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.

REVIEW: DiGiorno Pizzeria Thin Primo Pepperoni Pizza

DiGiorno Pizzeria Thin Primo Pepperoni Pizza

Like ’em or not, you have to admit DiGiorno is a gutsy brand. For years, their advertising campaign has been predicated on the idea that an unwitting consumer could mistake their frozen pizza for hand-tossed, homestyle goodness delivered fresh from the local trattoria.

Now, with the introduction of their new line of thin-crust pies, the company has grown so confident in the quality of their work that their packaging is actually shrieking the word “PIZZERIA!“, exclamation point and all, in customers’ faces. But does DiGiorno’s latest creation finally live up to their lofty claims?

Because of my local grocery store’s limited selection, Pizzeria! Thin Primo Pepperoni was the only variety available for me. The box instructed me to place the pie directly on the center oven rack, warning that a pizza stone or cookie sheet may diminish its tastiness.

As an ardent pizza stone user/insane person, this filled me with terrific dread. I envisioned magma-like cheese dripping to the bottom of the stove and bursting into flames, or microscopic mites native only to oven racks infesting the crust. (Obviously, I have an awesome grasp on how science works, you guys.) Thankfully, when the kitchen timer rang, I discovered the pie intact and, from what I could tell, mite-free.

The directions also recommended that I let it rest for five minutes before slicing in, so I took that time to savor the smell; it was slightly herbaceous, but the oregano and basil were overwhelmed by the greasy aroma of the pepperoni (which isn’t a bad thing if you’re aiming for a genuine pizzeria experience).

As I bit in, I found the end product to be a bit of a mixed bag. Let’s start with the cheese: It was unremarkable, owing probably to the lame part-skim mozzarella used. No provolone, cheddar, or Parmesan to add some complexity and depth of flavor? Points deducted.

The sauce was similarly disappointing. Although the packaging proudly describes it as “made with vine-ripened tomatoes and herbs” – uh, I would hope so? – it tasted distinctly frozen pizza-y, by which I mean that it was equal parts bitter and bland, very unlike the sweet tomato sauce I’m accustomed to eating in actual pizzerias. Come on, DiGiorno!

Moving on to the “primo” pepperoni, I have no compliments, but no complaints either. It baked to a nice, crisp texture, and it tasted like your average pepp – savory and oily with a minor spicy afterkick.

DiGiorno Pizzeria Thin Primo Pepperoni Pizza 2

But in spite of all this mediocrity, there exists one seriously redeeming factor: The crust. It was chewy yet crispy, pillowy yet flavorful. Just as the box says, you can taste the nuanced seasonings and the lushness of the olive oil drizzle. It would seem DiGiorno’s entire budget went into the dough and, really, that’s the smartest area of investment when it comes to pizza. Gourmet toppings don’t mean much when they’re served on a disc of tasteless, rubbery breading.

So has DiGiorno finally achieved mistakable-for-delivery status? Nah. But if you’re expecting something less ambitious, like a serviceable frozen pizza, then you’re less likely to walk away disappointed. Perhaps the other varieties (Supreme Speciale, Spinach & Mushroom, and Margherita) are a bit more convincing. Or maybe it just depends on the kind of delivery you’re used to.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/4 pizza – 310 calories, 130 from fat, 15 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 760 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: DiGiorno Pizzeria Thin Primo Pepperoni Pizza
Purchased Price: $7.19
Size: 17.2 oz.
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Awesome crust. Okay pepperoni. Serves its humble purpose.
Cons: Lackluster cheese and sauce. Still not pizzeria-quality. Box condescendingly advises you to enjoy “with fresh salad and great company.”

REVIEW: Jelly Belly Pancakes & Maple Syrup Jelly Beans

Jelly Belly Pancakes & Maple Syrup Jelly Beans

The year is 2055.

