The 'Shroom:Issue 165/Critic Corner

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Director's Notes

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

Shroom2017 Anton.png

Welcome to the end of the Gregorian calendar year! What a wild ride 2020 has been, and given that we exist in a linear continuation of time and not a tv series, the end of the year will just become the beginning of another and 2021 is set to be just as wild! Luckily we here at The 'Shroom still chug away at making content for all of you to enjoy while you're hiding in your room from distant relatives who suddenly came over for dinner for whatever one of the dozen holidays you're celebrating that are currently ongoing. ☃️

Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as November's Critic Corner Section of the Month!! 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!


And now for my regular announcements: 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! If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask!

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 Ninja Squid, 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
Place Section Votes % Writer
1st Anton's Half-Baked Reviews 11 47.83% Hypnotoad (talk)
2nd 'Pokédex Power 8 34.78% Yoshi876 (talk)
2nd 'Shroom FM 3 13.04% MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

Reviews / Opinion Pieces

Kylie is an essential worker 🙌
[read more]

More games need to shoehorn magikoopas into them.
[read more]

Anton is not to be truffled with.
[read more]


'Shroom FM

Written by: MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

Welcome to the final 'Shroom FM of 2020! I'm gonna cover both albums from November and what I've heard so far in December this month, so I can focus on Album Of The Year stuff (and a few other fun awards I have planned) in January.

