mustard and miscellany

A story of love and hate

Schu’s Soda Sampler: Zevia Ginger Root Beer September 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mustard and Miscellany @ 8:48 am
Tags: , , ,

Schu’s latest soda experiment…

Every now and then the health movement thing works. Mind you, it’s brief, but it works. And then I’m harshly reminded why I have no real interest in the health movement. Because the health movement has no regard for the health of my taste buds.

There’s a fairly new designer diet soda brand in some supermarkets. It’s called Zevia, and it’s “all natural,” whatever the crap that means. Because Zevia is an “all-natural” diet soda which proclaims ZERO calories and NO sugar in, yes, all CAPS on its cans, that means it can charge about two bucks more for a six pack than regular diet sodas with aspartame. Because you see, aspartame is bad, and therefore an all-natural diet soda is good.

Well, Zevia does have 20 mg of sodium, which admittedly is way better than the 35mg from a can of Diet Pepsi that is perhaps not-so-gradually deteriorating the pathways to my heart, but it also has 7g of something called erythritol. It’s this new cutting edge sweetener fad that some propagandists hope sweeps the world, just as it’s apparently swept China.

Zevia also has a Stevia extract in addition to citric acid, natural flavors (perhaps my favorite ingredient non-descript), wintergreen oil, anise oil, lemon oil, orange oil and ginger extract. I should note at this point those are the ingredients for Zevia’s ginger root beer. The company has other trendy health-nut flavors as well.

What’s perhaps the most remarkable given the company’s push toward trying to create a healthy, natural alternative to processed diet sodas, is that Zevia’s ginger root beer (and its black cherry drink, which I’ve also tried) tastes nothing like ginger, or root beer (or black cherry, for that matter), but it certainly tastes a lot like Clorox. Or, I guess, what I imagine Clorox tastes like, since if I actually tasted Clorox I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog, although it would be really cool and after-lifey if I did.

Zevia and the great stone monster Damaijin hanging out together

So to review: if one combines erythritol with the herbal sweetener stevia (proof that herbs might be okay for your bong, if you’re into that sort of thing, but a really bad idea for your soda—and no, I have no plans to try hemp in carbonated form any time soon—even if it’s to support some struggling up-and-coming pop manufacturer from Amsterdam), the mixture tastes like bleach.

Maybe Zevia will help freshen my clothes. It certainly did nothing to refresh my taste buds.

Aspartame, I’m coming home.



Schu’s Soda Sampler: Sarsi September 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mustard and Miscellany @ 8:49 am
Tags: ,

Today Schu is back with more soda miscellany…and accompanying stellar photography

I like the Philippines. Manny Pacquiao is from the Philippines, and he seems all nice and stuff, and the country considers him a national hero, so if the Philippines can like a world-class boxer who seems nice enough, then I can like the Philippines.

Furthermore, the Philippines makes some really crazy movies, and I like really crazy movies. Like the movies with Weng Weng, the Philippino midget who starred in two spy flicks that have been cult classics for years. Manny Pacquiao is a fairly small guy. Weng Weng was certainly small in stature. The Philippines is a relatively small country. With those things in mind, it makes sense that Sarsi soft drink would be small as well: 8.46 fluid ounces with the not-so-small price tag of 1.29.

Yes, that’s a stuffed Rally Squirrel, a stuffed otter, and only part of a Godzilla collection in the background.

That 8.46 ounces made me reconsider my happy thoughts about the Philippines, because me thinks the Philippines may not be straight up when it comes to marketing. Take as exhibit A, the Sarsi bottle and its Sarsi logo. Look at all similar to a certain much more well-known cola brand?

With a llama. Why, you ask? I ask instead, why not?

And in large letters, as one can clearly see, it says SARSI SOFTDRINK. I think it has softdrink as one word, but nevertheless, the print is larger, and it’s where the eye gravitates. Not to the ingredients just below, which would have tipped things off a bit. Sarsi’s idea of softdrink marketed to look like a cola is a bit different than the westernized definition of a soft drink that is a cola. Because Sarsi ain’t a cola. Sarsi is basically root beer.

