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.

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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

Bacon Freak’s Piglets Pecan Bacon Snack: A Review

We’re done with bacon, right?  Finally?  Everything’s been wrapped and infused and topped and garnished.  Every animal worth eating has had it rammed into all of its available orifices.  Every product has been flavored or scented.  We made perfumes and floss and personal lubricant.  There are shirts and socks and ties.  It’s finally over, right?  The douchey uninteresting posers have lost interest?  We’re moving onto the cronut now?

It’s about time.  Talk about overstaying your welcome.  And I’ll come right out and say it. Bacon, it’s not so great.  Seriously.  It’s good.  It’s not meme good.  Have a couple slices on your burger.  Pair it with some eggs.  Wrap a scallop.  Crumble it in your salad.  But then move the eff on.  It’s just a food.  It’s not a lifestyle.  As much as you want it to be.

I’ll admit I fell prey to the nonsense.  I tried a bacon latte at a hipster bakery.  I ate canned bacon.  Bacon popcorn.   I even tried some fizzy bacon drink tabs.  Just to say I did.  Why not, right?  That’s what it all was about.  Saying you did.  No one is really that into bacon.  And if you are.  Enjoy the next few days of life before your heart explodes like the Death Star.

Now if you run an artisanal charcuterie, by all means bacon away.  That’s an art and I’m sure you are making amazing stuff.  But that’s not the same as buying 10 pounds at the Piggly Wiggly to pile on a burger the size of a Frisbee for your next web video.

I’d love to say this will be my last bacon review, but it probably won’t.  Some food we didn’t realize we were forgetting will get the bacon treatment and it’ll land on all the blogs and media outlets.  What are you gonna do?  I’m only human.

Honestly, I was excited when I first saw this product.  I was picturing a perfect crunchy blend of salty and sweet that would make me reconsider my stance on bacon.  I was hoping it would be like those delicious sugared almonds I buy when I go to theme parks and such, but with a bacon.  Sounds good, right?  I know!

well, the nosegrope is what you’d think it would be.  It’s bacon.  Big, big bacon and lots of it.  No room for anything else.  A bad beginning.

Unfortunately, the taste of this mix was a complete letdown.  The bacon, sugar, and pecans have all been mashed together into a uniformly, semi-mushy mélange.  I wish there was more variety in the texture, but everything has just been sitting together for too long.

The pecans and brown sugar have absorbed the flavor of the bacon completely.  If you love bacon, that’s great.  But I wondered why the pecans and sugar were there at all.  Essentially you have bacon-infused pecans and bacon-infused brown sugar (which miraculously has lost most of its sweetness).  Even the bacon bits seem to be bacon-infused, the flavor is so intense.  It’s all just too much.  Too salty, too bacony.   And it left me tasting bacon for hours.  It’s not good.

The solution to this mess of a product would be to keep each component separate, or to sugar up the pecans and keep those sequestered from the bacon bits, so the consumer could mix them up at snack time.  That way you could retain the flavor of each individual component and make it taste like it tastes in my imagination.

But I guess when you have a snack produced by a website dedicated to shoving bacon up the ass of every product they could get their greasy fingers on, not every one is going to be a winner.  Actually I bet most of them aren’t winners.

Bacon Freak’s Piglets Pecan Bacon Snack is the perfect example of what was ridiculous about the whole bacon craze.  It was all coulda instead of shoulda.  A poorly executed idea rushed to capitalize on the trend du jour.

Just make this at home yourself.  It’ll be much much better.

Ugh.

Bacon.

Pepsi-Flavored Cheetos: A Review

Head on over to The Impulsive Buy for my review of the latest Japanese snack hybrid monstrosity: Pepsi-flavored Cheetos.

Pepsi-flavored Cheetos

Giant Star Wars Lightsaber Pocky: A Review

I don’t often find myself fundamentally opposed to snack foods, but I used to be fundamentally opposed to Pocky. The idea of it offended me.  Deeply.

I became aware of its existence at around the same time I became aware of the existence of anime.  Which also offended me.  I tried to get into anime at the behest of some friends who were REALLY into anime.  I wanted to like it, for them.  They were good people.

