REVIEW: Jack in the Box Spicy Sriracha Burger

Jack in the Box Spicy Sriracha Burger

I imagine there are a number of you who got really excited when you saw the the word “sriracha” in the title of this review. In your head, you’re probably yelling, “SRIRACHA!!!” But I am here to extinguish your excitement like milk extinguishes the capsaicin in your mouth when you eat something spicy.

I can understand your excitement because my head was screaming, “SRIRACHA!!!” after I ordered one. However, my head was thinking something else after I ate it.

The Spicy Sriracha Burger looks like a Sourdough Jack that’s been given a make over by a Subway Sandwich Artist. It has a beef patty, hickory smoked bacon, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickled jalapeño slices, and a creamy sriracha sauce on a toasted sourdough bun.

I’m not sure why Jack went with the shredded lettuce. Their lettuce is awful to begin with, so shredding it won’t make it better. But shredding it does make the burger messy. Despite a kung-fu grip around my burger, the lettuce kept falling out. You might be thinking that’s a good thing because the lettuce is so sad, but it’s not because the sad lettuce was usually coated with the creamy sriracha sauce. So if I let the lettuce fall, most of the sauce won’t be in the burger.

Yup. I just spent an entire paragraph talking about lettuce. But the shredded lettuce isn’t the worst problem.

Jack in the Box Spicy Sriracha Burger 2

It’s the jalapeños.

I raved about the flavor and heat of Jack’s jalapeños in previous menu items, like their Jalapeño Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger, but that had “jalapeño” in its name. This menu item does not, but it sure tastes like it does. If you’re hoping to get the sweet, spicy, and garlicky flavor of sriracha, I’m sorry to say your hopes and taste buds are going to be smothered by the jalapeños’ flavor and heat. Granted, Jack’s creamy sriracha sauce, as I learned with their Sausage Grande Breakfast Burrito, is noticeably mild compared with the Rooster Sauce, but it should be the sriracha that stands out, not the jalapeño.

There were bites here and there when I could taste other ingredients in the burger, like the bacon’s smokiness and the thin, dry burger patty, but it was mostly The Jalapeño Show Starring Jalapeño Jalapeño with musical guests Jalapeño and cameos by Bacon and Beef Patty.

So if the thought of sriracha excites you and makes you scream “SRIRACHA!!!” in your head, I’d recommend skipping Jack in the Box’s Spicy Sriracha Burger. But if the thought of jalapeño excites you and makes you scream “JALAPENO!!!” in your head, I’d recommend Jack in the Box’s Spicy Sriracha Burger.

(Nutrition Facts – 691 calories, 411 calories from fat, 46 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1612 milligrams of sodium, 478 milligrams of potassium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Spicy Sriracha Burger
Purchased Price: $7.49 (small combo)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Great if you love jalapeño. Flavor of bacon and beef patty pops up every so often behind the jalapeño. Good heat, thanks to the jalapeño.
Cons: Bad if you love sriracha because the creamy sriracha sauce isn’t noticeable. Thin beef patty. Sad shredded lettuce falls out easily, taking much of the sriracha sauce with it. The number of times I used “jalapeño” in a sriracha burger review.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Candy Corn Creme Bars

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar

If we’re going to continue to be friends, I feel there are a few things you should know about me. One is that I have learned most of my morals from a VHS copy of The Muppet Show and my bearded Uncle Bumsford who told me stories while flinging an ax into a stump in the backyard. Another is that I don’t mind, even downright enjoy, preservative-laden stuff. So long as the preservatives are working in the product’s favor, I see no flim or flaw. Bring me thy Jell-o pudding, thy toaster pastries, thy individually wrapped Little Debbies!

And that’s where these come in.

With enough Vegetable Oil Compounds to create an artistic rendering of the Icelandic glaciers, this new Hershey’s Candy Corn Bar is not one to illicit positive reviews from the authors of the USDA food pyramid, but neither does candy corn. Candy corn celebrates the odd, the waxy, the culinarily questionable ingredients, and if there’s anyone who’s familiar with handling questionable confectionary ingredients, it’s Hershey’s. Sure, sometimes things go awry in the Hershey lab, but I continue to put my Halloween faith in their corporate clutches. Am I foolish? Open-minded? Just outright idiotic? Let’s find out.