Hoverboard gangs roam the streets. Star Wars Episode XXI: The Force Earns Its Pension is a hit at the box office. The elderly President Gosling has just been elected to a historic 4th term with his smoldering campaign slogan, “Hey girl. I heard you like economic reform.”

Oh, and all food now comes in capsule form.

That’s right, as you head to your favorite breakfast joint, “House of Dancakes,” you notice how the hip, happenin’, and blissfully ignorant youth pop pills of scrambled eggs and bacon, with no memory of the days before society was encapsulated. Heaving a nostalgic sigh, you lock eyes with the owner. With a knowing look, he begins to spin you a tale: “Let me tell you how this whole journey began…”

It’s 2015 once more, and Jelly Belly Pancakes & Maple Syrup Jelly Beans are the brand’s latest attempt to squish the taste of all of your favorite foods into an artificially flavored, vaguely legume-shaped snack. Released on 4/22 to celebrate National Jelly Bean Day (only coincidentally close to 4/20, right Jelly Belly?), the beans contain all the ingredients that grandma used to use in her homemade flapjacks, like “Yellow 5 & 6, Confectioner’s Glaze, and Caranauba Wax.”

Mmmm, Caranauba Wax.

Jelly Belly Pancakes & Maple Syrup Jelly Beans 2

The back of the homespun, gingham packaging reads like something out of a sexy lumberjack romance novel — I think I grew a beard just reading it. Tearing open the packaging, I’m immediately slapped in the nose with a strong and recognizable maple syrup scent. The shiny, mahogany beans beckon, so I dive in.

Popping one in my mouth, that iconic maple taste hits fast. It’s certainly more artificial than genuine—think Mrs. Buttersworth, not Grade A Vermont Dark Amber—but the accuracy of Jelly Belly’s flavor reenactment is charming just the same. However, unlike real maple syrup, the flavor doesn’t linger for more than a few seconds. After fading, I’m left chewing an entirely different-tasting bean. This “after-bean” really echoes the “Pancake” part of the product’s name: doughy, with just a hint of butter flavoring.

Jelly Belly Pancakes & Maple Syrup Jelly Beans 3

I take a whole handful to experience that brief ecstasy of maple taste again, but as the cake flavor returns, I’m left regretting it. I hesitate to use the word “mouthfeel” (it sounds clichéd and a bit…uncomfortable), but eating these beans for long just feels weird. Like chewing a pancake that was way undercooked, the grit of the beans contrast unpleasantly with my mind’s expectation of a fluffy flapjack. I think Jelly Belly’s problem here is the fading maple flavor. If they could have made it last, the whole experience could have been more enjoyable. Wishing to test this, I went all out.

Jelly Belly Pancakes & Maple Syrup Jelly Beans 4

Dousing my beans in the dark, sticky nectar of the maple gods, I ate a syrupy spoonful, and what I tasted made me instinctually bellow “Oh, Canadaaaa” across my empty kitchen. An extra kick of maple coupled wonderfully with those buttery undertones, and I was left with what the beans should’ve tasted like. But unless you want your life to become a sugar-fueled parody of Hollywood’s darkest addiction films (Grainspotting? Requiem for a Crème? Fine, I’ll stop), I really can’t recommend trying this. Okay, maybe just once. Then you can stop cold turkey. I promise.

For what they are, these jelly beans are little more than clever novelties. Like the “fireworks” of jelly bean flavors, they’re worth buying a small bag to enjoy the fleeting entertainment. Just make sure no one gets hurt in the process.

Though I must applaud Jelly Belly all the same for trying something progressive. Jolly good show, ol’ bean, and may I soon see the day when even “Braised Sirloin Tips with Steamed Broccoli” is available in cute little niblets.

(Nutrition Facts – 35 pieces – 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 25 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 28 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Jelly Belly Pancakes & Maple Syrup Jelly Beans
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 3.1 oz bag
Purchased at: Jelly Belly Online Store
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Brief burst of maple goodness. A holistic pancake experience when coupled with more syrup. Ryan Gosling as president. Making puns with my name.
Cons: Fleeting maple bliss. Bizarre “undercooked pancake” mouthfeel. The word “mouthfeel.” Random acts of Canada (I’m American, I swear!).

REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream

I just want to preface this review by telling you that I pronounce the word “pea-can,” and not the snooty, actual pronunciation “puh-con.” I’d be totally misrepresenting myself if I didn’t let you know that up front. Clearly, I’m not very cultured, so the idea of trying this new fancy pants ice cream flavor intrigues me…and kinda scares me.

Let’s be real, despite Magnum’s best attempts, Häagen-Dazs is our most pretentious ice cream brand. What with their “look at me” umlaut and their “look at me again” hyphen. Their name doesn’t even translate to anything, it just sounds Danish and important. Now they’re adding everyone’s favorite buzzword “Artisan” to the mix? We’re talking “high-quality ingredients handmade by a worker in a skilled trade” here people.

Enter Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream.

Haagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream Topless

The base ice cream looks, smells and tastes like any run of the mill chocolate ice cream you’re used to, so don’t get your hopes up there. The revelation you’re looking for comes in the form of the featured chocolate, caramel, and pecan clusters. This is where you leave boring ol’ chocolate ice cream behind, and enter a new world of perfectly textured spicy bites.

Unlike some ice creams riddled with molar threatening chunks, the outer chocolate coating of each cluster acts as a barrier to somehow keep the inner pecan soft and fresh. This was a welcome surprise and easily the best part of the ice cream for me. Size and appearance wise, they reminded me a lot of Buncha Crunch, just without a bunch of crunch. A crunch would actually ruin the experience.

The clusters are also where spice flavor really pops. Said flavor is inspired by Christopher Elbow’s artisanal chocolate – fannnn-cy! Apparently Mr. Elbow is very famous for peculiar chocolate creations and not his curveball as his name would suggest. 

Haagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream Closeup

Turtles are an underrated flavor combination in my opinion (and an underrated animal for that matter) but I’m not sure they needed a “spice” element. The spice itself does have a little kick to it, which is an odd sensation to taste in an ice cream. The aftertaste lingers in the back of your mouth after you chomp down on the clusters, and I wasn’t a fan.  I got the hint of caramel, but only for a second before that weird heat took over. I guess “sweet and spicy” is trying to sneak its way into the niche market “sweet and salty” has recently carved out. I think it’s gonna have a harder time catching on.

Even after looking at all the ingredients, I’m not positive what this mystery “spice” is.  It could be cinnamon? Maybe ginger? This ice cream does taste a little “gingerbready” if you will. Will you? I know you won’t.

Well then, let me do my due diligence and research Christopher Elbow a little more because this will bother me all day. After some digging, the spice(s) appears to be…ancho and chipotle peppers with some cinnamon to boot. Well there it is, with the inclusion of “chipotle” we’ve hit max buzzword capacity. That explains the heat element. Here’s your chance to have peppers in your ice cream. Color me intrigued.

So is this worth trying? I’m gonna go ahead and say sure, give it a shot. While it’s basically just a strange spin on regular chocolate ice cream, it’s unique enough to try for yourself. Will I ever buy it again? Probably not, but I’m not mad that I did. If nothing else, I felt important while I held this pint of Häagen-Dazs. You shoulda seen the look the cute checkout girl gave me when I told her I only eat the finest artisanal ice creams. It was somewhere between “Who cares” and “Security!”

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 310 calories, 19 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 8% vitamin A, 0% calcium, and 8% iron.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.49 (on sale)
Size: 14 oz.
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Unique flavor. Umlauts. Artisanal snacking. Fancy pants. Boring ol’ chocolate ice cream. Cute checkout girl. I like turtles.
(Puh-)Cons: Utter spice confusion. Christopher Elbow squandering his name. Odd aftertaste. Boring ol’ chocolate ice cream.