NOVEMBER (AND DECEMBER) 2020
SFMspiritworldfieldguide.jpg AESOP ROCK - SPIRIT WORLD FIELD GUIDE
Firstly, I really love the concept behind this album and how it's executed. You can probably glean this from the title, but the album centres around the Spirit World (not any specific one, though there's many examples of this in media, i.e. Avatar: The Last Airbender, Spirited Away...) and works as a field guide, in that it documents the author's experiences there, including tips for survival, warnings and other general advice. The pre-order version even came with actual survivalist supplies, including a pocket knife and canteen. Naturally there's a lot of fantasy and popular culture influence here - take "Coveralls", for instance, which packs in references to Over the Garden Wall, wrestling moves, Zoltar and The Brady Bunch. There's also influence drawn from experiences travelling to Peru, Cambodia and Thailand in 2019, following a period of burnout from touring and music in general. The lyricism here is superb - often surreal, cryptic and mysterious to match the tone, but casual enough when addressing the audience to keep things feeling fun and energetic. The production on the instrumentals here is very fresh and consistent. Unfortunately, there's a few problems with the album that hold it back slightly: the biggest problem I have is the mixing on the vocals. It just sounds far, far too trebly, which does bring Aes to the front of the mix, but on my first listen some parts sounded so tinny that I couldn't even make out what he was saying. I don't even usually pick up on problems with mastering (some people have very strong opinions on it, trust me) but it's so obvious here, and it's a real shame because everything else is so good. That said, if you listen without headphones then I've found it's not as much of an issue. There are some problems here that are quite hard to look past, but it's an imaginative project with a concept you're bound to like if you're into fantasies about mysterious forests and spirits - and, as with any Aesop Rock album, there's so many lyrics packed into it that you'll definitely pick up on something new on a relisten.
Best tracks Pizza Alley, Marble Cake, Coveralls
SFMadannokaze.jpg ICHIKO AOBA - ADAN NO KAZE
I've probably mentioned this at some point before in the section, but I find it much, much easier to review albums I don't like. That's probably common sense, but it does annoy me when I really love something and can't come up with better words to describe it than "great" or "brilliant" or "superb". Ichiko Aoba's releases this year have been absolutely sublime - from the Amuletum Bouquet single at the start of the year, to the live album "Gift" at Sogetsu Hall. Adan no Kaze (or, Windswept Adan) is quite different from Aoba's other work, moving slightly away from the acoustic sound of her previous records and utilising more instruments to move towards a chamber folk sound. The album starts with the sublime "Prologue", where the sound of the ocean is interspersed with these gorgeous strings and chimes, and vague hints of Aoba's vocals echo in the background, building the atmosphere of the album and immediately immersing the listener in it, and introducing the oceanic themes it centres around. Then, "Pilgrimage" puts Aoba's vocals to the forefront; it's backed by only a guitar at first, but as the first verse ends the instruments start to build, and the melodies and sounds shift with the mood of the song. The vast, ethereal instrumentation blends perfectly with Aoba's vocals and harmonies, and every song feels like it's bringing fresh ideas and sounds to the forefront, whether it's through conventional sounds and instruments, or moments of ambience and nature recordings. There's a few tracks here where the instrumentation is stripped back a bit - "Horo", for instance, is almost completely acapella, and shifts so much focus to the vocal performance that you can hear each breath Aoba takes; on "Parfum d'étoiles", you can hear every key of the piano being pressed, and the sound of footsteps on leaves and Aoba distantly humming along to the melody can be heard - this creates a really amazing sense of space with very few elements. The final track closes out with two minutes of ocean sounds, which eases the listener out of the atmosphere well, and gives them time to reflect on the album. This is a really incredible album, with sharp production, gorgeous vocals and a vivid, warm atmosphere - one of the absolute best things I've listened to all year, from 2020 or otherwise.
Best tracks Dawn in the Adan, Pilgrimage, Adan no Shima no Tanjyosai, Parfum d'étoiles, Sagu Palm's Song
SFMcharmed.jpg DJ SABRINA THE TEENAGE DJ - CHARMED
If you've listened to any of DJ Sabrina's other work, I'm sure you'll know how long their albums tend to be - generally around an hour and a half to two hours. Charmed is DJ Sabrina's longest to date, lasting no less than 183 minutes. There's no specific duration where an album starts to feel "too long" - three hours probably sounds like nothing if you listen to, say, opera, or tape music (William Basinski, The Caretaker, etc.) - it's all down to what it does with this time, and whether or not it stays fresh. This is a very funky, dense house album, so if you're not really clicking with something then it has the potential to feel draining, and on an album with so many tracks (31 to be exact, many of which longer than four minutes) you're very likely to not enjoy some parts as much as others. For me, personally, my interest hardly ever dropped throughout the entire three hours. The first few tracks didn't blow me away as much as I would have hoped, but by "Love Foundation" I was fully on board. The atmosphere DJ Sabrina creates here is naturally huge, and well into the album's runtime you're faced with new ideas, plus this whole turn-of-the-century teen drama vibe the vocal samples give it are often funny and give it a lot of personality. You don't have to listen to it all in one go, but if you're into anything vaguely funky then there's a ridiculous amount of content you'd probably enjoy here, and tackling the entire thing in one evening was one of my favourite listening experiences of the year.
Best tracks 2 Long LookIIng Back, Too, End of an Era, Love Foundation, Wedding Night
SFMdisco.jpg KYLIE - DISCO
There's already been quite a few disco/nu-disco/disco-inspired records this year (Dua Lipa, Róisín Murphy, Jessie Ware...), quite a few of which I've gone into expecting to enjoy based on how many people have been saying they're good and end up feeling a bit let down with. I was worried this'd happen with Disco - it's not the most unique thing to call your disco album. But it is straightforward and upfront about what the album is: it's 40 minutes of disco. It's not particularly groundbreaking and it's not as great as her '00s output, but every song here's at the very least enjoyable. I've heard "Magic" and "Say Something" on the radio quite a bit, but listening to them in this context brings out a lot of smaller moments in the production I hadn't really noticed before, and there's quite a lot of layers to the sound here. Kylie's vocals throughout the record are lush and energetic, and the backing vocals work well alongside them. There's a small dip in quality towards the end, but it's not bad enough to spoil the rest of the album. As with the Gorillaz album from last month, this also has a deluxe version for some reason, with even less extra tracks - all of which solid enough to have made it onto the record in the first place, but not unique enough for me to say they should've replaced any songs that actually made it onto the album.
Best tracks Say Something, Supernova, Magic
SFMevermore.jpg TAYLOR SWIFT - EVERMORE
I've only recently listened to Folklore, Taylor's earlier album from this year. I thought it was alright - my interest had essentially dried out by the second half, but there were a few great songs nonetheless. Sadly, great songs are exactly what Evermore lacks. From the first track, "Willow", you can tell it's leaning a bit more on the pop side of folk pop than its sister record, but the folk and chamber elements still back it up. As with Folklore, there are some really cool moments happening in the background of some of the tracks here, such as the tiny drum line in "Tolerate It" or the synth line in "Happiness", but this isn't enough to carry the weaker tracks, and can wear a bit thin on the rest. The guitars are the strongest part of the record for me, there's a lot of variation in what they're doing and they sound very clear - same goes for the percussion. On the other hand, the strings here are quite nice but generally nothing special; the piano lines are generally uninteresting, which is a shame because there's a lot of songs that are driven by them; and Taylor's vocals work but feel a bit one-note, as does the lyrical content. As for the guest performances, I didn't enjoy what the Bon Iver guy was doing on the other album, and here he's singing in a higher pitch that really sounds strange. All in all, not to say it's a terrible album, but for the largest part I felt completely indifferent towards it. That said, if you liked Folklore then I don't really see any reason why you wouldn't like this.
Best tracks Long Story Short, Willow, Cowboy Like Me
FURTHER LISTENING
FreshOut.gif

