Cheetos Bag of Bones Flamin’ Hot

cheetos-bag-of-bones-flamin-hot-bagToday is Halloween and I didn’t do ONE SINGLE spooky review this year. What a shitty Junk Food Betty.

Honestly, I was really unimpressed with this year’s offerings, but that’s no excuse. To make it up you, here is my heart:

cheetos-bag-of-bones-flamin-hot-heart

Or, more specifically, my rib cage. But I thought it looked like a heart.

The one thing that caught my eye this year was Cheetos Bag of Bones Flamin’ Hot. I know, I know, it’s not a new flavor OR a new concept. But it’s so perfect.

Look at our skeleton man on the package. He’s obviously being tortured by an Evil Chester Cheetah, who cackles in glee at his misfortune. Eeee!

cheetos-bag-of-bones-flamin-hot-skeleton

Here’s this year’s Cheeto skeleton, or should I say, HELLeton. As you can see, several of his bony demon fingers have been pulled off, either through some method of torture or because the OSHA standards are clearly lacking in hell.

cheetos-bag-of-bones-flamin-hot

Here is a hell sun, because when the demons come to walk the earth it will be like the scorching of a thousand suns. Or something? I don’t know! Ask Evil Chester Cheetah!

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Lay’s Passport to Flavor Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala and Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

lays-passport-to-flavor-kettle-cooked-indian-tikka-masala-and-brazilian-picanha-bagsHere we have the last half of the Passport to Flavor varieties. I’m pretty excited about these last two flavors, as they represent some of my favorite flavors. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala

Previously we traveled from Greece to China; now we’re heading off to India. The flight from China to India is only four and a half hours – that’s less than it takes to cross the United States!

Lay’s calls it Indian Tikka Masala, but this dish purportedly originated in Glasgow and is actually a British national dish. In case you weren’t aware, Indian food is insanely popular in the UK.

The pictures Lay’s uses to symbolize India are a lotus flower, an elephant with a fancy…riding thing on its back, something that I’m pretty sure is supposed to be a mandala, and the Taj Mahal. If they were being fair, it would have British things on it, like…rain, and, I don’t know, a TARDIS? Just a big picture of Morrisey on the bag.

Our back-bag blurb for this one says, “Packed with flavorful spices like turmeric and cumin, the tomato-based dish Tikka Masala is a fixture in global cuisine. Open this flavor and bring some khushee to your day!”

I love that Lay’s is trying to teach us foreign languages, one potato chip bag at a time. Here we have the Hindi word khushee, which I learned means joy or happiness! Or picnic. Picnic was also listed as a defintion.

I barely got the bag open before my nose was assaulted with the smell of curry spices. Oh, what a delightful odor!

lays-passport-to-flavor-kettle-cooked-indian-tikka-masala

The chips are an appropriately bright shade of orange, considering that real Tikka Masala is often so violently colored that it looks like it’s going to commit federal crimes on your digestive system.

Unlike the Chinese Szechuan Chicken flavor of Lay’s, the chicken flavor wasn’t super prominent in Indian Tikka Masala. Instead, you’re punched in the mouth with the flavors of tomato, turmeric and cumin, along with a level of heat that is not shabby.

Lay’s definitely captured the essential flavors of Tikka Masala, but managed to do it in a way that isn’t so heavy that you can only eat a few at a time. These are totally munchable, especially if you like your chips with a little bit of a kick. Warning: you’ll definitely crave some solid curry after eating some of these.

Brazilian Picanha

From India we go to Brazil, our final destination. The flight was 19 hours; at this point, you want to kill yourself, but the flight is mostly empty so you get an entire row to yourself so you can lay down. Score! But the only in-flight movie available is Gigli. You win some, you lose some.

Brazil is represented by a sun, a parrot, a soccer- sorry, football, and a palm tree. Damn, I feel like Lay’s really phoned it in for Brazil. Which is especially insulting since these chips came out around the same time as the Olympics.

I’ve never had picanha, but it sounds amazing. There’s a Brazilian steakhouse near me called Fogo de Chão, where people just walk around with giant slabs of meat and cut it off for you right at your table. This sounds like the most amazing thing in the world to me.

Lay’s has a trick up its sleeve with this flavor: in teeny-tiny print under the chip name, it says “Steak & Chimichurri Sauce”.

So maybe I’ve never had proper picanha. But I’ve had the shit out of some chimichurri sauce. It’s like pesto’s Argentinian cousin, except made with parsley and oregano. It’s so, so good. I just got at least 80% more excited about these chips.

Now let’s learn something from Lay’s: “Picanha, the finest cut of Brazilian steak, is skewer-grilled with coarse salt to lock in flavor. Mix in the bright flavors of chimichurri sauce & you’ll be saying ‘mais, por favor!’”

I didn’t have to look this one up, because I have a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish and there’s some overlap into Portuguese, so this obviously means “more, please!” Much easier to understand than the picnic word.

lays-passport-to-flavor-brazilian-picanha

Might as well lay it out there: Brazilian Picanha potato chips taste like actual grilled steak and what dark goddamn magic is Lay’s hiding in their flavor laboratory?

These chips are goddamn delicious. My problem lies with the chimichurri flavor, though. Maybe it’s just my experience, but I was hoping for a stronger presence with more kick. Instead, it was more laid back, throwing some garlic and a little herbiness in with the predominant steak flavoring.

That said, the ingredients list does include everything in chimichurri, even extra virgin olive oil. Once I adjusted my expectations, I found out I liked Brazilian Picanha even more. The steak is the real flavor here, and it shines in all of its unnaturally realistic glory.

