REVIEW: Bazooka Candy Brands Crunchkins

Crunchkins

Crunchkins are a brand new “dessert flavored popper” from the Bazooka brand, despite the color scheme on the bag reeking of Wonka. Then again, if these were a Wonka product, they’d probably be called “Fling Flang Wazellydoos” or something. Nevertheless, I think we may have officially run out of clever names for candies. Crunch-kins.

And what’s with the usage of “poppers”? Is candy the first thing you think of when you hear the word “popper”? Isn’t that dated slang for pills?

But I digress. Time to di-gest. Ugh.

Crunchkins come in three flavors – Birthday Cake, Fudge Brownie, and Glazed Donut. While tons of companies have played with cake and fudge flavors, glazed donut is definitely an exciting new foray.

The poppers have a thin crispy shell, followed by a flavor appropriate layer of a chocolate-like substance, and a crunchy ball center.

The shell is thinner than an M&M’s shell, and quite frankly, pretty unnecessary. While it does provide distinct flavor, I feel like that could’ve just been infused into the chocolate more.

The crunchy center, which is more like Crispy M&M’s than a malted milk ball, tasted stale and cheap. I had really hoped these would taste like flavored Whoppers or Robin Eggs, but alas, as John Lennon famously said, “I can’t always get what I want.”

Crunchkins 2

As for the individual flavors:

Birthday Cake was the best. White and speckled – they looked like mini jaw breakers. The flavor was basically vanilla, but tasty and close enough to the standard Birthday Cake flavor. It was essentially vanilla icing candy.

Glazed Donut, like Crunchkins themselves, was a mixed bag. There was some kind of weird spice element to it that made me think of licorice Necco Wafers, and no one wants to think of those. As I chewed, the Glazed Donut flavor came through, which I enjoyed because I’ve never had a candy mimic this flavor. Still, that spice was overpowering. I do think glazed donuts have that flavor to a degree, but Crunchkins cranked it up to ten. I tried all three flavors at once, and the spice was the distinct flavor that ultimately pushed through.

Fudge Brownie was the worst of the three. I was instantly put in mind of Little Debbie Fudge Brownies, but the chocolate just wasn’t top quality. Ever have Palmer brand chocolate? It’s basically the bottom barrel stuff they put out around the holidays. It tasted more like that than premium chocolate. No offense, Palmer.

Crunchkins only seem to exist to remind me how good the snacks they are mimicking really are. While eating them, I wasn’t thinking about the candy in my mouth, but more about actual birthday cake, glazed donuts, Little Debbie’s Fudge Brownies, Nestle Crunch, Crispy M&Ms, Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, and so on. You could probably say that about most artificially flavored snacks, but I especially yearned for the old reliables while eating these.

Crunchkins 3

The texture was also a problem for me. If there was no shell, and just the chocolate coating with a malted milk ball center, I’d probably love them. That inner chocolaty component was the only texture I enjoyed.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re decent, but not something you’ll want to run back to. I’m not sure it’s fair to say these are “bootleg Crispy M&M’s,” but they are basically bootleg Crispy M&Ms. For a candy that hits the caps lock on “CRUNCH” in their name, the stale crunch may have been the weakest part.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 pieces (40g) – 200 calories from fat, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 8 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.38
Size: 3 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Passable snack. Birthday cake flavor is spot on. Glazed Donut was kinda good. Ambitious effort.
Cons: Confusing spice flavor. Poor quality chocolate. Stale tasting center. Not Whoppers. Bootleg Crispy M&M’s. Uninspired name. No Bazooka comic. Someone even jokingly confusing Mick Jagger and John Lennon.

REVIEW: Airheads Birthday Cake

Airheads Birthday Cake

Airheads is celebrating its 30th birthday in 2016.

M&M’s is celebrating its 75th birthday in 2016.

Look, I know that M&M’s flavored like Airheads and Airheads stuffed with M&M’s Minis is probably too much to ask for, but at least give me an HD video of that cute Brown M&M sensually eating a Watermelon Airhead while singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. Candy President.”

