Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout: A Review

A few months ago Brewery Ommegang released the first in a series of Game of Thrones-inspired beers.  In that review, I professed my love of the HBO show despite never really having a complete understanding of what is going on at any given time.  My patient wife helps to decode everything, as she is a fan of the books and can somehow keep abreast of all the new treachery and stabbings.

To celebrate Ommegang’s latest Game of Thrones release, Take the Black Stout, I thought I’d take a moment and get everyone caught up with what happened in season 3.  Fair warning, if you’re not current with the show, you may want to stop reading now because there are going to be lots of convoluted and misinformed spoilers ahead.

Ok.  It’s a lot.  Here we go.

Jon Snow (normal name, so I remember it) has gone to the other side of the Great Wall.  It’s either north or south of the wall.  I can never remember.  He went to infiltrate this group of Scottish people for some reason.  While trudging around with them, he falls in love with a girl from Downton Abbey, and they all march off to take over one of the kingdoms (or the kingdom), even though there’s only like 14 of them.  I think he starts to like all the Scottish people, but then turns away from them anyway at the end to stick up for the wall guards.  The girl might have gone with him.

The rest of the wall guards go visit a guy who has a bunch of daughters he likes to do sex with.  Everyone is supposed to kiss his ass because he’s like the white trash king, but the guards ain’t got time for that.  There’s a big fight and everyone gets stabbed.  However, Samwise the Round elopes with one of the guy’s daughters and her baby.

Tyrion saved his family and the whole castle at the end of season 2 but now they’re all mad at him for it.  He’s been banished.  Not really banished.  He just has to live in a small apartment.  Also, he has a big scar on his face now, and he lost his Hand job.

Then there’s that other guy, Standish Boromir, who lives with the Red Witch.  They were the ones who attacked Tyrion’s family, but they lost, and now he’s really mopey.  He has a brother (?) who visits him, but they lock him in the dungeon because he’s not a fan of the Red Witch.  In the dungeon, some little girl who’s face looks like Seal’s teaches him how to read.

Cool Lisa still has her dragons.  They’re getting bigger, but they’re not quite big enough to do any really big damage, so she tries to find an army to help her conquer one of the kingdoms (or the kingdom).  She buys an army of maniacs who have all had their man parts removed.  They’re the best fighters in the world and obey her unquestionably.  I think she said they could be free if they wanted to, but they all stayed to murder people for her because they’re maniacs and they love her.  She frees a bunch of slaves in another town too, so now she’s a really big deal.  Once those dragons get big, lookout!

Then there are the Starks.  They’re trying to get back in the kingdom game.  They’re marching around conquering some things here and there, and generally being sad and dumped on by the universe .  They try to make an alliance by marrying someone in their group to someone in a group led by the Hogwarts’ groundskeeper, but he’s pissed because the guy the Starks offer isn’t the main guy, Rob.  At the wedding, THE RED WEDDING (!), all of the Starks are slaughtered, even Rob’s unborn child.  It’s called the Red Wedding because of all the blood.

Ok, not all the Starks get killed.  The wheelchair kid whose wheelchair is a big dumb guy joins up with some lost boys, and they hang around in the woods and have dreams.

The sassy Stark girl is still hiding from everyone with her new best friend, the Hound.  She wants to murder Joffrey and his family.  Joffrey’s still acting exactly like all the rich kids I went to high school with.

At some point, the really dreamy guy gets his hand chopped off.  That hurts because it’s his sword hand.  He’s so sad that you really wonder how he’s ever going to have incestuous sex with his sister again.

Second to Iastly, there’s Theo, who is a friend or enemy of the Starks.  He’s captured in like the first episode and spends the remainder of the season getting tortured.  He’s a jerk but then you start to feel bad for him.  Because of all the torture.

