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Al Sicherman

Columnist | Tidbits
Al Sicherman writes the Tidbits column for the Taste section. He is a retired reporter for the Star Tribune. In 1989 his son Joe died after taking LSD. The column Al wrote then: A father's plea: Be scared for your kids was widely reprinted. In 1999 Al wrote a new introduction to that column: Ten years after Joe's death, grief and a message endure.
Recent content from Al Sicherman

Tidbits: New Oreo flavor evokes a Hostess Cupcake

Cupcake cookies New flavors of Oreo cookies are almost always so peculiar that Mr. Tidbit usually grants Oreos an exception to his rule about not…

Tidbits: Birds Eye dresses up its veggies with extra flavor

Buffalo cauliflower?As the wave of "simple" or "simply" food products continues to inundate us with groceries notable by what they don't contain — no artificial…

Tidbits: Ronzoni pasta dips into ancient grains

Ancient grainsRonzoni, the company that offers an incredible array of variously constituted pasta (not to mention variously shaped pasta), has another one. It's Ronzoni Healthy…

Tidbits: What's the difference between cinnamon and cinnamon-bun flavors?

Bun flavor?No matter what else crosses Mr. Tidbit's horizon, he must admit that when yet another new Oreo cookie appears, which happens every couple of…

Tidbits: A look at Valentine candy (or is it?)

Valentine's-Easter M&M's twoferLooking back, Mr. Tidbit believes that this year's Valentine candy merchandise appeared on some store shelves the day after Christmas, but he failed…

Tidbits: Putting on the Ritz Toasted Corn Chip

Corny but wheatyPresenting new Ritz Toasted Corn Chips, described elsewhere on the bag as "corn & wheat toasted chips," and "oven baked, not fried." So…

Tidbits: Clif bar options keep multiplying

Steep ClifFans of the many, many kinds of Clif bars might be pleased to know that there are now organic Clif bars. Well, there already…

Tidbits: Chia seeds find a niche

Noticing naturalMr. Tidbit's grocery-hunting habits have been honed over the years largely to turn up interesting — if not downright peculiar — food items of…

Tidbits: Who wants to bake a small cake?

Is small perfect?New from Duncan Hines is Perfect Size cake mix, which makes a small one-layer cake, and comes complete with frosting mix and a…

Tidbits: More from Coffee-mate, Hershey's gone wild

Coffee-mate concentrateThe latest development from the inventive folks at Coffee-mate — who have produced no fewer than 32 flavors of their refrigerated liquid coffee creamers,…

Tidbits: What's a breakfast biscuit?

Biscuits, again Mr. Tidbit has struggled several times — most recently last week in discussing the debut of Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Breakfast Biscuits — with this…

Tidbits: What's makes a breakfast biscuit? Ask Nutri-Grain, with its four options

Breakfast Biscuit IIIThe puzzling "breakfast biscuit" category has acquired a new member: Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Breakfast Biscuits (Apple Cinnamon or Chocolate Chip Crunch), bringing to four…

Tidbits: Extra Toasty Cheez-Its?

Brownian movementYou might think that fans of Cheez-It snack crackers would be content with the range of Cheez-Its available to them. There are, after all,…

Tidbits: How does Pop Secret's sweet popcorn get so sweet?

How sweet is it?There's a whole new category of Pop Secret microwave popcorn: Sweet 'n Crunchy, with (at this point, anyway) three flavors: Caramel, Kettlecorn…

Tidbits: Jif products proliferate, from cereal to cookies to peanut-butter granola bars and ground peanuts

Jif granola barsWere you thrilled earlier this year when Kellogg's introduced Jif cereal, and again when Keebler (well, that's Kellogg's, too) introduced Jif cookies? Prepare…

Tidbits: Is Swanson's broth see-through bottle worth the added expense?

Seeing through itAs more and more supermarket space has been devoted to Swanson stocks and broths — and their low-sodium, no-salt, organic, "flavor-infused" and other…

Tidbits: Campbell's offers soups in K-Cups

Soup in what? New from Campbell’s, two kinds of sort-of chicken-noodle soup in K-Cups (for the Keurig hot-beverage system). Yes, you can produce Homestyle Chicken…

Tidbits: What does "Limited edition" really mean in food?

