Andrew Zimmern Quarterly Box (#ZIM03): July 2014

So I’ve been putting off my review of the Andrew Zimmern Quarterly box since I was already dealing with the abysmal failure of my Nina Garcia Quarterly box. Let’s just say that this quarter, my Quarterly subs are no bueno. Like seriously no bueno, like what the !$#%@#% were you thinking, no bueno.

So before I get into this ridiculous box, let me ask you what you might expect from a sub box from Andrew Zimmern? Weird Food Items? Travel doodads? Cool gadgets to create aforementioned weird food? Because that’s what comes to my mind. His first box featured products from Spain, his second highlighted Asia, so where would this box take us?

Box
Open Box

So as usual this box comes the the nicely put together Quarterly letter from the curator. Andrew Zimmern invites us to go on a road trip with him and says, “these days, I hit the road with my wife riding shotgun, our son in the back seat, belting out tunes and stopping for greasy burgers and shakes on our way to our cabin northern Minnesota.”
DSCN6893

Oh an all American road trip! Sounds great! … There are so many cool and interesting directions we can go with this, and sadly we took a wrong turn—a lot of wrong turns.

Hat
North Cap
(Estimated Retail: $17.00)
Description: “When I’m on the road, I rely on ball caps as much for style as I do for sun protection, especially on the top of my head…”
Verdict: Another @%#$%#@%@# baseball hat.
Especially on the top of your head? Where the hell else are you wearing a baseball cap? This isn’t travel! This isn’t food! I hate to break it to these Quarterly curators but their personal memories don’t always translate to us. It’s great that you wear baseball hats for style and sun protection on roadtrips but for most us (especially the ladies) roadtrips do not equal ball caps. Nor do ball caps equal a food or travel subscription. If we wanted an Andrew Zimmern’s favorite stuff box, then we’d subscribe to it. You said food and travel. FOOD AND TRAVEL. Okay, okay I’m okay. I’m just tired of baseball hats and little rubber shoes.

Sticker
Historic Park Sticker
(Estimated Retail: $2.00)
Verdict:
Like
Description: “…road trips are indeed as much about the journey as they are the destination. It’s a time for being weird souvenirs (case in point: the historic park stickers I’ve included)..”
I agree with Zimmern’s sentiments, but are Historic Park Stickers really “weird souvenirs”? I’m thinking more like a hoola dancer dashboard girl or some kind of Elvis backscratcher or a Tshirt that says “I saw the world’s largest rubber band ball and all I got was this shirt”. In the category of “weird souvenirs” this doesn’t really break the top 10. Having said that, I know I can do something fun and crafty with the sticker itself it and the idea behind its inclusion is solid so I’m giving this a “like” verdict.

Candy
Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls and Necco Wafers
(Estimated Retail: 99¢ each Nut Roll; 18¢ each roll)
Description: Along with the souvenirs, Zimmern says that road trips should have “guilt free snack” so he included his favorite candies.
Verdict: Sigh
Really? Of all the candies to ever candy, your favorite one is a Necco Wafer? They are like colored pieces of chalk. (And for the record I found an extra nut roll in the packaging later, so there were in fact 2 nut rolls in the box, despite only one in the photograph). Again, this isn’t an “Andrew Zimmern’s favorites” box – its’ supposed to be a travel/food sub with a roadtrip theme. How about some interesting, unusual snacks instead?

Lamb Jerky
Border Springs Farms Smoked Lamb Jerky
(Estimated Retail: $8.00)
Verdict: Okay so maybe I take that back…
Description: “Jerky is the ultimate road trip food….”
Nothing says driving cross country like dried pieces of meat. But I’ll give him a point and say that jerky makes sense for a roadtrip snack. I am not a jerky aficionado so I passed this along to my boyfriend who loves jerky, so he could give a review. “This jerky tastes like poop. Seriously, this is the worst jerky I’ve ever eaten—make sure you write that down.” He only managed one piece so we had to toss the rest. This would have scored some points if the jerky was palatable—but sadly another loser.  I couldn’t find it on the Border Springs online shop, so I’m just estimating it at $8.00

Conversation
Hypertheticals
(Estimated Retail: $11.97)
Verdict:
Meh
Description: “Hours in the car always leads to great conversation, which is why I love Hypertheticals—Chuck Klosterman’s 50-question deck of cards that claims to lead to insane conversations….”
Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t’ really need cards to help me have an insane conversation. Any moment I want one I can just call my mother and listen to her misinterpret something she saw on Dr. Oz.  And as for people I willingly spend time with, my friends are entertaining enough on their own (sometimes too entertaining).

