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Charlie Photos, 3/24/21

Because I know you want them. Here she is in the yard this afternoon.

Charlie, projecting attitude.

And in case you’re wondering, she’s doing well and adjusting to home life just fine. She continues to be a good dog.

— JS

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Athena Scalzi

Do You Want to Hear About This Japanese Snack Box I Got?

Well, you’re going to anyways, so strap in and come on this voyage of exciting flavors from across the sea with me!

I, being me, subscribed to yet another subscription box. Though this one is very different from all my other ones, because it is a snack box! Specifically a Japanese snack box, called Sakuraco.

Sakuraco is a company that wants to bring the experience of afternoon tea to others, and provide delicious snacks that aren’t really known outside of Japan. Their boxes contain 20 different Japanese tea time goods. So while most of the items are snacks, there is also tea and a home good, like ceramic dishware or chopsticks or something of the sort. The snacks range from castella cakes to senbei crackers to mochi.

So, I got my first Sakuraco box last week and today my dad and I tried it, and I’m here to give y’all the review.

The March 2021 box is their first ever box! This month’s theme was sakura (coincidental that it’s called Sakuraco, amiright?), so a good portion of the snacks were sakura flavored, which is cherry blossoms! So almost all of the packaging was super pretty pink and floral and totally adorable.

First up, we tried the Mini Sakura Senbei, which was one of the few savory snacks in the box.

These cherry blossom shaped rice crackers were soy sauce flavored, and they were a strong start to our tasting experience. They were crispy, light, salty, and addicting! The guide booklet provided with the snack box actually had a “maker highlight” page featuring the company that makes these, and it says that the Sakurado Confectionary is based in Niigata, which is the rice capital of Japan, and they only use rice from that region to make their snacks. So that’s pretty neat!

Up next was a Strawberry Dorayaki.

I’d never heard of dorayaki before, but it’s basically just a castella pancake! This particular one had a red bean and strawberry jam filling inside, which was a great flavor combination. The pancakes were definitely a different kind of texture than what I’m used to, but it was soft and sweet and quite enjoyable. I personally maybe would’ve liked a little more filling in it, but overall it was very good!

Next on our list was the Yoshino Kuzumochi.

This little bowl of kuzumochi (a gelatinous dessert made from kudzu vines) came with a packet of brown sugar syrup and a packet of roasted soybean flour (called Kinako), which is the brown powder you see on top of it in the picture. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, so I only added a sprinkle on top rather than a mound.

I have always loved mochi, but this was so different from what I was used to. I couldn’t get past the texture, and I almost couldn’t even swallow it I detested it so much. The flavor was fine. The brown sugar syrup wasn’t nearly as sweet as I would’ve expected, and the mochi itself was largely bland. My dad liked it, though, and said he didn’t mind the texture at all. Texture bothering me is such a rare occurrence, I like almost everything! So for me to not be able to eat something due to texture was surprising to me. The packaging was totes adorbs, though.

Moving on, we tried another castella type cake, this one being Strawberry Castella.

This little cake was a bit of a disappointment. It was dry, and my dad and I agree it felt like we were eating foam. And there for sure wasn’t enough filling, which didn’t really help the dry aspect of the cake. There was actually two of these in the box, but we didn’t eat the second one because it really was not very good.

The next thing we tried was the Sakura Strawberry Crepe Roll!

This was a big improvement from the strawberry cake we had before it. It was very light, since it’s just a thin crepe roll. The description said it’s coated in strawberry filling and that sakura are “worked into the crepe batter to give it the aroma of cherry blossoms.” I wouldn’t say it smelled strongly of cherry blossoms, though, but it did taste a little floral.

Japanese sweets are very different from American sweets in the way that they don’t punch you in the face with cavity-inducing sweetness. Japanese snacks tend to be much more subtle in sweetness, and focus more on flavors, whereas American snacks are like “YOU WANT EXTREME SOUR ACID COATED CANDY? YOU GOT IT.”

These were a perfect example of such thing, where they weren’t overly sweet, and had that delicate floral, strawberry flavor coming through. It was nice.

Following the sakura trend, we tasted the Sakura Madeleine next.

These sweet little muffin looking things were pretty good! The madeleine follows pretty much exactly what I just said about the subtle floral flavors and whatnot. It was a very mild, slightly sweet cake that was definitely pleasant and seems perfect for tea time.

After that we tried another one of the savory snacks. This one is a Sakurasen Cracker.

What we have here is another rice cracker, though this was one less crispy and more just kind of hard. The description says it has a mellow flavor, with sakura as an ingredient to give it the scent of cherry blossoms, but my dad and I agree there was no trace of cherry blossom going on in it. It had such a strong umami flavor, probably because it contained squid, so it was pretty salty. This cracker was deemed by us as “just alright.”

Following the disappointing rice cracker was the Sakura Monaka.

Here we have sakura scented red bean paste filling in between an oh so thin and crispy monaka wafer, which I had never heard of before. The crispy outside was a great contrast to the soft, jelly-like inside, and the flavor was super yummy!

Red bean paste is something I quite enjoy, and have liked since the first time I tried, but my dad says it was something he had to get used to, and didn’t exactly enjoy the first time he had it. I think it is definitely an unusual flavor. Again, it’s one of those things that is common there but kind of wild here. Like, BEANS as a dessert? Who would’ve thought.