Finally, I think I the snow zombies are starting to push on to Wintertown.  I can’t remember what they do exactly but I know Samwise kills one of them with some dragonglass. That’s a big whoa moment because no one remembers how to kill the snow zombies because it’s been so long since they zombied the crap out of everyone.

Whew!  It was a really good season, you guys!

Take the Black Stout is more of the type of beer I think of when I think Game of Thrones!  It’s dark and black like the forests of…oh, I don’t know, I’m in over my head.

The bottle design is great.  That face on the bottle is the Weirwood.  It’s where the wall guards take their sacred oath when they are inducted into the Night’s Watch.  My wife told me that.  I thought it was an Ent.  I also really like the write up on the side, despite the misspelling of “their.”  Unless that’s some Game of Thrones thing I’m not aware of.

The nosegrope of Take the Black Stout is a little hoppy and smoky with hints of coffee and vanilla.  It was much lighter than expected.

The flavor profile starts pretty bitter but ends a little on the sweet side.  There are chocolate and coffee notes and some more burnt smokiness.  It also tastes bready.  Couldn’t really find the licorice, and I’ve never had star anise, so I’m no help there.  It’s not as thick as some stouts I’ve had, nor is it as good.

I didn’t like this as much as the Iron Throne Ale.  There’s a lot going on, but I found it fairly dissonant.  Give it a try, if only for the awesome bottle.

The next brew is going to be released in the Spring of 2014.  It’s Fire and Blood Red Ale.  Dragons, y’all!

See you then Westeronians!

Lay’s Canada’s Do Us A Flavour Finalist – Grilled Cheese and Ketchup Potato Chips: A Review

Well snacklings, this post officially brings an end to my “week” of reviewing all of the finalists from the Lay’s Canada Do Us a Flavour contest.  And just in time because Halloween is right around the corner, and I have to get to work crafting my Phantasmagorical Halloween Spooktacular series of Halloween-related snack posts.

Or I’ll probably just do one Halloween post about a product line that everyone was all over like a month ago.  Sigh.  I think I’m losing my edge.  My awesome.  My joie de snack.

I’ll do better next year, guys.  I promise.  I’ll do a big countdown like all the cool bloggers do.  Nothing but pumpkin stuff, or whatever.

It’s not that I don’t like Halloween.  I love Halloween.  In theory anyway.  Two months before Halloween, I’ve always got big plans.  Horror movies lined up to the horizon.  Adventurous confectionary treat ideas.  Crazy complicated costume.

Then October rolls around and I’m lying on the couch next to my wife staring listlessly through Dancing with the Stars instead of watching Trick ‘r Treat.  My snack recipes have been reduced to stuffing three bite-sized Snickers into my mouth at one time instead of two.  And I’m starting to wonder if taping an empty paper towel roll to my forehead is close enough to “unicorn” to be considered a costume.

But it’s alright.  I’m attempting to get into the spirit.  I just watched all of the Child’s Play sextology.  Which was great.  And I’m three films into the Hellraiser ennealogy.  Which is stupid.  I just finished a Stephen King ghost story (which was good), and pretty soon I’ll break out my copy of Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things to do my annual reading of my all-time favorite short story “October in the Chair.”  Which is fantastic.  If you haven’t read it, do.  It is the best.

Next year, I’ll go all out.  You guys can hold me to it. All kinds of Halloween posts.  I promise.  Food Junk will be lousy with orange and black and chocolate and pumpkins and ghosts and witches and murderous lunatics.

Segue in…3…2…1…

And speaking of lunatics.  Who dips their grilled cheese sandwiches in ketchup?  That cannot be a thing people do.  I have never heard of this.  Ever.  Tomato soup, yes.  Obviously.  It’s classic.  But ketchup?  Why would you go and ruin a perfectly good grilled cheese sandwich by dipping it in ketchup?  They are dipping right?  Oh god, what if they’re spreading it on?  They’re not spreading it on are they? I need to know the meaning of this.

