QUICK REVIEW: Rockstar Pure Zero Lemonade Energy Drink

Rockstar Pure Zero Lemonade Energy Drink

Rockstar Pure Zero Lemonade Energy Drink is something I’d imagine one would get from a first time lemonade stand owner who’s also using it as a front to distribute cocaine.

I assume when you have a beginner’s lemonade stand/cocaine counter, the two products have to mix. So it has the flavor of mediocre lemonade, but also the ability to make your heart beat like it’s coming out of your chest.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Rockstar Pure Zero line, it consists of energy drinks that have zero calories and zero grams of sugar. Another number I’ve noticed with recent additions to the Pure Zero line is 240, as in 240 milligrams of caffeine per can. The most recent Pure Zero flavors, this beverage and last year’s Pure Zero Watermelon, have that higher amount, which is 50 percent more than the usual 160 milligrams found in most other Rockstar products.

So if you’re looking for a big jolt of energy during the day because you spent all night looking for Pokémon, this beverage in a Pikachu-colored can will definitely help.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Rockstar Pure Zero Lemonade has an average flavor. It’s not horrible by any means, but I wish the lemon had a bit more punch. According to the can, it contains 2 percent juice that comes from lemon juice concentrate, but it seems that wasn’t enough for me. Also, because the lemon flavor isn’t very bold, the artificial sweeteners stand out a bit more than with other Pure Zero flavors.

Again, it’s an okay flavor, but it’s my least favorite of the Rockstar Pure Zero line.

Rockstar Pure Zero Lemonade Energy Drink 2

Purchased Price: $1.50
Size: 16 fl oz
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (8 fl. oz) 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 180 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 1 gram of erythritol, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: White Castle Pretzel Chicken Rings

White Castle Pretzel Chicken Rings

The Crave is a powerful thing.

It got the best of Harold and Kumar, and after seeing White Castle’s new Pretzel Chicken Rings, it got the best of me.

I love White Castle, but I hate White Castle. If I find out I’m in a town with one, I have to stop there like it’s a tourist attraction. I usually gorge on two double cheeseburgers and a sack of chicken rings. I camp out in my car like an ashamed overeater, and then I somehow find myself hitting the window again for a couple more burgers. This has happened numerous times. Not this time though! This time was strictly for the Pretzel Chicken Rings.

I’ve always enjoyed White Castle’s Chicken Rings. They use all white meat chicken and they’re always tender. They used to remind me of Burger King’s old Chicken Tenders, if you remember those. I’m also a man-child who likes the circular shape, and with the Olympics in full swing I’ve made a pact to only eat foods in ring form. Donuts, bagels, pizzas with the middle cut out, etc.

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“Pretzel crusted” is a food fad I hope never goes away. I predict more fast food joints are going to branch out beyond the pretzel bun and start coating nuggets and the like in pretzel dust. We’ve already seen Burger King get frisky with Cheetos.

Do you think the Burger King or the Dairy Queen have ever dined at the White Castle?

Sorry, my brain is wandering. You’re here for a review.

The Pretzel Chicken Rings were deliciously crispy, which I found surprising considering how greasy they were. The napkin I put my rings down on was basically translucent by the time I was done eating. Still, the crunch managed to power through until the last bite without getting soft or soggy.

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This wasn’t just pretzel dust either. Each chicken ring was breaded with crunchy little chunks of pretzel.

Unfortunately there was no salt. Sure, I could have added my own but I would have liked sporadic pieces of pretzel salt. That would’ve brought the sodium levels to dangerous heights, but they would’ve tasted better. Without the salt pieces, I wouldn’t necessarily say they scream “pretzel,” but they deliver on their promise.

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They also offer a cheese dipping sauce for 60 cents extra, which I pounced on. This was a winning combo. Their cheese sauce had a nice little zest to it, and I think it’s probably the best dipping sauce choice.

Now before you swing by your local Castle and order the 20 sack, I need to warn you about something I found way off with these rings. This is a food blog so I don’t usually harp on this, but I feel I have to warn you.

I’m sure you’re not worrying about nutrition while eating at White Castle, but the Pretzel Chicken Rings’ nutrition facts are insane. I knocked my score down when I saw the caloric content. There are 620 calories in six rings. That’s not even the worst part. There are 50 grams of fat! You’d never guess that. How is that even possible? Now the thought of that grease is making me queasy.