Minecraft Super Mario Mash-Up Pack Review

Written by: Moldomré (talk)

INTRODUCTION:

Hello, hello, hello Mario Wiki! I’m Moldomré, and this is a one-off segment and my first article written for Critic Corner! Today I will be reviewing something related to Minecraft, the Super Mario Mash-Up Pack! The Mash-Up Pack comes bundled with every copy of Minecraft for the Nintendo Switch and Wii U; it consists of a skin pack, a Mario themed world to play in, and a Mario resource pack. I will be reviewing only the resource pack in this article. Resource packs are things that people can make for Minecraft to change the textures, sounds, and names of a multitude of things in Minecraft. The official Mario resource pack that accompanies the Mash-Up Pack as a whole is of course filled with expertly crafted (pun most certainly intended) art, so who wouldn't want to go into several things about it? However, there's a catch to how I'll be covering this resource pack, and I'll go into that real quick.

The Artwork of the Super Mario Mash-Up Pack

THE RESOURCE PACK RULES:

When making resource packs, I tend to change textures based on one thing: what is something that the Minecraft item has in common with an item from, say, The Legend of Zelda? For me, I changed the fishing rod into the Hookshot from Zelda games due to the Hookshot having little in common with any other Minecraft items. Another example is a change that should be a no-brainer change: changing the Totem of Undying from Minecraft into the 1-Up Mushroom for a Mario resource pack.

So, in order to rate things in the resource pack I will rate them on a three star grade for how well they do at the criteria that I have laid out. Understand? Then let's-a-go!

THE WANDERING TRADER:

The first thing in the Mario Mash-Up Pack's resource pack that I will be covering is pretty unique: The Wandering Trader was transformed into the Raccoon from Super Mario Sunshine. Not only does this fit the Raccoon's personality, as he is shown to travel all over Isle Delfino in the game, but it fits with the previously set pattern of all Villager types being Piantas from Sunshine.

I really like this texture, as it covers a lot of bases while staying true to the previous textures of Villagers. I rate this three stars!

The Raccoon as seen in the Mario Mash-Up Pack.

THE PILLAGER:

However, on the opposite end of things, here's a texture that does not fit well with any of the other textures in its category, and also breaks immersion: The Pillager being transformed into Rango, the boss from Super Mario Odyssey. This change doesn't make sense for several reasons. Pillagers spawn into a Minecraft world in groups; so, in a world with the Mario resource pack on, why would there be multiple Rangos in a world? If I were to choose, I would use a Sumo Bro. due to their gruff nature, which fits the personality of a Pillager.

The rating of this texture? One star. Bad inspiration and ruins immersion when there are multiple on screen at once.

The very out-of-place Rango texture used by Pillagers.

THE EVOKER AND WITCH:

The last texture that I will cover today is something that fits the personality of the mob, but completely breaks immersion in one swift stroke. The Evoker, a magical spell-caster found in Woodland Mansions, is transformed into a Magikoopa. Sounds like a perfect fit, right? I agree! There's only one problem. They already had a Magikoopa in the resource pack. The Witch, a magician who throws harmful potions at the player, was in the original release of the resource pack as a Magikoopa. When the Minecraft update that added the Evoker rolled around, the texture team working on the Mash-Up Pack to keep it up to date decided to simply add another Magikoopa, and with worse glasses to boot! The gall of these people to change the Magikoopa to have bad glasses! Anyway, if I could choose a different texture for the Evoker, I would choose any of the Koopalings, perhaps Larry Koopa as he is the most recognizable.

While the texture itself fits the Evoker, it completely destroys immersion; for this reason it gets two stars.

The original Magikoopa texture used by Witches.
The newer, worse Magikoopa texture used by Evokers.

CONCLUSION:

This has been the review for the resource pack part of the Mario Mash-Up Pack included with Minecraft on Nintendo Switch and Wii U! In general the Mario Mash-Up Pack as a whole is really good, with some more questionable design choices made as Minecraft adds more and more things. The Minecraft world and skins that are included with the Mash-Up Pack are basically love letters to the Mario franchise, the world especially. And...I believe that's all I have to say! I hope you enjoyed this one-off and didn't find my article too boring, I know not everyone is a big fan of Minecraft like me. This has been your humble author, Moldomré!

Pokédex Power

Written by: Yoshi876 (talk)

It's a Cerebral Pokémon, and they really didn't want to call it an alien there.

