Tag Archives: 3 burgers

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa

The Naked Chicken Chalupa was in one test market in 2015 and another in 2016, and I read that it took two years to develop. Can you imagine being the person in charge for trying to make a fried chicken shell? Day after day, staring at this processed and battered (both literally and figuratively) piece of flat meat, trying through sheer force of will to transmogrify it into something it was never supposed to be?

“This is not how my life was meant to turn out,” he whispers to himself, fingers red and blistered from fry oil. “This was not why I got my Food Science degree. I was supposed to do good in this world.”

…If there’s a plus to rolling up on Taco Bell at 6:03am, it’s that your order is going to be fresh (or as fresh as you can expect). If there’s a drawback, it’s that you’re ordering a Naked Chicken Chalupa three minutes after opening time, and that feels embarrassing.

However, the nice man at the window did warn me that my Chalupa was fresh and therefore hot, which was both kind of him and made me chuckle at the accidental implication that the rest of my order was not, indeed, fresh. You mean the smashed wreckage that is the Meximelt isn’t lovingly crafted on the spot?

He was right though, as the fried chicken shell slightly burned my fingers when I took it out of its protective sleeve (smart move, Taco Bell) to photograph it.

I gotta say, I was surprised at how crunchy and juicy the chicken shell was. And spicy, too! I wasn’t even aware that it was supposed to be spicy, but my lips were slightly burning as I ate it.

Of course, the taco itself was mostly chicken. The sparse innards were your typical fare: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese and avocado ranch sauce. The last ingredient is the only real one of note, as its creamy texture and mild ranch flavor mixed nicely with the spicy chicken. Those bites were rare, but when they came together, it was really a good combo.

It’s disturbing how normal I felt while I was eating the Naked Chicken Chalupa. I mean, I’m eating a taco that has chicken instead of a shell. But really, it was just…eating some chicken. The thick, spicy breading and the moistness of the chicken were great surprises, especially given how pathetic the fillings were. It looks small, but it’s actually quite filling, and I can’t say as I wouldn’t have turned another one down.

Or maybe not, given what happened next.

I don’t often talk about the aftermath of eating the products I review, mostly because there isn’t one. Rarely, I get a surprise color poop, and that’s fun, but otherwise food is just food. In case you can’t tell, we’re going to get real with some toilet talk here. If that disturbs you, a.) why are you even here, and b.) skip the next paragraph.

Almost immediately after consuming the Naked Chicken Chalupa, I started having some pretty bad gas cramps. It was the only thing I’d eaten that morning, so I know it had to be the culprit. Just like any normal human, I get gas occasionally, but never have I had cramps that lasted for eight fucking hours. What I considered even more odd is that, while I was shitting more than usual, I wasn’t exactly wrecking toilets right and left. I’ve just never eaten something that left me in intestinal pain for an entire day, and I felt that was worthy of noting.

Junk Food Betty: Come to stare at gross pictures, stay for the shit jokes, leave a complaint in the comments.

Here’s a fun postscript: if you’re reading this, chances are you can’t actually get your hands on a Naked Chicken Chalupa. I suck at getting reviews out in a timely manner, and apparently this product was a big, fat failure. Less than a month after its premiere, Taco Bell has taken it off the menu. Everything you just read means nothing!

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa

  • Score: 3 out of 5 crampy food scientists
  • Price: $2.99
  • Size: 1 taco
  • Purchased at: Taco Bell #022951
  • Nutritional Quirk: No surprise, the item is no longer listed on Taco Bell’s website, so I can’t access the nutritional information. But given the “condition” I was left in after eating it, I’m assuming the entire taco was actually made of beans.

Doritos Loaded Jalapeño & Cheese

Happy New Year! How was your Christmas? And your…Thanksgiving? My god, how long have I been gone?

If you thought I was dead, fear not, for instead of being dead, I’ve just been in a lazy rut. If I believed in making New Year’s resolutions, mine would be to put out more content this year. But I don’t. So enjoy this review for a product that isn’t even that new!

Doritos Loaded have been around for a while, but I kind of forgot to look for them, until I found myself staring at them recently during a stroll through Walmart. My world shrank. It was just me and the Doritos Loaded. Part of me wanted them, because of you. Part of me wanted them because I was fascinated. And part of me wanted to walk away, because who wants to look someone in the eye while they scan your box of Doritos Loaded?

Thank god Walmart has self-checkout.

These actually began as a fast food offering from Burger King before transitioning to the freezer aisle. Between these and the Doritos Loco Taco, it seems like Doritos will just whore themselves out to any old restaurant. Coming soon: Doritos Orange Chicken at Panda Express!

Conversely, Burger King has gotten cozy with Frito-Lay once more, using a slightly different orange dust to coat their Chicken Fries with Cheetos. Coming soon: The Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles Whopper!

I don’t think BK ever had a jalapeño and cheese version, just the cheese variety. That’s also available in frozen form, but I had to go with the spicy version, of course. The box is strangely…ordinary. Almost like a regular bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. Almost like it’s normal to be eating these.

But don’t worry! As soon as you open the box, you realize you’re getting into something. Each triangle, which is about the size of a chicken nugget, is violently orange, like the most flavor-dusted chip you’d ever find in a bag of tortilla chips. And once you open the bag, damned if it doesn’t smell just like Nacho Cheese Doritos. It’s like you’ve been blessed with a bag of eight very big, fat, neon Doritos. Except you have to cook them.

