little compared to my previous camera, the Sony CyberShot T-9, but fairly compact for a dSLR. And I've bonded with my Xsi in a way that I never did with the T9.

Remember when you first got your point-and-shoot (P&S) digital camera? Remember how great it was that first time. Snapping away all day long, never having to worry about running out of film. It changed the way you took pictures and looked at photography. But there's still that one nag almost every small digital camera user has; wait - everyone hold still...click - wait...snap. Shutter lag. It's fine for posed portraits, but it sucks royal when you're trying to take candid shots. You either miss the shot completely, or they are over/under exposed because the flash fired and it was too strong/weak, or they come out blurry because the camera isn't sensitive enough to shoot with the available light.

So your dad has an excuse for lusting after this new toy to add to his collection. He wants to use it to get better pictures of his grandchildren as they grow up, even if they did break his new Super-cool, super-fast Thermapen last week. Oh, and if he can just happen to also get much better food shoots because of the better sensor technology and faster shutter speeds available in the many different lenses he can choose from, well that's just an "unexpected" bonus.

Alright, so we've established that digital SLR (dSLR) technology is the bomb digity, but what makes the Canon Rebel Xsi 450D so special? Why not the Nikon D60, the Sony Alpha 350, or the Olympus E-520? Or for that matter, why not the older Canon Rebel Xti 400D? For me it came down to a couple of things.

Lens Selection: I didn't want to buy a camera and then be limited when it came to buying lenses. It's kind of a PC vs Mac thing. Sure Macs are great, but when you have 10 times the amount of software to choose from on a PC, why cripple yourself from the beginning. With that in mind, I narrowed my choices down to Canon and Nikon.

Low Light Performance: Whether it's taking pictures of a squab risotto in a dimly lit restaurant or a smiling child sitting on the floor at home, I often like to take pictures using nothing more than the natural available light; that means no flash, so your camera better be sensitive enough to pick out the difference between black and gray with what you give it. Canon has a strong reputation in this area, often getting applauded for the low noise at high sensitivities (AKA high ISO ratings).

User Friendliness: In the epic ongoing battle between Nikon and Canon, two truths seem to hold true. The Nikons have a slight edge in picture quality and the Canons have a slight edge in usability. For me, the picture quality of the Canon EOS line was more than sufficient for me, so I went with the ease of use. I put the Canon's self-cleaning sensor under that umbrella as well.

Autofocus (AF): Coming from a P&S world, I was looking for something that would make my transition easy. The Canon Rebel had a fast AF system that performed well. That's good. The Nikon D40 (which was the most direct competitor at the time) lacked an internal focus drive motor. That sounded bad. And it was. It meant that you were limited on which lenses you could buy if you wanted AF capabilities.

That settled it, I was getting a Canon Rebel. Now the question was, do I get the Xti or the Xsi? To make the decision harder, the Xsi wasn't even announced, so I had to guess when they were going to release it and what features they were going to add. I'm glad I waited because the Xsi kicks ass. Canon threw everything they could at the Rebel update just short of stepping on the toes of the EOS 40D, their next model up the chain from the 400D Xti.

Here's a list of just some of the features they added:

12 vs. 10 megapixel
Smaller SD/SDHC vs. CF Card
Live view (to preview your shot on LCD)
3.0" LCD
Larger viewfinder
High ISO noise reduction
14-bit A/D converter
Improved 9-point AF system
Larger, higher capacity, battery

My main decision to buy the 450D Xsi over the 400D Xti was the Live View. Again, coming from the P&S cameras, I was used to seeing what I was shooting on an LCD before I took the shot. The thought of not having that LCD terrified me a bit. It turns out I didn't really need it and the Live View implementation by Canon sucks. It's the most disappointing thing about this camera. It will not show you what the resulting picture will be when you press the shutter, so really, what's the point.

The other shiny new features, however, are the bees knees. Sure pixels aren't everything, but when you want to crop a photo and print an 8x10 from that crop, they're nice to have. The 14-bit processor, high ISO sensitivity and new AF system helps in that department too. The large view finder, mongo LCD and amazing battery life allows me to shoot comfortably for days on end (at 3.5 fps). And using SDHC cards just allows them to cram all those goodies into the camera body.

The things you can't put on a spec sheet are how easy this camera is to use. I put it in my mother-in-law's hands, and she took great photos. The only instructions I gave her were "look through here and push this button. Turn this ring to zoom in and out." It's really almost a point-and-shoot camera. Sure you can tweak the settings until the cows come home to get the exact shot you want, but you don't have to. And the buttons and menus are laid out well enough that you can gradually learn those things without needing to study the manual.

What you might need the manual for, is to figure out what to do with the Live View. I know it has a purpose, it's just not immediately apparent to me, so it tops my nag list. Followed similarly by the Depth-Of-Field preview button. It's supposed to show you - through the view finder - what will be in and out of focus before you snap a picture; Instead, it just makes everything darker. The final item under the predictability motif is the autofocus(AF) point selector.

When you have multiple objects in frame at different depths, the camera's AF system will, at times, pick the wrong object to focus on. This happens more frequently than I deem acceptable, so I often leave the focus at the center of the frame and manually select a different focal point when I want a different composition. You won't always have time to do that, so you'll either miss some shots or have to compromise on how the shot looks. If you always shoot with your subject front and center, this is not an issue.

Finally, it would be un-American of me to not complain about the cost of something that's cheaper than it should be but more expensive than it could be. The Canon Xsi is not cheap, but honestly, if you really think about it, it's not very expensive and should probably cost a lot more. I'll leave it at that.