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar Candy Corn as a sugary little block

There is a distinct sweetness of candy corn that, when mulled with preservatives, creates a hyper-sweet sensation that is appealing to the sugar-inclined individual. It tastes of wax and corn syrup solids, maybe a hint of plastic and, guess what? That’s what these bars are made of: waxy stuff and corn syrup. Sugary and quick to melt, the bars are pleasant in that dairy milk confection way, making them easy to nibble as they get goopy all over your hands in 82-degree weather. It’s terrifying and awesome.

However, unlike candy corn, Hershey’s seems to have skipped the whole “honey” ingredient, which, in some respects, is a good thing. For example, you won’t have to worry about being attacked by a hungry honey bear or a swarm of vengeful bees. On the not-as-positive end, the bars don’t have the strong distinguishing taste that honey provides. In fact, they don’t have any particular taste. No vanilla. No rum. Just sugar.

If I close my eyes and use my imagination, there’s something slightly fruity at the end as if someone spliced Cadbury Egg Crème with dehydrated strawberry nubs, but it’s more about the abundance of sugar and texture: melty, melty, melty. While not a stunner on its own, I imagine all that Melting Sugar Goo would making an excellent fall s’more smashed between two Pumpkin Pop-Tarts and a chocolate marshmallow. As Uncle Bumsford always said: a s’more always solves your “What the hell do I do with all this mediocre candy?” problems.

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar interior

These little bars are pretty good. Are they made of lavender honey harvested from a flowery meadow by the Andrena hattorfiana bumblebees? No, but neither is candy corn. To expect otherwise would be unfair. By the abundance of sugar alone, these did a modest job at reimagining the experience of chomping on fistfuls of candy corn. While the dull, vegetable-oiled flavor leaves room for growth, at $3.69, I really can’t grumble too much.

If you’re a fan of corn syrup or drinking Cadbury Crème straight from the shell, you shall enjoy this. It will give you a good dose of sugar and Carnauba Wax, and sometimes that’s all you need to get to the next house for All Hallow’s Eve.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 bars – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Hershey’s Candy Corn Creme Bars
Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 9.45 oz bag
Purchased at: Kmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Melty. Perfect for Cadbury Crème lovers. Supports the cause of Trick-or-Treaters. Uncle Bumsford. VHS series of The Muppet Show.
Cons: No defining flavor aside from sugar. Carbauna wax. Grumpy USDA Food Pyramid authors. Vengeful bumblebees.

REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies

The Milano cookie has always been something of an enigma for me. With its elegant yet simple design and name conjuring images of the Italian Alps, it was beyond my childhood capacity of appreciation. Later in life, after I had graduated from a packaged cookie diet consisting entirely of Oreos and Chips Ahoy, Milanos still perplexed me. A dense yet slightly chewy crumb and buttery but dark chocolate flavor pointed toward a cookie on its own plane, distinct and unabashedly unique from every other prepackaged treat.

Oh yes, and terribly delicious.

It goes without saying that we expect much from Milano cookies. When you nail the chocolate flavor better than 95 percent of the competitors, I think expectations are a given. Nevertheless I couldn’t help but wonder if that sophisticated edge would translate with the addition of pumpkin spice. It’s one thing to pair mint and raspberry with chocolate, but when you start playing matchmaker with chocolate and the sometimes ambiguous concoction of fall spices, the results aren’t always so endearing.

Examining the bag confirmed my initial skepticism, as there’s no mention of pumpkin or the usual suspects of cinnamon or brown sugar in the ingredients. Nevertheless the orange lip representing pumpkin appeared on each cookie, while an unmistakably pumpkiny aroma danced from the open bag in perfect step with aromas of shortbread and chocolate.

It’s really a scintillating aroma, one with notes of pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin loaf cake supporting the dance. Actually, it’s so great I nearly passed out of asphyxiation due to a prolonged moment of sticking my schnoz right into the bag and failing to breath anything but the glorious smell of autumn.

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies 2

The orange “cream”—for want of a better word—is thin and slightly viscous, with a texture somewhere between cream cheese on a hot day and the filling they stick inside those stacked wafer cookies. Tasting it from the lip of the cookie, it comes across as a less intense version of Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese, right on down to a slightly artificial flavor that seems a bit too quiet for fall’s most iconic squash.

Artificial flavor aside, there’s a pleasantly light sweetness and lickable texture that leaves me wanting more. The problem is there really isn’t much more to be had. Even though the chocolate-to-pumpkin filling ratio is about 1:1, the pumpkin finishes a distant third in its impact. The filling and the spice together are enough to let you know we’re talking pumpkin and not just cinnamon-flavored cookies, but the milk chocolate filling and scrumptious cookie base seem unwilling to let the pumpkin intrude on their synergy.

