Falafel is easily one of my favorite foods. Alas, the only way to get it around here is to make it myself... and I do... but not as often as I want to eat it due to the fried oil mess it makes. Which means falafel consumption is usually reserved for when I am traveling. Except there hasn't been any of that in a year-and-a-half, so I've been sadly falafel-deficient all this time.
So imagine my surprise when I was at a QFC on the other side of the state and spotted "falafel street wraps" in the frozen foods section from TaDah Foods for $3.99 each! It sounded too good to be true, so I bought the three flavors they had... enjoyed them... then immediately searched for a place locally that sold them (which ended up being Fred Meyer, and they had all four flavors on sale for $3.49). Sweet!
Now, before we get to my reviews, a few things...
And now, on with the reviews...
Sweet Spicy Harissa and Labne. ★★★★☆
Easily my favorite of the four flavors. The harissa (a favorite spice blend of mine) adds just enough heat while still allowing the falafel flavor to shine through. And the creamy labne (similar Greek yogurt, but thicker like cream cheese) was the perfect accompaniment. I could eat these every day, and probably would if I could afford it.
Spicy Brown Sugar Harissa Hummus.★★★☆☆
This should have been my favorite by a country mile because the combination of harissa spice, hummus, and brown sugar is a holy trifecta of flavor. But the harissa is just too much here. I love heat in my food, but the harissa is so overpowering that you barely know you're eating falafel, as it's completely buried. My guess is that they were needing to compensate for the disgusting whole wheat wrap, and just piled on heat to make it go away. Well, they succeeded. Too well. If they would have toned down the spicy a notch, this would be heaven in your microwave oven.
Fresh Lemon-Garlic Hummus. ★★☆☆☆
I am not a huge fan of lemon when it's in something that's not lemonade or lemon cake or lemon cream pie... but it kinda works here. Thankfully they didn't add so much lemon that it completely overwhelms everything else... you still get a nice garlic note and a decent hummus vibe... but this ended up being a bit boring to me. Oh I'll still buy them, that's for sure. A sprinkling of feta on top did wonders. But with two other wraps I enjoy far more, it won't be as often.
Feta Green Pepper Salsa. ★☆☆☆☆
Given my love of feta, I assumed this would be a favorite. It wasn't. First of all, the amount of feta is slight. There's not enough to really register. Second of all, the fibrous nature of the pepper chunks was a weird fit with the falafel patties. I far, far preferred the creamy texture of either the hummus or labne in the other three flavors. This wasn't awful by any means, but I won't be buying it again when there are three others I'd rather have.
And there you have it. I am so very, very happy to have a new easy-to-prepare meal sitting in my freezer that I can heat and enjoy in minutes. For a falafel-loving guy like me, they are as dreamy as frozen gets. No, they aren't ever going to replace a falafel pita sandwich with crispy falafel balls right out if the fryer... but nothing ever could.
If TaDah wanted to make a falafel street wrap that would really push my buttons, here is what I want from their next flavor... FLOUR WRAP... NOT WHOLE WHEAT! ROASTED RED PEPPER HUMMUS! FETA CHEESE! AND A DASH OF HARISSA SPICE. That's it. That would be epic. ★★★★★
Fingers crossed. This combination seems like it would be far more popular with the food-buying public given how roasted red pepper hummus is like ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR FLAVORS OF HUMMUS IN THE USA. So maybe?
P.S. It's the graphic designer in me that notices these things, but... falafel patties must be difficult to photograph, because they Photoshopped in the exact same patty on all four boxes (though the Feta Green Pepper Salsa patty does have a different texture Photoshopped onto it?). Regardless, whomever did the actual compositing work did a darn fine job of it! And I am most impressed with the packaging design too. Fantastic color distinction to separate the flavors on the freezer shelf. Appetizing photography. Fantastic branding for the TaDah! company identity. An all-around great job at a time where packaging design just keeps getting worse and worse. I think the only thing I would change is to make the flavor larger so that it's easier to read from a distance (this would have been easily accomplished by pushing the text a little higher on the box, using a slightly more narrow typeface for the flavor description, and possibly eliminating the word "with" from the front of each flavor, which doesn't really add anything but an extra word).
I am starting to get annoyed at frozen food manufacturers who have no smarts when it comes to how people heat their food in the real world. Everybody knows that the ideal way of cooking something frozen is to use the MICROWAVE to mostly thaw the item... then switch to a CONVECTION OVEN to finish cooking the item because cooking it all the way in the microwave usually makes it taste like rubberized crap. So why do manufacturers ONLY give you cooking directions for microwave OR convection?
Fortunately, the answer for many items is to split the difference.
