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Lay’s Passport to Flavor Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala and Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

lays-passport-to-flavor-kettle-cooked-indian-tikka-masala-and-brazilian-picanha-bagsHere we have the last half of the Passport to Flavor varieties. I’m pretty excited about these last two flavors, as they represent some of my favorite flavors. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala

Previously we traveled from Greece to China; now we’re heading off to India. The flight from China to India is only four and a half hours – that’s less than it takes to cross the United States!

Lay’s calls it Indian Tikka Masala, but this dish purportedly originated in Glasgow and is actually a British national dish. In case you weren’t aware, Indian food is insanely popular in the UK.

The pictures Lay’s uses to symbolize India are a lotus flower, an elephant with a fancy…riding thing on its back, something that I’m pretty sure is supposed to be a mandala, and the Taj Mahal. If they were being fair, it would have British things on it, like…rain, and, I don’t know, a TARDIS? Just a big picture of Morrisey on the bag.

Our back-bag blurb for this one says, “Packed with flavorful spices like turmeric and cumin, the tomato-based dish Tikka Masala is a fixture in global cuisine. Open this flavor and bring some khushee to your day!”

I love that Lay’s is trying to teach us foreign languages, one potato chip bag at a time. Here we have the Hindi word khushee, which I learned means joy or happiness! Or picnic. Picnic was also listed as a defintion.

I barely got the bag open before my nose was assaulted with the smell of curry spices. Oh, what a delightful odor!

lays-passport-to-flavor-kettle-cooked-indian-tikka-masala

The chips are an appropriately bright shade of orange, considering that real Tikka Masala is often so violently colored that it looks like it’s going to commit federal crimes on your digestive system.

Unlike the Chinese Szechuan Chicken flavor of Lay’s, the chicken flavor wasn’t super prominent in Indian Tikka Masala. Instead, you’re punched in the mouth with the flavors of tomato, turmeric and cumin, along with a level of heat that is not shabby.

Lay’s definitely captured the essential flavors of Tikka Masala, but managed to do it in a way that isn’t so heavy that you can only eat a few at a time. These are totally munchable, especially if you like your chips with a little bit of a kick. Warning: you’ll definitely crave some solid curry after eating some of these.

Brazilian Picanha

From India we go to Brazil, our final destination. The flight was 19 hours; at this point, you want to kill yourself, but the flight is mostly empty so you get an entire row to yourself so you can lay down. Score! But the only in-flight movie available is Gigli. You win some, you lose some.

Brazil is represented by a sun, a parrot, a soccer- sorry, football, and a palm tree. Damn, I feel like Lay’s really phoned it in for Brazil. Which is especially insulting since these chips came out around the same time as the Olympics.

I’ve never had picanha, but it sounds amazing. There’s a Brazilian steakhouse near me called Fogo de Chão, where people just walk around with giant slabs of meat and cut it off for you right at your table. This sounds like the most amazing thing in the world to me.

Lay’s has a trick up its sleeve with this flavor: in teeny-tiny print under the chip name, it says “Steak & Chimichurri Sauce”.

So maybe I’ve never had proper picanha. But I’ve had the shit out of some chimichurri sauce. It’s like pesto’s Argentinian cousin, except made with parsley and oregano. It’s so, so good. I just got at least 80% more excited about these chips.

Now let’s learn something from Lay’s: “Picanha, the finest cut of Brazilian steak, is skewer-grilled with coarse salt to lock in flavor. Mix in the bright flavors of chimichurri sauce & you’ll be saying ‘mais, por favor!’”

I didn’t have to look this one up, because I have a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish and there’s some overlap into Portuguese, so this obviously means “more, please!” Much easier to understand than the picnic word.

lays-passport-to-flavor-brazilian-picanha

Might as well lay it out there: Brazilian Picanha potato chips taste like actual grilled steak and what dark goddamn magic is Lay’s hiding in their flavor laboratory?

These chips are goddamn delicious. My problem lies with the chimichurri flavor, though. Maybe it’s just my experience, but I was hoping for a stronger presence with more kick. Instead, it was more laid back, throwing some garlic and a little herbiness in with the predominant steak flavoring.

That said, the ingredients list does include everything in chimichurri, even extra virgin olive oil. Once I adjusted my expectations, I found out I liked Brazilian Picanha even more. The steak is the real flavor here, and it shines in all of its unnaturally realistic glory.

These were two solid flavors from Lay’s and a great way to end our Passport to Flavor trip. I hope you had a great trip!

Lay’s Passport to Flavor Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala and Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

  • Score (Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala): 4 out of 5 digestive federal crimes
  • Score (Brazilian Picanha): 4.5 out of 5 men walking around with meat slabs
  • Price: $5.98 (for an embarrassingly large multipack of 20 bags of Lay’s)
  • Size: 1 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: Along with beef fat, Brazilian Picanha also contains “beef extract”. Perhaps we’re better off not knowing what that is.

 

Lay’s Flavor Swap: Smoked Gouda & Chive vs. Cheddar & Sour Cream and Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs vs. Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

Lay's Flavor Swap Smoked Gouda & Chive and Cheddar & Sour Cream PackagesLay's Flavor Swap Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs and Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper PackagesI feel like Lay’s Flavor Swap campaign was designed to make reviewers like myself buy a bunch of different Lay’s potato chips whether we want to or not. In fact, that would be true of the general populace – if you want to vote on which Lay’s flavor you’d like to keep, you basically have to buy all eight bags, or at least four if you’ve got the original flavors already memorized.