Now before you finish typing “how to file a restraining order” into your search bar, hear me out. It took M&M’s — a chocolate candy — all the way until its 73rd birthday to jump the artificially flavored shark and try a birthday cake flavor.

Typically fruity Airheads made this bizarre leap in less than half the time, making me think someone at Airheads HQ Googled “what flavors does Buzzfeed write about please help us we’re out of ideas.”

Airheads Birthday Cake 2

So here I sit with a Birthday Cake Airhead. It looks like someone cut the tongue right out of Yoshi from Super Mario Bros.’ mouth and dunked it in a bowl of Funfetti batter. The slimy gloss on the taffy further supports my grim hypothesis.

I always knew the Pillsbury Doughboy wasn’t right in the head.

Even though feeling the gritty, sticky texture of this Airhead is like sharing Play-Doh with the dopey, drooling kid from pre-school, I bit off a hunk anyway. I chewed, I chewed, the fish in my aquarium evolved a pair of legs, and I continued chewing.

It really does take a long time to chew through this Airhead. I timed it at about 40 seconds for each sizable bite. By the time I finished, my fish were Cro-Magnon men. My journey through time covered several distinct taste eras, so allow me to break this down, National Geographic style.

0-10 seconds: The Buttercream Era

During this period of early development, indigenous Airhead eaters were stunned by just how much it tasted like cake frosting. A palatable butteriness and a lip-smacking whipped cream sweetness allowed them to survive in an otherwise challenging time plagued by a gross mouthfeel.

11-20 seconds: The Vanilla Era.

Our humble, chewing natives experienced a brief period of splendor, as a storm of intense vanilla flavor graced them with its pleasant taste. Faint notes of eggy yellow cake began to grow from the half-chewed Airhead soil, and all were pleased by this harvest.

21-30 seconds: The Powdered Sugar Era

This good fortune could not last. As the mealy mush of chewed Airhead began degrading into a sopping pile of grit within the chewers’ mouths, volcanoes of confectioner’s sugar erupted cloying, glazed lava. Tasters everywhere were sickened by its tooth-rotting sweetness.

31-40 seconds: The “I Don’t Even Know Anymore, Dude” Era

Ruin befell the Airhead eaters. All that remained after their earlier tragedy were puddles of sugar granules and saliva, as well as an off-putting waxy aftertaste that radiated from the backs of their throats. They say, “those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it,” and these chewers were idiots. So they took another bite.

Airheads Birthday Cake 3

That’s the Cliffs Notes version. For a while, this taffy actually did taste uncannily like a heavily frosted birthday cake. The problem is that cake flavor and taffy texture together is about as appealing as nuts and gum. It’s an odd experience that might be worth the novelty, but Airheads would have been better off choosing a safer flavor. Pineapple upside-down cake? Banana crème pie? Anyone? Bueller?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to study the next chapter on 7-10pm: The “Stuffs his Face with Crispy M&M’s and Cries” Period.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 60 calories, 5 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of sodium, 142 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 6 bar variety pack
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Brief buttercream blasts. Fleeting vanilla resplendence. Chewing for long enough to kill time at the DMV. The Brown M&M.
Cons: Sarcastically exclaiming, “cake and taffy: together at last!” Slimy, saliva-soaked sugar paste. Birthday candle aftertaste. The Pillsbury Dahmer-boy.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Quesalupa

Taco Bell Quesalupa

This country is always trying to pit us against each other. In politics, it’s a two party system that radicalizes the masses, the haves versus the have-nots. In sports, the blowout celebration is one final matchup that stretches narratives into ideologies and forces us to choose sides, the dabs versus the dab-nots.

Taco Bell tries the opposite, joining things together with varying success. They integrate other products such as Cinnabon and Doritos into their own items and display countless permutations of existing creations, rearranging-Titanic-deck-chairs style.