As you can see, the flaws I've found are minimal, especially when compared to the highlights. So now you just have to ask yourself, "Am I..err, I mean is my dad, ready to make the jump to a dSLR"? For me, moving to a dSLR was almost as big as moving from a film camera to a digital camera. The small, compact digitals will still have a place in my bag, but it's hard to shun the reliability of the dSLR. And if you're ready to make the move, I'd recommend the Rebel Xsi to most users. If you know you want to make the switch, but are still not sure which camera is right for you, I suggest checking out the Related Links below. Be sure to check out the foodporn down there too under the Sample Shots :-) Next up...lenses...

***UPDATE***
Though I still love my Canon Rebel Xsi, there's a new bad boy on the market.

The Canon EOS 500D / Rebel T1i Digital SLR

The Canon T1i is about $200 more than than the Canon Xsi. It's your call if the bump in price is worth the features upgrade. Here's what's new in the Canon Rebel T1i vs. the Canon Rebel Xsi:
  • Record 1080p HD Video! (However, mono-sound and 20 FPS @ 1080p
  • 15 megapixel CMOS sensor like the professional 50D
  • Digic 4 processor
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer (Not sure what this is, but it sounds cool)
  • Extended ISO range to ISO 3200
  • Better High ISO noise reduction
  • Face detection in Live View (cool, but I wish it wasn't just in Live View)
The video is a great upgrade, but don't expect much other than basic performance from it. I also read that the kit lens starts to show it's flaws more when it's expected to resolve images at 15 Megapixels, so you might consider buying just the body and investing in better lenses. I believe the current price of the Rebel T1i is about the same as the release price of the Rebel Xsi when I bought it about a year ago. That makes it a pretty reasonable buy, but the cheaper Xsi is still tempting. I'd say the decision boils down to how badly would you like to be able to shoot video without having to pull out a different device and/or how much would you like those higher ISOs for those less than ideal shooting conditions? Here are some reviews for the Canon T1i to help you make your decision. Good luck! And don't forget to check out the related links below for more information.

Canon Xsi

Rating: 94+ RELATED LINKS: DPReview.com reviews the 450D Gizmondo dSLR Shootout Sample Shots: Canon Rebel Xsi 450D Foodies Guide to Father's Day Gifts Tags || | | | | | | more... |

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Monday, June 02, 2008

REVIEW: ThermoWorks Thermapen Super-fast Thermometer

posted by snekse
My fingers just aren't sensitive enough. And timing only works when all the variables are the same. So what's a dad to do when he's tired of the Thanksgiving turkey or the 4th of July steaks come out raw or over-cooked. Sure you can buy one of those Polder kitchen thermometers, but come on - this is your dad. Show him you love him and get him something he'll be proud to show the neighbors. Get him the Super-Fast Thermapen by ThermoWorks!

So I first heard about this device on CookingForEngineers.com. But after I saw the Cook's Illustrated review, I decided it needed to go on my wish list. How's this for a glowing review from the folks at Cook's Illustrated:
Highly Recommended
Simply the best: fast, accurate, and easy to use. The Thermapen also has the widest temperature range (-58 to 572 degrees).
Luckily for me, someone loves me and shelled out the $80+ for what has become one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

So what makes the Super-fast Thermapen so special? It's fast. Really fast. It can be in the ballpark in about a second and be accurate to within 1° in under 4 seconds. Most thermometers aren't even in the ballpark in under 4 seconds. This can be very useful when you want to take the temp of something without pulling it out of the oven or items that change temperature quickly. Also handy when you need to take the temperature in several spots on something like a chicken. The small probe helps keep fluid loss to a minimum when you're doing those things. The large digital read out is a nice feature. And the whole thing just looks pretty cool.

It's not perfect, however. First and foremost, it's expensive when compared to the basic kitchen thermometers. But the technology is far different, thus the disparity in cost. The other annoyance is a bit of a design flaw or feature, depending on your point of view. When vertical, the housing lacks a flat bottom that would allow you to stand the thermometer upright in a stable manner. I think it was designed this way to discourage that practice. You'd be pretty upset if Johnny bumped your grill and your Thermapen fell to the ground and shattered. Not that I think that would happen. The casing is pretty durable, but I guess if you left the pen extended, the probe might snap off. Which leaves me to my next gripe.

This is a pen, not a corded probe or one of those newfangled wireless devices. There is no "stab it and leave it, we'll alert you when it's ready" feature on this. So if you want to know when that turkey is done, you have to check it yourself. ThermoWorks does sell a model with interchangeable plugs which includes a corded version, but even that one still lacks an alarm. Not to mention it's the same price as the Super-fast pen, and comes with zero probes in the box.

So if you want to treat your dad this year, consider the Super-fast Thermapen or the grand-daddy of them all plug-mount pen. If you are on a budget, or you just don't like your dad that much, consider getting the CDN ProAccurate Quick Tip Digital Cooking Thermometer DTQ450 which was also Highly Recommended by Cook's Illustrated, but is less than $20. Either way, you should be eating better food in no time.

***UPDATE***
ThermoWorks has replaced this model with a new, faster, more accurate splash proof Thermapen. Check out our review of the ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen.

Original ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen

PROS:
  • Very fast read times
  • Very accurate
  • Thin probe
  • Very cool
CONS:
  • Expensive
  • Beveled bottom
  • Fixed probe
  • It's not the über-cool plug-mount model
Rating: 90 RELATED LINKS: ThermoWorks Pictures of the super-fast ThermaPen Foodies Guide to Father's Day Gifts The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2009: The Year's Best Recipes, Equipment Reviews, and Tastings Tags || | | | | | | more... |

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Silicone Cupcake Cup Molds and National Devil's Food Cake Day

posted by Foodie-E

Silicone Cupcake Cups and National Devil's Food Cake Day

Today is National Devil's Food Cake Day and in honor of that, I planned to make cake to bring to work. Since I was making cake anyways, I decided to try my new silicone cupcake molds. I mean, why not kill two birds with one stone? :)

I got these as a gift from my mother along with a cupcake carrier so I didn't have to cover a shallow cardboard box with foil. Don't act like you've never done it or at least SEEN that trick before. It works, but it's kind of ghetto. So, now I'm all cool with my silicone cups and carrier.

