Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Gardein Holiday Roast!

Is the Canuck product the best faux-turkey veggie dinner on the market?

A few years ago, I reviewed the Tofurky roast kit. For those of you unfamiliar with the product, it’s basically a giant, frozen, vegan-friendly pseudo-turkey meal, complete with a congealed bucket of no-meat gravy mix on the side. From what I recollect, it was a fairly enjoyable meal -- probably not something hardcore carnivores would enjoy, but for those with greener palates, it was certainly a serviceable replacement dinner for the Thanksgiving season.

So, I was strolling down the frozen food section aisle of a certain big box store lately, when I saw this:

It’s called the “Gardein Holiday Roast,” and apparently, it’s a north-of-the-border riposte to the Tofurky kit. As it turns out, Gardein actually has quite a few no-meat frozen alternatives on store shelves -- I guess they’re the Canadian version of Morningstar, I take it.

Of course, the big draw here is the stuffing and the breading. As cool as the Tofurky kit was, it didn’t come in a breaded shell, which Gardein’s product proudly boasts. Nor did Tofurky’s stuffing include cranberry flakes and nuggets of wild rice, which is another huge positive for the Tofurky competitor.

As far as what the product itself is made out of, it's a real hodgepodge of organic (and not-so-organic) materials. I really like the fact that the box tells you upfront it has GMOs in it ... just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's 100 percent douchey, y'know. And nutrition-wise, it's pretty light stuff; you can eat the entire goddamn roast in one sitting, and that still leaves you with about 400 extra calories to spare for the evening.

Right out of the box, the Gardein Holiday Roast  already looks like a completely cooked meal. And yes, you're not alone in thinking "man, that thing looks like a giant hash brown," either. In terms of weight, it's probably the total overall poundage as a modest squeeze-tube of pork sausage. The box says the overall product is 40 ounces, but from my eyes, I doubt the actually roast is more than half of that  -- this thing couldn't be more than 20, 24 oz. at the absolute most.

Also included in the kit are two vaccuum-sealed pouches of frozen gravy. Combined, I reckon these two packets weight about the same as the roast itself. And feasibly, you could pummel a man unconscious with both, if you really had to, which has to be considered a bonus for the product.

You have two options in terms of preparation. You can either do things the hard way and roast this veggie sumbitch in a traditional oven for an hour or you can slightly microwave the dish first and then bake it for roughly the same amount of time it takes to watch an episode of "The Golden Girls." You also have two paths for cooking the gravy -- thawing the sauce in a bowl of boiling hot water for 15 minutes or microwaving the mixture for three minutes. Just to be contrary, me and Mrs. Internet Is In America decided to take the "easy" path with the roast and the "hard" path with the gravy ... which means in one of the "Sliders" multiverses, there's an alternate reality where we microwaved the gravy and slow cooked the fake turkey meat, I take it.

In case you were wondering, microwaving the roast for a few minutes really doesn't change the tint or hue of the dish whatsoever. To be sure, it certainly smells a little bit different, but to the untrained cornea, yeah, it still resembles the world's largest uncooked cheese stick.

Nor can I say there's too much excitement watching frozen gravy slowly transform into a more liquid state, either. I mean, yeah, it gets mushier and stuff, but like any non-molecular physicist could tell you there's a key difference between this and the stuff that came straight out of the box. Probably.

And the completely cooked roast looks like ... well, a completely uncooked roast! Although to be fair, the spices embedded in the breading definitely become a lot more pronounced after a half hour at 400 F.

And another good thing? It's really an all over golden roast, too, so you get a nice, flaky exterior all the way around the product and not just on top. And it smells really nice, too, like a giant French fried turkey

Sure enough, the finished gravy looks just like ... the moon. Or a three-day-old McDonalds milkshake. Or half a human butt cheek. But, uh, it certainly smells like the kind of flour paste we all know and love, though!

Of course, man cannot live off Canadian faux meat alone, so I strongly suggest complementing your dinner with a fine seasonal beverage -- preferably, the Thanksgiving-time-only Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash, which beats the ever-loving dog shit out of Sprite's competing ThanksBeverage, and hard.

And here's the FULL MONTY, dear readers! Indeed, the interior of the Gardein Roast looks very, very turkey-like, while the stuffing itself looks, uh, mushy. But don't let the goopy insides fool you, because this shit is really, really tasty -- in fact, I think it might be even yummier than the Tofurky original!

The cranberry flavoring is very pronounced, but I was much more impressed by the flavor of the wild rice. It's hard to keep the taste of something embedded two layers deep in chemically engineered beef and breading fresh and distinct, but I'll be several shades of darned if the Gardein Roast stuffing didn't taste like a just-boiled pot of spicy rice. Coupled with the juicy not-meat and extra chewy breading (not to mention the suprisingly authentic tasting gravy), this was actually a damned delicious offering in every sense of the word.

Obviously, the Gardein Holiday Roast is a treat for vegetarian/vegan folks who miss what good food used to taste like, but I reckon this here roast is just yummy enough to perhaps even impress a few omnivores, too. And the best part? Sans all of those pesky tryptophans, this is one turkey dinner that won't make you pass out in a bowl of macaroni noodles five minutes after ingesting it.


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