Thursday, January 16, 2014

End of 2013 and Begining of 2014

New year: what does it means for you? For me it means that the prices are going up. Less than a month ago [around December 20-23], I went to the local Dunkin Donuts to get a 6-pack of donuts and the price was $4.99 for 6. Went couple of days ago at the same location and the price is now $5.49. I bet thats not the only place where prices went up.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Olive Garden's Neverending Pasta Bowl 2013

Today is the last day of the Endless Pasta Bowl special at the Olive Garden chain of restaurants, so on Friday I went to the Olive Garden on The Avenue of the Americas to try to get this special deal. I never been to Olive Garden ever before, but I know them from their ads: "While You're Here, You're Family" and all that, and I heard about their Endless Pasta Bowl specials from their circular coupon sheets. What is Endless Pasta Bowl? - Its pretty much all the pasta you can eat at a fixed price of $9.99, plus all the breadsticks you can it and all the soup or salad that you can eat - all for $9.99!

So on Friday I go there and the place is pretty much half empty: I get in and tell that I want a seat and get seated right away, and they give me 2 menus: one of them is of their featured [but not sale/promo] items, with nice-looking photo shots and the second menu is their standard text-only menu of their regular items and wine. So I sit there for around 3-4 minutes and then the server named Tyler B shows up, introduces himself and asks if I made my mind about what I want to order. I ask him if the Endless Pasta Bowl special is still available, to which he replies that he is sorry and that the Endless Pasta Bowl special has end today [Friday] and if there is anything else that he can get me. At this point I give him the benefit of the doubt since I did not know the end date of the promo, but I did checked the Olive Garden's website for this location earlier that morning and there was the Endless Pasta Bowl advertising still going on. So I quickly look at the featured items menu and look for a cheap dish that won't offend my tastes [I know that they have a bunch of cheeses in their dishes that I don't like], pick the Grilled Chicken Flatbread and Blackberry Blood Orange Tea for a drink. 3-4 minutes later the drink was served, and 3-4 minutes more and Grilled Chicken Flatbread was delivered to my table.

Blackberry Blood Orange Tea - "The fresh and fruity flavors of blackberry and blood orange mixed with iced tea" - cost me $3.79 and it was a pretty good beverage. It tastes like mix of tea and a berry punch, which I love and could see myself drinking this stuff back home. The only thing that I did not liked is that the glass had a lot of ice in it, and I don't like the idea of paying the premium for plain ice.

Grilled Chicken Flatbread - "Chicken, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and basil with Alfredo and garlic spread" - was priced at $10.79 and essentially it is a small thin crust pizza less the pizza sauce. It was pleasantly tasty, like a premium frozen pizza but for me it was just simply too little of a food, I presume that it was around 7 ounces or slightly less. I finished it in a couple of minutes and asked for a check.

Subtotal same out to $14.58, plus the sales tax of $1.29, with the suggested 18% gratuity of $2.62 to the total of $18.49, to which I paid $19.00 and took the receipt with me. When I got home, I began googling for the end date of the Endless Pasta Bowl and found out that the last day is September 29. I found the circular which confirmed this date and also called the Oliver Garden location that I visited, and the phone lady said that Endless Pasta Bowl does indeed ends on the 29th, which leads me to conclude that the server/waiter Tyler B lied to me about the Endless Pasta Bowl promotion being over. Given my experience in the retail industry, I find it difficult to believe that Tyler B misplaced the promotion's end date since it is the biggest promotion of the year that Oliver Garden has, which runs for August and September and the corporate office is pretty clear on communicating the details and terms of promotion to the general managers, which in turn instruct the restaurant's staff. At the end of the day I sent a complaint about this matter to Olive Garden company.

On the next day [Saturday] I decided to stop back at this Olive Garden #1567 on 696 Avenue of the Americas and see if I can get the Endless Pasta Bowl promo, since I had some business to do in the city. I got there at around 3:30PM and the place was packed. The woman on the reception desk told me that there is a 30 minutes of waiting time, to which I agreed and left to do the business that I had to do. When I returned back, the receptionist told me that she called my name and was not there, to which I acknowledged and she said to give her couple of minutes. I sat in the waiting area for about 5 minutes until they called "Alex", so I approached the reception desk and told that its me. Another guy and his female friend were also near the desk, and the receptionist told me that its that guy who is Alex, but that that is okay and that I should follow him, his friend and their host, which I did. I followed them to the back area, which was half empty compared to the fully packed front of the restaurant. I was seated behind a family of middle aged pop, mom and at least 1 of their toddler kids' [did not really paid attention to them]. The host told me that someone will be right back with me, so I sat there for 1-2 minutes and took a look at the menus. Then a server/waiter by the name of Robert R showed up, introduced himself and asked how could he help me. I asked him if the Endless Pasta Bowl promotion is still on, to which he replied yes, took out the Endless Pasta Bowl special laminated menu from his apron and asked if I would like to take a look at it, to which I said yes. The menu pretty much outlined the same terms that were listed on Olive Garden's website. I chose my combos for the Endless Pasta Bowl with the following items:

