Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I ran across an intriguing new product this morning at Gelato's, the new gelato and coffee place in my neighborhood (review coming soon...). MetroMint Peppermint Water. The first whiff is like toothpaste, but after that it grows on you. It tastes almost like peppermint tea, but with none of the tannins. Quite refreshing.

I find this an interesting addition to the "Smart Water" trend -- in this case without the smarts. The ingredients are water and mint. (From Oregon and Washington, "the best peppermint you can grow.")

The MetroMint website describes the creators as a "cutting edge group of beveragites", which is a bit pretentious for my taste. Does it surprise anyone it is from San Fransisco?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Went to Central Market this weekend and got the lowdown on the renovations to the orginal store on North Lamar. Here's the skinny.
1. The store is expanding northward into the old Origins store space.
2. The produce section moves into the Origins space.
3. The "Healthy Living" section (vitamins and soaps and such) moves into the old produce section, along with bulk items.
4. The Cheese section is moving over by the wine department, and they are planning on doing wine and cheese pairings/tastings in the new combined area. As part of this move, they are getting rid of the ports and harder alcohol (some TABC rule about not serving samples if you are selling stronger alcohol -- which makes me wonder how GrapeVine Market can do wine samples, since they also sell hard liquor).
5. The old cheese section becomes part of an expaned "Cafe on the Go," serving more prepared foods, similar to the food courts of the UK department stores.
6. The "Cafe on the Go" section expands to include a smoothie bar and other cafe oriented additions.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Another article on the Taxo Xpress/Walgreen's issue in the Austin Business Journal.
Sara's Chocolate Review: The Chocolate Traveler (Bittersweet Chocolate Wedges)

As an experienced traveler to chocolate, I was a bit suspicious when I spotted The Chocolate Traveler on the shelf at Central Market. After all, I regularly travel with chocolate, and find a nice chocolate bar (or two or three) fits nicely into a purse or a backpack. But since fancy packaging is often just an excuse to charge a premium for good chocolate -- a premium I gladly pay if the chocolate is good enough -- I decided to give The Chocolate Traveler a try.

The "travelling tin" concept, while a fallacy, is the strongest point of this chocolate. It's a round tin with 16 pie shaped wedges in two layers inside, and a fancy deco style world traveller graphic on the cover. I chose the bittersweet variety (also branded as "carb controlled"...) which was 70% cocoa. This was probably a mistake, as "carb controlled" ends up meaning "sugar free with malitol." (Examining their website, I see they also have a normal bittersweet variety, which I did not see at Central Market. I assume the normal flavor has sugar instead of malitol.)

Bean Origin: none specified

Place Purchased: Central Market, North Lamar, Austin, Texas

Cost: $3.99 for 400 grams

Sight: Glossy finish, even coloring. 3/5

Smell: Earthy, not too sweet. Nothing special, however. 2/5

Snap: The wedges are about 1/2 inch thick, which is a bit thicker than I prefer. They snap in half cleanly, however, with an even break. 3/5

Taste: Taste was too sweet, probably due to the malitol. A bit nutty in flavor. 2/5

Texture: melts easily in the mouth into a creamy, smooth paste. The texture is very buttery -- this may be attributable to the malitol (usually used in liquid form) instead of more crystalline sugar. I suspect this chocolate would melt easily and evenly. 4/5

Final assessment: The gloss, smooth texture, and snap indicate a well tempered chocolate, but the flavor is too sweet and nutty. In this case, the chocolate does not live up to the packaging. However, for people looking for a sugar free chocolate, this is probably as good as you can find. 14/25