Pickle Juice Sport Extra Strength Shots

[Editor’s Note: Please enjoy this guest review by Malcolm Bedell. He drives a van and writes about stupid food on his website, Spork & Barrel. He’s getting too old for this sh*t.]

I’m certifiably crazy about pickles. That’s right, I said it. When I was a little kid, my mom would catch me sneaking long pulls off the bottle of pickling liquid left in the bottom of the jar, the green brine rolling down my chin as I closed my eyes to savor every drop like a dry drunk who’s finally been reunited with Tanqueray. When I began shopping for my own groceries, a jar of pickles dipped in sour cream made an outstanding last-minute sodium-rich dinner, and in my twenties, I had more than one Friday night fueled by the rocket fuel combination of shots of whiskey followed by shots of pickle juice (what we in New England call a “pickleback”).

Pickle credentials established, I have to make one more immediate confession. I don’t like these “Pickle Juice Sport” shots, marketed as a health (?) and anti-cramping (??) product, by a company called, “The Pickle Juice Company, LLC.” But because I am both a lover of pickle juice AND a sucker for anything that might alter my brain chemistry, conveniently sold in a two ounce portion next to the scratch-off tickets and the expired Butterfingers, I knew immediately that I had to give them a try. From the website:

“A new study has revealed that pickle brine might be more effective than sports drinks at treating muscle cramps, confirming a longstanding assumption in the sports world. Football players, cyclists and triathletes have been sipping dill-flavored drinks, including bottles of The Pickle Juice Company, LLC, for years. Those who downed the brine stopped complaining of cramping within 85 seconds — about 37 percent faster than the water drinkers and 45 percent faster than when they didn’t drink anything at all.”

Now, let’s be clear. I’m…not an athlete. In fact, I’m not even sure I realized that “cramping” was something your muscles could do. I’ve been laboring under the assumption that muscles were just these stringy bits holding my bones together; I’ve never asked too much of them, and they’ve certainly never offered me anything in return. So I can’t speak to the dubious quasi-medical claims being made by The Pickle Juice Company, LLC, and am not going to waste any of the precious time I have to spend thinking up dick jokes for the internet to follow up on any of their published “research.”

I can, however, speak to the taste of the product.

The first thing I noticed is that “Pickle Juice Sport” is stored (and presumably intended to be served) at room temperature. The website claims that it carries an extended shelf life of up to two years, and is so confident that you’ll want to have a ton of the stuff around that they’ll sell you a plastic 55 gallon drum of Pickle Juice Sport for $500. If you haven’t had the pleasure of chugging 2.5 ounces of warm, shelf-stable pickle juice lately, I’ll try to paint you a word picture.

Imagine brining the least interesting, least flavorful pickle you’ve ever tried in a dirty fishbowl full of tepid aquarium water overnight, and drinking the results. That’s Pickle Juice Sport. Imagine blasting a fog of pickle vapor through a car’s malfunctioning Freon air conditioning system, and inhaling whatever comes through the vents of your ’02 Subaru. That’s Pickle Juice Sport. Imagine the sensation of accidentally biting down on a piece of aluminum foil with one of your half-broken fillings while an ancient Polish woman rubs her generations-old family recipe for garlic dills all over your snout. Oh, and you have the flu. That’s Pickle Juice Sport.

It’s got the basic outline of very mild pickle flavor, with what seems like some kind of wildly out of whack pH, so that instead of the acid you’re expecting from pickle juice, it ends up almost chalky, even though the liquid itself isn’t thick; something like artificial pickle flavoring mixed with the taste of old silverware carried in a base of warm unflavored Pedialyte.

I can’t imagine chugging one of these after any kind of intense athletic endeavor (which is to say, I can’t imagine performing any kind of intense athletic endeavor in the first place). There’s certainly nothing about chugging loose pickle water that’s the same temperature as the inside of your body that seems “refreshing” or even “pleasant” on any level. And I can’t say I noticed any increase in my energy levels, or really any sensation at all other than the slight urge to blow hot pickle juice all over the inside of my car’s upholstery. And at $2 per bottle, I can’t imagine favoring one of these over, say, an ice-cold Gatorade, since those also promise to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes while also somehow tasting like Tropical Mango combined with Pure Magic.

As much as I love pickle juice AND not having cramps, “Pickle Juice Sport” is going to be a hard pass for me. Triathletes may find something to like in the product’s alleged muscle rejuvenation properties, but for those of us just trying to catch a legal buzz off a vial of something or other purchased at a gas station? We’ll stick to the dusty bottles of Pomegranate Five Hour Energy and Extra Strength Stacker 3. Y’know, like adults.

Pickle Juice Sport Extra Strength Shots

  • Score: 1 out of 5 aggressive Polish grannies
  • Price: $1.99
  • Size: 2.5 oz. bottle
  • Purchased at: The Shell station down under the highway overpass.
  • Cramping: None.

Taco Bell Nacho Fries

When I first heard about Taco Bell introducing fries to their menu, my first thought was, what’s the big deal? And my second thought was, thank you for finally acknowledging that cheese sauce is the best fry dip ever. Come at me.

