Category Archives: Junk Food

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.

Lay’s Flavor Swap: Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue and Flamin’ Hot vs. Fiery Roasted Habanero

Lay's Flavor Swap Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue BagsLay's Flavor Swap Flamin' Hot vs. Fiery Roasted Habanero PackagesWelcome to part two of Lay’s Flavor Swap! Otherwise known as “I didn’t want to photograph and review eight bags of chips all at once”. You can read part one here.

Buying the chips gradually succeeded in not making me look like a crazy person, but failed in that my Safeway inexplicably stopped stocking some of the flavors. What the hell, Safeway?

This forced me to go to Walmart, which resulted in me buying this:

Lay's Flavor Swap Mix Bag

Which was nice, because I now have 20 small bags and not 4 more big bags, but also infuriating because I already bought 4 big bags. My kitchen cabinet looks like an actual grocery store chip aisle. Junk food review problems.

Brief rundown of the Flavor Swap concept: one flavor stays, the other disappears off shelves, based on Internet votes. One is an existing flavor and one is a new flavor. It’s a duel to the potato chip death. The streets will run red with flavor dust.

Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue

This one is particularly interesting to me, because I’ve never had Honey Barbecue Lay’s before. In fact, I’ve never even seen them on shelves. When I first heard of the Flavor Swap, I tried to use Frito-Lay’s “flavor locator” to find them, and there were none in a 50 mile radius, confirming that I wasn’t just blind.

So, before now, Honey Barbecue hasn’t existed in my area, which makes this more of a Flavor Addition than a Flavor Swap.

Lay's Flavor Swap Honey Barbecue

I gotta say, I wasn’t exactly wowed by my first Honey Barbecue experience. They basically taste exactly like regular Lay’s Barbecue, with just a touch of sweetness at the end.

I prefer my barbecue with more vinegar than sweetness, but that’s a personal preference. I’m sure for some people this is their go-to Lay’s flavor. At least I know I wasn’t really missing anything before this.

But how about its contender, Korean Barbecue?

Lay's Flavor Swap Korean Barbecue

As opposed to the ho-hum taste of Honey Barbecue, Lay’s Korean Barbecue punches you right in the face upon first bite. There are strong tastes of both ginger and soy sauce. It’s definitely a more savory flavor than the honey variety.

While there’s no taste of actual meat (thank you, Lay’s), there’s a definite sense of umami here. I’ll admit – I’ve never had Korean barbecue – but if the flavor of these chips were applied to some ribs, I would definitely enjoy them. Swap or not, this is a solid, unique and interesting potato chip flavor.

Verdict: Korean Barbecue, no question. Honey Barbecue tastes almost exactly like regular Lay’s Barbecue, and the Korean kind is vastly different not only as a Lay’s flavor but even up against other brands.

Flamin’ Hot vs. Fiery Hot Habanero

At this point, Flamin’ Hot is more of a…genre than a flavor. A category? Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that Frito-Lay has pretty much Flaminized every product they have. Off the top I can think of Lay’s (of course), Cheetos, Doritos, Funyuns, Takis, and I think even sunflower seeds.

Of them all, I have to say Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are my favorite, especially the con Limon variety. I’d never had Flamin’ Hot Lay’s before, simply because I never felt I needed to. There are much more enticing flavors out there.

Lay's Flavor Swap Flamin Hot

And I was right, because Flamin’ Hot Lay’s taste just like every other Flamin’ Hot snack, except less intense than Cheetos because the flavor dust isn’t as thick. It’s a one-trick pony – heat, but no distinct flavor to speak of, minus some hints of onion and tomato. Which is fine, if that’s what you’re looking for.

I was curious to see how Fiery Hot Habanero would stack up against Flamin’ Hot, since that flavor is so recognizable and yet so generic at the same time.

Lay's Flavor Swap Fiery Roasted Habanero

Right off the bat, I could see physical differences. Flamin’ Hot Lay’s sported the iconic Crayon-red flavor dust, whereas Habanero is a more organic orange hue with dark flecks, which somehow made it look more dangerous.

Fiery Roasted Habanero has a heat that’s slow on the taste buds but will hit you right in the back of the throat before it takes over your entire mouth. Most notably, there’s an actual fire-roasted flavor to these chips, as opposed to Flamin’ Hots’ generic heat.

The bag lists actual habanero peppers as an ingredient, and I’m inclined to believe them. Not only do these have a more authentic roasted pepper taste, but the spicy heat builds and stays far longer than Flamin’ Hot. The heat isn’t intolerable, but it might be too intense for some people, who probably shouldn’t be trying chips called “Fiery Roasted Habanero” in the first place.

