Tag Archives: 4 burgers

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 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)

 

 

 

Honey Nut, Coffee Nut, and Chili Nut M&Ms Vote 2016

Honey Nut, Coffee Nut, Chili Nut M&Ms PackagesVoting. It’s something about 50% of you will be doing come November, statistically speaking. It’s something you might have already done, if you participated in the primaries. Or in Lay’s Flavor Swap.

It’s all the rage, and M&Ms doesn’t want to be left behind, so they’ve created a vote of their own.

Peanut M&Ms haven’t gotten the extreme makeover that regular M&Ms have gotten over the years. They’ve never been turned into candy corn, or claimed to be sundaes. Pretty much the best makeover they can hope for is turning red and green every Christmas.

But now there are not one but three different Peanut M&Ms for you to try! Hooray for Nazi Psychologist J. Jonah Jameson Yellow M&M. (That’s your Google project for today. You’re welcome.)

Let’s break them down.

Honey Nut

Honey Nut M&Ms

I like what they tried to do with the color motif here, but my bag obviously came out a little lopsided. I think the beige ones are supposed to be honey, and the black and yellow ones are supposed to represent a bee. Except I only got one yellow one.

When I think Honey Nut, my brain automatically goes to Honey Nut Cheerios, a childhood cereal staple of mine that holds up to this day. Could they replicate that taste and even make it better with the addition of chocolate?

In all honesty, my first few Honey Nut M&Ms just tasted like a normal Peanut M&M. After a few more, however, a hint of extra sweetness came through. But that was it. There’s no way I would have categorized it as honey. Me and the bee are disappointed.

Coffee Nut

Coffee Nut M&Ms

This is by far the most appealing color combination of the three. Sure, it’s just browns and cream, but the browns have these enticing speckled patterns, and together they definitely evoke the essence of coffee.

Unlike Honey Nut, Coffee Nut M&Ms had an immediate, distinct flavor. Sort of like a cafe au lait with added nuttiness that came up through my nostrils as I chewed. It wasn’t a truly authentic coffee flavor, but it definitely had roasted coffee notes, as well as a creamer-like flavor and a dash of artificial sweetener for good measure. Eating these with coffee made them taste even better.

Chili Nut

Chili Nut M&Ms

This is what I consider to be the most adventurous of the three new M&Ms flavors. While it’s not unusual to pair chocolate with chili, I think it’s something that many people may think twice about.

I like the combo of dark red, bright red and bright orange. It’s basically a big fat warning signal in candy coating form.

Much like the Honey Nut M&Ms, upon chewing the first few, I felt they tasted like regular Peanut M&Ms. Disappointment washed over me.

But then I swallowed. Oh, damn! These M&Ms have some kick. I mean, I’m not talking snot-levels of heat, but Mars was not shy. Soon not only my throat but also my mouth was coated in a low burn.

The problem, however, is that it seems the chili and the rest of the M&M flavor are completely disconnected from each other. Chili and chocolate can work together, but in this M&M it almost seemed like they were on different pages.

I do have to give kudos to M&Ms for not shying away from the heat, though. Oh, and unlike the previous two flavors that list only “artificial flavors” as the contributing factor to their names, Chili Nut M&Ms include both “spice” and chili extract in the ingredients.

Quite a range of flavors to be had here, from the barely-noticeable to knocking out your taste buds. In the end, it was the one that landed in the middle that I liked the most: Coffee Nut M&Ms. The creamy coffee-esque flavor is obviously a great match with chocolate, and the peanut inside only adds to the profile. I would have liked a little stronger coffee and a little less artifical sweetness, though.

But don’t take my word for it – you can vote for your favorite here. You have until June 17, 2016 (sorry, I know this is short notice) to have your voice be heard.