But then I contemplated and realized that people have some really fierce loyalties when it comes to fast food fries. Some swear by the salt-drenched, crunchy McDonald’s version. Wendy’s has their skin-on version and…that’s all I can remember about them. I seem to remember Burger King changing their frying oil some years ago, making what I saw as a marked improvement in quality. Arby’s has seasoned curly fries, but I hate the rest of their menu. (Okay, to be fair, I haven’t tried anything new from Arby’s in years. But I’m just not into that shaved beef.)

Okay, so I’m not a french fry connoisseur, but I have some experience. And to most people, the french fry is the Robin to their Batman burger. So Taco Bell busting onto the scene with their Nacho Fries could be seen as a big deal. Speaking of which, they created an appropriately spectacular commercial to go with this launch.

Please watch it, because it would take me an extra thousand words to explain. The TV cut makes it look particularly bonkers, but when you watch the full-length version, it’s actually pretty impressive.

Presented as (and doing a pretty good job of imitating) a movie trailer, it features very handsome actor Josh Duhamel that you probably remember from doing…something in Transformers movies, but I remember from the failed 2015 TV series Battle Creek, because I’m avant garde like that. I’ve seen bad shows you’ve never even heard of, man.

The commercial is called “Web of Fries”, which, let’s be honest, I love. In fact, the more I watched it, the more I started to unironically like it. Some talking points:

“Big fries have been riding the ketchup train for 50 years!”

Several creepy clowns that are definitely not Ronald McDonald

“The Burger People. They! THEY!”

Rad car stunts

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure Josh Duhamel is actually murdered at the end of this commercial. Damn, Taco Bell!

I kind of want to end the review there, but I guess I should talk about the product.

Texture is so important when it comes to the french fry, and here is where I think Taco Bell might lose some people. Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries are floppy and soft, although there is a bit of a crunch to the outside. Mmm, crunch is going too far. A little crispness is more accurate.

They’re a lot thicker than your average fry, which I think contributes to the fact that they’re more fluffy than crunchy. Also, as I’m sure you can see in the first picture, there’s not a lot of tall boys in the bunch. That’s okay though, because the somewhat…flaccid nature of these fries makes dunking longer ones awkward.

As for the seasoning, Taco Bell claims it uses “Mexican spices”, but I didn’t find anything particularly Mexican about it, which kind of goes along with Taco Bell’s brand. I tasted mostly paprika, but there was a little bit of heat from the “aged cayenne red peppers” listed in the ingredients. The seasoning was wildly inconsistent, however – some of my fries I would describe as blasted, while others were merely dusted. Each fry did get at least a little bit of love, though.

As for the nacho cheese sauce, what can I say? It’s Taco Bell’s iconic sauce that they ladle on or into practically all of their menu offerings, and I’m a fan. It’s warm, gooey, mild, and perfectly compliments both the seasoning and the texture of these Nacho Fries. The serving size is just the right amount for the number of fries served, also.

All in all, Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries have hits and misses. I enjoyed the fluffy innards and the fact that the larger surface area of the fry allowed for better dipping, but I would have preferred a crispier outside, like Arby’s curly fries. Also like Arby’s curly fries, I would liked to see a more even seasoning, and perhaps one that didn’t just yell “paprika!” at my mouth.

That said, an order of these babies is $1, which is honestly a hell of a deal and well worth giving them a shot. You can’t beat cheese sauce as a fry dip, and Taco Bell’s cheese is the perfect compliment. I checked all the big fast food burger places, and nobody can touch that price point for an order of small fries. Not to mention, you’ll be stuck with ketchup, and ketchup sucks. Come at me.

You can also get Nacho Fries as Supreme or BellGrande, but I decided to try them plain. Just imagine the fries, but slathered with nacho sauce and varying degrees of other stuff Taco Bell has laying around. Just like their nachos, but somehow soggier!

Taco Bell Nacho Fries

  • Score: 3 out of 5 dead, but still handsome Josh Duhamel
  • Price: $1.00
  • Size: n/a
  • Purchased at: Taco Bell #022951
  • Nutritional Quirk: Not one, but TWO types of paprika in the ingredients. C’mon guys, I know you can up that Mexican spice game!

Barcel Takis Zombie Nitro Flavor

Takis Zombie Nitro are not new. They’ve been out for three years. But you know what? I don’t care. I’m in love. And yes, all it takes for me to fall in love is a zombie hand and green food coloring. As I’ve mentioned before, any time a savory snack gets the spooky treatment, I’m in 1000%. Is this kind of a weak gimmick? Yes, but I don’t care.

I like the green and black color scheme on the bag, and of course, the caution sign with the zombie hand shooting up clawing its way up from the bottom. The top and the bottom have a sort of “hazardous materials tape” border to them, also. I would have liked more. Maybe a little “DON’T DEAD OPEN INSIDE” arms clawing out of a door action. But I’ll call the vibe sufficiently ghoulish.

Okay, so I know this is the way Takis always look, but turning them dark green and having a Halloween state of mind totally makes them look like zombie fingers. In case you’re unfamiliar, Takis are rolled tortilla chips that pack quite a crunch. They are common here in the southwest, but I think are known as more of a Mexican snack food.