Verdict: Fiery Roasted Habanero, hands down. Not only does it have that roasted pepper taste, but there’s also like, ten other Frito-Lay products to choose from that are Flamin’ Hot-flavored.

Lay’s Flavor Swap: Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue and Flamin’ Hot vs. Fiery Roasted Habanero

  • Score (Korean Barbecue): 4 out of 5 uses of “umami” to describe chips
  • Score (Fiery Roasted Habanero): 3.5 out of 5 not another Flamin’ Hots
  • Price: $6.98 (for bag of 20 1 oz. bags)
  • Size: 1 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: I wonder how many calories worth of Lay’s I have in my cupboard right now.

Lay’s Flavor Swap: Smoked Gouda & Chive vs. Cheddar & Sour Cream and Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs vs. Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

Lay's Flavor Swap Smoked Gouda & Chive and Cheddar & Sour Cream PackagesLay's Flavor Swap Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs and Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper PackagesI feel like Lay’s Flavor Swap campaign was designed to make reviewers like myself buy a bunch of different Lay’s potato chips whether we want to or not. In fact, that would be true of the general populace – if you want to vote on which Lay’s flavor you’d like to keep, you basically have to buy all eight bags, or at least four if you’ve got the original flavors already memorized.

In between Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Contests and now Lay’s Flavor Swaps, 25% of my income and 75% of my cupboard space is going to Frito-Lay.

As I mentioned, there are four swaps comprising eight different flavors, four already-existing and four new. I’m covering two swaps in this post and the last two in an upcoming post.

Smoked Gouda & Chive vs. Cheddar & Sour Cream

Right off the bat, Lays’ is going and breaking my heart. I consider Cheddar & Sour Cream to be one of the most perfect potato chip flavor combos. I prefer the Ruffles version, but I’ll definitely reach for some Lay’s in a pinch.

Lay's Flavor Swap Cheddar & Sour Cream

It’s the perfect combination of sharp cheddar and tangy sour cream. Sure, it sounds simple, but that’s why it works. It hits your tongue with enthusiasm. To see such a classic go-to removed from store shelves would be a real blow.

Lay's Flavor Swap Smoked Gouda & Chive

Now, on to the newbie contender: Smoked Gouda & Chive. (I’m keeping the “pre-existing” flavors relatively brief because those are flavors that have been around for quite a few years now.)

In an interesting move, with this flavor they’ve swapped the sour cream with chive, when traditionally sour cream goes with chive in potato chips.

The traditional green flecks meant to represented chive on potato chips are obviously here from the start. Gouda isn’t bright orange like cheddar, so its flavor dust is pretty much invisible.

I gotta say, Smoked Gouda & Chive is pretty fantastic. The chive hit me first, and tasted exactly like the green stuff from Sour Cream & Chive Lay’s. For a split second, that was all I could taste, and I was about to raise my arms in victory for Cheddar & Sour Cream.

But then the Smoked Gouda hit my buds, and damn, it was a fine flavor. They really nailed that smoked cheese taste. I couldn’t have identified it as gouda specifically, but you could really taste that it was a smoked cheese, and as I started to eat more of the chips, the chives and smoked cheese struck a really nice balance.

Verdict: Damn you, Lay’s. Why you gotta make this so hard right off the bat? Okay, okay. I’m going with Smoked Gouda & Chive, but only if you promise me my Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles are safe.

Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs vs. Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

Our original flavor here, Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper, is another favorite of mine. I can see how it would turn some people off, though. The pepper is not only pronounced on the chips but also as a flavor, which some people (pussies) might consider so strong as to be offputting.

Lay's Flavor Swap Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

If you don’t have fresh peppercorns at home that you put in a mill and then crank over pretty much everything you eat, these chips probably come on too strong.

Plus, the sea salt makes them salty even for a potato chip, and it along with the pepper can abrade your mouth after too many chips. Again, stop being a pussy. These taste great.

As per tradition, you can see the little green flecks of herbs on the Olive Oil & Herbs chips. Those herbs are listed specifically as basil, oregano and thyme in the ingredients.

Lay's Flavor Swap Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs

The herbs really pop, specifically the basil and thyme. I feel like the olive oil added a depth of flavor, but that’s one of those bullshit sentences that really means “I think it was there but I can’t really tell you how it tasted.” INSIDER SECRETS!

There were also hints of onion and garlic powder, which don’t count as herbs, but rounded out the flavor profile nicely.

I liked the in-your-face herby flavor, but it felt like familiar territory. I reached into the depths of my swiss cheese brain and shook out the memory of reviewing Lay’s Kettle Cooked Creamy Mediterranean Herb Flavored Potato Chips.