For reference there are 30 grams of fat in a 10 piece order of Chicken McNuggets. Six Wendy’s Nuggets only have 18 grams of fat. A Big Mac has 29! Six fairly small White Castle Pretzel Rings have 50! What kind of pretzels are they using and how many times are they frying them?

And to think, I almost added my usual double cheeseburgers to the order.

(Nutrition Facts – 6 pieces – 620 calories, 450 calories from fat, 50 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 17 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.59 (+$.60 for cheese sauce)
Size: 6 rings
Purchased at: White Castle
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Really nice crisp. Deliciously tender white meat chicken. Cheese dipping sauce. There’s a lot of fast food royalty. The Olympics. One of the dudes who wrote Harold and Kumar follows me on Twitter.
Cons: Super fattening. Kinda greasy. Translucent napkins. Sad parked car eaters. No pretzel salt so I couldn’t say, “These pretzels are making me thirsty!”

REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips

Lay's Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips

I’m fairly new to Indian food.

Up until a year ago, I basically feared it. I didn’t want any part of it. I respect your beliefs, but no beef?! I had beef with your lack of beef!

Then I found out my local joint had a $12 lunch buffet. Twelve bucks? Buffet? You know I ain’t got beef with a good value, so I bucked up and gave it a shot.

It was great. Indian food is great. Who needs beef?

One of the dishes they eased me in with was Chicken Tikka Masala, which until a couple months ago I called “Tikka Mar-sala” like it was cooked with an Italian wine.

I’m fairly new, folks.

For those who aren’t familiar, Tikka Masala is a dish made from chunks of spiced meat served in a tomato and coriander sauce. The recipe varies from site to site, so I’ll just go with the spices listed in the ingredients — turmeric, cumin, paprika, tomato, onion, and garlic powders.

The chips are orange, so they look the part. They definitely smell the part. I wouldn’t say Indian food has the most pleasant aroma in the world, unless you enjoy the scent of an entire spice rack hitting your nostrils at once. If you’re familiar with Wise’s BBQ chips, I was immediately put in mind of those. With all due respect to Wise, they’re my least favorite basic BBQ chip on the market.

Honestly, these taste like Wise BBQ with a bit more kick. There’s a lot going on with these chips.

Chili powder isn’t one of the spices listed, but I tasted a chili element. It’s nothing too overpowering, but it builds up the more you eat. The back of my tongue was pretty hot when I was done and a fiery aftertaste lingered. That’s neutralized a bit by a faint sweetness (which might not be the right word) that I imagine was from the coconut so commonly used in Indian cuisine. This comes through more so in the actual dish than the chip, but it’s there if you look for it.

So yeah, the flavor was reminiscent of the dish. It was the texture that bugged me.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips 2

Most of the Indian food I’ve had has been soft and mushy – tender meats, rice, curries, etc. These are the hardest chips known to man, so that contrasting texture choice seems odd to me. I think these would’ve been better as normal chips, but I can admit I have a bias. I’ve never been a huge fan of kettle chips. I don’t hate them, but I’ve always found kettle chips greasier, and fear for the health of my molars while eating them.

So if you’re a fan of Indian food, or would like to ease yourself into becoming a fan, these are a valiant effort from Lay’s. I wouldn’t recommend eating too many in one sitting as these left me with…what’s the best way to say this without being gross? Later in the day I was reminded that I had Tikka Masala chips, if you catch my drift.

You’ll burp. You’re probably gonna burp. These chips will make you burp. You’re probably gonna get some indigestion. You might wanna eat these in the privacy of your own home.

One last thing, I thought this Lay’s Passport to Flavor gimmick was a tie-in with the Rio Olympics, but the bag doesn’t seem to reflect that in any way. I guess if that were the case, these chips would be called “Zika Masala.”

That’s right I.O.C., I went there. We’ve got beef.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 350 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A decent representation of Tikka Masala. Nice kick. Very faint coconut. Getting over my fear of Indian food. $12 buffets.
Cons: Not nearly as good as the dish it emulates. Aftertaste lingers. Basically a BBQ variant. Kettle cooked. Rio conditions. Cornball jokes. Keep gum handy.

REVIEW: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed with Reese’s Pieces

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed with Reese's Pieces

In a perfect world food would be an easy linear math problem.