Speaking of fingers, my fingers looked like zombie fingers after eating these. Kind of like the red Fingers of Shame you get when you eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but this time it’s holiday-appropriate. I wonder if eating enough of these would produce results similar to eating too many Flamin’ Hots. Now I wish I’d gotten a bigger bag.

Another reason for wishing that is that these are delicious! I don’t know if you can tell on the bag, but apparently “Zombie Nitro” actually translates to habanero cucumber, a flavor that sounds like it would wind up in a Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest, but instead is casually assigned to a Halloween gag.

How great is that? Takis could have left it at dyeing their snacks green, but they actually gave them a special flavor. I checked just to make sure, and regular Takis Nitro are a more expected habanero and lime. You’re only getting the cuke in October, folks.

And let’s talk about this flavor, something you don’t often get to do with Halloween snacks. What a great and unique combo. While you’re only going to get the Flamin’ Hot-esque habanero taste at the beginning, there’s a distinct cucumber taste on the back end. That might sound gross, but it totally works with the heat. It almost feels like it has a cooling effect, but that’s impossible, because it’s just a flavor…right?

Spooky ghost cooling powers!

Barcel Takis Zombie Nitro is a beautiful, perfect Halloween snack. Love the violently green color. Love that they look like zombie fingers. Love that they have very real potential of continuing to haunt me by turning my poop green later on. And lastly, love the flavor, and that it is exclusive to this holiday product.

If I ever got any trick-or-treaters, I’d hand these out, and I’d be the talk of the town. But I live in Loserville and have seen zero kids on Halloween in a good ten years, so I get to keep my zombie chips all to myself. Which is good, since I already ate them all and am considering going out tomorrow to see if I can buy out the whole stock on discount.

Barcel Takis Zombie Nitro Flavor

  • Score: 5 out of 5 tired Walking Dead jokes
  • Price: $1.49
  • Size: 4 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walgreens #05039
  • Nutritional Quirk: Have not acquired a desire to eat brains. Yet.

Whataburger Chorizo Burger and Chorizo Taquito

[Please enjoy this guest review from Robert – Not Bob, a valued sometimes-contributor to Junk Food Betty. Thanks, Robert!]

As I’ve discussed on this site before, Mexican Chorizo has long been absent from most American fast food menu, for a variety of (wildly speculative) reasons.

It is mostly considered a breakfast meat, and Americans already pretty much have their breakfast meat team roster filled, what with “all-star” bacon, “second string” sausage, and “that kid you pick to be on your team before you end up having to pick one of the dorks, geeks, or fatties ” ham.

Chorizo also enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a mystery meat. Even people that love the stuff will joke about the ingredients, which can contain things such as “Pork salivary glands”, “lymph nodes” and the ever-popular “fat (cheeks)”.

Chorizo’s texture, which can range from crumbly to vaguely viscous, probably also sets off a lot of warning flags to most gringos, who like their meat a little more solid.

Finally, Chorizo just sorta tastes weird. It’s has a distinctive “twang”, and is a little spicy, but not in the familiar pickled jalapeño way, or even in the becoming more familiar chipotle or sriracha way. I like it a lot, but I will admit it’s a bit of an acquired taste.

In the last few years, however, a few fast food chains have been adding it, albeit in limited capacities. Chipotle had it on their menu for about a year, but recently yanked it, reportedly to make room for queso on their menu. McDonald’s has rolled out chorizo breakfast burrito market tests several times but they have yet to add it as a permanent menu item. Some of the smaller “Mexican” chains, such as Del Taco and Taco Cabana offer it, while the big chains like Taco Bell have pretty much ignored its existence.

What I didn’t really expect is to see chorizo turn up on a fast food burger. However, Whataburger has done exactly that. Here is their description:

“We put perfectly-seasoned chorizo between two all-beef patties, topped them with two slices of Monterey Jack Cheese, grilled peppers and onions and our specially-made Creamy Chili Sauce for a bold flavor with just the right amount of spice.”

Sounds…. Interesting… and potentially messy. I’ve mixed chorizo with my beef while making hamburger patties before with tasty results, but it appears that they are layering it with the patties on this. I am glad to see that they’re opting for Monterey Jack over yucky American or boring Cheddar, and I’m always up for some grilled peppers and onions on my burger. I’m a bit skeptical about the “creamy chili sauce”, but hey, I’ll give it a shot.

First impressions are always a little rough.

I do like Whataburger more than most of the other fast food burger chains, mostly because their burgers seem a little more “old school”. However, one place they’ve long needed an update is in the bun department. Whataburger has stuck by the same mediocre bun for decades; I honestly do not recall them ever trying to jump on the artesian roll / brioche bun / ciabatta / whatever bandwagon. The standard Whataburger bun is what it is, and what it always is is “sorta smooshed”. I typically avoid the Whataburger Bun Blues by always ordering any sandwich from them on their delicious Texas Toast. But, since that’s not the default bun for the Chorizo Burger, and it was for a review, I took one for the team and went with ol’ smooshy.