Impressive job, memory! Olive Oil & Herbs taste remarkably similar to these chips that were introduced five years ago and have since gone to that farm upstate where all failed Frito-Lay flavors retire to. I assume they failed because they used the word “Creamy” in the name.

Even beyond these old chips, I still feel like the “herbs and powders” formula has been done before. Olive Oil & Herbs taste just fine, but they’re nothing new and exciting.

Verdict: I’m sticking with Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper. Those herbs just didn’t leave me with enough mouth abrasions.

I was gonna skip the usual round-up, but considering we have some new flavors here, I decided to throw it in. Also, look for the other two Flavor Swaps being reviewed soon on a Junk Food Betty near you!

Lay’s Flavor Swap: Smoked Gouda & Chive and Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs

  • Score (Smoked Gouda & Chive): 4.5 out of 5 “take my Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles out of my cold, dead hands”
  • Score (Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs): 3.5 out of 5 “been there, creamed that”s
  • Price: $2.50 each
  • Size: 8 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Safeway
  • Nutritional Quirk: Not really quirky. Feeling slightly off after eating so many chips.

M&Ms White Strawberry Shortcake

M&Ms White Strawberry Shortcake PackageHey guys, scrambling for that last-minute Valentine’s Day gift? Well look no further, because M&Ms has got you covered with their new White Strawberry Shortcake candies!

No, no, put your car keys down, I was joking. If you throw a bag of M&Ms in your wife’s face for V-Day you are definitely not going to be getting any V.

In case you weren’t aware, strawberry shortcake is a dessert made with with strawberries that have been mixed with sugar to bring out the fruit’s delicious juices, which are then placed on a white cake and topped with a bunch of whipped cream. At least, that’s how I know it.

Strawberry Shortcake is also a cartoon character I grew up with and loved. My favorite of her friends was Plum Puddin because she wore glasses and was a nerd, but she was a cool nerd. (This was before being a nerd was cool, btw.)

I just found out that the new Plum Pudding lost her glasses and teaches hip-hop dance now. I guess girls don’t need a genius role model with poor eyesight to look up to anymore? Well, color me disillusioned.

While I could probably talk about Strawberry Shortcake for far longer than any adult should, I need to get to these M&Ms.

Representing White Strawberry Shortcake M&Ms is, of course, Green M&M, aka the sexy one. Of course, because it’s Valentine’s Day! I’ll save you my rant on how gross it is that they made a sexy candy and- wait, why is she wearing bunny ears? Did I get confused? Is this an Easter candy?

…Oh. Ohhhh noooo. Green M&M is dressed up as a sexy Playboy bunny for Valentine’s Day. Just off-bag is her fluffy ass thing to complete the outfit. This is so disturbing. I’m going to just get to the candy instead.

M&Ms White Strawberry Shortcake

I’m guessing pink is supposed to be strawberries, white is representing the whipped cream, and that off-white color is supposed to be the shortcake. This is just a color choice, mind you; all the candies taste the same. But it would be cool if they really did separate the flavors.

M&Ms White Strawberry Shortcake Inside

M&Ms went with white chocolate for this flavor, which was the obvious choice since there’s no chocolate in strawberry shortcake, unless you decide to break protocol. And it works here, because it sort of adds the sweet whipped cream aspect to the candy.

As for the strawberry, it definitely isn’t shy. Of course, it doesn’t actually taste like strawberry the fruit, because this is candy. Instead, it tastes a hell of a lot like a strawberry Starburst, which is objectively the best Starburst. So yay!

White Strawberry Shortcake M&Ms are very sweet, but it’s an artifically-flavored white chocolate candy, so I can’t really knock them there. I’m really not sure why they decided they added Shortcake to the description, because there’s absolutely nothing cakey about them, and I honestly would have been impressed if they’d managed to incorporate that into the candy.

Instead, what you’re really getting is a white chocolate M&M with a strong strawberry-candy punch. They’re just sort of…okay. They’re really, really sweet though. After about a dozen of them, I felt like I needed to brush my teeth because I could feel the cavities forming.

My lasting impression of White Strawberry Shortcake M&Ms is just “meh”. If you like white chocolate and strawberry Starbusts but you feel weird eating them at the same time (and you should), this here is your thing.

M&Ms White Strawberry Shortcake

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 creepy Playboy Green M&Ms
  • Price: $3.19
  • Size: 8 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: Nothing quirky here, just sugar, sugar and more sugar.

Nabisco Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies

Nabisco Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies PackageI’m so relieved to see that Nabisco’s 2016 New Year’s resolution wasn’t “stop making 700 different flavors of Oreos”.

I’m pretty sure that was sarcasm, but even I can’t tell anymore.

