Spooky Nerds

Nerds LogoThis probably won’t be a full-on review, but I wanted to immortalize these Spooky Nerds on the Internet. When you see these big bags of Halloween candy with smaller, individually-wrapped packages inside, they usually put little effort into getting into the holiday spirit. They might throw a bat or a tombstone on the outer bag, but that’s about it. I guess they figure that the kids don’t give a shit if it looks spooky, and the adults are only buying the candy to hand it out to little assholes so their house doesn’t get egged, so who cares about Halloween themery?

Well, I’ll tell you who: Willy motherfucking Wonka.

Spooky Nerds

Check it out! Nerds running wild, dressed up as a witch, a ghost who is apparently vision impaired, and, flipping the bird to fundamentalist Christians everywhere, a little devil holding a pitchfork. With…fangs. Who is brown, which is odd, since there don’t appear to be any brown Nerds in this bag. Perhaps he’s meant to symbolize diversity. Wonka is totally a liberal.

That white one actually came in the orange box.  Being imperfect makes Spooky Nerds even cuter.
That white one actually came in the orange box. Being imperfect makes Spooky Nerds even cuter.

Here’s where Nerds really beats out the competition in Halloween coolness. It’s not just the bag that’s spooky – it’s the mini boxes inside, too! I would have liked to have seen black Nerds instead of white, but I understand – white fruit punch Nerds are already featured in several other Nerd varieties, so it’s easy to just toss them in a box. Orange Nerds are a little more inscrutable, as I’ve never seen them featured in the classic Nerd “two flavors, two sides” boxes. But then I remembered the gigantic boxes of Nerds they sell at movie theatre concession stands.

Rainbow Nerds

Goddamn, those boxes are huge. I’d imagine you’d be seeing rainbow going down AND coming up if you tried to eat that whole box in the course of one movie. Anyway, it looks like there could be some orange in there, but, unless you’ve got a serious case of OCD, you’re not separating all those flavors out, you’re just putting your mouth to the box, tipping up, and flooding your mouth with little tangy candies. Never before have orange Nerds appeared in such a pure form. Now’s your time to shine, guys.

Fruit punch Nerds get the little devil, sans pitchfork. I won’t go too much into the taste, since I’m sure most people have had fruit punch Nerds at least once in their lives, but I will say that they are indeed tiny, tangy, and crunchy. For being so small, Wonka does a good job of packing in the flavor. They’re loaded with that blurred, vaguely tropical taste fruit punch usually has. Actually, they taste a lot like Hawaiian Punch, which has that little zing in addition to its punchiness. Fruit punch Nerds get extra points for recalling memories of drinking Hawaiian Punch out of a can during summer break.

Orange Nerds get the little ghost guy at the bottom of the outer package that I couldn’t get into the shot. Actually, it looks kind of like a bat wearing a ghost costume. Double Halloween-y! That’s awesome.

Orange Nerds taste exactly like you would expect, which is like, well, artificially flavored orange candy. They never really taste like an actual orange, but they always have that citrus zip that lends itself well to Nerds and their claims of being tangy. If you like, say, the little oranges in Runts candy, you’ll like orange Nerds.

Maybe the kids these days won’t appreciate the effort Willy Wonka has made in turning Nerds into Halloween treats, but I would love getting a box or two of these way more than getting a fun-sized Milky Way that looks like the same candy bar I could get at the store any of the other 364 days out of the year. I think they make trick-or-treating just a bit more festive. BatGhost rules.

  • Score: 4 out of 5 newt eyes
  • Price: Free – my mom sent them as a Halloween present
  • Size: 1.16 lb. bag (It doesn’t say how many boxes are in the bag, and I’m not counting.)
  • Purchased at: I don’t know, so let’s just say, HAGRA’S HOUSE OF HORRORS
  • Nutritional Quirks: No brown Nerds inside.

Junk Food Freebie: Taco Bell Black Jack Taco

Black Jack DescriptionObviously, Taco Bell read my review of their Black Jack taco, and realized that it was a serious oversight on their part not to associate the black-shelled taco that came out earlier this month with the glorious holiday called Halloween.  In a feeble attempt to hide their shame, they have belatedly tried to connect the two by offering a free Black Jack taco on October 31st, 2009, from 6pm until midnight.  They even added some spoooooky music to their website and tried to make the ad reflect the spirit of the holiday.

Free Black Jack

Taco Bell is obviously trying to trick AND treat us, and I am willing to submit to their obvious ploy in order to get my free taco.  So on Halloween, get out there, get some candy, and then pull into Taco Bell’s drive-thru so all the employees can laugh at your ridiculous costume while they fill your order.  Maybe this should be considered a Junk Food FreeBOO!

No.  No, it shouldn’t.

Doritos They’re Back: Black Pepper Jack and Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ

Doritos They're BackWhen I first saw the display of these two limited edition Doritos flavors at my local store, I was quite confused. Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ and Black Pepper Jack, both with a mysterious message on the front. What did the two have to do with each other? Why were they back to begin with? Mystified, I picked up the Black Pepper Jack and went about my business.

When I got home, I took a closer look at the bag and its mysterious message.

Doritos They're Back Close-Up

Okay, Doritos. I will do your bidding and see back panel for details.