Under the bun was a lackluster collection of soggy peppers and onions. I usually ask for a side of whatever sauce they’re putting on a new burger so I can try it separately, and this time I forgot. However, the “creamy chili sauce” appeared to be pretty much the same sorta-spicy, sorta-tangy sauce that’s been cropping up on everybody’s spicy burgers and sandwiches the last few years. They might call it “chipotle sauce”, they may call it “spicy mayo”, but it’s all pretty similar.

My attempts to pry the two all-beef patties apart to view the chorizo filling didn’t go so well. The gooey melted cheese had glued them together. I was finally able to pry up a corner to reveal…

….sometimes food just isn’t pretty. But hey, it’s the taste that counts, right?

Cross-sectioned, it basically looked like a Sloppy Joe with a few extra ingredients.

At this point the table and my hands were getting kind of messy, so without further reverse engineering, I gave it a try.

It turned out that actually eating it was less messy than dissecting it, mostly because, as previously mentioned, the glue-like cheese had stuck everything together. Not surprisingly, the bun was soggy, but luckily didn’t fall apart. Mostly what I tasted was the burger patties and cheese, with only a slight touch of chorizo flavor, and was more “tangy” than “twangy”, probably because the “creamy chili sauce” really dominated the flavor. The onions and peppers were lost in the mix. Overall it not only looked like a Sloppy Joe, it kinda tasted like one too.

The next morning, I overcame my disappointment enough to give Whataburger’s Chorizo Taquito a shot.

“A bold take on our breakfast classic. We filled a warm flour tortilla with freshly scrambled eggs, perfectly-seasoned, sizzling chorizo and a slice of American cheese.”

Reading the description didn’t give me much confidence. Who puts a “slice of American cheese” into a burrito? Did they not have access to shredded Cheddar?

First of all, for the better part of $3, this ain’t much of a burrito. [Ed. Note: It’s technically a taquito, but Whataburger’s definition of a taquito is insane and it’s basically a burrito.] It’s about the same size as the Chorizo Burrito McDonald’s test marketed, but they gave you two of them for $3. There was one similarity to McDonald’s burritos, though, and that was the accompanying “salsa” that was fit only for the garbage can.

Cross-sectioned, I did notice a distinct lack or the telltale red of chorizo, and a preponderance of yellow eggs. Tasting the taquito bore this out. I could have eaten the entire thing and not known it was supposed to be chorizo con huevos. It tasted more like “sprinkle of paprika and slice of American cheese” con huevos.

So, there you have it. Two more entries in the “mostly disappointing chorizo fast food” catalog. At this point, I’m not sure if the fast food industry will ever crack the enigma that is chorizo. Thank God (and the Mexicans) for taquerias!

Whataburger Chorizo Burger and Chorizo Taquito

  • Score(Whataburger Chorizo Burger): 2 out of 5 fat (cheeks)
  • Score (Whataburger Chorizo Taquito): 1 out of 5 stupid slices of American cheese
  • Price: I’m a careless idiot and lost my receipts, but the burger (with no sides) was almost $6, and the taquito was almost $3. Pricey!
  • Size: 1 burger; 1 taquito
  • Purchased at: Whataburger #113
  • Nutritional Quirk: Not surprisingly, the default 2-patty Chorizo Burger is a 1140 calorie, 2100mg sodium intestine bomb. Whataburger does offer it in single patty and Jr. sizes, not that that will really make much of a difference.

Limited Edition Mystery Oreo Cookies

Here we are, at peak Oreo. No double-colored creme, no dyes that will turn your poop pink, just two chocolate cookies and some white filling. Just like a classic Oreo.

Except the flavor is a complete mystery. After years of pumping out weird flavors, Oreo just went, “Eh, you guys figure it out.”

Gotta say, digging the packaging, though. Simple yet striking, it definitely stands out in the sea of blues and yellows that are the many other existing Oreo flavors. The light blue swirl is a nice touch. oooOOOooo Twilight Zone! I’d like to think that in this, the month of all things spooky, it was a subtle Halloween nod by Oreo.

They won’t make you guess the flavor for free, though. They’re running a contest, because of course they are. Guess correctly and you could win a cool $50,000. I think that’s one dollar for every flavor of Oreo they’ve come out with in the last ten years.

Look at them. They look so innocent. Like you’re about to have a nice time with some Oreos and a glass of milk.

Mystery Oreos have taught me that looks can fool you.

All you have to do is stick your snout in the package and the mystery is over. It’s Froot Loops. Or Fruity Pebbles. Pick a multi-colored, very artificially-flavored sugary fruit cereal. Mystery solved, can I have my money now, please?

But that raises the question, what about Fruity Crisp Oreos? They came out just last year, and purportedly tasted exactly like Fruity Pebbles. (Of course, this is one of the flavors I skipped, due to Oreo fatigue. It figures.) So did Oreo just get insanely lazy?

Well, there’s smelling, and then there’s eating. My husband asked the all-important question as he tried a Mystery Oreo with me in solidarity: “Is the cookie part of the mystery?”

I started to say no, but as I popped the creme-less cookie into my mouth, I thought, oh you sneaky bastards. You made the cookie taste like Fruity Pebbles, too, even though they look like the regular chocolate!

Wrong. At least, partially.

