The 'Shroom:Issue 156/Critic Corner
Welcome to the end of the world! With everything shut down and everyone told to stay home, what else do you have to do than read The 'Shroom? We've got a lot to read here, so it'll keep you occupied for the full duration of your quarantine!
Also, for a slight change of how things work around here, we've decided to implement in Critic Corner something similar to News Flush over in Fake News, where no formal sign-up application process is required for one-time or limited sections. From now on if you just want to send in a single review for something you just read, watched played, tried, whatever, you just have to send me your review privately either to me directly in chat, or in a message to me on the forum at least one week before each 'Shroom is to be released! There's no commitment or obligation to provide a full monthly section (although you absolutely can shift it into one if you so choose), just send us your thoughts on a thing and we'll feature it here! This project has already been announced in chat, and as such we have our first go at it: TheDarkStar (talk) will have a limited run with his The Only Positive Review of Super Paper Mario section you can read down below. If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask! We also have a new monthly section with MrConcreteDonkey (talk)'s 'Shroom FM!
Additionally, awards season is now upon us! To begin preparations for the Mario Awards XIV and our wiki's Anniversary events, the Awards Board has opened up on the forum. Please check it out!
Thank you all again for making Half-Baked Reviews Critic Corner's Section of the Month!! I know the decision this time was tough with there being a whopping one (1) section! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote!
As always, if you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to LudwigVon, our Stats Manager on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
|Critic Corner SECTION OF THE MONTH|
|1st||Anton's Half-Baked Reviews||19||100.00%||Hypnotoad (talk)|
Hello! I am new here. I have no idea what "The 'Shroom" is. Who is Mario? Welcome to 'Shroom FM, a brand new section from me, MCD - former Fake News director, Mafia Hosts Guild survivor, third thing I will add later. I spend a lot of (as in, all) my spare time listening to music and writing down what I think about it, so in this section I'm gonna write a few short reviews of some of my favourite albums from the past month. The best one will be cast in pure gold (or because I don't know or remember how colours work in CSS, pure brightish yellow), and I'll also chuck in a few more at the end, absolutely free-of-charge!
So this issue we'll focus on February, and then in April we'll be back with March, and so forth.
|AGAINST ALL LOGIC - 2017 - 2019|
|Nicolas Jaar's debut under the A.A.L name, 2012 - 2017, was one of my favourite albums of 2018, and of the last decade as a whole. It's a sample-heavy, deep house album with a HUGE yet usually very chill atmosphere. So when Jaar started dropping material at the start of this year that sounded pretty much completely different, including an EP that was mostly average, I was a bit worried about how this would turn out. Thankfully, 2017 - 2019 is a very good project. It continues the move towards a glitchier, colder often more abrasive sound, but here it feels fully realised, and its quite clear to see how it's built upon 2012 - 2017 rather than pointlessly deviated from it ('If Loving You is Wrong' is probably the closest it gets to the earlier stuff). Even though I like the first album more, I'm still very pleased with how the project has evolved here.|
|Best Tracks||If Loving You is Wrong, Deeeeeeefers, Fantasy, Faith|
|BEACH BUNNY - HONEYMOON|
|Do you like albums full of bright, fun indie pop, with excellent guitar work, great production and superb vocals? If so, then there's no good reason for you not to listen to Honeymoon, Beach Bunny's debut full-length album - and if not then give it a try anyway. It's a relatively short album with relatively short tracks, but each one manages to stand out and feel unique. Lyrically, the album focuses a lot on love and relationships - the atmosphere's generally bittersweet, yet warm and optimistic as a whole. So yeah, this is a fun and smart album with big summery vibes. Honestly, just give it a go, it's class.|
|Best Tracks||Cloud 9, Colorblind, Cuffing Season|
|CARIBOU - SUDDENLY|
|This one was a big surprise for me - I was aware there was new Caribou stuff coming out, and I'd heard tracks from him before and enjoyed them, but didn't particularly expect to have strong feelings towards this. Turns out I was wrong! This is a fresh electronic house album, full of massive tunes and bops, with some really interesting songwriting choices. There's also a lot of emotional depth here - the production and lyrics on this record create this dense, cold atmosphere, and the whole thing has a really melancholic vibe, which comes as a surprise given how funky the whole thing is. All in all, this album's very deep, but super easy to listen to and vibe with.|
|Best Tracks||Never Come Back, You and I, New Jade|
|DENZEL CURRY X KENNY BEATS - UNLOCKED|
|This album is even shorter than the last one, coming in at just under 18 minutes. It also... might not be an album, technically, some places list it as an EP, but I'm assuming that's just based on length. I don't know. Anyway, this album was recorded after Curry appeared on Beats' YouTube show The Cave, in (depending on who you ask) between one-to-three days. It's quite a feat to record an album in that amount of time, let alone a good one - but Curry's vigorous delivery and Beats' slick production make this a great little project. I would argue its short length is probably its main problem; there's the odd part that feels a bit underdeveloped, and it does sorta leave you wanting more by the end... but most of what is here is very high quality.|
|Best Tracks||So.Incredible.pkg, DIET_|
|GUPI - NONE|
|None is probably the most chaotic album I've got up here, a quirky, fresh bubblegum bass album. The track that's getting the most attention is 'Thos Moser', with these incredible discordant synths, a suitably mad music video, and superb lyrics, honestly go look them up. And yeah, it is the best song on here, by far, but that does mean that it does end up overshadowing quite a few of the other tracks here. Vocally, the album never quite lives up to it, it would've been great to see more tracks with the same focus on vocals this one has. But if you like 'Thos Moser' you're pretty much bound to like everything else here, it keeps up the same great energy and absurd sense of humour throughout. All in all, a very enjoyable Gec-core album.|
|Best Tracks||Thos Moser, Delusion, Modest|
|TENNIS - SWIMMER|
|Tennis consists of husband-and-wife team Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, who've been married to each other for a good while now. Swimmer lyrically dives into a number of moments over their personal history, many of which difficult or somber, reflecting on themes such as death and illness. I think it pulls this off really well, in that despite all of this, everything here's still really fun and chill. If you're not fond of twee stuff then maybe this won't be for you? But they've definitely moved further away from that vibe than earlier in their career, and personally I'd been ambivalent towards Tennis until I heard the singles from this and ended up a big fan, so you never know.|
|Best Tracks||Runner, How to Forgive, Tender as a Tomb|
Machine Girl – U-Void Synthesizer
Soccer Mommy - color theory
touch the pylon – murmurations
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you in April!