These were two solid flavors from Lay’s and a great way to end our Passport to Flavor trip. I hope you had a great trip!

Lay’s Passport to Flavor Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala and Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

  • Score (Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala): 4 out of 5 digestive federal crimes
  • Score (Brazilian Picanha): 4.5 out of 5 men walking around with meat slabs
  • Price: $5.98 (for an embarrassingly large multipack of 20 bags of Lay’s)
  • Size: 1 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: Along with beef fat, Brazilian Picanha also contains “beef extract”. Perhaps we’re better off not knowing what that is.

 

Lay’s Passport to Flavor Wavy Greek Tzatziki and Chinese Szechuan Chicken

lays-passport-to-flavor-wavy-greek-tzatziki-and-chinese-szechuan-chicken-bagsLay’s has come out with four new flavors, and for once they’re not asking you to make agonizing decisions about what should stay and what should go. Instead, they’re running a contest called Passport to Flavor, where you can enter to win…I don’t know, trips to places and stuff. I’m just here for the chips.

Lay’s Wavy Greek Tzatziki

lays-passport-to-flavor-wavy-greek-tzatziki

The first stamp on our flavor passports takes us to Greece. You can tell because there’s a pegasus on the bag! I feel like a pegasus belongs more on the bedroom wall of 11-year-old me than a bag of chips, but hey. There’s also a dove with an olive branch, in case you haven’t been hit over the head with mythology enough.

To finish up the theme, we also have the Parthenon, and a scroll, because…you know…scrolls. I like that Lay’s couldn’t think of anything from Greece that had come about in the last two millenia.

No matter when the Greeks invented it, tzatziki is a baller condiment. And I say that as a great lover of condiments. I never would have thought that I’d be a fan of putting yogurt on meat, but no gyro is complete without the stuff.

The back of the bag has a little blurb that says, “When the Greeks mixed dill, garlic, and other unique spices to yogurt, Tzatziki became a Mediterranean classic! There’s no doubt this creamy flavor will have you saying ‘OPA!’”

I’ve heard people say “OPA!” before, but I was never quite sure what it meant, so I decided to look it up. According to one website, “The actual meaning of “Opa!” is more like “Oops” or “Whoops!” Among Greeks, you might hear it after someone bumps into something or drops or breaks an object.”

The idea of Lay’s telling me that I’ll be saying “Whoops, stubbed my toe eating tzatziki-flavored potato chips!” just tickles me.

What also tickles me is the flavor of these chips. They’re like Sour Cream & Onion’s hairier cousin. It’s simple, but it works: the base flavor of creamy, tangy yogurt, with highlights of bright dill and even a bit of refreshing cucumber. It’s that simple, and it’s spot-on tzatziki. If you like the flavor of this Greek dressing, then you’ll like these Lay’s.

It’s also worth noting that one of the ingredients is “tzatziki seasoning”, which contains natural dill, cucumber, and yogurt flavor, although I’m not entirely sure what natural yogurt flavor means. Powdered yogurt?

Chinese Szechuan Chicken

lays-passport-to-flavor-chinese-szechuan-chicken

Our next stop is China. Your flight was 12 hours long; it totally sucked, but at least you had the aisle seat.

Lay’s has represented China with bamboo, a pagoda, a traditional Chinese dragon and one of those paper lanterns that I associate more with a trip to Party City than China itself.

The poor Szechuan chicken on the bag doesn’t even get the dignity of being placed on a plate; it’s just represented in a take-out box, delivered to a young couple in love who just got their first studio apartment, eaten while they sit on the bare floor and make Goo Goo Gai Pan eyes at each other.

“The regional Sichuan pepper is where takeout favorite Szechuan Chicken gets its name. Why wait for delivery – we’ve got the tongue-tingling sensation of ‘málà’ right here!”

It seems like the theme for Lay’s Passport to Flavor is to use one foreign word per cringingly caps lock-filled blurb on the back of their bags. I’d never heard of málà before, so I looked it up, and apparently it’s a “popular oily, spicy, and numbing Chinese sauce which consists of Sichuanese peppercorn, chili pepper and various spices simmered with oil.”

“The term málà is a combination of two Chinese characters: “numbing” (麻) and “spicy (hot)” (辣), referring to the feeling in the mouth after eating the sauce. The numbness is caused by Sichuan pepper, which contains 3% hydroxy-alpha-sanshool,” Wikipedia goes on to educate me, combining etymology and science into one compressed lesson.

I’ve had Chinese food many times, but I’ve never had Szechuan chicken. I was worried that this would impact my ability, but luckily (maybe?) Lay’s seemed to have me covered, seizing my taste buds with chopstick-like precision. I don’t know what that means.

My first chip flooded my mouth with chicken bullion flavor, but was quickly followed up with strong notes of soy sauce, peppers (both with flavor and heat) and then a hint of something bizarrely nostril-clearing. Wasabi? Horseradish?

This seemed out of character with the flavors of Szechuan chicken, but maybe it was the málà at play? Very curious indeed.

Some of the ingredients listed include actual roasted Szechuan peppers and “natural Szechuan wok type flavor”, which is a mysterious phrase for an ingredient. Gotta love that natural wok (type) flavor.

All of these flavors complemented each other nicely and created a complex mélange that would be delicious as part of a Chinese meal, but doesn’t make for a very snackable potato chip. It’s just too rich and intense to eat more than a few chips at a time.