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies 3

It’s been my experience through a quarter century of pumpkin eating that pumpkin is a very jealous flavor. It just doesn’t like playing second fiddle, much less third string. Yet in the distinct and careful balance of buttery cookie crumb and rich chocolate taste the pumpkin seems an awkward third wheel, attractive enough to want on its own, but not enough for either of the other two elements of the cookie to commit to.

It’s as if the cookie and the chocolate know what they have together, and while tempted by the pumpkin’s autumnal notes, neither flavor wants to commit to the newcomer over its tried and true other half. My God, it now occurs to me as I polish off another cookie, I have just described a twisted escapade of cookie love.

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies 4

The sophisticated chocolate taste and buttery crumb native to all Milanos make the Pumpkin Spice Milano flavor unique and tasty. Yet for such a trendsetting cookie the pumpkin spice flavor doesn’t come through enough to make it a distinctively pumpkin product, while the hints of an attractive and creamy texture mitigate it to an awkward role player. As for that role, it’s just not cast right, and despite a promising beginning and intoxicating aroma, the Pumpkin Spice Milanos failed to make me fall in love with their take on the seasonal flavor.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Quite possibly one of the most enjoyable smelling cookies in creation. Buttery Milano cookie. Rich milk chocolate flavor. Pumpkin flavored “cream” is slightly reminiscent of pumpkin cream cheese. That feeling you get when you buy Milanos.
Cons: Too little pumpkin filling. Slightly artificial pumpkin spice “cream.” Third wheel flavors. Death by cookie bag. Nineteenth century packaging of Milano cookies.

REVIEW: Sprite Blast

Sprite Blast

There’s a Mitch Hedberg joke from the early 2000s.

“They say the recipe for Sprite is lemon and lime. But I tried to make it at home—there’s more to it than that. ‘Want some more homemade Sprite?’ Not ‘til you figure out what the f*** else is in it!”

It’s true. Homemade Sprite sounded impossible in 2003, when that joke was recorded for Hedberg’s second stand up album. Fast forward about a decade and homemade soda machines are in all the hippest kitchens, yet if someone yelled from the other room “Hey, man, what do I put into this thing to make Sprite?” my answer would probably end up being “Let’s just go buy some Sprite,” followed up with a 20-minute conversation about the time Rufio from Hook rapped in a Sprite commercial. Bangarang.

Sprite does feature that lemon-lime logo and, if I’m remembering correctly, advertisements in the 90’s with wet, airborne lemons and limes. But for a drink so closely associated with citrus, it lacks any sour bite whatsoever. Enter Sprite Blast. This is an iteration of the drink that tastes like it was possibly made with actual sour ass fruit, or at least the sugar they sprinkle on sour worms.

The fizz is typical of Sprite, seemingly softer than actual Coke, and sets the table for a mouth puckering that never comes. Sprite Blast has a slight sour jab that stimulates the roof of the mouth and tingles the top of the throat and never overwhelms, or whelms even. The American palate is not acclimated to sour tastes, sure. The only sour-tasting foods I can name have “sour” already in the name: Sour cream, sour pickles, sweet and sour sauce, sour grapes.

The one I most engage with is sour grapes, and that’s not even a food. I’m a master rationalizer, and didn’t really want to be a stupid astronaut anyway. It just seems like a lot of work. But Sprite Blast’s flavor is a bit anemic, even for sour neophytes. And it doesn’t necessarily play with the sugar in the drink that well either. The flavor doesn’t lilt at the end in concert with the sweetness, like a Sour Patch Kid. It just sorta lays there in your mouth like a stoned roommate. The drink is buffed of any extremes, like a mass-produced, focus-grouped product and mostly serves as a reminder of how freaking sweet regular Sprite is.

Sprite Blast 2

Sprite Blast comes in tiny 7.5-ounce cans for some reason, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it costs that much more to produce the drink, or Coca-Cola wanted to visually differentiate it from other sodas on the shelf, but I keep searching for the “real” reason, like the can makes a particularly good bong or it can be easily fashioned into fireworks. Maybe 7.5 ounces of liquid is the perfect amount for some sort of alcoholic mixed drink, or codeine-cocktail krokodil. Maybe it fits easily into a regulation muffler, or into a body cavity.