I have other silicone products, 8x8 cake pans, standard muffin pans, and mini muffin pans, but nothing with the ridgey texture of these cups. The instructions said not to spray them with non stick spray, but all of my other silicone products told me to do it on the first use, so I was a bit leery of not spraying them. Being the research junky that I am, I did a test. I sprayed them all, but the yellow ones. I had 24 of them and luckily that is the exact number of cupcakes a box of cake mix makes. Don't judge. When you make cake as often as I do for my team at work and have a 10 month old just starting to crawl, then you can judge. Besides, I happen to prefer box cake mix to made from scratch chocolate cake as made from scratch chocolate cake tends to not be as moist or as chocolaty. I realize that is a very general statement, but they are my true thoughts for what fits into my lifestyle. Besides, we are not here to talk about how I cheat on my cakes, we're here to talk about my cool silicone cupcake molds.

After the cupcakes were done, I let them cool so I could put frosting on. When I was frosting them, I realized that the cups were already starting to come away from the cupcake on the sides! I looked to see what color it was, blue. Okay, it was one that I sprayed. So I tried a yellow one and it did the same thing! From the looks of it, spray or no spray seemed to be about the same. When I was done, I decided to set aside the 2 ugliest cupcakes to sacrifice; one sprayed and one not sprayed. (We all have them, don't lie. :) ) The one that was sprayed came out very easily. I just put some pressure around the edges (imagine squishing the cupcake a little like you would to test a cake to see if it bounces back) to loosen it from the mold and turned it upside down. It fell out! Just like that. I did the same thing with the yellow one (not sprayed) and turned it over. It didn't fall out. So, I tried the pressure thing again to loosen it and make sure I didn't miss any spots and turned it over. It still didn't fall out so I kind of pulled the cupcake out and it finally came out. I didn't have to pull hard, but I did have to convince it to come out.


In the end, they both left a little bit of cake inside the mold, but all in all, I thought they worked really well. I won't be getting rid of those metal cupcake pans that require the paper liners, because those definitely have their place like bake sales, neighborhood barbecues, or gift baskets. But if you're making them for a small group or for someone you know will give them back to you, these are great. I'll have to see how well they do on the second run with none of them being sprayed with non stick spray, so stay tuned for the update!

Rating: 89+

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Friday, May 02, 2008

A Foodie's week in the San Francisco Bay Area

posted by snekse
I just spent a week in San Francisco doing almost nothing but eating and taking pictures of it with my new camera (the wonderful Canon Rebel Xsi dSLR with the amazing Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 lens). So this whole next week is going to be spent sharing the things I found there that aren't in Omaha, but should be. If you want to bookmark this page, I'll update this post with the links to the related articles, or you can just keep checking back.

RELATED LINKS:
Chocolate Mousse Cake AKA Chocolate ButterTM @ Au Coquelet Cafe
Taqueria Ramiro & Sons - Alameda, CA

Previous Foodie in California items


coming soon...

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Friday, December 07, 2007

BEER REVIEW: Holiday Brews

posted by snekse
I love beer in the winter. A nice hearty beer with nutty malts goes perfect with a hot bowl of stew as you pack in to relax and let the snow outside do what it will. So this month's Beer Session, Winter Seasonal Releases, was a chance to find some new brews to hang in my refrigerator stocking.

I was really hoping to make it to Beertopia's Holiday Beer Tasting event, but inclement weather put the kabosh on that. Instead, I had to settle on what I already had in my fridge and a quick trip to the store to add something new to the mix. In all, we'll be reviewing 6 beers. For all of the beers I missed at Beertopia, be sure to check out Brent Udron's article, Holiday Beer, Holiday Cheer! : A guide to the season's 'winter warmers'.



Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: Lambic - Fruit
ABV: 5.90 %

Appearance: Peach-Apricot-Orange in color. Very pretty actually. A decent head that dissipated in a standard American craft brew amount of time.

Smell: Cranberry, honey, something toasty, almost a toasted oak.

Taste: Ginger ale mixed with sour, tart and bitter cranberries and a backing of wheat.

Mouthfeel: A light-medium body. At least the perception of being higher than average in carbonation.

Drinkability: Borderline doesn't taste like a beer. Think a Mike's hard Cranberry or something. Actually it tastes a little like that Budweiser energy drink that came out a year or two ago.

appearance: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | mouthfeel: 2.5 | drinkability: 2
Overall: 2.5



Samuel Adams Black Lager
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: Schwarzbier
ABV: 4.90 %

Appearance: A nice dark brown appearance that borders on being black. Looks like a deep rich porter. The head is a nice pale caramel color. Decent lacing.

Smell: Nose of the typical dark malt blends. Coffee, chocolate, etc... There is a little hop or yeast that sets it apart from a porter.

Taste: Pretty much as one would expect, though the coffee profile seemed to grab for more attention than the other dark roasts. There is a nice spice from the hops to keep this from being overly sweet.

Mouthfeel: Body on the lighter side of medium or heavier side of light. Finishes pretty dry.

Drinkability: Not bad. I can't see myself drinking a lot of these at once, but I wouldn't turn one down.

appearance: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 3 | drinkability: 3.5
Overall: 3.75



Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: American Porter
ABV: 5.90 %

Appearance: A really deep dark brown. Think coffee liqueur. There is some slight reddish-brown almost cherry wood color around the edges. A really nice thick khaki colored head.