In between Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Contests and now Lay’s Flavor Swaps, 25% of my income and 75% of my cupboard space is going to Frito-Lay.

As I mentioned, there are four swaps comprising eight different flavors, four already-existing and four new. I’m covering two swaps in this post and the last two in an upcoming post.

Smoked Gouda & Chive vs. Cheddar & Sour Cream

Right off the bat, Lays’ is going and breaking my heart. I consider Cheddar & Sour Cream to be one of the most perfect potato chip flavor combos. I prefer the Ruffles version, but I’ll definitely reach for some Lay’s in a pinch.

Lay's Flavor Swap Cheddar & Sour Cream

It’s the perfect combination of sharp cheddar and tangy sour cream. Sure, it sounds simple, but that’s why it works. It hits your tongue with enthusiasm. To see such a classic go-to removed from store shelves would be a real blow.

Lay's Flavor Swap Smoked Gouda & Chive

Now, on to the newbie contender: Smoked Gouda & Chive. (I’m keeping the “pre-existing” flavors relatively brief because those are flavors that have been around for quite a few years now.)

In an interesting move, with this flavor they’ve swapped the sour cream with chive, when traditionally sour cream goes with chive in potato chips.

The traditional green flecks meant to represented chive on potato chips are obviously here from the start. Gouda isn’t bright orange like cheddar, so its flavor dust is pretty much invisible.

I gotta say, Smoked Gouda & Chive is pretty fantastic. The chive hit me first, and tasted exactly like the green stuff from Sour Cream & Chive Lay’s. For a split second, that was all I could taste, and I was about to raise my arms in victory for Cheddar & Sour Cream.

But then the Smoked Gouda hit my buds, and damn, it was a fine flavor. They really nailed that smoked cheese taste. I couldn’t have identified it as gouda specifically, but you could really taste that it was a smoked cheese, and as I started to eat more of the chips, the chives and smoked cheese struck a really nice balance.

Verdict: Damn you, Lay’s. Why you gotta make this so hard right off the bat? Okay, okay. I’m going with Smoked Gouda & Chive, but only if you promise me my Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles are safe.

Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs vs. Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

Our original flavor here, Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper, is another favorite of mine. I can see how it would turn some people off, though. The pepper is not only pronounced on the chips but also as a flavor, which some people (pussies) might consider so strong as to be offputting.

Lay's Flavor Swap Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

If you don’t have fresh peppercorns at home that you put in a mill and then crank over pretty much everything you eat, these chips probably come on too strong.

Plus, the sea salt makes them salty even for a potato chip, and it along with the pepper can abrade your mouth after too many chips. Again, stop being a pussy. These taste great.

As per tradition, you can see the little green flecks of herbs on the Olive Oil & Herbs chips. Those herbs are listed specifically as basil, oregano and thyme in the ingredients.

Lay's Flavor Swap Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs

The herbs really pop, specifically the basil and thyme. I feel like the olive oil added a depth of flavor, but that’s one of those bullshit sentences that really means “I think it was there but I can’t really tell you how it tasted.” INSIDER SECRETS!

There were also hints of onion and garlic powder, which don’t count as herbs, but rounded out the flavor profile nicely.

I liked the in-your-face herby flavor, but it felt like familiar territory. I reached into the depths of my swiss cheese brain and shook out the memory of reviewing Lay’s Kettle Cooked Creamy Mediterranean Herb Flavored Potato Chips.

Impressive job, memory! Olive Oil & Herbs taste remarkably similar to these chips that were introduced five years ago and have since gone to that farm upstate where all failed Frito-Lay flavors retire to. I assume they failed because they used the word “Creamy” in the name.

Even beyond these old chips, I still feel like the “herbs and powders” formula has been done before. Olive Oil & Herbs taste just fine, but they’re nothing new and exciting.

Verdict: I’m sticking with Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper. Those herbs just didn’t leave me with enough mouth abrasions.

I was gonna skip the usual round-up, but considering we have some new flavors here, I decided to throw it in. Also, look for the other two Flavor Swaps being reviewed soon on a Junk Food Betty near you!

Lay’s Flavor Swap: Smoked Gouda & Chive and Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs

  • Score (Smoked Gouda & Chive): 4.5 out of 5 “take my Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles out of my cold, dead hands”
  • Score (Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs): 3.5 out of 5 “been there, creamed that”s
  • Price: $2.50 each
  • Size: 8 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Safeway
  • Nutritional Quirk: Not really quirky. Feeling slightly off after eating so many chips.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms PackageIf you’ve girded your loins for an avalanche of pumpkin spice reviews here on Junk Food Betty, prepare to ungird. I just can’t deal with the sheer amount of pumpkin spice that is out there on store shelves and in fast food restaurants.

That said, between the time I purchased these M&Ms and me actually getting around to writing this, I’ve already bought two more pumpkin-flavored items to review. Fuck me.

If that makes it sound like a lot of time has passed between purchase and review, it hasn’t really. It’s just that I have to buy pumpkin spice-flavored items or I will starve to death. And, admittedly, a little time has passed.

Why? Because these M&Ms are such a snooze-fest to me. The only reason I got them at all is because M&Ms got clever and tacked “Latte” on to the end of the flavor name. “Pumpkin Spice? Fuck ’em. Pumpkin Spice Latte? Well in that case…”

I don’t pay a lot of attention to M&Ms, but am I the only one who didn’t notice they added a second sexy female M&M? When did that happen? Last I knew, there was only one female M&M, Green, and she always creeped me out.