Honey Nut, Coffee Nut, and Chili Nut M&Ms

  • Score (Honey Nut): 2.5 out of 5 Buzz the Bees
  • Score (Coffee Nut): 4 out of 5 coffee buzzes
  • Score (Chili Nut): 2.5 out of 5 burned  taste budz
  • Price: $1.00 each
  • Size: 1.74 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walgreens #06177
  • Nutritional Quirk: Chili Nut M&Ms use actual chili extract, which I thought was neat. Wish they’d done something similar with the other two flavors.

Lay’s Flavor Swap: Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue and Flamin’ Hot vs. Fiery Roasted Habanero

Lay's Flavor Swap Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue BagsLay's Flavor Swap Flamin' Hot vs. Fiery Roasted Habanero PackagesWelcome to part two of Lay’s Flavor Swap! Otherwise known as “I didn’t want to photograph and review eight bags of chips all at once”. You can read part one here.

Buying the chips gradually succeeded in not making me look like a crazy person, but failed in that my Safeway inexplicably stopped stocking some of the flavors. What the hell, Safeway?

This forced me to go to Walmart, which resulted in me buying this:

Lay's Flavor Swap Mix Bag

Which was nice, because I now have 20 small bags and not 4 more big bags, but also infuriating because I already bought 4 big bags. My kitchen cabinet looks like an actual grocery store chip aisle. Junk food review problems.

Brief rundown of the Flavor Swap concept: one flavor stays, the other disappears off shelves, based on Internet votes. One is an existing flavor and one is a new flavor. It’s a duel to the potato chip death. The streets will run red with flavor dust.

Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue

This one is particularly interesting to me, because I’ve never had Honey Barbecue Lay’s before. In fact, I’ve never even seen them on shelves. When I first heard of the Flavor Swap, I tried to use Frito-Lay’s “flavor locator” to find them, and there were none in a 50 mile radius, confirming that I wasn’t just blind.

So, before now, Honey Barbecue hasn’t existed in my area, which makes this more of a Flavor Addition than a Flavor Swap.

Lay's Flavor Swap Honey Barbecue

I gotta say, I wasn’t exactly wowed by my first Honey Barbecue experience. They basically taste exactly like regular Lay’s Barbecue, with just a touch of sweetness at the end.

I prefer my barbecue with more vinegar than sweetness, but that’s a personal preference. I’m sure for some people this is their go-to Lay’s flavor. At least I know I wasn’t really missing anything before this.

But how about its contender, Korean Barbecue?

Lay's Flavor Swap Korean Barbecue

As opposed to the ho-hum taste of Honey Barbecue, Lay’s Korean Barbecue punches you right in the face upon first bite. There are strong tastes of both ginger and soy sauce. It’s definitely a more savory flavor than the honey variety.

While there’s no taste of actual meat (thank you, Lay’s), there’s a definite sense of umami here. I’ll admit – I’ve never had Korean barbecue – but if the flavor of these chips were applied to some ribs, I would definitely enjoy them. Swap or not, this is a solid, unique and interesting potato chip flavor.

Verdict: Korean Barbecue, no question. Honey Barbecue tastes almost exactly like regular Lay’s Barbecue, and the Korean kind is vastly different not only as a Lay’s flavor but even up against other brands.

Flamin’ Hot vs. Fiery Hot Habanero

At this point, Flamin’ Hot is more of a…genre than a flavor. A category? Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that Frito-Lay has pretty much Flaminized every product they have. Off the top I can think of Lay’s (of course), Cheetos, Doritos, Funyuns, Takis, and I think even sunflower seeds.

Of them all, I have to say Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are my favorite, especially the con Limon variety. I’d never had Flamin’ Hot Lay’s before, simply because I never felt I needed to. There are much more enticing flavors out there.

Lay's Flavor Swap Flamin Hot

And I was right, because Flamin’ Hot Lay’s taste just like every other Flamin’ Hot snack, except less intense than Cheetos because the flavor dust isn’t as thick. It’s a one-trick pony – heat, but no distinct flavor to speak of, minus some hints of onion and tomato. Which is fine, if that’s what you’re looking for.