Commit Yourself

If this is their idea of “details”, I’m glad Doritos is in the chip-making business and not writing furniture assembly instructions for Ikea. Mostly blank, with a couple of words urging me to commit myself, and a shadowy dude opening a door at the top. The big black box with the Doritos logo in it looks like I should be able to scratch it off to reveal something, but it’s the same material as the rest of the bag. I said whatever to these chips and tossed them in the cupboard.

It wasn’t until I was at the checkout at the same store the next day that I looked at the chip display from further away. Hmmm…orange bag, black bag, some kind of cardboard creepy something-or-other on the top of the display…

Oh fucking duh. It’s Halloween time!

Disturbed by my own complete lack of cognitive ability, I picked up a smaller bag of the Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ at a convenience store a few days later and tried to piece together this mystery. “They’re back…” is an obviously spooky saying, used prodigiously in horror movies, usually said by a small child to make it as creepy as possible (because small children are inherently creepy). After extensive Internet research of about 30 seconds, I discovered that Black Pepper Jack existed on store shelves sometime between 2004 and 2008, and Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ sometime around 2007. The latter was part of one of those “the public chooses what flavor wins” competitions. I don’t know who won. I did not have a website that caused me to care so much about flavor competitions in 2007. I am sorry.

So what’s with this asylum626.com bullshit? Again using my incredible powers of deduction, I put the name of the website and the phrase “commit yourself” together and figured that Snack Strong Productions had put together some sort of creepy interactive Halloweeny thing involving a mental asylum that had gone craaaazy, so to speak. And I was right!

Asylum 626

I won’t go too much into it, but Asylum 626 is apparently a sequel to Hotel 626, and if you’re reading this and click that link at any time that isn’t between 6pm, and 6am, Doritos hates you and won’t let you play the game. Actually, it sounds like a pretty cool concept, and you can read a rather informative review of the game here, which is where I found out what that enigmatic black box on the back of the bag is for – apparently, it’s an “augmented reality marker”. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I do know that you need to have a bag of either Black Pepper Jack or Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ to play the game. Very clever, Doritos, but you haven’t tricked me. I bought BOTH bags.

After putting it all together, having two Halloween-colored bags of flavors that have come “back from the dead” to tie in with your scare-inducing interactive online game during the Halloween season makes a lot more sense now. Dammit. I hate it when Doritos makes sense.

But what of the flavor of these chips? Are they actually tasty, or just a shitty front for a Halloween gimmick? Let’s find out.

Black Pepper Jack

Black Pepper Jack – These chips smell pretty similar to Spicy Nacho Cheese Doritos. I couldn’t really detect any black pepper smell – it was more of a spicy pepper smell. Unlike Spicy Nacho Cheese, however, these chips lack the neon orange flavor powder, instead being lighter orange with little black flecks that I’m assuming are the black pepper and little red flecks that I suppose are the peppers in pepper jack cheese.

Black Pepper Jack Close-Up

The cheese flavor is milder in these chips than regular Nacho Cheese Doritos. It has less of the twang of most of the cheese-flavored Doritos.  I almost want to describe the cheese flavor as “creamy”, but calling artificially flavored chip powder creamy would be madness. Instead, I’ll call it “crammy”. Crammy cheese flavor. Yes.

There is no real black pepper taste as you’re eating the chip, but after you’ve swallowed, it hits you right in the back of the throat, along with that classic generic Doritos “spicy” flavor. If you’ve ever been the new and inexperienced owner of a pepper grinder, you’ve probably over-peppered something at some point, tasted it, and almost choked on the pepper. That’s what the aftertaste of this chip is like, but less intense and unpleasant. It’s nice that the cheese flavor has a chance to shine through, because I feel that if the pepper flavor was any stronger, it would be too powerful and overwhelm the cheese flavor. Besides, if you’ve ever eaten one of those Bertie Bott’s pepper-flavored jelly beans, you know that black pepper belongs as a seasoning, not a main flavor. And yes, I have eaten one of those jelly beans. I couldn’t tell if I was choking on the taste, or my own shame.

Smokin' Cheddar BBQ

Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ – I stuck my nose in this bag of chips and was overwhelmed by the smell of fake BBQ seasoning, just like the smell you find on Lay’s Barbecue chips, except stronger. There’s a subtle undercurrent of cheesy smell, and even that smells smoky, like the BBQ has infected the cheese, but in a good way.

Smokin' Cheddar BBQ Close-Up

The coating on these chips is different from the Black Pepper Jack variety – the latter had a fine dusting of powder with speckles, while the former has a thick, sticky coating of what I guess you would call flavor paste. It’s like when you’ve eaten a bunch of chips and all the flavor comes off on your fingers and when you’re done, the oil from your hands has combined with the powder, causing a thick gunk that takes you several licks and sucks to get off. That’s disgusting. You’re disgusting.

The flavor is strikingly similar to the smell – overwhelmingly barbecue with a hint of smoky cheddar. Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ Doritos really deliver on the name this time. Two complaints – first, the hint of cheddar is nice, but I’d like to see it shine through a little more. Second, the BBQ taste is just…so…barbecuey. My palate is being assaulted by liquid smoke, which is not actually on the ingredients list, but I’m convinced they just dumped a whole bottle into the bag.