Lay’s Passport to Flavor Wavy Greek Tzatziki and Chinese Szechuan Chicken

  • Score (Wavy Greek Tzatziki): 4 out of 5 awesome pegasi
  • Score (Chinese Szechuan Chicken): 3 out of 5 wok type flavors
  • Price: $5.98 (for an embarrassingly large multipack of 20 bags of Lay’s)
  • Size: 1 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: The Chinese Szechuan Chicken flavor contains THREE different chicken ingredients! (Broth, powder and fat)

 

 

 

Limited Edition Choco Chip Oreo Cookies

Limited Editon Choco Chip Oreo Cookies PackageIf I’m counting correctly, Choco Chip Oreos are the sixth Oreo to come out in 2016. An astonishing number. And yet, I’ve only reviewed one out of the other five. Why so lax? Why aren’t I on these like sugary creme on sugary cookie?

I’m just so Oreo-d out. I probably could have drummed up some interest in the Fruity Crisp ones, but I just never got around to them. My brain and my cupboard just didn’t have room for it.

But for some reason, these Choco Chip Oreos caught my attention. On the outside, it looks like a pretty boring premise, and not unlike the Limited Edition Cookie Dough Oreos from early 2014. But once you look deeper, it becomes somewhat of an Inception-esque cookie creation: The cookie part looks like chocolate chip cookies and the creme is “Choco Chip” flavored.

The sum of its parts is an Oreo, a cookie unto itself that has inspired countless knock-offs and mix-ins, that is masquerading as a chocolate chip creation, and entirely different type of cookie that also has countless mix-ins.

It has finally happened. Oreo has taken the cookie and folded it in upon itself, causing some sort of cosmic cookie implosion. This is the end, my friends. It’s been a good ride.

Okay, so that’s drastic. The cookie world will not end. In fact, there’s probably a PR being written right now about yet another Oreo cookie flavor. But for now, there is Choco Chip.

The name itself raises questions. Choco Chip could be a cutesy name, which is fine, but then Oreo really commits to the phrase by also calling the creme Choco Chip. I guess, unlike Cookie Dough Oreos, these are not made with “chocolatey chips”, which is also a dubious “ingredient”. Choco Chip just takes it one step further outside the zone of a real food item.

Limited Editon Choco Chip Oreo Cookies

When I opened the package I took a big ol’ whiff, and the smell was like the memory of chocolate chip cookies combined with something artificial…maybe the creme. It was an interesting olfactory sensation. It’s like chocolate chip cookies, but if this was a dystopian future and everyone had forgotten the recipe, so they just tried to make them from their grandmothers’ memories of their mothers’ kitchen.

Limited Editon Choco Chip Oreo Cookies Creme

As has been my habit when trying new Oreo flavors, I tried the cookie part first. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did not, indeed, taste like a dystopian cookie memory; instead, it tasted like an almost-there Chips Ahoy! cookie. It had a very satisfying crunch – typical of an Oreo – and extra-crunchy bits that, while I had no illusions about being actual chocolate chips, added an extra layer of texture.

I’d honestly be curious to see how these Oreos stacked up against the newly-released Chips Ahoy! Thins.

But, as we all know, there’s two parts to an Oreo, and arguably the most important part is the creme filling. Like the cookie, it was flecked with a darker chocolate color, but again, these were not chocolate chips. Unlike the cookie, however, they added no different texture to the creme.

What was most notable about the filling was how much it didn’t taste like a chocolate chip cookie. Alone, it had a light, fake chocolate taste with a bit of an odd aftertaste, as well as Oreo’s typically over-sweet creme flavor.

Chocolate chip cookies have a distinct taste even without the chocolate chips, and the creme in Limited Edition Choco Chip Oreo Cookies totally failed to capture that flavor. It didn’t even manage to get a good chocolate flavor going.

The cookies, however, had a nice, chocolate chip cookie-esque flavor to them, which was bolstered by the crunchy texture and the added crunchy bits. I started to wonder if I was just imagining the extra crunchiness, so I ate way more Oreos than I usually can tolerate in an attempt to figure it out. My conclusion? I had a stomachache, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t just imagining them.

When you eat a Choco Chip Oreo as a whole, you get a sad juxtaposition of good and bad, chocolate chip cookie and Choco Chip weirdness. If only they could have made the creme match the cookie; then they would have had a real powerhouse Limited Edition flavor on their hands.

I might just wind up twisting the rest of these apart, eating the cookies, and using the creme to make some sort of weird golem sculpture. After all, Halloween is right around the corner, friends!

Limited Edition Choco Chip Oreo Cookies

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 Inceptioned creme golems
  • Price: $2.50
  • Size: 10.7 oz package
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: The Choco Chip-iest ingredient listed is cocoa, which is depressingly far down on the list.

Hostess Key Lime Slime Twinkies and White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies Limited Edition Ghostbusters

Hostess Key Lime Slime Twinkies and White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies Limited Edition Ghostbusters BoxHere we go, folks – not one, but TWO different Ghostbusters-themed Twinkies! It’s not what the world asked for, but it’s definitely what the world needs.

It feels like this is a thing that should have happened back in 1984, when the first Ghostbusters movie came out. The reason? This.

In case you can’t click that or you’ve never seen the original movie because you lived in a cave or you’re under 30 (and still living in a cave), Egon (the scientist nerd) uses a Twinkie as an analogy to let the rest of the Ghostbusters know how fucked they were by the amount of PKE (psychokinetic energy, DUH) in the city. He says that it would be like if the Twinkie he was holding was 35 feet long and 600 pounds.