I just did some research, and apparently she was added in 2012. And is called Ms. Brown. And is voiced by Vanessa Williams. I’d like to thank my DVR for allowing me to skip over commercials and never notice she existed, until now. Damn you, Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms! Now I’m aware that there’s more than one creepy lady M&M out there.

Ms. Brown does look appropriately comfy in her scarf, though. And don’t think I missed that hipster-barista pumpkin design in the latte foam, either. I will give M&Ms props for that little touch.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms

As you can see, the candies are appropriately orange, dark brown and cream colored. As you can also see, I had a little fun. This is obviously an iced latte because there’s a straw.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms Inside

The candies are larger and fatter than regular milk chocolate M&Ms. They’re closer in shape and size to Peanut Butter M&Ms, I think.

I never tried Pumpkin Spice M&Ms, but I can tell you one thing – Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms nailed it. At first, all I got was chocolate, but then that familiar taste of pumpkin spice invaded. It didn’t come on too strong though, just a light cinnamon and pumpkin flavor that really went great with the chocolate.

Just when I thought I’d gotten all I was going to get out of it, the aftertaste left me with the distinct impression of a latte. Like a real latte, it was heavy on the cream and sugar and light on the coffee, but that taste was definitely there.

While I spent the first part of this review shitting all over pumpkin spice products, I now have to come to you and say that Pumpkin Spice Latte is the best M&Ms flavor I’ve had in a long time, and possibly my favorite holiday M&M flavor of all time. Whaaaat? I know it’s crazy, but the pumpkin spice was subtle and warm instead of pungent and cloying, it worked great with the milk chocolate, and they even managed to hit that latte flavor. It was a little faint, but it was a tall order for M&Ms and they completely pulled it off.

Now I want M&Ms to come out with a whole line of coffee-flavored candies. I also have a stomachache due to eating more M&Ms than I should have.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milk Chocolate M&Ms

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 creepy female M&Ms
  • Price: $3.19
  • Size: 9.9 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: No surprises (like M&Ms using actual pumpkin) here, just the dark magic of natural and artificial flavoring.

Einhorn’s Epic Cookies Cadiz Birthday Cake, Crisped Rice & Sprinkles

Einhorn's Epic Cookies Cadiz Birthday Cake, Crisped Rice & Sprinkles PackageI feel like I should warn you right off the bat that this is less of a review of a cookie and more a review of a brand. It’s about the zeitgiest of the product. Sure, I’ll let you know how it tastes, but that’s not really the point here.

What I’m saying is that we’re about to go on an adventure.

There’s no reason to pretend you’re not going to immediately notice the most awesome thing about the front of this cookie package – Cadiz. Cadiz is an anthropomorphized unicorn wearing a letter jacket with no sleeves and no shirt underneath. He has a dangling earring and a smug expression on his face as he twirls his long, luxurious mane.

In short, Cadiz is one of the awesomest things I have ever seen.

I’d never in my life heard of Einhorn’s Epic Cookies before I found this little gem in my Karepax box. And there’s a comic inside? About a unicorn?? eeeeeee! And then I turned the package over…

Einhorn's Epic Cookies Cadiz Birthday Cake, Crisped Rice & Sprinkles Package Back

omg omg omg. There’s more of them. At this point, I ran to the Internet to find Einhorn’s website, and when I got there, I found a treasure trove beyond compare.

The unicorns as a whole are called the R.E.F., or Royal Einhorn Force. Are you getting excited yet? If not, you should be, because on their website there’s a full bio for every unicorn.

Which we’ll get to in a second, but first, I’d like to mention that they live in Eintropolis. This includes such destinations as Einhorn Palace: “Legend has it that the Most Radical Pony chose this site for its natural beauty and strategic importance centuries ago.”

The Most Radical Pony, you guys.

There’s also the Federal Oat Reserve, and the Emergency Room Hip-Hop Club, where “not only will they diagnose your illest moves, they’ll write you a prescription for the sickest beats in the galaxy courtesy of resident spin-master D.J. BABY NOISES!”

I’m officially dying. I can’t go on.

But I have to, because I still have to tell you about the unicorns themselves.

Houston, image credit Einhorn's Epic Cookies

This is Houston, and in case you couldn’t tell from his shades, his fist-smashing and his grim visage, he’s the leader of the R.E.F. The bios on these unicorns are extensive, so I’ll just give you the highlights:

“In his teens he formed the still feared Dust Devils hyper-bike gang, a band of like-minded rebels dedicated to helping the underprivileged folk of the fringe territories.”

Favorite Snack: Sarsaparilla Sodey and Cactus Candy

Finishing Move: All of HIS moves are finishing moves

In conclusion, Houston is a total badass leader who rides a hyper-bike but also loves “Sodey”. This is the unicorn that gets all the lady unicorns.

Broxburn, image credit Einhorn's Epic Cookies

“Sporting huge muscles and an even bigger heart, Broxburn does not know the meaning of the word defeat (and not just because the orphanage dictionary was missing letters C through J).”

Hair Color / Style: Orange Mullet

Catchphrase: ‘Bro

Broxburn is obviously the dumb but loveable heavy-lifter of the group. If this were a game of D&D, he’d be a troll. It’s so nice to see R.E.F. isn’t exactly shattering stereotypes.

Romsey, image credit Einhorn's Epic Cookies

“As the youngest member of the Royal Einhorn Force, Romsey is a true innovator when it comes to style and swagger. Although hot-headed and impulsive, this show pony can actually back up his trash talking with his lightning fast hooves; equally impressive in a fight or on the dance floor.”