This is the first tortilla chip I’ve ever encountered that was BBQ-flavored, and maybe there’s a reason for that. Potato chips like Lay’s lend themselves well to the flavor, but there’s something disagreeable about it on a tortilla chip. Maybe Doritos should stick to the more Mexican-inspired flavors. Okay, so three complaints, I guess. (I’m just kidding, Doritos; never stop being insane.)

After I’d solved the mystery of these resurrected (and zombified, I’m assuming) chips, they charmed me before I’d even tasted them. During this time of the year you can’t throw a Jack O’ Lantern without hitting a Halloween-themed candy, but the other junk foods fail miserably at creating spoooky gimmicks for this holiday. For that reason, I have to admire Doritos for having the only porch light on in the curmudgeonly cul-de-sac of savory snacks. Black Pepper Jack Doritos are like a fun-sized Snickers bar, Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ is a box of raisins, but hey, at least you’re trying. I won’t egg your house, but you may be cleaning up toilet paper tomorrow. I promise to only hit the bushes and leave the tree alone.

Black Pepper Jack Doritos

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 bottles of Witch’s brew
  • Price: $3.99
  • Size: 11 1/2 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirks: Makes me think of Bertie Bott’s jelly beans

Smokin Cheddar BBQ Doritos

  • Score: 1.5 out of 5 sad, smashed Jack O’Lanterns
  • Price: 99 cents
  • Size: 2 1/8 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Circle K
  • Nutritional Quirks: Liquid smoke not listed in the ingredients, but they’re LYING

Jones Soda Buried Pomegranate

Jones Soda Buried PomegranateJones Soda loves making wacky holiday-themed sodas. Their most famous offering is probably the Thanksgiving pack, wherein they attempt to make you hate the holiday forever and throw up on your mother’s special-occasion tablecloth by turning Thanksgiving classics into soda flavors. I encourage you to read X-Entertainment’s review of the very first Thanksgiving pack, way back in 2004.

Spurned on by their popularity and America’s masochistic palate, Jones started to release other limited edition sodas, and Halloween inevitably had to get its due. Here are this year’s victims:

Jones Soda Halloween 09

I chose Buried Pomegranate, since I already experienced the other three flavors (Candy Corn, Lemon Drop Dead and Spooookiwi) in various iterations in past years, and as an added bonus, Buried Pomegranate gives me an excuse to rant about the popularity of pomegranates. Everything is pomegranate now, and everything pomegranate is usually overpriced. I don’t want a pomegranate martini. I don’t need pomegranate in my iced tea. To be honest, I resisted trying anything pomegranate-flavored for years, choosing to believe that it tasted like hobo breath and that anyone who liked it was just trying to be hip and bourgeoisie. About a year ago, I gave in and bought a tiny four-dollar bottle of POM juice. Turns out, pomegranate juice is pretty delicious. Fuck.

My outrage at the pomegranate’s social status aside, let’s check out this soda. The cans come in packs of four, and they are adorably pint-sized, which has me clapping my hands like an autistic child already. Unlike the rest of you fatties, I haven’t built up the tolerance to sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup that allows you to suck down a 64-ounce Big Gulp in one sitting, so these mini cans are just right. Besides, let’s be fair, here – when you’re dealing with hi-larious gag (in several senses of the word) sodas, do you really want to have to tackle a full-sized can of the stuff?

Right off the bat, I was a little confused by the theme of Buried Pomegranate. Okay, so there’s a vampire on the can, looking sufficiently evil and Halloweeny, minus those purple-colored freckles that he should probably get checked out by a dermatologist specializing in undead skin conditions. I’m having a hard time connecting the name with the face, however. I mean, I guess vampires can be buried, but most of the vampires I know keep their coffins above ground. It seems it would be terribly inconvenient to have to re-bury yourself every sunrise and claw your way out once night fell. Just buy a castle with a fucking basement, already.

Our little widow-peaked friend has blood dripping off his fangs, suggesting he had just finished feasting on a comely virgin’s ivory neck before posing for his close-up. Wouldn’t “Bloody Pomegranate” have been a more appropriate moniker? I was down with the choice of pomegranate (after my Proletariat rage subsided) because my singular encounter with pomegranate juice taught me that it is a deep, dark red, thick and sticky. Just like blood! Where were you when I was all goffy in high school, pomegranate juice? Having the Kool-Aid man stare me down while I drank cherry-flavored soft drink mix from a plastic goblet really ruined the mood. Now could be my chance to relive those salad days, and with a REAL LIFE VAMPIRE hanging out with me, too boot!

Buried Pomegranate Close Up

What the fuck, Jones Soda? That’s not an awesome fake blood drink, that’s the color my bedspread was until I was ten years old. That’s the color my grandma uses to paint the roofs of the decorative birdhouses she makes. That’s the color of Suave Strawberry Shampoo.

Suave Strawberry Shampoo

That is NOT the color of totally awesome Halloween vampire victim blood. How fucking hard would it have been to add a little extra Red 40? I feel like I’m drinking perfume.

Of course, I think I’m confusing my own awesome idea of Bloody Pomegranate with the actual, less logical Buried Pomegranate. Since I’m still not exactly sure what that means, I can’t really make a correlation between appearance and name. I guess you’ve won this round, Jones Soda. Good for you. Purple freckles.