To which Winston says “that’s a big Twinkie”, which I’m sure was repeated about 6,000 times around the water cooler the week after the movie came out, because nobody laughs harder than when your “joke” consists of regurgitating a line from a movie you just saw.

If the Internet had widely existed in 1984, I can’t believe Hostess wouldn’t have teamed up with the movie to get these Twinkies out there. But alas, 1984 was a simpler time. A time less crammed with weird promotional products.

It’s not like those things didn’t exist before the ol’ web – take your brain on a quick nostalgia trip and I’m sure you’ll remember Nintendo-themed cereal and the infamous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vanilla Puddin’ Pies – but back then, bizarre food was aimed at kids. Now it’s aimed at all of us.

And I love it, of course.

Key Lime Slime

Hostess Key Lime Slime Twinkie Limited Edition Ghostbusters

This had to be the easiest marketing meeting ever for Hostess. “When people think of Ghostbusters, they think of slime…what flavor rhymes with slime…C’MON PEOPLE, PUT YOUR THINKING CAPS ON!”

I love that you can see the green filling glowing ghoulishly through the Twinkie sponge cake. It’s like a subtle warning sign saying, “don’t open this ghost trap!”

Hostess Key Lime Slime Twinkie Limited Edition Ghostbusters Filling

In a fun twist, the Key Lime filling inside the Twinkie looks more neon and more like slime than the filling pictured on the package. The package looks sort of like the Twinkie is extruding Play-Doh; the real thing looks like a malevolent force crawling out of the snack cake.

The lime flavor of the cream is actually pretty mild, which was a nice surprise. It didn’t taste like a lime Skittle (RIP) was morphed into cream filling. That would have been jarring. It doesn’t taste exactly like a key lime pie, but there was a nice balance of lime and creamy vanilla.

I didn’t think I’d like Key Lime Slime Twinkies at all, minus the fact that they were slime-themed Twinkies. But the fact that they kept the lime toned down and mixed it with creamier flavors made it pleasantly snackable.

White Fudge Marshmallow

Hostess White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkie Limited Edition Ghostbusters

Here we have Amorphous White Blob, an out-of-focus picture of something that could be anything.

Sadly, this is a perfectly fine picture, but the amorphous part stands. White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkie isn’t winning any beauty pageants. But isn’t it what’s on the inside that counts?

This Ghostbusters Twinkie has a somewhat less straightforward description than Key Lime Slime: “White Fudge Covered Sponge Cake with Marshmallow Topping and Creamy Filling”. But wait, why isn’t the filling marshmallow-flavored? How is it topped with marshmallow but also covered with white fudge?

Hostess White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkie Limited Edition Ghostbusters Filling

Sure, the inside of White Fudge Marshmallow looks less threatening than Key Lime Slime, but there are surprises hidden in these white layers. If you look closely on top of the sponge cake, that’s not just an extra-thick layer of fudge – in between the white chocolate and the cake, there’s actually a layer of marshmallow!

Yes, that’s where the marshmallow is hiding. It’s like a super-thin Peep, or maybe a coconut-less Snoball (I don’t like coconut so I haven’t had one of those in ages).

This is a pretty inventive use of marshmallow, but that doesn’t mean it was good. It completely lacked the flavor of marshmallow, instead serving as a chewy, stretchy layer that threatened to tear apart the Twinkie from its white fudge covering, which was quickly melting between my fingers, creating a sticky mess.

Speaking of that white fudge, it completely dominated all the rest of the Twinkie flavors with it’s intense sweetness. If you enjoy the taste of regular Twinkie filling, you’ll never taste it here – it’s just sweet white fudge all the way down. Again, couldn’t they have made the filling marshmallow-flavored?

To me, the White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkie had a weird texture and was a sugar overload, but points for creativity and for giving the Stay Puft Marshmallow man a substantial amount of real estate on the front of the box.

I’m so happy that there are not one, but two limited edition Ghostbusters Twinkies. Key Lime Slime was a slam dunk idea with a surprisingly decent taste, but White Fudge Marshmallow was a step outside the box – plus it was a perfect homage to our friend Stay Puft. Flawed in flavor, but I could feel the heart was there. My hat’s off to you, Hostess.

Hostess Key Lime Slime Twinkies and White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies Limited Edition Ghostbusters

  • Score(Key Lime Slime): 3.5 out of 5 obviously-absent Slimers
  • Score (White Fudge Marshmallow): 2 out of 5 hooray-inducing present Stay Puft Marshmallow Men
  • Price: $2.50 (each)
  • Size: 10 Twinkies (Key Lime Slime); 9 Twinkies (White Fudge Marshmallow)
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: Honestly, nothing. It’s all just sugar and unpronounceable ingredients. At the end of the day, they are still Twinkies.

Happy 7th Birthday, Junk Food Betty!

Birthday Cake by Theresa Thompson, on FlickrI’m actually a day late to my own birthday! Whoops! Well, another year around the sun, and we’re still hanging in there, wolfing down burgers and drowning in Oreos. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Here’s to another year of weird flavors, limited editions, and special holiday treats. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my crazy ramblings. I really do appreciate it, and I hope you’ll stick around for another year!

Hi-C Ecto Cooler (2016)

Hi-C Ecto Cooler 2016 CanI was too young to see the first Ghostbusters when it came out, but once I was able watch the movie without running out of the room screaming as soon as the Library Ghost showed up, I was a fan. Not a crazed die-hard fan, but a fan nonetheless. How could I not be when it had a giant marshmallow monster?

I never did get any of the toys, minus some stickers and maybe a Slimer eraser top or a tub of slime. There was so much slime in my childhood. Anyway, I guess it was considered more of a boy thing. I was perfectly content having my Barbies fight ghosts and vampires instead of nabbing a tiny Dan Aykroyd to do so.