Group Affiliation: Royal Einhorn Force, Boogie Knightz Breaking Crew

Catchphrase: “Nerds”

Romsey is the AC Slater of R.E.F. He hates nerds and, actually, I could imagine AC Slater wearing that outfit. Unfortunately for Romsey, Saved by the Bell was 25 years ago. But I’m sure the Boogie Knightz Breaking Crew kicks ass.

Cadiz, image credit Einhorn's Epic Cookies

“Born into a life of wealth and privilege, Cadiz is a Prince with royal blood in his veins and an exceptionally acerbic wit. Attending the finest schools in the galaxy afforded him unprecedented access to cutting edge technologies; Cadiz’s passion for inventing grew as fast as his reputation for excess.”

Accessory: Robot Butler Gerard Van Nest

Fun Fact: Cadiz’s mane is insured for several million oats by the reputable Pony Brothers Insurance Stable

Cadiz is the rich fancypants of the group who always adjusts his mane after a fight. His bio actually makes him sound like kind of a shithead. He’s the wealthy unicorn that they keep around for funding purposes.

My god, it’s like the Royal Einhorn Force was made for Saturday morning cartoons. If only they had a theme song. Oh wait – THEY DO. Go anywhere on their site and click on the little “play” button on the left. I promise you won’t be disappointed, but I also promise that you’ll hate me for getting it stuck in your head for the rest of your life.

While they don’t have a cartoon – YET – they do have comics that come with each cookie! I got Issue #4 of Quest for the Einhorn, which is titled Rumble in the Brox. You can, and should, read it in its full glory here.

Einhorn's Epic Cookies Quest for the Einhorn Comic Issue #4

In it, Broxburn fights Bullhorn Barnes, an awesome-looking bull with a gnarly scar over his face and one broken horn. Highlights include Broxburn getting uppercutted onto a table of apples, Bullhorn getting elbowed into a table of French bread, Broxburn getting tossed into a display of startled-looking fish, and finally one of the vendors asking why Broxburn hates fish so much. Love it.

Bullhorn’s about to bitch out on the fight just because some guy named Farragut (the main bad guy?) told him to come home, but Brox holds him back, explaining how each of his unibros would have already defeated Barnes (gotta catch ’em all, kids!) but how “when all else fails, I hold the line!

Bullhorn then takes an innocent young newspony with an inexplicable cockney accent and tosses him in the air, for some reason, but Brox catches him and says, “Always remember, bro, be strong, be good.” Then there’s a little joke about how the pony shouldn’t copy Broxburns actions exactly, and we’re done.

Wait…we’re done? What? I mean, I know comics have long, drawn-out storylines, but all that got accomplished here was some poor horses (not unicorns, for some reason) had their livelihoods destroyed and one pony learned to be strong and good (bro). The theme song had more plot than that.

I forgive Einhorn, though, because Bullhorn Barnes would make an awesome action figure and the market would be a great playset to destroy.

Did I mention that all of this, all of it, is designed around some cookies?

Each ‘corn has its own flavor: Houston gets Chocolate Chip & Potato Chip, Romsey gets Peanut Butter, Bacon & Chocolate Chip, Broxburn gets Oatmeal Chocolate Chip & Maple, and Cadiz, as you might have figured out from the title, gets Birthday Cake, Crisped Rice & Sprinkles.

I feel like all of these have their own interesting qualities, but I’d guess Broxburn has the tastiest cookie. You just had to go and show off with the bacon, didn’t you, Romsey? And putting potato chips in a cookie is a bold move, Houston. Bold like your hyper-bike.

Which is not to say I drew the short stick with Cadiz. I love that the flavor is specifically birthday cake, which obviously tastes different than regular cake. It’s also the most colorful of all the Epic Cookies, with its sprinkles that remind me of Funfetti, which will always fill me with joy. Plus, there’s crisped rice, which means you got off-brand Rice Krispies in my cookie!

Einhorn's Epic Cookies Cadiz Birthday Cake, Crisped Rice & Sprinkles Cookie

Einhorn’s Epic Cookies are quite large – about the diameter of a softball, I’d say. Sort of like Grandma’s cookies before Grandma got cranky and shrunk them by about 50%. What’s also nice is that inside the package, both the cookie and the comic are wrapped individually, so you don’t have crumbs all over your comic, nor do you feel weird about eating a cookie that’s been touching a comic, if that’s something you’re inclined to feel weird about.

The texture of the cookie is very crunchy and crumbly, and my immediate impression of the flavor was “bizarre”. I think what I tasted first was the crisped rice, which was a flavor very out of place in the cookie world. Slowly, the taste of sweet cake emerged, but it was very artificial-tasting. The sprinkles were there just for decoration, and they did indeed make the cookie look festive.

It was hard to tell if the rice added to the crunchiness or just added to the off flavor, but it definitely was not a welcome addition. There was a buttery flavor too, but it just clashed with the fake cake taste. Honestly, this cookie was pretty terrible. Sorry, Cadiz!

But, like I said from the start, I was much more exciting to write about the world of the Royal Einhorn Force than to eat a cookie. So, while the cookie sucked, I feel like Einhorn’s Epic Cookies gave me much more happiness than any sweet treat could provide.

ROYAL EINHORN FORCE! ROYAL EINHORN FORCE!