Taco Bell’s latest attempt is the much-ballyhooed Quesalupa, a combination of the quesadilla and a Chalupa. A quesadilla is kind of like a grilled soft taco with lots of cheese on it and a Chalupa is kind of like a deep fried soft taco. If menu items were human beings, I would examine the family tree pretty meticulously before letting these two get married.

Taco Bell Quesalupa 4

Ostensibly, the Quesalupa is a Chalupa shell with pepper jack cheese inside then filled with sour cream, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese and a protein. This, however, is no Chalupa shell. I’m sure they had to make adjustments to accommodate the pocket of melty cheese that spills out of the center, but the near-perfect crispy-chewy Chalupa armor has been depleted to a weak facsimile.

Taco Bell Quesalupa 3

The entire Quesalupa sags in the middle, buckling to the sogginess of the cheese, without a textural counterbalance to save it. There is plenty of cheese to go around, to the point where the warm stew-like blend of ingredients exhibits the comforting consistency of a shepherd’s pie. But without the fluffy-crispy promise that a Chalupa provides, the Quesalupa falls short of expectations.

Taco Bell Quesalupa 2

I tried the beef and chicken options and the beef comes up on top, with the salty, ground meat lending better flavor to the entire item. The chicken is bland and definitely needs outside help of a hot sauce to feel complete. The produce is typical of Taco Bell and serves to fill out the item—space-wise and color-wise—and maybe to place a pebble on top of a food pyramid quota.

Perhaps it’s a testament to the Quesalupa that the cheese blends well together. It’s a gooey affair that absorbs all the qualities of both types of cheeses offered (and the sour cream as well) to make a dairy bomb that flattens out any nuance. The center of a Quesalupa is at the same time satisfying and a bit icky, melding together like a cream of Taco Bell soup. Whether that sounds good to you or not will be the deal breaker here.

For my buck, the best Taco Bell items play with texture in a unique way and dance on the crunchy-soft line: the Crunchwrap Supreme, the Double Decker Taco, and the Chalupa.

Unfortunately for the Quesalupa, while it features the warm qualities of a steaming quesadilla, it does not take the best parts of a Chalupa, which makes it a pretty average Taco Bell item. And maybe that’s the point? People hate Trump. People love Trump. People hate Cam. People love Cam. Quesalupa? “Ehh.” On this, I think, we can all agree.

(Nutrition Facts – Beef – 460 calories, 26 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 890 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, 19 grams of protein. Chicken – 440 calories, 23 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 840 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 22 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Quesalupa
Purchased Price: $2.99 (beef) $3.79 (chicken)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 5 out of 10 (beef)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (chicken)
Pros: Comforting consistency, gooey cheese center.
Cons: Soggy in the middle. Maybe too much cheese. Texturally boring.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Italian and Greek McTasters (Canada)

McDonald's Italian McTaster

I’m going to admit it: I liked the McPizza.

I ordered it quite a few times during its brief but memorable life, and I mourned for its little pizza soul when it inevitably got pulled from the menu (because let’s face it, pizza at McDonald’s was never going to be a thing, as much as they pushed hard to make it happen).

It’s okay, McPizza: you’re in McDonald’s heaven now, partying with the Super Hero Burger and trading war stories with the McDLT.

So when I heard that McDonald’s was taking another culinary excursion to Italy (and stopping off in Greece for good measure), I got pretty excited. It’s never going to fill the McPizza-sized hole in my heart, but then is anything ever going to fill that hole? No. The answer to that question is no.

McDonald's Italian McTaster 2

Happily, the Italian leg of Ronald McDonald’s European tour was actually pretty satisfying. The Italian McTaster consists of a Junior Chicken patty, topped with lettuce, tomato, parmesan and herb sauce, and parmesan flakes, all on a ciabatta bun (dubbed an “artisan-style bun” in a further attempt by the fast food chains to make the word artisan completely meaningless).

McDonald's Italian McTaster 3

I enjoyed it. The herby, slightly garlicky sauce works in tandem with the salty Parmesan to give the sandwich a nice zingy kick of flavour, and the lettuce and tomato adds some welcome freshness. The chicken was a standard-issue Junior Chicken patty, and the chewy ciabatta bun suited it quite well.

