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Limited Edition Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares Holiday Chocolate Assortment

Aaaand we’re back. Just in time, too, since I have a holiday-sensitive item to review today.

I found this package of Limited Edition Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares Holiday Chocolate Assortment at a Borders book store while waiting for a cashier to appear so that I could pay for a birthday present. I guess they’ve got a solid business model going – make someone wait ten minutes to pay for a dying form of media, and eventually they’ll grab an impulse buy. Good job, Borders – literature may be dead, but chocolate and coffee bars will live on forever.

It helped that the package was shiny and full of holiday cheer, with red and gold and snowflakes and ornaments and promises of chocolates that taste like eggnog. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but Ghirardelli makes some tasty sweets.

They make some heavy promises on the back of the package: “This season, take time to slow down and feel yourself melt with each bite. Savor the complex symphony of intense velvety chocolate combined with delicious seasonal favorites – festive peppermint, creamy eggnog, and rich chocolate pecan pie. Let the rich flavors surround your senses. Enjoy as the chocolate pleasure lingers.”

I feel like I just had sex with the back of a pack of chocolates. Goddamn, son. Money well spent on whatever marketing team Ghirardelli paid to come up with that description of their chocolate. I’m sure millions have been spent on the study of how people react to words that are bolded. Apparently I need to slow down and melt while experiencing intense chocolate that surrounds my senses. That all seems kind of contradictory. Nothing left to do but see if these chocolates will make me…quietly orgasm, or something.


I had a minor autistic freakout when I pulled these out of the bag, because the front just said “Limited Edition Chocolate”. I thought I had been ripped off. Fortunately, it did indicate on the back that these were, indeed, Eggnog. I don’t know why this one said it on the back while the other two proclaim their flavors on the front, but whatever. Eggnog was the flavor I was most looking forward to, so I was glad that they were there.

Unfortunately, my renewed excitement quickly faded away when I actually tried the chocolate. I couldn’t find any eggnog flavor anywhere. No nutmeg, no cinnamon, no distinctive eggnog taste. The chocolate was creamy, but that’s what I’d expect from any Ghirardelli product. In fact, if it hadn’t said Eggnog on the back of the wrapper, I would have thought it was white chocolate, but even a little more muted than regular white chocolate. I would have never guessed that it was supposed to be eggnog.

Saddened that I had been robbed of the experience of tasting delicious eggnog chocolate, I moved on.

Pecan Pie

Ghirardelli actually did a pretty good job of making a chocolate that tasted like pecan pie. The pecans were plentiful and added a nice crunch. It’s sort of like a Mr. Goodbar on steroids – the chocolate is smooth and tasty, the pecans tasted delicious, and the chocolate had a very prominent taste and aroma of what seemed like a mixture of toffee, molasses, and maybe even some bourbon.  Mmmm, chocolate booze.

I have to say, the Pecan Pie square was one of the most complex chocolates I’ve ever had. The depth of flavor is really quality and everything plays together well. Nothing gets overwhelmed. The delicious milk chocolate, the pecans, the complex mixture of flavors that make up pecan pie filling, they were all perfectly married into that one chocolate square. While I was expecting to love the Eggnog and go “eh” at Pecan Pie, quite the opposite has occurred. I don’t crave chocolate often, but this would be one of my top picks to reach for if I was in the mood for chocolate. Good job, Ghirardelli.

Peppermint Bark

This is definitely the most Christmasy of the three candies. When you open the wrapper, you’re hit with that strong candy cane peppermint smell that screams presents and blinky lights and ornaments. It looks fun, too. The little pink flecks let you know that there’s really candy canes inside! My inner child hops up and down.

What I wasn’t expecting, but was a pleasant surprise, is that Peppermint Bark has a milk chocolate base. Let’s face it, it’s hard not to nail mint and chocolate. They go together like buffalo wings and ranch sauce. I think Ghirardelli steps it up with the crushed candy canes inside, though. They add a fun crunch and intensify the peppermint flavor. Peppermint Bark tastes a lot like an upgraded version of Andes Crème de Menthe chocolates – you know, the ones with the green stuff sandwiched in between two layers of chocolate. But Ghirardelli’s chocolate is of a higher quality and the peppermint is more intense and tastes more like real candy cane than just simulated mint. I realize that candy canes themselves are made out of artificial mint flavoring, but it’s…different. It’s candy cane!

Well, two out of three ain’t bad. I’m sad that I didn’t get to taste eggnog in chocolate form, but the Pecan Pie really surprised me and the Peppermint Bark was nothing but Christmas fun. I would put these out beside the homemade chocolate chip cookies and the bowl of red-and-green M&Ms. I’d just cross the “Eggnog” off the wrappers and write “Snowflake” or something instead. Then people would just think it was white chocolate and not be all disappointed like I was. Snowflakes and white chocolate don’t really have anything to do with each other, but that’s okay. It’s keeping with the Christmas theme. Limited Edition Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares Holiday Chocolate Assortment are a solid addition to your holiday festivities.

Oh, and by the way – Merry Christmas!

Limited Edition Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares Holiday Chocolate Assortment

  • Eggnog Score: 2 out of 5 disappointed elves
  • Pecan Pie Score: 4.5 out of 5 happy chocolate-loving reindeer
  • Peppermint Bark Score: 4 out of 5 minty fresh snowmen
  • Price: $8.99
  • Size: 7.03 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Borders Books and Music #0069
  • Nutritional Quirks: Contains corn flakes.  Wait, what?

Cheetos Mighty Zingers Sharp Cheddar & Salsa Picante Snacks

Cheetos, widely known as being the favorite snack of nerds, has been on a roll these past few years, releasing several different twists on their traditional gnarled, neon orange, dust-covered “snacks”. They’ve gone giant, they’ve gone white, and now, they’ve gone tiny and, uh, zinged.