Einhorn’s Epic Cookies Cadiz Birthday Cake, Crisped Rice & Sprinkles

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 ROYAL EINHORN F- oh god I am never going to get the theme song out of my head
  • Price: Indeterminate (part of a Karepax box)
  • Size: 1 cookie
  • Purchased at: I was going to say you could purchase your own Epic Cookies here, but I just noticed their store has been under construction for over a year. Did I just eat THE LAST EINHORN EPIC COOKIE?! Also how old was the cookie I just ate? That could explain some things…
  • Nutritional Quirk: …I just checked and I can’t find an expiration date on my cookie. So I think I just ate rancid butter cookie? Hurgh.

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!

Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack

Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack BagWith all the wild snacks out there on shelves today, Doritos 3D isn’t exactly revolutionary. In fact, I might have skipped over it altogether were it not for one fact – Doritos 3D aren’t new at all.

You might be wondering why I’d even bother to review them, then. You see, my friends, Doritos 3D are new now, but they previously existed back in the early-mid 2000s. Back when 3D movies belonged to Captain EO, although nobody really cared about Captain EO. Back when 3D chips were a wacky concept.

I managed to find an old, degraded commercial for the old-school version, which you can find here. It stars Ali Landry in a laundromat. Don’t know who Ali Landry is? Neither did I, although I did remember the commercial once I watched it. I guess she was a pageant winner and Doritos girl or something.

The commercial also appears to have Sean Hayes in it, although it’s kind of hard to tell due to the poor quality. Sean Hayes went on to have a much bigger career than Ali Landry, funnily enough. If it’s not him, then that guy really should have gone on to be a professional Sean Hayes impersonator. There’s a big demand for that, right?

[Edit: The fact that that is, indeed, Sean Hayes is confirmed, after I read the Internet for like, two seconds. But I wanted to leave that paragraph in there because I’m still tickled by the idea of a Sean Hayes impersonator.]

When the first iteration of Doritos 3D (actually called 3D’s back then) came out, I was first in line to get some. Or rather, to tell my dad to get some next time he went to the store. I have to admit, they didn’t exactly live up to the hype. They were basically thin flavor shells filled with air, which made them weird to bite into because they basically crumbled to pieces once your teeth hit them.

This also resulted in a large amount of broken 3D’s in the bag. Nothing worse than half your bag of 3D’s being 2D.

Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack

The new Doritos 3D seem less third-dimensional than their puffy pyramid predecessors, but what they lack in bulge they make up for with style.

Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack Close-Up

Seriously, look at that thing. It looks like a crazed Triforce, or an alien Star Trek transponder, or a rat maze created by a particularly cruel scientist. It is abstract art.

Doritos 3D are obviously thicker than regular Doritos, which also helps give them their dimensional shape and works very well in keeping all the chips intact. Can I even really call them chips?

The thickness comes closer to a corn snack like Fritos Scoops, but these definitely have a tortilla base, which makes them a unique find on store shelves, at least as far as my memory serves.

Jalapeño Pepper Jack is currently the only flavor available in the Jacked 3D line. As with previous Jacked flavors, Doritos uses adjectives like “intense” and “bold” to describe these. What that basically translates to is that every chip…thing has an extra flavor dust on it. It’s like hitting that rare, extra-coated Dorito, except almost all of them are like that.

As for the flavor, my mouth almost immediately related the taste of Jalapeño Pepper Jack to Salsa Verde Doritos. It’s been a while since I’ve had those, but my taste buds apparently have muscle memory. They had a light cheese taste, unlike Salsa Verde, and they seemed spicier too, although not “my mouth is on fire” spicy.

You can call Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack a gimmick, much like their predecessor, but the fact is that they are a solidly snackable product. The crunch and texture are unique, the flavor dust is abundant, spicy and delicious, and the shape is both fun and pops easily into your mouth. While the flavor itself isn’t groundbreaking, it does the job.

And these would make super fun props for your action figures to play with. Ancient Egyptian monolith? Triangle of Supreme Power? The only limit is your imagination and your ability to restrain yourself from eating all the chip…triforces.

Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 cruel rat mazes
  • Price: $2.50
  • Size: 11 1/2 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Safeway
  • Nutritional Quirk: Dense like a corn chip, but made with tortilla!

Quick Pick: Ritz Bacon Crackers

Ritz Bacon Crackers BoxToday is International Bacon Day! To celebrate, here’s a little thing I’ve had on the back burner for a while.

You might look at new Ritz Bacon Crackers and see yet another bacon-flavored fad product.

I see the potential to relive a childhood favorite in a matte red box.

Nabisco used to have a cracker called Bacon Thins that I just adored as a child. They disappeared, and I’ve lamented them ever since. Can Ritz Bacon Crackers fill that void in my heart?

The Good: Has the familiar taste of Bacon Thins that I loved so much. The buttery flavor of Ritz is still there, but doesn’t interfere with the bacon flavor like I thought it would. They have cracked black pepper in them that doesn’t really show up until after you’re almost done chewing, but has a pleasant, lingering spice to it.

Ritz Bacon Crackers

The Not-So-Good: I would prefer them without the butter flavor. Even though I love it, the bacon taste is very artificial, so may not appeal to some. These have that flaky Ritz texture as opposed to the old Bacon Thins, which had a crisper and more dip-worthy texture.

Ritz Bacon Crackers aren’t perfect, but the flavor is so close to Bacon Thins that they make my nostalgic belly happy. Hope you enjoy International Bacon Day!

