Mar 152015

iCoffee Opus ReviewAs you have probably noticed from my dozens of coffee-maker reviews, coffee brewers are a bit of a habit with me. I've tried percolators, drip makers, thermal carafe brew stations, grinder-drip makers, various single-cup Keurig machines, Tassimo single cup brewers, and French Presses.  The latest addition to my coffee maker addiction is a new and improved, off-brand version of the most popular, single-cup, K-Cup brewer, the iCoffee Opus. While there are a few other off-brand, K-Cup brewers, the iCoffee Opus utilizes a unique technology not found in other coffee makers.

What's Different about the iCoffee Opus?

SpinBrew Technology

Have you ever wondered if you're getting the full flavor of your cup of coffee as you watch the hot water pour consistently right through the center of the K-Cup? I have not only wondered about this, but have noticed that the coffee from my Keurig is often inconsistent from one cup to the next. My typical 8 ounce serving will taste really good sometimes, but too weak at other times. I've noticed regardless of what brand of coffee I am using. I often wondered how carefully the coffee manufacturers are about measuring the actual contents of coffee that goes into each cup. Or, it could simply be that the brewer itself does not do a consistent job of extracting the complete flavor of the grinds in the k-cup each time?  Either way, the the iCoffee Opus aims to solve this problem by adding an extra operation to the brew function. The iCoffee Opus utilizes a unique brewing technology. The little rod which punctures the hole inside of the k-cup remains inside of the pod and continuously spins inside of it as hot water is being poured through. The idea behinds this is that the water is being dispersed more evenly among the grounds, resulting in a bolder, smoother tasting cup of coffee. According to the iCoffee manufacturer, the grounded coffee beans in traditional k-cup brewers are being over-extracted, resulting in a bitter taste. Personally, I have not been too terribly troubled with bitter tasting k-cup coffee, only disappointed in the inconsistency of strength from cup to cup. In theory, the SpinBrew concept makes good sense. The needle sprays water out the sides, while it is spinning in circles, ensuring that all of the coffee is being evenly saturated throughout the k-cup pod. As we all know, however, not everything in theory turns out as well in reality. Before I get into the actual results and how good iCoffee coffee really tastes, I would like to emphasize one other important advantage of the Opus Coffee Maker..

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 Posted by at 11:18 am
Mar 012015

Best Tequila for MargaritasIn a perfect world, the best tequila for margaritas would be the one that tastes best by itself. Enjoying those kinds of margaritas on a consistent basis, however, is outside most of our budgets. When searching for the best tequila for margaritas, one key is to find the brand that tastes the best at an affordable price. There are other considerations for margarita drinkers.  While we would all agree that smoothness is important, the taste and character of tequila are subjective things that may or may not add to the overall enjoyment of a margarita. It might be that the best sipping tequila in the world has qualities and characteristics that are too bold to make the perfect margarita. It is also likely that the unique taste of world class tequilas is completely lost and unappreciated.  Before I provide my Best Tequila for Margaritas list, I would like to provide some general criteria.


Rating Criteria

The Best Tequila for Margaritas

I have come up with three categories that I think are important for margarita drinkers:

  • Smoothness – A smooth tasting tequila obviously makes a smooth tasting Margarita.
  • Price – For the vast majority of us, it doesn’t make sense to use expensive sipping tequilas for Margaritas.
  • Neutrality – This category sort of works hand-in-hand with price. Very pricey tequila full of bold character and flavor will either be underappreciated or over-shadow the margarita mix. Speaking of margarita mix, I believe the simpler, the better. I will share with you my own recipe.


Recipe used to rate Best Tequilas for Margs

Even an affordable and good tequila will go to waste in a bad mix. I am not a fan of the overly sweet or sour cook-aid type mixes that most restaurants serve. I use three simple ingredients: 1 part fresh-squeezed lime juice, 2 parts tequila, and a splash of Contreau or Stirrings triple sec.   I like to shake the ingredients vigorously for about 30-40 seconds and serve up (or neat) in a glass with salt around the rim. One thing to beware of is that a bad lime can spoil everything. Good, fresh limes are usually shinier on the outside with bright green color and have a thick skin when they are sliced. Getting a good lime can be tricky, but it is well worth taking the time to find a grocer where they are consistently good. A sour lime will pretty much drown out everything that is good about the drink, including the tequila.

About my Tequila Ratings

I’ve decided to use a few of the familiar tequilas that I’ve tried and rated here on Product Review Ratings. Each tequila is rated in each criteria on a scale of 1 – 10. Of my two favorites, I will warn you that the Rancho Alegre does give me a headache. I didn’t think it would be fair to use that criteria in my ratings since so far, I am the only one I know that complains of this unwelcome phenomenon. I have not done nearly enough research to make this a thorough review, but hopefully these ratings on the best tequila for margaritas will lead you in the right direction.

