REVIEW: Combos Sweet & Salty Chocolate Fudge Pretzel

Combos Sweet & Salty Chocolate Fudge Pretzel

What the heck took so long?

Combos have been around since the mid 70s, but have only really ramped up production on their “sweet” varieties in the past year. I loved the Caramel Crème and Vanilla Frosting flavors, so why wouldn’t I snap-buy Chocolate Fudge? Seriously, how are these just coming out now after all these years?

Combos have been a staple of my diet since I was a kid. I’m pretty sure my typical lunch in high school was a Twix, a bag of Combos, and a Snapple. Times – and my metabolism – have changed to the point I can’t even remember the last non-sweet Combos I ate. I missed you, Combos. It’s good to have you back in my life. Let’s see if Chocolate Fudge can live up to my hype.

Well, they nailed the “salty” part of the name. Unfortunately, they slacked on the “sweet” part. I’m not 100 percent positive they delivered on the “chocolate fudge,” but you better believe they came through with the promise of “pretzel.” And you can “quote” me on that.

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You know what you’re gonna get from a Combos pretzel – it’s crispy, salty, and hollow – not the greatest pretzel in the world, but not the worst. For some reason, I didn’t remember just how salty they were. I guess I just figured a lot of the sodium was coming from the cheese filling.

I would say the only pretzel snack that packs more saltiness per piece is those terrible sticks I used to get in my elementary school lunch. Ya know, the ones in the yellow box? The ones I can easily Google the name of, but choose not to because I want you to dive into your memory bank and reminisce about simpler times. I’m sure it’ll pop into my head by the end of this review.

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The filling here tastes like a run of the mill chocolate icing… I think. It’s pretty dull. There is not nearly enough chocolate flavor. It gets lost in the salt and gives each piece a smokey burnt taste. I’ve gone on record as loving burnt snacks in the past, but when you’re promised a sweet element, it’s not nearly as enjoyable. I don’t normally crave more sweetness, but it definitely would have helped here. There wasn’t enough balance between the salty, crunchy pretzel and the smooth, sugary filling. I definitely recall Caramel Crème and Vanilla Frosting being sweeter.

I could be nitpicking. I understand these are a pretzel based snack, but the lack of a strong flavored filling really let me down. You’d get the occasional chocolate heavy piece, but it was almost instantly masked by the salt. More chocolate “fudge” flavor and I would have rated these 9 out of 10 pretty easily.

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Still, Combos are a classic snack, and the bag is just small enough to kill in one sitting, which leads me to more nitpicking. You know I love picking at the nits.

Sometimes serving sizes get on my nerves. Forgive the pun, but they really need to stop trying to sugar coat it. This bag shouldn’t be listed as six servings. Just make it a two serving bag and stop trying to bamboozle people by slapping a “130 calories” stamp on the front of the bag. No one is reaching into a bag of Combos and thinking, “Oh boy, these are good for me!” Who eats one ounce of anything? If I had to wager a guess, one ounce is like eight Combos. I can eat eight slices of pizza, why exactly am I stopping at eight Combos?

But I digest…

You kind folk came here to read a review about the taste of new Sweet & Salty Chocolate Fudge Combos, and I’m loading this article with way too much filler… unlike the Sweet and Salty Chocolate Fudge Combos. *fake golf swing.*

So all in all, these are good. They could have been great. You’ll still have no problem polishing off the entire bag. They probably aren’t going to curb your sweet cravings, but they might do fine as a savory snack replacement.

Combos has now blessed us with Caramel, Vanilla, and Chocolate. I’m anxiously awaiting the inevitable Peanut Butter revival. And after that, I want a mixed bag of all of them. Let’s turn these into the new Oreos and just go balls to the wall on potential sweet flavors.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 130 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 6 gram of sugars, 2 grams of protein, and 2% iron.)

Item: Combos Sweet & Salty Chocolate Fudge Pretzel
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Good, but not great. Bag goes down easy. Good crunch. Chocolate and pretzel are a great mixture no matter what. Grade school memories. The occasional chocolate heavy piece.
Cons: Overly salty to me. Not enough filling. Overall weak chocolate taste. Not as good as other sweet Combos flavors. Customer bamboozling, My real golf swing. Took to long to produce. Bachman Pretzel Stix

REVIEW: Burger King Extra Long Jalapeño Cheeseburger

Burger King Extra Long Jalapen?o Cheeseburger

With all of these “Extra Long” sandwiches Burger King has been pushing, I wonder if the fast food chain is bragging or overcompensating for something.

Anyhoo, the fast food chain’s latest limited time only menu item to use their hoagie bun is their Extra Long Jalapeño Cheeseburger. It features two flame-grilled 100 percent beef patties, mayo, ketchup, two slices of American cheese, iceberg lettuce, white onion slices, and marinated jalapeños.

