REVIEW: Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups

Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups

Finally, General Mills has cornered the market on adults who have a suppressed desire to run off and join the carnival.

Having often risked my life on drop towers, fried Oreo cookies, and questionably constructed bungee cords, to say I am a fan of the carnival would be an understatement, and I am flat out excited to see Fruit Roll-Ups paying a tribute to the land of rickety rides with not one, but TWO special rolls. Let’s see what this is all about.

Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups 2

Attempting to unravel the rolls proves that there has been no evolution in General Mills’ plastic wrap since 1993. Indeed, it took me a good eight minutes to attain my first roll, a process which involved unrolling, re-rolling, unrolling again, tearing a hole in the roll, trying to patch it up, tearing 3 more holes, bonking my knee on a coffee table, and plenty of bad-mouth sailor talk.

While I have higher hopes for your agility, you, too, may find yourself frustrated in unwrapping your Roll-Up. Instead of resorting to my low, sailor-mouth tactics, perhaps you might look at peeling back the cellophane as not a struggle, but a lesson in how to better manage oneself in a harsh, unforgiving world.

Once you finally get these suckers unwrapped, the rolls’ images reveal a wealth of inspiration for aspiring carousel engineers and balloon salesmen. Each roll is split into two flavors: Cotton Candy/Caramel Apple and Berry Lemonade/Cherry Slushie. Let’s take it one flavor at a time, shall we?

Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups 3

Berry Lemonade – The lemonade is strong with this one. Sweet and tangy with hints of juice, this one avoids the zest and goes straight for lemonade’s sugary qualities. There’s a slightly floral aftertaste that reminds me of blue raspberry Air Heads. I am not certain that blue raspberry qualifies as a berry, but its presence doesn’t offend the lemonade. I dig it.

Cherry Slushie – A bit of a snoozer, although it’s still good in its own artificial cherry way. It’s a deep, sour cherry flavor, much along the lines of a cherry Starburst. It’s a little one-note, which makes me wonder if it may have benefitted from a bit of vanilla or some lime. Still, quite good.

Taken as a whole, the two make a solid cherry-lemonade mock-up. A less formidable lemon would wilt in the presence of such strong cherry, but there’s a tang that brings the deep cherry notes back into place and makes the experience surprisingly balanced. Well done, General Mills. You found equilibrium and put it in a pectin fruit roll.

Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups 4

Caramel Apple – Snap dog, this is one tangy apple. It reminds me of that crisp, tart Jolly Rancher Apple flavor, which I greatly appreciate, but where is the caramel? Nowhere to be found.

I initially hoped the Caramel Apple might be a roll on its own, allowing the tang of apple to come into play with a separate Werther’s caramel-like flavor, much akin to the flavors found in Tootsie’s Caramel Apple Pops. But no. Instead of burnt-sugar caramel, the apple was paired with another, more nefarious flavor…

Cotton Candy – Not for the weak of spirit. Imagine the sugary, floral taste of six feet of Bubble Tape. Distill that into a microcosm of liquid flavoring. Combine with hydrogenated cottonseed oil and squish out onto a piece of dollar store plastic wrap. Voila. You have this flavor.

I ate this roll last, hedging my bets that its strong flavors would eliminate my powers of taste. They did. While I appreciate the green apple flavor on its own, I discovered that bubblegum-flavored apples are not for me. Those with sensitive taste buds should approach with caution.

Taken as a whole, the experience of these rolls ranged between surprisingly great to mildly terrorizing. I hammered through the Lemonade/Cherry combination with gusto, but the Cotton Candy/Apple? That’s filed under the clunkers.

While neither flavor will replace my favorite (Strawberry), I appreciate that General Mills branched out with their Roll-Up offerings in a fun, summery way that celebrates the carnival. The next generation of humans may never experience Mayor McCheese or the way, way back seat of station wagons, but I have hope we’ll hang tight to the questionably safe swings and giganto funnel cakes at the carnival.

