Ah, French Bread Pizza! Also known in some school cafeterias as “Pizza Boat”. There’s something about French Bread Pizza that seems to be liked by most people (except my mom) and I think Stouffer’s is more popular but I’m not sure. I did notice that in my area (lesser Boston) Stouffer’s FB Pizza was in all stores and even in mini-marts. Although most stores carried Red Baron products, only one store (Shaw’s) carried the French Bread option. The tasters for this were Ethan, myself and our friends Marc and Sarah. I am going by my notes from a couple of weeks ago and didn’t quote who said what but I remember we basically agreed on these. Let’s see what we thought!
We found the sauce to be disappointing and bland. The bread had a bit of gumminess even though it was cooked enough on the outside. Because of that, we did find the outer edges to be somewhat enjoyable because of the crunch. The cheese lacked flavor and the pepperoni was the most flavorful ingredient because of the spices. Other than that, we found this to be pretty bland.
Someone said this was “visually fresher”. We found the sauce to be more flavorful and was described as “zesty”. It was also noted that the bread was thicker than Stouffer’s and seemed to be a little off on the bread-to-topping ratio. I think it was Ethan who said it “Keeps it character and integrity” which I’m not exactly sure what he meant but he can comment and explain if need be : )
We went with the Baron on this one. Stouffer’s had a better bread-to-topping ratio but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of flavor. Maybe Red Baron wasn’t all that great either but compared to Stouffer’s it delivered more flavor and didn’t have a gummy-like dough texture, so that was enough to make it the winner.
Ramen noodles are one of those things that has so many versions of I could make a site just about them, and in fact there are a bunch out there. But I chose two that are regularly found in average American grocery stores and mini marts.
It’s funny how these were a snack in highschool and a meal in college. I have not paid Ramen a visit in a long time so one night I sat down with Ethan, Sarah and Marc and we evaluated.
As all four of us tasted this we noticed that the noodles were pretty flavorless, like cardboard. The broth was pretty decent but the vegetables were duds. Sarah said the corn wasn’t “corny” tasting and she didn’t like the mushy peas. I never really expect much of the vegetables in these things, only that they at least resemble what they once were, and they barely did that. We all agreed that the broth just didn’t make up for the bland, paper-flavored noodles.
This unsurprisingly looked similar to Instant Lunch but we found the broth was not as salty. The noodles looked deceivingly underdone but had a great texture and a nice buttery taste. The vegetables in this were not quite as sad and held up to the re-hydration better. We all agreed that the noodles are what make these and found ourselves enjoying this more.
I wanted to like Instant Lunch more because I’ve always like their packaging. The colors, font and design are so pleasant. And their logo looks like my brother-in-law, Zac. But Cup Noodles really were the better noodle of the two and since it’s the main ingredient (besides sodium) I agreed with everyone that Cup Noodles won this round.
These are a perfect size for a snack, possibly a small “meal”or …side dish? As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve started to notice that companies are buying each other, taking over familiar brands. Spaghettios, formerly made by Franco American, are now owned by Campbell’s (who also powns Pepperidge Farm, Prego, Pace and Swanson). Not that it’s a snack, but I thought it was semi-interesting that the only product Campbell’s still allows the Franco American label on is their jarred gravy. In this evaluation we had the help of our friends Sara and Mark. I could only find an equivalent from Chef Boyardee with meatballs so that’s why we tested the meatball variety.
Sara noted that the pasta had no flavor and seemed just be there for texture in the sauce. On that note, we didn’t feel the sauce had that much flavor either although it was pretty sweet, not exactly like ketchup, but similar. It was also kind of soupy. We noticed that the meatballs were squishy and tasteless. Not the worst thing in the world, but it was just ok.
Chef B’s Spaghetti Rings:
The first thing we noticed was that the sauce was much thicker. The meatballs were firm and had more flavor than the Spaghettios. Mark pointed out the sauce had a much stronger tomato taste and I thought maybe they put more tomato paste in it to give it flavor and thickness. The pasta was a little chewy but held on to the thick sauce nicely.
Hats off to the chef. Both of these were pretty much what we expected, but the “heartiness” of Spaghetti Rings gave it the edge over the soupy and bland Spaghettios. I thought maybe Chef B made a better product because his menu is more expansive with such notable dishes as “Beefaroni”, “Lasagna” and “ABC’s & 123’s” but I guess they’re all the same thing in different shapes.
As the Hot Pocket empire expands into croissant, pannini, calzone, sub and (cringe) breakfast products, Tony has thrown his big red puffy hat into the ring and made his own version called Pouches.
Just going by the name, I woud prefer Hot Pockets over Tony’s Pouches but I put the names aside and Ethan helped me out with the evaluation.
Both items feature cheese and meatball inside.
After cooking in its special crisp-inducing microwave sleeve, we noticed there was in fact, a small amount of crisp on top from the sprinkled cheese. We agreed the dough was nice and soft, yet not undercooked. Inside was a good combination of sauce, cheese and meatball. The sauce was pretty flavorful, even “zesty” (but not too zesty like they just dumped a bag of oregano in it) and the cheese tastes like, as the box says, real cheese. We were impressed with Hot Pockets. The only thing that might be misleading is that the meatball tasted more like Italian sausage, but it’s good for those who like a spicy meatball!
Tony’s didn’t have any special cooking sleeve, just take it out of the plastic casing and pop it in the microwave. We noticed the dough was thicker and gummy in some places and too chewy or dense in others. The sauce was bland and we couldn’t really taste the cheese. We cut these in half and I think Ethan got all of the meatball because I didn’t remember tasting any. Only when Ethan said there wasn’t as much meatball as Hot Pockets, I realized how unnoticeable it was in my half. So the meatball presence was either absent or they put it on one side.
Tony’s was a disappointment, it was everything I usually think of when I think of Hot Pockets (not that I sit around thinking about Hot Pockets) with it’s uneven dough texture, bland ingredients and lack of balance inside. I guess Hot Pockets really knows what they’re doing. While I probably won’t find myself buying these again, we found the pocket to be surprisingly tasty and they really seem to put some thought into the ingredients and they way it’s prepared. Although from a quick google search, I see Tony’s Pouches has at least huge one fan in the World of Warcraft forums named Dansei. Dansei, thou can have ye other pouch dwelling in my freezer because I’m never going to eat it (leave spiked club at the door).