Review: Cheeza 53% Gorgonzola / Camembert

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReview: Cheeza 53% Gorgonzola / Camembert
Purchased: July 2013
Review: July 2013

Cheeza Website

I had a touch of apprehension about this one. I’m only relatively recently a fan of blue cheeses, despite their general deliciousness I had a hard time getting past the fact that, well, it’s mold. You know? But I’m on the wagon now, and despite a surprise revelation from a hardcore-will-eat-anything friend that he stays far, far away from all manners of blue cheese, I had to admit I was really excited at receiving this package of Gorgonzola & Camembert Cheeza as omiyage from my friends Aki and Phil.

Cheeza is and remains one of my favourite Japanese snack foods, and a blue cheese snack is still pretty rare in North America, let alone in Japan, so this seems like a pretty special treat all-in-all.

A quick visit to the Cheeza website reveals that this is 1 part gorgonzola to 4 parts camembert, meaning the flavour probably won’t be that intense… still, Cheeza is one of the most intensely flavoured Japanese snacks I’ve ever come across, so who knows, maybe this will surprise me?

Packaging: The same great resealable foil bag as other Cheezas, with large colour pictures of what to expect inside. Other than the title though, absolutely no English on the bag so I had to put my limited Japanese skills and google translate to use. ;) I can’t tell if that blue cheese looks appetizing or not, but it does certainly look like… blue cheese.

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Scent & Taste: Opening the bag, I was surprised it didn’t smell like feet. Good blue cheese should smell like something has gone wrong, and while this still has the same knockout ‘nose’ as Cheeza usually delivers, the blue cheese smell is faint. Really getting my nose in there I started to detect it, but it’s pleasant. Those a-feared of blue cheese won’t be put off.

The taste however is… really inconsistent. My first cracker had basically no blue cheese taste at all, tasting like a good, strong camembert Cheeza. My second cracker though, wow! The taste comes out immediately, and it continued to build the more I had. It’s really sharp, a little pungent on the tongue, but mellowed by the camembert. The crackers themselves are very buttery too, lending a pleasant texture to the trademark crispness of the crackers.

Maybe ‘inconsistent’ is too harsh, more like it’s subtle and then amps up real-quick-like. What a great snack!

As for the all-important beer-test, taking a swig of Sapporo cleanses the palette, and then the first cracker has an almost invisible blue cheese taste again… and yet again, the blue cheese amps up on the second bite and it’s… it’s just great.

Verdict: What a snack! This is maybe the most flavourful one yet, and that’s really saying something!

The downside to all this is that it really does taste like blue cheese, which not everyone likes and maybe everyone isn’t ready for in their otsumami. But for me, this is a special, amazing treat that goes great with beer and brings me a new snacking experience that I just can’t wait to enjoy again.

I wonder how they’d go with Chu-hai? Or wine?

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News: McDonalds announces three limited edition “Quarter Pounder Jewelery” burgers

McDonalds Japan has announced that they will be releasing three new, one-day-only, “Quarter Pounder Jewelery” burgers Saturdays in July. So-called because of their luxurious nature and rare ingredients, the burgers will be available at participating locations across the country. Japan only, obviously. They will be priced at 1000yen (about CDN$10.50), a very high price for a McDonalds burger, but likely set to drive home just how luxurious these jewelery burgers really are.

The burgers are as follows:

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Gold Ring (July 6th)
Quarter Pounder with special German sausage meat, Monterey Jack cheese, thick cut smokey bacon, and a slice of pinapple and barbeque sauce. Served on a kaiser bun.

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Black Diamond (July 13th)
Quarter Pounder with Emmental cheese, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, and a black truffle sauce, served in a brioche.

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Ruby Spark (July 20th)
Quarter Pounder with pepper jack cheese, spicy guacamole, jalapeno, grilled onions, and spicy chorizo on a special french bun.

In case you were wondering, I am utterly sad I do not get to try these burgers. 10 bucks is steep for a McD’s burger, but the average burger in Japan is about that price anyway, as soon as you move away from fast food franchises.

Here’s the commercial  for the first burger, the gold ring.

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Review: Kit Kat Big Little Adult White Chocolate

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Review: Kit Kat Big Little Adult White Chocolate
Purchased: November 2012
Best Before: September 2013
Review: January 2013
Manufactured by Nestle Japan

http://nestle.jp/brand/kit/

Given the infinite variety of the Japanese combini, you’d think I’d be big enough to not hold the White Chocolate Kit Kats in utter contempt, for their ability to sit on store shelves where other, more interesting flavours might end up. You’d be wrong. They cleared some of them off the shelves when they released the phenomenal Adult Raspberry last year, but somehow Adult White Chocolate and Adult Dark Chocolate have become fixtures alongside the standard Kit Kat, consistently successful and available in a way that even Japanese sweets flavour Green Tea is not.

Worse still, there are now multiple iterations of White Chocolate Kit Kats on store shelves, mini’s and regular sizes and these Kit Kat Big Little’s, essentially a ball of Kit Kat, for some reason. The Kit Kat Big Little’s do get exciting flavours onto shelves where they might not otherwise–I think I bought an orange flavour in Japan that I can’t find now–but for the most part it just seems to be exactly the same as the flavours already available.

So lets review them.

