As a lifelong reader of Consumer Reports with a certifiably hipster palate for criticism, critique, and complaint, I’ve done my share of bitching and moaning. My longstanding dream of making money off of my scientifically correct tastes was only derailed when Yelp and Amazon went and got the plebeians involved and I sensed the hopelessness of the task. So go ahead– put on that new Train album and treat yourself to some Subway.

“12” by Other Lives, a band for people with taste.

Instead of returning to conventional oven reviews and New Yorker write-ups of sitcoms popular in the Midwest, I’ve decided to take on a project of my own. The conceit is simple: walk to the Oakland Chinatown grocer about four blocks from work, pick up a random piece of food, and broadcast my holy opinion to my humble readers. Make no mistake about it: I’m out to find and champion the new quinoa.

The problem is that this particular grocery store is not big on health in any sense of the word. For one thing, they self-serve their meat in giant cube containers. Shoppers regularly pick up a rack of ribs or chicken breast, inspect it, then put it back, like I might with say, a peach. Secondly, everything that isn’t produce or meat has been preserved in a brine of salt, sugar, and bean curd. And let’s not forget a coat of MSG, the only substance that can force you to continue eating something you absolutely despise.

Ice Sour Plum is the perfect example of this kind of approach to food invention. The appropriately-named S & M Enterprise manufacture claims to be inspired by “Health, Nature, Innovation.” But there’s more to it than that:

Presentation (4/5) – The spherical container contains a little bonnet that makes the candy inside look downright adorable. Chinglish is kept to a minimum, probably because it is rarely even attempted.

Ingredients (2/5)– It’s got plum in it, so you can check that off your food pyramid. There’s also 455mg of sodium in every on of these candies–if you eat 5 of them, you’ve reached that days salt quota, unless your American, in which case you’ve got some catching up to do.

Plum Off

There’s only 8g of sugar, but that’s because it’s also got the sugar substitute aspartame. When my roommate and esteemed food critic Kevin found this out, he not only bumped his rating of the product down a full point (from 3.5 to 2.5), but began vigorously rinsing out his mouth in our kitchen sink.

Taste (2/5)– Tasters seemed to agree that the first bite was usually the best. After that, our panel noted a funny, tangy aftertaste of Warhead with a tinge of beef jerky. The Ice Sour Plum had a chewy, candied texture and a pit in the middle to remind you that this was once a perfectly good fruit that probably just fell in the wrong meat bin and was exiled to the outer corners of Chinese Candyland.

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