REVIEW: Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Pizza

Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Pizza

To me, getting a Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Pizza was like getting GoBot for Christmas. Sure, they’re vehicles that transform into robots, but they’re a lame ripoff of other vehicles that turn into robots. They’re no Transformer, robots in disguise.

In my eyes, the Transformer equivalent of a Pizza Hut hot dog pizza is the Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza that other countries, like Canada and the U.K., were sold. It was a pizza that looked like a normal Stuffed Crust pizza but instead of the crust being stuffed with gooey cheese, they had significantly not gooey at all hot dogs in them.

Why didn’t that come to our shores? We’re America, dammit! We’ve done so many things with our hot dogs. We’ve wrapped them in bacon. We’ve injected them with cheese. We watch people eat dozens of them one after another for sport. FOR SPORT! I don’t want a GoBot, I want a Transformer! But I have to settle for the GoBot version of a Pizza Hut hot dog pizza.

Each Hot Dog Bites Pizza has 28 pigs in a blanket as the outer crust. Half the slices have three bites and the other half have four. The crust around them…ugh, I can’t delay it any longer. I have to talk about how they look. I don’t know about you, but there’s something disturbing about the way these bites look. Some folks have said they look like toes, and the photo below helps prove that. But my active imagination sees a few other things that probably aren’t appropriate for a food review. But let me just say these things are seen below the waist.

Now back to the review.

Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Pizza Toes

The crust around the hot dogs were toasted nicely, giving them a slight crispy outside. And the dough inside was soft and had a slight chewiness. But the hot dogs themselves don’t look like hot dogs or taste like them. Instead they look like Vienna sausages and have a flavor that reminds me of those little smokies cocktail sausages. As someone who had eaten a lot of cocktail sausages wrapped up in Pillsbury Crescent dough, I liked the familiar flavor of the hot dog bites. But, again, they don’t taste like hot dogs.

Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Pizza Mustard

Each pizza comes with a container of French’s yellow mustard to use as a dipping sauce. Because, you know, hot dogs. After trying them with ketchup, mustard, and a combination of the two, I have to say going with mustard was the right choice. Ketchup seems too close to the sauce on the pizza. Even with mustard, the smokiness of the meat was still noticeable.

Combining the two super junk foods, pizza and hot dogs, into one bite isn’t going to open a portal into Awesomeland. Together, without the mustard, they’re okay. But I think they’re best left separated.

I will admit, although it’s not exactly the Transformer I wanted, this GoBot is kind of cool and it still makes me want to eat the crust more than a cheese-stuffed crust would. Also, I found that one slice with four hot dog bites was enough to fill me up. Maybe it was the extra protein. But I now know I can never eat hot dogs for sport.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Item: Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Pizza
Purchased Price: $17.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Pizza Hut
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Makes me want to eat the crust more than cheese-filled crust. It’s still pizza with hot dogs in the crust. One slice is filling. Enough mustard for dipping all 28 hot dog bites. Transformers.
Cons: Not as cool as getting a Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza. Hot dogs don’t taste like hot dogs, more like cocktail sausages. For those with active imaginations, the hot dog bites look a bit disturbing. I can’t eat hot dogs for sport. GoBots.

REVIEW: Starbucks Cotton Candy Crème Frappuccino

Starbucks Cotton Candy Cre?me Frappuccino

Do you love food hacks? Do you hate baristas giving you annoyed and/or confused looks? Well, I have got big news for you! Starbucks has released six “new” flavors of its trademarked frozen treat straight from the super secret menu! From June 16th to the 30th, they are asking customers to vote for their favorite – Are you ready for the Frappuccino Flav-Off?!

The new offerings are in celebration of the Frappuccino’s 20th anniversary. Wow, 20 years! To think, in just one year’s time our little Frap will be legally able to mix itself with whiskey! Where does the time go?

At first I thought the ad said Starbucks was turning 20, and it blew my mind for a good half hour. According to Google, there is a Starbucks every 17 square feet on planet Earth. Antarctica has 46 of ‘em. There’s a Starbucks inside of the White House. Malia works there…

But we’re not here to discuss our supreme overlords at the Starbucks Corporation, or my inability to read, we’re here to review just one of the many delicious, refreshing, energizing, expensive Starbucks menu items.

Of all the new choices, the flavor that caught my eye most was Cotton Candy. Besides Lemon Bar, I felt like I could already imagine what the other flavors tasted like – Cinnamon Roll, Caramel Cocoa Cluster, Cupcake, and Red Velvet. Those are more Starbucks’ speed. I had to go with the odd ball of the bunch.

