VIDEO REVIEW: Philadelphia Milk Chocolate Cheesecake Cups

Purchased Price: $2.99 (on sale)
Size: 2-pack
Purchased at: Safeway
Nutrition Facts: (1 cup) 220 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber 22 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew White Label

Mtn Dew White Label

Gather ‘round, kids: it’s time for a Choose Your Own Adventure story!

You are Mountain Dew Pitch Black, a heroic soda knight whose early 2000s Halloween conquests — and recent 2016 revival — made him the sugary stuff of legends and memories alike.

But although you’re a more mythic Mountain than Olympus, people aren’t as charmed by radioactively purple syrup as they used to be. So if you don’t want to join Heinz EZ Squeeze in Violet Valhalla, you’ll have to grow up.

Which path will you take at this pivotal crossroad?

If you choose the dark path, turn to a different review.

If you choose the light path, turn to the next page and prepare to see a threatening, all-caps THE END that’ll make you glad you kept your thumb on the previous page.

Why? Because while Mountain Dew’s recent Black Label was a deliciously classy Pitch Black who grew up to host dinner parties and own an art house theater, this new White Label tastes like an adult Pitch Black who bitterly yells at the local news with his mouthful of lukewarm Hungry Man dinners.

Mtn Dew White Label 2

Enough doom, gloom, and microwaved rib eye for now: let’s start with the positives. Mountain Dew White Label does preserve much of the grape flavor that makes Pitch Black great, without the syrupy discomfort that Pitch Black’s many grams of sugary slugs slime onto the back of your throat. At only 35 grams of sugar and 140 calories per can, this comparatively light Dew won’t leave you shamefully feeling like you drank a Nickelodeon prop.

I say “much of the grape flavor,” because the fruitiness is lighter, too. The white grape juice concentrate lacks the sour, tangy punch of its red sibling, but it replaces it with an unparalleled crispness that’s nearly floral. It’s no chardonnay, but I can see this flavor appealing to a niche audience of Dew snobs.

Unfortunately, that’s the nicest thing I can say about Mtn Dew White Label. Because once the white grape flavor fades, an unwelcome orange backend takes its place. The can claims that White Label is “Dew with Crafted Tropical Citrus,” but the bitter, acrid tang of this orange finish just tastes like the juice of a wrinkly tangerine that was infused with expired SunnyD and the pity tears of a passing pineapple.

In short: this tropical shipwreck’s more LOST than Gilligan’s Island.

Mtn Dew White Label 3

Mtn Dew White Label isn’t undrinkable, and it might work for those seeking a super smooth soda that won’t pummel their trachea with the aggressive jabs of a million bubbles, but Black Label just tastes superior in every way. White Label is pretty much Diet Black Label (it contains Sucralose, and you can tell), and since Black Label was already a less carbonated Pitch Black, this new Dew’s one degree of separation too far away to be worth it.

So please, young Pitch Black, if you’re reading this, disregard Master Kenobi and embrace the power of the Dark Side.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 can – 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 70 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 35 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: White grape concentrate that’s crisper than Denny’s hash browns. Not feeling like my taste buds went on Double Dare. Liquid opacity that rivals Crystal Pepsi. Pairing this with Doritos for a low-budget wine & cheese night.
Cons: Diet Diet Pitch Black. Cantankerous citrus aftertastes. Pineapple pity parties. Suddenly: sucralose! Never getting to eat purple ketchup again. Throwing so much shade they could’ve called it “Grey Label.”

REVIEW: Lay’s Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

I love Tex-Mex – breakfast tacos, fajitas – you name it, I’ll eat it. But, my favorite Tex-Mex invention is hands down: queso.

As part of their annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest push, Lay’s has unleashed another presumably LTO flavor – Southwestern Queso – to get the creative juices flowing. Of course, Lay’s had to be politically correct and name it “Southwestern Queso” but is there really any other kind of delicioso queso like this?! I think not. I am currently living very far away from the “Southwest,” so I was pretty stoked to see something, anything queso.