When I opened up the kitchen cupboard that’s reserved for things I’m going to review, I was greeted with the sight of several unopened packages of last year’s limited edition Oreos. My heart had good intentions of reviewing them, but my brain said, “Please, stop. I just can’t do this anymore.” Then my stomach said, “Seriously, Brain is right, this is just out of control. Stop.”

So I did. But then the hype machine went into overdrive about Cinnamon Bun Oreos, and I couldn’t resist. Everyone seemed to be going bonkers waiting for these cookies to arrive on shelves, so I had to check them out.

Besides, who doesn’t like cinnamon buns?

Two things of note about Cinnamon Bun Oreos – first, the cookie part isn’t just a regular Golden Oreo, it’s a Cinnamon Cookie Oreo. It’s the creme that is cinnamon bun-flavored. Second, unlike many of Oreo’s million flavors, nowhere on this package are the words “Limited Edition”. So is this meant to be a permanent fixture in the Oreo lineup?

Nabisco Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies

If not, it should be, because Oreo nailed it. And not in that way they usually do, where you go, “holy shit, this does taste like this other thing, but I don’t want it to.”

Nabisco Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies Creme

The first thing I did was twist off the top and eat it, because, duh. The cookies have little flecks in it that I suspect do nothing other than let you know you’re not eating a normal Oreo, but maybe they’re really cinnamon; what do I know. The cookie alone tasted exactly like Cinnamon Teddy Grahams. Do those still exist? Hold on.

Okay, I’m back. Cinnamon Teddy Grahams do still exist. Of course, I’m an adult, so I haven’t eaten them in about 20 years, but I’m pretty sure these Oreos tasted exactly like them. The cinnamon wasn’t overpowering, and the cookie wasn’t overly sweet, which I loved.

(Just kidding about the adult thing, this is me we’re talking about. I just haven’t felt the urge to buy any Teddy Grahams lately.)

They could have sold these cookies alone as Cinnamon Oreo Wafers and I’d still love them. But there’s more! Cinnamon bun creme! After I ate the top, I obviously licked the innards…

What the… am I at an airport? Because I feel like I just ate a motherfuckin’ Cinnabon. The creme had that absolutely perfect cinnamon bun glaze taste, but it tasted like the bun, too.

Next up, I ate a cookie as a whole. I highly recommend this method of Oreo consumption for Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies. The cookie tempered the sweetness of the creme, and it really all comes together to make a somehow even more realistic cinnamon bun experience.

The best part was that at no time during this review did I feel like I need to add the word “artificial” as a descriptor to anything. These really, truly tasted like cinnamon buns. It’s pretty cut-and-dry: if you like cinnamon buns, you’re going to love Cinnamon Bun Oreos. And if you don’t, well, you’re a monster. And you won’t like these cookies.

Nabisco Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies

  • Score: 5 out of 5 fattening airport sweets
  • Price: $3.09
  • Size: 12.2 oz.
  • Purchased at: Safeway
  • Nutritional Quirk: Just for fun, I looked up the nutritional information for a Cinnabon. There are 880 calories in a Cinnabon Classic Roll. There are 150 calories in a serving of two Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies. Just sayin’.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies PackageAmidst all the candy canes and peppermint bark, a surprising new trend has emerged this Christmas as the frontrunner for this season’s flavor du jour: hot cocoa. Here are some of the things I’ve seen new this year that purport to have the flavor of that delicious beverage:

Hubba Bubba Hot Cocoa Bubble Gum
YoCrunch Marshmallow Hot Cocoa Yogurt
Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn
Herr’s Crunchy Cocoa & Marshmallow Corn Snacks
Hot Chocolate M&Ms

Way to buck the trend there at the end going with hot chocolate, M&Ms.

While I’d like to be reviewing some of these items instead of just listing them, I’ve had a shortage of time and availability. I did manage to review Pizza Hut’s Hot Chocolate Brownie over at The Impulsive Buy, however.

When I found these Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy! Cookies, I was stoked, because I’ve always liked Chips Ahoy. (I’m dropping the exclamation point from here on out because it just makes things confusing.)

I was even more stoked when I saw the suggestion that I heat for a treat. I’ve never been explicitly told by a cookie package to warm them up before. Besides, it’s cold outside (baby), so I could use a warm, chocolate treat to enjoy along with my vintage icicle Christmas lights.

If you look carefully on the package, these cookies actually have gooey innards that I assumed would melt once heated. I didn’t even notice that when I bought them. More anticipation!

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies

The side of the package instructed me to microwave two cookies on a paper towel for 6-7 seconds on high. Being a good junk food follower, I did just that. My cookies came out barely warm but smelling deliciously chocolately.