Enough people have to be doing this for Grilled Cheese and Ketchup to qualify as a finalist, but I still don’t believe it.  Snacklings, sound off.  Have you done this?

The nosegrope upon opening the bag is a combination of ketchup chips and sour cream and cheddar chips.  The ketchup is a little more dominant, but just a little.

The flavor follows suit.  It tastes like a mashup of ketchup and sour cream and cheddar.  And I don’t think the flavors really mesh well.  They don’t build on one another or complement each other, they both just get toned down.  Ketchup chips are usually tangy with a strong vinegar bite, but here it’s just weak and middle of the road.  And I didn’t pick up any breadedness or grilledness, or anything that would make me think of a sandwich.  Just cheese and tomato.

Overall, these are ok.  I found myself just wanting sour cream and cheddar chips.  And doing a blind taste test, I’m not sure I could identify what the flavor is that Lay’s was going for.

In grand conclusion, I’d say Creamy Garlic Caesar is far and away the best flavor in the Do Us a Flavour contest.  I’d place the ok, but uninspired, Perogy Platter a distant second, Grilled Cheese and Ketchup a few strides behind them, and in last place by a Canadian mile, Maple Moose.  Though Maple Moose still gets my vote for most interesting flavor concept.

Canada, in chip contests, as in health care, gun violence, and overall level of being hated by the world, you have bested us.  Your flavors were more interesting, and assuming that Creamy Garlic Caesar is your overall winner, your best chip is better than ours.

Way to go, ay.

And thanks again to Dani at The Daily Yum for helping me track down these chips.  You’re the best.

Lay’s Canada’s Do Us A Flavour Finalist – Perogy Platter Potato Chips: A Review

Last Tuesday I kicked off Food Junk’s Week (or possibly two) of Canadian Grandeur and Majesty. I was going to rapid fire blog my way through the four flavor finalists from Lays Canada’s Do Us a Flavour contest.

I wanted to churn them out really quickly. Back to back to back to back. I wanted to look back fondly on them and be proud of my burst of productivity.  If you’ve been a Food Junk reader for any time, you might remember I used to put up two posts a week!  Two a week!  Hard to believe now that my posting schedule is handled more on a Whenever basis.

So that was the plan. And we were humming along, and I was feeling good about myself. I managed to put up posts for two of the finalists on two consecutive days! Then my wife tried to kill me with poison.

Ok. So she claims that she bought a new cleaning spray for our apartment because it was on sale at the store. She claims she didn’t know that I would be highly allergic to it. She claims she had no idea I would break out in hives or that my eyes would swell shut. She claims she didn’t know I would get the cold shivers for two straight hours on Saturday night forcing me to wear socks, jeans, a t shirt, and a hoodie to bed.

But I have my doubts.

Clearly she has a motive. I mean if I were to suddenly and tragically shuffle loose the mortal coil, she would stand to inherit quite a lot. I’m talking in the range of a few dozen to several dozen dollars, not to mention a respectable collection of vintage Kool-Aid packets, a Back to the Future Trilogy Blu-Ray, and some pretty nice trading cards.  Complete sets of Saved by the Bell: The College Years, as well as 100 Years of Hershey, just to name two.

You don’t have to be Agatha Christie to put all those Indians on the Orient Express. Am I right?  I believe I am.

But I have survived through the power of science and a pretty cute nurse who gave me a steroid shot in my right butt cheek, so here we are.  Back on track.

Our third finalist in the Lay’s Canada Do Us a Flavour contest is Perogy Platter.  The flavor is meant to evoke perogies (I’m going with the weird bag spelling) layered with sour cream, green onion, cheese, and bacon.  I didn’t know perogies were so popular in Canada. I find it interesting.  I would have never picked a flavor like this for a finalist.

The nosegrope was of a bag of sour cream and onion chips with a dusting of some bacon.  Maybe some light cheddar notes.  It reminded me a bit of TGI Friday’s Cheddar and Bacon Potato Skin Chips.