Whatever the reason, the amount is about three-fourths a regulation soda but goes down like a shot. It’s so tempting to go “Woo!” right after and then huck the can across the room, like I just pledged some sort of dumb lemon-lime frat. Guys, tomorrow night we kidnap Sierra Mist’s mascot, which is actually a lonely guy wandering around Albertsons buying discount snacks for an ill-attended poker night.

The other thing about Sprite Blast is that it’s a 7-Eleven exclusive. Know this: Nobody is going to 7-Eleven just for Sprite Blast, which makes me think it’s there to pair well with something else. To be honest, I do think it would complement some 7-Eleven delicacies. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Pork rinds. Those gross-looking Doritos nuggets. Machine-rolled taquitos. Day-old hot dog. Lowrider magazine. A tin of Skoal Snus Mint. Sprite Blast would not go well with the Sausage McMuffin knockoff, Simpsons pink sprinkles donut or prophylactics.

Sprite Blast costs a buck at most 7-Elevens and is a low investment for a pretty low payoff. So no need for a homemade version, just spring for the real thing. And for those who still want to recreate it in the house, I think after reading the label, the secret ingredient is sodium benzoate.

(Nutrition Facts – 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 115 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar,and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Sprite Blast
Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 7.5 ounce can
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Actual sour flavors from Sprite. Could pair well with other 7-Eleven items, flavorwise.
Cons: Unremarkable. Comes in a teeny tiny can.

REVIEW: Lay’s Cinnamon Bun Potato Chips (Canada)

Lay's Cinnamon Bun Potato Chips (Canada)

I guess every batch of Do Us A Flavour candidates has to have the water cooler flavour — the weird one that’ll get people talking. Last year’s batch of Canadian flavours had Maple Moose, and sticking with the sweet theme, this year there’s Cinnamon Bun.

Everyone who I’ve spoken to has recoiled in horror at the thought of cinnamon bun chips, but I’m just going to come out and admit it: it’s actually pretty close to my dream chip flavour. Now, before you write me off as a complete sociopath (who dreams of cinnamon bun chips??), hear me out. My dream chip flavour? Cinnamon Sugar Doritos.

Keep in mind that this wouldn’t be a salty/sweet combination; this would be a full-out dessert chip. Think about it. It would be like a churro in chip form! How is this not a thing yet??

Doritos executives: please feel free to steal this idea.

Alas, since Churro Doritos are not yet a thing (and may never be), Cinnamon Bun Lay’s is probably the closest that we’ll get.

I’ll say two things about these chips right off the bat:

1) They’re not gross. They’re edible.

2) That’s probably the nicest thing I have to say about this particular flavour. These are clearly not going to satisfy my dream Doritos cravings.

I had hoped that they were going to be a full-out dessert experience, but it really isn’t. It’s way too subtle. That’s not necessarily a problem, but the flavours never really come together in any meaningful way.

If you were eating a bag of plain Lay’s and one fell on a Cinnabon and then you ate it, it would probably taste something like these chips.

Lay's Cinnamon Bun Potato Chips (Canada) Closeup

It’s weird. They’re slightly buttery, with a somewhat pronounced sweet cinnamony flavour — they actually do a pretty decent job of capturing the flavour of a cinnamon bun. But then there’s the plain Lay’s flavour, which is equally pronounced. Both flavours announce to your tastebuds “Yep, here I am!” but neither has any particular interest in cooperating with the other. They’re both just there; two random tastes that have seemingly been crammed together on a whim.

I wish they had just gone all out with the cinnamon bun flavour and let the chip be more of a vehicle for crunch than anything else, because as it is now it’s pretty muddled. It’s neither here nor there, and it’s slightly off-putting.

I was able to tolerate them, but I had a few other people try them and no one could make it past a chip or two, so I may just have a higher than average tolerance for sweet cinnamony chips. But clearly, these aren’t the chips I’ve been dreaming of.

Way to kill my dreams, Lay’s. Way to kill my dreams.

(Nutrition Facts – 50 grams/per 27 chips – 270 calories, 17 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 90 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fibre, 2 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Cinnamon Bun Potato Chips (Canada)
Purchased Price: $3.50 CAN
Size: 180 gram bag
Purchased at: Hasty Market
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Reasonable facsimile of the flavour of a cinnamon bun.
Cons: Cinnamon bun and potato chip flavours are just as incongruous as you’d think. Too subtle. Killer of dreams.