But my innards were far from gooey. Ignoring all precautions, I put the next cookies in for a whopping 20 seconds. I watched it from the side of my microwave, half expecting it to explode. It was actually sizzling when I took it out. And yet, pretty much the only thing that hadn’t melted was the filling. It did, however, leave an oily spot on the paper towel.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies Inside

As with many chocolate things that are trying to taste like hot cocoa, these cookies did not taste like hot cocoa. They tasted like chewy chocolate cookies. But there was a distinct marshmallow flavor in there that I think came more from the creamy filling than the little white chips on top.

Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies taste just fine straight out of the package, but warming them up goes a long way towards making you believe they actually taste like hot cocoa. While the inside didn’t melt even at high temperatures, it added a creamy dimension to the already chewy cookie as well as some marshmallow flavor. I’d recommend 9-10 seconds in the microwave for optimal cookie warmth.

These are a limited edition flavor, so I don’t know how long they’ll be around, but I suggest picking some up if you see them. I can definitely see munching on these with a mug of real hot cocoa while I open presents on Christmas morning.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies

  • Score: 4 out of 5 dangerously sizzling cookies
  • Price: $2.00
  • Size: 10 oz.
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirk: Contains actual marshmallow! Hooray!

Mountain America Jerky: Beef, Sweet and Spicy Beef, Wild Boar, Alligator, Venison, Kangaroo

Mountain America JerkyI can’t tell you how excited I was when Mountain America Jerky asked if I’d like to try their products. Not because they sent me samples for free and I thus feel obligated to say that (I think the record will show I hold no such obligations), but because I looked at their product list and went holy shit.

Sorry, Mountain America. I cussed in the first paragraph of your review.

But seriously, look at these flavors. Alligator?! Kangaroo?! I’d have to travel across the country for the former and to another continent for the latter just to see these animals! And now I get to eat them! (Well, I guess I could just go to a zoo, but that’s not the same. And I’m pretty sure they don’t let you eat the animals.)

I want to get right to it, since there’s so much to cover.

Beef

Mountain America Beef Jerky

I have to start with Mountain America’s Beef Jerky, of course, because it will be the baseline for all other flavors. It’s the only type of jerky here that I’ve ever had before, so I can at least compare it to other brands.

Mountain America’s is on the dry side of the jerky spectrum. It’s a little tough, but not gum-stabbingly tough like some other brands out there, and has a nice chew to it. It also has a great peppery spice that’s not too overwhelming.

I’ve had a lot of jerky in my time, including some straight from the butcher around the corner from my parents’ house, and Mountain America’s is closer to that in taste and texture than most of the mass-marketed brands out there. It didn’t completely blow me away, but it’s a good, solid jerky.

Sweet and Spicy Beef

[I swore I took a picture of this, but I couldn’t find it when I was assembling this review. And by then, it was all gone. Which says something in and of itself. Just imagine it looks a lot like the beef.]

Mountain America also included their Sweet and Spicy version in my sample pack, which I didn’t think I would like as much, since I prefer pepper seasoning over sweet and spicy. However, I found that I liked this one just as much as the original, mostly because it was very, very light on the sweet and heavy on the spicy. This jerky has a serious kick to it.

Now, on to some much less familiar territory.

Wild Boar

Mountain America Wild Boar Jerky

I know boar mostly for looking like tough-ass pigs with giant tusks that just so happen to have adorable babies. So this will be my first time eating boar. Wild boar is pretty exotic, but its close relative, the pig, obviously isn’t. So I started wondering why I haven’t seen pig jerky on store shelves, until I realized I had – it’s just called bacon jerky, because bacon bacon bacon blah blah blah.

Knowing that I was going into my boar experience basically eating pig, I wasn’t all that intimidated. This jerky was greasier than the beef; it was chewier, but also more moist. Mountain America describes it as “nutty”, but I didn’t get any of that flavor. They did spice it nicely, however, and there was just a hint of sweetness to the meat.

I actually liked Wild Boar Jerky better than Mountain America’s Beef Jerky, both in taste and texture. Perhaps it’s the baconesque quality that the jerky possessed – bitch and moan about bacon memes all you want, it’s still delicious. I could eat boar all day long, while looking at pictures of their cute babies.

Alligator

Mountain America Alligator Jerky

Alligator Jerky was the animal that left me with the biggest feeling of trepidation. It’s not that I’m unaware that people eat alligators, it’s just that that doesn’t mean they’re good.

It was really the color that got me. Most of the jerkies were different shades of “beef”, but alligator had a distinctly pink-ish tone to it that I found unsettling. Plus, it seemed like alligator would have a distinctly gamey taste. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure what makes things taste “gamey”, but I figured “kills its prey, including humans, using a ‘death roll’” made it qualify.