Hello everyone, it's me, Yoshi876 again with a new edition of Pokédex Power, the section written by the person who for the first time in December isn't writing about an Ice-type Pokémon, although that's because we're themed for Partners in Time and Hollijolli Village isn't enough of an ice-theme to justify it, we do have aliens though.

Well, I say aliens, but the games don't really try and show this with Beheeyem, although its pre-evolution Elgyem does get some hints. I know the games take place on the Pokémon world, but it would ne neat for there to be some hints in the game that Beheeyem is from another planet, maybe a crashed UFO somewhere, or given that the Unova region is based on New York City, we could've slightly expanded the scope and included Area 51. Another possibility is having them team up with Deoxys in a spin-off game where they try to take over the world, maybe if we ever get another Pokémon Ranger or Mystery Dungeon entry that could be the plot.

I have never used Beheeyem or Elgyem in any of the Pokémon games that I've played, maybe that will change when I get into Shield, and as I haven't watched the anime in recent years I haven't seen Beheeyem in that, although I do believe they hint at alien origin in that. I have managed to see that iconic clip where they call Team Rocket and Ash idiots and that should be enough to win at least one Emmy I feel. But does having scene-stealing moments mean it has good Pokédex entries? Let's find out…

Generation V

Pokémon Black It can manipulate an opponent's memory. Apparently, it communicates by flashing its three different-coloured fingers.
Pokémon White It uses psychic power to control an opponent's brain and tamper with its memories.
Pokémon Black 2 Apparently, it communicates by flashing its three fingers, but those patterns haven't been decoded.
Pokémon White 2 Apparently, it communicates by flashing its three fingers, but those patterns haven't been decoded.

It's good that we start off with some alien stuff here, with Beheeyem able to tamper with its opponents' memories, much like an alien would wipe the memory of a person that it abducted and performed tests on, but it never really goes anywhere and it's also basically all we get this generation, other than talking using flashing lights, again, it doesn't go anywhere. For these entries to get better, they need to explain what Beheeyem does when it tampers with memories, does it make the opposing Pokémon forget that it's caught and it therefore reverts to more wild tendencies? Does it make a Pokémon forget some of the moves that it knows? There's a lot that they could've done here, but instead they just gave some half-assed attempts and called it a day. The fingers point is also disappointing, especially since it goes nowhere in future generation, it would've been nice if by Generation VII we knew the answers.

Generation VI

Pokémon X Apparently, it communicates by flashing its three fingers, but those patterns haven't been decoded.
Pokémon Y It uses psychic power to control an opponent's brain and tamper with its memories.
Pokémon Omega Ruby Apparently, it communicates by flashing its three fingers, but those patterns haven't been decoded.
Pokémon Alpha Sapphire It uses psychic power to control an opponent's brain and tamper with its memories.

Maybe I've had my memories rewritten, but I feel like I read these exact entries just a few moments ago.

Generation VII

Pokémon Ultra Sun With its psychic powers, it rewrites its opponents' memories. You, too, may have already had your memories rewritten.
Pokémon Ultra Moon It has strong psychic powers. Using its fingers that flash three different colours, it controls its opponents and rewrites their memories.

Generation VII usually gives decent entries, but these are so disappointing. It's simply the entries we've already had, just written with more words. Which is perhaps what I'm doing, considering I complained about the same thing last generation, but when there's so much more that could be done, this is a letdown. What makes it even more disappointing is that Generation VII had the Ultra Wormholes, which were definitely portals to other worlds. Beheeyem could've had entries tied to that, perhaps it lives on the same planet as one of the other Ultra Beasts and the Pokédex could've detailed their interactions.

Generation VIII

Pokémon Sword Whenever a Beheeyem visits a farm, a Dubwool mysteriously disappears.
Pokémon Shield Sometimes found drifting above wheat fields, this Pokémon can control the memories of its opponents.

These are exactly the entries that I would've wanted for Beheeyem, just full focus on alien lore, throwing so many common stereotypes in: abductions and wheat fields. I think it's brilliant that they go straight in with their farmyard shenanigans, although that Generation VIII does have Miltank, perhaps it would’ve made more sense to have mentioned them in the entry over Dubwool considering that alien films always have them focusing on cows. I do wish that Shield had gone full-in on crop circles though. I get the implication is there, given they're floating around, but go full hog in on it and mention that they make crop circles, especially since the second part is just the same fact we've been getting for three generations running. I get it, they control memories, now move onto something that's far more interesting given that you haven't developed it for three generation straight!