But Ecto Cooler was something that everyone had access to. There’s no gender-specific aisles at the grocery store, and Slimer was mine for the taking in the form of a Hi-C juice box. It was like taking a friend with me to school. The only friend I ever had at lunch.

*sob*

But if you’re younger than I am, which is looking more and more like a probability as I continue to stare mortality in the eye, you probably don’t give a shit about any of this. Blah blah blah 80s nostalgia, blah blah there’s no Slimer on the can.

Oh yeah, that’s a real thing that real people are upset about. “Thanks for the Ecto Cooler but WHERE’S SLIMER???” Y’all need to calm the hell down. Besides, these cans do something that I’m sure your 1980s-loving self will surely appreciate:

Hi-C Ecto Cooler 2016 Color Changing Can

COLOR-CHANGING CANS WOOOOO! Hypercolor t-shirts! The Great Bluedini! Are you satisfied yet, adult-children? If not, there’s slime dripping down from the top of the can. TAKE IT.

All of the yellow on the can changes to green – even the little accent lines on the slime. Not huge, I know, but trust me – 9-year-old you would freak out at this concept. Never mind that it’s the same technology Coors uses to let you know their beer has cooled down sufficiently enough that you won’t notice how shitty it is.

We are being blessed with all these snack foods (don’t get me started on the Twinkies – because I will later) because of the new Ghostbusters movie. Have you heard of it? It’s a little indie flick. Also, it has girls in it instead of boys! You can call that stupid if you want, and the Internet has, but if it had been an all-girl squad back when I was younger, I sure as hell would have had all the toys.

Oh, here I go with the nostalgia again. Let’s get to the drink itself.

Hi-C Ecto Cooler 2016

What a beautiful, neon, ectoplasmic shade of green. If your parents are unwilling to buy you a tub of slime, you can always pour this over your toys and pretend they’re being slimed on your parents’ carpet. I’m pretty sure the staining effect will be similarly disastrous. (Seriously, parents, what did you think was going to happen when you bought your child a tub of slime?)

I gotta square up with ya: I don’t really remember what Ecto Cooler tasted like. I mean, when this Hi-C first hit my tongue, it went, “Hey that tastes familiar from my childhood,” but my tongue could be totally lying. But why wouldn’t the recipe be the same? Ecto Cooler lost Slimer and became Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen and then Crazy Citrus Cooler, which was finally discontinued in 2007. It’s not like they lost the ingredients list.

So what does Ecto Cooler taste like to me today? Well, like many things that originate from a juice box, insanely sweet, with a little tart citrus kick and a lot of artificial tangerine, which is really just more like orange.

It tastes like a shitty kids’ drink. And it’s neon green. I shouldn’t be drinking this. But I am, and I’m loving it, even as I realize how crappy it tastes.

It was a little weird drinking the juice out of a can, because I associate cans with soda, so I had to re-adjust my palate to nullify the expectation of carbonation. I feel like these belong in their original format, the juice box. Which, lucky for us and kids alike, are also available! Just not anywhere I could find. But I’ll take my color-changing can over a juice box anyways. It makes me look so much more mature.

Summing up all this rambling, Hi-C Ecto Cooler is a gimmicky return of a drink that us old people think is the greatest thing in the goddamn world, but it’s really just a very sugary orange drink with no nutritional value. But it does come in a very cool can and a heavy dose of nostalgia. If that’s a flavor that’s up your alley, then go for it. Happy hunting!

Hi-C Ecto Cooler (2016)

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 slime carpet stains
  • Price: $7.75 (for a case of 12)
  • Size: 11.5 oz. can
  • Purchased at: amazon.com (Prime Pantry)
  • Nutritional Quirk: No surprise, a whopping 41 grams of sugar in one can. (For comparison, a 12 oz. can of Coke has 39 grams.) I take it back about lacking any nutritional value, though: it does have 100% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin C!

McDonald’s Lone Star Stack Burger

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Probably one of the more successful snack food marketing campaigns in the last few years, despite it having a name that makes me want to punch someone, is the Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign. Honestly, it really is impressive that they can get as many people as they do all worked up about potato chips. Because, really, they’re potato chips.

In the time since Lay’s first came up with that concept, a lot of other snack and fast food merchants have attempted to replicate it with varying degrees of success, but few of them manage to drum up the hype that Lay’s does.

It was only a matter of time until fast food behemoth McDonald’s decided to give it a crack. The result? The McDonald’s Burger Showdown.

Apparently, back in March, they announced this contest. People could go online and build their burger using a “long list” of “fresh” ingredients. Once you selected your ingredients, chose a name and submitted your virtual burger, you would be on your way to, perhaps, burger fame and a jackpot of $5,000. The submitted burgers would be voted on by the unwashed masses, then judged by a “panel of qualified judges” using a set of criteria including “taste”, “creativity” and “operations feasibility”. Sadly, I missed all the fun, since I only became aware of this after the winner was announced.

Before we GET to the winner, though, we should list all the finalists, shouldn’t we? Because really, there are no losers here. This is the winners circle, right?

McDonald's Lone Star Bronc Burger Promo

First up is the “Lone Star Bronc” consisting of a Premium Bun, two Quarter Pounder Beef Patties, American Cheese, Pepper Jack, Grilled Onions, Crinkle Cut Pickles, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Shredded Lettuce and Sweet Onion BBQ Sauce.