The Only Positive Review of Super Paper Mario
Okay, I know what you’re going to say. "What an idiot! He thinks Super Paper Mario is good!" "He has no taste in Paper Mario!" "Who's this guy again? Isn’t he the weird guy who went mostly inactive months ago?"
Yeah, I know the game is divisive. I know its plot is a kinda-sorta-maybe rehash of TTYD. I know its gameplay is often slow and annoying.
Okay, time to begin the adventure! Chapter One, Lineland, is a rather straightforward chapter. Each chapter in Super Paper Mario is divided into four "sub-chapters", which are the game's "levels".
Chapter 1-1: The Adventure Unfolds (Lineland Road)
This is the first level of the game, so it's quite easy. It's chock-full of references to the original 1-1 from Super Mario Bros., including some
shamelessly copied nostalgically reused block patterns. It's also where you'll first meet Bestovius, who teaches Mario how to flip into 3D. There's a price, though. Every ten seconds you're in 3D, the Flip Meter runs out and you take 1 damage. Did I mention there was a Flip Meter? There's totally a Flip Meter.
Either way, the level only has a few mild puzzles, one of which involves flipping into 3D and using the background hills as a bridge over a seemingly unjumpable pit. At the end, you get to use the Mega Star, my personal favorite item, to destroy everything in your path as a massive 8-bit Mario sprite. The level is basically over at that point. On to 1-2!
Sub-Chapter Rating: 8.0
Chapter 1-2: Afoot in the Foothills (Mount Lineland)
1-2 is slightly more difficult than 1-1, in the sense that it has more pits and enemies. It's also notable for introducing those weird spinning rectangle movey things, you know the ones where you stand in a square and they take you somewhere? I'm going to call them Fliptangles, just so I don't have to type "those weird spinning rectangle movey things" over and over again. Either way, the Fliptangles are very mesmerizing to watch. Go ahead, stare at them for hours. I dare you.
After you come to your senses and realize that you've been staring at a bunch of spinning rectangles for two hours, you can continue the level.
The next part is one of the best, a slope with Spiny Tromps rolling down it. The Spiny Tromps are impossible to jump over, so what's the solution to this obviously-impossible gauntlet?
Flip into 3D and go around them, obviously! There's a nice visual gag in that the Spiny Tromps are apparently made out of cardboard. After this, there's a town with a secret hidden pipe that leads to the only five Thwomps in the game and the handy Pixl Thoreau and I've gone on long enough.
There's also the bridgemasters, Red and Green, and they provide some humor in that they launch Mario out of their houses' chimney with ludicrous force.
Either way, the Star Block is past the second bridge, and that's what's important. Next level!
Sub-Chapter Rating: 8.5
Chapter 1-3: The Sands of Yold (Yold Desert)
Now this level is just odd. Its first area hinges around a puzzle that can be cheesed if you have the answer already, the Jump Ten Times Under The Red Tree™. It's a shame, because the rest of the area is pretty fun and contains one of the only two Jawbuses in the main game. Jawbuses are sacred. Protect them.
The next area has a similarly-cheesed puzzle, but it at least requires effort to get to. Get to the big blue pedestal at the end of the level, and then press and at the same time. Boom, puzzle solved. The end, no effort required, have your Star Block. Let's get outta here already, I don't like sand. On to the next level!
Sub-Chapter Rating: 6.5
Chapter 1-4: Monster of the Ruins (Yold Ruins)
Now this is a good level. It's got Fire Bars and Buzzy Beetles, which are obviously the only things that matter. There are keys that require flipping to obtain, Spiky Tromps, and switches. Very large switches.
There's an extremely well-designed part where you springboard out of the bottom of a large T-shaped room, and immediately notice a door hanging over thin air. You can only enter doors if you're on the ground, so it seems impossible to enter, right? Wrong. You can take a ladder up to the highest part of the room and hit a switch, which will certainly summon a platform for the door! Unfortunately, the switch does nothing except bury you up to your armpits in Spiky Tromps. Flipping into 3D to escape the Tromps is nearly necessary, as Spiky Tromps, unlike their larger cousins, are only tangible in the 2D plane. A big red button also appears when you trigger the switch, so you need to get to it and press it. Surely it will do even worse things than the Extreme Tromp Switch™ did! Except it doesn't harm you. Instead, it opens the floor up under the Tromps, dropping them into the bottom of the room. The Tromps act like a floor, allowing you to access the door! Genius design, am I right?
