Monday, April 21, 2014

Munchies by Mail Review: Graze Box #1 and #2

So I'm back after a vacation / new-blogger-slacking-fail hiatus, with a couple of reviews of the second subscription service I've chosen to try: Graze Box. (Well, technically, it's "graze box," but I can't stand that whole "lower-case = oh-so-hipster" affectation.) 

(Corner broken because I apparently can't operate boxes.)

Graze offers healthy snacks in a variety of combinations, some more unique and interesting than others; each $6 Graze Box contains four individual snack packs, which I am currently having delivered every two weeks (you can also choose to have them delivered weekly or monthly). One thing I really like about this service is that you can peruse the available snack options and rate them before even receiving your first delivery. The rating options include "Love," "Like," "Try," and "Trash," and I am a BIG fan of the "Trash" option because I can ensure that I don't receive anything I know I don't like. No BBQ or rosemary-flavored things for me, thankyouverymuch! And then after I try the snacks I do receive, I can go back and rate them accordingly.

I received my first Graze Box a couple of weeks ago, just prior to heading off on my Florida vacation (more to come on that later, once my bitterness subsides), and I realized that the individually-sealed snack packs were the perfect size to tuck into my carry-on for the flight. Huzzah! (Side note: another nice feature of Graze Box is that you can easily put your subscription "on hold" if you're going to be traveling, and set a date for deliveries to resume.)

Graze Box the First
I have recently realized that I'm a total sucker for good-lookin' packaging, and Graze Box's presentation is very appealing indeed. 

Snacks and snacks and snacks and snacks!

The contents:
  • "Chocolate Orange Flapjack." This is a soft granola-bar sort of thing, so the "flapjack" name threw me off at first, because to me, flapjack = pancake, no? A quick consultation with the mighty Wikipedia, however, taught me that rolled-oat bars are indeed called flapjacks by our chums Across the Pond. (And if "GI Joe" taught me anything, it's that knowing is half the battle, dear reader.) Anyway, I rather liked this treat; I'm not a fan of hard, dry granola bars, so I appreciated the soft texture (a little crumbly and potentially messy, though). Chocolate and orange complement each other beautifully, although I thought the orange flavor could have been a little more pronounced. I rated this one a "Like," which means that I'll receive it occasionally in the future, and I look forward to trying more flapjack variations.
  • "Herby Bread Basket." This mix includes little basil-flavored breadsticks, garlic crostini, and oregano-flavored rice crackers. I'm torn on this one... the crostini were DELISH, satisfyingly crunchy and perfectly seasoned, and the breadsticks were okay, but I could absolutely do without the overly dry and relatively flavorless rice crackers. I would be all over a snack pack of just the crostini, perhaps with some manner of Italian dipping sauce on the side... are you listening, Graze? I rated this one a "Like" as well.
  • "Cherries & Berries." The "berries" include lingon- and cran- in dried form, as well as jumbo raisins. While I enjoy dried fruit in almost every incarnation, I found this snack underwhelming just because it's pretty pedestrian. I can buy a sack of dried berries at the gas station; I want more interesting snacks from my subscription. I initially rated this a "Like," because it was tasty enough, but revised my choice to "Trash" just to make more room for other options.
  • "Cracking Black Pepper Cashews." The name is a tad misleading, as this is actually a mix including plain unsalted cashews and redskin peanuts in addition to the titular nuts. As with the dried fruit, I was unimpressed with this because there wasn't much to distinguish it from your typical jar o' nuts. I only got a slight hint of the black pepper, and I missed the saltiness I generally prefer in nut mixes. (Insert "salty nuts" joke of choice here.) I rated this one a "Trash" as well, although there was absolutely nothing wrong with it as far as nuts go.
Overall, Box #1 was a relatively successful introduction to the Graze service. Of my four snacks, two were perfectly serviceable if average, and two were good enough to make me actively want to receive them again... and as I continue to rate my snacks, I should be able to winnow down my preferences so that future boxes are more uniformly successful.

My second Graze Box arrived exactly as requested when I put my deliveries on hold for vacation. Great first impression of Graze's customer care!