Just maybe keep the cotton candy-flavored apples out of it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 roll – 50 calories, 5 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups
Purchased Price: $4.98 (Triple Pack)
Size: 3 boxes – 10 rolls per box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Berry Lemonade/Cherry Slushie)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Cotton Candy/Caramel Apple)
Pros: Lemonade/Cherry nicely balanced. Cherry tastes like a Starburst. Pears in ingredient list. Jolly Rancher Apple. Inspires balloon salesmen. Mayor McCheese.
Cons: Cotton Candy can get too sweet. No caramel in Caramel Apple. Blue raspberry is not really a berry. Dollar store plastic wrap. Bonking knee on a coffee table. A harsh, unforgiving world.

REVIEW: Burger King Doritos Loaded

Burger King Doritos Loaded

Burger King might be in trouble.

They seem like they’re pulling out all the stops lately, bringing back the King (great move), Chicken Fries (decent move, absolutely terrible marketing) and now trying to branch off into that weird menu item market Taco Bell lives in. I’m not sure what they’re hoping to gain by offering a product that has been sold at 7-Eleven locations for some time, but I’m definitely sensing an air of desperation.

This may be a controversial statement, but I don’t really like Doritos Locos Tacos. Don’t get me wrong, I was first in line to order them and I thought the idea was brilliant, but the execution? Ehhhhhh. After the first bite, I barely even noticed any Doritos flavor. The new Burger King Doritos Loaded are no different.

Doritos Loaded – which is a really stupid name – smelled awesome. The drive home was tense, because their aroma filled my car almost instantly. I was pretty hungry and toyed with the idea of just busting them out right there, but chose to avoid Doritos fingers for a couple more minutes. Still, I was pumped to throw these babies down by the time I got home. Oh what a naïve fool I was.

Burger King Doritos Loaded 2

Doritos Loaded look cool and have a little heft to them, about the same weight as a chicken nugget. They have a nice salty, crispy outer shell, but it’s also a bit dry. If I stopped eating them after one bite, my review score would have been a lot higher.

They make a really good first impression. I could taste the nacho cheese Doritos flavor, but it’s immediately masked by the cheese filling. After that, I never really tasted nacho cheese Doritos again.

Burger King Doritos Loaded 3

The cheese inside is gross! I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what kind of cheese. I naturally thought nacho at first, then maybe American? After some Googling that took way too much time, I learned it has a combination of American, cheddar and Romano. I never would have been able to tell you that myself. The cheese was just indiscriminate, bland, and gooey. The decision to use that mix was my biggest problem with the Doritos Loaded.

They would have been so much better if the center was a bit solidified with a cheese like mozzarella. I considered letting them sit around and cool off a little before eating more, but agita was kicking in. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to eat more.

I absolutely hate wasting food, but I threw away two of the four Doritos Loaded. I would have given them away, but I was alone. I didn’t even have someone to make hand uprights for me so I could attempt to flick one of these across the room paper football-style.

I’m so lonely. All I want is for someone to finish my gross food and make finger field goals for me. Is that too much to ask?

But I digress.

I think the idea of crusting snacks in Doritos crumbs is a great one. I’ve often said Frito-Lay could make a killing selling Doritos dust in the spice aisle. I’d definitely put that on a chicken breast. In fact, Burger King should strike while the iron is hot, and offer chicken nuggets crusted in Doritos crumbs. There’s zero chance that wouldn’t be a hit. It would certainly crush the Doritos Loaded.

Can someone pass this along to the King? Doritos crusted nuggets! And get Darius Rucker to sing in the commercial like the good old days. And no more unlawful marriages between chickens and French fries.

Doritos Loaded were a novel idea, but the execution was awful. Not to mention, for $2.99 there are about 100 better fast food values out there.

I don’t know, I guess this is worth a shot for Burger King. I don’t necessarily think these will pair well with a burger, so 7-Eleven seems like a better place to buy them. With all that said, I hope they release a Cool Ranch version. But if they do, they better make them with mozzarella.

(Nutrition Facts – 360 calories, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,080 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 4 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein..)