Seriously, am I right?
Either way, the last room is a puzzle. If you hit four blocks in a certain order (which is fortunately given away by the numbers painted on them when you flip into 3D), a staircase pops up. Time to fight the first boss!
Sub-Chapter Rating: 8.0
This level was good and fun, and it had Spiky Tromps in it.
Dangit Nintendo when will Spiky Tromp get his own game? It could be called Spike Tromps!
Chapter One Boss: Fracktail
Fracktail seems eager to give you the Pure Heart at first, but Dimentio, the evil jester who absolutely isn't the true villain of the game, zaps his processors. This gives him a severe case of... um... "404 computer hamsters not found"... and "Threat level upgraded to Jelly Roll 1"... Screw it, even if I found an official name for the modern major malfunction Fracktail just had, it would probably be written in some eldritch tome.
Either way, Fracktail turns evil and becomes the first chapter boss in the game. Why did it have to be giant robot dragons? His attacks are well-telegraphed and simple, consisting solely of him trying to eat you and charge at you, leaving himself wide open for attack. Jump on his back when he flies through the length of the battlefield, and use Thoreau to throw the Frackles he sends at you right back at him. He has 9 HP and takes 1 damage from each attack, no matter your attack power, and he tosses you off his back every three hits you land. This can be cheesed with an extremely well-timed jump, but it's pretty hard to pull off.
After the battle ends in your favor, a door appears for you to enter. The room the door leads to is blue, grand, and blue, and it contains the spirit of Merlumina, a member of the Tribe of Ancients. She spends several in-game hours lulling Mario to sleep with her ramblings before finally giving Mario the orange Pure Heart. And that's the end of the chapter!
Chapter Rating: 7.0 The chapter was cool and good™ for the most part, but 1-3's cheesable puzzles and skippable areas drop the rating a point.
Graphic Novel Review
|Sunny Rolls the Dice|
|Author||Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm|
Welcome back, readers! This month, I will be concluding my review series on the Sunny series with the third book, Sunny Rolls the Dice!
Sunny Rolls the Dice is about Sunny navigating the treacherous river-rapid ride of middle school. As the title hints, Sunny is interested in Dungeons and Dragons in this volume, and she and her friend Deb play a few rounds with a few boys from their school. As the school year goes on, Sunny tries to figure out how to max out her "groovy meter" by doing groovy things, and she finds it harder and harder to keep up with Deb and her other friends.
I really liked the concept of the "groovy meter". It begins in the beginning of the book: Sunny and Deb take a quiz in a teen style magazine, and at the end, their answers give them a score on the "groovy meter". Sunny scores abysmally low, and thusly, many of her actions in the story are rated on the meter, such as wearing untrendy galoshes or buying bell-bottom pants. You can tell she's really trying to fit in, and it really hits home for anyone who's been through middle school, and heck, even high school. I remember feeling "untrendy" for playing my DS when my classmates had iPhones and iPods in middle school, but looking back on those days now, I'm thankful that I kept with the video games, because my best friends nowadays are all friends I made in grade school when I was playing Nintendo.
This is a typical book from the Holm siblings: the story holds up well and it's easy to relate to Sunny and her struggles. The art is clean and charming, the colors are vibrant, and the characters are delightful. Series regulars all come back, including Gramps, Dale, and Neela, to give Sunny guidance and cheers. And it's always groovy to take a trip back to the 70s, where things were a little simpler than they are now. I like seeing the world through the Holm siblings' eyes, what life was like when they were kids. It gives you an appreciation of those times that you really don't get from just watching an old movie or documentary. This series is one of my favorites and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing where they go next with these characters.
Sunny Rolls the Dice is a great third installment in a series that is relatable to any kid or kid at heart. If you're not collecting these so far, I'd really recommend it, as they are full of heart and made with love, and you can't go wrong with that.
That's all for me this month, readers! Tune in next time for a new Book Review!
|Genres||Computer-animated, urban fantasy|
|Release date||March 2020|
|Starring||Tom Holland, Chris Pratt|
Hello, 'Shroom readers, and welcome to the first Movie Review of the decade. Last time I did one of these, we were in the magical world of Disney's Frozen II, but this time we're swapping over to Pixar and its less than magical world of Onward – although I only say less than magical because everyone's moved on from magic given the advances of modern technology. Who needs to run when you have a car?
I first saw trailers for Onward when I went to see Toy Story 4, and I immediately knew that I wanted to watch this fairytale-inspired film, and I did enjoy what I watched. I just wasn't blown away by it.
The film follows two elven brothers, although I fully believed they were trolls until I was informed otherwise, Ian and Barley, played by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt respectively, as they quest to find a Phoenix Gem in order to briefly resurrect their dead father. It's a simple and emotional premise, and the film is good at giving you the emotional moments as well as fully exploring this fantasy landscape in a modern setting.
And the setting really works. Dragons have become domesticated pets, much like dogs, centaurs and pixies now use motor vehicles instead of their natural abilities and magic, which was difficult to master, has been replaced by much more efficient things like electricity. The world setting is so interesting and well-imagined that I honestly wouldn't mind seeing more of it, albeit from other perspectives. I don't usually endorse superficial spin-offs like Finding Dory or Mater in Cars 2, but in this instance I'm willing to make an exception.