I was curious to see how Fiery Hot Habanero would stack up against Flamin’ Hot, since that flavor is so recognizable and yet so generic at the same time.

Lay's Flavor Swap Fiery Roasted Habanero

Right off the bat, I could see physical differences. Flamin’ Hot Lay’s sported the iconic Crayon-red flavor dust, whereas Habanero is a more organic orange hue with dark flecks, which somehow made it look more dangerous.

Fiery Roasted Habanero has a heat that’s slow on the taste buds but will hit you right in the back of the throat before it takes over your entire mouth. Most notably, there’s an actual fire-roasted flavor to these chips, as opposed to Flamin’ Hots’ generic heat.

The bag lists actual habanero peppers as an ingredient, and I’m inclined to believe them. Not only do these have a more authentic roasted pepper taste, but the spicy heat builds and stays far longer than Flamin’ Hot. The heat isn’t intolerable, but it might be too intense for some people, who probably shouldn’t be trying chips called “Fiery Roasted Habanero” in the first place.

Verdict: Fiery Roasted Habanero, hands down. Not only does it have that roasted pepper taste, but there’s also like, ten other Frito-Lay products to choose from that are Flamin’ Hot-flavored.

Lay’s Flavor Swap: Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue and Flamin’ Hot vs. Fiery Roasted Habanero

  • Score (Korean Barbecue): 4 out of 5 uses of “umami” to describe chips
  • Score (Fiery Roasted Habanero): 3.5 out of 5 not another Flamin’ Hots
  • Price: $6.98 (for bag of 20 1 oz. bags)
  • Size: 1 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Walmart
  • Nutritional Quirk: I wonder how many calories worth of Lay’s I have in my cupboard right now.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies PackageAmidst all the candy canes and peppermint bark, a surprising new trend has emerged this Christmas as the frontrunner for this season’s flavor du jour: hot cocoa. Here are some of the things I’ve seen new this year that purport to have the flavor of that delicious beverage:

Hubba Bubba Hot Cocoa Bubble Gum
YoCrunch Marshmallow Hot Cocoa Yogurt
Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn
Herr’s Crunchy Cocoa & Marshmallow Corn Snacks
Hot Chocolate M&Ms

Way to buck the trend there at the end going with hot chocolate, M&Ms.

While I’d like to be reviewing some of these items instead of just listing them, I’ve had a shortage of time and availability. I did manage to review Pizza Hut’s Hot Chocolate Brownie over at The Impulsive Buy, however.

When I found these Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy! Cookies, I was stoked, because I’ve always liked Chips Ahoy. (I’m dropping the exclamation point from here on out because it just makes things confusing.)

I was even more stoked when I saw the suggestion that I heat for a treat. I’ve never been explicitly told by a cookie package to warm them up before. Besides, it’s cold outside (baby), so I could use a warm, chocolate treat to enjoy along with my vintage icicle Christmas lights.

If you look carefully on the package, these cookies actually have gooey innards that I assumed would melt once heated. I didn’t even notice that when I bought them. More anticipation!

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies

The side of the package instructed me to microwave two cookies on a paper towel for 6-7 seconds on high. Being a good junk food follower, I did just that. My cookies came out barely warm but smelling deliciously chocolately.

But my innards were far from gooey. Ignoring all precautions, I put the next cookies in for a whopping 20 seconds. I watched it from the side of my microwave, half expecting it to explode. It was actually sizzling when I took it out. And yet, pretty much the only thing that hadn’t melted was the filling. It did, however, leave an oily spot on the paper towel.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies Inside

As with many chocolate things that are trying to taste like hot cocoa, these cookies did not taste like hot cocoa. They tasted like chewy chocolate cookies. But there was a distinct marshmallow flavor in there that I think came more from the creamy filling than the little white chips on top.

Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies taste just fine straight out of the package, but warming them up goes a long way towards making you believe they actually taste like hot cocoa. While the inside didn’t melt even at high temperatures, it added a creamy dimension to the already chewy cookie as well as some marshmallow flavor. I’d recommend 9-10 seconds in the microwave for optimal cookie warmth.

These are a limited edition flavor, so I don’t know how long they’ll be around, but I suggest picking some up if you see them. I can definitely see munching on these with a mug of real hot cocoa while I open presents on Christmas morning.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies

  • Score: 4 out of 5 dangerously sizzling cookies
  • Price: $2.00
  • Size: 10 oz.
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirk: Contains actual marshmallow! Hooray!

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper (aka HA.1.loween Whopper)

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper (aka HA.1.loween Whopper) Mummy WrapperBurger King, YOU ARE THE BEST.

This is a sentence I have never said before, and possibly will never say again. Burger King has been soooo boring for years now, minus their Chicken Fries (which I inexplicably like) and their recent Red Velvet Oreo Shake (notable only for the amount of people who said “I thought I was going to die” after drinking it).

But for the next month, Burger King has won my heart. And all it took was some food coloring and a new wrapper.

In case you haven’t been following along, Halloween is my favorite holiday. And I happen to like junk food. So my demand for Halloween-themed food has always been high. For the most part, however, fast food keeps out of the Halloween biz, minus the occasional pumpkin pie milkshake or whatever.

The one exception was Taco Bell’s Black Jack Taco, released way back in 2009. And even then, they pretty much refused to associate it with Halloween, even though it was so obviously a Halloween taco.

Burger King isn’t trying to be sneaky with this one. They’ve embraced the darkness, literally, with their A.1. Halloween Whopper. Which they also call the HA.1.loween Whopper, a much more creative name that they seem to have stepped away from, possibly because nobody could pronounce it.

Look at that packaging. LOOK AT IT. It’s a burger wrapper made to look like mummy wrappings. Such a simple design, but so effective at making my heart explode with joy. You can tell the employees were instructed to wrap the Whoppers just so, so that you could see the mummy’s eyes staring out at you at just the right angle. I want to buy a bunch of them and use them as window decorations instead of store-bought clings.

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper (aka HA.1.loween Whopper)

Of course, the real draw here is the burger itself. Look at that burger. LOOK AT IT. I’d seen a million pictures of the HA.1.loween Whopper online, but nothing quite prepares you for having it right in front of you, knowing that you’re going to be putting that evil darkness into your own mouth.

As a fun aside, I asked for apple slices instead of fries with my burger and the person thought I wanted the apple slices on the burger. I hurriedly assured her that I did not. But it does prove that at Burger King, they really will make it your way.

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper (aka HA.1.loween Whopper) Bun

They claim that A.1. Sauce is baked right into the bun, but I took several bites of the bun alone and if there was any taste at all, it was merely the ghost of A.1. It tasted a little bitter to me, but I couldn’t tell if that was real or if it was because I was eating black bread.

Speaking of what’s in the bun, here’s a highlight reel from the laundry list of ingredients: FD&C Red #40, FD&C Blue #1, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Worcerstershire Sauce, and FD&C Yellow #6. You know what’s not listed? A.1. Sauce.

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper (aka HA.1.loween Whopper) Halves

As for the burger…I mean, do you really care about the rest of the burger? It’s a goddamn Whopper with A.1. Sauce on it. I guess the most interesting part was that they claim to use the Thick and Hearty version, but the sauce on the burger was anything but. In fact, the whole thing was messy as fuck, and it seemed like the Thin and Regular A.1. mixed with the mayo, resulting in watered-down flavor.

But at least as the mixed-up condiments ran down my hands, they looked kind of like blood. This is the kind of Halloweeny thinking you’ve got tap into to get that holiday spirit going while you eat a black burger in a mummy wrapper.