Smell: Smells almost like a typical porter, though a little more chocolatey. Almost too much. You have to do a little digging to find the hops in the aroma.

Taste: Not a malt bomb, but lots of chocolate, roasted nuts on this. Sweeter and smoother than the Black Lager, but not overly sweet. Finishes slightly hoppy.

Mouthfeel: Medium-to-full bodied. A fairly smooth drink ability with just enough carbonation to not leave a syrupy coating on your tongue.

Drinkability: Though not my favorite porter, it's very respectable and even a bit unique I think for an American porter.

appearance: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | mouthfeel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Overall: 3.7



Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 5.60 %

Appearance: Like a copper nut brown ale. A thin tan head. Nothing much to really look at.

Smell: Christmas spices. The label says cinnamon, ginger and orange, though I'd never pick any of those out without reading the label first. Even the malt isn't very strong on the nose. Just smells like -- Christmas?

Taste: One of my favorites out of the winter sampler pack. A unique flavor simply because there aren't a lot of truly spiced beers mass marketed. Can definitely taste the orange and cinnamon, though the ginger is a bit harder to detect. The caramel malt is lightly roasted, so it has some additional vanilla character. Not cloying or over spiced.

Mouthfeel: Really not much to say. Good and matches expectations.

Drinkability: I could drink two, but probably not more. I would probably pick some up each year if I didn't have to buy a whole 6-pack or an entire winter sampler to get it.

appearance: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | mouthfeel: 4 | drinkability: 4
Overall: 3.9



Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Style: Bock
ABV: 5.80 %

Appearance: I'm not really sure what to call the color. Kind of a mix of Copper/Rust/Peach. A surprising head for something that bills itself as a lager.

Smell: Smells like a winter lager, whatever that means. Hops, burnt sugar, orange, maybe banana, with some winter spices.

Taste: Toasted malts, some grain and hop bitterness. Very well balanced as none of these dominate and they each take fore several times with each taste.

Mouthfeel: Rich-ich for a light bodied beer. Finishes clean and crisp.

Drinkability: A good beer. Nothing special, but very drinkable.

appearance: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Overall: 3.8



Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale
Anheuser-Busch, Inc.
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.00 %

Appearance: Pretty to look at. Amber and apricot with jewel tones. The head is weak.

Smell: Not as intense as I would expect from a cask conditioned ale. Was looking for more wood, char and bourbon notes. Even the vanilla scents were very strong until I allowed it to get up to almost room temperature.

Taste: I was just hoping for more from this beer. I wanted to give Anheuser the benefit of the doubt, but they just didn't pull through. You can tell it's a bud product. It has that rice beer taste that only a Bud product has. Not that it's a bad thing, just that it's there. Some basic winter spices, vanilla most prevalent on the finish. Missing that punch of a good winter beer.

Mouthfeel: Far too light to be a good "winter warmer".

Drinkability: Drinkable, but I wouldn't buy it again.

appearance: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | mouthfeel: 2.5 | drinkability: 3
Overall: 3.15




So there you have it. A selection of holiday brews to put in someone's stocking this winter. Hope you enjoyed. Oh, and don't forget to come back December 10th as we raffle off some Nebraska Wagyu Beef!

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RELATED LINKS:
The Session #10: The Roundup
Other Beer Reviews on GFC

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

REVIEW: Vinturi Wine Aerator

posted by snekse
Wine and fluid dynamics are two topics not often discussed together, but this holiday season, you may have a reason to.*

When I first heard about the Vinturi essential wine aerator, I was highly intrigued. I had just read an article about the Bernoulli principle and how it's used when designing race cars. When used properly, it will actually suck a car down to the road by taking advantage of the differentiating wind speed above and below the car. How cool is that? Then I read about a wine aerator that uses the same principles, so of course I had to investigate.

So here's how this thing works. You have what basically amounts to a funnel. At a specific point along the narrowest route of the tunnel, there are two narrow holes that intersect the funnel path at a perpendicular angle. When you pour wine in the top of the funnel, it creates a bit of a vortex as it spirals down the funnel's path. As it passes by the two small holes, it draws air in and theoretically, aerates your wine. The aeration, in turn, is supposed to enrich the bouquet, smooth the tannins and enhance the flavors. The idea just sounded too cool. I had to check this thing out.

I contacted the company and asked for a press sample to review. I'll admit I was skeptical on how much snake oil was in this, but it appealed to the geek in me. As did the prospect of being able to open a bottle of wine, pouring it through a gadget and getting the same effects of decanting the bottle for an hour. I drink a lot of big reds that benefit from decanting and decanting is about the only way I can get my wife to drink more than one glass of Cabernet. Could this little funnel really be the oenophile's perfect toy?

The answer...maybe. Disappointing I know. I've seriously put this thing through it's paces holding multiple blind testings. The results are interesting, but I have to say a bit inconclusive. I can tell you without a doubt that it may alter your perception of a particular wine. ;-) What I can't tell you is if it will alter your perception of every wine and if you will consistently enjoy or consistently be disappointed with that altered perception.

Perception is the key word here. Who knows if on a chemical or molecular basis that the wine changed at all. Maybe the aeration dissipates some of the alcohol vapor or something like that, but I have a hard time believing it does much more than that. At most, I would think it might do something similar to an emulsion and suspends more oxygen molecules in the wine. I'm not a science nerd, so I really can't speak much to this. What I do know is that almost every person who did a blind comparison noted a difference between a glass poured through the Vinturi wine aerator and one that wasn't. What made this finding even more shocking was the fact that those same testers were also able to spot my control test and noted no differences when both glasses were poured directly from the bottle!?