Conclusion Beheeyem could've had some of the best entries within the Pokédex, instead they just want to keep telling you that it tampers with your memories, although perhaps Beheeyem keeps tampering with the Pokédex writers' memories and they forgot they included it. And the fact that they never even develop it, they just keep mentioning it make it more egregious. There are many ways that it could be developed and perhaps become more interesting, but it appears that they didn't really care about that. Beheeyem is slightly saved by the Generation VIII entries, going full in on aliens, but it does end on a sour note by bringing up the memories again, maybe try throw something in about a UFO, or even whether they always seem baffled by Earth customs. However, if Beheeyem is truly an alien, it must be pretty annoying to have come halfway across the universe just to get tied to a 10-year-old kid because they threw a ball at you.

Anton's Half-Baked Reviews

Written By: Hypnotoad (talk)

Welcome to our special Issue 165 where we are focusing on Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, theming things around that game, aliens, time travel, that sorta stuff! But currently the technology does not exist for me to go back in time and prevent Chocolate Peanut Butter Chex Mix from being discontinued, so the funky Toad-adjacent Shroobs will have to suffice! How so for a food review section? Well, funky mushrooms of course!

I will be mostly focusing on truffle products here as that’s a mushroom item that’s a little weird and funky and more interesting than talking about the pizza topping one. In the fun factoid zeitgeist we’ve got going on it’s sorta common knowledge that truffles are insanely expensive and are almost required to be served in the highest class of situations. To summarize Wikipedia and some other sources, truffles are the fruiting body of a particular phylum of fungus, which have been harvested for hundreds of years to be served in the finest of dishes predominantly along the Mediterranean coasts and into the Middle East. Black truffle, white truffle, summer truffle are the ones more common to see around. They typically grow under- or just-slightly-above-ground near certain trees where they rely on animals to eat them and spread the spores, and are otherwise difficult to cultivate, leading to their expensive and thus luxurious nature. They are said to have a chocolatey, nutty, earthy, woody, mushroomy, garlicky, musty flavor that varies with region and soil quality, but how much of that is even detectable to a plebian palate like mine to matter? If they’re so hard to come around and expensive when other more readily available fungi exist, then why even bother? I’m here to figure that out!

Le Comptoir de Mathilde Moutarde à la Truffe Noire

I have yet to feel fancier.

A remnant of my Paris trip, Le Comptoir de Mathilde’s black truffle mustard looks craft and deluxe, but not any more than the rest of their specialty mustard line, all of which rests at about 5€ (~$6) for 100g. While that does seem pricey, as your average 400g bottle of French’s yellow mustard goes for easily under $2, it’s really not that far off from similar products, and if anything a bit less expensive. I appreciate the smaller size as it provides more than enough to sample while still remaining within a budget. The “1%” seems like it’d be a rip-off, but it really is more than enough to give a significant punch of musty flavor. Who knew a product called “mustard” could get mustier?

Be sure to stir.
Upon opening the bottle I am met with the full power of its pungency, an intense wave of memories exploring my old home’s dark and damp labyrinthian basement. The stench of mildew and wet dog is hardly befitting a product that’s held up to such gourmet and luxurious standards, but I guess that’s what happens when the entire basis for its popularity is the difficulty of obtaining the base product and not so much its purported pleasantries. Combined with the mustard’s tang, it’s not such an offensive stink, but rather one that inspires intrigue, as this particular sensation isn’t commonplace. It’s really hard to describe the flavor but it’s like what if you could stack the experience of eating a raw mushroom a dozen times. It’s distinctly mustard so the application is identical, but it adds just such a potent mushroom flavor and aroma. I had this with a fairly large cheese board and spread to sample with an array of crackers and cheeses as I felt it was finally a proper event to crack open something like this with ample opportunities for pairings. On a simple water cracker with some nutty and creamy baby swiss cheese to complement the warm earthy mustard. Or, something a tad saltier like a pretzel crisp, or dipped into with a chunk of genoa salami. Perhaps brie if you want to go all in on the funk, but blue cheese is just too far into redundancy that one or the other becomes lost. Leading from the cheese board and its pretzel crisps, it hit me that I had missed an obvious application for a mustard--pretzels! Using this mustard as a simple dip for warm soft pretzels, or spread on a pretzel melt, does feel a bit luxe, but it’s only about alright. Kinda good, kinda eh, the savory salty flavors kinda work with each other, but somehow the truffle flavor gets left behind and it’s just mustard again.

