Sunday, March 29, 2015

2 Icelandic packaged cookies

Súkkulaðibitakaka

Fittingly for a Giant Cookie, the name of this one is quite a mouthful (true of many things in Iceland), but my Google Translate skills reveal its meaning to be something along the lines of "Chocolate bit cake". I am beginning to think Icelandic does not have a word for cookie.

This was actually the fourth and final Giant Cookie I purchased in Iceland. I would have been content with the three others (two of which I have already reviewed), but my boyfriend wanted to get rid of some of his coins, so he passed this cookie into my hands at a gas station and told me to pay for it wisely. I usually don't go for all-chocolate cookies (I prefer a variety of flavors) but I'm glad he picked this one, because it was yummy!

The middle was really soft and rich, almost like brownie batter. The outside was just a tad more crunchy than I prefer, but I got over that quickly, because it still tasted awesome.

This cookie weighed 90 g and cost 249 kr. (or 1.83$), so it cost 2.03¢ per gram.

The Bottom Line

Taste:5 out of 5 stars
Texture:4 out of 5 stars
Price:2 out of 5 stars

Nammiklatti


This chocolate candy cookie was the first cookie I bought in Iceland and the last one I ate. I saved it because it looked the most delicious. Sadly, I was mistaken.

Unlike the other cookies, which pretty much uniformly tasted incredible (I like to think that's because they were made with Icelandic butter, which was so rich it almost reminded me of cheese), this one was only "okay," and reminded me of nothing so much as your standard gas-station packaged cookie.

It did not perform well on the crumble test, spattering bits of itself everywhere when I broke it, and being, overall, a bit too dry. Towards the center it was softer and chewier, but still didn't hold together well.

It had the familiar rich taste of the other Icelandic cookies, but it finished with a slightly dusty aftertaste, which was quite a disappointment.

In case you were wondering, I wasn't so successful at translating the name of this one. "Nammi" apparently means candy, but "Klatti" was not recognized by Google. Maybe there is an Icelandic word for cookie after all, and it just hasn't made it into the dictionary yet!

In any case...

The Bottom Line

Taste:3 out of 5 stars
Texture:2 out of 5 stars
Price:2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Glassúrterta



Kolaportið (where I purchased the last cookie I reviewed) is the largest flea market in Iceland. So it's only fitting that that's where I found the largest Giant Cookie I've ever reviewed.

The label on this head-sized confection says "Glassúrterta," which Google Translate tells me means something like "frosted cake," but it looks like a cookie, and, upon eating it, I can confirm that it tastes like a cookie. At a whopping 510 grams, for the 600 króna (converting to about $4.42) I paid for it, it also is the best-value Giant Cookie I've ever reviewed, at only .86¢ per gram!

See my hand for a point of comparison.
Since this cookie was not one that I could consume in one sitting, no matter how much I dislike leaving things unfinished, I cut myself a nice wedge of it as though it were a pie. Crumbs fell everywhere. As I was breaking off my signature bite-sized pieces, more crumbs fell. So failing the Crumble Test is the first shortcoming of this confection.

If you are to examine this cookie from the side, you'd see that it is actually 3 layers of cookie with some kind of red filling between them and a crystallized thin layer of frosting on top. My first bite revealed the delicious taste of strawberry and the crunch of seeds, so it must be jam in between the layers.

I liked the way the extremely sweet jam countered the less-sweet taste of the bread. But if I had to find fault, I would say that even with this clever balancing act going on, the cookie might have been just a tad too sweet.

Although the cookie was chewy, it was a tiny bit too airy. I would have been happy with a smaller, more solid cookie. However, if you can get past that and the failing of the Crumble Test, the mix of other textures within it was very satisfying. The chewiness of the bread, the slight crunch of the frosting, the delightful novelty of mystery seeds—after eating a few of them, I realized they were far too chewy and large to have come from strawberry, so I have no idea what kind of jam this cookie was actually made of....If it had only held together a little better, it would have earned 5 stars.