Earlier this year, Frito-Lay introduced Cheetos Mighty Zingers. There are two flavors: Ragin’ Cajun & Tangy Ranch and Sharp Cheddar & Salsa Picante. Their press release states that “Cheetos lovers are in for the ultimate treat, because Chester Cheetah is today unleashing a new cheesy innovation called Cheetos Mighty Zingers – the tiniest Cheetos snacks ever made and marketed.”

I’m sorry, are you looking for a gold star or maybe a smiley-face sticker? Congratulations, you made Cheetos that are smaller than normal Cheetos. Holy shit, alert the press! Wait, that’s actually exactly what they’re doing. You’re already annoying me, Cheetos.

Mighty Zingers’ gimmick is one that seems to be gaining popularity: take two differently-flavored products of the same type and pack them into one bag. The general idea seems to be to have one spicy flavor and one cooling flavor, like the classic buffalo wings and ranch combo. Nobody’s ever sat me down and explained it to me, but I’m assuming you’re supposed to shove them both into your mouth at the same time to achieve the spicy-then-soothing effect. Your results may vary. The idea here seems to be more in the category of complimentary flavors. Who doesn’t love salsa con queso? Communists, that’s who. Don’t be a pinko; eat the fucking chips. Er, snacks.

One thing I love about these snacks right off the bat is that they have taken an age-old snacking problem and finally found a solution for it. The problem: I want to get as much processed food into my mouth as fast as I can, but when I tip back the bag and start pouring them into my giant, unhinged maw, chips start flying everywhere and I get flavor dust in my eyes! The solution? Well, again, I think Cheetos’ press release says it best: “There’s even a playful perforated ‘pouring tab’ up top, making it easier than ever to pop a delicious handful of Mighty Zingers straight into your mouth.”

I think we all know that they don’t intend for you to ever be touching these Cheetos with your hands. That bag, with its “playful pouring tab”, is going straight to your lips. I assume this is why they have made these the tiniest Cheetos ever(!) Easier to pour them into your mouth. Who has time for things like reaching into a bag? There’s a motherfucking raid going on with my guild over here, folks! Of course, this does eliminate the need to suck sticky flavor dust off your fingers. So maybe they are on to something, here.

Somebody on the Cheetos marketing team thinks they’re Charles fucking Dickens, because there’s a goddamn novel written on the back of the bag. Since the picture is probably too small and probably blurry (thanks again, metallic bag), I’ll write it all out for you:


These tiny Cheetos Snacks are mighty in taste.


Together these Cheetos Snacks create a cheesy flavor that’ll shove your tongue around.

Their numbers will amaze you. Their tastes will astound you.

There are endless ways to enjoy this mixture of mightiness. Sort them, combine them,


I can’t tell if Mighty Zingers are going to delight my palate or come out of the bag and kick my ass like Guido coming to collect on an outstanding loan.

I expected the playful pour tab to rip down the entire side of the bag, creating a giant mess, but it tore almost exactly on the perforation, creating just the right hole to pour these little choking hazards right down your gullet. The cheddar does indeed look sharp, and the salsa, picante, so they got the colors right, at least. Let’s check the flavors.

I tried them individually at first, of course, because I’m such a rebel. I had a hard time distinguishing Sharp Cheddar from regular-flavored Cheetos, but I guess that makes sense. Regular Cheetos are already neon cheese-flavored, so why go through the trouble of making up a new flavor? I did detect a little bit of spice, but I think that’s from getting intimate with Salsa Picante in the bag. I could see little red dots on the Sharp Cheddar pieces where the powder had rubbed off onto them. This is why you shouldn’t put two flavors together in one bag; you don’t know what’s going on once you’ve vacuum sealed those two edges together. Cheetos be gettin’ freaky on the store shelves. This is making “sticky Cheeto fingers” even more unappealing.

Uh oh. I should have seen this coming. I should have known. I should have chosen Ragin’ Cajun & Tangy Ranch. I have chosen…unwisely.

SALSA PICANTE IS FLAMIN’ HOT CHEETOS! (Spoiler alert.) It’s not like I haven’t run into this before; Doritos has repackaged its Cool Ranch as just about every flavor under the sun. But usually they at least try to make something about one of the flavors a little bit different. Not so here. You know what Cheetos Mighty Zingers Sharp Cheddar & Salsa Picante Snacks really are? Cheetos All the Little Pieces You Find at the Bottom of the Bag That You Wind Up Throwing Away Cheese & Flamin’ Hot Cheese-Flavored Snacks.

I am outraged.

Maybe I shouldn’t be, but there are several factors here. First and most obvious is the recycling of the flavors. Then there’s the gimmick that “oh we made them small!”, when, seriously, these could just be leftover broken pieces from the factory for all I fucking know. The real coup de grace is that, unless you literally are pouring these directly from bag to mouth, they are practically impossible to eat. I’ve been snacking on the ones I poured out in the picture, and even my tiny, delicate, feminine fingers can’t manage to pick up more than one at once without Cheetos flying everywhere half the time. So I’m supposed to pour them into my hand, eh? Oh okay, let’s do that. Then I can lick the flavor powder off my palm like I’m cosplaying Chester fucking Cheetah grooming himself at a fucking furry convention. Okay, yes, I will stand in my kitchen with no pants on and pour these little fucking choking hazards that I could have gotten by buying two bags of differently-flavored Cheetos straight into my mouth, but you know what I won’t do? You know where this person, this person who has eaten AN ENTIRE SMOTHERED MEAT PATTY, draws the line? Licking my hand after eating handfuls of broken-up Cheetos, and then looking down to see my cat performing the same action. I just can’t go there. My cat also licks his own ass.

One more little factoid you should probably know about Cheetos Mighty Zingers Sharp Cheddar & Salsa Picante Snacks – Flamin’ Hot Cheetos turn your fingers red. For like, the rest of the fucking day. I don’t care how many times you wash your hands, your fingers tell the world, “I ate an inappropriate amount of an unhealthy spicy junk food.” Hence, if you eat these Mighty Zingers in handfuls, you’ll literally be caught red-handed. JUST LIKE I CAUGHT YOU RED-HANDED IN A WEB OF DECEIT, CHEETOS.