While clearly this brand is not very accessible to those in the United States, it does bode well for comparable products that can, such as from Maille which I’ve seen in higher end grocery stores around me, to whatever other gourmet brand you can find at little expensive deli and fine goods shops. It’s absolutely not an everyday product, as one would anticipate from its generally absurd price however “justified” it may be, but also because the flavor is so potent that it leans more towards noxious if taken in larger quantities. If it’s such a special product of such high quality and prestige, it should be set aside for only such occasions. If you need a mushroom on your sandwich just use a portabella, but if you’re doing something with pizzazz then go ahead and break this out.

Trader Joe’s Organic White Truffle Potato Chips

I don't normally eat my chips from a bowl, who do you take me for?

My sister-in-law apparently loves these so their existence was on my radar, and a quick pre-covid trip to Trader Joe’s netted me a bag, and then a peri-covid trip again because I completely forgot I even bought them in the first place. They appear to just be regular potato chips flavored with Italian white truffles and fleur de sel sea salt. Opposed to the black truffle from the mustard prior, white truffles are more potent and aromatic, and thus more expensive. Fleur de sel, meanwhile, is just simply a type of salt that’s flaky due to the way it formed and was harvested, and is typically used more for finishing and garnish in food applications.

Well, these taste just like a regular plain potato chip that has been sitting in a damp basement for several months past its expiration. Opening the bag made for a noxious poof of truffle air blasting me in the face and rendering me temporarily woozy, but unfortunately that seems to be the height of its flavor. Not quite a full-on earthy mushroom taste like other truffle stuff that tends to use black truffle, but it absolutely was sorta musty. I almost feel like it would’ve been better as a more violently mushroomy flavor because the subtlety of this chip was just close enough to a regular plain chip that the slight variance just felt more off than it did as its own flavor. Given that white truffle is supposed to be stronger than black, I’m wondering if the discrepancy here is purely out of the quantity of it used in baking. I got through a couple chips before I genuinely started feeling kinda sick, as my body did not understand what it had done to deserve such a bizarre assault. What I’ve found is that it provides a better experience if you come back to it a few weeks or so later. That may sound a bit unintuitive as it’ll just go stale, but the chip kept its crispiness while the pungency of the truffle had a chance to air out a little after having been choking on itself in an airlocked bag for so long. The intensity waned and became more approachable, but certainly did not lose its distinctiveness. It still tasted like a regular plain chip that had something wrong with it, but rather than being off-putting it was kind of mesmerizing, encouraging eating another, and another, to try and pinpoint what’s going on.

Grafton Village Cheese Co. Truffle Cheddar

I got this cheese at some gourmet food and olive oil store that sits tucked away in an alley on one of the more high-end shopping streets in the city. It’s a good place to window shop, especially as this shop in particular offers samples on every single item in their inventory which is pretty handy if you don’t want to dump a ton of cash on a risk. I liked the sample, and indulging in some retail therapy, I bought it. So, the Grafton Truffle Cheddar is a raw milk cheese, meaning it comes from milk that has not been pasteurized, putting it in a legal conundrum that requires it be aged for at least 60 days before being eligible for sale in the United States. Simple cheese science states that the longer a cheese ages, the sharper (harder) and more flavorful they tend to become. Long story short, I’m expecting this cheese to pack a punch.

Looks like it belongs in a Hickory Farms gift set.

Opening the package and it smells...smelly. Visually, the truffle is almost nowhere to be seen, with maybe a single pin prick every couple inches, which would be disappointing and turn me away (if the $9.50 price tag already hasn’t) if not for the previous sample and just general experience that it doesn’t take much truffle for the effect. Alone, not so much of an earthy flavor as it is kinda smoky with a ripe milkiness, granting a point in favor of the raw milk team. It tastes incredibly similar to some of the washed rind French cheeses, like camembert or Pont-l'Évêque, but without much of the offensive odor and runniness. The cheese itself is buttery, but firm, kinda standard in texture to any other hunk of cheddar you’d get anywhere else regardless of brand. On a pretzel crisp with honey drizzle is pretty good, adds a good crunch and some sweetness to offset any pungency should it grow tiring. Melted on some pretzel bread alongside egg, everything bagel seasoning, salame napoli, cracked pepper turkey, its pungency is not diminished when paired with other strong savory flavors. If your budget can afford this, Grafton’s Truffle Cheddar is a strong option to add a deeper and more rounded smoky taste, providing much needed relief from our culture’s current overreliance on liquid smoke. Just have a plan in mind for it as it molds fairly quickly once opened.

Truff

The toughest choices in life are "is food that costs more than I make per hour worth it?"