As you can see it’s probably the brightest and most flamboyant drink Starbucks currently offers. If I were them I would market it with the old saying “Pink is the new black.” Is pink still the new black or did orange steal pink’s thunder? To Google I go! … Google told me to go outside.

My first sip definitely put me in mind of classic cotton candy flavor. It reminded me of the cotton candy popsicles I used to buy from the ice cream man as a kid, sans the candy cigarette side dish. Unfortunately, as I sipped on, the cotton candy flavor faded quickly.

According to menu hackers and Starbucks alike, the flavor derives from mixing raspberry and vanilla bean syrup (I watched my barista mix those with half a cup of milk and tons of ice.) While I did definitely taste raspberry, as the ice melted and diluted the flavor, it almost tasted like melted strawberry – not raspberry – ice cream. I would say it was like a weak strawberry shake. It got worse as I went along. I’d say drink it fast, but we all know how that ends.

I did get a cotton candy-ish scent, but the stubborn whipped cream refused to really let it blast through. Actually, on that topic, as with most Frappuccinos, I found myself enjoying the whipped cream as much as the drink itself. It has always been the perfect complement to the frozen mix, and it blended well in this instance. If given the choice, always say yes to whipped cream.

Starbucks Cotton Candy Cre?me Frappuccino 2

The consistency was more Slurpee or Slush Puppy than the usual Frap… but that could be thanks to the glacier my barista added to the blender. It wasn’t as thick as the last Frap I had, and despite ordering the smallest size it still went down pretty heavy – which could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I wasn’t really anticipating a meal replacement, but I got one anyway. If you opt for a Grande, Venti, or Trenta, you may not have to eat again.

Just in case you were wondering, I felt I should inform you this Frap has no hint whatsoever of Starbucks’s famous elixir. There is no coffee mixed in. You’re not gonna get your caffeine fix, although the sugar overload will probably make up for it.

So all in all, this is a one-time try. I mentioned earlier that the pink caught my eye and I probably knew how the others tasted, but maybe there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken. Still, melted strawberry ice cream with a hint of raspberry and vanilla is a pretty good taste profile, and if you’re looking for a change of pace, I guess it can’t hurt to buy it once.

I’m going to be very curious to see how this fares in the Frappuccino Flav-Off. Something tells me it’s going to be a contender, but ultimately lose out.

Back to the secret menu with you, cotton candy.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 fluid ounces – 280 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 42 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, and 0 milligrams of caffeine.)

Item: Starbucks Cotton Candy Crème Frappuccino
Purchased Price: $3.95
Size: 12 oz.
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Cotton Candy flavor (albeit brief). Ice Cream Man memories. Whipped cream. Filling. Vibrant color.
Cons: It’s “Vin” not “Ben.” Ice overload. Maybe too filling. Menu hack confusion. Unemployed Sasha. Cigarettes marketed to kids. “_____ is the new black.”

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Sour Gummies Ts & Js

Trader Joe's Sour Gummies Ts & Js

I just wanted to go to K-Mart. That’s all. So I took the shortcut through Madison Square Park, where I stopped to admire the horizontal mirrors.

This is where something went wrong.

I don’t know what it was. I didn’t wave my arms, ruffle a squirrel, toss a hot dog cart. Nothing that would otherwise incite Karmic wrath. So did I expect to suddenly be running from a vehement Great Horned Owl while being stared down by a group of early mothers who might’ve just left the casting call for NBC’s next Crime Drama?

No.

But there are good days and there are days when you are chased by a talon-wielding species of bird with a vast wingspan. Thankfully, we are not weaklings. We power forward, trudge onward, seek counsel in the Magic 8 Ball we kept from 3rd Grade. Sugar helps in the recovery.

And Trader Joe’s is helping in that recovery by expanding their gummy landscape, coming in with excellent prices and a limited alphabet with their new Sour Gummies. Indeed, if your name is T.J. or J.T., count yourself among the lucky ones: you can now transcribe love notes to your significant other whose name is T.J./J.T.:

Trader Joe's Sour Gummies Ts & Js Love

Softer than Sour Patch yet chewier than a lump of Jell-o, these all-natural gummies prove to have a semi-chewy, gumdrop-like squish. They require very little exercise from your jaw, yet are still firm enough to hold together, so I’m 92.7% confident Yoshi could’ve use these as weapons to defeat the Slime Drops in Super Mario World 2.