Oh, and the black bun had one last parting gift: I checked my mouth in the mirror right after eating the HA.1.loween Whopper, and my tongue was bright blue! I mean bright blue. Neon.

Actually, it might have one more parting gift – one similar to the Red Velvet Oreo Shake. But after looking at the bun and reading the list of food colorings in it, I’m prepared to not freak out if my Whopper says its final goodbye in a neon-colored way.

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper (aka HA.1.loween Whopper)

  • Score: 4 out of 5 neon blue tongues
  • Price: $4.99
  • Size: 1 burger
  • Purchased at: Burger King #17145
  • Nutritional Quirk:In case I wasn’t clear in the last paragraph, my poop might be neon blue. Just saying.

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!

Limited Edition Red Velvet Oreo

Limited Edition Red Velvet Oreo PackageIt should come as a surprise to no one that Oreo has come out with a Limited Edition flavor to coincide with Valentine’s Day. I am surprised but relieved that they didn’t come out with a fish-flavored one for Lent.

And, of course, if you’re going to make a V-Day-themed cookie, you’re going to make it Red Velvet. The Valentinesinesiest of all cake flavors, and easily translatable into cookie form. Especially when we’re talking about the already chocolate-flavored Oreo.

In fact, this seems like a much more organic iteration of America’s favorite sandwich cookie than, say, Watermelon. Or Candy Corn. I could go on, so much so that I’m starting to appreciate Red Velvet Oreos before I even taste them.

The package doesn’t exactly scream Cupids and hearts, but we all know the reason they’re here. I must say, that’s a lovely looking piece of cake. It makes me want the cake more than the Oreo cookie contained within the package.

In case you weren’t aware, red velvet cake is really just a chocolate cake that’s colored to look red. What sets is apart, besides the food coloring, is the cream cheese icing.

I do so love cream cheese icing. I can’t say that about a lot of cake icings – store-bought cakes put six inches of sickeningly sweet icing on their cakes, resulting in me throwing a tantrum if I do get the piece with the flower. I’m not that fond of rich chocolate frosting.

I really can’t drum up much enthusiasm about frosting in general unless it’s cream cheese or Funfetti. And who doesn’t love Funfetti?

Limited Edition Red Velvet Oreo Sleeves

The smell upon opening the package was distinctly of cream cheese frosting, and was pleasant and inviting. The creme filing seemed a little bit yellower than usual, which is on par with cream cheese frosting. All very encouraging.

Limited Edition Red Velvet Oreo

Like the package, the cookies were that signature red velvet brown-red color, causing me to wonder what would happen to my poop if I ate too many of them. Call that literal toilet humor, but it can really happen. Look it up! I’ll let you put together the search string on that one.

After classic Oreo separation, I tasted the cookie on its own. To my complete lack of surprise, it tasted exactly like an original Oreo. Absolutely no difference whatsoever, besides the red dye and my disturbing thoughts about that subject.

Of course, I was expecting the real difference to be in the cream cheese filling, and that’s where I found it. I was expecting a larger cream cheese frosting presence, but instead I first tasted the traditional Oreo creme filling flavor and texture. Followed closely by that, however, was the distinct taste of cream cheese frosting. And it was delicious!

While the chocolate Oreo and the cream cheese filling worked great together, I soon discovered one problem, which is that I was overwhelmed by sweetness after just two cookies. They didn’t seem like they were that sweet while I was eating them, but it crept up on me. I realized that it wasn’t so much the sweetness but the richness that was getting to me, which is a problem I sometimes experience with cream cheese frosting, too.

Limited Edition Red Velvet Oreos are a cute little Valentine’s Day-themed snack to have around the house. While the cookie contains 0% originality, the filling does bring the flavor of cream cheese icing, which is great. The only drawback is that the filling is somewhat rich. Is this why the package is smaller than regular Oreos?

Oh right, and you might also poop red.