You’d think such a stonerific food would have a microwave option, but no! If you want to enjoy Doritos dust stuffed with cheese, you gotta fire up that oven. Seems like a lot of effort for a little snack, but after cooking them, I think I can see why they wouldn’t work in the microwave.

Fresh out of the oven, the breaded outside of these guys was very crispy and entirely reminiscent of a jalapeño popper. If you’ve ever tried to reheat poppers in the microwave, the breading turns into a bit of a soggy mess – thus the oven-baking instructions.

Despite the strong odor when I initially opened the bag and the neon orange coloring, Loadeds were pretty light on the actual Doritos flavor. There were hints of that classic Nacho Cheese flavor in the breading, but it definitely lacked the taste of tortilla chips.

Further overshadowing the taste of Doritos, these big ol’ triangles were quite spicy. Which isn’t a complaint; it’s actually a compliment. Those festive little red and green jalapeño bits packed a pleasant punch.

With so many things going for them, Doritos Loaded fails on a pretty important component, which is the cheese filling. Sure, it was gooey and probably very artificial and worked great with the peppers, but these puffy orange pillows were mostly full of hot air. Am I proud of that joke? A little bit. But I’m also a little miffed at Doritos for not filling these things with more cheese. They should be bursting with cheese.

So just to recap, all these words amount to a really simple breakdown: Doritos Loaded are basically deconstructed jalapeño poppers. And while I wanted to be all like, “Ew, gross, so weird,” I love me some jalapeño poppers. It just so happens that these have the Doritos brand on them. And they’re triangles. And they’re bright orange. But beyond the very light nacho cheese flavor in the breading, these could have been any other brand of frozen poppers.

I enjoyed the crispy breading and the level of spice, but there just wasn’t enough cheese. The added flavor to the breading was a nice change-up, but if I’m going to compare them to other frozen poppers, the cheese quantity becomes a real issue.

On the other hand, at least when you bite into them, the whole jalapeño doesn’t come sliding out, depositing molten hot cheese and grease all over your fingers. That’s a nice plus.

Doritos Loaded Jalapeño & Cheese

  • Score: 3 out of 5 neon orange triangle pillows
  • Price: $2.98
  • Size: 8 pieces
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: There are so many ingredients on the side of the box that I tried to count them twice and lost my place. Suffice to say it’s well over 30.

Lay’s Passport to Flavor Wavy Greek Tzatziki and Chinese Szechuan Chicken

lays-passport-to-flavor-wavy-greek-tzatziki-and-chinese-szechuan-chicken-bagsLay’s has come out with four new flavors, and for once they’re not asking you to make agonizing decisions about what should stay and what should go. Instead, they’re running a contest called Passport to Flavor, where you can enter to win…I don’t know, trips to places and stuff. I’m just here for the chips.

Lay’s Wavy Greek Tzatziki

lays-passport-to-flavor-wavy-greek-tzatziki

The first stamp on our flavor passports takes us to Greece. You can tell because there’s a pegasus on the bag! I feel like a pegasus belongs more on the bedroom wall of 11-year-old me than a bag of chips, but hey. There’s also a dove with an olive branch, in case you haven’t been hit over the head with mythology enough.

To finish up the theme, we also have the Parthenon, and a scroll, because…you know…scrolls. I like that Lay’s couldn’t think of anything from Greece that had come about in the last two millenia.

No matter when the Greeks invented it, tzatziki is a baller condiment. And I say that as a great lover of condiments. I never would have thought that I’d be a fan of putting yogurt on meat, but no gyro is complete without the stuff.

The back of the bag has a little blurb that says, “When the Greeks mixed dill, garlic, and other unique spices to yogurt, Tzatziki became a Mediterranean classic! There’s no doubt this creamy flavor will have you saying ‘OPA!’”

I’ve heard people say “OPA!” before, but I was never quite sure what it meant, so I decided to look it up. According to one website, “The actual meaning of “Opa!” is more like “Oops” or “Whoops!” Among Greeks, you might hear it after someone bumps into something or drops or breaks an object.”

The idea of Lay’s telling me that I’ll be saying “Whoops, stubbed my toe eating tzatziki-flavored potato chips!” just tickles me.

What also tickles me is the flavor of these chips. They’re like Sour Cream & Onion’s hairier cousin. It’s simple, but it works: the base flavor of creamy, tangy yogurt, with highlights of bright dill and even a bit of refreshing cucumber. It’s that simple, and it’s spot-on tzatziki. If you like the flavor of this Greek dressing, then you’ll like these Lay’s.

It’s also worth noting that one of the ingredients is “tzatziki seasoning”, which contains natural dill, cucumber, and yogurt flavor, although I’m not entirely sure what natural yogurt flavor means. Powdered yogurt?

Chinese Szechuan Chicken

lays-passport-to-flavor-chinese-szechuan-chicken

Our next stop is China. Your flight was 12 hours long; it totally sucked, but at least you had the aisle seat.

Lay’s has represented China with bamboo, a pagoda, a traditional Chinese dragon and one of those paper lanterns that I associate more with a trip to Party City than China itself.

The poor Szechuan chicken on the bag doesn’t even get the dignity of being placed on a plate; it’s just represented in a take-out box, delivered to a young couple in love who just got their first studio apartment, eaten while they sit on the bare floor and make Goo Goo Gai Pan eyes at each other.

“The regional Sichuan pepper is where takeout favorite Szechuan Chicken gets its name. Why wait for delivery – we’ve got the tongue-tingling sensation of ‘málà’ right here!”

