Friday, August 21, 2009

A Writer's Line, Part 2

Well, out of 44 submissions to "The Impulsive Buy", my first review earned a spot in the top 11 finalist positions to be the new reviewer for the site. So, here's my follow-up review. I sent it on August 4 and still haven't heard back (sorry for the delay in posting - but you know how it is...). Enjoy!

REVIEW: California Pizza Kitchen Flatbread Melts – Five Cheese and Spinach

It seems one of the hot new trends in the food industry is to find as many different ways to stuff as many different kinds of bread as possible with meat, cheese and veggies. From Quiznos introducing a limitless variety of starchy options to house your filling of choice (including the recently introduced torpedo and bullet sandwiches) to Lean Cuisine and frozen fare introducing paninis and flatbread sandwiches, there’s something out there to fulfill any sammich-related desire. And now, venerable restaurant chain/frozen food upstart California Pizza Kitchen has entered the fray, with a line of Flatbread Melts. The wannabe vegetarian in me (which I’ll never again be thanks to spicy chicken wings and Cuban sandwiches) immediately took notice of the Five Cheese and Spinach variety and added it to my cart.

As I live in the ‘burbs, with the closest California Pizza Kitchen restaurant over an hour’s drive away, I was slightly excited about having the CPK restaurant experience in my own home. Sadly, it was only the California Pizza Kitchen experience that you find at your local airport CPK location to be found with this sammich. Instead of fresh from the oven flavor, it was (obviously) microwaved and sort of bland.

This melt was easy enough to cook, but the directions on the box were slightly intimidating. After laying the unfolded melt on the special cooking tray, I read the directions on the box – which screamed at me in bold capital letters “CAREFULLY FOLD FLATBREAD MELT ALONG DIAGONAL WHITE LINE ON SILVER TRAY.” I felt a lot of pressure to get this right, and thankfully I managed to get it to look like the image on the box – only with a noticeable lack of filling. I do like that it’s cooked flat and folded afterwards. It alleviates the issue that one encounters with Hot Pockets, where the center is “boiling lava hot” (as Jim Gaffigan so eloquently put it) and reduces the inside of your mouth to shreds and singes the taste buds, rendering anything else you consume flavorless for a few days. Thankfully, I retained full use of my taste buds after consuming this hot ‘n’ toasty sandwich.

In trying to find a relatable way to describe the experience of eating this sandwich, I came up with this clever, topical analogy. I just saw the movie “Funny People” and this sandwich left me with the same feeling – great ingredients, just not put together well – enough for something to satisfy you for a short amount of time, but nothing to rave about to your friends. The bread was like the newly trimmed down Seth Rogen – firm and crispy on the outside and yet still slightly doughy on the inside (yeah, he’s lost weight, but he’ll always be the pudgy boy from “Knocked Up” to me). The toasted, crisp flatbread was the high point of the melt. The chopped red onions had the bite and flavor one would think would be associated with a saucy Aussie like Eric Bana (rowwwrrr!) The warm cheese sauce left me with a warm, comforting feeling that I would associate with a hug from Jonah Hill. Despite being touted on the box, it didn’t seem (or taste) like there was much spinach at all in the melt (I’m looking at you, Jason Schwartzman). The overall lack of substance and flavor in the melt was much like the film career of Adam Sandler. It filled me up, but the amount of sodium and calories – both bad for you – left me feeling slightly guilty that I ate the whole thing. I think that CPK may be jumping the shark (like I think Judd Apatow may have) by extending the CPK brand into territory better served by the big boys. Stick to what works…you too, Apatow!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 melt – 390 calories, 17 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 730 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 15 grams of protein, 20% Vitamin A, 25% calcium and 6% iron.)

Item: California Pizza Kitchen Flatbread Melts – Five Cheese and Spinach
Price: $3.49
Size: 6 ounces
Purchased at: Publix
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: crispy bread, tasty onion flavor, Eric Bana, hugging Jonah Hill, cooking tray cooks sandwich evenly, Jim Gaffigan, minimal inner mouth blistering
Cons: Judd Apatow jumping the shark, not enough filling, killing your taste buds, not satisfying, loads of sodium, lack of spinach, bland flavor, the box yelled at me

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Neo-Maxi, Zoom Dweebie Remembers...

This is all over the Internets today, but I just had to put it up, because it almost made me cry. A little piece of my childhood is gone. John Hughes is dead. I was 15 (going on 16) when "Sixteen Candles" came out, and it's one of my favorite flicks of all time. Being an outsider in high school, I came to identify with the characters in his movies (Anthony Michael Hall in particular) and hoped to someday marry my own Jake Ryan and live happily ever after. In a way, I did. Thanks, John...