  • Score: 2 out of 5 broken bits of boring old Cheeto flavors in a stupid metallic bag
  • Price: $2.99
  • Size: 9 1/2 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirks: I dunno, just go read a regular bag of Cheetos and account for a “broken-up handful” serving size, I guess.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Baked Graham Snacks S’mores Adventures

Goldfish S'mores Adventures Bag FrontI know it’s hard to believe, but I remember a time, way back in my youth, even before I knew what the Internet was, when Goldfish Crackers were simple: you had your iconic cheddar, maybe the plain kind (but really, who eats those), and I seem to vaguely remember seeing a pretzel variety, although I don’t know when they arrived on the team. Everybody ate cheddar Goldfish; it was a brown paper bag lunch staple.

However, Pepperidge Farm is not immune to the contagious madness that continues to spread amongst big name snack manufacturers. As I grew older, Goldfish crackers slowly faded out of my life. For this reason, I was generally unaware that Pepperidge Farms had succumbed to the madness, until I was walking down the cracker aisle one day. I stopped in my tracks, mesmerized and somewhat horrified. A rather generous section of shelves, from top to bottom, was filled with all kinds of crazy Goldfish flavors. “Flavor Blasted”? “Xplosive Pizza”? “Blazin’ Buffalo Wings”? What the fuck is going on here? I expect it out of Doritos, or even Mountain Dew, but you, Pepperidge Farm? I respected you. You make Milanos.

Now would be a good time to start mocking their website, but let’s face it – Goldfish, whether classic or XTREME, are made for kids, and thus, their website is designed to be silly and ridiculous. I mean, come on, it’s got a whole section devoted to assuring parents that it’s a safe site for their kids to play on, and even goes so far as to create “Ad Nooze”, which warns kids that there’s an ad that’s designed to sell you something. I can’t mock something that disgustingly wholesome.

Goldfish S'mores Adventures Go Play

I will say though, that after I’d had the site open but dormant for a little while, going about my business elsewhere, some basketball player named Dwayne Wade suddenly popped up on the screen, scaring the shit out of me by yelling at me to stop clicking around on the Goldfish website and go outside and play, goddammit. He didn’t say goddammit, of course, but he was pretty serious. I almost ran out of my apartment, frantic to find the nearest basketball court. But then I remembered I have no pants on. And I don’t own a basketball. Sorry, Dwayne Wade; it’s too late to save me. Good luck with the kids, though.

He also told me to “put down the remote”, which makes me wonder what kind of crazy gadgets professional basketball players use to navigate the Internet.

With so many strange flavors to choose from, you may be wondering when I’ll stop blathering and actually tell you what I’m reviewing. Well, that makes you stupid, because it’s in the title of the fucking article. Good friggin’ gravy, try to keep up, here. Anyways, today I’ll be talking about Goldfish S’mores Adventures, which is not a cracker at all, but rather a baked graham snack. You know, like Teddy Grahams. Except fish. If everything I’ve learned from Animal Planet is accurate, you should definitely keep your graham bears and your graham fish separated. Trust me, it wouldn’t end well for Finn and his friends. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, some of the different flavors are characters. I won’t even bother going into that right now.

Goldfish S'mores Adventures Bag Side

I chose S’mores Adventures, a seemingly tame flavor in comparison to some other options, a.) because the bag said “new” on it (unlike the stock photo up top), although it seems they came out maybe mid-2009, and b.) because Bob, sometimes JFB contributor, reacted to the idea of Goldfish s’mores snacks like they were an abomination, and affront to nature, something that should be put down like a rabid dog. I’m not really sure why this is – they’re graham, chocolate, and marshmallow crackers. What could go wrong?

Goldfish S'mores Adventures Graham Crackers

Awww, they look…kind of weird, actually. The graham Goldfish look just like a regular Goldfish cracker, smiling, always cheerful. I hadn’t really given any thought to how the marshmallow part of s’mores was going to fit in here. A red light should have gone off in my head when I wrote the words “marshmallow crackers”. That is not a phrase that should exist. Now that I see them, they look like they belong in a box of bizarre Lucky Charms. They’re about 50% smaller than the graham fishies, and their faces are blank; emotionless. I’m a little more trepidatious now. Trepidatious is not a word.

Never one to disobey the bag, I tried all three at once, which is obviously the point of the snack. It’s called “S’mores Adventures”, not “Graham and Chocolate Crackers with Strange White Things Adventures”.

True to my above comment, the marshmallow fish disintegrated immediately and tastelessly upon impact with my molars, just like Lucky Charms marshmallows do. I don’t feel the need to go any further about that, since I believe every person ever born has tried eating a dry Lucky Charms marshmallow. It is just something that happens. Human nature.

With marshmallow out of the picture, honey and chocolate duel it out for flavor dominance in my mouth. Chocolate wins, but just barely. The two flavors marry nicely. Imaging shoving a honey and a chocolate graham cracker into your mouth at the same time. That is what it tastes like, and that is exactly what I did. Goldfish S’mores Adventures has liberated me by telling me I can shove two different flavored graham crackers in my mouth at the same time. The underground double-flavor-graham-cracker eaters out there can come out of hiding. It’s okay now. Pepperidge Farms says so.

But hey, we’re not done yet – we haven’t looked at the back of the bag!

Goldfish S'mores Adventures Bag Back

EVEN CAMPING?! HOLY SHIT! Fuck all those faeries and unicorns and pirates and buried treasure and astronauts and shit, your imagination can take you CAMPING! Just imagine, camping…your dad can’t figure out how to put the tent up, so he takes it out on your mom, who starts crying…the hard, hard ground, every rock sticking into you through your inadequately insulated sleeping bag that leaves you shivering all night long…all the insects, mosquito bites, strange, ominous sounds…walking through poison ivy so you can take a dump leaning against a tree covered in fire ants…CAMPING!

Oh yeah, and I guess sometimes you make s’mores when you’re camping, too. Adventures!