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5
  • Price: $2.50
  • Size: 13.25 oz. box
  • Purchased at: Walmart

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Munchie Meal

Images courtesy Jack in the Box
Images courtesy Jack in the Box

In case you don’t remember because you were completely high when you read my last Munchie Meal review, Jack’s Munchie Meals are available between 9pm and 5am, aka Prime Stoner Time. Each one comes with two tacos, an order of halfsie fries (half french, half seasoned curly) and a 20 ounce drink to help you combat cotton mouth.

The real star, however, is always the entree. Previous Munchies have included things like the Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger and Loaded Nuggets, and the newest Munchie Meal is just as stonertastic: the Hella-peno Burger. A name that should leave me groaning, but I find myself smirking instead. Call it contact high.

Jack made more than a passing nod at the idea of their Munchie Meals being stoner-themed when the first batch came out, and this time around, I feel like they’ve embraced the idea with a vengeance.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the commercial for the Hella-peño burger. We start out with a girl sitting in a beanbag chair in what has to be the classiest room I’ve seen since I went to a friend’s kegger in college. His house was inhabited entirely by males, and the height of their artistic interior decoration was a poster of two girls making out, which was placed front-and-center in their living room.

This should give you an idea of what their garage looked like, which is pretty much what this girl’s room looks like, complete with lava lamp and Big Mouth Billy Bass. It looks like a garage sale threw up in someone’s 1970s wood-paneled basement. I’ve known many dedicated pot smokers in my day, and most would be downright offended by this aesthetic.

“Would you rather have spoons for hands…or elbows for ears?” The beanie-clad girl asks in a dreamy, disconnected voice.

The Jack puppet, who is sitting in a beanbag chair next to her, replies, “I’d rather have food,” to which I wholeheartedly agree, if only to end this commercial.

After briefly describing the Hella-Peno Munchie Meal, this whole embarrassment ends with the puppet saying, “I’ll eat it with my spooooooon haaaaands,” to which the girl replies, “What? I can’t hear you. Talk into my ellllbooooow.”

Shut up.

It’s also hella-apparent that they’re hella-stoked about the name, encouraging people to Tweet with the hashtag #hellahungry. They also describe the burger as “hella-hot” and mention that the Munchie Meal is available hella-late. Are you hella-tired of this yet?

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Munchie Meal

Now to the actual burger. According to Jack, the Hella-peño is “A burger heaped with both stuffed and sliced jalapeños, gooey cheese and taco sauce.”

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger

Right off the bat, I could tell that gooey cheese was definitely present, as it had leaked all over the wrapper. You may find this gross; I find it a harbinger of good things to come.

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Open

And good things were there, indeed. Upon removing the top bun, I was so pleased to see that the stuffed jalapeños covered almost every square inch of the burger. Topping coverage – a rare sight, indeed! There were a few sliced peppers, as promised, covering the areas the stuffed ones missed. And, holding it all together, a mess o’ cheese. Lookin’ good, Hella-Peno burger.

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Cut

And, I have to admit, it tasted hella-good. (Sorry. I really am.) The combination of stuffed and sliced jalapeños meant there was a delicious amount of heat in every bite, and the breading of the stuffed ones remained, through some sort of dark magic, perfectly crunchy. So often have I seen fast food restaurants promising crunchy toppings, only to receive a soggy mess. Not the case here!

And the cheese was everywhere. I feel like half of it had leaked out onto the wrapper, which was unfortunate, but the cheese stuffed inside the poppers definitely took up the slack, adding at least double the amount of cheese you’d find on a regular cheeseburger and probably triple the calories, although I’m pretty sure you’re not concerned with that if you’re eating a Munchie Meal at 2am.

The Hella-Peno burger was not without fault, however. Jack in the Box’s taco sauce, which is a laughable approximation of hot sauce to begin with, completely disappears under the heat and flavor of the jalapeños. In fact, pretty much everything takes a backseat to the jalapeños and the cheese. I almost forgot there was an actual burger in this Hella-Peno burger.

These are minor complaints, however. I love jalapeños. I love cheese. I love the crunch that the breading added to the burger. I love that, for once, there was actual topping coverage.

I will, however, bitch about the fact that a.) Munchie Meals are only available from 9pm to 5am, and b.) you can’t just buy the Hella-Peno burger on its own. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Jack’s tacos, aka grease pockets, and the halfsies are nice, but I’d like to have a choice of when and with what I order my Hella-Peno burger.

In the end, what’s important is that if you like jalapeños, and you like cheese, and you like some actual crunch on your burger, then the Hella-Peno is for you. Putting poppers on a burger screams gimmick, but it really works. And if you scream gimmick to my elbow, I will use my spoon hand to punch you in the face.

[Disclaimer: Jack in the Box kindly provided me with a gift card to purchase this product and contacted me in regards to potentially reviewing this product. This has in no way influenced my review of said product; neither has any drug, illicit or otherwise.]

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Munchie Meal

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 Big Mouth Billy Basses
  • Price: $6.00
  • Size: 1 Munchie Meal
  • Purchased at: Jack in the Box #106
  • Nutritional Quirk: While I couldn’t find nutritional info on the burger itself, the entire meal claims to only have 1,600 calories. This has to be either wrong, or a miracle. However, it does fess up to containing a whopping 3,644 milligrams of sodium, which sounds just about right.

Taco Bell Quesarito and Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze

Taco Bell Quesarito Wrapper and Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float FreezeSomething old, something new, something borrowed, something red, white and blue.