The Bottom Line

Taste:4 out of 5 stars
Texture:4 out of 5 stars
Price:5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chocolate chunk cookie from Reykjavik


Last week, my boyfriend and I visited Iceland. It was a spectacular place filled with giant waterfalls, giant intercontinental rift zones, giant trolls, and yes, Giant Cookies! Over the next few days, I'll be sharing reviews of the cookies in the order I eat them (and soon, in case you're curious about the giant trolls, I'll probably also be posting pictures).

The first Giant Cookie is a relatively unassuming chocolate chunk cookie I found at a flea market.

Although I didn't have the opportunity to weigh it (being almost 3000 miles away from my postal scale), I estimated it to be at least as heavy as bagged cookies I bought on my journey, which were 90g each. So let's be generous and call it 100 grams. For 350 krona, it cost 2.59¢ a gram—about average in price.

But in taste, it was superlative. From the delicious caramelized flavor, to the generous amount of chocolate, to the slight external crunch and chewy interior, this cookie had everything a Cookie Connoisseur could want.

The Bottom Line

Taste:5 out of 5 stars
Texture:5 out of 5 stars
Price:3 out of 5 stars

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Goldilocks and the many houses

One can only live in the same house for so long before one starts to grow slowly crazy about the little things that aren't quite right—the lack of external electricity, the broken satellite dish that has marred the roof since one moved in, the lawn that one would really like to replace with any kind of mow-free groundcover, the horrible couch that looks like it survived the 19th century and feels like a torture device.

But alas, one is not about to spend one's hard-earned money on anything less than one's "permanent" home, so one tolerates it all. Sort of.

Still, it gnaws at one...the gate that doesn't latch, the attic that lacks stairs, the living room floor that needs refinishing, the poorly placed drain that covers the driveway with a sheet of ice every winter.... It is hard for a perfectionist to live in someone else's house, with so many things one is powerless to change. So one begins to ponder, in the spare moments one has here and there, whether one might buy a house of one's own.

I've been searching for houses for well on six years—basically even before I moved into the one I rent now. Obviously, the going's been slow—I'm not going to spend the rest of my life paying for something unless I absolutely love it, and for a perfectionist like me, there is very little out there to absolutely love. When I go house-hunting, I feel like Goldilocks trying out chairs or porridge—this one's too expensive, this one's too small, this one's too far from Metro, this one smells like a dog...

With so many exacting criteria, my success in this mission has been sporadic at best. Once every few months or so, I see a listing that might do. I've even gotten pre-approved for a mortgage once or twice, but my pre-approval always expires before I find anything even worth checking out. But in the past few weeks, I've upped my game. My boyfriend and I ran across a realtor who's actually interested in finding me a house, rather than just selling the one and only listing I inquired about. She's shown us several places already and I am beginning to feel like this might actually be the year I take the plunge!

The thought of buying a house is scary. How much can I afford? How much is actually worth paying for? Will I inadvertently buy a money pit? Will I actually be happy once I move in? The more I learn, the more doubts I have. Now that I think about it, I might be suffering from fear of commitment. Maybe I'm happy enough where I am.What do you think?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookie from Pete's Apizza


Woe to the Giant Cookie lover who happens to be standing at the register too long at Pete's New Haven Style Apizza. She will surely get sucked into buying a dessert.

In this case, I was waiting for my boyfriend to change his order after his first choice was unavailable, and I was tempted by the unusual concept of a flourless cookie.

This particular flourless cookie was 80 grams and cost 2 dollars. That made it 2.5¢ a gram, which is high for a Giant Cookie, but par for the course when it comes to gluten-free baked goods. And I'm pretty sure being flourless makes this one gluten free.

It was nice and soft to eat, and being a peanut butter cookie, it was unsurprisingly peanut buttery. It had some chocolate and peanut butter chips to give it a little more oomph than your average homogeneous cookie, but they were unfortunately very soft. I feel like this cookie might have been improved if I'd eaten it cold.