When it comes to Ian and Barley, they're also fairly well-imagined. Holland and Pratt seem like perfect choices for their characters and it's fun to watch them share this whimsical adventure together, even if Barley's mannerisms do manage to grate at times. I feel like they did an excellent job of creating a brotherly bond, and it's one of the strongest animated family bonds I've seen. It's a shame you don't feel that way with their mother, Lori (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), especially since she is a ray of sunshine in the sub-plot. I honestly think I could watch a movie based off of her car journey with the Manticore (played by Octavia Spencer).
But as I said near the beginning of this piece, I wasn't finding myself blown away by Onward. I feel like I wasn't fully invested in the whole plot, perhaps because there hadn't been much surrounding it in the opening. Of course, anyone who never got to meet a parent, or lost them at a young age, is desperate to find some way to get some time with them, but some reason that never fully came across for me. And due to that, I wish the film focused on other things rather than the main plot, like Ian properly trying to learn magic, which feels really glossed over, or some more quest-like elements for their journey rather than riddles and a gelatinous cube. One thing I will give the plot, however, is that it went in directions that I wasn't anticipating, but at the same time made perfect sense. It's one of those small twists that gets hinted at throughout the movie, but at the same time they don't hammer you over the head with it.
I would recommend that people watch Onward, because while it didn't thrill me and Pixar has definitely done better films in the past, it was still an enjoyable watch. And while I think Ian and Barley's story has been done and neatly wrapped with a little bow, I wouldn't mind a spin-off exploring something like the Manticore or Officer Specter, or even their mother, who could easily have carried this whole movie on her shoulders.
Alternative Milks - Part 4people just really hate milk for some reason. And not just refuse to drink it, but hate the entire concept in general, and the fact that other people do, and ridicule them for doing so. Using ‘milk-drinker’ as an insult, and perpetuating the Hollywood cliché that drinking milk is creepy. Well, no more! No one should be shamed for food or drink they enjoy! And as for milk, while large companies within the dairy industry are tanking with the rise of milks squeezed out of any number of nuts, seeds, and objects, there remains another avenue--simply better dairy milk. A subsection of the alternative milk market is still just dairy milk, with small farms and brands cropping up in a way reminiscent of the craft beer craze, looking to make a name for tried and true dairy without all of the corporate destruction of the environment and morality.
Now, this month’s section is enormous and probably could’ve been split into three on its own, but I think it’s time to move on from milk because it’s consumed my life for the greater part of the last year.
Creamline Ronnybrook Milk
I ripped this from the NYC editions because I was writing both this section and that one at the same time and I couldn’t just exclude this from a milk special. Wandering through the Chelsea Market, a glimmering beacon of hope sat open in the excess of performative veganism and exorbitant gentrification--a milk bar. Now, for whatever reason that escapes my memory, but I’m willing to bet was a jumble of factors like rushing through the place and not knowing what I was even looking for at the time due to a lack of superpowered future vision, I never actually realized there was a full-scale restaurant for this brand that doubled as a store. Instead, what I saw was basically a couple of those football stadium long urinals filled with ice that had the bottles of milk being sold out of them in a little corner of some hallway. It was milk, though, and I had to get some.
Glass bottles and local distribution only, this place is pretty eco-friendly as far as dairy milk goes. Not organic, though, which may be a make-or-break thing, but it’s something that’s remarkably difficult for small local farmers to achieve as it’s an incredibly strict set of credentials. That’s not to say official Organic is bad, or oppressive, or whatever, but just that it should be left as more of the mark of supremacy in manufacturing rather than an indictment and banishment of those without it SO LONG as they otherwise adhere to organic principles otherwise. Here’s some links to the organic standards, and if you so wish to read lengthy legal documents here’s the full wording and prohibited substances. Where this trips up small local dairy farming is the prohibition of antibiotics, a hurdle that is often too high to leap, while some others bypass it by just neglecting to care for their sick livestock so as to maintain the Certified Organic label. Ronnybrook uses antibiotics, but otherwise follows the rest of the standards, namely humane treatment of their animals. $1.99 for 12 fl. oz. at a local NYC Whole Foods, $3 flat at basically all other locations they can be found, such as the Chelsea Market and other NYC-area farmers markets. All it is is just one ingredient: unhomogenized milk.
CreamlineThe name comes from it being unhomogenized milk, which is milk that has not been homogenized. This article goes on to include some good clarifying information:
It’s pretty difficult finding any information about homogenization from sources that aren’t pretty openly pro-non-homogenized milk, but Livestrong does a pretty good job. Simply put, there’s concern and hypotheses about the link between homogenization of milk and cancer or heart disease, but the research just simply does not conclusively support that assertion yet no matter how hard Ronnybrook tries to say ‘studies show’ and not actually show the studies. There’s nothing that says unhomogenized milk is bad, but there’s also just nothing that definitely says it’s better. Go ahead and do what you want. Official Cool Person Monica Reinagel once again sums up what I’d like to say in a couple compact sentences:
”In order to get the milk fat and water content of milk evenly dispersed, milk is forced with very high pressure through a fine screen that causes the milk fat to form microscopic droplets that stay suspended instead of coalescing and separating. Because it's an emulsion, well homogenized milk will taste creamier than non-homogenized milk (...). Non-homogenized milk (...) must be shaken before serving, and even then, large masses of butterfat remain. We found ourselves with a few buttery chunks in our mouths as we drank, something which some tasters liked, but others didn't.”