For example, Amy's amazing Mexican Bowls have instructions for 5 minutes in the microwave OR 40 minutes in the convection oven covered in foil followed by 10-15 minutes uncovered to crisp the top. But you can cut the cook time almost in half and still end up with optimal flavor by splitting the difference: 2½ minutes in the microwave followed by 20 minutes in the convection oven covered in foil followed by 10-15 minutes uncovered to crisp the top.
This is the strategy I use for cooking a lot of frozen foods... from veggie burgers to enchiladas. And I'm probably not alone. A lot of people are undoubtedly microwave-thawing then convection-cooking their freezer stuff to save time without ruining it.
Unfortunately, splitting the difference doesn't work for everything, and sometimes there are foods (like pizza, veggie corn dogs, and veggie breakfast sandwiches) which still get rubbery or end up under-cooked. So I end up having to spend a lot of time via trial-and-error attempting to find the right balance... usually cutting microwave time and/or increasing convection time until I get something fully-cooked but not rubberized.
But why should I have to figure all that out? Why aren't frozen food manufacturers doing the hard work for me? Isn't that their job? I can only hope that one of these days one of the big companies will pioneer an effort for providing Best Cooking Practices using BOTH microwaves (to thaw) and convection ovens (to cook) so the rest will follow. Until then... maybe I should start a website where people can post their cooking hacks for frozen food? Or maybe there already is one? With the internet, it's hard to tell sometimes.
And now I'm hungry. Way to go, internet.
No more bitching about how your favorite movie/actor/director didn't win an Oscar, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Oscar! First of all, I just have to say that Ellen DeGeneres did an amazing job as host. Funny, entertaining, yet still nice to everybody. And now my take on the big awards...
• Marshmallow! And speaking of Frozen... there's a lot of things I could say about this brilliant Disney animated feature. Maybe that will happen later in the week. In the meanwhile, how much does everybody love Marshmallow? Probably my favorite animated character since Sully from Monster's Inc....
If you love Marshmallow too, be sure to keep watching past the Frozen credits.
• Ark! As I mentioned a year-and-a-half ago when I visited The Creation Museum, the group behind it all (Answers in Genesis) is working on a second museum... ARK ENCOUNTER! Apparently it's going to be a life-size replica of Noah's Ark (or something like that). They were in a bit of financial trouble but, after their leader Ken Ham had a much-publicized debate with Bill Nye The Science Guy, it apparently garnered them enough attention that they got their money after all. Personally, I can't wait to go... even though I believe absolutely none of it...
There's some pretty harsh criticism of Bill Nye for giving Ken Ham a platform to "legitimatize" his beliefs... but that seems kinda lame. I may vehemently disagree with Ken Ham, but I find value in understanding what he (and countless others) believe to be true, so I was happy to have a chance to see him actively debating it. And I'm looking forward to ARK ENCOUNTER as well... if it's as nicely done as The Creation Museum, it'll be worth a stop.
• About! Nick Hornby's About a Boy is a remarkable book that I've read at least three times. Much to my shock, the movie adaptation starring Hugh Grant was quite good... though very different in parts (and with a crappy Hollywood ending slapped on). So when I heard NBC was creating a television series for About a Boy, I was intrigued...
And so I watched it only to find out it was TOTAL SHIT. As an adaptation of the book. As a television show though? Not terrible. Not good, but not terrible. It seems to be based more on the movie adaptation than the book, but it fails pretty badly there too. The concept is the same, however. Will Freeman's dad wrote a hit Christmas song that set him up for life. Since he doesn't have to worry about money, he's living a self-absorbed life that revolves around fun instead of responsibility. Enter Marcus Brewer. He's an odd kid (mostly due to his mother, Fiona, who has severe emotional problems), and he's ruthlessly bullied at school. Will and Marcus cross paths, and both their lives are forever changed. The movie, while not entirely faithful to the book, does get a number of things right. Most importantly, they very clearly show just how miserable a life that Marcus leads and how terrifying it is to not know from moment to moment whether his mom is going to survive her depression. The TV show? Pretty much none of that. They focus more on Will being an idiot than the boy in About a Boy. And that's the biggest problem. The kid playing Marcus is good, but you never feel for him or his situation. And that leads to the entire premise of the show falling apart. And who knows if we'll ever see Ellie, a critical character from the book who was glossed over in the film and seems to be absent from the TV show entirely (so far). I dunno. I guess I'll give it a shot for a while, but my love of the book and movie is kind of killing me here. Maybe if I play the absolutely amazing movie soundtrack while I watch the TV version it'll be more tolerable?
• OREO! So Marshmallow Crispy OREOs and Cookie Dough OREOs happened a while back, but I've only just now gotten around to trying them...
Love the Marshmallow Crispy version. They're very sweet, but the crap actually tastes like a Rice Krispies treat in the middle! The Cookie Dough? Not so much. The flavor is vaguely there, but it actually seems more like
Sorry to end on a down-note, but I do proclaim this Sunday's bullets ended!