Had I bothered reading the ingredients more carefully, the inclusion of sarsaparilla flavor probably would have tipped me off that the Sarsi definition of softdrink (one word) is not quite the same as mine. Now I don’t have any problem with root beer, or I guess more technically, sarsaparilla. Indeed, it’s one of the few parts of a plant that isn’t a fruit that can pass acceptably in soda form.

Unfortunately, when it comes to good sarsaparilla, I wouldn’t put Sarsi at the front of the line. It’s rather flat and generic. On the other hand, as a sarsaparilla drink that models itself as a soft drink with cola connotations, Sarsi is pretty tough to beat. Just like Pacquiao and Weng Weng.



Schu’s Soda Sampler: Chin Chin Basil Seed Drink With Honey September 5, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mustard and Miscellany @ 11:13 pm
Tags: , ,

Schu’s back…drinking more soda…

There’s something oddly admirable about truth in advertising, even if one doesn’t necessarily expect the extent an advertiser carries out their claim. Case in point: Chin Chin Brand Basil Seed Drink with Honey, canned by the good Chin Chin folks in Taipei, Taiwan.

Godzilla not included with soda purchase

It’s an imaginative sort, aware of cutting edge hipster trends in cooking, that recognizes the potential benefit of basil in soda form. For most hipster dabblers—you know who you are, you lovers of basil in everything since that one day the hipster news feed sent out its smart phone app alert that you’re supposed to like basil, before all the rubes catch on—a carbonated beverage with a splash of honey might be a sweet sensation for the taste buds.

But this is Chin Chin from Taipei, Taiwan. Chin Chin isn’t some namby-pamby soft drink with little splashes of something. When one experiences the Chin Chin sensation, it’s like a right cross and a left uppercut delivered with precision accuracy. On the chin. And the chin. This is liquid sustenance that brings a whole heap of pain. The heap is important here. That’s what turns us to the truth in advertising part.

There are sodas on the market that might try to impress the buyer with bits or slight flakes or shavings of an advertised flavor mixed into the drink. It’s often a nice addition, and the consumer almost feels as if he or she is receiving a special prize. It’s a moment of magical anticipation in a bottle.

But this is Chin Chin, damn it, and Chin Chin ain’t about some nancy girl food shavings. Consider the name of the featured drink. Basil seed. This is important, but we’ll get to just how important later. Upon popping the can and taking in that first aroma, it’s clear pretty early on this is going to be a really sweet drink. Many Asian sodas are, and we’ll cover that trend in later miscellany posts.

In the early stages, the sweet flavors are the most noticeable, but that hint of basil seems to want to battle for taste bud dominance, so there’s some back and forth going on. The drink also tends to have this unique, transcendent element to it, sort of like a dmz (that’s a 48th parallel, not a rapper reference) for flavor control where the basil and honey can meet to hammer out their differences.

I later learned the transcendent element is banana flavor, included right there, in a truth in advertising way, on the list of ingredients. Had I bothered to read the list of ingredients, there’s a pretty decent chance this soda never would have been reviewed. Because before the banana flavor, even before the mention of honey, there was an important note I might have considered with greater urgency.

That ingredient would be basil seed. In case you’re wondering, basil seed is a small, roundish seed covered in a gelatinous substance. I know this because Chin Chin Basil Seed Soda with honey consists of 41 percent basil seeds. 41 percent. That’s no shaving.

Just how much is 41 percent of an 11 ounce drink? Well, beyond the obvious calculations, it’s quite a bit, especially when the first third of the drink had very little basil seed surprise. That was for the last seven or so ounces, when the drink became more a pathway for globby seed traffic in basil-land rush hour. About halfway through, there really was no drink anymore. There was just enough liquid to allow for the constant flow of gelatinous basil seeds. The honey had pretty much left the confines. Banana flavored dmz had given up the fight. This was victory for basil seeds in a can.

