REVIEW: Hostess Chocodile Twinkies

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies

I am an animal.

An animal with all the habits, flaws, and self-imposed delusions that accompany being a carbon-constructed mammal with opposable thumbs, and thus I found myself appreciating all these animal traits as I put those opposable thumbs in my special lunchtime skill: ripping open the cellophane wrapper of a snack cake.

I’ve eaten enough Ding-Dongs, Yodels, and other snack-cakes-with-onomatopoeic-names to fill the pages of a small comic book series. Needless to say, I was celebratory in discovering that Hostess’s former West Coast exclusive, the Chocodile, had been reintroduced and expanded its horizons, migrating to shelves around all around this fine country. If you, like me, find yourself clawing for the Zingers and Sno-balls, shaking the vending machine for that last pack of Zebra Cakes, that one Oatmeal Crème Pie, come, fellow snacker, and we shall delve into plastic-wrapped horizons.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Chocodile in its natural habitat

I can think of 12 good reasons why a miniature oblong cake is better than a cupcake. One is that you are now equipped with a contextually sensible way to use “oblong” in a sentence. Another is that the cake specimen has equal frosting distribution. In a cupcake, there’s often a glob of frosting, pillowing at the top. Even worse, sometimes, you even have to play favorites: do I want the cupcake with the sprinkles or the one with the fancy frosting ribbon on top? Then, you have to fight for the one you want before someone else gets it (“Get away! That’s my frosting ribbon!”).

Here, not so much. Every cake is the same. Not only do you get a glaze of chocolatey something enveloping your cake in an even layer, but you also get crème filling all the way through. There’s no overwhelming decision-making. No “perfect ratio.” No, “Should I go for the middle first, or save the middle bite for last while sacrificing my fingers as they’re trying to work around the edges so I can save the pile of frosting?” None of that. It’s equally massive poofs of frosting. All day. All the time.

Needless to say, I’m excited. Just crackling open that thin plastic wrapper is enough to take me back to the days of elementary school cafeterias and Chuck E. Cheese Birthday cakes.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Chocodile doppelganger

And the first few bites were pretty good, but as I continued, the magic descended at madcap speed. It was the chocolate that started it all. Tasting of burnt cocoa and stubby crayons, that shiny mahogany glaze seems as though it might be better suited melted down and repurposed as a wax celebrity at Madame Tussaud’s. There was perhaps a hint of cocoa in there, but, on the whole, it had all the excitement of candle drippings, old raisins, and Sad.

The saving grace came in the crème filling. Like the classic Twinkie, this crème is poofy and tastes of Betty Crocker frosting that’s been pummeled into a Marshmallow Fluff machine. Or Marshmallow Fluff that’s been pummeled into a Betty Crocker frosting machine. Either way, there’s definitely sugar in celebratory abundance. While made of questionable ingredients, I could scoop this with my paw and eat it like a Pooh bear.

But not even those sweet hydrogenated poofs can save the cake. While I enjoy traditional Twinkies for their spongy, slightly oily character and fake vanilla-y flavor, this thing was like eating a loofa. A dry, unflavored loofa. The crème gave it the sugar it needed to upgrade its taste to that of a stale, dry doughnette, but, overall, that Loofa Cake combined with a raisin-wood-wax coating? No bueno.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Quick Batman, get some milk for that loofa cake!

I wish I could glorify these Chocodiles. I love weird finger cakes. Snarfing a double-snack-pack is my special lunchtime skill. I may have ordered a case of expired Twinkies 8 months after Hostess shut down (Moldy Twinkies, people. Moldy. Twinkies.). So I’d really like to give these a sparkling grade. But I just can’t. Sure, the crème was good, but…loofa cake. Waxy coating. To say it lived up to its Hostess brethren would be a lie. Lies are no good for you. No good for me. However, let me take note that these are not inedible, and, in fact, are far better than other experiences I could imagine in my life, such as perpetual B.O. or death by toilet paper.