The taste of the creme is so overpowering that for the first few chews, I thought it was all fruity, all the time. But then the chocolate flavor started creeping in, and I realized what a real mistake these Mystery Oreos were.

When eaten as a whole, Mystery Oreos are a terrible combination of cloyingly sweet, artificial-tasting fruit cereal and chocolate cookie. This is different from Fruity Crisp Oreos, which used the more neutral Golden Oreo cookie. Attempts to dislodge the flavor from my mouth have been futile. Please leave my mouth, Mystery Oreos.

So the final guess I’m going to make for Mystery Oreos is “That Time As a Kid You Thought Mixing Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles Was a Good Idea, and Lessons Were Learned”.

100% spot on. Now give me my money, Oreos.

Limited Edition Mystery Oreo Cookies

  • Score: 1 out of 5 serious cereal mystery mistakes
  • Price: $3.49
  • Size: 15.25 oz. package
  • Purchased at: Safeway #1717
  • Nutritional Quirk: “natural flavor, artificial flavor, chocolate”. Oreo gives nothing away. Except chocolate.

M&Ms White Pumpkin Pie

Hey y’all, it’s Halloween! Well, it’s October, so to me that means it’s Halloween.

That also means it’s time to be completely inundated in pumpkin spice-flavored items, a fad I swore would be gone by now and replaced by, like, slime. Let’s make slime the wave of future Halloween, guys! Oreo-flavored slime for everyone!

As with all things Halloween, the packaging is so important. M&Ms is going low-key here, sticking with a color palette that matches the candy within – brown for the crust, orange for the pie filling, and off-white for the absolutely required whipped cream. Orange M is seen popping out of a pumpkin, looking terrified, like “WTF was I doing in there?”

And that’s about it for the fall festivities. Not very impressive.

Does M&Ms still use “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” as a slogan? Because it turns out that they might not melt in your hands, but they will…morph in your mail. Because I’m a lazy bastard, I ordered my M&Ms off of Target’s website, not even thinking about the fact that hey, it’s still 100 degrees in Arizona in October!

So this is what happens when you subject M&Ms to a hot UPS truck. I decided to go ahead with the review, however, because a.) I don’t want to buy White Pumpkin Pie M&Ms TWICE and b.) I expect this to be a pretty short review anyways. It’s a pumpkin M&M, I can’t really go Dickens on the thing.

It seems like the heat somewhat changed the chocolate on the inside, too, although when I ate them they had a regular texture. (Even the shell was still crunchy, despite their dulled appearance and apparent expansion. Weird.)

If the heat did anything to change the taste, however, I say: leave your M&Ms White Pumpkin Pie out in the heat. (Can we bring back the “chocolate” part of white chocolate? Just saying “white” sounds…weird.) I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these candies.

Keeping in mind that these are pumpkin pie and not pumpkin spice-flavored, M&Ms really nailed it. They taste just like pumpkin pie filling. It feels clean and simple; I didn’t have to sit here and figure out if the nutmeg or the cinnamon were too overpowering. It just tasted like pumpkin pie and that was that. I mean, they forgot the crust and the whipped cream, but I’m thankful for small victories.

So often with M&Ms White (Chocolate), the cloying sweetness of that flavor distracts from what the flavor of the candy is supposed to be. Here, however, it took a backseat, which really let the balanced pumpkin pie flavor shine through. Again, maybe it was the effects of the heat; if so, I should start tossing every bag of flavored M&Ms I get in the microwave for a while. But probably take them out of the bag first.

M&Ms White Pumpkin Pie

  • Score: 4 out of 5 hot UPS trucks
  • Price: $3.00
  • Size: 8 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Target (okay fine, target.com)
  • Nutritional Quirk: Honestly, no surprises here. No real pumpkin in the ingredients, of course.

Jack in the Box Jack’d Jalapeño Hash and H’Angry Chicken Hash Munchie Mash-Ups

It’s rare that I’ll order french fries as a side to my fast food order, but their cousin, the hash brown patty, is another thing entirely. It’s a thing of beauty. Shredded potatoes that are formed into a hand-held shape and then deep fried into a greasy thing of glory? Yes please, all day long.

The only time I really like fries is when they’ve been smothered with cheese and other various toppings, so when Jack in the Box decided to do this with hash browns, I was excited. You’ve taken one of my favorite things and then done my other favorite thing with it, which is cover it with more stuff!

I’m amazed that nobody in fast food has done this before. I mean, does anyone even go to Waffle House for anything other than having the pleasure of ordering their hash browns smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, and topped, in any damn combination you please?

It’s a classic hangover remedy, which makes it a natural for Jack in the Box to be the first to add this to their menu. They’re officially called Munchie Mash-Ups, part of the Munchie Meal line, renowned for advertising to stoners and/or drunks.

In addition to these two flavors, there’s also the Wakey Bakey Hash, which is a mixture of eggs, bacon, pepper jack cheese and white cheese sauce with hash browns. I’m glad I didn’t have to say “Wakey Bakey” into the drive-thru ordering box, since I hate eggs and therefore cannot objectively review anything that contains them.