- Breadsticks
- Chicken & Gnocchi Soup
- Linguine pasta with Asiago Garlic Alfredo sauce
- Meatballs
- Strawberry Passionfruit Limonata

Robert R came back 2 or so minutes later with the Strawberry Passionfruit Limonata - "A sweet, refreshing mix of strawberry, passion fruit, lemonade and sparkling water" - that cost $3.79, which I began drinking right away. The beverage was a bit bitter due to lemon, and at first I thought that it was mixed with alcohol. The strawberry flavor made all the difference to it; a decent quality drink that was somewhat pleasant to drink, but I did like the Blackberry Blood Orange Tea from the previous visit over this one. Lots of ice was also left in the glass as with the Blackberry Blood Orange Tea.

Next came the breadsticks [included in the Endless Pasta Bowl promotion price of $9.99] and the soup. I was really interested in trying out these breadsticks since everyone seems to be hyped over them. I had high hopes for these breadsticks; kind of like or similarly to breadsticks that are sold at Au Bon Pain, since thats the go-to place for the breadsticks for me. Olive Garden's breadsticks turned out to be sticks of tasteless slightly crispy on the outside hot dog buns. No seasonings or flavor that I detected to them whatsoever. Olive Garden also sells additional dipping sauces ["freshly prepared marinara, Alfredo or five cheese" each for additional $4.29]  for these breadsticks, but I just took one bite to taste the breadstick and another bite after I dipped the breadstick into the soup. Overall, 2 bites and I was done with the breadsticks - they are plain, tasteless and there is nothing special about them. A measly brushing with garlic butter or seasoned butter would make these breadsticks taste much better than they actually are.

Chicken & Gnocchi soup - "A creamy soup made with roasted chicken, traditional Italian dumplings and spinach" - [included in the Endless Pasta Bowl promotion price of $9.99, but priced at $7.29 at a regular price, without sale/promotion ] was pretty good. A creamy soup with tender chicken pieces and chewy bite-sized gnocchies was very tasty, so I had to ask for another plate of this soup. The quality was like a good canned Progresso soup that was worth even its regular price. The only part that I did not liked that much about the soup is that the handle of the spoon was a bit short, and it felt like I was holding a slightly prolonged teaspoon. I definitely recommend this soup.

Pasta Bowl combo: Linguine with Asiago Garlic Alfredo sauce was included in the Endless Pasta Bowl promotion price of $9.99 [plus $2.99 for two meatballs]. The pasta combo [you have to select from around 6 or so types of pastas and another 6 or so sauces to go with it] came out pretty bland in terms of taste, so I had to salt and pepper it a bit to give it some more flavor to enjoy it. I think that I can make better pasta meal at home with the help of Pasta Sides pouches or the frozen Michelina's [Let Mama Feed You] trays than this Olive Garden pasta. The only good part about this pasta was the cheesy Alfredo sauce, which was not enough in my opinion. In the end, I did not finish all the pasta that was on the plate and has around 20% of it leftover, to which the sever/waiter Robert R suggested that he can pack it for me to go, the offer to which I declined.

The meatballs themselves were pretty average, with weak taste to them, and were similar in taste to the Fast Fixin' brand of Italian style meatballs, just larger in size. I expected for $2.99 to be more than 2 meatballs, but they were large in size and at the end of the meal I was pretty stuffed and did not want any extra meatballs. I am also sure that these meatballs had soy filler in them, since they tasted and looked like the soy-filled meatballs. 

I asked for a check and Robert R brought the check valet along with 2 pieces of complimentary chocolate, which I did not eat since I was pretty full. The subtotal came out to $16.77, plus the sales tax of $1.49, with the suggested 18% gratuity of $3.02 to the total of $21.28, to which I paid $22.00. The server/waiter Robert R was straightforward with me, did not take a lot of time to serve the food and even asked me couple of times if I would like any extra grated cheese [which I declined since I am not a cheese fan, other than the melted mozzarella, provolone, American, swiss or nacho cheese sauce]. The table behind me with the family had someone with a birthday, so Robert R even sang the Happy Birthday song for them.