So if you like loofa cake, stale doughnettes, and things that are marginally better than death by 2-ply, go for it. Otherwise, I’d approach with a wary step.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Chocodile Twinkies
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Met Foods
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Even frosting distribution. Good crème-to-cake ratio. Poofy, sugary crème. Wrapper is excellent way to exercise your opposable thumbs. Better than death by toilet paper.
Cons: Loofa Cake. Waxy-woodsy coating. The fight for the frosting ribbon. Madame Tussaud’s. Wrestling matches with vending machines. Elementary school cafeterias.

REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger Potato Chips

Lay's Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger Potato Chips

Goddamn, I really wanted to like you. I wanted to praise you to Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” and tell all my friends how good you were. I patiently waited to open up your bag as you already had me at “Kettle Cooked.” You had me at KETTLE COOKED dammit!!! I love the crunch that quickly shatters into delicious crumbles. Being kettle cooked is the only way to make a potato do that.

I also love wasabi flavored snacks, including that hard to find Lindt chocolate bar. Akin to a big, boisterous and caring aunt who keeps telling you to eat more because you’re so skinny (but you’re not) or how much of a grown man you look in your tie (even in a bolo tie?), wasabi is loud and imposing. It makes its presence known as your nasal flares slightly then tempers down to a sweet cooing.

As for ginger, I love all forms of it except the ubiquitous pickled stuff that comes with sushi. I find the shades that range from the opaque hues of a cadaver to the neon rose on a Hypercolor t-shirt are as awful as the sometimes soapy unpleasant taste pickled ginger imparts. However, I was excited because the vinegary-pickled ginger could play off well as an Asian-tinged Salt & Vinegar chip.

So what went wrong? Was it my high expectations? Was it the excitement of another Lay’s Do Us a Flavor competition? Was it the bourbons and binge viewings of Community? Either way, I was let down in a manner that rivaled the time when my father told the family that my younger brother was his favorite son. Shades of Thanos’ family, I will seek my revenge…eventually.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger Potato Chips Closeup

The flavor, inspired by Meneko Springer McBeth, makes sense and probably on Earth-616, the flavor profile would be as normal as sour cream and onion. A quick read-through of her bio shows she’s as normal as anyone: a married registered nurse with three daughters (presumably cute and well-mannered). She has an “affinity for spicy flavors” and loves sushi. Her fun fact is that “The Clearance Queen” is her nickname because she always hunts down the best bargains. She sounds like someone I could ask the time and not be scared of being maced or threatened with undeserved violence involving an ice pick.

Letting me down is one thing, but why let down nice and normal Meneko Springer McBeth who just wants to find good bargains? Is being budget conscious enough to damn an innocent soul, Lay’s?

I should have known it when I opened the bag, only to smell the roasty and pleasantly fried scent of kettle chips. Don’t misunderstand me, the chips smelled great. But when you’re saying there’s wasabi and it was bereft of the pungent horseradishy blast…well, that let me down a lot. I can only compare it to smelling a grilled thick cut steak with pieces of garlic embedded and you can’t smell any of the aromatics.

If that wasn’t sad enough, besides being seen with your nose in a bag of chips as if you were sniffing a fine cognac, the chips tasted just mundane. I was also glad I bought the small convenience store version because I would likely feed the rest to the ducks and they would get hyperlipidemia.

The bag promised wasabi and ginger, but the wasabi was so faint and the ginger was non-existent. The only prevalent taste I could discern was a soy sauce flavor and the onion powder.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger Potato Chips Closeup 2

I ate a handful Cookie Monster-style to see if the flavors would be stronger. It wasn’t and all I tasted initially was the ghostly vinegar kick that was more like a shuffle. The wasabi was too lazy to even nod a “hey” to me and I believe a thousand Japanese mobsters cut off their index fingers in shame.

The chips did have a well-rounded saltiness to them and the soy sauce gave off a sweetness that channeled the highly sought umami factor. I’m so depressed now that I think I’m just filling up words in this review so it looks like I am actually working instead of being as lazy as the wasabi and ginger in these chips.