Fortunately for me, I was either wrong, or Mountain America really knows how to jerky their gator. I have a feeling it might have been the latter, because alligator jerky honestly didn’t taste like anything but yummy jerky spices. It was very heavily spiced and peppered, leaving me unable to taste the meat.

As for the texture, it was much chewier than the beef jerky and slightly more moist, but didn’t have an oily feel to it that I suspected it might. I thought I tasted a slight gaminess upon exhalation after chewing, but that could have just been my brain thinking it should have been there. Really, it just tasted like pepper and spices.

Venison

Mountain America Venison Jerky

Venison is the food word for deer, in case you weren’t aware. People eat deer all the time, so I wasn’t at all intimidated by this jerky. I mean, there’s a bunch of shitty video games called “Deer Hunter” and hordes of men inexplicably wearing camouflage and bright orange vests at the same time routinely shoot them every year.

Plus, deer are totally dicks. Ask anyone that lives in the countryside. Or listen to Louis CK talk about what dicks they are, he’s way funnier than I am.

After finding out alligator jerky isn’t so bad, I was straight-up looking forward to venison jerky. I found myself disappointed. It was very tough and very dry, the kind of jerky I described earlier that stabs your gums like a meaty, pointy knife.

Also, for some reason, Mountain America chose this flavor to absolutely coat with pepper. It didn’t say it on the label of my package, but I noticed on their website it’s described as “covered with coarse, cracked black pepper for the optimal medium spice.” I would instead describe it as “way too peppery; what are they hiding?” It was a disappointment because I’m well familiar with what peppered jerky tastes like, but I didn’t really get to taste what venison jerky tastes like.

Kangaroo

Mountain America Kangaroo Jerky

I feel like kangaroo jerky is the most exotic and the most controversial jerky of the bunch. Maybe I’m wrong on that last part; maybe nobody gives a shit that I’m consuming the flesh of a bouncy, cute Australian marsupial that has babies called joeys that hang out in their pouches.

Gosh, even I feel a little bad after writing that last sentence. However, some do consider it environmentally beneficial to hunt kangaroo to prevent overgrazing. Oh, and like deer, they will totally run (well, hop) out in the road and completely fuck up your car and possibly your body.

That said, the kangaroo jerky was both the softest and the chewiest of the bunch, which was a nice contrast to the tough dryness of the venison. It also seemed to be the least heavily spiced of all the jerkies. I didn’t feel like the meat was being overwhelmed by seasoning.

Mountain America agrees, saying on their website, “This Kangaroo Jerky is flavored with a simple black pepper marinade for a mild, non-gamey taste.”

And here’s where I disagree, saying, “Sorry son, but this jerky be gamey.”

I lamented the amount of seasoning on previous jerky flavors covering up the taste of the meat, so I was glad I could taste the true ‘roo here, even if it turned out to be gamey. Having never tasted kangaroo before, it’s hard to say exactly what it tastes like; it’s not like beef, it’s not like chicken (since apparently every meat that’s not beef or pork supposedly tastes like chicken), it’s just what it is. High marks for texture, but it was my least favorite in terms of flavor.

So there you have it. Many words about many flavors of jerky. I’ve decided not to number-score them, but will instead give a quick summary: Mountain America’s Beef is a solid gourmet jerky; Sweet and Spicy Beef has an excellent kick; Wild Boar was my favorite, with a lovely texture and baconesque flavor; Alligator scared me, but it wound up just tasting like yummy jerky seasoning; Venison was disappointing because it was stabby and too heavily peppered, not allowing the meat to come through; Kangaroo was lightly spiced, allowing me to experience the meat, which was quite gamey, but it was interesting to try.

What a fun trip through the world of jerky! I mean, how many people can say they’ve eaten kangaroo! Oh, probably a lot of Australians. But still, I feel so cultured now. And have a craving for moar boar.

[Disclaimer: I received these products for free from Mountain America Jerky, but that in no way colors the objectivity of my review, and proves beyond a doubt that I am not a vegetarian.]

Mountain America Jerky: Beef, Sweet and Spicy Beef, Wild Boar, Alligator, Venison, Kangaroo

  • Price: Free
  • Size: Various
  • Purchased at: Sent to me; available at https://mountainamericajerky.com/
  • Nutritional Quirk: These are actually quite good for you in terms of protein and stuff, but really, the highlight here is that I ate alligator and kangaroo!