In conclusion I would like to say that the food [other than 2 drinks, soup and cheesy flat bread] was pretty mediocre. Generally I was satisfied with my experience but I would probably not go back again for the Endless Pasta Bowl promotion anytime soon again. Breadsticks, pasta and meatballs needs more improvements; more seasonings, to be precise. If you will go this Olive Garden location #1567 on 696 Avenue of the Americas then stay away from the server/waiter Tyler B, since there is possibility that he will lie to you as he did to me. Also call in advance to check if they will honor the promotion. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cordon Bleu Oven Cravers by Koch Foods

So the Fall semester is over and I have more free time now, so I decided to start writing here again. I also started several other blogs that you can check out by clicking on my profile link, and taking a look at the other blogs. Here for this review, I have Cordon Bleu Oven Cravers by Koch Foods. I never tried this frozen product before but I knew of its existence for over a year; I first spotted it at the PathMark store near the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn, but I never bothered buying it for some reason. Last week they had it on sale at $2.99 from the regular price of $3.99 at the local Associated mart, so I decided to buy one and see how it tastes. There are 3 products within the breaded lineup that I have seen around the city: Cordon Bleu (blue ribbon), Chicken Broccoli (green ribbon) and Chicken Kiev (yellow ribbon). The manufacturer [Koch Foods] according to their website also has a product line without the breading, but I never seen it within any marts that I have been to in NYC. As per box instructions, this product is not microwave oven compatible and only works in regular stove. 400 degrees for around 30 minutes is what I went with.

Back of the box.



Individually packed cordon bleus.

Cold cordon bleus.

Baked cordon bleus.

Inside of the cordon bleus.

Inside of the cordon bleu, there is some gooey cheese, ham slices [the better/pricier kind of ham] and the whole thing is made out of chicken breast, which is coated in breading. I kinda tried to find the seams within chicken breast since I was curious about how they get the stuffing inside, but I did not find any. Cooling time is around 5 or so minutes, and it is ready to be cut and consumed. After I took the first bite out of this thing, I was pretty much hooked on it, it just tastes so good. It is very well-balanced product in terms of all ingredients coming into play with each other, the cheese in particular. The chicken meat is very tender and juicy, not dry and flavorless. The only downside to these cordon bleu Oven Cravers is the 30-minute cooking time, which sucks when you are hungry. I rate these cordon bleus at 4.7/5.0 with a value rating of 4.8/5.0 [at the sale price of $2.99 per box of 2 cordon bleus]. I definitely recommend this product and I already bought 6 more boxes of it while the sale was still on and the shelves were stocked with it. In a way when I bought the first box, I was kinda comparing this product to a box of Hot Pockets, with similar value, shape, weight and stuffing. The major difference between the Oven Cravers and Hot Pockets is that instead of a dough shell there is a chicken meat shell, so I kinda see the Oven Cravers as "better person's Hot Pockets" and the difference in taste is just on a whole different level, while the price is pretty much the same to maybe a little bit higher.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Subway December $2 Sandwiches Fail

Couple of weeks ago, Subway sandwiches began promoting their December "Customer Appreciation" Month with select 6-inch sandwiches for $2.00. The sandwiches that qualify for this offer are Meatball Marinara [meatballs and sauce] and Cold Cut Combo [cold cuts]. I wanted to get this deal for some time now, but only recently I have been freed-up from the stuff that I was occupied with [mostly end-of-semester college stuff and eBay selling], and I also started a couple of new blogs: and also working on another food blog that I yet have to release. Yesterday in the evening I found some time to get out and grab one of these $2 subs, the Meatball Marinara to be exact, becau I like meatballs. Last week I also emailed Subway customer service with inquiry about which locations participate in this $2 December promo, but to my disappointment I received back an email from them with a "scripted" answer that suggested that I go and seek the $2 location myself, since they said " All SUBWAY® locations are individually owned and operated".

On YouTube, their ads are very frequent and I see at least 4 of them every day.

So yesterday I went to the nearby Subway location for the $2.00 Meatball Marinara sandwich, only to find out that the store has closed way before the scheduled closing time.

Their business hours sign indicate that the shop closes at 9:00PM.

And their business information indicate that they close at 10:00PM.

There were at least 30 more minutes to go before their posted business hours sign closing time. There was nothing that I could do because the door was locked and the Chinese cunt that was running around in the kitchen/counter area just waived to me to go away, so went away.

Then I went to another Subway location on 86th Street, which was a block away from the Burger King. At this place, when I ordered the $2 Meatball Marinara sandwich, I was told "no more meatball" by the sandwich artist cunt behind the counter. Then another Chinese guy with glasses behind the counter came by and said that there is nothing that he can do and that I should stop by tomorrow [which is today]. My advice is to never shop at Chinese-run places because these people just do not get the concept of customer service.

Dorco Holidays 2012 Promo Code

I just received this emailed from Dorco yesterday, and its about their new promo code that they call "Biggest Sale of the Year". Basically it is $40.00 off the order of $80.00 and above. To use the code, just add bunch of their stuff of your choice to cart on their webstore and on the checkout enter the "Eighty40" less the quotes.