Someday I’ll have to use a real camera and not my iPod to take pictures…but you get an idea of the basil-seediness

I hope you can see how the last swigs of the Chin Chin concoction look once poured into a generic water bottle. Remarkably similar to the picture on the can. I just wasn’t accustomed to seeing the precise representation of the contents on the can. Usually one doesn’t get that kind of detail in a soda. I assume this is because the soda is usually almost entirely liquid. But then, one doesn’t usually get to experience Chin Chin in all its splendor.

Thank you Chin Chin for restoring my faith in advertising. What am I going to get from your grass jelly drink with pandam leaf flavour?



Schu’s Soda Sampler: T.A.S. Mangosteen Juice Drink August 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mustard and Miscellany @ 8:07 am
Tags: , ,

Schu takes over the blog again today…

The glory of the internet. It allows us to waste countless hours of potential productivity, type soda reviews on mustard blogs and discover new things. In this instance, 1 plays into 2 plays into 3.

In the cyclical world of blog reviewing, to review something one must sample the product for review, so to do this one must…

1, waste countless hours of potential productivity traveling to odd soda locales (in this instance, Asian market G and L Imports) in search of unique, usually carbonated soda experiences.

2. Then said unique purchase can be used for soda review purposes on a mustard blog.

And 3, new things can then be learned. Like: what the bleep is mangosteen?

Without the internet, I might never know. Wikipedia, take it from here.

“The purple mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), colloquially known simply as mangosteen, is a tropical evergreen tree believed to have originated in the Sunda Islandsand the Moluccas of Indonesia. The tree grows from 7 to 25 m (20–80 ft) tall. The fruit of the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, and somewhat fibrous, with an inedible, deep reddish-purple colored rind (exocarp) when ripe.[1] In each fruit, the fragrant edible flesh that surrounds each seed is botanically endocarp, i.e., the inner layer of the ovary.[2]

The purple mangosteen belongs to the same genus as the other, less widely known,mangosteens, such as the button mangosteen (G. prainiana) or the charichuelo (G. madruno).”

Helpful, huh? Oh, there’s more. Feel free to click the link here for mangosteen 101. (I wish I could get college credit for that class).

Some Thai company called T.A.S. markets Mangosteen Juice Drink. It’s in a pretty pink and white 10.5 ounce can that had more than its share of dust, collected likely from being in the same refrigerated location in the back of the store for months. And if you can find a soda with dust on the can, you know you’re onto something. Fortunately, it had a year to expire. Thing is, it was canned in March. Five months of dust. That’s way less than most of my apartment.

The Mangosteen soda relaxing on my balcony

The pretty pink can also includes vital information like ingredients: water, mangosteen puree (10%) and cane sugar, and nutrition facts. You know, the usual American fine print. However, there’s also a second table, right next to the “Nutrition Facts.” This is the “Nutritional Information,” and there it tells the consumer vitals such as “energy,” where it includes two categories: KJs and KCALs. I’m not even going to bother with the KJ, but one of the KCAL numbers is 131, which matches with the table’s calorie per serving, so I can sort of figure that out, except the “nutrition information” table lists calories at 130. Maybe that extra calorie is for taste.

An attempt at sunset photography…

Or sweet, which is what Mangosteen Juice Drink has in abundance. While the expanded Wikipedia definition tells me its nutritional benefits are limited (even though there are two whole tables dedicated to the subject), my taste buds tell me there’s plenty of fruity sweetness. If you like sweet drinks, this is probably not up your alley. I’d say it’s similar to lychee, but if you haven’t had lychee either, that probably doesn’t help. Less syrupy than mango, with a liquid texture that might most resemble that faint composition you’d get if you were to crush a pear in a blender and drink it. Indeed, a really, really (and even a third) really sweet pear might be the closest available comparison.

I like pears. Therefore, overall, it’s a soda to which one can get accustomed the more it’s consumed. If you can get past the assault of sweetness in, say, the first three ounces, the other 7.5 go down pretty easy. Soda thusly consumed.