Jack’d Jalapeño Hash

“What do you call Crispy Hash Browns and Tasty White Cheese Sauce mashed up with Jalapenos, Bacon, and Pepper Jack Cheese?” This is the question Jack in the Box’s website asks of me. They believe the answer is “Ridiculously happy.” I counter with “Not enough toppings.”

I’m getting ahead of myself, however. First off, it appears that the base of these Hashes is two hash brown patties torn in half. The same type that you can get off the breakfast menu. Which means we’re off to a good start, because Jack’s hash browns are patties of greasy goodness.

I know I started off by saying there weren’t enough toppings, but it turns out that if you actually mash it up (as was promised in the name, but I’m willing to put in a little work) all the hash browns get coated quite nicely.

The jalapeños were your typical pickled sliced nacho affair, but there were enough of them to add heat to almost every bite. The bacon added a nice little crunch, but it was bacon bits and not the real thing. Not surprising, but a little bit disappointing.

It was hard to tell if there was any pepper jack cheese – maybe it blended in with the white cheese sauce, which was sort of generic as far as cheese sauces go, but added a lot of creaminess to the crispy hash browns.

I feel like a lot of this sounds disparaging, but when you combine all of these ingredients, something very simple but very delicious happens. Peppers, bacon, creamy cheese sauce and crispy hash browns all add up to a highly satisfying treat that straddles the line between a snack and a meal, depending on your appetite.

H’Angry Chicken Hash

“When hunger is mashed up with anger, it’s called h’anger. When Chicken Nuggets, Frank’s RedHot® Buffalo Sauce, and Ranch are mashed up with Crispy Hash Browns and Tasty White Cheese Sauce, it’s called Jack’s new *$3 H’Angry Chicken Hash Munchie Mash-Up. And it cures h’anger.”

These are Jack’s words. My response is that h’anger is a dumb portmanteau, and also that nobody uses an apostrophe in it. Way to take an already awkward and passe catch phrase and make it sound even more like it’s coming out of the mouth of your dad who just interrupted your high school sleepover to ask what everybody wants on their pizza. Anchovies all around, right, gals? Yes, he’s trying too hard after the divorce, but he’s doing the best he can.

Ol’ H’Angry starts with a base of those two halved hash browns patties, but after that things go a little off the rails.

It’s a mess, but kind of a beautiful one. Five – five! chicken nuggets perch precariously upon our hashers, drenched in ranch, Frank’s, and the seemingly ubiquitous Tasty (don’t tell me how to feel) White Cheese Sauce.

Oh, yeah, and there’s that big chunk of bacon in the front there. I was going to mention that this Mash-Up would have been perfectly fine without it, and then I read the description on the website and realized that it doesn’t belong there in the first place. Thanks for the errant extra clump of bacon, Jack in the Box employee!

Buffalo sauce, ranch, and chicken always go well together, and having all these condiments PLUS the cheese sauce made what are nothing more than kid’s chicken nuggets taste a little more special.

There’s really no way to eat both the chicken and the hash without things getting awkward, so I treated it as two snacks in one box. With three condiments, there was enough sauce left after I ate the nuggets to cover the hash browns, although I gotta say they worked less well with the potatoes than the chicken.

I liked both of my Hash Munchie Mash-Ups a lot, and for *$3 I’d say you’re getting a pretty good bargain, especially the H’Angry Chicken one. While you get a 2-for-1 deal with the chicken, I wound up liking the combination of ingredients on the Jack’d Jalapeño one better.

These may sound like a gimmick food – or do they? I can’t even tell anymore – but they’re legit tasty and might go into my regular rotation of Jack in the Box foods I order, which is something I can’t say of anything new they’ve come out with since the Spicy Nacho Chicken Sandwich.

*Sorry, Hawaii and Guam, they’re $4 for you for some reason. Still an okay deal.

Jack in the Box Jack’d Jalapeño Hash and H’Angry Chicken Hash Munchie Mash-Ups

  • Score (Jack’d Jalapeño): 4 out of 5 smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, and toppeds
  • Score (H’Angry Chicken): 3.5 out of 5 well-meaning, newly-divorced dads
  • Price: $3
  • Size: 1 Munchie Mash-Up
  • Purchased at: Jack in the Box #1516
  • Nutritional Quirk: A whopping 2,090 milligrams of sodium in one H’Angry Chicken Hash. You’re gonna be H’Thirsty after eating that. I’m sorry.

Wendy’s Bacon Queso Burger and Bacon Queso Fries

Oh Wendy’s, you had me at queso.

I’m pretty sure most of my blood is queso at this point. If you make a cheese that comes in sauce form, I’m pretty sure I’ve tried it. (Herdez Queso Blanco currently reigns supreme to me.) Quotes from the offensively boring commercial for Wendy’s line of queso products include “everything’s better with queso” and “feed your queso obsession”. I felt like they were talking directly to me.

Is everything really better with queso, though?

I thank both the Spring Oreos and the Herdez queso for their sacrifice. And yes, I tried it. It was beyond gross. Why did I do that?

Bacon Queso Burger

I picked the burger over the chicken sandwich that’s available (with all the same toppings) because I felt the beef/queso combo would be more interesting. I’ve dunked chicken into cheese sauce numerous times, but usually my cow interacts with cheese in slice form.