”Finally, I want to be sure we don’t confuse homogenization with pasteurization, because the two have nothing to do with one another. Pasteurization has to do with killing bacteria; homogenization has to do with emulsifying fat—and milk can be either, neither, or both. Organic certification is also completely unrelated to whether the milk is homogenized or pasteurized. Here’s the bottom line on homogenization: If you like the idea of eating closer to nature, unhomogenized milk is definitely less processed. You may also enjoy the flavor or texture (or perhaps the nostalgia) of milk where the cream floats to the top. Unhomogenized milk is always full-fat whole milk, by the way. If you want reduced fat milk, you’ll need to pour off some of the cream before shaking it up. If, on the other hand, you prefer the flavor, texture, or convenience of homogenized milk, there doesn’t appear to be any danger in choosing that instead.”
I didn’t actually register that the bottle said ‘unhomogenized’ until I actually tried it and realized the disaster I waded right into. Opened it up and there was a chunk of something on the lid. I put it up to my lips and immediately felt a large chunk. I had to go put it back in the fridge because it’s embarrassing to be picking away at my milk at the sink in front of other people, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. After pulling a whole ton of chunks out, it ended up tasting just like bland skim milk, presumably because all of the fatty flavor was congealed into unpalatable solid gobs. Do note that I did shake it up and it just didn’t go back together much, which wasn’t nearly as much as I had hoped for and needed. If I want to chew my milk I’ll just get some cheese curds. All of the other reviews I’ve seen of this are nothing but gushing joy and enlightenment. Maybe I’m missing something? Did I do it wrong? Is it an acquired taste? Is it just performative?the founder of a local New York milk producer in the same article from earlier, regarding the seasonal variance of milk due to New York’s stark shifts in weather, “A meaningful shift occurs in late May. Cows are back on pasture (after a winter of eating dry hay) and the lush, moist pasture is full of nutrients and what cows believe is similar to a five course meal at Per Se.” This implies I tried these at one of the worst times, when the milk was at a low compared to an in-season peak in richness and flavor. Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to try it again and, I don’t know, maybe put it in a blender first.
The chocolate milk has a whole bunch more ingredients so I have better hopes. Milk, sugar, cocoa powder, guar gum, and carrageenan; might ruffle the feathers of ladies who wear bohemian patchwork skirts, but at least they say they don’t use synthetic bovine growth hormones!! Despite being a Creamline product, there were no chunks, and it was very creamy and delicious!!! Smooth, chocolatey, nice milky tang, had all the nice flavor and feel that the regular Creamline apparently has, and I assume so because it wasn’t separated.
Plain Drinkable Yogurt
Now, I get that this isn’t an alternative milk, but it’s something I drank and I’m not wasting the pre-written notes I had for this. Simply, it’s drinkable yogurt, plain flavor, contains active probiotic cultures Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis just in case you were interested. It’s actually not bad, as far as plain yogurt gets. Has a bit of a tangy flavor that I wish was instead black cherry or raspberry but it’s not so this is it. I did see other flavors of this at some way-too-expensive Italian food store, which I think may have been Eataly NYC Downtown and would absolutely go back to get hundreds of dollars worth of cheese, but at the time I didn’t think I’d be trying this or eventually have a focused and developed food review section. They had flavors like strawberry, mango, and blueberry pomegranate. ‘Shake well’ is not as strong of a phrase as it should be, because the liquid is pretty heavily separated from whatever yogurt is. Felt like I was sipping Elmer’s glue. Kinda tastes like cheddar cheese honestly. I can’t see myself really drinking much of this, but I wish it was a little thicker so I could pour it on nacho chips.
Fairlife, by now, has become an infamous leper in the milk community after just a little teeny-tiny scandal: video footage of rampant animal abuse.
While some ‘journalists’ who see nothing but money sell their honor and soul twist and contort to discover new ways to sound as disgusting of a person as possible in their attempt to downplay this scandal as nothing but an isolated incident perpetrated by a few workers hidden from the knowledge of the owners and corporate shareholders blown out of proportion by some corrupt activists looking to make a quick buck, I have actually seen and watched the Fair Oaks Farm video in full, and while there’s tacit plausible deniability in the direct physical abuse of the animals on that farm, I could also see how the farm was set up to begin with, with horrific living conditions for calves, and protocols and methods that are so barbaric and rotten that either higher-ups knew about and implemented, or willfully ignored and allowed to form. While owners acknowledged what happened, took responsibility, and vowed for it to never happen again, there is absolutely nothing acceptable about how it was allowed to happen at all. At the very least it is complete negligence and a lack of even the simplest of oversight, which on its own flies in the face and nature of the high-end natural and alternative market they’re trying to fit into; this betrayal is the basis of a class-action lawsuit, amongst others. All of these are still on-going as of the writing and posting of this section, and given that the Indiana local and state government seems motivated to squash it, the only hope I have for this is for the law to take its time as it tends to do and wait for the lawsuits to appeal their way up to federal courts, and by that time hopefully a more righteous and honest person will be helming the top office. Coca-Cola, who owns Fairlife, recently bought the majority stake and now fully owns it, hinting that they’re going all in on this brand. Until then all we have is the power of the market, and refusing to give them money saying that it’s ok that this is happening because they’ll still make a profit.
Now, read on as I gave them my money to try a few things.