Leave it to business majors looking to monetize their Instragram following to create a truffle infused hot sauce. I bought this at the same gourmet olive oil store as the Grafton cheese, and figured I’d get it while I was there. I had first seen this at ANOTHER gourmet food store that I was just being a bit curious in, but ended up not getting it because wow $16.49 for a mere 6oz of hot sauce is pretty oppressive, and the guy manning the counter seemed pretty sketched out by someone who’s not an upper-middle class parade of 60 year old white women checking out his stock of locally produced chocolate bars.

Now this is just unnecessary, guys.

Impressively earthy flavor, with a balanced sweet heat. Like, it tastes like hot concentrated mushroom, and I guess, well, it literally is. What even is earthy flavor, though? Well it’s not a simple pinpointed taste, but rather an umbrella term for sensations that are from the earth, like the smell of dirt and grass after it rains. Potatoes, beets, mushrooms, rosemary. This one in particular is a very intriguing facsimile to chomping on a wood pellet at a public playground after the reclaimed water sprinklers finished their duty. Because I’m not actually rich, I tried this on some frozen pizza. To my own credit in both ways, it was a name brand frozen pizza, but was also on a bogo sale. Given that it’s a gourmet fancy-pants trend item, I was fully expecting it to be some cheap gimmick that only technically had black truffle in it, as is the case with a lot of the others, but I was pleasantly surprised. There’s a heaviness to it, physically as it is a thicker hot sauce leaner closer to a paste than one might anticipate, but also in terms of its presence on whatever it’s put on. It’s definitely hot, as it’s hot sauce, but I never found myself clawing for a source of cool hydration. It’s more of a flavorful heat, as it should be. I’ll never understand the masochists who seek out the most painful of peppers, it just can’t at all be any more enjoyable than just the thrill of torturing yourself? If you are one of these people, let me know what the objective is to help me understand.

Absolutely gorgeous bottle and design, I just wish it had a no-drip pouring method so I wouldn’t accidentally waste any percentage of this as it’s so expensive. I would genuinely recommend this to even thrifty penny-pinching peeps who like mushroom on their pizza because while the bottle is $18 for a mere 6 oz, only a couple drops will give your food a strong mushroom taste. No more spending $3 a pop on an extra topping, and if properly rationed, it will equalize and outdo itself in value. Could the same effect be achieved with simply a shaker of truffle shavings, or truffle oil? Sure, maybe, who knows, go try it out and let me know! At the time I bought this only the original was available, but since then it has expanded to white truffle, hotter, and a few pasta sauces. I’ve also now spotted at least the original in more available places, like Whole Foods, Wegmans, Neiman Marcus and an increasing array of smaller fine food markets and butchers. Perhaps mix it in with some eggs, use on tacos or quesadillas, maybe even fried rice, but I would recommend using it with something that already is pretty rounded in flavor and spice as it can be quite potent on its own.

Badia Black Truffle Sea Salt

Promising amount of truffle bits.

I got this as I was walking down the spice aisle, as one does, and noticed a “new item” tag propped up next to a sale tag. Knowing that new item discounts are fleeting, I had to weigh my options, and knowing that I was brewing up this review topic, I got it. Badia is an affordable spice brand that, in my experience, isn’t of such terrible quality to inspire an upgrade. What I didn’t consider though is, uhh...what am I even gonna use this for? It appears to be a big container of large and flakey salt with a pretty fair amount of truffle pieces in it. Surely, I thought, inspiration would strike, the spirit of culinary curiosity would strike as I’m in the throes of passion atop my stove and in my oven? Fast forward like 9 months and this section is now due in about 2 weeks, so scouring Google for quick and easy inclusions will have to suffice. Pasta? Too much work. Pizza? Too expensive and I have to talk to someone. But popcorn, fries, and mashed potatoes? Count me in.

Excellent food group representation.