Item: Burger King Doritos Loaded
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 4 bites
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Smelled great. Nice crispy exterior. Cool packaging/shape. Hootie’s “Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch” jingle. The King is back!
Cons: Dry. Almost no Doritos flavor. Terrible cheese filling. Chicken Fries commercials. No one to play paper football with.

REVIEW: Skippy Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel

Skippy Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel

I guess Skippy has to keep up with the Joneses…I mean, keep up with the Jifeses.

While Skippy has flavored peanut butter spreads, dark chocolate and honey, Jif’s Whips line has seen so many flavors that it makes me wonder if it’s called Whips not only because it’s an airy peanut butter, but also because whips are what Jif uses to “encourage” their flavor scientists to pump out so many flavors.

For the sake of those who don’t follow airy peanut butter spreads as closely as I do and to inflate the word count of this review, Jif Whips have come in the following flavors: Original, Chocolate, Pumpkin Pie Spice, S’mores, Chocolate Mint, Maple Brown Sugar, and Salty Caramel.

But Skippy is trying to play catch up with their Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel.

From what I can tell, salted caramel, sea salt caramel, salty caramel, and its ilk have been popping up as a new flavor with many products. I’d list them to further extend the word count of this review, but I shall spare you the monotony of reading dozens of commas. Salted caramel has reached the point where we could call it the non-holiday pumpkin spice.

Skippy’s salted caramel-flavored spread smells burnt with a hint of chemicaliness. Granted, I’ve never smelled the combination of peanut butter and caramel before or walked into someone with an open jar of peanut butter while I was unwrapping Werther’s Originals and then yelled “Hey! You got your peanut butter on my Werther’s Originals,” so maybe burnt with a hint of chemicaliness is what those two are supposed to smell like.

Oh, “chemicaliness” is an abomination of a word? Well then, it’s appropriate because I feel Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel is an abomination of a peanut butter spread.

Skippy Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel 2

Okay, maybe not an abomination because I don’t gag while eating it on bread (it spreads just like regular Skippy), on a spoon, or on my finger, but it makes my tongue surf waves of flavors that encourages it to paddle to shore and go home. First, there’s the peanut butteriness, which has a slight caramel-ish flavor. It isn’t offensive, but the caramel flavoring does a great job at muting the peanut butter flavor. Next, there’s a burst of saltiness, which makes sense since it’s salted caramel. But, at times, it can be a bit too much.

However, that saltiness prepares my mouth for the final rough wave of flavor. Remember how I said it smells burnt? Well, it also tastes burnt. To be more exact, this last wave of flavor reminds me of burnt popcorn.

But I’m not really surprised I don’t care for it. The “artificial flavoring” printed on the front of the bottle was a red flag.

I don’t see myself ever coming close to finishing this bottle of Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel. Right now, it sits four-fifths full in the back of the cupboard, hidden behind some bottles of the Jifeses.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp – 190 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.)

Item: Skippy Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel
Purchased Price: $3.22
Size: 15 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: It spreads like regular Skippy. Looks like regular Skippy. Doesn’t make me gag.
Cons: Tastes like burnt popcorn. Smells burnt with a hint of chemicaliness. Using long words that my computer’s spell check doesn’t like.

REVIEW: Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)

Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)

If nothing else, I’ll say this about the Burger King location I visited: they’re super efficient.

I visited around noon, and they were quite busy. After I ordered, I walked about three steps to the left, to the area where they bring the food. There was a burger sitting on a tray. Since I had literally just finished ordering my burger seconds ago, it didn’t even occur to me that it was mine.

There was a smiling man standing behind the counter. We locked eyes. Why was this guy staring at me? Didn’t he have anything better to do? Was my fly down? The man pointed to the tray and told me it was mine. I don’t know if the words just didn’t compute, or if he wasn’t speaking loudly enough, but I asked him to repeat it. He did.

This still made no sense to me. Even if the burger was pre-made, how did he get it from under the heat lamp and over to my tray so quickly? There was maybe two seconds between me finishing up my order and walking over to where he was standing. So I clarified: “No, I ordered the Pepperoni Bacon Whopper.” His smile didn’t quite fade, but it wavered. He was clearly starting to lose his patience. “Yes sir, that’s yours.”