I don’t know what Meneko Springer McBeth did to make Lay’s so angry. For God’s sakes, she even reported that she loves spicy foods and all they could eke out was something as spicy as Mr. Rogers eating a banana. I’m torn because I want this flavor to exist, but I don’t want it to win because of the flat flavor Lay’s has given it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz/about 18 chips – 150 calories, 8 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 350 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 2 7/8 oz bag
Purchased at: RaceTrac
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: The texture is really nice, crisp with that audible crunch. The sweetness of the soy sauce is nice. Nurses, be kind to them cause’ they work hard and aren’t given a lot of credit, yo. The chips are well seasoned, the goldilocks zone of salt. Earth-616.
Cons: The wasabi couldn’t deliver because it was faint. The ginger couldn’t stand up because it was just as faint. The onion powder and soy sauce overwhelmed the chip. Earth-8101.

REVIEW: Lay’s Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips

Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips

If Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Cappuccino chips are the crazy flavor, Wasabi Ginger are the Asian flavor, and Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese are the prerequisite meat/cheese/God Bless America comfort food flavor, then what are the Wavy Mango Salsa chips?

A) A chip that renders actual salsa obsolete
B) A chip that packs some potent heat
C) An enjoyable mixture of sweet, spicy, and salty in an unlikely form

The answer?

None of the above.

If anything, the Mango Salsa chips represent the bastardization of the potato for the sake of a social media contest and the limits of even the most advanced forms of flavor alchemy.

The wavy-cut chips have a delightful aroma…if your idea of delightful is a pit bull throwing up daisies in the perfume store. The scent leaves you wondering if you’re about to ingest a fruit, a vegetable, or an exotic plant that might just be poisonous.

Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips Closeup

Unlike Lay’s Cappuccino chips, the Mango Salsa at least appear to have normal seasoning, with specks of red and dull green dotting the ridges in varying patterns. The initial taste of the powder ebbs and flows between unquestionably awful and modestly annoying. It depends on how much seasoning a chip has, as well as your tolerance for cilantro.

If the latter is nonexistent, then I imagine you’ll be feeling a lot like that aforementioned and hypothetical dog in the perfume store. While I usually maintain an agnosticism towards cilantro, the air of the powerful herb was even too much for me on some chips. It also wasn’t properly balanced by a piquant chili pepper flavor one would hope is present in an actual salsa. Instead, the seasoning has an aggressive lime and garlic flavor, followed by a perfume and vague fruit flavor which doesn’t scream tropical, much less mango.

Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips with Mango

Despite being in the flavor’s name, the mango is relegated to a supporting element in the salsa. I can say this with authority because I had ripe mango handy when I sampled the chips. Likewise, the tomato and red pepper flavor you’d expect to find playing important roles in a mango salsa were difficult to detect and nowhere near sweet enough. Instead, they mesh into an acidic and floral essence that will overwhelm taste buds.

Lacking real sweetness, the floral essence collides head-on with the earthy and robust aftertaste of the potato, which attempts to reclaim its natural potato flavor with a metaphorical uppercut against the acidity of the chip seasoning. Ultimately, the potato wins out, but not before a series of confused and competing flavor exchanges which fail to capitalize on a simultaneous salty-sweet synergy we’re all clamoring for.

I enjoyed the Lay’s Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips more than the Cappuccino chips because I can sort of envision myself actually dipping and eating these with an authentic mango salsa, as opposed to the Cappuccino chips, which I’m sure would just suck even more if dipped into coffee.

With that said, the Wavy Mango Salsa chips aren’t very good on their own, and prove that a fried Idaho potato is not the place to test chemistry concoctions of maltodextrin and artificial mango flavor.

Next time Lay’s should “Do Us a Flavor” and narrow submissions to taste sensations that actually work.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz/about 15 chips – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 9.5 oz bag
Purchased at: Harris Teeter
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Wavy chips have excellent crunch. Good potato aftertaste when you get past the seasoning. Might be tasty when dipped into actual mango salsa.
Cons: Poor execution of tropical mango sweetness. Lacks a spicy element. Seasoning is dominated too much by herbal and acidic flavors. Ruining a perfectly good potato. Dog vomit.

