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Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses

Hey, did you know Valentine’s Day is tomorrow? I didn’t, which tells you just about how much I value the holiday! So I’ve got a couple of things to do quick reviews on before I hit the holiday deadline and these new V-Day treats become obsolete!

“Cupcake Kisses” isn’t an overtly Valentine’s Day-sounding name, but everything about the packaging tells you that you should be eating them in February. We’ve got pink overload, and hearts everywhere. Did you catch that those trees in the background are upside-down hearts? It’s a small but effective decoration on this otherwise sparsely-designed bag.

More hearts on the inside, and the flag says “CUPCAKE” instead of the usual “KISSES”. Interestingly, these are actually “white cookie cupcake” flavored Kisses. What is a white cookie cupcake? Your guess is as good as mine, but it just looks like bakery word salad to me.

The candies themselves look like an albino kid got the chicken pox, but when you cut them open they get a lot more fun! Little pink balls of cookie await your mouth as you chomp on them, evoking the exact texture of Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme, but instead of chocolate balls, these pink guys seem to be nothing-flavored. Sugar-flavored? The whole shebang just tastes like Hershey’s white chocolate with some extra sugar thrown in.

Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses don’t taste like cupcakes, but the crunchy balls inside do have a cookie-like texture. There’s an essential flavor failure here, but I feel like that’s not really what we’re here for. We’re here for a fun Valentine’s-themed candy, and on that front these Kisses succeed. Biting into one and seeing fun pink crunchies is better than eating a conversation heart, that’s for sure.

What irritates me the most is that they could have made the pink crunchies raspberry or strawberry-flavored, and then they would have had a truly unique Hershey’s Kisses flavor. But they just went the decorative route and slapped “cookie cupcake” on there. So I guess I basically just contradicted the previous paragraph in saying they weren’t a failure.

But at least they’re still kinda fun!

Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 albino kids with chicken pox
  • Price: $3.59
  • Size: 10 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: Nothing weird here, guys. It’s all just sugar.

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.

Hi-C Ecto Cooler (2016)

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

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

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

*sob*

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

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

Hi-C Ecto Cooler 2016 Color Changing Can

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

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

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

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

Hi-C Ecto Cooler 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi-C Ecto Cooler (2016)

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

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.

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.

Cheez-It Crackers Extra Toasty

Cheez-It Crackers Extra Toasty BoxIf you’re reading this, you’re probably in one of two camps right now: you’re either saying to yourself, “Fuck yeah, Extra Toasty Cheez-Its! Finally, my dreams have come true!”

Or you’re saying, “What the fuck are Extra Toasty Cheez-Its?”

I was in the latter camp until I read this article. Apparently, there’s a whole group of people out there who absolutely shit themselves whenever they find a slightly over-baked Cheez-It in their box of regular Cheez-Its.

And because we live in the age of the Internet, these people have been, I assume, emailing, signing online petitions, and generally hassling the crap out of Sunshine to turn these into their own flavor.

Well, congratulations weirdos, you win! Before now, I personally have given zero thought to these particular Cheez-Its. I knew they existed, but not consciously. I ate my Cheez-Its, one would occasionally have a brown edge, I would eat it also and move on with my life, completely unaware that I had just consumed someone’s wet dream.

Ew. Sorry about that.

Cheez-It Crackers Extra Toasty Box Back

Cheez-It loves to anthropomorphize all of their flavors, and it looks like Extra Toasty is doing a PSA about the dangers of both sunbathing and not wearing sunscreen. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, people. Take care of it!

Cheez-It Crackers Extra Toasty

The smell upon opening the box was…actually, there’s no flowery way to put it. They smelled like burned cheese crackers. I have no other way to describe them. And they looked appropriately toasty – every cracker had that brown tinge to it.

Cheez-It Crackers Extra Toasty Comparison

Here’s a comparison with a regular Cheez-It, because I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a box of Cheez-Its in my house. It’s just kind of how we operate. Here you can see the toastiness up-close.

As for the taste, the smell kind of says it all. They taste like Cheez-Its that were left in the oven, or on the conveyor belt, or however they make Cheez-Its, for too long. It’s a cheesy cracker with a burnt aftertaste.

It’s not so burnt that it’s straight-up gross, but the flavor is definitely there. Just a hint of overdone. Just a little too long in the sun.

Which is the whole selling point of Extra Toasty Cheez-Its, and also happens to be my main problem. I prefer my cheesy, salty squares with sunscreen, thank you. (Note to Sunshine: please don’t make coconut-flavored Cheez-Its.) I mean, these must be appealing to quite a few people, as it was, apparently, their #1 requested flavor. But to me, they just tasted like a box of mistakes. Not so much that I didn’t finish the box, but I’ll stick with my Originals. I guess I’m just a square.

