Category Archives: Junk Food

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.

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!