The chips appear to have been birthed from the loins of a sour cream and onion chip base.  That’s the dominant flavor, and like the nosegrope, there is some smokey bacon layered in.  The bacon builds at the end of the chew experience.  There’s not much more going on than that.

These chips don’t really call to mind perogies.  I feel like there should be some kind of dough represented somewhere in the mix.  Without dough, aren’t we just recreating loaded baked potatoes?  Haven’t we already done that?  My waistline says that we have.

These chips are good, but that’s all they are.  There is nothing wrong with them, but overall, they’re pretty unremarkable and easily forgettable.  Definitely the least interesting flavor so far.

Oh yea, and I also have some Huey Lewis and the News albums.  On vinyl.  Watch your backs, snacklings.

Lay’s Canada’s Do Us A Flavour Finalist – Maple Moose Potato Chips: A Review

I don’t wanna brag or anything, but I have been to the Canada pavilion in Epcot like a lot of times.  And I don’t mean just walked through it quickly on my way to Japan to see if they still sell those spinny drum things from The Karate Kid, Part II.  I mean I’ve stopped and looked at the rocks from like all the angles.  And I’ve seen the Circle-Vision movie at least three times.  And that thing’s like 20 minutes long.  Kind of a big commitment.  And there aren’t any seats.  Just rails to lean on.

So really it’s like I’m almost Canadian.

But I still have a question.  Is moose a food that a lot of Canadians eat?  And I’m not judging or mocking or anything.  I really want to know.  Are enough people eating moose that it warrants its own potato chip flavor?  Maple I could see.  Obviously.  But moose?  And is maple and moose a big deal?  Or is it like a mashup of two quintessentially Canadian things?  Like if you were American and mashed up, say, French fries with more French fries, or patriotism and diabetes.

I admit I have next to no moose experience.  I’ve never seen a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon, and I’ve only seen the first episode of Northern Exposure.  However, I am a fan of National Lampoon’s Vacation, but that’s pretty much where it ends.  I’ve certainly never eaten moose.  I didn’t even know that was a thing people ate.  I knew people hunted elk and stuff, but do people hunt moose?  If Northern Exposure is to be believed, they don’t seem very fast.  They just lumber through town, right?

I dunno.

Anway, today we have the second of the four finalists in Lay’s Canada’s Do Us a Flavour contest.  It’s Maple Moose. (Check out the other finalists here.)

The nosegrope upon opening the bad was…weird.   I was expecting meat or maple.  Obviously.  But the nosegrope had a weird astringency that honestly reminded me of sauerkraut.  Or some bizarrely spiced cabbage-based dish at least.  There’s some tomato-y barbeque-ness (barbequeity?) there too, but it’s overwhelmed by whatever that first aroma is.  Moose maybe?  I don’t know.

First and foremost what seems to be missing from the flavor profile is maple.  The chips have a slight sweetness.  To call it maple sweetness would be a stretch.  It’s just slightly sweet.  The base of this chip seems to be Lay’s run of the mill Barbeque.  There’s the aforementioned sweetness and then some of the universal chip mix of paprika and onion, garlic, and tomato powders.  There’s also a gamey, sort of meatish flavor.  I guess that’s the moose.  It’s not as strong as the nosegrope would have you believe, but it’s there and up front.  If that’s what moose tastes like, I’m going to be polishing my big gun of hunting things anytime soon.  In fact, on my first taste, I swear I could detect notes of cheap hot dog.  But they were fleeting.  As notes of cheap hot dog always are.

This is by far the most interesting flavor concept.  This is the one that makes people say “What was that flavor?” when they hear it mentioned.  But when you aim high in Canada, sometimes you miss and land somewhere outside Detroit.  Now again, I have no moose experience.  So for all I know this could be dead on.  If it is, my humblest apologies.