McDonald's Dobletxmeet Burger Promo

Next is the “DOBLETXMEET”, whose name infuriates me no end, which is made up of an Artisan Roll, two Classic Beef Patties, Swiss, Grilled Mushrooms, Grilled Onions, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Herb Seasoning, Chipotle Ketchup and Ketchup. I guess “bonus” ketchup. Somebody really likes ketchup.

McDonald's The McSqually Burger Promo

Our next contender is the curiously named McSqually, consisting of Texas Toast, two Quarter Pounder Beef Patties, two American cheese slices, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, and Big Mac Sauce.

McDonald's The Gourd Burger Promo

Then we have the also-curiously named “Gourd”, which sports Texas Toast, Shredded Lettuce, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Guacamole, ONE! (1!) single, solitary Quarter Pounder Beef Patty, American cheese and Barbecue Sauce (apparently, NOT sweet onion barbecue sauce, but the other kind).

Who are we kidding here? If those aren’t the winner, then they are obviously the losers. As famed NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby says, “If you’re not first, you’re last!”. So now we come, at last, to the real winner. The best burger that Texas, apparently, has to offer.

Cue up its announcement commercial if you like, or just read on….

McDonald's Lone Star Stack Burger Promo

The Lone Star Stack, lovingly crafted out of only the finest of artisan ingredients, including delicious buttery Texas Toast, crispy and tangy Crinkle Cut Pickles, two juicy Quarter Pounder Beef Patties, creamy White Cheddar and American cheese, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Sweet Onion BBQ Sauce.

At this point, you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking. These are all within one or two ingredients of being the same damn burger. Texas Toast, BBQ sauce and caramelized onions are showing up just way too much here. Either their “long list” of possible ingredients was all like “Please check one: [_] BBQ Sauce, [_] Barbeque Sauce, [_] Chipotle Ketchup (alright, you got us, that’s really just BBQ sauce again), or [_] Sweet Onion Barbecue Sauce” or their “panel of qualified judges” consisted of one fat guy in bib overalls named Billy Joe Jim Bob that just really really likes BBQ sauce on his burgers.

…And therein lies one of the first lessons that McDonald’s did not take away from Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor”, and that’s differentiation. With Lay’s, you’re dealing with potato chips vs. other potato chips, so they’ve got to be different from each other. I don’t think they’d ever pit “BBQ Flavored Chips” against “Also BBQ, But It’s a Different Kind of BBQ Sauce Flavored Chips “. The merit of these burgers aside, I honestly doubt that in a real-life taste test I could easily choose between them, because they all sound so similar.

The second thing that McDonald’s failed to accomplish was to personalize the contest. Who made these burgers? What are their names? Their inspirations? Where’s our Cheesy Bread Karen to carry the torch for starving Olive Garden patrons worldwide? Where’s our Meneko Spigner McBeth to make us jealous of the hand-made sushi rolls she got in her lunchbox instead of Lunchables?

The closest thing that McDonald’s did to giving this so-called contest any personality was to include an infographic on their site that conveyed the following factoids:

  • 2,545 people named their burgers “Mc_SOMETHING_”
    Whelp, it IS McDonald’s and pretty much EVERYTHING is named McSomething. No shocker there.
  • 6,420 people put jalapeños on their burgers
    Also, no big surprise. This is Texas and we do like our jalapeños. The real surprise is that none of these made it to the finals. I’m maintaining that Bill Joe Jim Bob is a big ol’ wuss when it comes to spicy food.
  • 248 burgers had “Alamo” in their name
    HELLO. TEXAS…. AGAIN. I’m surprised that number is so small, honestly.
  • 278 artisans were named “Josh”
    An interesting distinction to make, and the closest to knowing who is behind any of these burgers we’re apparently going to get. Also, I love how these days, the only thing you have to do to be dubbed an “artisan” is make something yourself, even if it’s just by clicking on burger ingredient names on a screen.
  • 708 burgers had no patty at all
    These were immediately disqualified, I am sure.
  • 15,541 people added spicy ingredients to make flaming hot creations
    …And again, not a single spicy burger made it to the finals. Somehow.
  • 497 people put bacon on their burgers, but no beef
    That seems a bit odd. Maybe they were confused and thought that the beef was automatic.
  • 2,522 people put “Texas” in their burgers’ name
    Not to belabor a point, but yup, “TEXAS!” If Texas-shaped buns had been an option, I’m sure they’d have been in the majority.

Another key point that McDonald’s missed in their promotion is the promotion part. I never even heard about this until after this contest was over and the burger was out. Can’t be any buzz if nobody knows about it. On a side note though, as a Texan I do appreciate the nice play on the Gonzales “Come and Take It” flag. Nice touch.

Anyway, so I thought I’d try this thing out, so I headed to my local TEXAS McDonald’s. “Yee-Haw!”

The first thing I saw when I walked in the door was this delightful little display across from the order counter.

McDonald's Lone Star Stack Burger Promotional Display

Other than this unusually “crafty” point-of-purchase signage, the ordering process was uneventful, so I retired to a nearby booth to experience the best burger that Texas has to offer.

McDonald's Lone Star Stack Burger

As is typical, it looked considerably more…. compressed than the burger in pictures. Time to check under the hood.

McDonald's Lone Star Stack Burger Inside

I will say that they did well with their onion and pickle coverage. A generous amount of sauce was splooshed between the patties and the top toast slice. There was no spread at all on the bottom slice. The toast also looked considerably thinner than the Texas Toast pictured, and really didn’t look or feel toasty at all.

