Just Bare Chicken

By: Gold’n Plump Poultry

I Paid: $2.19 per pound for a whole bird up to $6.49 for a 14-ounce package of breast fillets (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 5stars

Marketing: 5stars

Like many fancy-pants modern-day chickens, Just Bare birds are labeled “cage free,” “vegetable fed,” “no antibiotics,” and “no added hormones.” Unlike many similarly labeled offerings, however, Just Bare’s products are supported by a minimalist, ultraclean, easy-to-navigate website with an FAQ that breaks down the claims in plain English. You can even track what farm your chicken came from. (Mine came from Farm 109, “Roger T” of Sartell, Minnesota.)

From the site’s FAQ:

“Q: I noticed your label says that your chickens are ‘cage free.’ What does that mean?

“A: It means that our chickens are never, ever raised in cages. They are free to move about in modern, climate-controlled barns with strict bio-security plans. This reduces the threat of stress or exposure to the elements and environmental dangers such as avian influenza.”

Simple. To the point. Beautiful.

As for flavor: It’s there. The chicken breasts and tenders were light, delicate, and pleasant. Even the thighs were surprisingly tender and flavorful. So far Just Bare’s products are available at SuperTargets around the country and in a handful of Midwestern supermarket chains.

Kashi Pocket Bread Sandwiches

By: Kashi Company

I Paid: $3.49 for a 5.5-ounce sandwich (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars

Marketing: 4stars

The high-end national natural-foods brand Kashi has begun rolling out its own Hot Pocket–esque product. That is, microwavable stuffed sandwiches filled with a variety of thingamabobs. And at around 300 calories apiece, they neatly straddle the line between light meal and substantial snack.

The beauty of a Hot Pocket is its portability and lack of pretense, and Kashi’s take on the form embraces both strengths. The unpleasant part of a Hot Pocket is its nasty filling, a substance that may vary in terms of name or chemical makeup but is sufficiently notorious to have inspired this five-minute-long stand-up comedy bit.

Kashi’s versions are real upgrades. The vegan Veggie Medley looks like self-denial in a whole-grain sesame bread shell. But it’s actually not too bad. Filled with red peppers, onions, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, white beans, and a balsamic-basil sauce, it has a flavor that is relatively lively and nicely balanced. The red peppers and balsamic really run the show, but that’s not a bad thing. And like all the other Kashi Pocket Bread Sandwiches, the Veggie Medley comes wrapped in seven-whole-grain bread that is fairly tender and mild, both structurally sound enough to contain its microwaved filling and gracious enough to not stomp all over the filling’s flavor.

The Chicken Rustico is even better. Its flavor and texture are suggestive of creamy pasta, with very finely diced chicken and a subtle spinach/white wine flavor. Turkey Fiesta sounds like a bad theme for a school hot-lunch day, but it’s quite a nice overall experience, emphasizing roasted corn, black beans, and a note of chipotle.

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