Packaging: The packaging is to Kit Kat’s usual high standard, with a large bright logo, clear imagery of the ingredients, and of the product itself. There’s no English on the package, but the printing on the silver foil packaging is well-done and quite eye-catching. There’s some lovely use of transparencies to create gold accents, and to give the front of the package a nice shimmer. Really, Kit Kat’s production and design folks deserve some sort of award.

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Scent and Taste: The only scent is of Kit Kat’s standard White Chocolate, which is disappointing. I was kind of hoping some of the chocolate/cookie might come through. The website and packaging seems to promote the high-quality Hokkaido milk involved, but it doesn’t smell like any Japanese milk candy I’ve had.

The taste of the Big Little Bite is a bit more complex than a standard white chocolate bar, thanks to something milky in the white chocolate, and the chocolate cookie crumble is nice, but ultimately these little bits are pretty boring, and perhaps surprisingly bland stuff.

Worse still, these are essentially ‘cubes’ of wafer that would normally be in a Kit Kat, but because they’re coated on all sides with the white chocolate, the balance is completely off, creating a one-note sweetness that overpowers the other flavours.

Verdict: Utterly mediocre.

I know, I know. I knew going in that I probably wouldn’t like these, but I’d never tried them and thought it was worth a shot.

It’s not as badly put together as the Air-In Kit Kats which were just gross, but it’s worse than even the standard Adult White Chocolate Kit Kat. I’ve learned my lesson though, no more second chances on this flavour, and I’ll continue to hate it every time I see it on the shelves.

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Review: Cheeza 50% Camembert Basil

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Review: Cheeza 50% Camembert Basil
Purchased: November 2012
Review: January 2013

http://cheeza.jp/

I don’t know how much of a surprise this review this will be, considering jussssst how effusive I was about Cheeza crackers during my previous reviews:

51% Smoked Cheese
52% Cheddar
51% Camembert

But there’s always the possibility of too much of a good thing, right? That adding anything, like basil or tomato, would be tampering with perfection. Right? So, how will this newest iteration of the Cheeza line live up to my incredibly high expectations…!?

Packaging: Much the same as other iterations of Cheeza, these packages are essentially perfect. They feature large product images, as well as large images of the primary ingredients (gorgeous camembert, healthy green basil). Also like the previous Cheeza flavours, this is a resealable bag for multiple servings, although the possibility of eating only part of a bag is generally laughable.

The only thing that might be confusing is that there’s also a glass of wine on this package, and for the uninitiated you might think there’s wine inside! Not so, it’s just a serving suggestion, and suggesting it with wine (instead of beer, how otsumami are more traditionally served), hints at its ‘sophistication,’ which matches the addition of basil to an already popular snack.

Scent and Taste: As soon as I cracked this package, I realized that I wouldn’t be disappointed with this new flavour. The scent of Cheeza 50% Camembert Basil is, frankly, incredible. Bold and big, you get a nice baked cheese smell and the unmistakable aroma of basil, it’s really wonderful. My mouth actually watered.

It tastes even better than it smells, packing in all of the intense flavour of the regular Camembert Cheeza with nothing lost at all. There is a lovely hint of basil in the taste of the crackers, and a close examination will see flakes of basil in the cracker themselves. It’s not overpowering, though letting it rest on your tongue really brings out the basil flavour. The basil stays present even in the face of the powerful Camembert flavour, and the entire bag builds in an amazing way as you continue to snack and drink your beer, wine, or in my case lemon chu-hi. There’s no unfortunate aftertaste at all, and despite my having a very strong, flavourful drink, each bite of the Cheeza flavour came through loud and clear.

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Verdict: Camembert was already my favourite of the Cheeza crackers thanks to its intense, full flavour, and the addition of basil to this cracker is totally welcome; a wonderful variation on a classic. Considering some of the other Japanese cheese crackers I’ve tasted, I almost can’t believe this exists.

It pains me that most of you reading this will never get to enjoy this essentially perfect snack food, but it pains me more knowing that when the packages I’ve got on hand disappear, there’ll be no way to restock until I head back to Japan. One of the J-snack importers has got to get on board with these fantastic products.

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News: New Kit Kat Box Designs featuring Mos Burger, Year of the Snake

kit kat x mos burger

It looks like Nestle might be making Kit Kat’s team-up with Japanese fast-food chain Mos Burger an annual event, as starting December 14th sweets fans were able to pick up this limited edition packaging at Mos Burger’s nationwide for 120yen (about $1.50). With a great big space to write sweet nothing to a special someone, this package contained 3 of the original-flavour Kit Kat bars. You can see my review of the first collaboration at http://www.oyatsubreak.com/?p=507.

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Also following on 2012’s New Years celebratory Kit Kats comes these special “Year of the Snake” editions, available at Japan Post offices across the country. This one actually comes in two designs:

headline_20121122_kitkatAlso, according to this website: http://entabe.jp/news/article/952 you’re supposed to make a wish for the new year before opening the box, and if one of the three packs of two-finger Kit Kats inside is in a special gold foil wrapper, your wish will come true and you’ll have a lucky year! Sounds neat…. and includes space to write a note for a friend or loved one, wishing them a happy new year, and an envelope if you want to include money with it. I’m pretty sure you can just slap a stamp right on these and send them in the mail (don’t mail cash though). So neat!

You can check out my post on the 2012 New Year’s Kit Kat here: http://www.oyatsubreak.com/?p=456

 

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