It seems like the theme for Lay’s Passport to Flavor is to use one foreign word per cringingly caps lock-filled blurb on the back of their bags. I’d never heard of málà before, so I looked it up, and apparently it’s a “popular oily, spicy, and numbing Chinese sauce which consists of Sichuanese peppercorn, chili pepper and various spices simmered with oil.”

“The term málà is a combination of two Chinese characters: “numbing” (麻) and “spicy (hot)” (辣), referring to the feeling in the mouth after eating the sauce. The numbness is caused by Sichuan pepper, which contains 3% hydroxy-alpha-sanshool,” Wikipedia goes on to educate me, combining etymology and science into one compressed lesson.

I’ve had Chinese food many times, but I’ve never had Szechuan chicken. I was worried that this would impact my ability, but luckily (maybe?) Lay’s seemed to have me covered, seizing my taste buds with chopstick-like precision. I don’t know what that means.

My first chip flooded my mouth with chicken bullion flavor, but was quickly followed up with strong notes of soy sauce, peppers (both with flavor and heat) and then a hint of something bizarrely nostril-clearing. Wasabi? Horseradish?

This seemed out of character with the flavors of Szechuan chicken, but maybe it was the málà at play? Very curious indeed.

Some of the ingredients listed include actual roasted Szechuan peppers and “natural Szechuan wok type flavor”, which is a mysterious phrase for an ingredient. Gotta love that natural wok (type) flavor.

All of these flavors complemented each other nicely and created a complex mélange that would be delicious as part of a Chinese meal, but doesn’t make for a very snackable potato chip. It’s just too rich and intense to eat more than a few chips at a time.

Lay’s Passport to Flavor Wavy Greek Tzatziki and Chinese Szechuan Chicken

  • Score (Wavy Greek Tzatziki): 4 out of 5 awesome pegasi
  • Score (Chinese Szechuan Chicken): 3 out of 5 wok type flavors
  • Price: $5.98 (for an embarrassingly large multipack of 20 bags of Lay’s)
  • Size: 1 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: The Chinese Szechuan Chicken flavor contains THREE different chicken ingredients! (Broth, powder and fat)

 

 

 

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken ContainerI always get excited when KFC comes out with something new, because they’re pretty unique in the fast food arena in that they’re not coming out with a new menu item every week. In fact, I’ve been doing this review thing for [checks imaginary watch] seven years now and I can count my KFC reviews on one hand.

Can we also talk about the new Colonel? If you gave me five million guesses as to what Norm MacDonald would be doing in 2016, I never would have guessed “being Colonel Sanders”. Also, that would be a really exhausting game. “Being Burt Reynolds” probably would have come up at least a dozen times.

Okay, focus. KFC’s new Nashville Hot Chicken was first test marketed in Pittsburgh. Just joshing, it was test marketed in Nashville.

…Wait, no, it really was test marketed in Pittsburgh. What?

Perhaps they were afraid Nashvillains, which I am totally calling people from that city from now on, would disapprove, and Nashville Hot Chicken would never live to see its nationwide release.

You see, Nashville Hot Chicken is a real thing, with a storied history that would be far too long for me to explain here, and is already explained very eloquently in that article.

To put it overly simply, Nashville Hot chicken is fried chicken that’s hot, and it comes with dill pickle slices. Count me all in.

KFC’s website sucks at telling you about their menu options, so I’ll inform you right now that you can get Hot Chicken in 1-piece, 2-piece or 8-piece options. I found this odd, and dubbed them “Why Bother, Decent Lunch, and Fat Man Party Time”.

They also offer Tenders, but I forgot to note their quantities because stop being a pussy and just eat your bone-in chicken. (I’m allowed to say that because I used to be one of those pussies.)

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken

I chose Decent Lunch, which came with a biscuit and a small coleslaw. I was not aware of the latter part until I got my Decent Lunch home. Nobody asked me what side I wanted. I would have chosen mashed potatoes, of course. The last time I ate KFC coleslaw was about 20 years ago. It turns out I still hate it.

Oh, right, the chicken. Here’s how KFC’s “we’ll tell you about our food but not how much you can buy” website describes it: “Get that flavorful, spicy, smoky Nashville Hot Chicken. Now with pickles! It’s finger lickin’ hot! (The chicken, not the pickles. The pickles are more like soothing lozenges for your mouth.)”

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken Skin

Here’s how I describe it: not smoky, barely spicy. Quite the review, right? Honestly, though, that’s about it. The chicken was moist, which was good. The batter was crunchy and medium-thick, which was also good. But the Hot was only a mild build of spicy heat, and I only detected a bit of smoky in a few bites. The bright spot was a mild peppery spice that worked well with the batter and the chicken.

Even the pickles were sad – they were the exact same ones you’d see on a shitty McDonald’s burger. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I felt like the pickles were part of the whole experience, so they should have been better.

In the end, I was left with a red grease slick on my fingers that made me wonder why it was there when the heat wasn’t. Sure, there was a little spice, but not enough to need a pickle lozenge. I feel like KFC did a disservice to the name Nashville Hot Chicken.

In its defense, it was a lot better than the bucket of regular KFC chicken I bought along with it, which had a super-thin batter and was soggy like it had been sitting around for half a day. Has KFC’s regular chicken declined, or does my local restaurant just suck?

So, I’ve spent the majority of this review shitting on KFC’s Nashville Hot Chicken, and now I’m going to turn around and tell you to try it. It’s actually pretty tasty; it just fell short of my expectations in both the spicy and the smoky departments. But hey, it’s something new and different from KFC! That doesn’t come around too often, so give it a go.