I was easily able to taste the onions separate from the burger, since so many had fallen off. This is good, because they did have a pretty solid caramelized taste. Unfortunately, under all that BBQ sauce, their flavor was almost completely lost.

The so-called “Sweet Onion Barbecue Sauce” just tasted like any random generic BBQ sauce. Its purpose there, obviously, was to do little other than keep you from tasting the onions, or the white cheddar, or anything, really, other than BBQ sauce. ….and to make the Texas Toast predictably soggy and fally-aparty. I actually do like Texas Toast on a burger, but it does have to be very toasted to not become a gooey mess. If McDonald’s plans to continue making it available, maybe they can check with Whataburger to see what their secret is.

The pickles, being pickles, did manage to cut through the overwhelming BBQ sauce taste to make their presence known. The bacon was, typically, lost and unnecessary. And that slice of American cheese was likewise unneeded. Why not two white cheddars? Why taint a “premium” burger with crappy American cheese? As I’ve said before, American cheese goes on value-menu items, not on a pricey limited special offering.

Taken as a whole, the Lone Star Stack was not a terrible burger, it was just extremely mediocre and boring. And, like most McDonald’s high-end burgers, it seemed to me to be a tad overpriced. Having two Quarter Pounder patties did make it fairly meaty, but it really didn’t manage to distinguish itself in any other way. It also doesn’t help that I’m really just not a fan of BBQ-sauced burgers.

McDonald’s Lone Star Stack Burger

  • Score: 2 out of 5 Soggy Toast Slices
  • Price: $5.99
  • Size: 1 Burger
  • Purchased at: A McDonald’s in Texas! Yep!
  • Nutritional Quirk: Nearly twice as many calories (960) and fat grams (54) as a Big Mac. Yee-Haw!

Honey Nut, Coffee Nut, and Chili Nut M&Ms Vote 2016

Honey Nut, Coffee Nut, Chili Nut M&Ms PackagesVoting. It’s something about 50% of you will be doing come November, statistically speaking. It’s something you might have already done, if you participated in the primaries. Or in Lay’s Flavor Swap.

It’s all the rage, and M&Ms doesn’t want to be left behind, so they’ve created a vote of their own.

Peanut M&Ms haven’t gotten the extreme makeover that regular M&Ms have gotten over the years. They’ve never been turned into candy corn, or claimed to be sundaes. Pretty much the best makeover they can hope for is turning red and green every Christmas.

But now there are not one but three different Peanut M&Ms for you to try! Hooray for Nazi Psychologist J. Jonah Jameson Yellow M&M. (That’s your Google project for today. You’re welcome.)

Let’s break them down.

Honey Nut

Honey Nut M&Ms

I like what they tried to do with the color motif here, but my bag obviously came out a little lopsided. I think the beige ones are supposed to be honey, and the black and yellow ones are supposed to represent a bee. Except I only got one yellow one.

When I think Honey Nut, my brain automatically goes to Honey Nut Cheerios, a childhood cereal staple of mine that holds up to this day. Could they replicate that taste and even make it better with the addition of chocolate?

In all honesty, my first few Honey Nut M&Ms just tasted like a normal Peanut M&M. After a few more, however, a hint of extra sweetness came through. But that was it. There’s no way I would have categorized it as honey. Me and the bee are disappointed.

Coffee Nut

Coffee Nut M&Ms

This is by far the most appealing color combination of the three. Sure, it’s just browns and cream, but the browns have these enticing speckled patterns, and together they definitely evoke the essence of coffee.

Unlike Honey Nut, Coffee Nut M&Ms had an immediate, distinct flavor. Sort of like a cafe au lait with added nuttiness that came up through my nostrils as I chewed. It wasn’t a truly authentic coffee flavor, but it definitely had roasted coffee notes, as well as a creamer-like flavor and a dash of artificial sweetener for good measure. Eating these with coffee made them taste even better.

Chili Nut

Chili Nut M&Ms

This is what I consider to be the most adventurous of the three new M&Ms flavors. While it’s not unusual to pair chocolate with chili, I think it’s something that many people may think twice about.

I like the combo of dark red, bright red and bright orange. It’s basically a big fat warning signal in candy coating form.

Much like the Honey Nut M&Ms, upon chewing the first few, I felt they tasted like regular Peanut M&Ms. Disappointment washed over me.

But then I swallowed. Oh, damn! These M&Ms have some kick. I mean, I’m not talking snot-levels of heat, but Mars was not shy. Soon not only my throat but also my mouth was coated in a low burn.

The problem, however, is that it seems the chili and the rest of the M&M flavor are completely disconnected from each other. Chili and chocolate can work together, but in this M&M it almost seemed like they were on different pages.

I do have to give kudos to M&Ms for not shying away from the heat, though. Oh, and unlike the previous two flavors that list only “artificial flavors” as the contributing factor to their names, Chili Nut M&Ms include both “spice” and chili extract in the ingredients.

Quite a range of flavors to be had here, from the barely-noticeable to knocking out your taste buds. In the end, it was the one that landed in the middle that I liked the most: Coffee Nut M&Ms. The creamy coffee-esque flavor is obviously a great match with chocolate, and the peanut inside only adds to the profile. I would have liked a little stronger coffee and a little less artifical sweetness, though.

But don’t take my word for it – you can vote for your favorite here. You have until June 17, 2016 (sorry, I know this is short notice) to have your voice be heard.