I gave anime a chance.  Multiple chances.  Long ass, drawn out, nothing-has-happened-in-the-last eight-episodes, if-this-is-supposed-to-be-serious-then-why-the-hell-did-that-guy’s-eyes-bug-out-when-he-got-hit-in-the-head-with-a-frying-pan chances.  But I didn’t like it.

Anime was something supremely mediocre that people were convincing themselves was really good.  When really it wasn’t good, it was just different and those people wanted to be people who were into something different.  That irked me, and subsequently I came to hate anything and everything associated with it.

And Pocky was associated with it.  It was a snack the fanboys and fangirls LOVED.  But they didn’t love it.  It was a part of the character they were crafting.  It was an accessory to the anime fan costume, if you will.

In hindsight, this misplaced rage was a function of those people having found something they liked and/or identified with that they could get excited about, while I had not.

Nowadays my life philosophy is almost completely rooted in the idea of liking what you like unabashedly.  Love writing Golden Girls slash fiction?  Adding characters to your DuckTales tattoo sleeve?  Painting large scale recreations of Richard Simmons’ Deal-a-Meal cards?  Then do it!  And go at it with the gusto and enthusiasm reserved only for Labrador retrievers and ADHD kids who have to wear helmets.  Because one day you’ll be dead, and it’s the happy distractions between now and then that are important.  The most important really.

Having made peace with this concept allows me to unabashedly love Star Wars, which is arguably the mediocre-est of mediocre things.  If you’re outside of Star Wars, the whole thing is easily dismissible.  If you’re inside it, it’s the greatest thing that has ever been because it has spaceships and lightsabers and lasers and monsters and occasionally hot primary-colored ladies.  I love all of it.

Today, we have the latest product at the nexus of Star Wars and food products: Giant Star Wars Lightsaber Pocky.  Sadly, the Force was not strong in these Pocky sticks as none of them arrived from Japan in one piece.

This pack comes with six Giant Pocky sticks.  Giant indicating that they are longer (9 inches to be exact) and thicker than normal Pocky.  They come in three flavors.  Each one corresponds to a different Star Wars character.  The pink Pocky is strawberry and corresponds to Darth Vader’s lightsaber from A New Hope.  The green one is green tea and represents Yoda’s lightsaber from Attack of the Clones.  The purple one is grape, and is not Mace Windu’s (!), but represents Luke’s blue lightsaber in A New Hope.  Why they didn’t make Luke’s Pocky blue is a mystery, and kind of maddening.  To people like me, anyway.  (You made it blue on the package, guys!)

The strawberry and grape flavors (and nosegropes) are intensely artificial, and just what you’d expect from a highly-flavored Japanese candy.  The grape isn’t bad but it crosses over a little too far into medicine-y territory for my liking.  The green tea flavor is not as intense.  It’s vaguely vegetal and quite unremarkable.

Overall, I liked the strawberry best.  It was the most familiar and least offensive.  However, I don’t think these Giant Pocky work as a whole.  The ratio of icing to biscuit cookie is pretty good in normal Pocky sticks.  Both are well represented and mix to provide a balanced cookie experience during chewation.

However, the ratio in this Giant Pocky is way off.  You get the burst of icing but it doesn’t last long, as it doesn’t have nearly the volume to compete with the sheer size of the biscuit cookie.  You’re left with a mouthful of cookie that, while decent, is not very interesting.  These did not need to be Giant.

A more inspired approach would have been to just have normal Pocky in the four lightsaber colors represented in the films, including a Pocky stick dipped at both ends with the biscuit visible in the middle to represent the always menacing Darth Maul.  But what do I know?

The packaging of this product is outstanding, but in the end they came up short on content and execution.  Say it with me.  Just like the prequels.

May the Force be with you. (I can’t believe I’ve had this blog for three years and haven’t ever written that.)

Clamato: A Review

I don’t listen to music.  Well, that’s not fair, everyone listens to music.  I don’t pursue music.  Some people love music.  My wife is never not listening to music (or singing or humming or whistling).  But I am indifferent.

I want to like music.  I want to be a music guy.  I make a nominal effort every month or so.  I load up a bunch of songs, proclaiming that this will be the month where I listen to music.  But it never happens.