Or, if you live in Nashville, get some real Hot Chicken.

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken

  • Score: 3 out of 5 pickle lozenges
  • Price: $5.79
  • Size: 2-piece meal
  • Purchased at: KFC #D212071
  • Nutritional Quirk: No nutritional info on their website, but I could tell from the red grease slick that covered my fingers that this is not health food.

Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies Limited Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies Limited Edition

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

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

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

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

Hostess Pumpkin Spice Twinkies Limited Edition

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

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Finalists 2015: New York Reuben, Southern Biscuits and Gravy, Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries, Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 BagsSo, apparently Lay’s is doing their Do Us a Flavor contest every year now, which is perfectly fine by me, minus the fact that I have to keep typing “Do Us a Flavor” which makes me want to murder the entire Frito-Lay marketing division. But as long as the weird flavors keep coming, I’ll keep buying them!

Are you curious about these four new 2015 finalists, but don’t want to spend $10+ and take up an entire shelf of your cupboard? Well, that’s why I’m here to break them down for you in one giant post. And poke a little fun at the people behind the flavors in the process, because that’s just how I roll.

New York Reuben

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 New York Reuben Picture

I gotta hand it to Lay’s, the photos of the actual food on the bags look goddamn delicious; so much so that I wanted to showcase each of them more closely. They almost look too delicious, in that, after staring at the bag, I wanted to eat the actual food and not just a chip pretending to be the food.

There was a method to the madness that was tasting all these flavors, but I can’t remember what it was. I ate so many potato chips. Regardless, I started with New York Reuben, an iconic sandwich served in delis. And if you live in New York, one particular deli. (Hint: it’s the one where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm.)

Let’s look at the man behind the flavor first:

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 New York Reuben Creator

Meet Jeff Solensky of DuBois, PA. Before you start ranting about how Jeff isn’t even from New York, please note that he grew up in Long Island. He buries this lead by starting off telling you he works in a restaurant. I feel like Jeff is being real defensive, here. “Hey, I work in a restaurant and I’m from New York, so I know what corned beef should taste like, motherfuckers.”

I shouldn’t put words in Jeff’s mouth, though. He looks like a very nice man.

A traditional reuben sandwich consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread. Knowing this, I was expecting a tangy chip with cheese and maybe a faint, unsettling beef flavor.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 New York Reuben Chips

I got none of that. Well, that’s not entirely true. What I did get was an overabundance of rye. Rye! Out of all the core aspects of a reuben, it wasn’t the bread that I was expecting to dominate the flavor of the chip.

If I closed my eyes and imagined real hard, there was a teensy bit of twang that could resemble Russian dressing, or maybe an off-base version of kraut. But in the end, it’s all rye all the time. You know those addictive Gardetto’s Roasted Garlic Rye Chips? It was like eating a flimsy version of those, except with no garlic flavor at all. So I guess the best thing I can say about Lay’s New York Reuben is that they sure did nail rye bread, and that makes for just as boring of a chip as you’d imagine. You could say this flavor went a-rye.

Southern Biscuits and Gravy

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Southern Biscuits and Gravy Picture

From the Northeast we now travel to the South! In case you didn’t quite catch on, this year’s DUaF has a regional flair to it. I had mixed feelings before opening this one – on the one hand, I sure do love a good plate of biscuits and gravy. On the other hand – sausage chips.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Southern Biscuits and Gravy Creator

This flavor comes to us via Hailey Green of Noblesville, IN. Again, you might be wondering what the hell somebody from Indiana is doing talking about southern cooking, but, like Jeff, she has a good reason: her grandparents are from Tennessee, and her Nonnie makes some kickass biscuits and gravy. You know this shit is serious because she calls her grandma “Nonnie”.

Wait, I just looked it up and apparently “Nonnie” is Italian for “grandmother”. I thought it was some sort of Southern term of endearment. What the hell, Hailey?

After the disappointment of New York Reuben, I had cautious optimism about Southern Biscuits and Gravy. As I mentioned, I really like this food, so I hoped it would go well and not horribly wrong.

Upon opening the bag, my nostrils were filled with the smell of promise. These chips smelled exactly like country gravy. My mouth started watering.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Southern Biscuits and Gravy Chips

And I gotta say, the taste did not disappoint. If it seems gross to describe the flavor of a potato chip as creamy, keep in mind that sour cream and onion is one of the most popular potato chip flavors out there.

Which is interesting, because while Southern Biscuits and Gravy totally tasted like country gravy while I was chewing, there was a little sour cream and onion taste afterward.

Admittedly, there wasn’t much of a biscuit flavor happening, but the creamy gravy flavor was definitely there, complete with a nice black pepper kick (you can see little black flecks on the chips). There’s even a hint of sausage, but not disturbingly so.

Lay’s often uses dark magic to make their chips taste like other foods, and this is one of those times. The little sour cream and onion at the end was not off-putting, nor was the hint of sausage. These chips nailed the Southern Biscuits and Gravy flavor without hitting that Uncanny Valley flavor that can sometimes happen with weird-flavored chips. I will definitely be finishing these.

Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries Picture

First off, I had no idea that truffle fries were a thing before I saw these Lay’s chips, and I grew up on the west coast. Not that that makes me an expert on all things culinary from that region, but I feel like I should at least know that these things exist. I guess I’m just not highfalutin enough.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries Creator

Luckily, Angie Fu of Irvine, CA knows all about them. Angie has a compulsion disorder to immediately order truffle fries any time she sees them on a menu, so it makes sense that she would submit this idea to Lay’s. “Please enable my crippling addiction to truffle fries by making them available in my pantry at all times,” she pleads, desperately wringing her hands.

In case you are in the dark as I was, truffle fries are french fries tossed with truffle oil and often topped with parmesan cheese, black pepper and parsley. Ingredients may vary, but this seems to be the most popular application.

And, in case you don’t know what truffle oil tastes like, which I also have never experienced, it apparently has a very earthy taste and aroma, akin to mushrooms. Which, believe it or not, I have tasted. So at least there’s that.

The first whiff was promising: cheesy, a little musky, and overall mouth-watering. Every year, Lay’s seems to follow the formula of two regular chips, one Wavy and one Kettle Cooked, and they chose Wavy for West Coast Truffle Fries, which I believe was a good choice, because truffle fries tend to be steak-cut and the thicker texture of Wavy Lay’s sort of emulates that.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries Chips

And that first smell was spot-on. The parmesan flavor was the most prominent, making for a great flavor that wasn’t just generically “cheesy” but actually tasted of parmesan.

As I chewed, the truffle came in. With a strong aromatic like that, it could easily overwhelm all the other flavors, but it came in subtle, adding that trademark earthiness of truffles. I could even taste (and see) the little flecks of parsley playing backup.

And the ingredients list reads just as exotic as the chips’ namesake: romano and parmesan cheeses, duck fat, and actual black truffle. If these chips taste authentic, that’s because they used authentic ingredients, which is probably why I enjoyed the hell out of this flavor.

I hope you’ve stocked your pantry, Angie.

Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Picture

Next, we head to…Greektown, wherever that is.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Creator

Oh, according to James Wagner of Wichita Falls, TX, it’s in Wichita Falls, TX. Or, more accurately, “there’s a great little Greek place in town”, which makes it qualify for Greektown.

You know, there’s more than one place near where I live that offer some pretty awesome gyros. Does that mean I also live in Greektown? Have you ever had a good gyro, and if so, does that mean you also live in Greektown? Perhaps with this flavor, Lay’s is sending us a message: “We’re all Greektown, America! We don’t need to fight over regional foods!”

Which kind of goes against the previous three flavors, but hey.

Just because We Are All Greektown doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve tried a gyro from your local Mediterranean joint, so I will help you out. A gyro is a magical thing, consisting of spiced lamb meat cooked on a giant vertical spit, onions, tzatziki sauce, onions and tomatoes. (And sometimes lettuce.) It’s all wrapped in a warm pita, and dammit just talking about it makes me want one right now.

Remember how I talked about the Uncanny Valley of junk food with Southern Biscuits and Gravy? Well, Lay’s used their dark magic again, and managed to make Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro taste exactly like everything I just described above. This time, however, they went too far, and they fell straight into the Valley.

When I first opened the bag, my nose was confused. Nothing really stood out, it was just a murky mess of odor that smelled like nothing I could accurately describe. This left me suspicious.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist 2015 Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Chips

It also left me unprepared for what was to come when I put the first chip in my mouth. Kettle Cooked Lay’s seem to be the best at gripping flavor dust, and each Greektown Gyro chip was loaded with it. Unlike the murky smell, the flavor was very distinct.

First came the tzatziki sauce, that bright flavor of Greek yogurt, cucumber and dill. And then, tomatoes. As I delved further into the bag, onion joined the party, and last but certainly not least, the distinct flavor of gyro meat.

It was all there. A gyro in a chip. An amazing accomplishment, but unfortunately, also an unsettling one. I could only eat a few chips at a time before I had to put them away, my mouth confused, pleased, disturbed. Then I’d go back to them and get the same feeling.

So if you’ve been seriously hankering for all the wonderful elements of a gyro packed into one tiny chip, Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro is your thing. Just be ready for a serious flavor shock to your mouth.

Phew! Lotta words, right guys? But we got through all four of this year’s Do Us a Flavor finalists. What did we learn? First off, I will say that I’m thankful there were no fruit- or coffee-flavored entries this year. I also learned that New York Reuben skipped pretty much everything that makes a reuben a reuben and went straight to the rye bread, for some reason.

I learned that the junk food Uncanny Valley is a fine line, and Southern Biscuits and Gravy skirted that line to delicious success, while Kettle Cooked Greektown Gryo crossed that line, tasting too much like a gyro for my mouth to handle.

And finally, Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries taught me that I might actually want to try truffle fries in the future. This was easily the most snackable flavor out of the four, and used authentic ingredients to achieve that. I can see Truffle Fries winning this thing, and I’d gladly pick up another bag if it does (or before that, since I’m currently running on crumbs).

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Finalists 2015

  • Score (New York Reuben): 1 out of 5 wry rye jokes
  • Score (Southern Biscuits and Gravy): 4 out of 5 Southern Nonnies
  • Score (Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries): 4.5 out of 5 truffle compulsion disorders
  • Score (Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro): 3 out of 5 Uncanny Valley chips
  • Price: $2.48 (each)
  • Size: 8 oz. bag (each)
  • Purchased at: walmart.com
  • Nutritional Quirk: While most of the ingredients lists said things like [name of flavor] seasoning, Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries included duck fat and black truffle. So fancy!