I got it for $3.99 as a 52 fl oz bottle, and it regularly goes on sale or has coupons available for a dollar off or so. It’s also available for $3.49 at Target. Pretty attractive pricing for the size it is, but I guess that’s possible when you’re a Coca-Cola brand.
Chocolate 2% Ultra-Filtered
DHA Omega-3 is a fatty acid found in many types of seafood that can potentially reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as maybe some other things like rheumatoid arthritis. Fairlife DHA Omega-3 is milk with that added oil, with a claim that it helps support brain health. As you’d expect out of a milk that has fish juice squirted into it, it has a pungent smell to it that is reminiscent of a hot day on the shores of Lake Erie. It also tastes and feels oily, and it’s just not pleasant at all. I understand the concept of getting your Omega-3s but leave that to a fish dinner or some vitamin supplements; milk is not the place. It actually started making me feel sick as I could still taste it in my mouth even after chugging water and soda to wash it down.
$3.89 at Target, which, sure, whatever, but it’s a better value if you just instead don’t get it. Stop buying into products that claim to be nutritious when they don’t actually provide all the nutrition you need and you can instead just have a balanced diet and get everything. There’s no need for one simple individual item that has it all.
Hailing from the small town of Wirtz, Virginia, a bit south of Roanoke, is Homestead Creamery, a family farm whose milk business rapidly grew across the Eastern US selling milk how it used to be--in glass bottles. Along with their own home store, they began selling products in grocery stores, including Earth Fare which is where I got it. I came across this brand of milk when an Earth Fare, a specialty natural grocery foods store, location opened near me and I curiously inspected it. By the time I’m getting to writing and publishing this section, the entire Earth Fare company has shut down forever. This is your monthly reminder to not wait to explore what your area has to offer, and what kinds of things you can find and try, because it may not be there forever. Earth Fare fueled this section for its duration in Orlando with plenty of non-standard items, as well as a vast array of locally produced stuff I can’t find anywhere else but divining which farmers market it may pop up in, or a The Fresh Market or Whole Foods for triple the price.
Anyways, milk, $3.99 for a half gallon at Earth Fare regularly, but they were on sale for $1.99, so I really couldn’t pass up the deal even though my fridge is full already. I went there with my brothers in awe of the store’s selection, but mostly the prices of the milk. It felt so cheap until we cashed out and got whacked with a $2 bottle deposit for each one. Apparently they have a bottle return program, which is nice and eco-friendly, but it sure gave me a bit of a jolt, and had me silently congratulating Earth Fare and Homestead Creamery on guaranteeing I’ll be coming back to return it and make future sales because like hell am I going to drive through downtown traffic for 40 minutes to not get anything other than $8 back. Luckily, in a total blow to that airheaded hack who runs Milkadamia and his claim that, as a quote myself, “animal-based milk only comes in regular, chocolate, and skim, and thus plant milk is better as it can allegedly come in a wider range”, there are 16 flavors of Homestead Creamery’s animal-based milk, 12 or so of which are actually unique like Orange-Cream and Golden.
To start, their most heavily focused product is their A2A2 milk. You can read Homestead’s claims for A2 milk here, and here, and here, and here, but basically it’s just a type of milk where β-casein proteins called A1 are not present due to the cows lacking those genes, leaving only the A2 proteins. This is done as there are claims that A1 proteins are harmful in that they can trigger an allergic reaction and create stomach discomfort and nausea that mimics and is misdiagnosed as lactose intolerance, and even goes as far as claiming it’s linked to Ischaemic heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, and autism, but currently there’s no scientific basis for the claim. Yes, I did just link to a 107-page scientific article; it’s a rarity that you can view a whole one for free so take the chance while you can!
The A2A2 2% has no particularly different flavor opposed to regular 2% milk, but it feels thinner, nearing a skim milk or almost almond milk texture and viscosity. Doesn’t have that mouth-coating vibe that makes me feel like my entire being is submerged in milk a la Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen in The Huntsman taking a bath. I doubt I’m lactose intolerant, and I don’t have any kind of dairy sensitivity, so I really didn’t notice any significant or subtle changes in my various digestive gunks, and therefore the value of this is pretty limited for me. All-natural, antibiotic free, no added hormones, pasteurized, and homogenized. If you like glass bottles and the ritual of returning them, then there you go.
P.S. The glass bottles actually were kind of a pain as science took over and caused a mess every time I poured, dribbling it all over my counter and down the side of the bottle. With milk that’s so expensive (when not on sale) it’s really a bummer to have it so easily wasted.
Literally just their regular homogenized whole milk, but with alkali cocoa powder. At least, that’s what they say, but they also threw in carrageenan, sugar, chocolate flavor powder, starch, dextrose, and vanilla. I have no problem with all of that, but it’s not as natural as they really make it out to be. They’ve still got the humane treatment thing going on, though, so that’s fine! Rich, creamy, chocolatey, smooth, light feeling while still keeping its velvety mouth-coating nature, a prime example of an optimal chocolate milk.
$3.99 for a quart because I guess this is fancy enough to raise the price. Meant to evoke the flavor of an iced cappuccino, but without as much caffeine. Cowppuccino tastes literally just like what I do with a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino in that I mix it with 2% milk to dilute the bitterness.