Here’s some of the characters I mentioned earlier, trying to emulate Abbott and Costello and instead sounding like retards. Finn gets special mention and a hat, because he’s cheddar, and everybody knows that cheddar Goldfish rule, Flavor Blasted be damned. Pretzel guy on the left is called Gilbert. I don’t know what he does, or why he is named Gil- oh wait, I just got the joke. Awwww. Good one, Pepperidge Farm. You got me.

Now that I’ve wised up to they’re tricks, I’ll introduce you to Brooke, the parmesan cheese Goldfish on the right. You can tell she’s a girl because she has eyelashes. Little know fact: female goldfish have eyelashes, but the males lack them. Isn’t nature amazing? I don’t know what parmesan cheese has to do with femininity. Probably just figured they’d throw in a chick to get feminists off their backs.

Lastly, there’s X-Treme, who doesn’t get a pun in his name, because he is TOO XTREME. Obviously, he represents the Flavor Blasteds. More like Flavor Bastards, am I right? I don’t know which weird-ass flavor he actually is, but he appears to be raising his non-existent eyebrow suggestively. I find it X-Tremely unsettling.

Down at the bottom ya gotcha fake fire. Remember, this is imaginary camping. No real fire allowed. Around the fake bonfire, there appears to be several magical orbs, indicating that the Goldfish are about to engage in some sort of ritual. Possibly Wiccan, possibly Satanic. I’m not sticking around to find out.

I think Goldfish S’mores Adventures is actually a pretty clever idea. At the very least, it’s something original in concept, and the idea of taking different flavors of Goldfish and putting them in your mouth all at once must appeal to kids. Kids eat that shit up, no pun intended. If you can make a food product change color, be a color it’s not supposed to be, or come with simple instructions, it’s guaranteed that kids are going to have to have it. While the idea is solid, the execution falls apart pretty quickly. Obviously, they’ve addressed all of the ingredients of a s’more, but two graham crackers and a Lucky Charms marshmallow do not a s’more make. There’s no way you can give Goldfish the flavor of gooey melted chocolate and marshmallow. I don’t think anything pre-packaged could accomplish that task. But Goldfish tried, and while they failed, they still got two flavored graham crackers and a marshmallow…thing that makes me reminisce about eating all the dry Lucky Charms marshmallows first and then being disappointed by a cereal bowl full of oat pieces. So, there is that.

Note: If you want to see a little bit of weird, check out Goldfish’s Wikipedia page.  It’s a wonderful, sloppy mess.

  • Score: 2 out of 5 Dwayne Wades yelling at me
  • Price: $2.39
  • Size: 6.6 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Albertsons #980
  • Nutritional Quirks: What the hell are those little dry marshmallows made out of? I’m too scared to find out.

Cheetos Crunchy Wild White Cheddar Snacks

Cheetos Wild White Cheddar SmallToday, we’re looking at Cheetos Crunchy Wild White Cheddar Snacks.  I like that they just call them “snacks” on the bag, because I was wondering what exactly to call them.  Chips?  Weird lumpy corn sticks?  No.  Snacks.  Cheetos is the Herb and Jamaal of the snack world.  Approximately one person reading this will understand that joke.

Cheetos are famous, of course, for being the favored snack of video game-playing nerds living in their mothers’ basements.  I don’t know how or why this happened, but it’s true.  Cheetos doesn’t really fuck around with flavors; there’s the classic orange, Flamin’ Hot, and a couple of other ones that nobody’s heard of or cares about.  Unlike Doritos, who releases a new flavor every two days, the original Cheetos are immediately what you’ll think of when you hear the name.  Cheetos.  Orange dust-covered fingers.  Nerds.

Cheetos Wild White Cheddar

But now there’s Wild White Cheddar, which, according to Frito-Lay’s official press release, has existed before.  I had never heard of them before, but Frito-Lay says it was a “popular flavor”, so I guess I’m just an asshole who hasn’t been paying attention.  It’s also available for a limited time only, starting in late January and ending mid-February.  That is, indeed, a very limited time.  Kind of makes you wonder why they’re releasing them at all.  Hardly seems worth the effort.  I guess they’re banking on tools like me, who will buy any junk food that has a limited run.  I can’t imagine there are that many of us out there.

I’m not entirely sure what makes this flavor so “wild”, but hey, I’m all for alliteration.  Chester does seem pretty damn enthusiastic about putting that Cheeto in his mouth, even though it actually seems larger than his already enormous mouth.  Actually, if you look closely, it looks like we’ve caught Chester in the act of tripping over a Wild White Cheddar Cheeto laying on the ground.  Maybe he’s reaching out desperately towards the Cheeto, trying to grab onto it in the hopes that it will stop his fall.  That Cheeto cannot help you, my friend.  Your face has a date with the floor.  Maybe he’ll get lucky and land on that wedge of white cheddar down there.  I could think of worse surfaces on which to perform a faceplant.

Cheetos Wild White Cheddar Back

Flipside gettin’ crazy with the fonts, yo.  It’s a little hard to read from the picture, so let me help you out:
So if you need to keep your hands clean, don’t even THINK about opening this bag!
if you’re willing to get some
all over your fingers, open up


I can’t tell if they’re trying to entice me to eat the snacks or terrify me into running out of the chip aisle of my local grocery store, blathering incoherently about my hands being unclean, so unclean.  People with OCD, Wild White Cheddar Cheetos are not for you.  But you’ve probably already figured that out.

I’m also not very comfortable with the sentence “If you’re willing to get some WHITE CHEESY DELICIOUSNESS all over your fingers, open up and ENJOY!”  Think, Cheetos marketing team.  Just…just take a few moments in the meeting and think about the words that you are putting together to form a sentence.

Cheetos Wild White Cheddar Close-Up

Not much of a cheesy smell present when you open the bag.  What comes through more is the smell of corn meal, which is what Cheetos are made of.  It’s kind of weird to see Cheetos not dressed up in their signature neon orange powder.  The white cheddar powder is barely visible on the light yellow Cheeto, causing them to look naked.  I’m sorry you have to suffer this indignity, Cheetos.

