In Which We Review Products Sent To Our Office

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Food Republic, like every other media outlet, gets lots of free junk sent its way. Publicists hope that if somebody who works there accidentally tries their products, it'll get written about. Well, they are now right. The editors gave me a mystery box of food-related swag. I tried all of it.

Agro Dolce (For Fast Foodies)

"La Dolce Vida" is Italian for "the sweet life," so I am guessing that "Agro Dulce" is Italian for a life where you go "agro" a lot (ripping doors off their hinges at bars and then punching cops.) I am not sure how a tiny 12-ounce bottle of chicken stock is agro or convenient, but I followed the bottle's instructions and poached chicken breasts in it. They were like regular chicken breasts (gross), but a little brown.

Sam Adams Belgian Session

I am from Massachusetts, like Samuel Adams, and therefore I am legally obligated to enjoy Sam Adams. (And if I don't, the government will take away my family's Romneycare.) But when I think of who makes that beer, I think of ruddy-faced guys in baggy jeans who call people "kid" and kids "guy," not monks. They think "Flemish" is how you get when you drink too much Bailey's. This is not a good beer.

Vegan Junk Food by Lane Gold

It is hard to reconcile living a responsible life and also eating animals? While I like meat, I totally understand people who don't. But I do not totally understand people who like vegan junk food. If you love vegetables so much, marry them, and then eat them. Don't marry a "meatball subwich."

Why are you calling it a subwich? WE don't call it a subwich. Anyway, this book grossed me out and the recipes call for lots of grocery products, like how if Maxim put out a cookbook every recipe would start with "1 can Hormel Beef Chili."

I was extremely uncomfortable with how casually this book threw around "TVP," an abbreviation for textured vegetable protein. "The best part about TVP is how TVP is so good! P.S. TVP." TVP sounds like a disease you could get from a rest stop toilet seat: mostly harmless, but still horrifying to your parents and something you need to tell people on the first date, all of which is also true of being a vegan.

Give Taco FuFu Berry Soda

This soda was very confusing. I am not that familiar with Jones Soda, but the bottle said "taco" in multiple places. Was this a taco-flavored soda? Isn't that the name of a Limp Bizkit album? It turns out it's a collaboration between Jones Soda and So So Happy, a lifestyle brand I've never heard of, featuring their four signature characters Taco, Waffle, Ozzie and Tribe. From the press release: "The creatures' whimsical personalities also carry over to the sodas' flavors and names." OK. Taco's personality must be that he is extremely, sickeningly sweet.


Gourmet people famously love toppings. "Top it off" is what they are always saying, in reference to the foods they are eating and the condiments they are desiring. Slawsa, which is a wonderful name, is the "gourmet topping for everything," an attempt by Big Cabbage to make sauerkraut salsa a thing. I love sauerkraut and I love salsa, but this was horrendous. It tasted like a mix of mustard and relish and New York sweet onion sauce and roasted salsa and butt. My girlfriend tasted it, grimaced, and shook her head. "That is an incorrect jar of things." That being said, it'll probably be in my fridge until I move.

Wolfgang Puck's Arrabbiatta Sauce

This was good. I liked this. I ate it with multiple meals. It was like a regular tomato sauce but with more oil and more salt, which is smart. All I know about Wolfgang Puck is that he was the first person to put orange slices in a salad at the airport and that one time forty years ago someone who worked for him invented both grilled pizza and arugula, which is what we now live in the Unites States of. Praise be to Wolfgang.

The Fire Island Cookbook by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jensen

I have never been to Fire Island, but this book made me want to go. Partly because the recipes and pictures of boats made it look good, partly because the book had a foreword by Al Roker, and mostly because this is the first sentence of the introduction: "Summer is the time of the year we love the best." Where do these guys come up with this stuff? It's like they are reading my mind and they know that I too think that "among the joys of a beach house are having a kitchen".

Versanto Force 3x: Hyper-Caffeinated Coffee

I assure you: I didn't want to like this. "Versanto Force 3x: Hyper-Caffeinated Coffee" sounds like a superpower someone would give themselves in a role-playing game. ("Someone." Who am I kidding? Me. Young me.) But I put it in my coffee pot, and I drank it, and I had lots of energy all day, but I wasn't edgy or jittery. It was a mellow, long-lasting energy. Cool, now I sound like someone on an Internet forum describing a pill they snorted. Whatever. Drink this if it's free.

Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselbeck

When I got to college, I didn't yet know anything about Jewish people or gay people. I saw a poster for a film called Trembling Before G-d and it showed two young men embracing. I did not know it was a documentary about queer Orthodox Jews reconciling their sexuality with their faith, and I did not know that some faiths don't like writing out "God." The point is, I thought G-d was an abbreviation, and I guessed that maybe it stood for "gay dads." Why would they abbreviate that, or call their movie that? Trembling before Gay Dads? I was very stupid then.

The point is I wouldn't be mad if you thought the G in the title of this cookbook stood for "gray matter," which would be an insane assumption but admittedly something Elizabeth Hasselbeck seems very free of. Rachael Ray's pull-quote on the back of the book reads "Nicely done, blondie!" Her recipe for buffalo chicken wings is chicken tenders tossed with hot sauce and gluten-free hot paprika. She says that even a wing connoisseur will figure them for the "real deal." No, they won't.

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