Honey Nut, Coffee Nut, and Chili Nut M&Ms

  • Score (Honey Nut): 2.5 out of 5 Buzz the Bees
  • Score (Coffee Nut): 4 out of 5 coffee buzzes
  • Score (Chili Nut): 2.5 out of 5 burned  taste budz
  • Price: $1.00 each
  • Size: 1.74 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walgreens #06177
  • Nutritional Quirk: Chili Nut M&Ms use actual chili extract, which I thought was neat. Wish they’d done something similar with the other two flavors.

Burger King Angriest Whopper Sandwich

Burger King Angriest Whopper Sandwich PackageI remember trying the original Angry Whopper back in (what Wikipedia tells me was) 2008. This was before I had a website where I could share my views on fast food with the world, but that didn’t stop my husband and I from reviewing it with each other, and the general consensus was “unimpressed”.

We also pondered why the Whopper was angry, and was the whole burger angry? I declared that I would be disappointed if every ingredient wasn’t angry. I want my iceberg lettuce angry, dammit. This conversation went on for several minutes. We have fun.

Now, eight years later, Burger King is at it again with its Angriest Whopper Sandwich. I feel like we skipped a rung. Where was the Angrier Whopper? I also feel like they’ve marketed themselves into a corner. If this is the angriest a Whopper can possibly get, and it’s not spicy as hell, I guess we’ll all just have to give up and go home.

That wrapper is making a lot of assumptions about a.) the current status of my health and b.) how impressed I’m going to be with the Angriest Whopper. Also, what am I supposed to do, pin my sauce-stained wrapper to my shirt as a badge of pride? Show it to all my friends?

Oh, I know what I’m supposed to do: post it to Instagram, where nobody can care, and without looking you in your pride-filled eyes.

Here’s how Burger King describes the burger: “The Angriest WHOPPER® sandwich consists of savory flame-grilled beef, piled high with thick-cut bacon, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, angry onion petals, jalapeños, creamy mayonnaise and spicy angry sauce all layered between a red bun that has hot sauced baked in.”

That’s right, “hot sauced”. Apparently Burger King was so busy dyeing their buns a violent shade of red that they forgot to hire a copy editor.

Burger King Angriest Whopper Sandwich

Here we see the Angriest Whopper in all its unnatural glory. The angry onion petals and jalapeños are readily apparent, which is nice.

Burger King Angriest Whopper Sandwich Ingredients

Here we see Burger King’s notoriously shitty iceberg lettuce. I can actually see some green in there, which is a marked improvement from the usual BK sandwich. Also, good angry petal coverage, confusing tomato slice placement.

Of course, I had to try the bun on its own, to see if I could really taste any hot sauce(d). As it turns out, I actually could! It didn’t have a distinct hot sauce(d) flavor, but there was definitely some spice in there. Color me impressed. Also, color my poop red. More on that later.

Burger King Angriest Whopper Sandwich Halves

My Angriest Whopper got very angry when I cut it in half. Things were sliding out everywhere. There were casualties. However, this gave me the opportunity to try the angry onion petals by themselves, one of the few unique ingredients on this burger.

They did indeed taste spicy, but I couldn’t tell if that was the petals themselves or the fact that they were already covered in angry sauce. Predictably, they were also very soggy, which is disappointing since they could have added a nice crunch.

Which brings us to the other unique ingredient, the angry sauce. There certainly was a lot of it, and it was pretty spicy, but there were several things that bothered me about it. First of all, it was also sweet. And it was more of a glaze than a sauce – it had the consistency and appearance of sweet and sour sauce.

The sweetness in the sauce really bothered me. There’s no sweet in angry! There was a real opportunity to make a snot-inducing habanero sauce or something similar. I did get some sniffles, but that was about it.

As for the other ingredients: the bacon was crispy but not really necessary. The lettuce and mayo completely disappeared and were also unnecessary. The tomatoes were actually juicy and added a nice cooling factor. The jalapeños were your typical pickled variety and added to the heat.

And the cheese. The cheese! One pathetic slice of American?! Even the original Angry Whopper had pepper jack! American is a step down in angry level. It also added nothing of value to the burger.

Overall, Burger King’s Angriest Whopper Sandwich was a messy disappointment. There was too much crammed into the burger, the cheese was lame, and the fact that the sauce was sweet really did make me angry.

Was it spicy? Yes, the copious amounts of sauce and the jalapeños did make for a pretty high level of heat for a fast food burger. But the sauce pretty much dominated everything. And it was sweet. Did I mention that?

I wish I could have tasted if the angry onion petals were actually angry or not. I’d like to see them as a side dish menu option as an alternative to onion rings. I would definitely order those with a side of ranch.

It was hard to tell if the hot sauced bun added any heat to the burger, but that brings me to an important Public Service Announcement:

Burger King seems to have a propensity for adding food coloring to their menu items that make the end result at best interesting and at worst, alarming. Yes, I am talking about your poopies. The Halloween Burger turned people’s feces neon green, and the Red Velvet Oreo Shake sent some people running to their doctors, alarmed that they had a sudden case of “I am hemorrhaging blood out of my ass”.

Given that nature doesn’t make fire truck-red hamburger buns, I am expecting similar…results after having eaten the Angriest Whopper Sandwich. I’m not above resorting to poop humor in my reviews, but I’m including this in all seriousness in case someone eats this burger and then runs to the ER because they think they are dying. You are not dying. Your poops have just been dyed.

Unless you really are dying. I’m not a doctor. I’m just trying to help save some people some panic attacks and medical bills.

Burger King Angriest Whopper Sandwich

  • Score: 1.5 out of 5 red poopies
  • Price: $5.79
  • Size: 1 sandwich
  • Purchased at: Burger King #17145
  • Nutritional Quirk: 51 grams of regretted fat.

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