Best Tequila for Margaritas

Rated by Smoothness, Price, and Neutrality

Tequila Smoothness Price (750ML) Neutrality RATING
El Ultimo Agave Reposado  8 9 ($14.00 - $15.00) 8 83%
Rancho Alegre Plata 7 9 ($13.00 - $15.00) 9 83%
Rancho Alegre Reposado 7 9 ($13.00 - $15.00) 8 80%
Olmeca Altos Plata 8 8 ($16.00 - $18.00) 8 80%
Olmeca Altos Reposado 8 8 ($16.00 - $18.00) 8 80%
El Charro Reposado 7 9 ($14.00 - $17.00) 8 80%
Camarena Reposado 7 8 ($17.00 - $19.00) 8 77%
El Zarco Silver 8 7 ($14.00 - $17.00) 7 73%


Mar 012015

El Ultimo Agave Tequila

El Ultimo Agave

El Ultimo Agave Tequila joins my short list of reviews on excellent tequilas that most of us can afford. I bought the 750ml Reposado El Ultimo Agave Tequila at a local liquor store for around $14.00. This puts it in the same price range of one our favorite marg-making standby's over the last couple of summers, Olmeca Altos Tequila. The price on Olmeca ranges from $27 - $31.00 at my local liquor stores for a 1.75 liter bottle. Another favorite, which is far cheaper than both of these is, Rancho Alegre. All three of these tequilas are 100% agave. There are a couple of reasons, I prefer the El Ultimo Agave to either of these other bargain-priced tequilas:

Taste Comparison

El Ultimo Agave Tequila

Compared straight-up to Olmeca Altos Tequila, both my wife and I preferred El Ultimo De Agave in a blind, taste-test. I was really surprised. Both are smooth tequilas that mix well for margaritas, but the El Ultimo Agave just seems to have more flavor and character.  I noticed hints of honey, fig, banana, butter, orange and ginger. The Olmeca Altos just doesn't offer as much flavor. For the money, I'd rather pay a little extra for the El Ultimo Agave tequila. Other tequila websites seem to agree with my opinion on El Ultimo Agave. Users and tequila critic snobs alike, have rated it very highly. I did not have the Reposado version of Rancho Alegre, but while I was in the mood, I did do another comparison.

Rancho Alegre Silver vs Olmeca Altos Tequila

A 1.75 bottle of Rancho Alegre is only around $21.00 and for taste-alone, remains the best deal there is. In another blind taste-test, my wife and I much preferred the cheaper Rancho Alegre over the Olmeca Altos tequila and I suspect it would give the El Ultimo Agave a run for its money if I had the same, two types to compare. However, this is a moot point for me. It has been painfully proven to me time and time again, that Rancho Alegre gives me a headache. My wife doesn't have this problem, so it could just be me. If you haven't tried Rancho Alegre, I encourage you to try it. Once the secret gets out on a good, cheap tequila, they become much easier to find, though the price tends to rise accordingly. At any rate, I will continue to try bargain-priced, 100% agave tequilas as I find them. The question is where can you find it?

Where to Buy El Ultimo Agave Tequila

Here is where things get tricky. El Ultimo Agave Tequila is listed as an uncommon tequila on the UndertheLabel website. I located El Ultimo Agave at Sams Warehouse Liquor in Westminster, Colorado. Though Sams is one of my favorite liquor stores, they are not in the most convenient location for me. Sams had an excellent selection of tequilas and trying a new one for the first time is a difficult choice. It turns out I made the right choice after fondling bottle after bottle of unknown tequila brands. The problem is, I have not been able to find El Ultimo Agave in any of the other liquor stores near my local neighborhood. If you can find El Ultimo Agave tequila at your local liquor store, I highly recommend it.

Dec 272014

What is a Bunion?

Hallux Valgus RemediesHallux Valgus is a painful condition that can both quite literally and figuratively knock you right off your feet. The more common term for hallux valgus is a bunion, or a visible bump on the side of the big toe caused by a bone structure problem. Bunions can cause your big toe to lean towards the second toe rather than pointing straight forward. Basically, the bunion or visible bump is the result of a bone-alignment problem which is more than likely caused by doing lots of walking in improper shoes. The more you walk on your feet this way, the more likely you are to aggravate the problem and require surgery. I had this visible bump on the right side of my toe for two years, before finally discovering what it was. The reason I didn't ever suspect I had bunions was because I've associated the pain and swelling with infrequent gout attacks and/or a fractured toe. I've had both of these ailments in the recent past. Now, having experienced all three of these foot problems, I feel pretty well qualified to describe the differences between all of them. I also believe I know how to deal with the problem of bunions in such a way to prevent the need for hallux valgus surgery which I will explain later.