The outside coating reminds me markedly of Sour Patch Kids, having only a subtle sour pop before going forth into the sweet flavor. Seekers of taste-bud-dissolving, Warhead-like sour pain will be at a loss as the coating of sour sprinkles contributes more of a granular texture than actual mouth-puckering sourness.

However, this lack of self-sabotaging sourness only allows the all-natural citrus flavors to stand out. Here’s the play-by-play for each flavor:

Key Lime – This one has a fine juicy tartness. It reminds me of the lost-but-not-forgotten Lime Skittle: tangy and juicy on its own, no bitter, dishwashing detergent notes in sight, much like a true Key Lime candy from Key West. Ernest Hemingway and his six-toed cats would be proud.

Lemon – Zesty, tangy, and zippy as a Spanish bull. There’s both a juicy quality and a citrus tartness that I thoroughly appreciate. It’s like a lemon Starburst, only a hint milder. Combined with the lime, the two taste like Lemon-Lime Gatorade. Mmmm…electrolyte-enhanced beverage…

Grapefruit – I was equally excited as I was disheartened by this flavor. While I looked for the tart-bitter-juicy-sweet notes of a grapefruit, I only found a vague “Fruit Juice” quality. Indeed, it tastes like a Juicy Juice box with a bit of a berry note. Perhaps it’s from the black currant coloring? It’s not bad by any means, but not exactly grapefruit.

Tangerine – This one eschews the sour, bitter depth of the tangerine peel, and goes straight for the juice. It has a sugary, one-note citrus quality that reminds me of Orange Hi-C, which I used to chug in abundance at the Free Refill soda machine at Taco Bell, so it’s not so much “tangerine” as just “orange.” It’s simple and I love it.

Trader Joe's Sour Gummies Ts & Js Closeup

There are no crazed-eyed, kid-shaped gummies here. No wild tangles of hair or neon blue raspberry flavors. There are just these little alphabet letters. They make for good chewing. Think of them more as the all-natural, slightly softer Sour Patches of the gummy world. While the grapefruit ended up being a bit of a Snooze Fest, the rest of the flavors have solid citrus flavors and combine with one another excellently. The lemon tastes like lemon. The lime tastes like lime. The snozzberry…wait, there’s still no snozzberry?

Good job, Trader Joe’s. Until we meet again, I shall be searching for the snozzberry. Hopefully, I won’t run into any Great Horned Owls along the way.

(Nutrition Facts – 17 pieces – 150 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Item: Trader Joe’s Sour Gummies Ts & Js
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tangy. Soft and chewy. Doesn’t result in jaw surgery. Lime doesn’t taste like dishwashing detergent. Lemon is like a Starburst. Tangerine is like Hi-C. Free refills at Taco Bell. Super Mario World 2.
Cons: Grapefruit doesn’t taste like grapefruit. Doesn’t satisfy Warhead-level sour cravings. No snozzberry flavor. Talon-wielding birds of prey.

REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish Crackers

Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish

Look, I know.

I know I shouldn’t have tried to pogo through Times Square. Or put the Tootsie Roll in the Easy Bake Oven. Or tried to build a tent in gale force winds in the middle of the Mexico desert. I do ridiculous things sometimes because I’m curious if they can be done. Somebody should stop me.

But nobody did. Not when I was walking to the grocery. Not at the back of aisle 3. Not the guy hacking up sirloin at the meat counter. So, unhindered by human or meat cleaver, I dive in to Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish Crackers, one-by-one.

Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish 4

Starting simple, the cheddar is familiar and orange as the hunk of cheese from whence it came. It’s wonderful in that nutty, salty, and savory way. It’s perhaps a bit too safe, but it’s also nice to be reminded that there’s a reason these have been bobbing about since 1962.

I’m surprised and disappointed to find the ketchup tastes much similar to the cheddar cracker, but with a very, very, very, very minuscule hint of canned tomato paste. Some may say the tomato isn’t there at all, but, if you close your eyes and use your imagination, you can taste a tomato-y afterthought at the end. Those looking for the sweet tang of ketchup shall be sad in this tomato effort, but the sprinklies of salt coating each fish help things along. It’s not a bad fishy, but not noticeably different enough from the cheddar to declare its taste as unique.

Now, on to the most curious beast: the burger cracker.