The Bottom Line

Taste:4 out of 5 stars
Texture:3 out of 5 stars
Price:2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Truffle Mac & Cheese from Screwtop Wine Bar


On the way home from our Valentine's weekend trip to the mountains of Virginia, my boyfriend and I stopped at Screwtop Wine Bar in Arlington for lunch. I noticed the truffle macaroni & cheese on the menu but bypassed it in favor of spinach artichoke lasagna, which sounded like something I'd never get anywhere else. Fortunately, my boyfriend ordered the mac & cheese, so I was able to sample it for a review.

Apparently I don't like truffle, because that mac & cheese was probably the weirdest I've ever encountered. It had a vaguely sour taste and a flavor that I associate with mushroom ravioli. I like that flavor in the ravioli, but it did not suit my vision of a proper macaroni and cheese.
I wasn't too impressed with the lasagna either—it could have been greatly improved if the bits of spinach and artichoke were bigger, and it had been browned more around the edges—so all in all, my opinions of dining at Screwtop are not exactly favorable, although I can't speak for the wine that is their namesake.

As far as the macaroni and cheese goes, I rate it one sad noodle for tasting bizarre.

 1 sad noodle

The Mood Noodle rating system is not based on a fixed scale, but is a much more subjective system based on what makes me happy and what makes me sad.
Any number of happy noodles and comparatively few sad noodles constitute a good rating.





Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Whatever happened to the Bitter Valentine Blog?

Surely you remember it...the grand old tradition I kept, for four straight years, of parading my broken heart all over the Internet every February 14th, dispensing cynical observations and maudlin musings, making Valentine's Day a true treat for all my readers, single and otherwise. Where did it go? What happened?

Well, to put it shortly, Al happened. You might know him—the guy I love? In spite of his dog? Well, he has single-handedly prevented me from Bitter Valentine's Blogging for two years running! Yeah, sure, it's hard to get into Love Sucks Mode when you're in a happy relationship, but even more, it's difficult to post a blog when you're busy traveling (see my ever-tardy Indonesia posts for further reference). And no one should be surprised when I say that I and my boyfriend who loves to travel have been out of town for our only two Valentine's Days together.

"Oooh, a romantic getaway!" you're probably thinking. But no — and here's where I think I can still work in a seed of bitterness — we've spent both of our past V-Days crammed into our lodgings with 2 to 4 other people, and both times, the trip has revolved around skiing.

Can you imagine? Me? The one who says "I hate winter" as often as she breathes? Spending her precious Valentine's Day which must be absolutely perfect outside? In the snow!? And yet that is exactly what happened. Not once, but two years in a row. Heavy sigh. The things we do for love.

I feel like I deserve some sort of medal for my dedication and self-sacrifice (no one needs to mention that, now that I have a proper coat, some snow pants, and some high-tech winter gear, the cold hardly touches me and I actually find skiing somewhat fun!), but if not a medal, at least some recognition. And I think I know just how to get it. In a conversation about our upcoming trip last week, my boyfriend made a charming little slip and referred to the holiday as "Valerie Times Day."

I like that. I have yet to experience the Valentine's Day of my dreams, but having a whole holiday dedicated to me would suit me just as well. It also gives me an idea as to what will happen to the Bitter Valentine Blog. As morose as it was, I hate to give up on a tradition.

So from here on out, I vow to always write a post for Valentine's Day. It may not always be on February 14th, and I may not be able to summon up enough angst about romance to match my previous unparalleled self-pity, but I always have plenty of energy to talk about me. So next year about this time, keep your eyes peeled, for I promise to provide you with a Valerie Times Day blog that will knock your socks off. Depending on my relationship status, it may not be the refreshing blast of unadulterated misery that you could count on in the past, but I can guarantee that I will never run short of cynical observations.