Limited what?Mr. Tidbit doesn't know when the concept of "limited edition" grocery items first appeared; perhaps it started with the endlessly changing (and always undersized)…

Tidbits: Sargento's Balanced Breaks, Post's Honey Bunches of Oats

Cheese, fruit and nutsUntil recently, Wisconsin cheesemaker Sargento simply made cheese (shreds, slices, sticks, strings and little blocks called Tastings). Now it has stepped off…

Tidbits: Nature Valley Simple Nut Bars and Bertolli frozen meals

Nut so simpleThe list of food products with names including the word "simple" continues to grow. At Nature Valley, there are now two kinds of…

Tidbits: More decadent butter at Land O'Lakes

Butter: now with more fatIf you're reluctantly abstaining from butter, and are "buttering" your toast with the wateriest of "spreads," the idea of butter with

Tidbits: Old El Paso tacos

Flavored tacosLately it's being said quite frequently that consumers' preferences in food products are shifting toward "natural," "simple" and less-processed groceries. Probably so, but Mr.…

Tidbits: Beans in an instant; cookie-flavored granola bars

<CHARENTITY>7</CHARENTITY>Instant beansIn his never-ending search for peculiar new food products, Mr. Tidbit seldom reaches out past those of major-brand manufacturers, on the notion that…

Tidbits: Gluten-free junk food

Gluten-free snacksGrocery firms' happiness to meet the popular appetite for gluten-free items continues unabated, and even seems to have moved up a notch. Mr. Tidbit…

Tidbits: Chocolate bars with sea salt from a location

With a grain of saltIt simply had to happen, given the avalanche of candy, ice cream and who-knows-what-all that features the inclusion of sea salt.…

Tidbits: Oreo Brownie Batter and Oreo Thins

Batter up!This week's new "limited edition" version of Oreo cookies is Brownie Batter. On the front of the bag the name actually reads "Brownie Batter…

Tidbits: Kellogg's Origins, Chex Clusters

Origins of KelloggSeveral new cereal products from Kellogg's share the name Kellogg's Origins. There are two cold breakfast cereals, two kinds of granola and two…

Tidbits: Kozy Shack pudding, Fiber One bars

Kozy upKozy Shack, the Arden Hills maker of rice pudding (and tapioca pudding and chocolate pudding), steps up the price point with a set of…

Tidbits: Kool-Aid, Del Monte juice, microwave pouch meals

Kool-Aid againIf you've been thinking "I wish there could be yet another way to make Kool-Aid," this is your lucky day. We already had the…

Tidbits: Purely Simple cake mix and Quaker quinoa granola bars

Simple cake mix Further evidence, if Mr. Tidbit needed any, that major grocery manufacturers want to hop onto the "natural" or "simple" bandwagon: Purely Simple…

Tidbits: Campbell's grilling sauces and Dannon dairy dessert

Sauce vs. sauceThe Campbell's brand of 19 foil-pouched sauces — six skillet sauces, five oven sauces and eight slow cooker sauces — has grown to…

Tidbits: Oreos and Campbell's

The skinny on Oreo ThinsAfter all the advance media hoopla about new Oreo Thins — styled as "the Oreo for adults," and "a thin, crisp,…

Tidbits: Nabisco's Chips Ahoy!, Keebler cookies and crackers

Naturally peculiarIf there isn't a peculiar new cookie flavor from Nabisco's Oreo, chances are there's a peculiar new cookie flavor from Nabisco's Chips Ahoy! (the…

Tidbits: Tropicana Farmstead and Simply Orange Juice Co.