Adding insult to injury, Buried Pomegranate smells like a Yankee Candle Company candle. Of course, what am I asking for here, a soda that smells like pennies? Pig’s blood on the ingredient list? I’m getting a little carried away, here. I need to turn off the Depeche Mode and calm down.  Honestly, it actually smells good. A really strong, sweet berry smell that, okay I’ll admit it, I wouldn’t mind having as a candle scent in my house. The taste is pretty much the same, more like one of those berry mixes with strawberries and blueberries, with a little pomegranate thrown in. The sweetness is a little overpowering, but I think it works with the berry flavor. Real pomegranate juice is actually quite tart, and there’s just a hint of that here, which seems to compliment the carbonation. If you gave this to me in a blind taste test, I’d probably guess that it was a strawberry soda mixed with something that I couldn’t quite place. Then I’d probably tell you that I’m not a professional goddamn taste tester, so get off my back already. I can’t handle all this pressure.

Buried Pomegranate Soda

Jones Soda Buried Pomegranate’s can delivers on the Halloween spirit. I feel like I’ve made a new friend in this little evil bloodsucker. I’ve named him Barney. He’s going to sleep in my bed every night from now until Halloween. I’ll even drive him to the dermatologist. I’m such a good friend.

The soda, a little less spooky, but tasty nonetheless. I could have chosen Candy Corn, which is obviously more Halloweeny, but I’ve tried it before and I really don’t feel like I need to try it again.  Screw you guys.  Besides, The Impulsive Buy has my back.

I know a lot of people don’t like the “odd” fruity-flavored sodas like strawberry or grape, and those people probably wouldn’t like Buried Pomegranate. But if you’ve ever dontcha wanta Fanta, you might like this soda. Just don’t go into it having never tried pomegranates and think you’re getting a true experience. Of all of Jones Soda’s crazy flavors, this is one of the only ones I’ve actually thought could be a real soda flavor and not just a novelty.

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 bloody, raw hamburgers
  • Price: $1.99
  • Size: 4 8 ounce cans
  • Purchased at: Target – available exclusively here
  • Nutritional Quirks: No pig’s blood.  🙁

Taco Bell Black Jack Taco

Black Jack AdThe Black Jack taco is ridiculous. I first heard about it the day before it came out, when Taco Bell started spamming the hell out of my Twitter feed, desperately trying to get me to try it. Well, you’ve won this round, Taco Bell, despite your terrible marketing slogan. “Black is the new black”? Seriously? That’s the best you could come up with? I haven’t seen the commercials yet, but I sure hope they come up with something that doesn’t sound like an Access Hollywood segment teaser.

See, here’s the thing: it is October, and you are releasing a black taco. October. Halloween time. Black taco. Is this setting off any alarms? All you had to do was take another taco shell, dye it orange instead of black, throw some nacho cheese on that motherfucker, and put a ghost on the wrapper. You would have made a friend for life – namely, me. You could have called it the Spooooky Taco Bell Halloween Combo, featuring the Nacho Nightmare and Jack O’Licious tacos. Why do I have to do everything for you, Taco Bell?

Black Jack Description

Instead, they decided to call it the Black Jack taco. Because the shell is black, you see, and there is pepperjack sauce inside. Why is the shell black, you ask? I do not know. Perhaps Taco Bell’s shell manufacturing facility shares warehouse space with a squid de-inking factory, and there was a terrible mix-up, with hilarious results? I’m going to go ahead and call that the most likely scenario. Cue the laugh track.

Black Jack Shell

Despite what you may think from the words above, I didn’t actually expect the Black Jack taco to be bad. I just expected it to be boring. Judging from the promo photo and the 89 cent price tag, I expected it to be pretty much identical to Taco Bell’s “Crunchy Taco”, which is also 89 cents on the Value Menu. There’s nothing wrong with this menu item; it just tastes like 89 cents’ worth of shell, mystery meat, iceberg lettuce and some cheese.

Black Jack Side

Which is exactly what I got on my first few bites of the Black Jack taco. I’d already expected the sauce to be sparse and unexciting, but I had actually expected it to be there. But then, on the third bite, I got a good mouthful of sauce. And you know what? It was actually goddamn tasty! I can actually say that Taco Bell’s use of the word “zesty” when describing the sauce on their website is accurate. It’s got a nice consistency, like creamy nacho cheese sauce, but instead of being spicy, it’s got a twangy zip that makes your taste buds salivate for more. After those first few dry bites, the middle of my taco had just the right amount of the pepperjack sauce. It oozed out the sides, which would have made a great picture, but I was too busy eating it to stop and get the camera. Bob’s taco had a lot less sauce, which was disappointing, but too bad for him. I gots the sauce. I win.

I found myself actually wishing I had another Black Jack taco. No, it’s not the greatest taco in the world – it is from Taco Bell, after all – but if you’re going to eat a shitty 89 cent taco, why not slap some tasty sauce on there, inexplicably dye it black, and give it a stupid name? The point is, I would shell out 89 of my very own cents to buy one again, of my own volition, and that’s not something I can say too often on this site. So, way to go, Taco Bell – you made a retarded gimmick and a moderately tasty taco. Wear your crown of mediocrity proudly.