No skipping around the tulips: it’s pretty good. No hints of metal, artificial smoke, or burnt-charcoal. There’s a salty, savory, roasted-portabella edge with a hint of caramelized onion bits found at the bottom of the pan. Sure, it may not be the medium-rare hunk of cow I look for, but it holds its own, and, in that capacity, it goes excellently with the cheddar. The two eaten together may encourage you to shovel up every last crumb of the bag as if you were raised by wolves. Do not be ashamed of being raised by wolves: scoop those crackers down, you wolf-human.

Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish 3

Maybe it’s the smell of charcoal in the air, but I think I like these. I really do. They’re not spectacular, even a little too safe, but they’re also not putrid.

They’re savory, nutty, cheesy and easy to chomp. It would be exciting to see Pepperidge Farm go further with the idea of the burger: give me some jalapeño, Colby, and mustard-coated Goldfish. Bacon and bleu. Give me all the pickle-flavored fishies you can muster. I shall eat them. Eat them all. If I’m going off the deep end, so be it.

But maybe you will join me? Here? In the deep end? It’s nice. And way fun. And has lots of crackers.

(Nutrition Facts – 56 pieces – 140 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish Crackers
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 6.3 oz. bag
Purchased at: Morton Williams
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Nutty. Savory. Burger cracker not gross. Cheddar remains unchanged. Brown bits of caramelized onions. Salt sprinklies. Benefits of being raised by wolves. Pogo sticks.
Cons: Ketchup tastes like cheddar. Absence of tang. Can’t order medium rare. No pickles? Trying to set up a tent in gale force winds.

REVIEW: Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill (Canada)

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill

I misread this item at first, and thought “wow, Creamy Chocolate Chili?? Yes please!”

Sadly, the real deal — an attempt to replicate the success of the venerable Iced Capp — isn’t quite as interesting.

The Tim Hortons website describes the Creamy Chocolate Chill as “a delicious combination of real cream and layers of chocolaty goodness.” It’s basically a chocolate milk slushie, though it’s not particularly creamy, nor does it have much of a milky flavour.

It tastes more like Yoo-hoo than like chocolate milk, though the “real cream” claim does make me a bit puzzled at the lack of creaminess.

The flavour is mostly just sweet, with a very mild chocolately hit. If you’ve ever had chocolate milk made with Nesquik syrup (and went very heavy on the syrup), then you have a good idea of what this tastes like.

It’s so sweet. As someone who recently watched Fed Up and is suddenly, horrifyingly cognizant of such things, this drink has a lot of sugar. Fifty grams, which is 11 grams more than a can of Coke, which is — according to that documentary at least — essentially the beverage equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.

Even if you don’t care about such things (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t. I don’t, aside from my recent documentary-induced paranoia), that’s a lot of sugar just from a taste standpoint. This is a very, very sweet drink. It’s kind of one-note sweet.

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill 2

Still, there are certainly worse things on the menu at Tim Hortons. It’s not as good as an Iced Capp, because at least that has flavours slightly more complex than “cocoa + sugar overload,” but it’ll get the job done. If you drink this on a hot day, it will fulfill its purpose of being a cold, refreshing beverage.

It also has a good balance of iciness and liquid; typically, with an Iced Capp, you eventually end up with a sizable mound of mostly flavourless ice slurry. That wasn’t the case here.

The real weak spot is the chocolatey, vaguely cream-like foodstuff that adorns the top of this drink. It bears about as much resemblance to real whipped cream as I do to George Clooney (you probably don’t know what I look like, but let me assure you, I look very little like George Clooney).

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill 3

It has an unpleasantly thick, paste-like texture with absolutely no dairy qualities; it’s just sweet and gluey, like a demented, off-brand Cool Whip gone horribly awry. I’d strongly recommend asking for the drink without it, as it adds nothing but useless ornamentation. And even at that, it’s a pretty resounding failure – I mean, I think we can all clearly see what it looks like, right? Do I need to say that it looks like poop?

Because it looks like poop.

(Nutrition Facts – 380 mL (small) – 380 calories, 16 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fibre, 50 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill
Purchased Price: $2.59 CAN
Size: Small (380 mL)
Purchased at: Tim Hortons
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Cold and refreshing. Mildly chocolately flavour. Nice balance of liquid and ice.
Cons: Ridiculously sweet. Not very creamy. One-note flavour. Horrifying cream-like topping. Looks vaguely scatological. Not chili.