Skittles Orchards

Skittles Orchards BagI’m taking liberties in calling Skittles Orchards “new”, but they’re still the newest Skittles, so I’m okay with that. I was actually aware of (and excited for) these when they came out, but then something distracted me, probably something important like a slow-motion video of a dog failing at catching food, and time got away from me.

But now here we are! Not only with a bag of Skittles Orchards, but with a Very Important Topic that I’ve been wanting to discuss for a long time.

Lime Skittles.

If you’ve read this site for any amount of time, I’m sure you can smell a rant coming, and your cybernose would be correct. Shit’s about to get real.

You see, in early 2013 and with understandably no fanfare, Lime was ousted in favor of Green Apple in every bag of Original Skittles. No big deal, right? WRONG. YOU ARE SO WRONG. And if you don’t believe me, look at the over 200 (and still rising) comments posted on Candy Blog’s coverage of the change.

I’m going to take a controversial stance here: green apple sucks. Lime is awesome. And this replacement isn’t isolated to Skittles; it seems like green apple is the go-to for green candy and lime has just been thrown aside like common trash. Lime is the Jon Snow of candy flavors, and, much like that Watcher’s fate, everyone knows it’s totally unfair. Unfortunately, unlike Jon Snow, I don’t see redemption in Lime’s storyline. Spoiler?

Skittles did throw Lime a bone, however – in what can in no way be a coincidence, Darkside Skittles came out at almost the exact same time Lime disappeared, and Darkside includes the mysteriously-monikered Midnight Lime. Which is exactly like regular Lime, except you can no longer mash it together with it’s friend Lemon unless you buy a bag of Original to do so.

So, yeah. You could say I have strong feelings about Lime Skittles.

What does any of this have to do with Skittles Orchards, you ask? While I would feel perfectly justified in saying “Nothing at all, I just needed to get that off my chest,” Skittles Orchard also includes Lime! Spoilers?

Skittles Orchards Flavors

I’m happy to report that all the fruit flavors represented in Orchards do, indeed, actually grow in orchards. I know this sounds like a simple point to get right, but you never know when it comes to snack foods.

If you grew up in SoCal, like I did, you automatically know that oranges grow in orchards because your grandparents loved to point out exactly which part of your home city used to be one. At length.

If you married someone from the East Coast, like I did, you know red apples grow in orchards because you get to hear about family outings to go pick apples. At length.

If you majored in English in college, like I did, you know that cherries grow in orchards because you had to read The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov and then write about it. At length.

If you live in Georgia…well, I’ve never lived in Georgia, but I’m sure anyone who does is intimately familiar with their orchards.

As for lime, well, I drew conclusions based on my citrusy upbringing. I’m actually convinced that Lime was included in Orchards solely due to the outcry of Skittles lovers everywhere who were just outraged about the Green Apple change. I also assume they purposefully dodged that bullet again by making the Apple flavor Red.

Skittles Orchards

Lime: It seemed like Orchards Lime was a little darker-colored than Original Lime, but that old flavor was definitely there. Juicy and a little tart. I missed you, Lime!

Red Apple: I was looking forward to this, as it’s an interesting new flavor to include, albeit a perfect fit for Orchards. I’m pleased to report that Red Apple has almost nothing in common with its Green Apple kin. It was not at all candy-like, like Green, and had an earthy apple flavor that was actually a little bitter and not very sweet. It’s a strange flavor for a candy, but it’s definitely unique.

Orange: I feel like this was a more aggressive orange flavor than the one in Original, but I’m pretty positive my mind was just playing tricks on me. I mean, c’mon, it’s Orange.

Cherry: Unlike what the back of the bag would leave you to believe, Cherry and Red Apple were remarkably similar in color. Unless you’re eating your Skittles in good lighting, chances are you’re going to get them confused. Sorry, moviegoers. Minus the surprise of getting Red Apple in with your Cherry, there was nothing new here. Bright, juicy cherry flavor, mercifully with only a hint of that cough medicine taste I hate so much.

Peach: I’ve never been a fan of peach-flavored candy, and Skittles did nothing to change my mind here. That said, in the name of objectivity, the peach flavor was bold and juicy, so if you’re a fan of peach candy, Peach Orchards will do you just fine.

Skittles Orchards is a perfectly fine bag of candy, but there’s not much new under the sun here. Orange was obviously straight out of the Original vat. Lime is lime, which, yay, but that’s already present in Darkside’s Midnight Lime. It’s been a while since I’ve had a bag of Wild Berry Skittles, but I’m pretty sure Cherry is just Wild Cherry from there.

I was going to say that Peach is already in Skittles Desserts, but a quick search tells me that I’m wrong. So, okay, two out of the five flavors are unique. Given the glut of candies out there, that’s not too bad.

Even though I don’t like peach flavoring, Peach really popped. Anyone who likes that flavor will like this Skittle. As for Red Apple, I have mixed feelings. It’s a very unique flavor, but I’m not sure it belongs in a bag of Skittles. I just don’t think it’s sweet enough for most candy lovers and feels out of place, even though it’s thematically correct. Plus, why so close in color to Cherry?

I’m always happy to see a new Skittles flavor hit the shelves, so I really don’t have too many gripes against Skittles Orchards. It’s a cute idea and it has Lime in it, and I feel like Peach is a flavor that should already exist in Skittles form. That said, Red Apple is a misstep and the other flavors are recycled, so I think I’ll stick with my Darksides.

Skittles Orchards

  • Score: 3 out of 5 LIME LIME LIME LIME
  • Price: $2.49
  • Size: 14 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: Lime.

Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs BagI love that Cheetos has been engaging in the holiday spirit lately. The holidays usually belong to the world of candy and cookies. First there was Bag of Bones, and now there’s Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs.

On paper, the name shows no affiliation whatsoever with a holiday, but on bag, Cheetos Sweetos are Easter Central.

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs Chester Cheetah Easter Bunny

Chester Cheetah, one of my favorite snack mascots, is totally ready to party. He’s rocking the same cheap bunny-ear headband you yourself could buy at Party City, but he refuses to part with his trademark sunglasses. Then again, the sky is blue and the grass is green, so maybe he’s just being smart and protecting his eyes from the springtime sun.

He’s obviously on an Easter egg hunt, and he’s already grabbed some sweet finds for his basket – I spot “Monster Eyes” egg, “Charlie Brown, pastel style” egg, and what looks like a timely tribute to Barney the dinosaur.

But Chester’s after the best eggs of all – that’s right, Sweetos are shaped like decorated Easter eggs!

Except…why is this not in the name? Why not call them Sweetos Eggos? Oh…wait. Right. Actually, I can’t think of a single Easter pun that would work in this context, which is a rare  for me. So I guess I should stop bashing Cheetos for going with “Cinnamon Sugar Puffs”. Rhyming Cheetos and Sweetos is good enough for me.

When I first heard of Sweetos, I was pretty excited (like I do) and brought them up in conversation several times. Each time, I got the same response: “Ew, gross!”

I don’t understand this knee-jerk reaction at all. What’s with the immediate revulsion to the idea of cinnamon sugar puffs? My brain instantly went to Taco Bell (like I do) and their Cinnamon Twists.

I haven’t purchased these in at least a decade, what with having to save that precious stomach room for one extra Meximelt, but Cinnamon Twists are a tasty treat and I dare you to say otherwise. It’s the closest thing you’re going to get to a churro without going to the fair. Or Disneyland.

Upon opening my Sweetos bag, I was hit a strong, delicious aroma that I immediately recognized: Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of my favorite cereals, so I was off to a good start.

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

Cheetos Sweetos (why yes, I do enjoy saying that) could taste like dog turds and I still couldn’t deny them the kudos that the snack’s shape deserves. Each one is distinctly egg-shaped instead of just oval, with a larger base and narrower tip. And each one has two “stripes” that work both aesthetically and as a support structure to the shape. Despite their delicate texture, which was way less dense than a regular Cheeto, very few of my Sweetos were broken.

And yes, I was totally right – they taste a lot like Taco Bell Cinnamon Twists. Vindication, naysayers! They were very light and airy, but all had a generous amount of flavor dust on them. That’s another good reason to include the stripes – more surface area for the dust to cling to!

If only that dust carried more sugar. This is Cheetos Sweetos’ biggest downfall – the cinnamon is fine, but I found the sugar coating to be lacking. If I’m going to eat a cinnamon sugar snack, I want it to be cavity-inducing. This left them tasting a little flat.

The corn base is so airy that it tastes like almost nothing, which is kind of the point. The cinnamon and sugar should mask all corn. Again, the cinnamon does its job, but there’s only a little bit of sugar.

I might be wrong, but I can’t think of any snack out there on store shelves that’s like Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs. And, since these are a Limited Time flavor, soon they’ll be gone forever, too.

I was going to say that I wish Cheetos Sweetos would stick around forever, but I kind of enjoy that such a thing is only available for a limited time. This is probably because I have to believe Sweetos will be back for another holiday. Tiny flag puffs for 4th of July, maybe?

Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

  • Score: 3 out of 5 Easter Bunny Chester Cheetahs
  • Price: $2.49
  • Size: 7 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirk: With brown sugar, sugar and molasses listed as ingredients, you’d think my sweet tooth would be more entertained.

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread: All Original, Black Pepper and Red Chile & Garlic

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread All Original Black Pepper Red Chile & Garlic JarsI’m not one to back down from a food challenge. I’d like to think that’s readily apparent. So when I was given the opportunity to try Bacon Jams, I took a deep breath and did two things:

  1. I looked up The Bacon Jams to make sure this wasn’t some sort of fake product, which it obviously isn’t (although that would make for an interesting review, I guess)
  2. I found out that bacon jam is actually a real thing, and not just some hype invented by this company. In fact, in Austria it has its own much cooler and unassuming name, Verhackert.

I kind of want to call Bacon Jams Bacon Spread Verhackert for the rest of the review, because it just sounds so much better.

I’ll be straight – I try to be objective on all my reviews, but sometimes it’s difficult. This is one of those times. The idea of bacon jam does not give my taste buds any enthusiasm. I just keep thinking of bacon stuck in sweet, gelatinous goo, and it makes my stomach lurch a little.

While my stomach flips, my brain goes on yet another rant about bacon. I love bacon, I’m just so tired of Internet bacon hype. The Bacon Jams seem to be part of this hype.

And while my stomach flips and my brain rages, my heart ventures to ask the question: What if I actually like bacon jam?

I have to say, my heart (but not my arteries) softened a little after I read about The Bacon Jams’ humble beginnings. It was created by a group of home brewers, including a food scientist, and was funded by Kickstarter. After all that, now you can buy it from SkyMall!

Okay, SkyMall went bankrupt, but still.

Knowing that they take their product seriously – despite having a pig playing a guitar as your logo – and this isn’t just some Archie McPhee-style product made me a little less scared to try it.