When I opened the bag, I was surprised that there was no pungent smell invading my olfactory system. In attempts to make up for the flavor not actually tasting like what it’s trying to mimic, a lot of limited edition foods overcompensate with smell or at least I think so. Unfortunately, this notion gave me false hope that the chips would actually taste like queso. Anyways, the smell of these reminded me faintly of BBQ; I couldn’t really pinpoint it immediately.

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 2

The chips looked like a normal seasoned chip color – a twinge of orange, but not neon Cheetos orange. Unlike the photo on the bag, they were also speckled with additional seasoning which reminded me of speckling on Lay’s Kettle Cooked Jalapeno Chips. Is it bad that I was surprised that the chip pieces were actually whole? I recall Lay’s being really brittle/always cracked for some reason. But, these whole oval slices looked like they actually came from a spud.

Like the smell test, I couldn’t really immediately identify what I was tasting. I kept thinking BBQ but realized the prevailing taste was another Lay’s favorite: Sour Cream & Onion. But, the aftertaste was like Cheddar & Sour Cream. So, the extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese (don’t ask haha). After a handful of chips, I was surprised that I was picking up on a little heat as well. But, it wasn’t too spicy.

Lay’s, what about this tastes like my beloved queso?

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 3

After my tastebuds were saturated in salt and artificial flavoring, I concluded that it wasn’t good but wasn’t terrible for a chip. But, don’t you dare try to tell me that this is queso-flavored. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

If I were naming the flavor I’d name it: Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion with a little bit of Hot ‘n Spicy BBQ. After this disappointment, I took a peek at the ingredient list. Lay’s attempted to make it look like they tried with “Southwestern Queso Seasoning”, red and green bell pepper extract, paprika extracts and even blue cheese. Either R&D really sucked or this “Southwestern Queso Seasoning” is the Franken-creation I previously mentioned.

I keep telling myself that some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex, but Lay’s Southwestern Queso flavor is a really hard sell.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: No pungent smell. Whole chips that look like they actually came from a spud! Some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex?
Cons: What about this tastes like my beloved queso? Extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

REVIEW: Brach’s Dessert Hearts Conversation Hearts

Brach's Dessert Hearts Conversation Hearts

Brach’s Dessert Hearts Conversation Hearts fill a niche we don’t need -— gourmet flavored chalk. (Actually, I know they’re not chalk, because I minored in geology, and coccoliths are not on the ingredient list.)

Many people hate conversation hearts. I don’t fall into the hating camp, but I do recognize that they’re far from great candy. They’re really all about Valentine’s Day tradition and nostalgia.

The yellow (“SMOOCHES,” or rather “SMOO-CHES”) is bananas foster. It has a banana note, but some other kind of flavor that I think makes it worse than plain banana would be. Bananas foster sounds like too fancy a dessert for someone who cares about conversation hearts, so they could probably make it any flavor and no one would know. If I’ve had bananas foster, I don’t remember what it tastes like.

The purplish one (“YOWZA”) is raspberry sorbet. It does taste like (fake) raspberry, but it also has a medicinal flavor to it, like cough syrup.

White (“FOR YOU”) is vanilla ice cream. I do taste a vanilla bean flavor, but it’s kind of bitter; I like real ice cream better. Vanilla is literally the simplest flavor there is. I wouldn’t say they blew it, but it could have been better.

The blue (“WINK WINK”) is blueberry pie. It also has a (fake) blueberry flavor, and some other notes that I guess could be a pie crust? This might be the most authentic one (which isn’t saying much).

Brach's Dessert Hearts Conversation Hearts 2

Then we get to the most annoying thing about these. There are two pinks, and they are very similar in color. It’s hard to tell them apart, especially if you’re not comparing them side by side. And the worst part is that one is the best flavor and one is the worst, so you can’t easily pick your favorites out.

The light pink (“MISS YOU”) is strawberry shortcake. It has the most desserty flavor, with a bit of strawberry and almost a buttery flavor. This one is my favorite.

The dark pink (“DREAM”) is cherry cobbler. This is the least flavorful and most medicinal one. It reminds me of those chalky Shamu vitamins I had in kindergarten.