  • Score: 4 out of 5 hamburgers, all dyed black
  • Price: 89 cents
  • Size: 1 taco
  • Purchased at: Taco Bell
  • Nutritional Quirks: May or may not contain squid ink?

Tropicana Strawberry Melon Juice Drink

Homo sapiens is a compulsively social species. We organize into fiercely loyal tribes, lifelong monogamous mating pairs, and deep-rooted, close friendships that can last a lifetime. One of the most important traits one can possess in order to maximize the benefit of these relationships is the willingness to compromise, to sacrifice for the sake of the friendship.

If my friends are any indication, this trait will be bred out within a handful of generations.

Maybe I’m a sucker, or a doormat. Maybe I’m a closet masochist afraid to put on the nipple clamps attached to the car battery. Regardless of the underlying reason, when a friend of mine plopped down a 20 oz. bottle of Tropicana Strawberry Melon Juice Drink and demand I review it, I agreed. After all, it was free, and free products to review don’t just fall out of the sky. (Shocking Behind-the-Scenes Junk Food Betty reveal: We paid real American currency for Kroger’s Jelly Belly Puddings!)

I should’ve immediately realized that this guy was my friend, which automatically means he’s a treacherous fiend with a consuming drive to do me harm. I suspect that if I hadn’t agreed to review this beverage, he would’ve simply dropped the bottle and hosed me down with the canister of pepper spray he (I have no doubt) was concealing in his other hand.

Packaging:

The Tropicana marketing and graphics departments immediately attempt to reassure you that the Tropicana Stawberry Melon Juice Drink contains both strawberry and melon. This is submitted to the consumer in three ways: the name of the product, the superfluous reiteration of “strawberry melon flavored juice beverage” directly beneath said name, and the imagine of a stylized strawberry on top of a stylized wedge of… something greenish.

This brings up my first concern upon inspecting the packaging more closely. What kind of melon are we talking about, here? The melon had its agricultural start in ancient Persia, leaving millennia for the vagaries of individual cultivation. There are scores of melon varieties, with wildly different flavors, and a trip to the ingredients section summoned alternating attacks of trepidation and regret.

First, there is no strawberry, and no melon. There are only “natural flavors”, the food industry’s equivalent of “eyes only”. The only recognizable item on the list I would consider “food” is… pear juice concentrate? My “strawberry melon flavored juice beverage” is, in fact, composed of water, corn syrup, 5% pear juice, and the contents of an Axis Chemicals warehouse.

Dining Experience:

A long inhalation of Tropicana “Strawberry Melon” Juice Drink recalls the piercing, acrid odor of industrial cleaning solutions, mixed with precisely 5% pear juice concentrate. I’m not a pear person – nor am I particularly fond of the flavor of 409 – and my gaze drifted wistfully to the bottle of nerve tonic beckoning seductively from the kitchen counter. I’m not ashamed to admit that this review went on hold for awhile, long enough to build up a bulwark against the pain. However, I had concerns that the beverage would eventually dissolve the plastic bottle, and my refrigerator, and my kitchen floor, if left too long, and I was forced once more into the breach.

Pear. It’s pear Kool-Aid, if that Kool-Aid had been spiked with diluted acetone into which strawberry Nerds had been dissolved. My palate searched frantically for a hint of melon, hoping to ease the grimace which had twisted my face into an agonizing rictus, but there is none. Perhaps the melon they’re trying to sell me is hypothetical, like string theory or Tropicana’s culinary integrity. Perhaps Tropicana is staffed by nothing but rogues and liars.

In short, the drink is vile, and this is compounded by the addition of xanthan gum and gum arabic, which only serve to thicken the already sticky properties of high fructose corn syrup, especially at room temperature. This leads me to the belief that Tropicana “Strawberry Melon” Juice Drink is not actually produced for human consumption. In fact, I’m not sure what possessed the responsible parties to green-light mass production after experiencing the drink.

There is one thing I know. Given the chemical composition of the product, its thick and sugary nature, makes it perfect for the manufacture of homemade napalm, with an appropriate accelerant. Having said this, my friend will be well advised to start wearing flame-retardant clothes.

  • Score: 1 out of 5 hamburgers made out of totally inappropriate pears.
  • Price: Received free, but I’ve paid the ultimate price.
  • Size: 20 ounces
  • Purchased at: A charred ruin that used to be my friend.
  • Nutritional Quirks: Pear.

Kroger Jelly Belly Pudding Snacks

Kroger Jelly Belly Pudding AllSometimes a food product comes along that’s just so wrong, so repulsive, that I have to eat it. It’s like rubbernecking at a car accident, except instead of just slowing down as you drive by, you yank on your steering wheel and crash into the already existing pile of mangled cars.

That is what purchasing Kroger Jelly Belly Pudding Snacks is like. You know that it is a terrible idea that you will live to regret, but you put them in your basket anyway, filled with guilt and shame as you do so. This train wreck all started when a friend of mine (I’m strongly reconsidering our status as “friends”) emailed me to tell me that he had seen some cotton candy pudding at his local store, and that I should review it. I looked it up to see if it might be available at one of my local stores, since we live in different states, and while I found little information about it, I did find that they are sold under the Kroger brand, which is Fry’s Foods generic brand.