Graze Box the Second
Hey, wait a minute...
You may notice a little something missing in these photographs. I would like to pretend that this is because I really wanted to show you the insert card featuring nutritional information about each snack, as well as the adorable grass pattern in the bottom of the box... but honestly, I just had a serious case of the didn't-eat-breakfast munchies, and therefore snarfed down one of my snacks before remembering to document the box in its entirety. My bad, y'all.

Box contents:
  • "Summer Berry Flapjack." (Well, let's pretend it's in the picture, anyway.) This is another rolled-oat treat like the one I received in my first box. This one contained cranberries (which I honestly don't view so much as "summer" berries, but that's just a silly nit to pick) and was delicious, if again a bit too crumbly. It earned a "Like," because as with the first flapjack offering, I'd like to receive this one occasionally. (I haven't availed myself of the "Love" option on these yet, only because it indicates that I want to receive that item frequently, and there are just so many other offerings yet to be tried. I will probably go back and revise some of these flapjacks to "Love" eventually.)
  • "Hot Cross Yum." Described as a "classic reinvented," this contains orange-flavored raisins, "sponge pieces," and... wait, sponge pieces? The hell? Oh, and also cinnamon-honey almonds. Verdict: the "YUM" in the name is not just for cuteness. The almonds are delightful, very reminiscent of those spiced nuts you buy in a paper cone at fairs and perhaps the mall during the holidays... they are only missing the amazing smell that comes from being served fresh and warm. I really liked the raisins as well; adding the orange flavor elevated them from "filler" status and provided a nice contrast to the cinnamon. The "sponge pieces" turned out to be, in essence, miniature and less-flavorful Nilla wafers... filler-esque, but on second thought, a third highly-flavored component might have been too much. I don't know what an actual hot cross bun is supposed to taste like, but this re-interpretation earned my first "Love" rating.
  • "Fruity Mango Chutney with Black Pepper Dippers." As you might guess, this snack involves fruity mango chutney and black pepper dippers. Go figure. Also, blecccchhh. This is the first legitimate failure for me so far. The dippers are just dry, bland little sticks... between this and the black pepper cashews from my first box, I have to conclude that Graze and I have very differing views of what constitutes "black pepper." The chutney is completely overpowered by the flavors of vinegar and cumin (admittedly, not my favorite spice), with nary a hint of mango flavor. One bite, straight into the trash, and a "Trash" rating so fast it would make your head spin. Oh, well... can't win 'em all. C'est la vie. Different strokes for different folks. [Insert cliche of choice here.]
  • "Jalapeno Fiesta." Apparently the guests at a pepper party include jalapeno peanuts, salsa almonds, and roasted seeds that appear to be sunflower and some other mystery seed? In any case, this gets a "meh" and a "Trash." As with the dried fruit, if I can buy something comparable at a gas station, it doesn't need to be in my subscription box.
Overall impression of my second box: as with the first box, I kept two items and trashed two. I have to say, I am a little skeptical of the overall value of the boxes, because the snacks are honestly kind of small for the price tag...

Snack pack in human hand, for scale purposes.
...but I appreciate the portion-controlled servings, the "grab-and-go" convenience (because sometimes I am too lazy to pack a real work lunch), and the variety of interesting combinations, so I'm going to give Graze a five-box trial period to convince me that it's worth it. (Side note: I definitely got a little jealous side-eye from my airplane seatmates as I busted out my snazzy treats while they were forced to settle for their Delta pretzels.)

So, if you're actually a real live person who is reading my nonsense for some mysterious reason, and these little snicky-snack boxes are piquing your curiosity, please feel free to click here to use my "Friend Code" to sign up. Your first and fifth boxes will be free, and I will get to either take a dollar off one of my boxes or donate a dollar to the Graze School of Farming. Everybody wins!

In conclusion, here is my new pet chicken.

His name is Bob. Bob the Chicken.
 After somehow deciding, while on vacation, that I wanted a pet chicken, I stumbled across this handsome fellow at the grocery store. He was in the Easter aisle, because what better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus than by purchasing a plastic wind-up chicken that craps gumball "eggs," amirite?

Happy Easter, everyone!

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