My eyes narrowed. I thanked the guy — more a question than a statement — then picked up the tray and took it to a table.

I unwrapped the burger, half expecting to find a regular Whopper. Glancing at the sad-looking burger in front of me, flattened and misshapen, I initially thought I was right. But what’s this? Is that a piece of bacon poking out from the bun? I took a peek inside, and yep, there was the pepperoni.

You’re probably wondering, “Why are you dwelling on this? It’s a fast food place; of course the food came fast.” Fair enough. Maybe you had to be there, but it was a startling display of efficiency. I honestly wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified.

Anyway: the burger. The Pepperoni Bacon Whopper is, as the title implies, a Whopper with pepperoni and bacon on it. It’s also got a couple of slices of American cheese, because, yeah, why not?

My conundrum as to whether or not to be impressed or horrified was quickly answered after I took my first bite: horrified. Because not only was this burger not hot, it wasn’t even warm -– it was room temperature. I don’t know exactly how long it was sitting out, but I’m going to say a while.

I will charitably call it lukewarm, but in reality, it was leaning more towards cold. I considered asking them to make me a new one, but by the time this thought occurred to me, I was already two or three bites in, and the idea of losing my progress and starting over from scratch with a brand new burger was too much for me to handle. I earned those bites; no one was going to take them from me.

The patty itself was easily the burger’s worst offender. It was unpleasantly bitter, with that distinctively acrid, stayed-on-the-grill-for-a-couple-of-minutes-too-long flavor that characterizes pretty much any hamburger you get from Burger King these days.

It was also insanely dry. And I don’t just mean dry in that fairly typical way that characterizes most fast food burgers. No, this wasn’t that. This was capital-D Dry. I’ve had a pretty ridiculous amount of hamburgers in my lifetime, and this was probably one of the driest ones I’ve ever had.

Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada) 2

It was tough, with a pebbly texture and a slightly gamy, vaguely off flavour that peeked through whenever you weren’t tasting the charred bitterness. It’s a flavour that announces in no uncertain terms that this is shoddy beef that has doubtless been sitting in a drawer for a disturbingly long period of time.

The pepperoni was pretty good, at least. It was standard-issue pepperoni, with that very familiar flavour that you’ve no doubt tasted on hundreds of pizza slices over your lifetime. On a better burger it would have been a bit overwhelming, but here I was very happy for the flavour of the patty to be overwhelmed; my arms were wide open. It wasn’t overwhelming enough, in fact. The taste of that patty still managed to muscle its way through and go straight for my gag reflex.

The thin slices of bacon, however, never had a chance. I knew they were there because I saw them, but I couldn’t taste them. At all.

The cheese, though it added some creaminess, also got lost among the burger’s more assertive flavours.

The other toppings (the standard Whopper veggies, ketchup, and mayo) were fine. The tomato slices weren’t mealy and the lettuce had some vague crunchiness, so I’m going to call that a win. The bun was a little bit clammy, but otherwise okay.

As a parting gift, the burger left an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste that lingered for most of the afternoon.

So no, sorry Burger King — you continue to be the Andy Dick of fast food chains. You were okay in the ’90s, but no one wants you around any more. The sad thing is, putting pepperoni on a burger is a decent enough idea, but to quote Switch from the Matrix: not like this. Not like this.

(Nutrition Facts – 860 calories, 56 grams of fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, 2.5 grams of trans fat, 145 milligrams of cholesterol, 1590 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: A burger that’s ready mere seconds after ordering it, as if by wizardry. Tasty pepperoni. Fresh condiments.
Cons: Apparently even a wizard cannot conjure up a burger and make it taste hot and fresh. Bitter, over-charred, absurdly dry burger patty. Pointless bacon. Terrible aftertaste.

REVIEW: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gums

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum

In the land of guar gum and sucralose, where the pumpkins and gourds lie…

Two brands.
Many layers.
One flavor to rule them all.