I immediately set out to find it. Amazingly, the Cotton Candy flavor was sold out the first time I looked. Cotton candy pudding, sold out. The mind reels. The second time I looked, however, Cotton Candy was in stock, along with the other three available flavors – Very Cherry, Juicy Pear, and Watermelon. The puddings are meant to taste like the Jelly Belly jelly beans that come in these flavors, which, obviously, are meant to taste like actual foods. It is metapudding. It should not exist. However, I’m here to eat it so you don’t have to, so here I present to you reviews of four of the most eldritch puddings ever to have existed. I will go from what I believe to be least to most repulsive. We’ll see if I’m right.

Kroger Jelly Belly Cotton Candy Pudding Snacks

Cotton Candy

The smell was sickly sweet, with a strong overtone of artificial strawberry flavoring that I wasn’t expecting. Real cotton candy has a light, sugary smell, but this was pretty overpowering. It looked somewhat harmless to me – a nice, soft pink, sort of like the yummy bubble gum-flavored medicine I took as a kid. Or Pepto Bismol.

Cotton Candy Close-Up

The taste? Urgh. Not as sweet as I thought it would be, but instead, you get hit with the strawberry flavor, but with a foreboding chemical undertone that makes me wonder if I’m going to die. This tastes nothing like a Cotton Candy Jelly Belly, let alone actual cotton candy. The jelly beans do a pretty fair job of replicating the taste of cotton candy, but really, that’s not hard to do. Sugar. Boom. You’re done. If you gave this to a child at an amusement park or fair, they would cry, then later throw up.

I only took two bites, but I already feel a little unsettled. I thought this would be the least offensive of the puddings. I angrily throw the cup in the trash and curse every state fair I’ve ever been to.

Kroger Jelly Belly Very Cherry Pudding Snacks

Very Cherry

At the store, I commented to my fiancé that this seemed to be the least offensive of the bunch, and he looked at me like I’d just suggested that there was a least offensive flavor of Kroger Jelly Belly Pudding Snacks. He asked me what would ever possess me to think such a thing, and then I realized that I was trying to associate pudding with Jell-o. Pudding and Jell-o: not the same thing, not the same acceptable flavors. I think my brain was desperately trying to make justifications. It fell out of favor as the potentially least offensive, at that point.

Very Cherry Close-Up

Okay, let’s peel back the cover, and…it smells like cough syrup. Encouraging. I don’t know what’s worse, the smell or the fact that it looks like compote gone bad. I never thought my life would come to this.

When you first taste it, you think everything’s going to be okay. The smell was a false alarm. Well, you are fucking wrong, buddy. It tastes like you just swallowed half a bottle of cherry Nyquil and chased it with a commercial-sized bag of Sweet’N Low. I would say sugar, but it doesn’t taste like sugar, it tastes like something that people who can’t eat sugar shudder at and then dump into their iced tea, because they have made poor life decisions and now they have type II diabetes and they’re probably going to lose all their toes even if they stop giving all their money to Hostess. It does taste closer to a Very Cherry Jelly Belly than an actual cherry, but that is because every cherry-flavored candy always tastes a little bit like cough syrup. There. We all think it. I just said it.

I can’t stop staring at it, even after I’ve stopped eating it. It glistens unnaturally. It looks like some Vietnamese dish Anthony Bourdain ate on No Reservations, where he sucks the marrow out of the bone of some unknown animal. It is not of this world.

The sight and taste of this pudding have induced queasiness. I ate almost half the cup, because I was trying to figure out just the right way to describe the vague, unnameable horror. I furiously throw the cup in the trash and write a furious letter to Cherry from Punky Brewster for being associated with this product in even the smallest of ways.

Kroger Jelly Belly Juicy Pear Pudding Snacks

Juicy Pear

Juicy Pear and Watermelon duked it out for potentially worst Kroger Jelly Belly Pudding Snack, but Watermelon won, because I seem to remember Juicy Pear Jelly Bellys being a little tastier than Watermelon. Mind you, I haven’t had a Jelly Belly in years, but I’m confident that I can still sort of remember the flavors. I’m also confident that none of these puddings will taste like those jelly beans to begin with, so the point is moot.

Juicy Pear Close-Up

I wish I could have gotten a better picture of the pudding, but let me assure you, it looks like a cross between lemon custard and the ectoplasm that Slimer leaves behind. Lemon custard is tasty, and Slimer is fun, but neither of these are reassuring when we’re talking about pear pudding. Actually, nothing is reassuring when talking about pear pudding. Like a lamb with two heads, pear pudding should not exist.

I don’t even want to know what these puddings smell like anymore. I don’t need a sneak preview in pain. So I will just eat some.

HUUUUURGH. What the fuck. Who the fuck would ever, ever think that this was a good idea? It tastes like a mix of perfume made out of sweet farts and artificial banana flavoring. I am going to tie down every single member of the Kroger and Jelly Belly marketing team, feed them each an entire 4-pack of Kroger Jelly Belly Juicy Pear Pudding Snack, and demand to know where the pear is in this disgusting, slimy concoction. It is made from the tears of neglected kittens with infected eyes and the blood of baby koalas who are force-fed bananas from birth.