Most the time this concept stands to reason. Just as we recite 2 + 2 = 4 ad nauseam during our earliest days of grade school, our first adventures in the world of taste confirm basic premises upon which all further knowledge of sweet and salty is built upon. Bacon + Burger = Excellent, Fish + Cheese = Why?, and, my personal favorite, Peanut Butter + Chocolate = All You Need In Life.

Yes, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is all you need in life.

This is not subject to relativism. Name for me one person who does not like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. What’s that, you can’t? I’m telling you such people do not exist. You don’t become the highest selling candy in the country because you have haters. Okay then, try one person who does not like a handful of Reese’s Pieces? Speak up! Are those crickets chirping in the background? Thought so.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed with Reese's Pieces 4

So if we’re talking math and we’re talking candy, it should follow that Awesome Chocolate and Peanut Butter Candy + Another Awesome Chocolate and Peanut Butter Candy = Exponentially Awesome Chocolate and Peanut Butter Candy. Unfortunately, the new Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups stuffed with Reece’s Pieces taste remarkably like…Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed with Reese's Pieces 3

I am not trying to say this is a bad thing (I did call them “awesome”). Far be it from me to audit the millions of dollars we fork over annually for that creamy peanut butter center and smooth milk chocolate shell. But when one expects the crunchy, intense burst of even more peanut butter and chocolate to give the cups the all-important textural variation that makes a simple candy like Crunch so popular, one only returns with slightly grainy shards of chocolate shell sticking from the peanut butter. The two peanut butter elements even meld into each other, creating a completely indistinguishable flavor that tastes both unequivocally yummy and devastatingly disappointing.

2 + 2 = 4? Psh. Now I get what Orwell meant when he wrote that 2 + 2 = 5. Except 5 is not any better than 4.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed with Reese's Pieces 2

I’m sure there are a fair number of people saying, “Well, what did you expect?” Fair question, but excuse me for holding the Reese’s R&D people to a high standard. The brand has only given us, what, about as many variations of peanut butter and chocolate as there are Duggar children? Yet where every Reese’s product seems to offer a bit of something extra when it comes to taste and texture, the new Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with Reese’s Pieces provide just an additional military-sized acronym to memorize in all your favorite candy forums (RMCPBCswRP in the unabridged form).

And, for the record, a bolder choice would have been to wrap an entire dark chocolate Reese’s cup in a Reese’s Pieces milk chocolate shell, thus encasing the smooth and creamy peanut butter to two levels of chocolate and increasing the crunch a gazillion times. And while we’re at it, can we add a white chocolate drizzle?

But then again, what do I know. I’m just a guy who has only been eating Reese’s PB Cups and Reese’s Pieces since I learned that 2 + 2 = 4.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 package or 2 cups – 220 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 5.0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: 1.5 oz
Purchased at: Shoppers Food
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: It’s a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Of course you love that smooth and slightly salty peanut butter and sweet milk chocolate! The simple life of linear first grade math equations. Military-grade acronyms for candy.
Cons: Tastes exactly like a regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Pieces provide a barely distinguishable textural contrast. A whimper in a banging tradition of product innovation. Rereading 1984

REVIEW: Devour Chicken & Waffles

Devour Chicken & Waffles

One of the saddest frozen meals I’ve ever put into my mouth was the Hungry-Man Selects Boneless Fried Chicken & Waffles. After being punished by radiation, the waffles were soggy and the breaded chicken patties were limp and lacked any discernible crunch. Eggo waffles and Burger King chicken nuggets would be a significant upgrade.

With my previous frozen chicken and waffles experience tattooed onto my head, I purchased this Devour Chicken & Waffles frozen entree with the expectation that it might be slightly better. According to the box, the frozen food features “premium crispy breaded white meat chicken patty strips served with Belgian waffle sticks and a side of syrup for dipping.”

After opening the box, I saw a ray of sunshine. Actually, it was a ray of gray, which usually means sadness, but in this case it was the opposite. The interior of the box was lined with the gray, slick material used for microwaveable crisping trays. Seeing it gave me a glimmer of hope that these chicken and waffles would be okay.

Although the photo below of burnt-looking waffles might make you think otherwise. But I assure you, they might be burnt-looking, but they’re not burnt-tasting.

Devour Chicken & Waffles 2

The crisping tray makes a significant difference when it comes to texture. The waffle sticks have a slightly fluffy interior and a crispy exterior that makes them feel as if they’ve been through a toaster cycle. And the chicken strips have a lightly crispy texture that’s similar to fast food chicken nuggets.