Limited Edition Red Velvet Oreo

  • Score: 4 out of 5 literal toilet jokes
  • Price: $2.99
  • Size: 10.7 oz.
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: Not a lot to report here, unless you count “sugar coma”.

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Limited Edition Cereal

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal Limited Edition BoxCinnamon Toast Crunch has always been one of my favorite cereals. It’s one of those cereals that blows past guys like Lucky Charms on the unhealthy scale and lands straight on “I’m basically eating dessert for breakfast”. Cinnamon and sugar cereal that leaves you with cinnamon-sugar cereal milk – what’s not to like?

For the holidays, we now have a limited edition version, which is Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch! Wait, what the hell is sugar cookie toast? I guess just Sugar Cookie Crunch wouldn’t get the entire brand name across.

Besides the appeal of eating sugar cookies for breakfast, there was another obvious selling point for me on this cereal, and I’m pretty sure you can guess what it was. Sure, the Christmas lights and stocking are a nice touch, but the obvious draw here is googly-eyed cereal squares.

Well, more specifically, googly-eyed sugar cookie cereal squares wearing green Santa hats and looking absolutely overjoyed as they grin at each other over their drowned brethren. If there were actual googly eyes glued to each box of Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch, it would be my favorite cereal of all time.

Unbeknownst to me, these squares have a name, and that name is Crazy Squares. I always associated Cinnamon Toast Crunch with a fat chef wearing glasses, but the times have a-changed. While I will always have a place in my heart for Fat Toast Chef, Crazy Squares are pretty awesome, and you will see why when I show you the activity panel on the back of the box.

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal Limited Edition Box Crazy Squares

There’s a whole bunch of stuff to do on this wonderfully festive panel. Crazy Squares are super into the Christmas spirit, with gifts and a tree festooned with glowing lights and ornaments.

The best part of this whole picture, however, is the Squares themselves. They are so happy. Well, I’m not quite sure what the guy on the far right is. He’s…he’s Special Square.

Can you tell which Crazy Square is my favorite? If you immediately guessed “the guy that Square #2 is really hoping is about to eat Square #4”, then you are absolutely correct.

My favorite activity is called “Frosted Fun”, and is described thusly: “The Crazy Squares have licked some picture puzzles of their favorite holiday things on the frost on the window. Can you guess the word each picture is creating?”

I’m sorry, what? They’ve licked some pictures onto the window? I have to assume this is the work of Special Square.

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal Limited Edition Frosted Fun

But what glorious work it is. Hold on, I got this:

a. “ninja bro”

b. “dapper old man”

c. “shitty birthday with vegan parents”

d. “squirrel rocking a snowboard…with bells”

No need to look at the answer key. Nailed it.

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Cereal Limited Edition

Here is the cereal itself. Look at it! You did a good thing, Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch. Each piece, to varying degrees, looks like it has been dusted with a heavy coating of snow. Of course, we all know that snow is actually sugar, which is almost as good as snow.

The underlying structure and texture of this Crunch is almost identical to Cinnamon Toast, although perhaps a tad thinner. But does it actually taste like a sugar cookie? I wouldn’t say so offhand. The sugar is definitely there – from the look and the taste, it seems more like confectioner’s sugar, which is very sweet but also has a nice, melty quality to it. There’s also a lovely hint of vanilla in there.

I could definitely see eating Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch on a cold Christmas morning and digging the snowy vibe as I ingest unhealthy amounts of sugar and solve holiday puzzles. And that sugar and vanilla combo makes for some excellent cereal milk. While the flavor itself isn’t exactly unique and could easily transfer over to a regular cereal, all the bells and whistles make Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch a fine limited edition Christmas offering.

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch Limited Edition Cereal

  • Score: 4 out of 5 carnivorous Crazy Squares
  • Price: $2.99
  • Size: 12.2 oz.
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: At a surprisingly low 9 grams of sugar per serving, this cereal is way less teeth-rotting (and contains a lot more vitamins and minerals) than a can of soda.