The cheese taste in Wild White Cheddar Cheetos is much more subtle than it is in original Cheetos, and it’s also less tangy.  The snacks taste mostly like that generic artificial cheese flavor that you’d find on other foods, with just a hint of what could pass for white cheddar.  They’re not bad, but they’re not exactly exciting.  The more understated flavor of Wild White Cheddar means that more of the corn meal taste of the Cheeto comes through, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, I guess.  For me personally, it’s a negative.  Ninety percent of the time, when I’m eating a snack food, I consider the chip (or “snack”) to be nothing more than the delivery vessel for the flavor powder, and if it’s a naked chip, it belongs in a dip.  Maybe that makes me a jerk, I dunno.  That’s just the way I feel.

Cheetos Crunchy Wild White Cheddar Snacks are boring.  There, I said it.  If I had a serious hankering for a cheese-flavored snack and these were the only things available, yeah, I’d eat them.  Like I said, they’re not bad, they’re just old news in the flavor department.  Despite supposedly being white cheddar, they end up tasting like just another artificially cheese-flavored product.  On the plus side, the white powder won’t stain your fingers like original Cheetos (or especially Flamin’ Hots) will, so you don’t have to hide the secret shame that you’ve recently been shoving Cheetos down your maw.

According to Frito-Lay, these snacks are only going to be available for a couple more weeks.  So if you have a burning desire to see for yourself what mediocrity can taste like, you better move fast.

  • Score: 2 out of 5 teeth knocked out of Chester’s mouth after his fall
  • Price: $2.99
  • Size: 8 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirks: White cheesy deliciousness all over your fingers.  That doesn’t really have anything to do with nutrition, I just wanted to type it again.

Carl’s Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger

Six Dollar Version
Six Dollar Version

When Carl’s Jr. told me via email and Twitter that it was introducing a new burger on the 27th of this month, I ran out that very day to purchase one and tell the Internet what I thought about it. I was very excited – so excited that I actually left my hermit cave when it wasn’t deemed absolutely necessary. My local Carl’s is within walking distance of my apartment, but I was a douche and drove there anyways. Hey, I’m already leaving the house – asking me to walk somewhere would be stretching it too far.

I made sure to ask the lady in the drive-thru intercom if they actually had the new Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger, because I live in the asshole of the United States, which means there’s a strong possibility that it might not have been available at my local joint yet. But, lo and behold, she said they had them, so I went ahead and ordered one, thrilled with my good luck. I waited in a short line of cars, as it was lunchtime, took my bag, and went home, ready to take some pictures and write some insults.

But fortune was not on my side that day, for when I got home and opened the bag, instead of a Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger, I was greeted with a Charbroiled Chicken Club and a small order of Natural-Cut French Fries. Shocked, terrified, I checked my receipt:

Carl's Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger Receipt
Note the creative use of spelling next to the store number. That goes out on every receipt that leaves that Carl's. Very professional.

GRL CH BGR certainly sounds closer to what I ordered than what I got. The only conclusion I could come to is that I got someone else’s order, and, in turn, they will get my order. Sucks to you, chicken lover. I wanted that damn burger.

I threw the chicken sandwich in the fridge, disgusted, and ate the fries, seasoning them with my own tears of frustration and disappointment. I could have gone back and tried again, but the wind had been taken out of my sails. I could not leave the house again, not after what had happened. My only consolation – hey, free fries!

So I tried again yesterday, and actually managed to get what I ordered. Before we get to that, let’s explore what Carl’s Jr.’s marketing team thinks we should know about the Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger. Your options are Single, Double, or Six Dollar. I went with the Single, so we’ll go with that description from their website: “A charbroiled all beef patty topped with crispy bacon, slices of melted Swiss and American cheese, and mayonnaise served on toasted sourdough bread.”

So, a Sourdough Jack, then. Minus the tomatoes. Maybe a little more cheese.

But this is not what Carl’s Jr. wants you to think. Fast food companies seem to think they need to add a gimmick on to each new menu item they introduce, as if the American public will not try new food unless you have somehow tricked them into buying it. In the Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger’s case, the spin they are using is that you love grilled cheese sandwiches, you have loved them since you were a kid, and it is your ultimate comfort food. According to their press release, “Carl’s Jr.® has created the ultimate comfort food, Grilled Cheese Bacon Burgers™. Starting today, fans of the cheesy, gooey comfort food can try one of the new Carl’s Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burgers, which features all the comfort and deliciousness of the grilled cheese sandwich mom used to make, with the addition of a delicious charbroiled burger and bacon.”

The Executive VP of Marketing for Carl’s Jr. goes on to describe the “funny story” of how the GCBB was born, saying that they were looking to make some vegetarian menu items, came up with grilled cheese, and then some asshole said, “Fuck the vegetarians, let’s make this a motherfucking hamburger! With bacon! Motherfucking meat, you motherfucking carnivores! Fuck those pussies!”

…I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it went down, since I wasn’t at the meeting, but I assume I got it about right. So, the GCBB was born, but you can also get a grilled cheese sandwich if you like. But that doesn’t get its own press release or marketing campaign. Suck it, vegetarian pussies.

So, in conclusion, Carl’s Jr. wants you to buy their bacon cheeseburger on a sourdough bun and believe you are turning back the clock to simpler times, when you didn’t have a mortgage, or a job, or a spouse that you secretly hate, or children that are eating your soul. Bite into a GCBB and all your cares will melt away, much like how the delicious cheese on the burger melts down the sides of that succulent charbroiled meat.

Carl's Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger Cheese

Well, not quite. I got home with my new burger and unwrapped it eagerly, and this is what I saw. Not exactly what the marketing picture looks like. Of course, that picture is of the Six Dollar version, but still. I mean, look at the top bun of that promo burger. It looks like you could attach some legs to it and turn it into an end table.