More green juiceThere's a new juice offering in Tropicana's Farmstand line. It's Tropical Green, and Mr. Tidbit couldn't help comparing it to the slightly less…

Tidbits: An eye on Weight Watchers products

Weight watchingMr. Tidbit doesn't ordinarily follow weight-control products, but suddenly several items from Weight Watchers, including Whole Grain Honey Nut Toasted Oats, popped up in…

Tidbits: DiGiorno premium pizza and Pepperidge Farm granola bars

Going premium Mr. Tidbit loves jargon, so he was delighted to learn that Pizzeria, the new line of Nestle’s DiGiorno frozen pizza, represents what an…

Tidbits: Ritz crackers and Oreo cookies

BIG price Mr. Tidbit has a new nomination for the department of “How dumb do they think we are?” It’s the new limited-edition BIG Ritz…

Tidbits: Kool-Aid gelatin dessert; jasmine and basmati rice

Jiggle vs. jiggle Mr. Tidbit has seen some strange things, but he doesn’t recall ever seeing a product and a new virtually identical competing product…

Tidbits: PACt from Ocean Spray aims to 'cleanse and purify'

What’s in a name? Mr. Tidbit has noticed that increasing age has granted him vastly increasing wisdom, accompanied by vastly increasing ignorance about whatever it…

Tidbits: Stouffer's and Healthy Choice lines expanding

Kitchen fitnessStouffer's has added a line of frozen dinners called Fit Kitchen: six choices including Cilantro Lime Chicken and Bourbon Steak. Each package prominently displays…

Tidbits: Uncle Ben's rice, Häagen-Dazs ice cream

Nice rice at a priceMr. Tidbit vaguely remembers first noticing a few months ago that Uncle Ben's was selling basmati rice and jasmine rice, and…

Tidbits: Oreos

Oreo kidding me?Another month, another goofy variety of "limited edition" Oreos.This time it's Cotton Candy Oreos, said to be available only at Target stores. If…

Tidbits: Sriracha ketchup and Campbell's baked beans

Catching up on ketchupUnless you've been living in a cave for the past few years, you've probably heard of the hot sauce called Sriracha. It's…

Tidbits: Rice-A-Roni and Peeps

Faster Rice-A-RoniTo prepare Rice-A-Roni, you first fry the mixture of rice and bits of vermicelli in some butter or margarine (browning the vermicelli gives the…

Tidbits: Shake 'N Bake and Philadelphia Cream Cheese

Some crumby newsMr. Tidbit hadn't thought of it this way before, but our nation's supermarket shoppers might be divided, theoretically, into two groups: those who…

Tidbits: Lean Cuisine, Nature Valley

Lean Cuisine routineEvery so often, the many Lean Cuisine offerings get reorganized and relabeled. The last time, about two years ago, the previous designations (Cafe…

Tidbits: Libby's and Lunchables

Mmm! Pouches!New from produce packer Libby's are several vegetables in microwaveable stand-up pouches instead of cans (and, for that matter, instead of frozen boxes or…

Tidbits: Honey Maid and Welch's

Bites of what?New from Honey Maid, Nabisco's graham cracker brand, are Go Bites, little crackery pillows with chocolate or vanilla filling.Honey Maid already had branched…

Tidbits: New V8 varieties include Purple Power

V8 now comes in purpleMr. Tidbit likes to say there was a time — oh, not so long ago — when, if someone asked you…

Tidbits: Goldfish and Oreos

Goldfish variationsNew from Pepperidge Farm are Goldfish Puffs, a puffy version of the little fish-shaped cracker. The bag describes the new item as "puffed extra…

Tidbits: Cranberries and Kellogg's Raisin Bran

Cranberries, tooThere's a new version of Kellogg's Raisin Bran: It contains sweetened dried cranberries as well as raisins. The box appears to be the same…

Tidbits: Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True

Another CokeMr. Tidbit had barely recovered from last week's discovery of Coca-Cola in little wasp-waisted metal bottles when he came across a display of Coca-Cola…

Tidbits: Coke bottles and breakfast biscuits

Metal bottlesAt a discount store recently, Mr. Tidbit was stopped in his tracks by a display of tiny (8 ½-ounce) metal "bottles" of various Coca-Cola products.…

Tidbits: Cheerios + Ancient Grains, Post's Great Grains

More CheeriosThe latest of the many (many!) kinds of Cheerios is Cheerios + Ancient Grains, which is a medley, if you will (or even if…

Tidbits: Wheat Thins adds pita crisps to fold; salted caramel trend continues

A toast to pitaThere's a new member of the Nabisco Wheat Thins family: Toasted Pita, little baked-cracker triangles in at least two flavors (original and…