REVIEW: Lay’s Cappuccino Potato Chips

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist Cappuccino Potato Chips

There are two types of people in this world. There are those who play it safe and those who do not.

The former group slows down at yellow lights, blots the grease from their pizza, and runs the ball on third and one in Madden. The latter blows through red lights, pours grease from their buddy’s slice of pizza onto theirs, and calls an Annexation of Puerto Rico on fourth and forever.

But none of these actions match up to the ultimate litmus test in living safe or dangerous: choosing which Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Chips to buy.

Last year, I faced danger with Lay’s Chicken and Waffles Potato Chips. But, despite my awful experience, I wasn’t going to let the hacked together taste of poultry and Eggo stop me from checking out this year’s finalist out of left field. We’ve seen various salty and sweet chips before, but I’ve never seen potato chips that taste like coffee and milk. As for what Chad Scott was thinking when he submitted cappuccino to Lay’s, well, I’ll play it safe and guess he had good intentions.

After strutting through Harris Teeter with a bag in hand and dropped jaws and slow claps of less intrepid snackers around me*, I opened it, which released a mellow, but prominent coffee aroma. It was stronger than coffee ice cream and only a few notches down from a college English class at 7:30 in the morning. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it definitely was unnatural. In fact, when contacted for comment, Mr. Potato Head confirmed it was certainly the most intense out-of-body experience he’s had since Toy Story 3. Like I said, it’s about living dangerously.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist Cappuccino Potato Chips Closeup

I raised a single chip and brought it closer to my nose, taking a moment to harness my senses in that cultured thing coffee people do before they take a sip. Then I remembered I was sitting in my office with a potato chip held up to my nose, and realized how freaking ridiculous I looked. I sampled the seasoning by licking the fried exterior of the spud clean.

Its flavor is maddeningly indescribable. I’m taken aback at first, completely unable to harness dozens of hours of GRE verbal practice tests in assessing what the flavor is.

It’s slightly bitter with an odd sensation from the aftermath of lactic sweetness. It leaves a light roasted coffee flavor hanging on the roof of your mouth. I taste more chips and I’m dumbfounded, searching for a salty-sweet affirmation of what I thought the chips would taste like.

Instead, I’m only left with the idea of sweetness and a memory of cream, as the way too authentic taste of light roasted coffee continues to linger even as the clashing but familiar earthiness from the potato comes around at the end. Several chips down, and I’m utterly confused.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist Cappuccino Potato Chips 2

This is not exactly living dangerously through snacks. Unencumbered, and perhaps believing that stuffing multiple chips into my mouth at once will harness some undiscovered salty-sweet synergy, I find the taste more palatable. There isn’t a salty-sweet combo going on here, the salty flavor is almost nonexistent, but there is a somewhat cocoa-like effect that isn’t too bad. But it’s hardly bold and it’s not particularly addictive or snackable.

There’s just no other way to say it: Chad Scott, you got your wish. These chips taste just like a cappuccino, or at least insofar as the cappuccino flavor you’d expect from a Jelly Belly Jelly Bean. They’re not throw-out-the-bag horrible, but they’re not something I’d buy again.

The flavor is just out of place on a fried tuber and ends up splitting the difference of two different sensations which match up about as gracefully as a Mormon in a Starbucks (it’s okay, I’m from Utah). Buying them might boost your credibility as a vanguard snacker, but enjoying them probably just means you like the taste of coffee too much.

*Possibly. Or maybe not.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz./about 15 chips – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Finalist Cappuccino Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 9.5 oz bag
Purchased at: Harris Teeter
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Not detestable in an OH THE HUMANITY kind of way. Classic Lay’s crispiness. Decently snackable when eaten in droves.
Cons: Cappuccino flavor is way too authentic for a potato chip. Bitterness. Out of body snacking experiences. Lacks salty-sweet synergy. Does not affirm the desire to live dangerously.