Barnacle
Barnacle from Ilovehandles
(Estimated Retail: $4.95)
Verdict:
Not sure
Description: “What road trip would be complete without music? I’m a music fanatic and there’s no better place to crank it than driving with the windows down on a hot summer day.” He mentions you can follow is favorite driving songs on Spotify and continues “and play it from your smart device. In fact, you can use the Barnacle form Ilovehandles to stick your phone to the dashboard…….”
I guess I don’t know why I need this barnacle thing. Why do I need my phone on the dashboard? I  plug it into my sound system and then just leave it on the seat rest. I’m sure I’ll get creative and figure out something else to stick to the barancle, but right now I’m just not feeling it.

OVERALL:
Full Box

Good idea, very poor execution.

I agree with a lot of the ideas Andrew Zimmern brought out: quirky souvenirs, guilty pleasure snacks, music and games for the car, but none of his choices really worked for me. It felt way too much like Andrew Zimmern indulging his own favorite items and not enough like Andrew Zimmern picking out things that we as subscribers would enjoy.

I paid $50 for this box and my estimated retail value (with just a guess at the jerky) came out to $44.80. In addition to the actual retail value being too low on this box, the usefulness and appeal of the items just wasn’t there. In comparison to his last boxes, this one seems to come completely out of left field. The others featured a destination and foods/items that jived with it. This one was a hodge-podge of random stuff, that I doubt most subscribers would enjoy.

Coupling this disastrous box with the fact that I started a diet that really limits the types of food I can eat, I decided to cancel this one.

I’d love to hear what you thought of this box? Did it adequately capture the Road Trip theme? Is this what you’d expect from a Food and Travel sub?

Andrew Zimmern Quarterly Box (#ZIM02): March 2014

So when I filled out a survey about my Nina Garcia Quarterly box, the folks at Quarterly gave me a $10 coupon so I decided to put it toward trying out another of their offerings. (Don’t worry I still have my Nina Garcia subscription which they can pry out of my cold, dead hands).

There are tons of curators at Quarterly – some I recognize and some I don’t, along with different price points for boxes. I decided to try to pick something totally different than anything in my current box lineup, but I still wanted a celebrity I was familiar with. I settled on the Andrew Zimmern Box that costs $50.00 per quarter. Andrew Zimmern is listed as “Television,Food, and Travel Guy”. He hosts that “weird foods” travel show where he goes around the world eating stuff like turtle penis. He states on his quarterly page, “I love food. What I love even more is food with a story.”
Oh exciting, food that will tell me stories which hopefully won’t just be stuff like (that was a lot of calories go get your ass to the gym). My guess is this box should include food items from around the world with some travel items thrown in. I love cooking and trying new cuisines. I just hope there won’t be too much dried penis or goat’s blood or scary crap. I’m actually really open to most foods and have no food allergies, but there are some things that are never going in my mouth and most of them are what Andrew Zimmern regularly eats on his TV show.  This is only the second Andrew Zimmern box and the first had a Spain/Paella theme which I would have loved so I’m hoping this one is great as well.

Enough chatter and let’s get to it!
BoxOpen Box

Letter
As usual with the Quarterly boxes we get a lovely letter explaining the choices. Andrew writes, “Replicating Asian foods at home might seem a tricky feat. Lucky for you, I’ve done the work of sourcing the best stuff so you don’t have to.” So Asian is our theme. My small refrigerator is 75% Asian condiments right now so I’m guessing I’m going to like most of what’s in here.

Tea
Verdant Tea: Master Han’s Looseleaf 2004 Shu Pu’er & Master Han’s Wild Picked Yunnan Black
(Estimated Retail: these teas are currently sold out, but prices seem to range from $6.50 to $15.75)
Description: “Master Han wild-picks his tea in the Qianjiazhai region of the Mt. Ailao national forest preserve in the primeval tea forest of Yunnan.”
Verdict: Like
There are primeval tea forests? See, that right there just made me want to drink this tea. It sounds like the real world equivalent of drinking unicorn tears from Narnia. I’ve been slowly trying to get into tea so this will be something fun to try that I would never in a million years have picked for myself.