Tidbits: Baked granola

Baked granolaMr. Tidbit couldn't help but notice an unusual new item in the baking-mixes aisle. Even larger than the bright yellow and red "New!" banner…

Tidbits: Jimmy Dean and Chef Boyardee

More JimmyOver the past several years, Mr. Tidbit has documented the ever-growing number of breakfast sandwiches, breakfast bowls and the like to be found in…

Tidbits: Dole, Nabisco

How sweet it is!There's something new in the canned-fruit aisle: Two of Dole's many four-packs of 4-ounce little tubs of fruit — diced peaches and…

Tidbits: New V8 products, Ocean Spray Wave juice drink

Juicy newsIn the juice aisle at one of his regular supermarkets, Mr. Tidbit recently stumbled upon several new V8 products. Unlike some other V8s, such…

Tidbits: Salted Caramel Peanuts, not-so-exotic mangoes

Oddly trendyMr. Tidbit faces the new year armed with perhaps the oddest (yet) salted-caramel product: Planters Salted Caramel Peanuts. Given that peanuts are typically salted,…

Tidbits: Oatmeal

Oat cuisineMr. Tidbit could hardly have expected that two more new oatmeal offerings would turn up the week after he discussed the new Dole instant…

Tidbits: Instant oatmeal, pasta sauce

Actual fruitThere's something new in the instant-oatmeal aisle. Fruit. No, not dried chips of peach-flavored apples. Not even dried chips of peaches. Actual peaches. And…

Tidbits: Açai candies,

Chocolates with whole fruitMr. Tidbit recently discussed Brach's and Brookside chocolate candies with açai-blueberry-flavored centers. There isn't a whole lot of açai in either one,…

Tidbits: Skillet sauces, Keebler's crackers, Hillshire snacking

Saucy Mr. Tidbit doesn't know why, but there seems to be a sudden profusion of "skillet sauces" — something you add to sautéed meat and…

Tidbits: Bite-size PB&J, chipotle chicken bowls, Oreos' welcome return

New PB & J There are many entries in the fruity-chewy-type snack section of the supermarket, and until recently Mr. Tidbit has been able to…

Tidbits: Beech-Nut baby food, Progresso chili

Just too muchIt has been a long time since Mr. Tidbit visited the baby food aisle. A very long time. So he wasn't really…

Tidbits: Yoplait, Oikos Greek Yogurt Dips

Yogurt for drinkingNew from Yoplait is Yogurt & Juice, in four flavors — strawberry, pineapple mango, berry pomegranate and strawberry banana (all are flavored blends…

Tidbits: Nestlé

Costly delightNestlé, which owns the name "Toll House" (after the inn where the chocolate-chip cookie originated more than 75 years ago), makes chips (which it…

Tidbits: Ghirardelli and Oreos

Mini squaresThe folks at Ghirardelli, not content to sell you large chocolate bars in 22 different flavors and little individually wrapped Squares in 19 flavors…

Tidbits: Chex, Quaker and Bumble Bee

Oatmeal newsMr. Tidbit recently made a smallish fuss about the gluten-free oats in a yogurt selection from Chobani. Then, noting firms such as Bob's Red…

Tidbits: Hunt's and Russell Stover

Kit and kaboodleThere are some folks, Mr. Tidbit knows, who think he is being excessively cynical in his view of the grocery industry and what…

Tidbits: Fiber One, Oreos and Del Monte

Fiber manySure, you're already eating the eight kinds of Fiber One cereal, the 15 kinds of Fiber One chewy bars, the eight kinds of Fiber…

Tidbits: Twinkies and Snickerdoodle Cakes

Choice of TwinkiesWe survived the disturbance in the Force that was caused by the recent brief disappearance of Twinkies, but the new Hostess folks seem…

Tidbits: Jif, Nutella

More portable JifWe already had Jif to Go, peanut butter in 1 ½-ounce tubs. Of course that product costs more per ounce than Jif in 16-ounce…

Tidbits: Stouffer's mac-and-cheese

Cheeziness Just when Mr. Tidbit was beginning to think that food companies were running out of ways to charge more for the same thing, he…
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