By using this promo code, I ordered 10x packs of their 6-blade cartridges with trimmer blades, so that is like $0.25 or so per cartridge, which is almost dirt-cheap. So if you need new razors then don't hold back and give the Pace 6 razor system a try. I actually just shaved 30 minutes ago and it feels good, because I haven't shaved for over 2 weeks. Remember, this code ends tomorrow!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

CVS Photo Surcharge Rip-Off

I just wanted to order 5x 4x6 photo prints and decided to try out the CVS photo service. Usually I use Walgreens, but I wanted to see how CVS would do the job, so I created an account on their website and began uploading photos. Then when the time came to checkout, I was hit with the extra $1.49 "surcharge".

So instead of placing the order at CVS, I went to Walgreens website and ordered five photo prints there; no extra surcharge or any other rip-off fees. So if you plan to order photo prints, then know in advance that CVS will try to rip you off for at least $1.49. Be smart and tell CVS to go fuck themselves.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Russian Pirozhki - With Meat and Kapusta (Cabbage)

Pirozhki are the Russian pastries that often can be found inside the Russian baza stores, especially on Brighton Beach Avenue here in NYC. Its a classic Russian "fast food" snack that was popular for many Soviet years, and even these days pirozhki are very popular among the Russian consumers. Generally there are 3 types of pirozhki: deep-fried or as I like to call them Sovietskiyi (Soviet) or Stolovyyi (cafeteria or lunchroom style), triangular-shaped fillo dough ones or as Russians call them Sloyoniyi (layered) and the 3rd type is "fried" or as I like to call them homestyle. Pirozhki are made with savory and with sweet fillings. Some popular savory filling are meat [chicken, beef and pork], cabbage, pea paste, mashed potatoes and mushrooms eggs & onions. Sweet fillings generally include preserves and jams, which popular flavors include apples, cherry, apricots and sometimes [rarely] strawberries. Sweet filling pirozhki also maybe topped with some powdered sugar, but only of handful of Russian stores in NYC sell them this way. Russian stores that make sweet filling pirozhki most likely use commercial type of fillings that come in 5-gallon pails that most of the bakeries use, and could include jelly fillings. The pirozhki that I have here on hand are of the cafeteria style. I call them cafeteria or Soviet style because this type of pirozhki were widely available in all kinds of cafeterias during the Soviet and early post-Soviet times. I remember this type of pirozhki from kindergarden and from the school's cafeteria in Kiev. They were also available in many cafeterias and at some gastronoms (marts) in Kiev. On were also available in a couple locations on the Kreschiatik street, where Russian grannies would sell them from the wooden boxes. These Soviet style pirozhki are best in my opinion because they are deep-fried and hence soaked in oil, which make them not as dry as the fillo dough ones and the homestyle/fried [on the pan] ones. Soviet style pirozhki taste best pretty much as soon as they are done, given that they cool-off for some minutes, but they also hold the taste properties for hours, can be kept refrigerated for a day or two, and can be easily and quickly reheated inside a microwave or a gas oven, while retaining their awesome taste properties. Fillo dough type of pirozhki are drier and crumsier type of pirozhki, but most of the people prefer them with sweet filling instead of savory ones. After a day or two, the fillo dough hardens-up and does not taste very well. Fillo dough pirozhki are also disbalanced towards the corners due to the filling that is concentrated inside the center of the pirozhok. The 3rd, homemade style of pirozhki are pretty much made on the frying pan, which is fried on top and bottom in a thin layer of oil. This type of pirozhok turns bad [flat and dry] after 3-4 hours of its making. Homemade pirozhki are frequently made small and are sold per pound, but sometimes they are also made in about the same size as the deep-fried ones. I call these homemade because this is how most Russian people make pirozhki at home: on a frying pan. One pirozhok can be bought on Brighton Beach Avenue in several street and store locations for $1.25, but some store may price it for $1.50. When I went to the Kingsborough Community College, I used to eat a lot of the Soviet style pirozhki on Brighton Beach Avenue, because the transfer bus stop was there on the way home, so it made sense for me to grab a couple and glass bottle of soda as an affordable snack [compared to overpriced college cafeteria foods], and during this time, the pirozhki were priced at $0.75-$1.00. I also call all 3 types of pirozhki as "Russian Hot Pockets".

First pirozhok.

Inside of it there's kapusta (cabbage) stuffing. The cabbage is kinda stewed with pieces of carrots and there is also some ground pepper that can be see in the mix.

Second pirozhok.

It has meat stuffing inside. Its ground chicken meat mixed with onions and some spices [probably ground pepper and salt].

By the way, the best drink with a meat pirozhok is cold Coca-Cola in my opinion.