Marinated jalapeños? Sounds fancy.

Well, after pulling out one of the jalapeño slices from my burger and trying it, I have to say it is fancy. Marinated jalapeños is a fancy name for pickled jalapeños because they taste and crunch exactly like them.

If you’ve tried all the previous Extra Long sandwiches, you’ve probably realized that this is basically their Extra Long Cheeseburger with jalapeños on it. If you’ve figured that out, congratulations my flame-grilled loving friend.

Burger King Extra Long Jalapen?o Cheeseburger 2

I counted six jalapeño slices on my cheeseburger. It’s enough to get a little jalapeño in almost every bite, but it’s not enough to add any significant heat thanks to the other parts of the burger. Eating the jalapeños separately brings a spiciness to my mouth that Burger King’s Fiery Chicken Fries could only dream of. But when eating the sandwich whole, the lettuce, ketchup, onions, and mayo are the firefighters that extinguish the jalapeños’ flames. Someone should totally make a sexy calendar with them.

While the peppers don’t bring the spicy, they do bring a flavor that’s familiar if you’ve had marinated…I mean, pickled jalapeños before. Their salty and peppery flavor is the most dominant in the burger. While the other toppings are strong enough to douse the jalapeños’ spiciness, they can’t hold a candle to the peppers’ flavor. All I could taste were the beef patties and their unique Burger King flavor, the American cheese, and the jalapeños.

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Burger King’s Extra Long Jalapeño Cheeseburger is okay and I would probably buy it again. But I do wish it was spicy enough to make me sweat a little. Also, Burger King could’ve gotten a little creative with it. Instead of the ketchup and mayo, they could’ve brought back their Angry Sauce (which is probably in the same storage facility as The King and his scary gigantic head) and used it to give the burger a unique flavor.

(Nutrition Facts – 590 calories, 310 calories from fat, 35 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1190 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 26 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Extra Long Jalapeño Cheeseburger
Purchased Price: $6.99 (small combo)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Decent burger I’d probably buy again. Jalapeños’ flavor. Enough jalapeños to get a little bit in almost every bite. One really green leaf of lettuce (seen in middle photo).
Cons: Not much creativity went into this burger. Lettuce, ketchup, onions, and mayo are the firefighters that extinguish the jalapeños’ heat. Sexy calendars of burger condiments. Marinated jalapeño is a fancy name for pickled jalapeño.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavour Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada)

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada)

I mentioned, in my review of the Cinnamon Bun chips from last year’s batch of Do Us a Flavour finalists, that every year seems to have a “water cooler flavour” — an oddball flavour that’s present more for its conversation-starting abilities than its appropriateness as a chip.

I guess butter chicken is it for this year, though as far as weird chip concoctions go, it’s more Tom Cruise than Mel Gibson — weird, but not off-puttingly so.  

Of all the Indian dishes to condense into chip form, butter chicken is probably the safest. It’s one of India’s most well known culinary exports, likely because its flavours are more mellow than many Indian dishes, and thus more accessible to western palates.

For the unaware, it essentially consists of chunks of chicken in a creamy, mildly-spiced sauce, usually served with rice or naan bread.

It seems like an odd flavour for Lay’s at first, but then you think, “yeah, I think I could picture that on a chip. I’d like to try that.”

Honestly, I’d still like to try that, because while these chips basically taste okay, they do an abysmal job of recapturing the flavour of butter chicken.

I don’t know if Lay’s was concerned that any exotic flavour might turn people off (even one as comparatively mild as butter chicken), but they clearly played it way too safe. The flavour of these chips is so far removed from anything even remotely resembling butter chicken, that I don’t think I ever would have been able to guess what it was supposed to be if I hadn’t already known.  

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada) 2

I mean, maybe if you forced me — really forced me — somewhere by hour four or five, several hundred guesses in, I’d be like “I don’t know, butter chicken??” and your eyes would light up. We’d wordlessly high-five, then both go home and never speak of it again. But our friendship would slowly fizzle out, because really, how couldn’t it?  We’d been through too much.

Seriously though, these chips taste nothing like butter chicken. The flavour is so unrecognizable it that I legitimately thought that there might have been some kind of factory mishap, and that the wrong flavour somehow ended up in the bag I tried. But I spoke to someone else who had the exact same experience, so I guess that’s how it’s supposed to taste?

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada) 3

The chips are moderately salty, with cheesy tang and not a whole lot of complexity of flavour. In the aforementioned guessing ordeal, I’m pretty sure my first few dozen guesses would all be cheese-related. They basically just taste like cheddar cheese chips, with an ever-so-subtle whiff of a curry-like aftertaste, if you really, really concentrate. 

The chip itself is plain old Lay’s, which in this case is ideal. I’m pretty sure the more assertive taste of a ruffled or kettle chip would completely overwhelm the very mild flavours here.

