In a restaurant you can ask the waiter what looks best today; at the Today's Taste kiosk, unfortunately, the kitchen is too far away to expect such advice. And even more unfortunately, the cooking is of such inconsistency that you need any extra little hints you can get. Here are ours. Soups
Country Mushroom Soup ($1.65) like this could revolutionize the tuna-noodle casserole. It was delicious -- intensely mushroomy, creamy without being cloying. Campbell's should hang its head in shame for passing off its smarmy canned stuff, given that it knows how to make a mushroom soup as good as this.
Chesapeake-Style Crab Chowder ($2.85) was almost nice, with big and snowy crab chunks and a good first impression. But the soup base itself was a grimy gray, with a factory undercurrent to its taste and a slight gumminess. The potatoes were mushy, the thyme too brash, and after a couple of spoonfuls one wished to have stopped when ahead. Entrees
Fillet of Salmon with Basil Sauce ($5.95) was one day fishy, another day a perfectly good and fresh pink fillet that alone would have been a treat of a $6 entree. Then one must consider the sauce, and thus one might well be disappointed. A certain gluiness, a blandness, an overwhelming quantity. And potatoes more crisp than one likes boiled ones to be. In all, good fish done no favor.
Chicken Azteca ($4.65) again suffered from its sauce. The boneless breast had retained its bounce and juiciness, but the orange-tinged sauce -- this time too little rather than too much -- was gummy and unevenly spiked with jalapenos. Still, one learns to trust the chicken.
Chicken Florentine ($4.65) bears this out, for again the meat was fine and juicy. Still, that creamy gluiness prevailed, along with ham that had no character and spinach with even less.
Spicy Shrimp and Vegetables Stir-Fry ($5.95) didn't fare as well as fish and chicken; these were a bit chewy, a bit more rubbery in flavor and tossed with soggy peanuts and peppery sauce that had no depth to back up its heat.
Veal Marsala ($6.95), though, was truly alarming. The grim, mushy grayness of the meat, the steam table taste, the gelatinous slitheriness of the sauce, the alcoholic twang from insufficiently cooked wine. It was a disaster. Salads Pasta Primavera Salad with Pesto ($1.85) reminded me how tired I was of both pasta primavera and pesto, but that was a mild reaction compared with the way I felt about them after one taste. The pasta itself was gummy enough for any child to turn it to Play-Doh, and the pesto flavor was lost in favor of a sour aftertaste. The few bits of vegetables were not only limp, but translucent and watery looking, which was borne out in their taste.
Chicken Salad Jacques ($3.45) showed again that this kitchen can do proudly by a chicken breast. Big, juicy pieces made it a salad of substance. And the pecans, grapes and scallions were a nice textural addition. But the dressing had turned watery and the balance of seasonings gone awry as mayonnaise dressings sometimes do in the refrigerator. It wasn't bad, but it led you to wish you had tasted it yesterday. Desserts
Fruit Tarts (50 cents per tart) are surely no advantage for tiny jewel-pretty mouthfuls with too-thick crust and undistinguished firm custard, and more sweetness than flavor. Their glazes had a pleasant fruity character, and their bits of fruit were fine, but the supermarket can probably do better by you at the price.
Perfect Pear ($1.50 for one) does do better by you. Its custard was softly eggy and nicely contrasted with toasted almonds, its base is pleasant surprise of crunchy chocolate and raspberry, and these several flavors and textures are indeed perfect with pears. The problem, though, was the pear itself, so mushily soft, so wan of flavor that it tasted canned rather than freshly cooked. I'd want more bite for my $1.50.