All I know is that if I tried this bag and didn’t know what it was, my first thought would be “Hey, barbeque chips!” and my second would be “What’s wrong with these barbeque chips?”

 

Lay’s Canada’s Do Us A Flavour Finalist – Creamy Garlic Caesar Potato Chips: A Review

When Lay’s did their big Do Us a Flavor promotion a few months back, I wasn’t bowled over.  I thought the promotion itself was a great idea, but the flavors didn’t jump out at me as being terribly inspired. I mean Chicken and Waffles was really interesting, but Cheesy Garlic Bread and Sriracha didn’t really scratch-stop the record that constantly plays in my head.  That record is Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” by the way.

Like every writer in the foodoblogosphere, I rushed around town like a lunatic trying to find all three flavors.  I couldn’t find them anywhere because I can never find things anywhere, and once reviews started popping up online, I lost interest.  I’ve still only tried Cheesy Garlic Bread.  Good thing the excitement of the contest has been nullified now that Lay’s is going to release the other two flavors, so I still have a chance to try them.  I still probably won’t.  I’m a complicated riddle.

But more recently, Frito-Lay Canada started their own contest, Do Us a Flavour (totally spelled with a u), and debuted four way more interesting potato chip varieties: Creamy Garlic Caesar, Grilled Cheese & Ketchup, Perogy Platter, and Maple Moose.  Now, I am interested!

Well, I am interested again, now.  When the four finalists were announced this summer, I tried to find some online, but couldn’t.  So I gave up, and they fell off the radar.  But recently a co-worktress (we’ll call her Cynthia) sent me a text through a third person intermediary (we don’t really have a texting relationship yet) demanding that I buy these chips.  She’s a fan of my blog (and by fan I mean she knows I have a blog but doesn’t read it at all or know what it’s called), so I started the hunt.

I put out the call to my beloved Canada-based Twitter followers to help me out, and new best friend of the blog, Dani of The Daily Yum, came through with a complete set of four.  I don’t know how she did it exactly, but I like to picture her battling her way through a giant red and white pagoda in a series of escalating martial arts fights.  Game of Death style.  (Little known fact about Dani: she actually fought Kareem Abdul-Jabar in real life once.  And won.)

But instead of one long, rambling post with all four flavors, I thought it would be fun to break it up into four long, rambling posts.  So I am declaring this week Food Junk’s Week (or possibly two) of Canadian Grandeur and Majesty!  Together, we will learn the history of this great land with facts that are probably true, and explore the best that Canada has to offer.

Here we go.

This week in Canadian history, back in 1914, Sam Hughes established the Canadian Aviation Corps, a precursor to the Royal Canadian Air Force.  The corps’ publicly stated reason for existing was to fight in World War I, however, years later, through leaked government documents, it was revealed that the corps was actually established to fight the increasingly aggressive pterodactyls who were straying farther and farther from their underground sanctuary in the prehistoric lost continent below Nova Scotia.

In celebration of this achievement, we have these Creamy Garlic Caesar potato chips, based of course on the classic Caesar salad, a dish that was originally intended to serve as pterodactyl bait in Los Angeles’s own Great Sky Lizard War of the late 1800s.

The nosegrope of these Creamy Garlic Caesar chips is reminiscent of Sour Cream and Onion but with noticeable garlic notes.

The strongest flavors are the garlic and Caesar salad dressing components.  They are very upfront, and like a strong Caesar dressing, they stay with you for a while.  Lest we get lazy and stop there, there are also some earthy cheese notes, and even some hints of lemon that push to the forefront the more chips you eat.

I really liked these.  These are well engineered.  All of the bases are covered and attention was paid to detail.  While the flavors may not be exactly exact, they are respectably and enjoyably close.  Co-worktress Cynthia declared that these were easily better than all three American finalists.  I don’t think I’d disagree.

Well played Frito-Lay Canada.  Well played.  I’m slow clapping “O Canada” for you right now.

I hope the rest of the finalists can deliver as well.