 Book
Rain and Other South Sea Stories by W. Somerset Maugham:
(Estimated Retail: $4.46)
Description: “W. Somerset Maugham led many lives, including that of a doctor in London’s slums, a successful playwright and novelist, an agent for British Intelligence during World War I, and a world traveler. In 1917, he took the first of many voyages to the Pacific Islands and the Far East, where his keen sense of observation found inspiration for some of his finest writing.
Rain and Other South Sea Stories features one of Maugham’s most famous tales, concerning the clash between a missionary and a prostitute.”

Verdict: Hit
My reading choices tend to steer toward the trashy (to distract me from my awful commute) interspersed with notable literary works I never got around to reading so that I can remember how to actually string proper sentences together. I don’t read many short stories so I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own, but I will read it. I really love the idea of this box including books and stories about exotic locales. It makes it stand apart from other food boxes.

 Drinking Vinegar
Thai Basil Pok Pok Som
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Verdict:
On the Fence
Description: Drinking Vinegar in Thai Basil flavor
So we knew there had to be at least one weird thing in here and it looks like the Drinking vinegar is it. Apparently you can use this with soda water or in cocktails? To be honest I find the idea of drinking vinegar repulsive, but I’m thinking of trying to use this in cocktails to replace bitters (after all doesn’t booze make everything taste better?) We’ll see how my experiments fare, but until then I’m on the fence about this one.

Fish Sauce
Red Boat Fish Sauce(2.7 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $6.95)
Description: “Red Boat premium fish sauce…is made using traditional chemical-free fermentation methods, a unique two hundred year-old artisanal process using only the freshest cá cơm (black anchovy), salted minutes after leaving the sea then aged for over a year in traditional wooden barrels. Red Boat anchovies are sourced exclusively from the crystal clear waters off the Phu Quoc island archipelago. Red Boat is pure, 100% all natural first press “extra virgin” Vietnamese fish sauce. Made from only two ingredients it is free from added water, MSG, and preservatives.”
Verdict: Hit!
Despite living in a metropolitan area finding fish sauce was an annoying task. For some reason the grocery store would keep eleventy million other Asian sauces, but not fish sauce. I’d have to make a special trip just to get any old fish sauce, nevermind this fancy pants version. I love to try cooking Asian dishes so this will give me an excuse to give homemade Pad Thai another shot.

Soy Sauce
Blue Grass Soy Sauce (100 mL)
(Retail: $5.50)
Verdict: Love!
Description: “Our soy sauce is microbrewed in small batches using only whole Kentucky grown Non-GMO soybeans, soft red winter wheat, and the purest limestone filtered Kentucky spring water. We ferment and age the soy bean mash in re-purposed bourbon barrels. It’s smoky and brothy with hints of oak and a mild sweetness reminiscent of fine Kentucky bourbon.”
I use soy sauce all the time and I’ve never tried one that’s “microbrewed in small batches”. I’m going to need to find a super special recipe for this. I’m thinking some kind of steak dish. It also came with a recipe for “The Sauce” which I guess isn’t referring to “hitting the sauce” but just a generic sauce you can use on any grilled meat.

Thai Chili Peppers
Season with Spice Thai Red Chili Peppers (.25 oz/7 grams)
(Retail: $4.49)
Verdict:
Hit
Description: “A simple to use, must-have spice for cooking Asian dishes – notably Sichuan & Southeast Asian – our whole, dried Thai Red Chili Peppers give a spicy kick to stir-fries, noodles dishes, and soups.”
I have this great Chinese Takeout Cookbook that calls for dried chili peppers in a lot of the dishes so I’m sure I’ll put these to good use.

Full Box
Overall:
Hit!
Most of the ingredients included in this are familiar to me but are unique brands I wouldn’t have known to try or seek out. With the exception of the drinking vinegar (which may be awesome, or a disaster, or an awesome disaster), I know I will use all of them. It’s also fun to get a new book that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own but that I can probably learn a little something from. The cost of this box was $50.00 but with my coupon, I only paid $40. Without knowing the cost of the tea I can’t give a full estimate on this box, but I think it’s probably just about at the $50.00 price tag without including shipping costs on each of the ingredients.
I think this box is great for inspiring new recipes and I’m most likely going to keep it for at least one more quarter.