So the question you might be asking yourself at this point is, "Yeah, but which did they prefer?" The answer is -- it depends. Obviously taste is subjective and not everyone is going to like the same things. To make the matter more complicated, there often wasn't a consensus on which glass was preferred. The only consensus was that they were different. At times, some people thought they were so different that they claimed I was trying to trick them by giving them two different wines. There was, however, one trend that appeared. Mid-priced reds. About the $30-$50 range. By a large majority, most tasters preferred the wine aerated with the Vinturi wine aerator over a wine poured straight out of the bottle or a wine poured in one glass then poured in another (to agitate it a little). I won't try to speculate why this is, but I will throw in one caveat. The tasters also preferred a glass shaken vigorously in an empty bottle over a non-shaken glass. Chew on that for a while.

So what's the verdict on this speed decanter? As a wine accessory, I can't say it's a necessity or that you'll like every wine more after you use it. But it looks great, is very unique, is fun to play with, is a great conversation piece and with a price tag under $40, I think it's a great gift for a wine lover who already has all of the essentials.

Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator

Rating: 87

If you live in Omaha, the only retailer I know of that sells these is The Omaha Wine Co. If you know of another, please let me know. Otherwise, you can always order one through Amazon which tends to have the best prices anyway. If you have lots of wine buddies, you can also order a 2-pack or 4-pack to save some dough. ***UPDATE*** Vinturi also released a nifty new tower that holds the device while you pour. Nice! They're also making a White Wine Aerator that's supposed to be different from the original, but I'm not sure I really buy into that. If you're really into wine though, you can buy a Vinturi Red and White Wine combo set. No ultimate deluxe premium combo set available yet that contains a tower, both aerators and the aerator cleaning brush.

RELATED LINKS:
"I'm a skeptic about wine gadgets...So I surprised myself with my enthusiastic response to the Vinturi... I tried it on a tannic red wine and it instantly tasted better."
-- W. Blake Gray @ The San Francisco Chronicle

"I was immediately attracted by both the simplicity of the design and the spectacular results. Vinturi delivers on its promise of effective, quick aeration"
-- Charlie Palmer @ the Charlie Palmer Restaurant Group

WINE REVIEWS:
WBW 19: When in Rhone
WBW 20: Anything But Chardonnay...
WBW 27: Icy Desserts (Ice Wine)
WBW 28: Festive Sparkling Wines
WBW 30: New World Syrah
WBW 31: Box Wines
WBW 34: Washington Cabernets
WBW 45: Old World Rieslings

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Friday, October 12, 2007

PRODUCT REVIEW: Mozy - Online Backup

posted by snekse
Occasionally I will write about technical subjects here on GFC, because, well - I'm a geek.

Something that caught my eye last week was the acquisition of Berkeley Data Systems by EMC Corp. For those of you not familiar with the names, Berkeley Data Systems is a small start-up company with a product called Mozy. Mozy is a backup utility that allows you to systematically and securely store up to 2 GB of data online for free, or if you have more data, you can get unlimited storage for $4.95/month. EMC Corp is one of the world's largest enterprise data storage providers. So why is this important? Well, it does lend some credibility to what BDS is doing, but more importantly, BDS now has some money behind it. That should translate into improvements in the product and possibly larger storage limits for both their free and paid accounts.

Do yourself a favor - find the folder where you save all of your digital photos, right-click on it and select "Properties". How large that folder? How many files are in there? Now do the same to the folders where you keep your music, home movies, tax documents, and any other important files. Then ask yourself:
  • "When was the last time I backed-up this information"?
  • "Is the backup stored at an off-site location in case my house burns down"?
  • "Will I be able to handle the ulcer I get if my hard drive crashed in the next 10 minutes"?
It may seem a little extreme, but being paranoid is a good thing when dealing with technology that holds so much valuable information that really is priceless. This is why photo albums are one of the first things people search for when rummaging through a demolished house after a natural disaster. And now in our digital age, most of those memories are stored on that 3.5" hard drive that's not meant to last for more than 3 to 5 years.

For myself, I have 2 levels of protection. I have all of my important files on a RAID system to protect me from a hard drive crash and I also use Mozy in case something happens to my house or my RAID fails. This gives me peace of mind that if something were to happen, I could recover my 10,000+ photos and other important documents I have on my machine.

Since a RAID system is impractical for most people, Mozy is the perfect solution. It's a small application that runs in the background, so you don't even notice it. At a regularly scheduled interval it will send your important files over a secure connection to be stored encrypted on redundant storage systems. If your hard drive crashes, or even if you just accidentally delete a file, you can easily restore the file and be on your way. What's really cool is that it allows you to create rules and filters so it ensures you only backup the data you really care about - especially nice when you use their free 2 GB account and need to use your space wisely.

So this is just a friendly reminder - backing up your data is extremely important. Regardless of if you use external hard drives, DVDs, Mozy or one of the other online solutions, just make sure you do it, Mozy just happens to be the best solution I've found so far.

If you want to give Mozy a try, just click on the button below. Remember, it's free, so you really don't have much to lose other than some time. Also, if you do decide you need a paid account, they are offering a 5% discount on all annual and biannual signups for the month of October. Just enter "OCTOBER" into the "Promotional Code" box on the signup page.

***UPDATE***
Mozy Promo Discount Coupon Codes are basically the month name in which you are signing up. Examples below:
FEBRUARY- 10% off a MozyHome Unlimited 1-year Signup
FEBRUARY2 - 10% off a MozyHome Unlimited 2-year Signup



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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

WBW 31: Box Wines

posted by snekse
It's time for another Wine Blogging Wednesday. This month's theme is Box Wines & Non-Traditional Packaging hosted by Box Wines.

Unfortunately I was unable to locate a box of DTOUR Macon-Villages, the first boxed wine I've wanted to drink. The "D" in DTOUR is for it's creators: Dominique Lafon (vigneron), Daniel Johnnes (sommelier) and Daniel Boulud (chef). If Daniel Boulud is willing to put his name on it, I'm willing to pay $36+ to try it... if I could find it.