Carl's Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger Bacon

But, that’s okay, we all know that the real thing never lives up to the advertisement pictures when it comes to food. My bun doesn’t look very toasted at all, the bacon looks like typical weak, limp fast food bacon, but hey, the cheese does look melty and plentiful. Take me away, Carl’s Jr.!

Carl's Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger Cut

Hm. Not so much. The burger itself tastes good, delivering that charbroiled taste that I think makes Carl’s burgers better than McDonald’s or Burger King’s. The cheese is, indeed, melty and plentiful. It does succeed at being the star of the show; with each bite, you get lots of gooey cheese that works perfectly with the meat. Unfortunately, to get that consistency, fast food restaurants use all that processed cheese, so you’re getting a lot of that processed flavor. Which doesn’t bother me; I can get over that artificial taste, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone. But hey, what kind of cheese did your mom use when she used to make you grilled cheese sandwiches? If you’re the average American kid, it was probably Kraft American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product. If not, then nuts to you. Stop being so hoity-toity. It’s uncouth.

There’s so much cheese , in fact, that it almost entirely drowns out the bacon, which isn’t such a terrible sin, since the bacon is small, limp, and lacking in flavor. The mayonnaise disappears also, but that’s perfectly fine. Mayo is not supposed to be the star. If mayo is the star, your burger is having a problem.

I think the real problem with this burger is the bun. In trying to emulate a grilled cheese sandwich, they’ve gone with sourdough, which I love. However, they’ve missed one important part, which is “grilled”. Bob, an occasional JFB writer, also got a GCBB, and his bread was just as un-toasted as mine was. The butter was there, but the toasting was not, which resulted in a soggy bun with no satisfying toast flavor or crunch. A grilled cheese sandwich that is not toasted properly is no grilled cheese sandwich at all. It’s just a sad, buttery mess.

If you can get yourself one that’s actually grilled, the Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger isn’t a bad burger. Even with untoasted bread, it wasn’t terrible, it was just…meh. I guess you could say it is kind of like a grilled cheese sandwich, in that bread and cheese are involved, but once you add a burger, it’s a freakin’ burger, man. It’s a burger with a little extra cheese and a different bun. Honestly, it’s a Sourdough Jack, and frankly, I’ll take the Sourdough Jack over the GCBB because they actually toast their bread. And tomatoes are yummy. So, you know, give it a try if you’ve got a Carl’s nearby, but don’t go too far out of your way for it. Hey, maybe your Carl’s will actually toast it for you. But if there’s a Jack in the Box on the way, just swing in there and get a Sourdough Jack instead. The meat might not be as good, but the sandwich will be better overall.

  • Score: 2 out of 5 sad, soggy buns
  • Price: $1.99, although the Carl’s Jr. press release says a Single costs $2.49.  Eat it, rest of the nation!
  • Size: 1 burger of unknown weight
  • Purchased at: Carl’s Jr. #828
  • Nutritional Quirks: Has “grilled” in the name; no actual grilling performed.

Tostitos Prepáralos a Tu Gusto Salsa Verde (Tostilocos)

If you don’t live in the southwestern region of the United States, you may have never heard of the Sabritas line of potato chips. Originally its own brand, it is now a subsidiary of Frito-Lay, and controls a large share of Mexico’s snack market. In Arizona, Mexican snacks are widely available in national chain stores, and one of my local convenience stores has a whole section of Sabritas chips.

Tostitos Preparalos a Tu Gusto Front

I have to admit, I didn’t really do my in-store research when I bought these chips. When I saw the festive and very Mexican front of the bag, and saw that I could create my own combination, I thought things might get interesting. For you gringos, “prepáralos a tu gusto” doesn’t really translate into “create your own combination”, but instead roughly translates into “prepare to your liking (or loving, literally)”. Those two years of Spanish in high school are really serving me well. They get even more lax down in the bottom left corner, where “totopos de maíz con chile”(Corn tortilla chips with chile) becomes “flavored tortilla chips”. Us gringos can’t handle anything more descriptive than “flavored”.

I thought that maybe there would be some flavor packets inside, a la Doritos Flavor Shots, which would be fun to mix and match, adding to the already salsa verde-flavored chips. However, I was in for a surprise when I got home:

Tostitos Preparalos a Tu Gusto Back

What the fuck, Tostitos? Instead of including everything I’d need to create my own combination, they are expecting me to take these home and turn them into nachos? What’s the point of that? Furthermore, who would even do that? You buy a bag of chips at the convenience store, you’re probably stuffing your face as you drive to work, not going home to make some sad nachos in a bag. No, seriously, who would do that?

The answer: Mexicans. I saw the phrase “tostilocos” on the back of the bag and thought that Tostitos was trying to make their own catch phrase, like Combos’ ludicrous “combivore” campaign. I got excited, thinking I could salvage this review with some screenshots from a ridiculously themed Tostitos website. I was in for a big surprise when I consulted my friendly neighborhood search engine.

Tostilocos are a very real, very Mexican thing. According to my extensive Internet research, in Tijuana (and possibly other parts of Mexico, I’m not sure), there are street carts set up all around the city, selling these tostilocos. They do basically what the back of the bag says: they take a bag of tortilla chips, slit it open along the side, and fill it with whatever you want. From what I’ve read, some of the most traditional ingredients include peanuts, jicama, cucumber, tamarind or tamarind candy, a liberal lime juice, and even pork rinds, as I read in this blog. I don’t want to use anyone’s pictures without permission, so here are some links to tostilocos-related items.

The back of the bag has some very different suggestions for additions to your tostilocos: salsa, sour cream, cheese and jalapeños. After my learning experience, I’d love to try some traditional tostilocos, but coincidentally, I have zero of the ingredients for that and all of the ingredients listed on the back of the bag, so I guess I’ll go with that.