However, like a vacation that doesn’t quite know when to end, the Greek McTaster wraps things up on a sour note.

McDonald's Greek McTaster

It consists of a standard beef patty (the smaller one, not the Quarter Pounder or the Angus) topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, feta cheese, and Mediterranean olive sauce. It’s basically a Greek salad on a burger, which doesn’t sound like a horrible idea in theory, but the execution is off. Despite the inclusion of assertive flavours like salty feta and briny black olives, the flavour here is oddly muddled and far more muted than you’d think it would be. It’s a half-hearted melange of flavours that never comes together or stands out in any meaningful way.

McDonald's Greek McTaster 2

The mediocre patty doesn’t help matters, though after the uncharacteristically tasty patty in the last McDonald’s burger I reviewed, its badness is actually weirdly comforting. McDonald’s beef shouldn’t taste particularly good; it should be inoffensively lousy, with a dry, crumbly texture and no particular flavour. That’s just the way things are supposed to be.

McDonald's Greek McTaster 3

A patty like that needs the toppings to do the heavy lifting, and the toppings here just aren’t up to the task.

Although the chewy, dense ciabatta bun works quite well in the Italian McTaster, the bun proves to be a little bit too hearty for the diminutive beef patty. It’s overwhelming.

The quality difference between the two McTasters becomes even more pronounced when you have both sandwiches in front of you and you’re alternating between the two. The Italian has a nice contrast of textures, with flavours that really pop. The Greek…does not have those things.

So for those keeping track: the McPizza-sized hole in my heart? Still unfilled. Your move, Ronald. Your move.

(Nutrition Facts – Italian McTaster – 370 calories, 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 810 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 12 grams of protein. Greek McTaster – 330 calories, 17 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0.4 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 690 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 14 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Italian and Italian McTasters (Canada)
Purchased Price: $2.99 CAN (each)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Italian)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Greek)
Pros: Italian has a nice combo of crispy chicken and tasty toppings. Chewy bun suits the chicken well.
Cons: Greek features a mediocre patty with bland toppings that can’t quite save it. Chewy bun overwhelms the small hamburger. Profound McPizza-related sadness.

REVIEW: Burger King Flame Grilled Chicken Burger

Burger King Chicken Burger

Burger King was busier last year than Humpty Hump was in a Burger King ba…ugh, that reference is so old. Half of you aren’t going to get it, so I’m not going to finish it.

Anyhoo, in 2015, the burger chain introduced Buffalo Chicken Fries, an extra long list of Extra Long sandwiches, a red velvet milkshake that may or may not have turned your poop a different color, a black bun Halloween Whopper that may or may not have turned your poop a different color, and, of course, they brought back the dead-eyed King mascot, which will give some of us nightmares…again.

Surprisingly, the year didn’t end with one last Extra Long sandwich, instead BK came out with their Flame Grilled Chicken Burger.

The menu item features a flame-grilled chicken burger patty topped with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, and white onions on a soft, toasted brioche style bun.

Burger King Chicken Burger 2

I have to admit, when I pulled out the burger from its paper cocoon, it looked good. I peeled back the bun and saw those grill marks, which made me want to bite into it even more. Then I cut it in half and the cross section reminded me of photos I saw in the college anatomy class I stopped going to during my junior year after seeing said photos. At that point, the chicken burger lost some of its appeal. But it lost all of its appeal when I took my first bite from it.

Burger King Chicken Burger 3

The patty had a good thickness to it, but it also makes the Whopper patty look scary thin. The patty was also…juicy? I don’t know if saying that is correct. Maybe saying it was sweating hard like it knew it was guilty of not being very good is more accurate because the liquid was like sweat in that it was salty and mostly made of water. I thought it was another ingredient that was bringing the liquid, but that wasn’t the case. Maybe, instead of Flame Broiled Chicken Burger, it should’ve been called the Fully Brined Chicken Burger.

