Nice rice at a price

Mr. Tidbit vaguely remembers first noticing a few months ago that Uncle Ben's was selling basmati rice and jasmine rice, and marveling at how foods that once were considered exotic are now turning up as brand-name staples. Apparently he immediately forgot this deeply insightful moment, as he never added the Uncle Ben's products to his list of potential subjects for discussion. But he just saw them again, and the labels still proclaim that they're new. That's good enough for Mr. Tidbit.

Uncle Ben describes basmati rice as "long-grain, fine-textured, aromatic rice" that "brings a touch of India to your dinner table," and jasmine rice as the sticky rice that "your family enjoys in their favorite Southeast Asian restaurants" for its "distinct texture and aroma." The Uncle Ben's versions come at a significant price premium over its regular long-grain white rice:

At a discount store where a 32-ounce box of original Uncle Ben's long-grain rice was $3.48 (10.9 cents an ounce), the 25-ounce pouch of jasmine rice was $4.48 (17.9 cents an ounce) — that's 64 percent more per ounce; the 24-ounce pouch of basmati rice was $4.48 (18.7 cents an ounce) — 72 percent more per ounce than regular rice.

What Mr. Tidbit didn't notice on either occasion but stumbled over online when doing what he laughingly calls "research" is that Uncle Ben's also sells 8.5-ounce two-serving pouches of basmati and jasmine rice in its extensive Ready Rice 90-second microwave line, and has had them so long that they aren't labeled "new."

Every variety of Ready Rice (all $1.84 at the same store) includes the considerable amount of water that the rice cooks in, so per-ounce comparisons to the dry rice varieties don't work, and the stated serving sizes of the various dry rice products are inconsistent, so per-serving comparisons don't work, either. Trust Mr. Tidbit: If it cooks in 90 seconds instead of 10 or 20 minutes, it's much more expensive.

Artisanal ice cream?

New from Häagen-Dazs: the Artisan Collection. No, not ice cream made by hand in 14-ounce batches, just flavors developed when Häagen-Dazs "collaborated with six unique artisans who share our passion for quality and the finest ingredients." Sample: applewood-smoked caramel almond.


Al Sicherman