…Okay, that was super lame. But it seems thematically appropriate for Taco Bell’s new Quesarito and Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze. I moved a little while back and that really threw off my game, so I’m a little rusty. But I’m back! And here’s a double review for you!

Taco Bell Quesarito

Taco Bell Quesarito

Here we have the something old and something borrowed. I think you can see where this is going. While the Quesarito is a new menu item, it has employed the classic Taco Bell technique of rearranging existing ingredients into a new configuration.

In case you couldn’t figure it out from the name or the inside of the wrapper (kudos to Taco Bell for making a unique wrapper for the Quesarito, as a side note), this is a burrito snuggled inside a quesadilla.

In Taco Bell’s own words, “The NEW Quesarito is the best of a quesadilla and burrito rolled into one! It’s filled with seasoned beef, premium Latin rice, Chipotle sauce, reduced-fat sour cream, and then wrapped up in a grilled quesadilla loaded with melted cheeses.”

Taco Bell Quesarito Filling

I did not have high hopes for the Quesarito. Upon unwrapping it, I was impressed with the grilling marks. Upon cutting in half, I said to myself, oh hell yes.

Look at those globs of melty, melty cheese. Eating with my eyeballs alone, I was already sold. If that looks like an oozing mass of grease and fat, you’re right, and my heart sang at the sight. In a sort of choking, crying voice, but it sang nonetheless. I was expecting a sad, barely-visible layer of cheese hidden between two layers of too much tortilla, but I was so glad to be wrong.

There was another thing that there was also a hell of a lot of too – the Latin rice. In one of those classic cases of “who the hell made this?”, there was rice throughout, but all the ground beef was in one half and all the sour cream was in the other. In fact, by pure coincidence, the lines were drawn pretty much exactly down the line where I cut it for the picture.

The rice actually had a bit of flavor to it – it seemed to be the same rice as their Cantina rice, which has hints of lime and cilantro.

But, seriously, how hard is it to evenly distribute the meat and sour cream?

What was evenly distributed was the Chipotle sauce, and for once, there was an actual hint of chipotle flavor there, nice and smoky. Holy shit. It also had a nice kick, and they didn’t skimp on it. This paired great with the sour cream and with the gooey cheese. I’d actually like to see this as a sauce packet option in the future. I would put it on pretty much any Taco Bell item.

I want to give high praises to the Quesarito, in spite of the bizarre ingredient distribution, if just because of the surprising amount of cheese and the Chipotle sauce. However, soon after I got this Quesarito, I went and got another one, and on that one the cheese layer was almost non-existent, which really diminished the experience. So I have to knock it down a notch because, depending on who prepares your Quesarito, it’s either going to be solid or it’s going to be disappointing. It’s all about the queso.

Taco Bell Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze

Taco Bell  Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze

Here we have something new and something red, white and blue. The second part of that sentence may be confusing until you realize that Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float came out in grocery stores first, and their packaging looks like everything Americana threw up all over it.

Taco Bell took that drink and turned it into a freeze. If you ask me, this was a great idea; the soda itself is already designed to taste float-like, so freezing it should just add to that experience.

The original Dr. Pepper taste was a little toned down, allowing the vanilla taste to come through. I found the vanilla flavoring to be somewhat less artificial-tasting than some other vanilla-spiked sodas I’ve tried. Maybe it was the unique flavor of Dr. Pepper when combined with the vanilla, but I was impressed. This paragraph is dying for a synonym for vanilla.

Taco Bell  Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze Close-Up

As for the float part, I really could taste a bit of floatiness coming through in the soda. Maybe it was the slushy-freeze element that helped that along, but there was a distinct creaminess to it that went beyond just vanilla flavoring. Maybe that’s why I felt it stood apart from the plethora of vanilla sodas already on store shelves.

Nothing is going to replace an actual ice cream float, but Taco Bell’s Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze is a pretty good substitute, especially if you like soda slushies. This is probably my favorite “commercial” vanilla soda creation I’ve had in a long time. Bald eagle stars and stripes fireworks Uncle Sam.

Taco Bell Quesarito

  • Score: 4 out of 5 oozing cheese blobs
  • Price: $1.99
  • Size: 1 Quesarito
  • Purchased at: Taco Bell #029492
  • Nutritional Quirk: I’m betting the amount of cheese you get in your Quesarito will vary the calories by like, 500 either way.

Taco Bell Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 “is there another word for vanilla?”
  • Price: $1.00 (“Happy Hour” price)
  • Size: Regular
  • Purchased at: Taco Bell #029492
  • Nutritional Quirk: A lot less calories and fat than a real ice cream float!

Mrs. Fields Nibblers Cookies Milk Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chip and Double Chocolate

Mrs. Fields Nibblers Cookies Milk Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chip and Double Chocolate BoxesMrs. Fields. To me, the name is synonymous with childhood trips to the mall with my parents: hours of agonizing shopping in boring department stores, where the only means of entertainment were hiding under clothing racks and touching things I was explicitly told not to touch.

My only relief: the promise of a trip to the food court afterward. Oh, the wonders! The choices! So much fast food, all in one place! What to choose?

Well, inevitably I chose Sbarro, because the only time I got to eat at Sbarro was when we went to the mall. For dessert, I would always get CheeseKorn from the KarmelKorn store attached to the Orange Julius, because I was a weird kid who didn’t really like sweets.

While I walked around smearing orange dust on things when my parents weren’t looking, my mom would munch on a Mrs. Fields cookie – another mall-only staple. At the time, the only thing that interested me about Mrs. Fields were the giant, pizza-sized cookies they’d always have on display.