At times, the sandwich as a whole tasted like, I swear, a Subway Cold Cut Combo, which to me isn’t bad. But, again, it was just too salty. The chicken patty itself was spiced in a way that made me think chicken breakfast sausage. Its texture was also sausage patty-like and easy to bite through. If it wasn’t so damn salty, it would probably be nice in a Croissan’wich.

None of the other ingredients did a good job at cutting through that saltiness, and the pickles probably enhanced it. As for the bun, it was shiny like other brioche-style buns, but it don’t think it had the slightly sweet flavor that the McDonald’s and Jack in the Box brioche buns have.

I didn’t get a chance to try every new item Burger King offered in 2015, but I did like almost every one I tried. The two exceptions are the Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich and this Flame Grilled Chicken Burger.

(Nutrition Facts – 480 calories, 25 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 1160 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 22 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Flame Grilled Chicken Burger
Purchased Price: $8.49 (medium value meal)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: At times, it tastes like a Subway Cold Cut Combo (if you like them). Burger King taking chances with protein. Doesn’t turn your poop a different color.
Cons: At times, it tastes like a Subway Cold Cut Combo (if you hate them). Very salty. Lots of liquid. Other ingredients couldn’t cut through that saltiness. Bun didn’t seem that special.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts

If I told a younger you that “bacon overkill” would become a thing, you’d probably cry and scream “Stranger Danger” because some old weirdo was talking to you about breakfast meats. Still, I can’t help but wonder if we’re getting too much bacon.

Too much bacon?! Surely, I jest.

Don’t get me wrong, bacon is amazing. But when did we all become the dog from the Beggin’ Strips commercials? Why does it seem like Big Bacon is trying to take over our lives?

I guess its bacon’s world and we’re all just living in it.

Mini rant aside, I was excited to try Frosted Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts. I knew I had to have them the second I saw them because I’m part of the problem.

After opening the pouch I was met with a welcome pancake smell. Each pastry has the standard white frosting with brown flecks that I assume are bacon flavored. I’ll get back to that in a moment. The filling itself has a nice maple scent and an appropriate light brown coloring.

I’m normally an “eat ’em right out of the pouch” kinda guy, but for the sake of this review, I did my due diligence and tried them toasted and untoasted. I opted against the “heat in the microwave for 3 seconds” option.

I set my rarely used toaster to medium heat and waited for what felt like an hour. A watched toaster never toasts.

The flavor was faint with the maple far outweighing the “bacon.” I’d go as far to say the toasted crust and (vanilla?) frosting were the most prominent flavors. There’s just not enough of a filling to crust ratio to really get a ton of the maple bacon flavor. That’s a universal Pop-Tart problem for me.

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts 2

I scraped a few of the brown flecks off the icing, and while they did have a salty flavor to them, they didn’t scream “bacon.” I’m really only assuming they were the bacon element. I even cut one of the Pop-Tarts open and scraped the filling out with a knife so I could taste it. No bacon, it just was salty.

While I don’t know how it would have worked, I definitely think these would have benefitted from having little pieces of real bacon instead of being “artificially flavored.”

Kellogg's Limited Edition Frosted Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts 3

The maple taste is the one that stands out, but even that should have been more powerful. It didn’t taste like I just ate a pancake with a big glob of maple syrup, it tasted like I ate one 20 minutes prior. They seem to have kept the maple intensity low so that the artificial phantom bacon could burst through, but it doesn’t.

I wish they swung for the fences more with this flavor. It could have been truly memorable. I definitely preferred them untoasted because there was a better balance, but, again, there wasn’t enough bacon flavor. Normally I’d tell you a wacky product like this is worth a try simply for the novelty of it, but I don’t think you even need to bother.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 210 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 2.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts
Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 8 pastries/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Decent Maple flavor. Not terrible untoasted, Ambitious idea. Beggin’ Strips Dog.
Cons: Gimmicky. No actual bacon. Mild bacon taste at best. Stranger Dangers. Pop-Tart microwave instructions.