Wendy’s describes their Bacon Queso Burger as “A quarter-pound of fresh, never frozen beef topped with warm and spicy poblano queso, three strips of Applewood smoked bacon, fire-roasted salsa, red onions, and shredded cheddar cheese, all served on a toasted red jalapeno bun.”

I’ma get right down to it before I break down the various working parts: this burger was straight-up disappointing. I was hoping to just get real messy with some queso, but it was hardly there.

As you can see, there was more salsa than queso. It was had a little bit of heat, but the flavor was very bland. There was a hint of fire-roasted tomato, but other than that, it wasn’t something I would equate with actual salsa. It was more of a tomato mush.

I couldn’t taste any heat in the “red jalapeno” bun, although I could see little red flecks in it. It acted as little more than the usual deflated fast food bun, but the fact that it was toasted seemed to add a little extra touch to the burger that an untoasted bun wouldn’t; plus, that might have helped protect it from getting extra mushy from all the salsa.

One highlight: the bacon. I haven’t eaten at Wendy’s in quite a while, but one thing they seem to consistently get correct is their Applewood smoked bacon. It was thick, it was crunchy, and it was everything that fast food bacon usually isn’t. It’s just as good as if you made it at home in your cast iron skillet.

Also crunchy were the onions, being able to resist sogginess in their raw form. Their sharp bite seemed a bit unnecessary among all these other flavors, though.

And finally, on to the thing we’re really here for: the queso. The main star of the show. And the biggest problem.

First off, there were technically two types of queso on my Bacon Queso Burger. One of them was shredded cheddar cheese, except all I could detect were a few scant pieces on my burger. No worries though, because the star of the show is the queso sauce!

Except the queso sauce totally sucked.

First of all, I expected my burger to just be exploding with cheese sauce, much like with Jack in the Box’s Hella-Peño Burger. I don’t mind the mess; I welcome it. But the sauce was quite scant and the amount of salsa easily overshadowed it.

The biggest sin, however, is that this queso sauce had no queso flavor, and no poblano flavor to boot. Tasting it solo, there might have been a teensy bit of spiciness, but other than that, nothing. This burger had less cheese flavor than a regular cheeseburger, and it had TWO different cheeses on it.

Wendy’s Bacon Queso Burger made me sad. But I thought perhaps the next item I ordered would really let the queso shine…

Bacon Queso Fries

Wendy’s description: “Our natural-cut fries seasoned with sea salt and topped with warm and spicy poblano queso, three strips of Applewood smoked bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese.”

Okay, so no salsa mucking up the works now.

Which only reinforced how offensively bland this queso sauce was.

The bacon was still crispy and delicious (although a somewhat unwieldy fry topping) and Wendy’s fries are actually quite good and have that “natural potato” taste, so those were both good points. But it was, again, the highlight ingredient that was its downfall.

I will say that, on the surface, the fries looked short on toppings, but once I mixed it all together it coated all the fries quite nicely, and there was a lot of bacon to go around. Nothing irritates me more than cheesy fries or nachos that don’t get adequate coverage.

It took me a while to really pin it down, but Wendy’s queso is basically Bechamel sauce and xantham gum. Furthermore, Wendy’s promised me not just queso, but poblano queso, and while there seemed to be little bits of…things in the sauce, the flavor just wasn’t there.

You’ve besmirched the good name of queso, Wendy’s. I’d consider this a capital crime, but you do have really good bacon. And I can’t quit that chili. Just…work on your cheese sauce game, or just stay out of it.

Wendy’s Bacon Queso Burger

  • Score: 1.5 out of 5 “everything’s better with queso”s
  • Price: $4.89
  • Size: 1 burger
  • Purchased at: Wendy’s #00000621
  • Nutritional Quirk: On the Wendy’s website, the ingredients for Poblano Queso Cheese sauce just says “CONTAINS MILK”

Bacon Queso Fries

  • Score: 2 out of 5 “feed your queso obsession”s
  • Price: $2.49
  • Size: n/a
  • Purchased at: Wendy’s #00000621
  • Nutritional Quirk: At 510 calories, these fries are just 40 calories less than the burger. That seems wrong, somehow.

Thomas’ Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins

Why does the idea of bacon buttermilk pancake English muffins seem so weird to me?

Twenty years ago, that would have been a perfectly reasonable line of thought. But these days, food companies have collectively lost their minds, so this should just be another yawner. I guess it’s the idea of Thomas’ going off the deep end. English muffins don’t usually enter the realm of “weird”. Plus, they went with not one but TWO weird flavors for a muffin. Just cramming a full breakfast of flavors into something that is already a breakfast food. It’s just bizarre.

Another thing that’s bizarre: the proclamation that this product will only exist for six weeks. Six weeks from when? I don’t know. That seems like an incredibly arbitrary thing to print on a package. Who is keeping track of these six weeks? Wouldn’t it be easier just to say “only available until X day”?