So I set out to find the most expensive box wine I could find, or at least the one that sounded the most interesting. I was a bit surprised to see how wide the selection of box wines was, but didn't find anything that I wanted to try. Then I remembered I had snapped up a 4-pack of Sofia Blanc de Blanc cans on sale a couple of months earlier. This would be the perfect time to crack open a cold one :-)

Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs Can
For those of you who haven't seen the shiny pink cans, it's a clever marketing gimmick to grab some of that younger, hip, trendy money. Single serving cans of champagne each with their own straw for drinking. As a confessed sucker for marketing, how could I not buy some?

Now on with the wine!

N.V. Francis Coppola Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs
Glass of Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs
187ml ~ $6.00 $3.00 On Sale (The Tasting Room)

Vintage: N.V.
Type: White - Sparkling
Producer: Francis Coppola
Varietal: Pinot Blanc Blend
Designation: Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs
Vineyard: N/A
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Central Coast
Appellation: Monterey County


Tasting Notes
A pale straw in color. Not much of a nose, or at least nothing really out of the ordinary for a blanc de blancs sparkling wine. Lots of acidity in the form for green apple, balanced with a slight sweetness and a dry grassy yeast flavor. The effervescence was almost startling, accentuated by the straw. The bubbles actually added some complexity to this wine as what you tasted bounced back and forth between the flavor profiles listed about. The finish skewed a little more towards the sweet end with a kind of peach/apricot taste. Not a top of the line wine, but if I could find it for $3 a can again, I'd consider buying it. It would be a fun summer wine in a perfect container for picnics. I did not detect a strong metallic taste as some have complained about. If this is a concern, they do sell this in bottles as well.

Rating: 87

So not a bad wine. I think it hits the target market very well. It's about as far away from a brut as you can get without being cloying. A very easy drinking summer sparkler.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

PRODUCT REVIEW: Snake Oil

posted by snekse
To pay for my hosting fees this month, I've decided to accept an offer to do a paid review. The best part is the company brokering the deal states "We do not allow advertisers to require a positive review." Which is the only reason I agreed to do the review.

Here's the other funny part. "You are not required to buy the product or service and we ask that you review as best as you can even so." The reason I asked is because the advertiser, Natures Products, didn't supply me with a product sample and they were only going to pay me enough to cover buying their product. So I'm about to review a product I've never tried. Trust that if I every do such a crazy asinine thing again in the future, I will fully disclose such a fact.

So the product that I am reviewing is Noni Juice. The manufacturer claims all sorts of crazy things, though they stop short of being a miracle. Do a search for this stuff and you'll see all sorts of reputable website basically shooting down every claim they make. Basically there is no evidence of this product doing much of anything extraordinary, other than possible harm due to the high potassium level. Don't believe me? How about the Mayo Clinic? Even the government has stepped up to debunk these claims resulting in several lawsuits.

Oh, and it's supposed to taste horrid, but what did you expect from the juice of the Morinda citrifolia, A.K.A. the cheese fruit or the vomit fruit. Yeah, that was money well spent - $33.90 for a 750ml bottle!

So my recommendation is to avoid this product. Takes some multi-day vitamins or something and save yourself a lot of money.

And a note to all other advertisers who might want to pay me for a product review. Be warned, if your product sucks, I'm going to let people know.

That was fun :-)

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

WBW 30: New World Syrah

posted by snekse
It's time for another Wine Blogging Wednesday. This month's theme is New World Syrah hosted by Winecast.

Since I have a lot of wine piling up in my basement, I figured I'd force myself to pull something from my cellar rather than shopping around for something. So I pulled up my trusty Cellertracker list and picked the first Syrah on my Drinkability list. I excluded all Shiraz and blends in the spirit of the event. The winner (in a loose sense of the term) was something I received through one of those mail order grab bag things. This review is as much about the wine as it is about ordering no name wines from heavily marketed sources.

Now on with the wine!

2003 Thornhill Vineyards Syrah
750ml ~ $10.00 (Some crappy mail order service that I won't mention)

Vintage: 2003
Type: Red
Producer: Thornhill Vineyards
(Vinted and Bottled by
Viviers Wine Cellars
A.K.A. San Antonio Winery
Los Angeles, CA)
Varietal: Syrah
Designation: N/A
Vineyard: N/A
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Central Coast
Appellation: Monterey County


Tasting Notes
Typical new world syrah in color - though a little thin. Great nose of chocolate, cassis, leather, soil (though nothing like one can expect in an old world syrah). Smells like a wine cave. Taste doesn't live up to the invite. Watery, a lot of acidity, not well integrated, flabby, completely unbalance. The next day it improved only slightly in flavor, but not in balance. Flavor started to remind me of panna cotta with cherries.

Rating: 78

So without dragging on the agony any longer, the moral of this review is that California wines that cost under $10 and are not on every supermarket shelf in the US are probably not on every supermarket shelf in the US for a reason.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

WBW 28: Festive Sparkling Wines

posted by snekse
It's always fun to try deciding what wines you're going to review for Wine Blogging Wednesdays. This month's theme, Festive Sparkling Wines (hosted by Culinary Fool), features sparkling wines which includes anything that is not from the Champagne region of France.

Immediately about 4 or 5 options jumped into my head. I could profile the N.V. Schramsberg Vineyard Blanc de Blancs - one of the only American sparkling wines served at The French Laundry. Then there's the always fun N.V. Vigne Regali (Banfi) Brachetto d'Acqui Rosa Regale - it's like a wine cooler, only better. For novelty we could contemplate the aspects of serving sparkling wines in a can with a straw ala N.V. Francis Coppola / Niebaum-Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blancs. Or play to a lesser known wine and oft snubbed varietal by picking the N.V. Luccío Moscato d'Asti, another one of my favorites.