These were the five songs that came up when I randomly shuffled everything on my phone just now:

    • “Rightstarter (Message to a Black Man)” by Public Enemy (I’ve never heard this song before now.)
    • “Fuzzy Dice” by Optimus Rhyme
    • “Crawling the Walls” by David Gross
    • “Running Right Through the World” by The Toasters
    • “Jump With My Baby” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

If that’s not enough for you, I can tell you every single song I’ve listened to this entire week.  Because there are only three:

    • The aforementioned “Crawling the Walls” by David Gross
    • “Goin’ In (Skrillex Goin’ Down Mix)” by Birdy Nam Nam (due to my recent obsession with Spring Breakers)
    • “The Dope Show” by Marilyn Manson (in the shower, because sometimes a man’s gotta sing)

If I gave you my top five favorite albums, you’d probably stop hanging out with me.  But you can judge me.  It’s fine.  I made peace with it a long time ago.  I’m cool in other ways.

That’s not to say I live surrounded by ambient noise just listening to my own thoughts.  The horror.

I listen to podcasts.  Tons and tons of podcasts.  All the time.  Driving, jogging, cooking, avoiding the possibility of talking to strangers.  All the time.  My wife hates it.  “How can you just listen to people talking all the time?!”  But I love them.  They stimulate my brain like music doesn’t.

So recently, I was listening to FEaB, a podcast with Matt Mira of the Nerdist empire and Scott Mosier of the View Askew universe.  They were talking about airplane beverage service, and one of them brought up Clamato, today’s tomato and clam beverage invented by two maniacs in the 1960s that wanted a cocktail in the style of Manhattan clam chowder.  Because I guess eating soup and getting drunk was just taking too much time to do separately.

It’s been on my radar for years, but I’d never had it or remembered even seeing it anywhere.  They mocked it thoroughly, and it was quite entertaining.

So I started to wonder what the most mocked food product of all time is.  You know, the stuff that’s been the punch line of the most jokes or just the most universally insulted.

After surveying some associates, I have compiled a tentative list of ten contenders in no particular order.  Your input is appreciated.

    • New Coke
    • Zima
    • Crystal Pepsi
    • Hot Pockets
    • McGriddles
    • Cheez Whiz
    • Spam
    • Clamato
    • Funyuns
    • McRib

I think Clamato is mocked mostly for its name.  Partly for the clam thing, but mostly for its name.  It’s a pretty bad name.  But then, what else would you call an “invigorating mix of tomato juice, spices, and a touch of clam”?  A touch of clam.  I could not find that phrase any funnier.  I was going to use it in a cover band joke but thought better of it.  Your input is appreciated.

I thought this was going to be a hard to find product.  Wikipedia assured me it is popular in Canada and Mexico but less so in the U.S.  But there it was in my local grocer.  Not a few stray, dusty bottles either.  Like three feet of shelf space.  With three different sizes and two varieties!  I had no idea.

The nosegrope of Clamato is more of store bought spaghetti sauce than straight tomato juice.  Seems that’s where the spices (onion and garlic powder) come in.  I couldn’t discern the touch of clam.

Going in, I was expecting the flavor of Clamato to fall somewhere in between a clam explosion and an old timey sea captain’s beard.  But it didn’t.  They’re not lying when they say a touch of clam.  It’s surprisingly subtle.  It’s there, but the spaghetti sauce flavor is the most in your face.  That and the salt.  It’s salty.  Eight-hundred milligrams of sodium per eight ounces.  Blimey.

I didn’t have the clams to mix this stuff with beer, but I did whip up a Caesar, which is a Bloody Mary made with Clamato.  Not bad.  Still salty.  Probably not going to be my go-to cocktail.

And what makes this a cocktail and not a cold soup anyway?  It’s made with dried clam broth.  It’s got spices.  I’ve had less flavorful soups than this.  Is it just because it’s in a bottle?  Served in a glass and not a bowl?  Again, your input is appreciated.

I was really hoping for something disastrous with Clamato, but altogether, it’s not bad.  I don’t know if I would drink it even semi-regularly, but someone is enjoying it.  To each his own, I say!  I love podcasts, my wife likes music, and somewhere a dude is getting loose with clam and tomato juice.  We’re all stars now in the dope show! (I didn’t really know how to end this.)