The chicken strips have enough flavor that they could be eaten without dipping them into the syrup, but the same can’t be said about the Belgian waffle strips. They’re bland compared to other frozen Belgian waffles I’ve had.

But thank goodness for the included Heinz Breakfast Syrup. It tastes as generic as its name, but it does bring a satisfying sweetness to this meat and carbs affair. And there’s enough of it to dip all the waffles and chicken.

However, everything is not all sugar, chicken breading spice, and everything nice. If you let the waffle sticks sit out too long, they go from being crispy and fluffy to dry and crunchy.

Overall, I enjoyed Devour’s Chicken & Waffles. I don’t know if it’s the best microwaveable chicken & waffles offering, but it’s definitely better than the rock bottom experience of Hungry-Man’s attempt at the sweet and savory dish.

(Nutrition Facts – 620 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1150 milligrams of sodium, 83 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 36 grams of sugar, 24 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9.25 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Better than Hungry-Man Selects Boneless Fried Chicken & Waffles. Crisping tray works! Chicken can be eaten on their own. Enough syrup for waffles AND chicken.
Cons: Belgian waffle strips slightly bland. If sits out too long, the waffle sticks turn dry and crunchy. Might not be filling for some people. Hungry-Man Selects Boneless Fried Chicken & Waffles.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies

Ever since I was young, I’ve been a sucker for ghost jokes.

For example:

Where do ghosts buy their junk food?

At the ghost-ery store.

What’s a ghost’s favorite fruit?

Boo-berries.

What does a ghost barista offer its customers?

Scream and sugar.

Okay, those weren’t funny at all. No wonder none of my classmates laughed at my jokes throughout school. What the hell was I thinking for all of those years? Is this why I went to prom alone two years in a row? What am I going to find out next, that I DIDN’T look totally cool sipping on my Ecto Cooler juice box while all of the upperclassmen were drinking out of flasks?!

Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies 2

Luckily, Ghostbusters is back in theaters to grace the world with the ghoul-related humor we so desperately need, and I clearly cannot provide. To celebrate the new movie, Hostess has introduced Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies (there’s also a Key Lime Slime flavor). Wouldn’t you know it, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man himself adorns the face of the box, and each rotund white Twinkie pays homage to him, too. The colorful packaging describes this Twinkie variety as a “white fudge covered sponge cake with marshmallow topping and creamy filling.” Now, if THAT doesn’t make you want to buy these Twinkies then…well, then you probably don’t look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Good for you.

Biting through the firm-yet-forgiving outer shell of frosting, I was instantly met with a heavy white chocolate flavor. It’s more than just “sugar” and clearly distinguishable from milk or even dark chocolate, but its exaggerated sweetness is almost unpleasant. If anything stands out over the taste of the white fudge, it’s the sponge cake itself. It’s the classic Twinkie cake: buttery and very sweet. There’s very little saltiness or other flavor to distinguish it from the rest of the Twinkie.

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The filling, which is the same standard Twinkie cream filling — not marshmallow flavored — was barely noticeable. This was disappointing, because it’s the only ingredient that stood a chance to provide some balance in flavor. There is also an unexpectedly thick marshmallow layer between the sponge cake and the white fudge frosting, which seemed to provide a certain creaminess among the saccharine frenzy going on here. Still, it was hard to tell because all of the ingredients are basically just sugar.

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The real distinction of the marshmallow layer is its texture: it’s chewy, stretchy, and almost tough. This stuck out as an unpleasant surprise for what is usually a very soft, fluffy cake. Between the firm white fudge coating, the leathery marshmallow topping, the cushiony cake and the wispy filling, the texture of this Twinkie was a truly repugnant experience. For a junk food reviewer, that’s saying something.

What’s odd is that these White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies actually do achieve what they advertise, and for that Hostess deserves some credit. These are Twinkies, draped in a flavorful white fudge coating, and featuring an obvious marshmallow layer. The problem is that all of those ingredients combine to form a sugary monster not even Peter Venkman could vanquish. And that’s something to be afraid of.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 23 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 15.55 oz box (9 cakes)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Hefty marshmallow layer and decent white fudge taste. Familiar Twinkie goodness. Ecto Cooler. Bill Murray.
Cons: Sweetness of white fudge, marshmallow, and sponge cake is overwhelming. Textural nightmare. Eating Twinkies until you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Terrible ghost jokes.