Ay.

Chocolate Kingdom’s Royal Cocoa Cola: A Review

When this past summer began, my wife instituted Disney Mondays.  We were both passholders at the time, and she decreed that Mondays would serve as little getaways to start each week off right.  We could turn our pockets inside out and dump the currency from our respective money-holding accessories into the giant Mickey Mouse shaped coffers located on Main Street together.

Good times were had.

But toward the end of the summer we let our passes expire.  There was still one weekend left before we returned to our classrooms and began the ten month long process of slowly poisoning ourselves with the daily inhalation of Expo marker fumes, and we weren’t ready to throw in the José Carioca beach towel just yet.  So we struck out toward Orlando anyway, passes be damned.  We ended up at Old Town in Kissimmee.  It’s an outdoor shopping place with weird tourist shops, restaurants, go-carts and such for the kids, and thrill rides (including the Sky Coaster which remains the scariest attraction I’ve ever been on).

After wading through stores with names like Black Market Minerals (totally aboveboard), Knives &Things (things = very ornate dragon statues), and Kandlestix (with a k AND an x!), we stumbled across Chocolate Kingdom.  (Everything in Orlando is a kingdom, an experience, or a world.)

Chocolate Kingdom is an “interactive chocolate factory tour” run by Schakolad, the company behind a chain of franchised chocolate boutiques that operates in the eastern half of the United States.  I like Schakolad.  We bought our wedding reception favors from them.  They make good chocolate

Now, when I hear “chocolate factory tour,” I picture a purple suited lunatic leading me through a crazy surrealist fever dream of a candy factory accompanied by some memorable, a-hole children.  However, this seemed to be more of a chocolate exhibit wedged into some previously vacated retail/office space.  Though I did hear some loud a-hole children yelling from somewhere inside the place.

As magical as it seemed, we didn’t take the tour.

But in their lobby/gift shop, I found this bottle of Cocoa Cola.  It’s a chocolate soda made especially for, and available only at, the Chocolate Kingdom.  I was sold.

So the nosegrope, isn’t exactly cocoa or chocolate.  It’s more a middle ground between Tootsie Rolls and Yoo-hoo.  Which I guess aren’t really that far apart to begin with.

The flavor isn’t exactly cocoa or chocolate either.  It directly reflects the nosegrope.  It’s chocolate in its most artificial state.  It’s a very sweet, carbonated version of either of the two products mentioned above.  Take your pick.  I’m not sure if any actual cocoa or chocolate made it anywhere near this beverage in either the design or the manufacturing stage.  There are real chocolates being sold in the lobby only a few feet away, but that’s about as good as it gets.

It also leaves a heinous, metallic yet plasticky (is that even possible?) aftertaste that lingers for what seemed like forever.

And look at the color of that soda.  Who in their right mind takes the time to create a chocolate soda and doesn’t color it to look like chocolate?  Seriously.  Is a rich chocolatey brown color too much to ask?  The bottle is brown.  The label is brown.   Chocolate and cola are both brown!  But instead, you went with this weird non-color.  I have to taste Tootsie Rolls while looking at the sickly off-yellow of mildly hydrated tourist pee?  Who’s in charge of this kingdom?!

This was a disappointment.  I don’t know what I was expecting but it was something more than a cheaply flavored novelty soda.  They do sell real chocolate after all.

The good news is you’ll probably never encounter this soda.  But if you should find yourself in Old Town, after you leave The Groovy Store, buy a Coke, open it, leave it in the wonderful smelling Chocolate Kingdom gift shop, and comeback for it in an hour.  It’ll be way better than Cocoa Cola.

Late Night American Hot Wings Doritos: A Review

Want to read about a vaguely named snack from my Taiwan in the shape of a haircut I used to have?  Of course you do.  I reviewed Late Night American Hot Wings Doritos on The Impulsive Buy.

Late Night American Hot Wings 1

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