Friday, April 10, 2020

Specially Selected Roasted Vegetable Bistro Style Flatbread (Aldi)

If "boring" is your thing, this delivers it in spades.

Let's start this one off with a very uninteresting story: we had actually gotten this one before, and found ourselves underwhelmed on virtually all fronts. But what happens when you send your wife to Aldi, and she thinks she's getting the mozzarella and tomato flatbread? She ends up not paying attention and casually throwing this one into the cart! She was so disgusted with herself that she adamantly refused to even re-try another piece, which meant I had the honors of forcing it all down again by myself.

Even though I'm a meat-eater by trade, I actually enjoy vegetarian dishes from time-to-time, but this one kind of gets everything wrong for me. For starters, I feel like vegetarian dishes especially need some sort of “kick”, or standout flavor, to get my tastebuds excited and hopping. This one delivers a crap-ton of uninteresting and underflavored vegetables just as they are, in all their underflavored and uninteresting glory. There aren't any caramelized onions, to boost the flavor up a bit, or even something cool and unique, like Brussels sprouts, which would at least make it an intriguing failure (assuming it ended up being one). Instead, we get grilled peppers, tomatoes, white and red onions, and grilled zucchini...that line-up is basically what a conversation with Gwyneth Paltrow would taste like, if that were an edible experience.

It does nothing for the texture, either, which simply delivers one semi-mushy bite right after another. The zucchini is probably the worst offender, with large bits of the stuff that deliver soft, juicy bites consisting of almost no flavor, but the others chime in with similar structural profiles, making even the experience of eating it bland and uninviting. Come on, at least throw in some charred cauliflower, or veggie-based bacon bits or something, to give us some sort of crunch! The mozzarella cheese is hardly noticeable, but the Grana Podano PDO and Pecorino Romano PDO cheeses have a crumbly texture that's more akin to feta, and do add a bit of textural interplay with the rest of the mush. (Fun fact: Both of those cheeses have been granted Protected Geographical Status over in Europe; the “PDO” stands for “Protected Designation of Origin” and ensures that both of those cheeses are “authentic” and made in their proper respective European region.)

Capping everything off is that the already-small flatbread has a 1-2” border consisting of thick, raised crust, meaning there's that much less room in the middle for all the ingredients; in this case, I suppose that's a good thing, but it's a curious decision considering most flatbreads don't have a crust at all, instead opting to stretch the toppings from edge-to-edge. In fact, it's not even really a flatbread at all: it's more of an actual pizza crust, just made smaller to give the appearance that it's made of flatbread material. In the lone surprise, the crust honestly happens to be the best part, something I would say even if the rest of it was good, with a buttery flavor that goes down easy on its own, without the need for a sauce to dip it in; coming from me, that's saying a lot, especially for a frozen pizza-type entree.

As you can probably tell, this is simply an underwhelming misfire, from an “upscale” brand that I typically expect more from. And while the $3.49 retail price (which has, rather admirably, stayed consistent since 2016) certainly won't break the bank, it's also about $3.00 more than you'll get in flavor.

Overall: 3/10. A bland failure, delivering an overall mushy texture that's spared only by infrequent bits of crumbly cheese and an overbearing crust that's more “pizza” than “flatbread” (where's the FDA when you need them?). The veggies contained (roasted peppers, zucchini, red and white onions, and tomatoes) are all rather boring on their own, and when combined with one another, simply become more boring. The crust, which is “overbearing” in that it takes up most of the real estate, is actually the best part in terms of flavor, offering up a nice bit of crunch and a buttery flavor that goes down easy on its own, without the need for dipping sauce or other accoutrements, but its contributions are largely lost amidst an endless sea of dull. Even worse: though the flavor strongly hints at “healthy”, the 1/3 flatbread serving size constitutes a whopping 310 calories, with 4.5g of saturated fat and a healthy dose of sodium to round it all out. Sheesh, might as well get a fast food hamburger.

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