Meyenberg Goat Milkread more about them here, boasting about how well they’re treated, and aren’t given hormones, steroids, or antibiotics. Additionally, goat milk is apparently supposed to be easier to digest, as it has naturally smaller fat particles, which also is the main factor in it being naturally homogenized. Goat milk’s entire allure is that rather than trying to figure out how to make cow’s milk better, goat’s milk just is; less methane produced, less water used, less processing necessary, naturally no lactose, no stabilizers that plant milks generally have, it just avoids most of the gripes people have. As for what they offer, it’s pretty simple: a whole milk, low fat, evaporated, powdered, butter, and cheese.
It looks and feels smoother than any other cow’s milk I’ve had. Has a subtle flavor to it that gives it a je ne sais quoi, like it has more to it. Almost like a whole milk weight to it? There’s a good milky flavor to it, like a sweet almost buttery taste, I’m guessing coming from the higher butterfat content.
I would buy it again if it wasn’t so expensive. A quart is $4.99, with a liter being $9.99 with absolutely no price shift to encourage a greater purchase (i.e. making it, like, $9.29). I did purchase this when it was on sale for a dollar off, but this was in like April 2019 and I’ve never seen it go on sale anywhere (read: Publix, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Sprouts, Lucky’s, Trader Joe’s, Winn-Dixie, Chamberlin’s) since then. As always, things are cheaper at Walmart with a quart being $4.28, but that means shopping at Walmart.
Summerhill Goat MilkA much shorter history than Meyenberg, Summerhill has only been milking goats for about 20 years. Regardless, they still maintain a reputable set of credentials for their product: 100% pure goat milk with no other ingredients, which has all of the regular perks of goat milk (less lactose, A2 β-casein proteins which are less allergenic, easier to digest, rich in protein and vitamin C, etc.), and their farm is run with clean solar energy and do processing and bottling in-house to reduce their carbon footprint. Neat!
The milk is kinda thin, but still tastes a little sour. I’m suspecting the thinness is due to it being a bit less than homogenized. It’s chunky, but I dared to live a little and tasted them, and they’re like...not bad! They’re just like really really creamy mild plain cheese. I think I liked them more than the actual milk. My question is, though, why did Meyenberg say that goat milk is naturally homogenous, and then Summerhill just literally isn’t? Their website also says it’s naturally homogenized, too, but I guess the wording leaves room for the possibility that it may not be. It tastes better after a couple days in my fridge, after having shaken the crap out of it several times. There’s more of a goaty tang to it, like you’d taste in goat cheese, than there is with Meyenberg, but neither are absent of it. This is likely due to Summerhill goat milk being merely pasteurized, while Meyenberg is ultra-pasteurized, lending credit to the notion that pasteurization affects flavor.
Organic Valleyall of the stuff you’d expect could come from a dairy farm. What’s notable from them is that they’re the largest company to be 100% powered by renewable energy, and as they’re technically a billion dollar company, I’d say that’s a pretty big deal. Non-GMO via credentials already listed within being Organic Certified, pastoral farms, small herds, all kinds of fun stuff you can fact-check through here, with there being a noted comment about variation between each farm; Fairlife comes to mind, but I think that this company has different roots than Coca-Cola, so I’m not worried. They also run features on their website highlighting each of their farmers in the coop, which serves as a nice reminder of the diversity of people whose livelihoods are often taken for granted and taken advantage of. Seeing their emphasis on sustainability is really encouraging to me, as it represents a small-but-growing change and sets an example for what other companies could be, and that it’s possible to still function as a large successful far-reaching business while still maintaining transparency and better practices.
What does this mean for their milk that I tried, though? Well, it tastes like milk!
High score, right? Well, I never said I was scoring for the objectively best, just the milkiest with some bonus points towards “it won’t destroy the Earth or my bank account.” I’m not going to deduct points for this, but I just need to not let this pass by that their website has some of that “all chemicals are bad” nonsense. They go on to list and detail which chemicals specifically, but the generalization is some carelessness that needs to be done away with.
Maple Hilltakes care to detail why this matters, including how it reduces the carbon footprint of dairy farming, and helps maintain and replenish the soil rather than depleting it. Just like Organic Valley, they have phenomenal transparency when it comes to their practices, like pastoral farming, no GMOs or antibiotics, yadda yadda. Notable on both of their scorecards here is that company reps are involved in the farming and visit regularly, which I can only assume ensures the standards are held in order, something that could’ve prevented Fairlife’s disaster.
Tastes like milk, but milkier! Trying numerous of these organic milks has me realizing just how different regular milk tastes. The words I want to use for the regular milks in this context is that they taste more like...sterile? Clean? Pure? But those all sound like objectively positive words, when it’s really just that regular milk doesn’t feel like it has much to it in comparison. Organic milk like Maple Hill and Organic Valley is full bodied, truly creamy. I have noticed, though, that these organic milks haven’t left some kind of halitosis-like mucky mouth feel a few hours after drinking it, like what happens with regular milk. I can only speculate why that is, and that kind of speculation I speculate is what fuels this entire industry.
A half gallon of this I got on sale for $4.99, originally $6.29, which seems to be the average pricing for this and similar products in every store I’ve seen it.
As a bonus, check out more packaging and advertising info and how it helped reshape and save Maple Hill’s business by making it more broad and competitive. Another interesting tidbit is how the Maple Hill Creamery owner thinks dairy and plant-based can and should co-exist, which is such a refreshing take to me as all I’ve seen everyone do is claw at each others’ throats for purity points. It’s all about humane practices and sustainability; why fight each other when the enemy is factory farming?