Well as crunch time came and I had to make a decision, I actually had it made for me (and in this case, 4 for me). I received an email from Vino100 stating that they were going to be having a tasting on Tuesday featuring sparkling wines! Sweet! So you get not one, but four reviews today.


N.V. Korbel Chardonnay "Champagne"
750ml ~ $9.99 (Beverages and More)

Vintage: N.V.
Type: White - Sparkling
Producer: Korbel
Varietal: Chardonnay
Designation: n/a
Vineyard: n/a
Country: USA
Region: California


Tasting Notes
Sauvignon blanc in color. No nose at all that I could detect. Super fizzy. Good balance of sweetness and acidity. Not very yeasty. Fruit forward flavors of green apple and grapefruit.

Rating: 87


N.V. Le Brun No 1 Family Estate Chardonnay No. 1 Cuvée
750ml ~ $UNKNOWN

Type: White - Sparkling
Producer: Le Brun No 1 Family Estate
Varietal: Chardonnay
Designation: No. 1 Cuvée
Vineyard: n/a
Country: New Zealand
Region: South Island
SubRegion: Marlborough


Tasting Notes
Colored like a light Chardonnay. Nose of yeast and a bit of green apple. Too sour - not enough sweetness to balance the acidity and not dry enough to be pleasantly dry. Finish was a bit yeasty. Not what I'd expect from an award winner.

Rating: 82


Korbel Natural Méthode Champenoise
750ml ~ $10.99 (Beverages and More)

Vintage: 2003?
Type: White - Sparkling
Producer: Korbel
Varietal: Champagne Blend
Designation: Natural Méthode Champenoise
Vineyard: n/a
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Sonoma County


Tasting Notes
A bit darker than the Blanc de Blanc - the Pinot Noir grapes must lend a bit of color - more honeyed. Smells like sweet carbonation, as if you added some honeysuckle syrup to tonic water. Very traditional in flavors. Dry, but not brut. Very enjoyable finish.

Rating: 86


N.V. Korbel Brut Rosé
750ml ~ $9.99 (Beverages and More)

Vintage: N.V.
Type: Rosé - Sparkling
Producer: Korbel
Varietal: Rosé Blend
Designation: Brut Rosé
Vineyard: n/a
Country: USA
Region: California


Tasting Notes
Color of water with some spilled food coloring. Just a very slight tinge of pink that was very translucent. The smell of berries was almost undetectable on the nose. Not much to talk about on the attack, the finish was a little more evident of slightly unripe strawberries. Might be nice with certain desserts. Not a lot of sweetness in this wine, so it won't compete with the pairing.

Rating: 84


So there you have it. I don't think any of these wines could compete with the sophistication of the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, but with the Schramsberg running $26+, I don't really expect them to. For the money, I think the Korbel Chardonnay "Champagne" and the Korbel Natural are good values. If you're looking for a sweeter wine, the Chardonnay is the obvious choice, just as the Natural is the obvious choice for a drier style wine. If you are looking to keep something on hand, I'd lean towards the Natural as I think it could improve with some age.

WINE REVIEWS:
WBW 19: When in Rhone
WBW 20: Anything But Chardonnay...
WBW 27: Icy Desserts (Ice Wine)
WBW 28: Festive Sparkling Wines
WBW 30: New World Syrah
WBW 31: Box Wines
WBW 34: Washington Cabernets
WBW 45: Old World Rieslings


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Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Foodies Coupon Guide for Omaha

posted by snekse
I'm a cheap bastard.

I'm such a cheap bastard, I have not one, but three different kinds of coupon books for Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO) coupons. And I use the hell out of them. They're great though, and I think every serious foodie should have at least one. It allows you to save money on your everyday dining so you can afford to go to the more expensive places more often or eat at those prohibitively expensive restaurants that you've always wanted to try.

So this is my Christmas present to you: "A Foodies Coupon Guide for Omaha" (because I'm too cheap to buy you something nice).

Below I have listed several coupon books available in the area, their suggested retail price (MSRP), the price range you might expect to pay, as well as some Pros, Cons, and additional thoughts on why you might or might not want to purchase each set of coupons. Enjoy!

A Foodies Coupon Guide for Omaha


The Entertainment Book
MSRP: $32 Discounted Price: $22-27

The ubiquitous coupon book sold around the nation. Offers discounts for almost every family restaurant in town from Arby's to Olive Garden. Non-franchise places are included as well, though most of the better discounts are only available through the website when you register your book.

PROS
  • A bazillion coupons for a bazillion places
  • Even more coupons are available through their website
  • Includes coupons for things other than food and for areas well outside of the Omaha area
  • Most coupons can be used as BOGO or 50% off a single item Unfortunately this is no longer true for the Omaha book. Almost all discounts are solely BOGO coupons.
CONS
  • Almost all coupons are limited to restaurants below the Upscale Casual tier
  • The range of coupons means you're paying for a lot of things you'll never use
  • You have to drag that dang book around (Coupons vs. Discount Card)
  • The cheaper restaurants makes getting your money's worth more difficult
  • Finding a coupon for a specific place or area can be difficult at times
THOUGHTS
This is the best option if you often dine alone since it's the only one that offers 50% off coupons. I also think it's the best for families since there are coupons for so many different places. Most places offer unlimited 10-20% off coupons through the Entertainment.com website so you may never pay full price for a meal again.


Omaha Originals Dining Club Card
MSRP: $30 Discounted Price: $25-30

A truly cool and unique card. This card entitles you to BOGO offers for what I consider some of the best places in Omaha. Each of the locations is a locally owned restaurant that started in the area. No Cheesecake Factory here.