Jones Soda Pumpkin Pie

Jones Soda Blood Orange, Lemon Drop Dead and Pumpkin Pie BottlesI’ve long lamented that I missed the halcyon days of Jones holiday sodas, which was back in the early 2000s when they sold their absolutely amazing-looking Thanksgiving packs that contained such flavors as Green Bean Casserole.

I’ve since made it a mission to grab every limited edition Jones Soda flavor I can, knowing full well that I’m likely in for some serious  punishment.

This year’s Halloween grab is Pumpkin Pie Soda, which Jones claims is new but was previously offered in one of their Thanksgiving packs. Perhaps they’ve tweaked the formula?

Along with Pumpkin Pie, this year they’re offering Blood Orange and Lemon Drop Dead, which have been offered in previous years, but I wanted to include them because they’ve departed from the usual picture labels to offer some pretty gruesome mummy and zombie guys.

Their labels also claim that “It will haunt you forever!” I find this very funny, because out of all of Jones’s limited edition flavors, these are two that will not haunt you. Blood Orange basically tastes like a better version of orange Fanta, because Jones uses cane sugar, and Lemon Drop Dead is a surprisingly refreshing mix of sour and sweet lemon soda.

But we’re really here for the Pumpkin Pie Soda. Because who wants to read about something that might actually taste good?

Jones Pumpkin Pie Soda Label

My four-pack of Pumpkin Soda bottles came with two harmless autumn-themed labels, but I chose the one where four people cover their faces with pumpkins, which could be a fun family photo but to me comes off as quietly ominous.

Jones describes this soda as “the perfect mix of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, with a hint of creamy, buttery crust flavor”.

Here we are again, with the pumpkin and the spices. But at least this one makes flat-out claims of tasting like pumpkin! On the other hand, they have to follow it up with the words “creamy” and “buttery”. Two things I’m always looking for in a soda.

Jones Pumpkin Pie Soda

Like an idiot, I’m always smelling these sodas before I taste them. The aroma wafting out of my cup was both strong and incredibly genuine – it really was like I was smelling pumpkin pie in a glass. I feel like this should have been off-putting, but instead it was inviting.

Tasting it was an entire grab bag of flavors and emotions. The nutmeg jumped to the forefront, which was bizarre when paired with a cold, carbonated beverage. The cinnamon was subtle, and, dare I say, overshadowed by the flavor of pumpkin. Actual pumpkin flavor! …In my soda.

Jones rarely lies, and true to form, there was indeed a hint of creaminess and a little bit of butter on the finish. It did give the impression of pie crust, and even evoked memories of the Cool Whip that was always present on top of pumpkin pies at my family’s Thanksgiving dinners.

What does all of this add up to? Again, my brain and my mouth are so confused. If I was judging Jones Pumpkin Pie Soda on flavor alone, it’s aces. By far the most authentic-tasting pumpkin item I’ve had this season, and probably in years past.

But the fact of the matter is that I’m also drinking a soda. It’s cold, it’s carbonated, and it’s everything that a pumpkin pie isn’t supposed to be. Did I finish the cup? I did, but I’m still not entirely sure why. Will I be cracking the other three in my possession? I’m pretty sure they’ll sit in the pantry until I run out of room and am forced to throw them away.

If you have the opportunity to try it, I urge you to do so, just to experience the weird authenticity. Especially if you live in Canada, where it’s available for a limited time at all Smoke’s Poutinerie locations. Screw you guys for having Poutineries.

Jones Soda Pumpkin Pie

  • Score: 2 out of 5 quietly creepy pumpkin people
  • Price: $25.99
  • Size: 12 oz. bottle (12-bottle pack)
  • Purchased at: http://www.jonessoda.com/
  • Nutritional Quirk: Contains no pumpkin, but the flavor is there.

Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies Limited Edition

Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies Limited Edition PackageI’m trying to stay away from the omnipresent pumpkin spice this year, but I just had to pick up some Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies. The first reason being that it’s incredibly rare to find a new variety of Twinkie filling. Oh, sure, banana was the original, and they’ve had some one-off fruit flavors, but for the most part, a Twinkie is a Twinkie, unlike an Oreo, which I’m pretty sure will have been every single flavor on the planet soon.

The second reason is that I just couldn’t resist the picture on the package. That’s supposed to be the beauty shot, and instead it looks like a Twinkie extruding…I’m not sure what, but it looks gross. I feel like the cream goop shouldn’t look any worse than regular Twinkie goop, but somehow, it does.

I wish Hostess had given me more to work with on this packaging, but it’s pretty minimalist. A slice of pumpkin pie and some cinnamon sticks. Not even any autumn leaves. At least let Twinkie the Kid dress up as a vampire or something to make it a Halloween tie-in.