There’s so much more I really could do, but this is getting incredibly boring and redundant. A lot of legitimate organic dairy farms taste PRRRRETTY much the same to any normal person, and the people who are esteemed milk connoisseurs are already leagues ahead of whatever information I’m providing. I’m writing and doing this for myself, my friends, and a small unfocused audience, so “these milks are sourced humanely with a strong push for sustainability, and they sure do taste milky” is satisfactory. Just keep a tab on those, which is pretty easy, like Horizon is a big brand I’ve seen with this but their transparency is weak and suspicious, and that store brand organic dairy lines tend to be pretty poor as well, and not really into sustainability and ethics as much as they are profiting off of a rising trend, doing the absolute bare minimum to get the certification. They all taste the same, all of them, the same. Minor differences if you’re looking for them, but in regular use you just simply aren’t, so the only viable criteria is how they run as a company; and when they’re all the same price range, why not pick the ones that are cooler?
What is exciting, though, is:
Homemade Nut Milks
-1 cup raw organic almonds
-3 cups hot water
-A squirt or two of wildflower honey
-Pinch of sea salt
-Soak the almonds for 24 hours, drain that water, then put in a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend for 2 minutes until it looks less chunky and more milky. Pour the entire mixture through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve and squeeze the absolute crap out of it. Chill the milk, and do whatever you want with the leftover almond meal.
The squeezing part is remarkably like milking something, as I’m sure the picture I’ve provided can allude to. The blended nut mush and water slop sitting inside of the sagging cheesecloth, and then having to squeeze and tug at it for it to start squirting out liquid, seems pretty milky. The actual liquid looks a lot milkier than the ones I’ve purchased, but has almost like an oil sheen across the top that I probably goes unnoticed in the others. After letting it chill overnight it separated some, so I shook it a whole bunch until it got frothy. Surprisingly creamy, with only a little bit of nuttiness to it. If you give it time to settle, though, the nuttiness amplifies quickly, so it’s not really a homogenous drink. Really is a lot better than any of the other more pure almond milks I bought. Only issue drinking it was that there were some almond meal bits in there, but I know that’s absolutely and solely my fault, and I could’ve totally run the whole mix through a sieve once more after I noticed some get in. I kept it in a smoothie bottle because it has a lid on it and I could just keep shaking it as I drank.
world’s most expensive nut despite being a seed and not a nut, because of a combination of factors such as only really ever being grown on the islands of Hawaii where acreage is limited and is also an island in the middle of the ocean that requires shipping, and are seen as a dessert nut, not a commodity. Macadamia milk on its own doesn’t taste like much, not very watery but inoffensive, just more plain and neutral. You can’t even argue “but what about the health benefits!” because just eat a handful of them, then, there’s no reason to turn this into milk. Drink something else.
-1 cup raw macadamia nuts
-Identical to almonds for all that matters. Soak the macadamias for 24 hours, drain that water, then put in a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend for 2 minutes until it looks less chunky and more milky. Pour the entire mixture through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve and squeeze the absolute crap out of it. Chill the milk, and do whatever you want with the leftover almond meal.
I also followed a recipe for strawberry macadamia nut milk, by really just doing the same exact thing but with the added measuring of lobbing an indiscriminate amount of strawberries into the blender. It takes on the bland flavor, so I just kept adding more strawberries until it just tasted like that. I could’ve instead just had a delicious smoothie with regular milk for the effort and money I put in.
-1 cup cashews
-3 cups water
-pinch of salt
-a squirt or two of honey
-no straining or squeezing, just blend it until it’s milky!
Sure does taste like cashews. Very frothy, and really dry?? I knew I shouldn’t have added salt. There’s noticeable bits in it, but they’re really unobtrusive, lending credence to the instructions to not bother straining it; I probably should’ve, anyways, for my personal preference of completely homogenous and creamy smooth.
I tried a recipe for cardamom vanilla cashew milk because I had all the stuff already and it sounded fancy. The vanilla and cardamom definitely make it taste better, and gets rid of the oppressive nutty edge to it, but the fluffiness of the cardamom multiplies with the frothiness and it just feels, idk, like sucking on a mouthful of hydrophobic sawdust? Not “hairy”, but fuzzy. It was such a bothersome texture that I tried to filter it all back out, but it was ineffective and a lost cause.
I never really thought about how expensive honey is. Nuts are costly, too, but luckily 1 cup or so really isn’t that much. The value of homemade nut milks is still pretty poor in comparison to store-bought nut milks, presumably because I don’t have the advantage of entire nut farms at my disposal and must instead rely on retail purchases. I’m sure that if you ever become the kind of person who makes your own nut milk on a regular basis that you could buy an enormous bag of bulk nuts and use it all before it goes bad, absorbing the impact of the purchase. It’s kinda fun just for the gimmick, though, saying you’ve made your own milk, as well as the customizability of it all. Go ahead and experiment, and if you feel as inspired as such, let me know what you did!
cockroach milk be in Half-Baked Reviews’ future?
Où sont les toilettes? Also, tell me what to review next! You can tell me to do can also be movies, shows, physical actions, trying new foods, music, literally anything and I’ll cover it eventually if it’s not too ridiculous. Just send me a message here on my talk page or PM it to me on the forum. Don't like what I have to say? That's fine, and probably bound to happen because I've been told about how much people like Super Mario 64 and how they feel about any criticism of it! We at Critic Corner will welcome your alternate review of it as a new section for the next issue!
|The 'Shroom: Issue 156|
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