What did you think of the items? Do you cook Asian dishes frequently? Have you ever heard of drinking vinegar?

Jennifer Love Hewitt Fancy Box – October 2013

For more on Fancy  subscription boxes and a coupon code, jump down below, but let’s get to the review of my October Jennifer Love Hewitt Fancy Box.  This is one of the five celebrity curated boxes that Fancy offers.

Open Box

Somehow Jennifer Love Hewitt must have known that October is my birthday month because she sent me a party in a box.  I was a bit disappointed with her last month, but she’s more than made up for it with a booze themed box centering around her favorite drink, the Cosmopolitan.

ShakerFinal Touch Glass Cocktail Shaker (Retail $25:00 on Fancy; $21.99 on Amazon)
Verdict:
Hit!
This is a really sturdy and practical cocktail shaker.  It’s got seven different drink recipes written on the glass along with measurements in both ounce and milliliter.  I have a metal cocktail shaker, but I’ve been wanting an additional glass one so we can make more than one cocktail at a time.

Cutting BoardCore Bamboo Mixology Bar Board: (Retail: $15.00 on Fancy & Amazon)
Verdict:
  Hit!
This little bar board has a recipe for a cosmopolitan cut right in.  It’s a great size and it has a hole cut in the corner so you can hang it up.  I actually don’t own a cutting board in this size nor do I have one just for my bar.  This is a welcome addition.

ChitchatsChitChats Drink Markers: (Retail: $10.00 on Fancy; $9.02 on Amazon )
Verdict:
  Hit!
These are reusable drink markers that let you write fun messages.  While I’d probably never pick these up on my own because I don’t tend to have large parties, they’re fun and I’m sure I’ll pull a few out for my birthday.

Molecular

Molecule-R Cosmpolitan: (Retail: $29.00, this size kit not available on Amazon)
Verdict:
Love!
This kit includes 3 recipes for molecular mixology at home.  You get encapsulated cosmopolitan, cranberry foam and citrus caviar.  I have been dying to try one of these kits, but they were always way more than I wanted to spend.  I was so excited to see this and I can’t wait to try it out with some friends.

CardsSo overall, I was thrilled with this box.  I will use every single item.  This is my first Fancy box that really had a solid theme and I hope they do this more in the future.  I also liked that it had a real connection to Jennifer Love Hewitt by featuring her favorite drink.  Now if you’re not a drinker, you could be disappointed by this box.  However, each of these items can be coupled with a corresponding bottle of booze to make a great gift.  It’s particularly suited for hostess gifts.  As long as you know some people who like to booze it up from time to time, you can still get a lot of use out of this box.

Full BoxEven using the cheaper amazon price on the shaker, this box retailed for $75.99.  Normally it would cost me $46.95 (including shipping),  but Fancy gave me a $15 gift card for a previous error with a box and you lovely readers gave me some referral credits, so this month I only ended up spending $22.95.   I would have been thrilled with this box at the higher price, so I’m super excited to have gotten it for such a low cost.  (And a big thank you to those of you who gave me referral credits!  It is much appreciated!)

What did you guys think?  Would you have loved the booze filled box or been bored with the theme?

THE BACKSTORY

Fancy Box is a monthly subscription service that curates items that are popular on the Fancy website.  There are a few different subscription options.  They all cost $39 plus shipping (an additional $7.95).

#1 –Fancy box (Original)
This box features a collection of some of the most fancy’d items, curated by the fancy community. Each box includes $80.00+ of products in the categories of your choice.
The categories you can choose from include: Men’s, Women’s, Kid’s, Home, Gadgets & Media.  It also lets you customize your Tshirt size and your cell phone type.

#2 Fancy Food Box
Each Fancy Food Box includes five or more food products – anything from cookies and chocolates to teas and sauces – along with a selection of tasty recipes and pairing suggestions.

#3 Celebrity Curated Fancy Box
There are seven celebrity curated boxes to choose from.  Each box includes $80.00+ of products.  Most boxes are geared toward men or women though they do include unisex items.

They include:

 

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