Twizzlers PULL ‘n’ PEEL cherry green apple lemonade

Twizzlers PULL 'n' PEEL cherry green apple lemonade PackageHey Twizzlers, what’s…what’s going on, here? You obviously have a Christmas candy out. I can see it. We can all see it. It’s right above these words, in all its red, green and white glory. There are even snowflakes on the package.

And yet, what are you calling it? Twizzlers PULL ‘n’ PEEL cherry green apple lemonade. There are many things wrong with this name, starting with going from all caps to no caps and ending with the fact that Twizzlers is patently refusing to acknowledge that this is Christmasy or even holiday-y in any way. You’ve already got stripes going – make candy cane shapes! Make wreaths! Cherry rhymes with merry, for fuck’s sake!

Now that I’ve gotten this glaring oversight out of the way, I just realized I haven’t had Twizzlers in ages. I’m pretty sure the last time I ate a Twizzler, it was after I’d used it as a straw to drink some Dr. Pepper. This was before the time when Twizzlers could be pulled and peeled, or filled with sour goop. A simpler time, when a Twizzler was just a Twizzler.

Twizzlers PULL 'n' PEEL cherry green apple lemonade

Not that I object to the pulling and peeling of Twizzlers. I think the constant presence of string cheese in a household of no children is a testament to that. There’s something satisfying about pulling apart long strings of….whatever, and bonus points if it’s candy.

Twizzlers PULL 'n' PEEL cherry green apple lemonade Strands

Each rope of Twizzler PULL ‘n’ PEEL boasts nine separate strands of Twizz. On this one, cherry won the game of tic-tac-toe.

The flavors themselves are unspectacular. Together, it’s mostly a gummy, waxy candy. Separately, the strands go as follows. Cherry: a nice, artificial cherry taste, without any of that medicine flavor. Green apple: strangely flavorless, tasting mostly of plastic. Lemonade: a little sour with a hint of lemon.

But the flavors aren’t the real appeal here. The real fun is pulling apart the strands. This can prove somewhat difficult to do, as Twizzlers are sticky by nature and the strands are very compact. Green apple and lemonade pull apart with little effort, but cherry is strangely thinner than the rest, resulting in a lot of tearing.

Twizzlers PULL 'n' PEEL cherry green apple lemonade Candy Cane

Since Twizzlers seemed unwilling to admit their Christmas affiliation through both packaging and candy design, I took it upon myself to do so. Look at how gosh-darn festive that candy cane is. It would never fly as a tree decoration, as the only way I could get the shape to stay was to affix it firmly to the plate, but it made me happy nonetheless.

After pulling and peeling the candy, I was left with a bunch of Christmasy strands, which is how I wound up spending a night playing arts & crafts with Twizzlers.

Twizzlers PULL 'n' PEEL cherry green apple lemonade Wreath

I can’t say I’m not proud. Not only was it fun, but it also really put me in the Christmas spirit, which usually takes an act of Charlie Brown or Garfield to accomplish. And that’s when I read the back of the package:

Twizzlers PULL 'n' PEEL cherry green apple lemonade Package Back

I was wrong about you all along, Twizzlers. It’s not that you didn’t have Christmas in your heart. It’s that you wanted me to find the Christmas spirit in my heart. In a world of gizmos and gadgets, Twizzlers proudly proclaims “assembly not included” and encourages you to get creative and play with your food.

Well played, Twizzlers. Well played. I’d craft a Twizzlers heart for you, but that wreath already took more time than I’d care to admit.

Twizzlers PULL ‘n’ PEEL cherry green apple lemonade

  • Score: 4 out of 5 Grinch hearts growing
  • Price: $1.00
  • Size: 4.2 oz.
  • Purchased at: Target
  • Nutritional Quirk: Tastes like plastic, but feels like fun.