My stomach has tried to crawl out of my throat with each bite I have taken. For some reason, I find myself asking for forgiveness for pushing down that girl who had a lisp in the fourth grade. Enraged, I throw the cup in the trash and use a proton pack to zap Slimer out of existence.

Kroger Jelly Belly Watermelon Pudding Snacks

Watermelon

I just noticed as I pulled the 4-pack of Kroger Jelly Belly Watermelon Pudding Snacks out of the fridge that two of them are dented. Maybe I will get a horrible case of Botulism from them and die. One can only dream.

Well, this is the last one. I feel as though I am standing before the ninth circle of Hell, after having already passed through the third, fifth, and seventh circles. There is no saving my soul now.

I have no choice but to smell the watermelon pudding, as the odor hits my nose as soon as I peel back the lid. It is…surprisingly reassuring. Just your standard fake watermelon flavor, nothing ominous hidden underneath. But then I really examine it…

Watermelon Close-Up

Look at the way the pudding slides down the spoon, in one big clump. When I picked up the spoon after taking the picture, I accidentally tipped it to the side, but when I picked it up, there was no pudding residue left on the towel. Holy shit, Jelly Belly Watermelon pudding is The Blob! I am going to die.

Oh my god, what is happening here. After I took the first bite, I actually squeezed my eyes closed, like someone was physically flagellating me. This is…this is not watermelon. This is not even fake watermelon. It tastes like…oh god, I can’t even tell what it tastes like, which means I have to take another bite.

It tastes like melted plastic mixed with Novacaine, without the blessed numbness that my mouth is currently begging for. It tastes like decomposing animal flesh blended into a smoothie of rotten eggs and rubber tubing. It tastes like year-old Nickelodeon Slime engulfed a gag gift rubber sewer rat, slowly dissolving it into a toxic, semi-solid soup. Not only that, it looks like something they would use to cast dentures.

It is very, very terrible.

I have started hallucinating. My world is a hellish dreamscape of impossible colors and disturbing scents. Giant, malformed blob-monsters form and dissolve on the peripherals of my vision. Every surface glistens with an unnatural, slimy shine. With a cry of primal rage, I throw the cup in the trash, only to find that another one has taken its place. Gallagher suddenly appears before me, and I smash him with a large mallet, over and over, until he is nothing more than the mush that has been the fate of so many watermelons at his hands. The tiny pieces of his ruined body turn into jelly beans.

  • Score: 1 out of 5 eldritch horrors for all, what were there, 400 of them?
  • Price: $1.59, $0.99 on sale, I should have been paid to eat them, not the other way around
  • Size: 4 3.5 oz. cups
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirks: Everything

Doritos Collisions Cheesy Enchilada/Sour Cream

Doritos Collisions Cheesy Enchilada Sour Cream FrontSay what you will about Doritos’ crazy flavor ideas, and I do, frequently, but at least they aren’t content to rest on their laurels. For better or worse, Frito-Lay releases a new Doritos flavor every three days, which makes it difficult to keep up. That’s why, when I saw these Doritos Collisions Cheesy Enchilada/Sour Cream tortilla chips, I wasn’t sure if I’d missed the boat or found a new Collisions flavor. The Hot Wings/Blue Cheese and Zesty Taco/Chipotle Ranch versions of Collisions had been a staple in my local grocer’s snack food aisle for years now, and I thought that was the end of the story, but the Doritos team wasn’t done colliding deliciously compatible flavor powders yet! According to Wikipedia, there’s also Pizza Cravers/Ranch, which I vaguely recall seeing somewhere, and Habanero/Guacamole, which I have never seen but hope to, since it sounds wonderful, and, of course, Cheesy Enchilada/Sour Cream, which I hold in my hands today. Oddly, the official Doritos website doesn’t seem to recognize Pizza Cravers/Ranch or Habanero/Guacamole Collisions, which makes me wonder if both Wikipedia and my dubious memory are lying to me.

Snack Strong Productions does recognize Cheesy Enchilada/Sour Cream Collisions, however, and according to them, this flavor combo was launched in 2009, which means that I haven’t missed the boat and that the Collisions series is an ongoing Doritos project. As you can see, the front of the bag says “2 flavors – 1 bag”, which, if you’re anything like me, immediately brings up disturbing thoughts about girls and cups.

Let’s just leave that one alone and move on. As you can deduce from the front of the bag, the two powdered flavors are not combined, but are dusted separately on individual chips and then thrown into one bag together. Of course, as they rub up against each other, the powders will mix. I’m not sure if this is actually the point of Collisions or not. If it is, why bother dusting the individual chips separately? If not, then are you supposed to eat one chip at a time and enjoy the progression of flavors, or pick out one chip of each flavor and cram them both into your mouth at once, like some sort of bleary-eyed stoner sitting on his couch at 2am watching the Magic Bullet infomercial and stuffing everything within arm’s reach into his maw?