REVIEW: Nabisco Limited Edition Root Beer Float Oreo Cookies

Nabisco Limited Edition Root Beer Float Oreo Cookies

Despite what others think, I can also be sensitive. Reminding me of the destruction of the SDF-1 in Robotech, I shed a few tears next to my wife when Crimson Typhoon and Cherno Alpha ate it big time in Pacific Rim. I admit I also cried a tiny bit when I reacquainted myself with Buckaroo Banzai’s synth engulfed end credits. I can hum that song all day.

So sue me. I am not invulnerable to the charms of nostalgia. I have a fucking soul too.

Does the salty smell of fresh popcorn not invoke memories of carefree Saturday matinees at the cinema? It’s hard to deny the sight of lightning bugs doesn’t drum up images of summery things like Italian ice cups served with wooden spoons that threatened to leave splinters in your mouth.

Root beer floats harken back to a time of childhood innocence. The memories of Daddy teaching you how to ride that bicycle without training wheels. Yelling and screaming lovingly about how stupid you are as the neighbors peer through the curtains, hoping to not get caught. Those were some damn good times.

I suppose the Oreo creates the same feelings for me. As a child, I dipped them in milk after learning another lesson (like most latchkey children do) from television. Me love you long time TV.

Oreo have released so many varieties that they are becoming the Beanie Babies of cookies. After the fruit punch ones, I kind of hit the wall real hard. As much as I love the different flavors, I began to get Oreo-fatigue and pined for a normal Oreo.

Nabisco Limited Edition Root Beer Float Oreo Cookies In Packaging

Yet, the Root Beer Float Oreo grabbed my interest as they sat there next to the lemon one and above the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup version and right beside the mint chocolate variety. After ripping open the package, a deep buttery smell emanated elegantly. A faint, but playfully “fizzy” sweet and herby scent of root beer followed.

However, the Oreo filled with the promise of creamy and frothy root beer float dreams decided to kick my balls to the tune of the Benny Hill theme song. I was at best, disappointed. At worst, I wanted to chase harmless rabbits and their cutesy little noses with the gas-powered lawn mower.

Nabisco Limited Edition Root Beer Float Oreo Cookies Creme

Tasting the cream filling alone yielded a familiar, sweet, but not strong root beer flavor. Actually on subsequent licks, the root beer taste was so light that it barely registered. It could be that each cookie I dissected apart Hannibal-style revealed an almost 80 percent cream to 20 percent root beer flavor ratio.

When I ate the cookie whole, the buttery nuttiness from the Oreo overwhelmed any root beer taste. Strangely, I did experience a ghostly menthol-like “coolness” when I swallowed. It could be from whatever flavoring effect Nabisco pumped in to replicate the carbonization of a root beer. Although, I wished they would have amped up the root beer taste instead.

Dipping them in milk doesn’t help. Dipping them in store bought chocolate milk makes it worse. In fact, dipping them in bourbon is criminal and left me sullen because I ruined a tumbler of Maker’s 46.

There are positives. They are not as sweet as some Oreo flavor (looking at you Watermelon and Berry Burst Ice Cream). Additionally, they appear to be more readily available, at least in my area, so everyone can join in and be sad chasing rabbits.

I know that root beer is one of the trickier flavors to emulate and I have to give credit to Nabisco for at least attempting this. If anything, I admire their tenacity to not back down on trying unconventional flavor choices. (Where’s my blueberry version dammit?)

I’m conflicted because Root Beer Float Oreo cookies do not taste awful. But if you’re expecting them to taste like the beloved soda float, they suck at it.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 15 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Limited Edition Root Beer Float Oreo Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 12.2 oz. package
Purchased at: Publix
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: They are not overwhelmingly sweet. Typing “Crimson Typhoon” in my review. The Golden Oreo is buttery and rich. The music in Benny Hill.
Cons: The root beer flavor is very weak. Trying not to type “Root Beer Floats? More like Root Beer Flats!” in my review (GONG!) The Golden Oreo overpowers any root beer flavor. Cherno Alpha biting it so soon. The music in Benny Hinn.