Six weeks. Six weeks! That’s about half a semester of college. So you could eat some English muffins at the start of school, crave some of these nooks and crannies while studying for your midterms, and not be able to get that sweet savory breakfast treat. Hell, I’ve been learning Spanish on Duolingo for over six weeks and that stupid owl just told me I’ve learned 1% of it. These English muffins are available for less time than learning 1% of a foreign language.

I usually like to take a whiff of whatever I’m about to review before I eat it, but this time I had no choice: as soon as I opened the plastic sleeve, I was assaulted with a smell that was something like if artificial maple flavoring and styrofoam had a baby. It was unlike anything my nose had ever experienced, and it was highly disheartening for the culinary experience that was to come.

Sorry, I’m bad at cutting English muffins. It’s a genetic flaw.

What is going on here? I figured the little pink blobs were supposed to be bacon, but what are these coral-colored splotches? Is that the maple? The pancake? It’s certainly unlike any pancake I’ve ever seen.

Up close, the “bacon” pieces look like the haggard teeth of a witch who lives deep in the forest and tries to lure children to her cabin with weird breakfast pastries.

There’s no good preface to this, so let’s just get going.

It starts out by tasting pretty much like a regular English muffin, then a strange sweetness creeps in. It tastes almost like someone used something sweet to try to cover the faint taste of slightly rotten meat.

What the fuck is happening here? I couldn’t taste any pancake flavor, just a little bit of that weird, sweet maple. There was also some savory, but like I said, it tasted nothing like bacon – just like slightly off meat. And the taste lingered long after the muffin was gone.

Toasting and buttering helped, but that fake sweetness remained, along with that weird, slightly off taste that just stays and stays. An English muffin isn’t that big, but I couldn’t finish it. Also, yes, that’s not a shadow. I burned one side. It’s a genetic flaw.

I’m still trying to figure out the bacon situation. It wasn’t the flavor of meat, more the ghost of bad meat…like that time I must have gotten some raw steak juice in my reusable shopping bag and after a few days everything I put in there smelled really rank. Except I can’t run these English muffins through the washing machine.

Boy, I just make Thomas’ Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins sound like shit, don’t I? Well, they sure tasted like shit to me. Just a complete failure on the bacon and the pancake part. Sort of tasted like maple syrup, if you want to offend Canadians or whatever people from Vermont call themselves. Any savory aspect of it just tasted tainted.

But, in all fairness, a friend of mine tried them and she said they were “okay”. Not a rousing endorsement, but far from the experience I had. So maybe your mileage will vary? If you can find them within the mysterious six-week window, that is.

Thomas’ Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins

  • Score: 0.5 out of 5 “someone I know thought they were okay”s
  • Price: $3.49
  • Size: 6 English muffins
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirk: Contains actual maple syrup. I am gobsmacked. Contains no trace of bacon. I am not gobsmacked.

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs

I always love when traditionally savory brands get into the holiday-themed snack game, but man, Cheetos, why did you have to puss out and go sweet on me? I know Frito-Lay has the dark magic ability to make meat-flavored snacks. Couldn’t we go ham, as it were? That’s an Easter classic!

Okay, sorry to start this review out with a rant. While I didn’t get the odd blessing/curse of ham-flavored Cheetos, I did at least get these Cheetos Sweetos. Last year around Easter, Cheetos introduced their first Sweetos flavor, Cinnamon Sugar. Now they’re adding Caramel to the line.

Unlike the bag of Cinnamon Sugar Puffs, Cheetos has erased all trace of connections with Easter. Chester is still as maniacally enthusiastic as ever, but gone are the rabbit ears. Now he’s crazy for what appears to just be an entire bowl of melted caramel. Cool your heels, bro. That amount of caramel is strictly for making caramel apples for Halloween.

Despite the Easter-scrubbing, for some reason Cheetos decided to keep the Puffs egg-shaped, which seems an odd choice given the lack of bunnies on the package. But at least it makes for a structurally sound Puff.

Upon opening the bag of Sweetos, I was struck by the unmistakable smell of Brach’s caramel squares. Points to Cheetos for authenticity on that one!

…And, after tasting them, points immediately taken away. Well, let me expound: the Puffs were absolutely true to the smell. Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs have a super authentic caramel taste, and therein lies the problem.

The Cinnamon Sugar Puffs kind of worked because they were evocative of churros, but these just taste like sweet caramel on top of savory corn puff. It’s highly disconcerting to both the taste buds and the mouthfeel, because something that tastes exactly like caramel should not have this kind of crunchy and airy texture.

I really thought Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs would just be a sort of “meh” experience, but my mouth has been deeply offended. In fact, now I wish waaaay more that Cheetos had come out with some ham-flavored egg-shaped Puffs. That would be infinitely better than these things. Nailing the caramel flavor turned out to be the actual problem.

Blech, I’m going to go drink some milk now to cleanse my palate. These things stick with you, too.

Oh, and unlike the Cinnamon Sugar Puffs variety, there’s no indication on the bag that these are limited edition. So you can not enjoy these all year-round!

Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs

  • Score: 0.5 out of 5 Easter Bunny Chester Cheetahs
  • Price: $1.39
  • Size: 2.6 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: Contains no actual caramel – just “caramel seasoning” – which makes the authentic taste even more mysterious and, in some ways, insulting?

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