I dreamed of one day getting one of those cookies, but every time I’d ask for one, my mom reminded me that I’d never actually eat it, which I had to admit was true. In hindsight, she should have just acquiesced and then taken the whole thing for herself. Opportunity missed.

The days of having to walk past a Hot Topic just to get a Mrs. Fields cookie are finally over, however – the First Lady of Cookies is finally breaking into the grocery store game, introducing her Nibblers cookies to Kroger stores nationwide in three flavors: Milk Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chip and Double Chocolate.

All three varieties have some things in common: first off, they are, indeed, Nibblers – they’re about the size of an Oreo, as opposed to the larger size of other Mrs. Fields cookies or even a regular Chips Ahoy. They also have all had their previously bare bottoms dipped in fudge. Let the fudge and butt jokes commence.

I was mailed these cookies courtesy of Mrs. Fields, and I was worried about what kind of shape they’d be in when they arrived, given the high temperatures and the nature of the cookies. I figured I’d wind up with one giant, melted cookie mess, which, don’t get me wrong, had a certain appeal – the idea of a giant chocolate chip and fudge cookie wad holds a certain allure.

Mrs. Fields had it covered, though – each box of Nibblers contains a plastic tray that holds each cookie separately, and it’s further protected by foil packaging. My Nibblers were still a little melty, but for the most part, they remained intact and unbroken. Not the most eco-friendly packaging, but effective!

Mrs. Fields Nibblers Cookies Milk Chocolate

I went with Milk Chocolate Chip first, it being the most pedestrian-sounding of the flavors. The fudge-dipped bottom started melting the instant I touched it, making me once again thankful that the cookies were kept apart from each other.

Chewy Chips Ahoy are one of my favorite cookies; I much prefer soft cookies to hard ones. These Mrs. Fields Nibblers were like a slightly upgraded version of those cookies. There was a little bit of a crunch on the top which quickly gave way to the chewy innards. The two textures mixed together nicely.

The milk chocolate chips, which were mini to match the size of the cookies, were evenly distributed in almost all the cookies in the package. The cookie flavor itself was spot-on for a chocolate chip cookie – not overly sweet and baked just right.

The fudge bottom added more chocolate goodness without being too overwhelming, although I think calling it “fudge” is a bit of a misnomer; it tasted much more like melty milk chocolate.

Mrs. Fields Nibblers Cookies Peanut Butter Chip

I was most excited to try the Peanut Butter Chip Nibblers, because soft peanut butter cookies are great and peanut butter cookies with chips and dipped in chocolate can only be better, right?

Well, yes and no. The sad news is, there are no chips in these Peanut Butter Chip Nibblers. At least, not that I could see or feel. Which raises fundamental questions about the name of these Nibblers. I’m straight confused.

The good news: these cookies are delicious. My mom used to make soft peanut butter cookies for Christmas, and I’ve never found any brand confection that could compare. Grandma’s Cookies were the closest I could get, but Mrs. Fields blows those out of the water, and adds a nice milk chocolate – er, fudge – finish to boot.

I just wish there were peanut butter chips. Sniffle.

Mrs. Fields Nibblers Cookies Double Chocolate

I figured “Double Chocolate” would mean “double milk chocolate”, but I guess it means “milk chocolate and white chocolate chips”, although it’s also fudge-dipped, so technically it’s triple chocolate. Again, confusing name.

I was surprised at both the lack of richness of the chocolate in these chocolate cookies and also how much the white chocolate chips contributed to the flavor. I figured the chips would disappear under the chocolate flavor of the cookie, but it was actually the chips that took over in the flavor department.

While these Nibblers do actually live up to their Double Chocolate name, chocolate lovers are going to be ultimately disappointed at the lack of richness in the cookie itself.

Mrs. Fields Nibblers are generally delicious and almost too easy to eat – I found myself having to force myself to put the packages away before I plowed through the entire box and got about 500% of my daily recommended value of saturated fat.

I thought Milk Chocolate Chip was a little too pedestrian, given that it was pretty close to Chewy Chips Ahoy. I fell in love with Peanut Butter Chip, even though they had no chips. Double Chocolate Chip was pretty good, but I felt like the white chocolate chips did most of the work and the cookies themselves lacked chocolate’s signature richness. And the fudge dipping wasn’t really fudge-y, but still added a little something extra to each of the chips. Including sticky fingers.

Overall, Mrs. Fields Nibblers are a solid cookie offering. The biggest question for me is the price – I got mine for free courtesy of Mrs. Fields, but they’re available at Kroger stores nationwide in a 15-count box. A quick Internet search didn’t yield a price point. But if they’re not mall-price expensive and you’re a fan of Mrs. Fields and soft cookies, they’re worth a try.

[Disclaimer: These Nibblers cookies were provided for free via mail courtesy of the kind people at Mrs. Fields. This is no way influences my review of the products, and, in the nature of full disclosure, I still hate the mall.]

Mrs. Fields Nibblers

  • Score (Milk Chocolate Chip): 3.5 out of 5 cheesy orange fingers
  • Score (Peanut Butter Chip): 4.5 out of 5 mysterious lack of chips
  • Score (Double Chocolate Chip): 3 out of 5 gooey fudge-covered bottoms
  • Price: Free
  • Size: Box of 15 cookies
  • Purchased at: Received in the mail (but available at Kroger stores nationwide)
  • Score Quirk: Surprisingly, there’s only 120 calories per serving of two cookies. I would have expected a more heart attack-inducing number.