Thank you mangosteen. The things we learn.



Schu’s Soda Sampler: Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray August 22, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mustard and Miscellany @ 8:57 am
Tags: , , ,

And now, a guest post and new feature from Schu…

Since Stephanie came up with the concept for this blog—certainly for no other reason than to torture my sense of good taste, since all revolves around me—I’ve been filled with hate. Surrounded by mustard, the planet’s—nay, the solar system’s, worst condiment, disdain has darkened by once happy soul.

So as I hijack the blog on occasion, a new strategy is being developed. In addition to chastising the wretchedness of Stephanie’s favorite food spread—actual physical mustard destruction is still in the offing—assuming contributions are allowed, I’m going to occasionally immerse myself in the “miscellany” part of the blog by reviewing an off-the-wall passion of mine: odd sodas.

This oddity thing is such a learning experience. Before the Mustard and Miscellany days, I figured mustard came in French’s and Gulden’s, and some anonymous troll just made the other 20 concoctions, purchased by my mom through some covert network, but not otherwise available to the public. Boy, how my eyes have been opened. And how my taste buds have been threatened even more.

While mustard has been something of a (thankful) mystery, I’ve been relatively familiar with the world of odd sodas. The initial discoveries happened during times away from home. It’s sort of a travel credo: why eat or drink what you could eat or drink at home when you have the chance to try something else somewhere else? This certainly applies to beverages as well, and said beverages—mostly sodas, but occasionally there will be branching out, complete with occasional drinks dedicated to the flavors of actual branches—will be consumed and critiqued herein.

So welcome to the tasty (and that’s not always a compliment) world of Schu’s Soda Sampler.

Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda.


So it’s been a long and arduous day of mustard shopping, and I need refreshment to sate my palate. So after a trip to the Middle Eastern market, and the North African market, and the Indian market, we pass by a neighborhood country store that doesn’t have much stock, even though there was a smattering of mustard, and a small collection of odd sodas.

Odd sodas? I’m all in.

Enter. Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown is one of those fringe brands that has experienced occasional success on actual supermarket shelves. I imagine the good doctor (why so many soda makers have advanced degrees is a source of fascination—does this date back to the elixir, snake oil mentality of the late 18th century?) in a series of feuds with Jones and his colorful bottles.

So Dr. Brown has the usual line: soda, root beer, black cherry. And then something a bit off catches my eyes. It’s a green can, and green always means crisp in the soda world. But how crisp, I had no idea. So I pick up the can, and it says Cel-Ray. And I say “no way.” But after studying the can further, it’s yes way.

This is a celery flavored soda. Celery.

I have a lot of wishes, including the one about how I wish I was in the board meeting where someone pitched the concept of celery soda. And someone else approved it. That must have been a heck of a power point presentation.

So at 79 cents for the 12 ounce can, a purchase must be made. The helpful cashier informed me that Cel-Ray was refreshing, but a bit odd, largely because the celery flavor was there, but since it was in an unfamiliar setting—carbonated liquid as opposed to garnish covered with peanut butter on the side of your plate—the consistency factor takes some acclimation. I don’t think she used the word “acclimation,” but hopefully you get the gist. Celery in soda form is kinda weird.

She was also right about the refreshing part, and it’s pretty clear this is the crux of Dr. Brown’s niche effort. Instead of going the 7-Up/Sprite/Sierra Mist lemon-lime based route, they used celery, a clear vegetable with next to no discernible benefits, as the basis for the drink. Part of that makes sense. Indeed, Cel-Ray does not possess the same overwhelmingly sugary aspect that tends to bog down the more mainstream clear soda leaders. So therein lies the refreshing. Unfortunately, it tastes like celery. So, uh, mission accomplished?

So if you like celery, and want a refreshing carbonated alternative to other clear sodas, then perhaps Dr. Brown is for you. I just hope they expand the repertoire to include the peanut butter flavored offshoot.


Photo credit:

Hmm. On second thought, maybe I don’t hope that.