Cheez-It Crackers Extra Toasty

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 peeling sunburns
  • Price: $2.79
  • Size: 12.4 oz. box
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirk: There’s a lack of quirks here. I was hoping for a “Gotcha!” journalism moment, but Extra Toasty’s nutritional information is completely identical to Original Cheez-Its.

Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza

Papa John's Fritos Chili PizzaI wasn’t aware of the existence of Frito pie until I was an adult. I always considered it somewhat of a Midwestern delicacy, although Wikpedia tells me its influence reaches to the southern and southwestern states.

I always considered this to be somewhat of a simple-minded dish, until I once cooked up a dish of cream cheese, Cincinnati-style chili, and shredded cheese. Dip some Fritos in there and taste the delicious combination of four simple ingredients.

That said, much like many other menu items that now exist in the fast food world, one food does not necessarily translate well into another. Several other restaurants – I’m thinking specifically of Sonic and Taco Bell – have incorporated Fritos into their menus, mostly consisting of “here’s a general menu item and then we threw some Fritos on or in it”.

…Which is exactly what happened with Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza. Actually, that’s not entirely fair. Papa John’s at least tried to stay somewhat true to the spirit of Frito pie – the pizza consists of cheddar cheese, Roma tomatoes, beef and onions, all on a bed of chili sauce. Oh, right, and Fritos. Duh.

Upon bringing Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza into my home, it was immediately filled with the smell of warm Fritos. I wouldn’t want a scented candle of this fragrance, but it was actually quite pleasant.

Papa John's Fritos Chili Pizza Slice

The Fritos were obviously put on after the pizza came out of the oven, as they were not at all soggy and looked fresh out of the bag. There certainly were a lot of them, too – I’ve never seen any other pizza topping given this much coverage. Of course, you’re just chucking a few cents’ worth of corn chips on there, so why not?

A disadvantage to having the Fritos applied after cooking was that they didn’t have the opportunity to stick to the rest of the toppings, which resulted in a lot of chips flying off the slices as I took them out of the box and again as I bit into them.

Papa John's Fritos Chili Pizza Toppings

Because of the amount of Fritos and perhaps their strong flavor, a lot of the other toppings got overwhelmed by the chips. The beef seemed barely there, and I only remembered the onions were a topping because they added a different textural crunch than that of the Fritos, which obviously added a lot of crunch. Crunch that didn’t really belong with the rest of the pizza. It was too jarring of a contrast.

Of all the toppings, the one that unexpectedly struggled through all the Fritos was the Roma tomatoes. They added a fresh flavor and a slight crunch that helped out the struggling pizza.

Don’t think I’m forgetting about the chili sauce. It was actually the shining star of Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza. It was pretty much everything you’d want to have on a pizza that’s trying to represent Frito pie – it tasted a hell of a lot like Cincinnati chili, which is to say, thin, cheap, beanless, but yet somehow delicious.

After the Fritos, it was the first thing I tasted from the pizza, and I was surprised and pleased at the flavor. There wasn’t even an overabundance of it, but just the little amount that was there delivered the flavor.

Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza isn’t gross, it’s just dumb. Tossing a bunch of chips on top of a cooked pie does not a pizza make. In fact, I wound up taking the Fritos off the rest of my pizza and found it more enjoyable that way – the beef and the onions were able to come through and mix in with the chili sauce, which I really enjoyed.

The flavor and the texture of the Fritos amounted to nothing more than a distraction. They took me out of pizza mode. I just wish Papa John’s would make chili sauce an option on their build-your-own pizzas, because it really saved this pizza and I’d love mix it up with some other toppings.

Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza

  • Score:2.5 out of 5 Fritos flying everywhere
  • Price: $12.00
  • Size: Small
  • Purchased at: Papa John’s #1355
  • Nutritional Quirk: Fritos.

Quick Pick: Carl’s Jr. Bacon Ranch Fries

Carl's Jr. Bacon Ranch FriesThe Good: The bacon was actually crisp. Appeared to be actually crumbled up bacon and not just sad little bacon bits. Carl’s uses buttermilk ranch, which has more flavor and is thicker than regular ranch. It also helped immensely in getting the bacon to stick to the fries, which I’ve found to be frustrating in the past when eating fries that involve bacon as a topping.