Brach's Dessert Hearts Conversation Hearts 3

The primary purpose of conversation hearts is to look cute. It has never been about the flavor, so these will work just fine for most purposes, I guess. But I think you’ll be safer with more traditional flavors.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 pieces – 60 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 14 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Strawberry shortcake is a decent flavor. Valentine’s Day tradition. Cuteness. A for effort. Not really chalk.
Cons: Two similar pinks. Too similar pinks. Some words are hard to read. Ugly hyphens. Raspberry sorbet tastes like cough syrup. Cherry cobbler tastes like Shamu vitamins. Shamu vitamins.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Watermelon and Cherry Haribo Gold-Bears

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears

What is it about Haribo gummies?

They’re always especially fruity. It’s as if a Fruit Roll-Up got bitten by a mutant Gusher, morphed into a carnivorous mammal, and had its DNA enhanced with fruity powers that allow it to shoot delicious, sugar-laden laser beams from its squishy eyes.

So mark me excited when I saw that there were not one, but THREE new flavors out: Cherry, Green Apple, and Watermelon, all in a race to be the next Haribo Bear.

Now, before we get into tasting, I would regret not mentioning how difficult these gummies seem to be to find. The Green Apple? Seems to not even exist within a 30-mile radius from Los Angeles, proving itself more obscure and elusive than a 1979 Boba Fett action figure. If you find them, stock up and watch as you make yourself a mini fortune on eBay. (Yes, I will be your customer.)

In good fortune, I finally tracked down the Watermelon and Cherry at the checkout aisle of a fringe Walgreens. Let’s see how they stack up.

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears 2

Right out of the package, the beary gems have a perfect stretchy, squishy bounce. For a second there, I wasn’t sure if I should eat them or pile them together and make a mattress to sleep on.

(You should eat them. Just FYI.)

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears 4

Behold! The Watermelon bear!

This guy tumbles from the pack, pinker than a flamingo wearing a cotton candy muumuu in the Barbie aisle. A little sour, a little tart, a little flowery, and a little I-don’t-knowy, the taste of this bear must be what happens when a Watermelon Jolly Rancher gets squishified with a Strawberry Starburst.

It’s got a bit of sourness without veering into the “Warhead” zone and has a lightness, sweetness, and unseasonal summery joy that’s welcome in this January chill. Good show, Watermelon bear!

Now, to our next contender: Cherry.

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears 3

Witness the Cherry. He is a simple fruity ursine. Squidgy and soft like his Watermelon brethren, he comes in a humble shade of mahogany that would make Franken Berry blush. The taste is reminiscent of what might happen if a bottle of grandma’s cranberry juice got sneezed on by a box of Cherry Jell-O: extremely tart, a little bitter, a smidge cough-syrupy, and barely sweet.

I had been hoping for a brighter, more sugary riff closer to a Sonic Cherry Limeade or a Cherry Jolly Rancher, so this version hinges toward being too tart for my tastes. I’d also like to pretend I have a more sophisticated palate than someone who adores sugary, maraschino-laden flavors, but who am I kidding? I’m more likely to have a flying magical moose drop a diamond-encrusted Dyson vacuum on my head.

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears 5

So, at the end of the day, while the Cherry did fine, I’m giving my vote to Watermelon. It’s a bright, summery flavor, doesn’t taste like cough syrup, and will go smashingly with the lemon, raspberry, orange, strawberry, pineapple, and, lime they’ve already got rolling in the line.

But I also have an astronomically high tolerance for sugar. At $1 per package, I say give them a go and see what you think. You may love them. You may throw them against the wall. You may have profound revelations equivalent to kissing the philosophy of Albert Camus in the candy aisle. Who knows? Go forth! Find out! The great unknown awaits!

(Nutrition Facts – 17 pieces – 140 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1 each (on sale)
Size: 4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Watermelon)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Cherry)
Pros: Squishy enough to make a mattress with. Cherry could make Franken Berry blush. Watermelon is sweet enough to provide summer in the middle of January. Fruitiness is equivalent to a Fruit Roll-Up bitten by a mutant Gusher.
Cons: Cherry tastes like Cherry Jell-O and grandma’s cranberry juice. Being unable to find Green Apple. Realizing that I have the palate of a 3-year-old. Having a flying magical moose drop a diamond-encrusted Dyson vacuum on your head.