Tostitos Salsa Verde

Cutting open the bag was easy, and I was happy to see that it stood up on its own. I decided to try the chips by themselves, before I went tostiloco and added all the ingredients. The chips themselves are actually pretty good; they come in the traditional Tostitos round shape and have a pleasant cheesy/spicy flavor with a bit of peppery bite on the back end. I wouldn’t say it tastes exactly like dipping a tortilla chip into a bowl of fresh salsa verde, but the chile flavor is there. I would feel just fine buying a bag of these to tear open in the more conventional manner to shovel into my face during a road trip, or just sitting my lazy ass down in front of the tv. But the real point of these, chips, apparently, is to go tostiloco, and who am I to disobey the back of a bag of chips.

Tostitos Tostilocos

After I added all the ingredients, the weight of the bag of chips increased about threefold. I felt like I was hefting a real meal, not just an absent-minded snack. The bag held together wonderfully, still standing up like a trooper after I added all the ingredients. For the sake of open journalism, I’ll list all of the specific ingredients I added: Table Top medium salsa, Daisy sour cream, Sargento Artisan Blends Authentic Mexican (Queso Quesadilla, Asadero, Queso Gallego, Manchego and Anejo Enchilado), and Embasa Nacho Sliced Jalepeños.

It’s a little unwieldy to eat. I have tiny, delicate, feminine hands, and even so, I found it difficult to really dig into the bag without getting my knuckles and fingers covered in salsa juice and sour cream. As I move the bag around, my carefully constructed toppings begin to redistribute themselves, covering all the chips and ensuring that my hands will never be clean again. I hope they give out napkins at the tostiloco carts in Mexico, because otherwise there’s a lot of people walking around with sour cream and salsa hands, terrorizing the local children who are just trying to sell you chicle.

Tostiloco Close-Up

At the end of the day, my tostilocos are nothing more than half-ass nachos made in a bag of Tostitos. There’s nothing not to enjoy about the combination of tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, cheese, and jalapeños, but it’s really nothing to write home about. My chips got a little soggy after a while, but that’s okay, since my hand was coated with all the toppings by then anyway, so I didn’t mind just mushing the chip and putting it in my mouth, as I have no dignity. Soggy tortilla chips are not that great, but they were a little more acceptable with all the toppings on them. As I write this review and continue to shovel tostilocos into my mouth, I notice that I’m getting a little full. I looked on the back of the bag, and it says that there are six servings of chips in this bag. How are you supposed to do that, exactly? Chuck your sad, slit-open bag of Tostitos into the fridge to eat soggy mush with a spoon later? I guess I should have invited over five friends so we could have a tostilocos party. Nothing says wild and crazy times like a small bag of chips I bought at a gas station and some shit I found in the back of my fridge.

The salsa verde flavor of the chips adds a nice compliment to the toppings, but you could substitute just about any spicy-flavored tortilla chip to get the same effect. I’m willing to bet that the tostilocos that they make in Mexico have a much more interesting and varied flavor than the ones recommended on the back of the bag. As it stands, with just a little more effort, you could make some real nachos at your house, on a real plate, without having to become the dreaded sour cream hand monster with a bag full of mess.

Tostilocos Mess

  • Score: 3 out of 5 niños selling chicle for the chips alone; 2 out of 5 napkins for the tostilocos
  • Price: $1.99, not including toppings
  • Size: 5 1/2 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Circle K
  • Nutritional Quirks: There may be six servings in a bag, but if you make tostilocos, whatever you don’t eat then is lost forever.

José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas

The simplest explanation of the second law of thermodynamics describes the fact that heat, of its own volition, always flows into cold. This tendency has been observed and expanded over the years by science, leading to a much more profound truth: nature tends toward higher levels of uniformity, or entropy. Simply put, the Universe is constantly striving for mediocrity.

This brings me to José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas.


Packaging: Right out of the gate, José Olé starts writing checks his empanadas can’t cash, and it all begins with the ingredient list. There are a total of 87 ingredients in the list, which sprawls across one side of the box like a mural of the periodic table of elements, and I’m beginning to doubt the bold claim of “Authentic Flavor” emblazoned on the front. This feeling of grave concern was immediately compounded by the appearance of American Process Cheese Product nestled among the assorted dubious quackery and unrequested (but ultimately insightful) diarrhea treatments.

The reflex reaction of any sane man would be to immediately set fire to the entire grocer’s freezer containing José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas, as an act of simultaneous protest and purification. However, there were two mitigating factors that resulted in another evening spent comfortably at home, rather than enjoying the austere hospitality of the Maricopa County criminal justice system. First, the proprietors of Junk Food Betty are not what you’d call “together”, in the psychological sense. Second, there is an inviting visage smiling warmly from the box.

The Face of Flavor
The Face of Flavor

I can only assume that this handsome, distinguished gentleman is the eponymous Señor Olé, beaming powerful waves of avuncular sincerity directly to my father-figure cortex. Here, I thought to myself, is a man who is to be trusted and respected. Here is a man who will deliver Authentic Flavor at a reasonable price, because he is a man of strong moral integrity. From under the soaring brim of his majestic hat, he commands one to “Taste the Fiesta!” Very well, José Olé, you pillar of convenient ethnic cuisine, I will taste your fiesta.

Preparation: There are three proffered preparation procedures present on the package. I chose the mean method in terms of labor – baking – though the paths of microwaving and pan-frying are also available to the discriminating consumer (who, incidentally, will not be purchasing José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas). After twenty minutes in a preheated 375 °F oven, I was ready to open my mouth and my heart to receive La Fiesta. I was feeling optimistic because, unlike other pre-fried products that bake, I did not have to flip the empanadas halfway through cooking. This is because José Olé knows what a hassle it is to heave my decaying corpus off the couch twice in twenty minutes.

Dining Experience: I can only assume it’s due to the highly ferrous nature of the product, but José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas manage to maintain a steady 10,000 °F internal temperature for like twenty goddamned minutes. It’s as if the act of heating them ignited a self-sustaining fusion reaction deep within their chickeny cores.

Once the product had cooled, and been sifted out of the smoking rubble of my once-palatial residence, I noted with appreciation that the empanadas looked, on the outside, strikingly identical to those depicted in the packaging. With trembling hands and a grumbling stomach, I bisected the golden brown pastry and peered into the transcendent face of Authentic Flavor:


You wound me, José Olé.