Yes, it’s Pumpkin Spice Season, and, in the legion of opportunities to build up your pumpkin spice endurance, Extra and Trident are throwing themselves in the sumo circle to see which can make the product with just enough squash, just enough cinnamon, just enough grit, to transform a dessert of caramelized orange vegetables into a new and potentially terrifying medium.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident-Extra face-off

With enough tire tread marks to wrap around a Ford F-150, the Extra pieces serve up a classic, slim look. The Layers, on the other hand, are the prodigy of pudgy, 3-dimensional nubbins, the Tetris blocks of a former life, if you will.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident Tetris!

And, much like Tetris blocks, there is no pumpkin in either gum. No pumpkin at all. But a chewer still gets many of the sensations that a pumpkin-spiced treat might bring (sweetness, warmth, cinnamon spice). The Extra smooshes the sugar-and-spice sweetness in one bite, with an emphasis on the sweet coming together to taste something like a strongly cinnamon-spiced sugar cookie (or, more accurately, a cinnamon-spiced Juicy Fruit).

There aren’t any squash notes, but there is a strong emphasis on caramelized sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and fruity clove. It’s hyper-sweet and the spice fills me with Christmas optimism, and, as we all know, it’s so easy to accomplish stuff when filled with Christmas optimism. I even cleaned my house thanks to Extra gum.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum This clean house is brought to you by Extra gum

On the other end of the spectrum is the Trident, which has all the looks and smells of a Yankee Candle store in October, combining the familiar spices of cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of sweetness. I have my hopes up, but as I start to chew…

Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi? Where Jabba’s henchmen are sucked into the maw of a gaping sandpit, wherein they are chewed and ddigested? That is how I felt while chewing the Trident: it starts off super sweet, but then eeks out into an amalgamation of popcorn, plastic, Halls cough drops, and those name-brand white jelly beans.

The spice is equivalent to gnawing on a basket of potpourri and, in a mere 47 seconds (47 SECONDS!), the gum got tough as the girders of Scottish gentlemen. Unless you have recently lost your sense of taste or have a particular nostalgia for gnawing on Goodyear Tires baked in a vat nutmeg, I’d recommend putting your pumpkin pie money elsewhere.

The Extra on the other hand? It had a solid 3-5 minute run before losing flavor, and even then, it had a soft chew and spice that stayed. Is it the sorbital? The soy lechithin? The Acesulfame-K? I dunno, but I do know that Acesulfame-K is almost as fun to say as “Stoichiometric ratio” or, “nuclear binary fission.” Thankfully, Acesulfame is not as intense or damaging to your internal organs as nuclear binary fission. Yay for not chewing nuclear radiation!

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum The winner and grand champion

When I was 8 years old, I decided I’d be a Detroit Lions quarterback. As a 4.5-foot, 65-pound human who couldn’t get past the third rung on the climbing rope, I knew this was unlikely, but certainly not impossible, so I tried anyway.

Similarly, the concept of creating a gum that mimics pumpkin pie is far-reaching, but not ludicrous, and Extra did a respectable job here. While neither match the pie experience to the “–nth” degree, Extra takes a notable lead over Trident with its longer chew time and greater sense of roundedness in flavor, but just know that, like a 4.5-foot, 65-pound 8-year-old pretending to be an NFL quarterback, it still can’t quite replace the real thing.

(Nutrition Facts – Extra – less than 5 calorie, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein. Trident – 5 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1 pack/15 pieces
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fruity clove. Nice vanilla balance. Lasts for about 3-5 minutes. Christmas optimism. Detroit Lions.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Not as aesthetically pleasing as the Trident. After 3-5 minutes, gets rubbery. Nuclear radiation.

Item: Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $2.80
Size: 3 packs (14 pieces each)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Pretty to look at. Tetris. Girders of Scottish gentlemen. Reason to talk about Return of the Jedi.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Like chewing a mix of cinnamon-spiced plastic, popcorn, and stale jellybeans. Gets tough after 47-seconds. Being chewed by a sandpit.