Do they even use Twinkie the Kid anymore? I’m already too bored to bother going to look, so let’s just get to the snack.

“Pumpkin spice” is such a vague term. Usually it just means “cinnamon with some other underlying spices”, sometimes there’s more nutmeg, and rarely is there actually any pumpkin flavor.

This time, there was a sweet, cinnamon smell that greeted me. It was quite welcoming, and evoked feelings of warmth on a chilly autumn day.

Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies Limited Edition

The cream filling actually looked better in real life than it did on the box, until suddenly I realized it kind of looked like tuna mixed with mayo ready to be put between two slices of bread, and that sort of killed the vibe.

Evicting all thoughts of tuna from my mind, I took a bite and, while not surprised, was not entirely displeased, either. The traditional golden sponge cake of a Twinkie mixed well with the cream, that tasted exactly as it smelled – sweet and cinnamon, with a hint of pumpkin that was probably only there because I imagined it.

And there you have it. Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies in no way taste original or complex, but I feel like it’s their simplicity that gives them a little bit of charm. Use them to add a little fall flair to your child’s lunches, or grab a few for your snack station at work. Your palate won’t be challenged, but it won’t be offended, either.

As a weird side note, these Twinkies are only available at Kroger stores (known as Fry’s Foods in my neck of the woods), which seems like an odd place for an exclusive food. Target or Walmart I understand, but Kroger?

Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies Limited Edition

  • Score: 3 out of 5 vampire Twinkie the Kids
  • Price: $2.50
  • Size: 10 Twinkies
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirk:Includes no pumpkin. Boo! Includes actual cinnamon. Yay! Includes beef tallow. What?

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms PackageIf you’ve girded your loins for an avalanche of pumpkin spice reviews here on Junk Food Betty, prepare to ungird. I just can’t deal with the sheer amount of pumpkin spice that is out there on store shelves and in fast food restaurants.

That said, between the time I purchased these M&Ms and me actually getting around to writing this, I’ve already bought two more pumpkin-flavored items to review. Fuck me.

If that makes it sound like a lot of time has passed between purchase and review, it hasn’t really. It’s just that I have to buy pumpkin spice-flavored items or I will starve to death. And, admittedly, a little time has passed.

Why? Because these M&Ms are such a snooze-fest to me. The only reason I got them at all is because M&Ms got clever and tacked “Latte” on to the end of the flavor name. “Pumpkin Spice? Fuck ’em. Pumpkin Spice Latte? Well in that case…”

I don’t pay a lot of attention to M&Ms, but am I the only one who didn’t notice they added a second sexy female M&M? When did that happen? Last I knew, there was only one female M&M, Green, and she always creeped me out.

I just did some research, and apparently she was added in 2012. And is called Ms. Brown. And is voiced by Vanessa Williams. I’d like to thank my DVR for allowing me to skip over commercials and never notice she existed, until now. Damn you, Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms! Now I’m aware that there’s more than one creepy lady M&M out there.

Ms. Brown does look appropriately comfy in her scarf, though. And don’t think I missed that hipster-barista pumpkin design in the latte foam, either. I will give M&Ms props for that little touch.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms

As you can see, the candies are appropriately orange, dark brown and cream colored. As you can also see, I had a little fun. This is obviously an iced latte because there’s a straw.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms Inside

The candies are larger and fatter than regular milk chocolate M&Ms. They’re closer in shape and size to Peanut Butter M&Ms, I think.

I never tried Pumpkin Spice M&Ms, but I can tell you one thing – Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms nailed it. At first, all I got was chocolate, but then that familiar taste of pumpkin spice invaded. It didn’t come on too strong though, just a light cinnamon and pumpkin flavor that really went great with the chocolate.

Just when I thought I’d gotten all I was going to get out of it, the aftertaste left me with the distinct impression of a latte. Like a real latte, it was heavy on the cream and sugar and light on the coffee, but that taste was definitely there.

While I spent the first part of this review shitting all over pumpkin spice products, I now have to come to you and say that Pumpkin Spice Latte is the best M&Ms flavor I’ve had in a long time, and possibly my favorite holiday M&M flavor of all time. Whaaaat? I know it’s crazy, but the pumpkin spice was subtle and warm instead of pungent and cloying, it worked great with the milk chocolate, and they even managed to hit that latte flavor. It was a little faint, but it was a tall order for M&Ms and they completely pulled it off.

Now I want M&Ms to come out with a whole line of coffee-flavored candies. I also have a stomachache due to eating more M&Ms than I should have.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 creepy female M&Ms
  • Price: $3.19
  • Size: 9.9 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: No surprises (like M&Ms using actual pumpkin) here, just the dark magic of natural and artificial flavoring.