Carl's Jr. Bacon Ranch Fries Toppings

The Not-So-Good: I appreciate that my fries were hot, but that just made my ranch hot, which is not very appealing. As often is the case with fries covered with toppings, the toppings are far too sparse, with all the bacon clustered in the middle and almost nothing getting to the bottom fries. I wound up adding my own ranch. $3 is a pretty high price for some fries, the equivalent of a side cup of dressing and about one slice of crumbled bacon.

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5
  • Price: $3.00
  • Size: 1 serving
  • Purchased at: Carl’s Jr. #0828
  • Nutritional Quirks: These are really bad for you! That is not a surprise. Or a quirk.

Domino’s Specialty Chicken: Crispy Bacon & Tomato and Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple

Domino's Specialty Chicken Crispy Bacon & Tomato and Spicy Jalapeno-PineappleThere seems to be some confusion surrounding Domino’s new Specialty Chicken. I first heard mention of it from Conan O’Brien, where he described it in his monologue as “ new pizza where, instead of dough, they’re using fried chicken.” Half-listening, I thought to myself, “Oh, that must not be in this country. The United States has gotten pretty insane with our pizzas, but not that insane.”

And yet, as I was doing my usual Internet food-trolling duties later that day, I came across the Specialty Chicken.

I love the mysteriousness of the name. What makes this chicken so special? Is it because it is, indeed, a chicken pizza crust? Domino’s themselves describes it as “100% whole breast white meat chicken covered in our toppings, sauces and cheeses.”

Well, that sounds like a chicken pizza crust to me!

At this point, Specialty Chicken became known as “Domino’s Abomination” in my household, two words I tried desperately to portmanteau. “AbDomination” was the best I could come up with, which still reeks of trying-too-hard so I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.

So far, Domino’s Abominations come in four flavors: Classic Hot Buffalo, Sweet BBQ Bacon, Crispy Bacon & Tomato and Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple. Given the concept, I only chose two, as the idea of eating or even possessing four chicken crust pizzas was too daunting for my mouth.

When my special chickens arrived, they came in the same box that Domino’s uses for their sandwiches and wings. Upon opening, I was more than a little disappointed by the size. Instead of a whole pizza, it was more the size of a slice.

I’ll discuss the basics before I get to the specific toppings. First of all, Specialty Chicken is not a chicken crust. While Domino’s description above is questionably accurate, what they fail to add is that the chicken basically comes in nugget form. Call it disappointing or encouraging, this does not a chicken crust make.

That said, the pieces were lightly breaded with a nice seasoning, and the chicken was surprisingly tender. I wish I’d taken the time to count exactly how many there were – I’d estimate a little over six per.

The real failing here was the topping coverage. The Crispy Bacon & Tomato managed to hold it together, you might say, but the Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple just looked like a disaster.

Domino's Specialty Chicken Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple

Starting with the latter, Domino’s describes it as “Tender bites of lightly breaded, 100% whole breast white meat chicken, topped with sweet and spicy mango-habanero sauce, a blend of cheese made with mozzarella and cheddar, jalapeno and pineapple.”

Domino's Specialty Chicken Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple Close-Up2

I feel like I was missing a fair amount of all of these things except the chicken. There was a lot of cheese overflow, resulting in some lovely cheese crisps, but that wasn’t the point. I had to actually work to get cheese, a piece of jalapeno and a piece of pineapple on the same piece, and I didn’t even know there was a sauce until I read the description.

That said, when I managed to get the toppings in tandem with the chicken, the spicy and the sweet worked quite well together. I’m not a huge pineapple fan, but it worked well to balance the impressive level of heat from the peppers. If there had been any trace of the mango-habanero sauce, I feel like that would have taken this Specialty Chicken to the next level.

Domino's Specialty Chicken Crispy Bacon & Tomato

The Crispy Bacon & Tomato actually kind of resembles a pizza slice. Domino’s describes it as “Tender bites of lightly breaded, 100% whole breast white meat chicken, topped with garlic parmesan white sauce, a blend of cheese made with mozzarella and cheddar, crispy bacon and tomato.”

Domino's Specialty Chicken Crispy Bacon & Tomato Close-Up

The toppings were joyously more prominent on this Specialty Chicken. The garlic parmesan white sauce definitely made its presence known, adding a creamy lubricant (phrasing) that compliments the toppings and the cheese that binds it all together.

I actually had a bit of fun pulling these chicken pieces apart, watching the cheese stretch and enjoying the smoky bacon that was actually crisp, along with the juicy tomatoes. The tomatoes were more scarce than the bacon, but I’d rather have that than the other way around. The sauce was tangy and really brought it all together.