All Original

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread All Original Jar

I will tell you I almost gave up my profession and changed my address when I opened the All Original jar and there was fat on top. That whole “less scared” thing kind of flew out the window.

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread All Original

I chose toast to spread my jam upon, as it seemed the most bland of the foods I could pick to let the real jam taste shine through.

Part of me wants to tell you that, after all this build-up, Bacon Jams was awful and I immediately vomited into my kitchen sink. But the truth is…it’s not that bad. I know that’s also not a gushing endorsement, but that was how I felt after my first taste of All Natural.

The first taste that comes through is bacon. Reassuring, right? And not Bacon Bits bacon. Not artificial bacon flavor with Liquid Smoke. Honest-to-goodness, cooked on the stove bacon.

Almost immediately after the bacon comes the sweetness. It’s not a cloying sweetness, however. I was immediately reminded of eating bacon after I’d accidentally gotten some syrup from my pancakes on it. Or, maybe you put syrup on your bacon on purpose.

That was it. Sweet, mapley bacon. Oh, and onions. The texture was chunky, but not like crispy bacon. I assume being suspended in jam inevitably softened the bacon itself. I attribute most of the chunkiness to the inclusion of the onions, which worked to make the texture more pleasant as I chewed, keeping it Bacon Jam and not Bacon Jelly, which somehow manages to sound worse.

Red Pepper & Garlic

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread Red Chile & Garlic Jar

I found this flavor to be most intriguing, as red pepper and garlic aren’t flavors you commonly find associated with bacon.

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread Red Chile & Garlic

This was the least bacon-y of the Jams. It’s hard to imagine a food where bacon is the main ingredient not tasting like bacon, but the flavor is definitely muted. Instead, the stand-out here is the onions and garlic. It’s like a sweet onion-garlic spread.

What of the red chile, you ask? I also ask. Because it wasn’t there. I could see it, but I just couldn’t taste the spicy bite of it. Perhaps the fat from the bacon neutralized the heat? All in all, it was the most subtle jam of the three, and the least bacon-y.

Black Pepper

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread Black Pepper Jar

Black Pepper was my favorite of all the Bacon Jams, if I had to pick a favorite.

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread Black Pepper

If you enjoy thick-cut bacon coated with black pepper, this is the Jam for you. It was the most savory of the Jams, which is why I liked it the most. There was still some sweetness there, but that black pepper bite cut through it quite pleasantly. The ever-present onion also complimented the pepper nicely.

After ingesting three slices of The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread toast, my stomach felt a little funky, but I attribute that to the sweetness – which is also my biggest complaint about Bacon Jams. I get that many people like their bacon sweet, and that this is also a jam, but that part just wasn’t my cup of tea.

That said, Bacon Jams is actually a quality product, with goddamn real bacon – which it better have, for the price of $15 per 8 ounce jar. All Original will please maple bacon fans, while those who like a savory bacon (still with some sweetness) might prefer Black Pepper. As for Red Chile & Garlic, it just came off as kind of weak.

While I wouldn’t buy this for myself, I could definitely see others enjoying this on toast, or on top of a bagel schmear, or maybe even on a BLT or grilled cheese. As for The Bacon Jams, they have higher aspirations, whichi were showcased in a nice little recipe book that came with my jar. Some of them I find to be quite a stretch, like S’mores Bacon Jam (hurgh) and Swedish Meat Balls with Bacon Jam Sauce, which sounds like they just made a scary dish scarier.

So, I didn’t throw up, which was good, especially after opening up that first jar. But I didn’t fall in love, either, which is also good, because of how much this stuff costs. If you’ve got the money and love bacon, WHICH IF YOU ARE ON THE INTERNET RIGHT NOW READING THIS I AM SURE THAT YOU DO, then you might try giving it a shot, if just to experience a unique pork product.

[Disclaimer: I received this product for free from The Bacon Jams. This in no way colors the objectivity of my review, as is evidenced by the amount of time I reference vomiting.]

The Bacon Jams Bacon Spread: All Original, Black Pepper and Red Chile & Garlic

  • Score (All Original): 2 out of 5 layers of fat
  • Score (Red Chile & Garlic): 1.5 out of 5 missing chiles
  • Score (Black Pepper): 3 out of 5 Swedish meatballs
  • Price: Free
  • Size: Three 8 oz. jars
  • Purchased at: Delivered for free
  • Nutritional Quirk: Contains real, actual bacon! Also contains only 2 grams of fat per tablespoon serving, which is way lower than I thought it would be.

Quick Pick: Ritz Crackerfuls Bold Buffalo and Ranch Filled Crackers

Ritz Crackerfuls Bold Buffalo and Ranch Filled Crackers BoxThe Good: These ain’t your kids’ sandwich crackers – they have a strong spicy kick with actual buffalo flavor instead of just “generic spiciness”. There’s lots of flavor dust. The filling has some tangy ranch flavor. You can taste that signature buttery Ritz cracker under the buffalo spice.

Ritz Crackerfuls Bold Buffalo and Ranch Filled Cracker and Filling

The Not-So-Good: Because these are sandwich crackers, you may look silly eating them as an adult. In that same vein, kids probably aren’t going to like these because of the heat level. The filling is grainy instead of being creamy. When eaten as a whole Crackerful, the buffalo of the cracker completely overwhelms the ranch. Would have made a better buffalo cracker than a Buffalo and Ranch Crackerful.

  • Score: 3 out of 5
  • Price: $2.50
  • Size: 6 individually wrapped packs of 3 filled crackers
  • Purchased at: Walmart