Doritos Collisions Cheesy Enchilada Sour Cream Back

The back of the bag declares that I control the ultimate Doritos (DORITOS) flavor combination. It’s comforting to know that I’m in control of my junk food experience. I hate it when Big Chip tells me how to snack. At the bottom, the Doritos team  begs me to tell them what Collisions (COLLISIONS) combo I will unleash. Exactly what kind of options do you think I have here, Doritos? I have purchased your bag of Collisions Cheesy Enchilada/Sour Cream Doritos. My options are pretty limited, here. Are you expecting me to buy all of your Collisions flavors and get freaky? Maybe a little Pizza Cravers/Zesty Taco action? How about some Blue Cheese/Guacamole?

Perhaps giving me so much control wasn’t such a good idea after all.

The bag shows the chips as having distinctive physical characteristics, namely that Cheesy Enchilada is violently orange and Sour Cream looks exactly like Cool Ranch. If my “getting intimate in the bag together” theory is correct, I won’t actually be able to tell them apart. Let’s find out.

Doritos Collisions Cheesy Enchilada/Sour Cream Chips

Well what do you know, there really is a difference between the appearance of the two flavors. Cheesy Enchilada is an unnaturally bright orange with a heavy coating of flavor powder, while Sour Cream is more subtle, letting its tortilla nature shine through a milder coating of white powder dotted with little green speckles. I’ve never had sour cream with green speckles in it before, but, depending on the expiration date on the container, I might not be adverse to it.

The smell coming off the chips is nearly identical to the smell of Nacho Cheese Doritos, which doesn’t bode well for Cheesy’s success in capturing all the different flavors of an enchilada. I decided to try them separately at first, and then employ the stoner method. I tackled Sour Cream first, since its appearance and assumed lack of contribution to the aroma told me it would probably be more muted.

I guess appearances don’t lie, because Sour Cream tastes almost exactly like Cool Ranch. Maybe a bit more mellow, but that initial bit of zip, or tang, or whatever you’d like to call it, from Cool Ranch is exactly what is present here. I really don’t taste any of the essence of what real sour cream tastes like. Which doesn’t mean they’re bad, mind you; I like Cool Ranch Doritos just fine. I just don’t usually put ranch on my enchiladas, is all.

Now, let’s try Cheesy Enchilada.  Hey! They’re not exactly like Nacho Cheese Doritos! Color me pleasantly surprised. There’s a definite cheesy flavor present that is reminiscent of the Nachos, but it’s a little less overpowering. Which is great, because that allows the second flavor to come through – a hint of smoky spiciness that stays with you after the chip is gone. The two flavors really play nicely with each other, creating a tasty snack with a bit of complexity.

And now, of course, for the true test: the Collision. To ensure accuracy, I took two similarly-sized chips and shoved them into my mouth together, creating a rain of crumbs on my kitchen counter and the uncomfortable feeling that someone could see me doing this. It is quite the flavor explosion, although I can’t say that the two flavors marry very well. There’s a lot of cheese and ranch, and even a little bit of the smokiness comes through, but at no point did I close my eyes and get transported to a fine Mexican restaurant, where I was eating a delicious cheese-filled tortilla smothered in enchilada sauce with a dollop of sour cream on top. Instead I was a woman, disgraced, standing alone in her kitchen, mangling two chips together so they would both fit into her mouth at once.

As a tag team, Doritos Collisions Cheesy Enchilada/Sour Cream chips don’t really work, which is sad because that is the whole premise of this gimmick. Apart, however, they are both tasty tortilla chips. It’s like being friends with a married couple who should have gotten divorced years ago; together, they are constantly at odds, and you are mildly embarrassed to be seen with them as they quarrel in public.   However, separately they are both fun, decent people. Plus, there’s a lot less crumbs involved.

  • Score: 3 out of 5 hamburgers Collided; 4 out of 5 hamburgers separately
  • Price: $3.29, $2.88 on sale
  • Size: 11 3/4 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirks: Not much surprising here, although sour cream is actually listed as an ingredient.  Mud on my face, I guess.  COOL RANCH-FLAVORED MUD.

Junk Food Freebie: T.G.I. Friday’s Buffalo Wings

TGIFridaysLogoSunday, September 13, and Monday, September 14, you can head down to your local participating T.G.I. Friday’s and score six free buffalo wings.  Apparently, you must be sitting at the bar, but we all know that’s where you’d be anyway, sipping that fabulous green appletini.  I guess this is supposed to promote the start of the NFL season with the “Largest Kickoff Party In the U.S.A.”  Yeah, baby!  Go Raiders!

…Who am I kidding.  I hate football and I hate T.G.I. Friday’s.  But I do love free food.  So, if you’re willing to tolerate throngs of jerkoffs yelling at a flat-screen television in order to score six buffalo wings for free, go for it!

Junk Food Freebie: Chick-fil-A Original Chicken Sandwich

FreeChickfilALogo

Get a free original chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A on Labor Day.  Not so fast, though, hoss – there’s a catch.  You must be wearing some item of clothing (or a tattoo?  Face paint?  The promo wasn’t too clear on that) that contains a sports logo.  If you’re a sports fan, this should be no problem.  If you’re a giant nerd, you’ll feel debased and ashamed as you borrow your brother-in-law’s Raiders jersey just so you can get a chicken sandwich.  Either way, it’s free!

ChickfilASandwichEquation

Junk food and fast food reviews. We eat it so you don't have to!