The Difference Between Gout and Bunions

Gout attacks come on rather suddenly, but also heal rather quickly with an anti-inflammatory pain medication such as Indomethacin. I would rate the pain of bunions as a close second to a gout attack. The pain is not quite as severe, but unlike a gout attack, it takes my feet several weeks to heal. With gout, the pain for me can be just as excruciating whether I am on my feet or lying down. Bunions can be excruciatingly painful, but I am usually able to manage the pain a little better by simply resting my feet. Staying off my feet as much as possible is the only way to help the bunions heal. Gout pain tends to be more in the joint of the big toe. With my last bunion flare-up, the pain covered the upper and lower side of the big toe and even affected the bottom of my foot.  Bunions can also cause some very uncomfortable throbbing at night and make it difficult to sleep. Getting out of bed can be a traumatic experience, but overall, the pain is far more manageable than the worst stages of a gout attack which is constant, excruciating pain and extremely sensitive to the mere, light touch of a bed sheet.

Recognizing the Difference Between Bunions and a Fractured Toe

I couldn't have possibly been given a more confusing set of coincidences when it comes to understanding problems with my foot. I've had gout, a fractured toe, and a bunion all on my right toe within a time-frame of three years, or at least the latter two. When I first fractured my toe, I felt swelling and throbbing on my 2nd toe, rather than the big toe. I finally went into have the doctor look at it. She shook her head and told me that the swelling didn't look like gout. She was absolutely right. X-Rays proved that I had a fractured toe. The degree of pain was similar to my most recent bunion flare-up. The only difference is that the swelling and pain was pretty much limited to the surrounding toe where-as the bunion pain covered a much wider area around the affected bone. The last time I felt pain in the area of my toe, I was uncertain if I was on the verge of having a rare gout attack or if my previously fractured toe was causing me some problems. By a stroke of good fortune, my mother happened to be visiting us that day and I decided to show her my foot. She immediately recognized the bump as a bunion. I looked up the condition online and found several pictures which looked exactly like mine. Then, just when I thought my right foot was beginning to heal, I felt some pain on the bottom of my left big toe. Two days later, I recognized the visible bump on the side of my left toe. The one thing I didn't do was go limping into my doctor's office. From what I've read about bunions, there is not much a doctor can do other than prescribe prescription-strength pain killers or recommend surgery. I knew I had a bunion problem, but what would I do about it? I spent the better part of six weeks learning about my ailment and tried to avoid using my feet as much as possible (not an easy task in my line of work). I am one to avoid doctors and surgeries at all cost, so I decided to do my own research and remedies on Hallux Valgus: Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:05 pm
Jul 302014

VeggettiI never dreamed that veggie pasta would become one of my most desired food staples on the dinner table. The Veggetti will turn just about any reasonably sized squash or zucchini into a pasta dish in a couple of minutes or less. We've all probably seen spaghetti squash dishes used as pasta substitutes in the past. The Veggetti, though, which uses the narrower zucchini gives you a better taste and two different sized textures of vegetable pasta.  Unlike squash, the flavor won't over-power your sauce, and the texture is just as firm as your favorite brand of al dente spaghetti. Some of you are probably asking why anyone would prefer veggie spaghetti over good ol' regular pasta.

The answer is, carbs and gluten. Doctors and nutritionists are proving that our food pyramid has been deliberately and wrongly turned upside down for the last several years. Our bodies were meant to eat a diet with less carbs and richer in saturated fats and cholesterol. Books and blogs such as Wheat Belly and Grain Brain are changing the way we view carbohydrates in our diets. Furthermore, a higher number of people seem to be suffering from wheat or gluten intolerance these days, and Celiac disease is on the rise. Why wheat has suddenly become suspect in all of this is still Uncooked Veggie Pasta being debated. It could be that our bodies were never designed for grains, or it could have something to do with the way wheat and grains have been genetically modified. It is not the intention of my article to elaborate on this topic; there are plenty of other websites and books that go into that. One thing I do know for sure is that I have never enjoyed packaged spaghetti pasta as much as I used to since they started removing the eggs due to the phony cholesterol fear. My mother always had our favorite brand in the cupboards: R&F Egg Vermicelli. The eggs gave the pasta texture which as I will explain, is the most important characteristic of pasta. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:43 am