PROS:
  • Some of the best restaurants in town
  • Features restaurants that rarely offer discounts
  • Words like "Not to exceed $30" - now that's a BOGO!
  • Seriously, check out their restaurant list
CONS
  • Heavy restrictions including blackout days
  • Each restaurant has different restrictions
  • No repeat usage
  • Flimsy card stock, so card is easily damaged
    The 2007 cards are printed on a laminated heavy card stock.
  • Many restaurants are located east of I-680 (That's a con for me at least)
  • Darwin isn't on here :-)
THOUGHTS
One of the best values *if* you have the ability to eat at a sit down restaurant midweek. Best for couples with jobs that have empty cubicles at 5:00 (or retired couples). If there's a list of restaurants that you always hear people talk about, wanted to try, but you just haven't had a chance to try them yet, chances are, this card has at least 2 of those restaurants on it.


The Omaha Prime Card
MSRP: $20 Discounted Price: $10-20

A "fund raiser" card with more places on it than a typical card sold for fund raisers, but just barely more useful.

PROS
  • Great for lunch with a co-worker or a quick dinner option
  • Can be used for a BOGO up to 20 times at most locations
  • Poor training means you'll usually get more than 20 uses at each location
CONS
  • Weak restaurant list - mostly fast food
  • More than a few offers are NOT Buy One, Get One
  • Many of their discounts are offered for free on the back of grocery receipts
  • The disproportionate amount of coupons for coffee/smoothie/frozen dessert places
  • The non-food discounts are worthless for the most part
THOUGHTS
Not a great card, but if you can pick one up for $10, you probably get your money's worth very quickly. I use it a lot because my wife and I often get stuck at the office and don't feel like cooking when we get home. Burritos or sandwiches work well in a pinch. The "fund raising" aspect of this card seems a bit questionable to me though.



** UPDATE **
Have a couple more to add to the list that you might want to check out.

Omaha Dining Deals
Omaha Dining Deals strives to provide our visitors with the most complete information about dining discounts in the Omaha, Nebraska area. You can find a range of specials on this site including daily promotions offered by restaurants to availability of coupons and where to find them. This is a free, user supported site.


Neofill
Neofill offers 50% off coupons for Omaha restaurants, but their selection is limited. Still worth a look.

OMAHACOUPONS.COM
Part of COUPONS LIMITED, LLC. Limited selection, but worth a look.

Spartan Coupons have a decent selection of coupons that are free and printable. They also publish a free coupon book distributed through local stores.



So there you go, a frugal foodie guide to eating cheap in Omaha. Here are some parting tips to get you in the penny pinching mood.
  • Don't forget to check the back of your grocery receipts. The food coupons on those have gotten much better over the past year or two.
  • Sign up for email lists at your favorite restaurants. They'll often send you special offers and coupons.
  • Next time you go to Starbucks, instead of your $4.00 coffee, order a Ghetto Latte.

If you're just looking for more coupons in general, or some free sample offers, be sure to check out some of these sites as well:


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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

WBW 27: Icy Desserts (Ice Wine)

posted by snekse
Mmmmm, Ice Wine. Is there anything better?

It's been a while since I participated in a Wine Blogging Wednesday, but when I found out the theme was ice wine (chosen and hosted by Kitchen Chick), it was a given that I would be participating. The only question that arose was; do I pick one of the bottles in my collection or do I go shopping? Shopping won.

We stopped into BevMo to see what was available and found two bottles that peeked our interest. The first was the La Face Cachee de la Pomme Neige Cidre de Glace, but we had to disqualify it since it's actually an ice cider made with apples, not grapes. The second was the 2003 Covey Run Semillon Reserve Ice Wine from Yakima Valley.

Now on with the wine!

2003 Covey Run Semillon Reserve Ice Wine
375ml ~ $21.99 (Beverages and More)

Vintage: 2003
Type: White - Sweet/Dessert
Producer: Covey Run
Varietal: Semillon
Designation: Reserve Ice Wine
Vineyard: N/A
Country: USA
Region: Washington
SubRegion: Columbia Valley
Appellation: Yakima Valley



Tasting Notes
Blend: 100% Semillon (11% Alc. Vol.)
Vineyard: 100% Phil Church
Cases Produced: 2,625

Color was a very light golden honey with a translucent rim. A little more nose than most ice wines I've had in the past. Hard to descibe the smell as anything other than a sauternes without the earthy smell from the Botrytis.

The taste was very good. Initially green apple, apricots and honey with occasional glimpses of spice and maybe a medicinal note, but in a good way. The finish is really two parts. The flavor disapates after about 7 seconds, but that mouth watering feeling carries a bit longer. As the wine warms, the apple becomes more pronounced and the apricot gives way to pineapple. Unfortuantely, the tartness and acidic finish also start to overpower the sugars a bit.

Wine Maker's Notes

Rating: 88

Beyond my tasting notes, I think it's hard to give a recommendation on this wine one way or another. It has a much different profile than the Jackson-Triggs I'm use to, yet this wine could easily find a place in my cellar. It really just depends on what purpose you need it to serve. I might actually serve this with Foie Gras before the JT because of the added acidity and tartness. It's also cheaper than JT. The cost is about the same per bottle, but the JT bottle is only 175ml. Given the price and relatively high score of this wine, it's not a bad bottle to have on hand for those every day occasions when you just want some ice wine.

WINE REVIEWS:
WBW 19: When in Rhone
WBW 20: Anything But Chardonnay...
WBW 27: Icy Desserts (Ice Wine)
WBW 28: Festive Sparkling Wines
WBW 30: New World Syrah
WBW 31: Box Wines
WBW 34: Washington Cabernets
WBW 45: Old World Rieslings

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