So, yes, these were very good and one of my favorite things in the box! Though they did make a bit of a mess because the wafer layer totally falls apart when you bite into it.

Next up was the last of the savory snacks, the Sakura Shrimp Senbei!

This flower shaped rice cracker was actually very tasty, and tasted strongly of shrimp. It was salty, airy, crispy, and overall quite good! I could’ve definitely gone for a whole bag of these instead of just one, but I’m a bit gluttonous when it comes to snacks.

After this one was something I have always dreamed of trying, Red Bean Taiyaki.

This fish shaped dessert is about as far as you can get from the real thing, thankfully. The sweet bread is filled with red bean paste, which again is something I find super tasty, but it’s not for everyone.

Taiyaki is something I’ve always wanted to try because I saw so much in anime when I was a teenager. Almost every anime has that one episode where there’s a school festival or a celebration of some kind where street food is involved, and the characters are always shown eating taiyaki or those tri-colored dango. It always looked so good and I wished so badly I could try it someday. And while this version is just a packaged snack kind instead of one I got from a festival, I’m still happy I got to try it.

I was shocked by the next item, which was the Uji Matcha Castella.

I was surprised because basically the whole box is sakura or strawberry or a combination of the two, but this ogre-colored cake stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the pretty pinks. It’s green tea flavored, and has some red beans in it, so it was a whole different flavor profile from the rest of the box. I was glad for the change though, and it was a very tasty cake! It was moist and flavorful, definitely one of the best items in the box.

Made by the same company is this almost identical White Peach Castella:

Same soft consistency as the matcha cake, and same great moistness. This cake tasted like a toned down version of peach rings, and was another favorite amongst me and my family. Both cakes were great, I just prefer peach to matcha.

After these pillow-y sweet cakes, we decided to try the Sakura Mochi Monaka.

Another monaka wafer treat! Just like the other monaka snack in the box, it was also filled with red bean paste and sakura petals, the only difference is this one was salted sakura instead of sweet. This made for a very interesting sweet and salty combination. Though the pleasantly crispy outside didn’t taste like anything, the flavorful filling more than makes up for it. It has a perfect amount of the filling, too, so that’s nice. This one, though good, was more intriguing than anything.

Nearing the end, we have the Peach Sandwich.

Though they look pretty dang tasty, these overly peachy sandwiches were not very good. It was so odd, it almost felt like I had something gritty in my mouth, and my dad agreed that the texture was definitely like sand. These tasted so strongly of peach it was overwhelming, and overall they were just unenjoyable.

Last, but certainly not least, was the Sakura Konpeito.

You like rock candy? You like these.

These flower shaped sweets are literally just balls of hardened sugar. They have no flavor, despite the variety of colors, they are just pure, delicious, addictive sugar. We chose to eat these last because it was the only candy in the box, so it felt like the right note to end on. They were so tiny! They’re very cute, but again, they’re just sugar with no flavor, so a bit underwhelming overall.

The only food item in the box that was not tried was the Sweet Sakura Tea.

I do not like tea (though I wish desperately I did) and neither does my father, so we skipped this one entirely, plus I didn’t feel like putting it in the effort of boiling water and yada yada yada. Very aesthetically pleasing, though. I think it’s nice they include a tea considering it is all about providing the experience of tea time.

Aside from the food, this box came with a super duper cute ceramic plate with cherry blossom print!

It’s just a tiny little tasting plate, but it’s the perfect size for your afternoon tea time snacks and confectionaries! I love it.

You may be wondering, wasn’t that only 17 items and not 20? Well, little loophole there, there’s one extra of the strawberry castella cake, the sakura mochi, and the sweet sakura tea. So you don’t get 20 different things, you just get 20 things total. Though 17 is still a lot of different things to try, but I wish they would mention that some of the items are repeats.

Alright, so, like I said this a subscription box, and most subscription boxes have an option to pay for more than one month upfront at a cheaper bulk cost. If you choose to pay monthly, it’s $37.50 a box. A three month subscription is $35.50, six months is $33.50 a month, and a year is $32.50. So, the more you spend the more you save or whatever.

I went with the three month option because I think three months is the perfect amount of time to test any subscription box. One month isn’t enough in my opinion to know if a subscription box is actually good or not, because what if you get the one box that’s just a total miss, but every other box is awesome. You have to be willing to give them a chance to prove themselves.

So, it was basically a hundred bucks for a three month subscription. This was a smidge of a high price in my opinion, but whatever, because where else am I going to find all these Japanese snacks?! So, I was fine with a hundred. Then, when I went to check out, my total was suddenly almost $150. The shipping on the three boxes costs almost $40. Each box’s shipping was like, $12.50! I mean, I know it’s coming from literally all the way across the globe, but those dozen dollars stack like a motherfuck. Shipping was almost half the cost of the price! Kind of wild, honestly.

So is the snack box worth it? If you really like Japanese snacks, then yeah, I’d say so. If you’re not a big fan of trying new snacks and sweets from different places, then I wouldn’t recommend dropping the (roughly) fifty dollars a box.

I am excited for next month’s box. April’s theme is “Matcha”, so instead of everything being pink I’m sure a lot of it will be green! Stay tuned to see what comes next month. And have a great day!

-AMS

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