Elevated to astronomical heights of ecstatic anticipation, the first bite flooded my mouth with a blandness almost intimidating in its aggression. The experience was something like eating a tight bundle of Kraft Singles deep-fried in a wonton wrapper. The aftertaste of the product creates a wave of salty regret. I continued to eat, desperately chasing the fleeting dream of La Fiesta.

To be honest, there are moments when the empanada isn’t offensive. Here and there, you’ll experience a bite where the chicken and chilis do come through. Unfortunately, this is interspersed with intervals of American Process Cheese Product Purgatory, and long, harrowing moments of introspection. The final result is a confusing, bitter dining experience, which wasn’t made any better by the laughing mug of José Olé staring me down with a mirth I now understand to be the savage joy of the betrayer.

On the bright side, I was reasonably full after the whole ordeal was over. The empanadas are filling enough that you won’t be hungry for the hours-long bout of ennui that follows eating them. Furthermore, none of the 87 ingredients were immediately lethal. Overall, however, oral consumption of José Olé Chicken & Cheddar Empanadas is tantamount to yelling “fuck you, mouth!” and then punching yourself in the teeth with a salt lick.

  • Score: Dos sándwiches de carne de vacuno infeliz.
  • Price: $6.39, $5.59 on sale
  • Size: 1 lb.
  • Purchased at: Albertson’s #980
  • Nutritional Quirks: 87 ingredients, some of which are magnetic

Doritos Nacho Cheese Flavor Shots Atomic Chile Limon

Doritos Flavor Shots Chile Limon

Doritos has been going off the rails for years now, from their “X-13D Flavor Experiment” to “The Quest” to their recent “Late Night” line.  The Flavor Department (I’d like to think such a thing exists) has been given carte blanche to create whatever gimmick they conjure up in their fevered delusions, and that is why we have things like Doritos Flavor Shots.

I have chosen Atomic Chile Limon, but you can also treat your taste buds to Blazin’ Buffalo Rush.  The complicated process, as illustrated on the back of the bag, is as follows:

  1. Open the bag.
  2. Take out the “flavor shot”, which is a little packet that looks just like the packet on the front of the bag, except it comes in a little clear wrapper that makes you think you’re pulling a toy out of a cereal box, except instead of being covered in sugar, it’s covered in nacho cheese flavoring, and instead of being a toy, it’s a packet of atomic flavor.
  3. Open the packet (the clear packet protecting the flavor packet actually opens quite easily, which I found surprising; I expected an epic five-minute battle culminating in a pair of scissors) and sprinkle the impossibly neon orange powder inside into your bag of chips.  This is described on the bag as “unleashing flavor”.
  4. Experience the “FULL FLAVOR FORCE!”

The base chips, as proclaimed on the bag, are indeed identical to Doritos’s nacho cheese flavored chips, so if you drop the flavor packet on the floor of your car, at least you’ve got nacho cheese as a backup.  I unleashed the flavor and shook the bag for a few seconds to ensure as even a distribution of the powder as possible.  I then made the mistake of opening the bag and sticking my nose in it, which was kind of like snorting a line of chili powder.  After I could think again, I figured this was a positive sign; at least the chile part of the chile limon was present.

The first chip I picked looked like it had about half the powder from the flavor packet on it, which I had figured would happen, seeing as how I am a human being lazily shaking a bag of chips for a few seconds and not a giant metal cylinder constantly rotating a batch of corn chips while a line of nozzles evenly sprays flavoring on them for what I’m sure is a well-researched period of time.  Which started to get me kind of irritated.  You know, Doritos, I’m not paying you for atomic chips so that I can then do all the work.  I don’t go to a restaurant so that I then have to cook my own food, and I don’t buy a bag of chips so that I have to add my own flavoring.  I buy a bag of chips because I’m a lazy fuck who can barely muster up the strength to open the bag itself, let alone struggle with a double-wrapped packet of neon orange powder.

Inappropriate anger over chip gimmicks aside, the first chip’s flavor was actually rather mild.  Between the blast of pain my nose received and the thick coating of powder on the chip, I was expecting the FULL FLAVOR FORCE! that was promised to me on the bag.  Instead, I got the flavor of a nacho cheese Dorito, with a hint of chile flavor and some spice on the back end.  Not very atomic.  However, I ate a few more to give them a chance and finally came upon one that delivered.  The only hint of limon I detected in the first couple of chips was probably only in my imagination, but this was was fairly bursting with what I can only describe as artificially flavored margarita mix with some chili powder mixed in.  The lime-ish flavor recedes, but as you eat more chips, the spice starts to build in your mouth not unpleasantly.  I wouldn’t call it fiery hot, but if you’re a giant sissy, you might find yourself fanning your own mouth and reaching for a glass of milk.

Resentment over having to do all the flavor work aside, I probably won’t be buying another bag of Doritos Nacho Cheese Flavor Shots Atomic Chile Limon chips again.  I’m just not that fond of chips that taste like a non-alcoholic, spicy margarita.  It almost makes me think of lime Lifesavers, which I believe no longer exist, which makes me feel old.  Not to mention, I do not believe chips should taste like fruit-flavored candy.  The strikes are piling up against you, Doritos.

In conclusion, if you like fruity chips, or you like the idea of violently shaking a bag of chips until it is nothing but crumbs, these Flavor Shots may be for you.  If you like the latter but aren’t too crazy about the former, you could always try the other Flavor Shots flavor, Blazin’ Buffalo Rush.  I will say this for them, though – out of all the Doritos flavors I’ve tried over the years, I’ve never encountered any that taste like a spicy margarita.  Points for uniqueness.  Well, maybe not points.  Point.  Half a point.

  • Score: 2 out of 5 hamburgers
  • Price: $1.29
  • Size: 2 1/5 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Circle K
  • Nutritional Quirks: The flavor packet adds 25% more sodium to the chips.