Some info to start, as this uses real truffle, it’s good to know that truffle does not do well in high heat, and the flavor can break down and diminish, ruining the entire reason you’re doing this in the first place. It’s better to treat it as a finishing salt, as in sprinkling it on once whatever it is you’re putting it on is complete and ready to eat. Opening the bottle did waft a promising aroma of saltiness and earthiness, so there’s sure to be something to this. Sprinkled a little in my hand and licked that, and it was remarkably similar to the previous Trader Joe’s Organic White Truffle Chips, which is even more promising. First up was popcorn, which, already being intimate with the physics of salting soft pretzels, I know can be quite an impossible task. Despite using particularly buttery popcorn, sure enough the salt and truffles bounced right off and into the bottom of the bowl. It kiiiiinda imparted some saltiness, but unless you’ve got particularly moist and rugged popcorn I really don’t see how this is worthwhile, and probably a task better suited for a truffle oil or butter. Next was fries, specifically seasoned wedges. The salt sticks well enough and all that, assuming you’re not too rough with your potato handling, but the truffle flavor just gets quite lost with the mere addition of paprika, garlic powder, and pepper. For a food item that’s heaved into the spotlight for its purported blast of refined flavor, it really shouldn’t be outshined by things so standard and ubiquitous. Finally, mashed potatoes. Just a little sprinkle, stir to incorporate, then another little sprinkle to make sure it’s all throughout. Immediately the flavor is coming through; I’m getting really no earthy mushroom vibe and rather a unique saltiness that tastes more smoky and rustic. It gave the mashed potatoes a greater depth without drastically altering the flavor. Could this be because the truffle salt was mixed and fully incorporated, rather than just simply sitting on top? Point is, truffle salt, at the very least the Badia brand, is pretty hit-or-miss, and to use it to a worthwhile potential you just have to know exactly what you’re doing with it, or be prepared for experimentation and disappointment. When it hits, it hits.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Accepting the award for 2020 Game of the Year.

Truffle truffle truffle, enough truffle! There’s gotta be some other kinda mushroom around that’s something special? While browsing through the Edible Orlando magazine, I came across an article about Nearby Naturals, a local farmer specializing in a wide diversity of mushrooms, how exciting! The text mentioned they’re available at some farmers markets, one of which is just down the road from me, so some staking out commenced, and soon enough I found their stand hosting a bunch of wacky-lookin’ shrooms. While inquisitive, I wasn’t feeling particularly risky, especially with the understandably higher prices I wanted to get a feel first. In the article the lion’s mane mushroom was featured and was apparently a popular selection, so that’s the one I got at $20 a pound. It was said that it has the texture of crab meat, and could be prepared similarly to cauliflower, so after some mulling about on what to do with it I went with a familiar option so I could hone in on the peculiarities of the mushroom--a burger.

The heavens carved my fate.

Pretty simple to prep and cook, just brush off the dirt and cut it into whatever shape or size you want it to be, only rinsing it if you absolutely need to because the mushroom is just so porous that it will absorb everything. Toss into a pan to cook for a few minutes, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, flip, repeat. Once it starts to look toasty, lob in some butter for it to soak up and then let it get more toasty. Plopped on a pretzel roll (catching the trend here?) with some colby jack, romaine, and sweet bbq sauce, with some mushroom on the side to just taste on their own. The experience is almost all texture, as the lion’s mane hardly contributes any flavor of its own, relying entirely on whatever I seasoned it with. The texture definitely satisfies some primal desire to bite into a dishwashing sponge. There’s definitely some kind of flavor that lingers in my mouth for a while after, and I just can’t seem to figure out what it is except it’s not very pleasant.

My home is officially a gastropub now.
Honestly just do a regular burger, or a veggie burger, or even fake meat, because it’s just not really a comparable experience or really provides anything of its own except whatever health benefits you desire, and if that’s the case just get some of the mushroom dust to shake on something else that has more body and substance, or just put mushrooms onto a burger. Whoever said that it feels and tastes like crab or lobster meat has clearly never actually eaten either, and all of the foodie, vegan, and essential oil mom blogs all agreeing clearly haven’t actually tried the mushroom. All that said, though, I didn’t hate it! Perhaps a more experienced vegan chef would be able to coax something more out of this, so if you are one and are also a cutie-patootie, come right over.

To summarize my cursory look at truffles and uncommon ‘shrooms, I suppose to explore further I would need to go out into the world and try out how professionals utilize these ingredients in ways they are more experienced than I at handling. Also, if you have a burgeoning interest in food (everyone has to eat, right?), I highly suggest seeing if your area has an Edible magazine, as there is a version for, at the moment, about 80 different areas. It certainly doesn’t cover everywhere, but they have been a blessing in discovering all kinds of food things around me, from particular restaurants opening or closing, certain foods that are offered at places I didn’t even consider going to until I knew, as well as a handy-dandy farmers market/farm market map that has opened the doors to so much exploration for me. If not this magazine, please seek out something comparable, even if it’s the cork board of business cards at your local pizzeria.

The 'Shroom: Issue 165
Staff sections Staff NotesThe 'Shroom SpotlightEnd-of-the-Year AwardsDirector Election'Shroomfest
Features Fake NewsFun StuffPalette SwapPipe PlazaCritic CornerStrategy Wing
Specials Switch It Up!Killing The Killing Game

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