All of this sounds overly complimentary in the face of my description of the Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple Specialty Chicken, but in reality, neither of these delivered on the toppings-to-chicken ratio. If you ordered a pizza and half of it was completely topping-less, you’d probably call Domino’s asking for your money back. If we’re treating this like a chicken pizza, that was exactly the case here.

I’m amending my initial moniker of Domino’s Abomination and calling Specialty Chicken Domino’s Disappointment. If these had initially been described to me as “breaded chicken pieces smothered in sauce, cheese, and toppings”, I would have responded with, “Fuck yeah, where do I sign up?”

While this is what Specialty Chicken was meant to be, this is not what I got. Everything was lacking except the chicken – barely any toppings, cheese that didn’t even start to cover each piece of chicken, and sauce that was meager or tasted non-existent. Furthermore, the price for these things is completely overblown – I was able to eat both in one sitting, which comes to $12 for a lunch from a fast food joint. I feel like Domino’s Specialty Chicken could be so much more if they lowered the price and upped the toppings.

Domino’s Specialty Chicken

  • Score (Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple): 2 out of 5 sad “Where’s the sauce?” jokes
  • Score (Crispy Bacon & Tomato): 2.5 out of 5 creamy lubricant jokes
  • Price: $5.99 each
  • Size: 12 pieces each
  • Purchased at: Domino’s #7602
  • Nutritional Quirks: Domino’s website tells me there were 12 pieces each, but I swear I got cheated.

Brach’s Carrot Cake Candy Corn

Brach's Carrot Cake Candy Corn PackageI’m always for new holiday-related junk food. Even if it’s somewhat uninspired or just plain gross, I’m willing to try it, especially since odds are likely I’ll never see it again, or at least until next year.

There have been items I’ve really enjoyed, like Mission Sugar & Cinnamon Tortilla Chips and Scary Blackberry Ghoul-Aid. There have also been holiday items that made my mouth sad, like White Chocolate Peppermint Pringles and Disney Candied Apple Candy Corn.

Speaking of candy corn (talk about a suave segue), here we have yet another candy corn that isn’t supposed to taste like candy corn! Isn’t that exciting?

The answer is no. Remember how I said I’m all for new holiday food in the first sentence of this review? I’d like to directly contradict that by saying that I’m really tired of candy corn. Hell, I was tired of candy corn when it was just candy corn-flavored candy corn. Now things are really getting out of hand.

So now, here we are, with Brach’s Carrot Cake Candy Corn. Brach’s, the original candy corn offender.

If you’re going to try to get me to eat carrot cake candy corn, you’re going to have to do better with your packaging than a slice of cake and a vaguely Easter-looking basket with no handle. Seriously, no handle? I mean, I want an Easter bunny and some cute looking little chicks, but at this point I would settle for a tisket with a tasket. Sigh.

Brach's Carrot Cake Candy Corn

Well, at least the corns are kinda cute. The colors are vibrant and appropriately carrot-y.

When I first opened the bag and took a whiff, all I got was that weird plastic-like smell of regular candy corns. My brain went, “Oh no…oh wait, this could actually have gone much worse, so be thankful, nose.” And when I first popped a handful – looking back, throwing back this amount was a brazen move that could have gone terribly wrong – all I could taste was candy corn.

However, that flavor gradually gave way to distinctive but subtle notes of cinnamon and nutmeg that actually gave the corns a reasonable facsimile of the taste of carrot cake.

There was no hint of cream cheese frosting, which pairs so well with a nice, moist slice of carrot cake, but maybe that’s asking too much. Also, that initial taste of regular candy corn never quite went away, which, unfortunately, went a long way in removing the suspension of disbelief that you weren’t actually eating what is, essentially, a Halloween candy.

As I expected, the texture was also exactly the same as regular candy corn, which is neither a positive nor a negative; it just is, because these are candy corns.

I wouldn’t call Brach’s Carrot Cake Candy Corn offensive, but I can’t say I was blown away, either. They weren’t gross, but they weren’t great, either. If I found a small bag of them buried in the plastic grass of my Easter basket (with handle) amongst the Reese’s Eggs and giant chocolate bunny, I wouldn’t throw them in my parents’ face. I mean, it’s not like they’re black licorice jelly beans. I’m not a monster.

However, after one handful, I was already over carrot cake-flavored candy corns, so the other 11 ounces in this giant bag will probably sit in my cupboard for about six months before I need the room for whatever the next crazy flavor of Oreos is.

Brach’s Carrot Cake Candy Corn

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 tiskets without taskets
  • Price: $2.29 (on sale; regular price $2.69)
  • Size: 12 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Safeway #1717
  • Nutritional Quirks: It’s candy corn that tastes sort of like carrot cake; what more do you want?