Jun 282019
 

The first thing to know about these EXO Protein whole roasted crickets is that they taste much better than the protein bars. (But that’s a low, uh, bar.)

I got the sampler pack to my door for $8, with 1.5 oz. each of sea salt & vinegar, sriracha, and Texas BBQ.

I said in the earlier review that I had no particular hang-up about eating insects, and I don’t. But there’s still a non-negligible creepy factor that I can’t pretend isn’t there. I mean, it’s a bag of dried-out bugs.

Shake ’em out in your hand, and it looks like you’re about to eat the spoils of a big outdoor light fixture’s annual cleaning, or maybe a badly neglected screened window.

How are they?

Honestly, not bad. The flavor names generate expectations that turn out to be reasonable. The roasted cricket gustatory vibe itself is kind of nutty. The crunch is a satisfying, snacky one. There’s a slight but noticeable smell, which I’d call innocuous (but it put Aaron off trying them, because he’s familiar with the smell from keeping crickets for his pet gecko). I was the only one in the house who would try these. That’s OK. I’ll eat them all as part of lunches and what-not, which definitely isn’t going to happen with the protein bars.

Apart from the creepy factor/cultural taboos, the big problem with eating crickets right now is cost. This sampler pack was $8 for 4.5 oz. of food, or maybe four times what a comparable snack with a more conventional composition would cost. EXO Protein is candid about this on the site and in correspondence, acknowledging that this must get cheaper to have any chance, and actively working toward it.

So, even if you try them and love them, they’re a little dear to make a sustained habit of. The economic ball is in motion, though!

 Posted by at 7:21 pm
Jun 272019
 
  • Nathan just sat for his senior portraits. He only learned to walk a couple of years ago, so I don’t understand how this is possible.
  • Locals, are you ready to live in black bear country? Because you do.
  • I wish more people were amenable to the early breakfast meeting. It’s a scheduling secret weapon that packs a lot of punch. It’s almost like you’re getting away with something.
  • I purchased glasses with progressive lenses at my eye exam this week. I think one of the last truly funny things Bill Cosby did was his stand-up material on getting trifocals. How sad and infuriating that I can’t even really enjoy that anymore.
  • Alexander Rossi drove off with Road America on Sunday, and there are rumblings now that Penske may go back to four full-time entries in 2020 if it means picking him up. He’s a one-man silly season, as Robin Miller put it!
  • Dave Bartholomew, who wrote “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blue Monday,” and several other iconic rock ‘n’ roll songs, died this week. He was 100. Thank you, sir. RIP.
  • I’m delighted to be participating in and publicizing Huntsville Restaurant Week again this year. Watch for the features here on BoWilliams.com.
 Posted by at 9:43 am
Jun 262019
 

We’re digging Justified, and we’ve got most of it still to go, so we’re happy.

But even if it takes an extremely unlikely turn toward the awful, it still introduced me to this fellow Dave Alvin. Wow, do I ever love this song!

Outlaw country? Is that right? I could do with some more in this vein for sure.

 Posted by at 6:44 pm
Jun 242019
 

Today I continue my Ten-Buck Huntsville Yums post series with an old favorite that I have gone literally months on end eating for lunch every Tuesday: the Texas chili at Anaheim Chili.

Now in case you don’t know, proper Texas chili isn’t necessarily a soupy affair. You can still eat it with a spoon if you want, but it’s forkable too. This is “spicy pot roast,” as my friend and frequent Anaheim Chili companion Tommy calls it. Scott (proprietor and chef) has never told me exactly what’s in it, but I suspect it’s 98%+ chuck, white onions, and serrano peppers by weight.

And there is a kick. It won’t move a chilehead’s needle that much, but if you think Tabasco or Texas Pete is too hot, be advised that this will light you up. (If you do eat hot things occasionally, this is worth an “occasionally.”)

The longstanding offering is the Texas chili platter, with green rice and pinto beans.

Anaheim Chili’s Texas chili platter. (Click for a closer look.)

A couple of summers ago the Texas chili salad debuted, and it’s now available year-round too. The chili’s accompaniment includes greens, fried jalapenos, onions, roasted corn salsa, shredded cheddar, and ranch dressing.

Anaheim Chili’s Texas chili salad. (Click to explore more closely.)

They’re both hearty and marvelously flavorful meals, and I’m a threat to get either. Just depends on my mood. I do supplement with the house hot sauce (AC sauce) as well (shown at about 11:30 on the platter, and already applied on the salad).

Usually Texas chili is available only on Tuesday, and even if Jones Valley isn’t your neighborhood, it’s worth the trip. Sometimes it’s available other days. Typically the Facebook page will announce such.

It’s very difficult to make a mistake on the Anaheim Chili menu, but the Texas chili remains the top of the top. If you haven’t had it, make haste. If it’s been too long for you, go renew your affection!

Anaheim Chili
2030 Cecil Ashburn Dr. SE (256-489-5531), open 11-9

 Posted by at 9:42 am
Jun 212019
 

So these cricket protein bars started showing up in my Facebook feed. Producer EXO Protein presents cricket-based nutrition as an idea whose time has come, and from a resources-in-food-out perspective, it does make a lot of sense.

The cricket used is the house cricket—Acheta domesticus. They’re cleaned, flash-frozen, roasted, and then pulverized into a powder called cricket flour.

Now I don’t have any particular hangup about eating insects. I really don’t see it as all that different from eating shrimp or lobster. However, I know what those taste like, and I know the ways in which they are commonly prepared. I have no comparable experience with crickets.

Hmmm.

I got the four-pack sampler—that’s peanut butter and jelly, cocoa nut, blueberry vanilla, and banana bread—to my house for $9.

It seems to me that crickets are a bit down the (otherwise unremarkable) ingredient lists here—there are fruits and nuts ahead of them—but according to the FAQ, there are approximately 40 crickets in each bar.

So, OK. That’s significant.

Aaron and I tried the blueberry vanilla and banana nut flavors last night. Each bar had a crumbly and slightly sticky texture, something like a particularly caky brownie maybe. They smelled more inviting than not.

But they’re certainly not much to look at.


So how do they taste?

Bluntly, we didn’t like them. The texture is appealing enough in the mouth, but the tastes only sort of hint at what the ostensible flavors are. (I couldn’t really say that we “tasted the crickets.”) There’s an unpleasant aftertaste. It’s not an intolerably bad experience, but it’s not one you’d seek to repeat either. Neither of us had a third bite.

Now I am not an experienced protein bar consumer, so I don’t really have any baseline level of expectation for such a product. For all I know, these are delicious in context. Lea eats protein bars from time to time, so I asked her if she would try a small bite and offer her thoughts.

She got close—she held it to her lips—but then said “nope, I can’t eat this.” (No worries, dear. You got closer than I thought you would.)

So I purchased a “normal” protein bar for comparison. (It wasn’t a very close specified flavor analog of either EXO bar that I tried, but I didn’t have a large selection.) Guess what? I didn’t love it, but it was significantly tastier than the EXO bars. I ate it all. So, make of that what you will.

I’m not going to formally rate the EXO bars, because even with the late introduction of a control, I don’t have enough experience with protein bars to have an informed opinion. I could have finished an EXO bar, but I didn’t want to. That’s about the best thing I can say about them.

I do think I want to try the seasoned whole roasted crickets sometime soon. Stay tuned.

 Posted by at 11:40 am
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