I mean, it’s not bad, I guess. There’s certainly nothing offensive about it.  I like cheese-flavoured chips, so I basically enjoyed these, even if “bland” is one of the first words to spring to mind. But it’s kind of weird how little they taste like butter chicken.  

(Nutrition Facts – 50 grams/per 27 chips – 270 calories, 17 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 290 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fibre, 2 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada)
Purchased Price: $2.99 CAN
Size: 170 gram bag
Purchased at: Sobeys
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Inoffensive. Kind of tastes like cheddar cheese chips.
Cons: Bland. Tastes absolutely nothing like butter chicken. Killer of friendships.

REVIEW: Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries

Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries

Yes, that box is adorable. And I like it more than the Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries that came in it.

Up front I should tell you I have a history of making fun of Chicken Fries. I believe I once called them…let’s see now, “deep fried tampons.” When they were discontinued I didn’t shed a tear for them. And when they came back I didn’t rush to the nearest Burger King to relive 2005 all over again. But then Burger King did something with them that’s hard for me to resist. They offered a spicy version.

I’m a sucker for anything that claims to be “spicy,” “hot,” “fiery,” “blazin’,” “burnin’,” “lava,” “angry,” “hella,” and any other term used to describe a product that may force me to grab a glass of ice water to soothe my taste buds. But about 80 percent of the time, I’m disappointed by the heat of those products. And these Fiery Chicken Fries ensure that percentage stays high.

On the Burger King website, they’re calling these “offensively spicy.” To make them “offensively spicy,” the white meat chicken is coated in a breading that contains cayenne pepper, black pepper, and savory spices. Yup, tongue-burning cayenne pepper and sweat-inducing black pepper.

Oh wait, I meant to write none-burning cayenne pepper and sneeze-inducing black pepper.

Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries 2

The cayenne in the slightly crispy breading gives the poultry filled fries a sinister glow, but that’s mostly for show. There was a mellow cayenne peppery burn that showed up after I ate a few. Actually, “burn” isn’t the best word. I think “warm” is better. It’s like the warm body heat from a long hug, except it’s in your mouth. The cayenne and black pepper do give the chicken sticks a decent flavor sans sauce, but, again, they do nothing to them that I’d consider fiery. Or even smoldering.

My experience with the Fiery Chicken Fries reminded me of my taste test of another one of BK’s “spicy” products, the Angry Whopper. With the burger I was expecting angry, but instead got perturbed. And with these fries, instead of offensively spicy, I got annoyingly not offensively spicy.

Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries 3

Like the original Chicken Fries, each box comes with nine pieces and your choice of sauce — BBQ, Honey Mustard, Ranch, Zesty, Buffalo, Sweet & Sour, and Chicken Fries Sauce. I went with the Chicken Fries Sauce, which was something I haven’t tried before. It’s tangy, sweet, and tasty, but it’s no Zesty Sauce, which I think is spicier than these Fiery Chicken Fries.

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And thank goodness these come with a sauce because the meat within the coating was a bit dry. So instead of “In Case of Fire Smother With Sauce,” perhaps the inside of the box should’ve said, “In Case of Dryness Smother With Sauce.”

While Burger King’s Fiery Chicken Fries are not as fiery as I hoped, they do have a flavor that makes them better tasting than the original version. But I still don’t like them more than the box they came in. Again, that container is adorbs.

(Nutrition Facts – 290 calories, 18 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 870 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries
Purchased Price: $3.49*
Size: 9 pieces
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Better tasting than original Chicken Fries. Chicken Fries Sauce is tasty. The container they come in is adorable.
Cons: Not fiery. Not offensively spicy. Dry innards. More limp than crispy. Liking the box more than what was inside the box.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers

Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers

I have a confession, dear readers.

I am a weenie.

That’s right: I’m the guy who needs a tissue after a single Flaming Hot Cheeto. I’m the guy who thinks playing Doritos Roulette is cruel and unusual punishment. And Thai food? More like “I want to die food.”

And I’ve been mocked for it my whole life.

That’s why taking on the challenge of Taco Bell’s new Dare Devil Loaded Grillers, which come in three escalating levels of spiciness, was a personal quest for me. If I can handle these, maybe I can regain some self-respect. No longer will I quiver before a bottle of Sriracha.

So without further ado, allow me to channel my inner Dante and dive into these three tortilla-wrapped circles of Hell.

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First up was Mild Chipotle. The wrapper seemed to mock me with its condescending tone and mellow yellow colors. The insides were kinda squished together, but between the many, thick layers of tortilla were scant amounts of beef, plenty of gooey cheese, strangely damp wads of red corn chips, and the tempting beige sauce.

Flavor-wise, the toasty, grilled flour of the tortilla and the slight edge of the cheese dominated all else, with the sauce backing it up with a savory creaminess that had a palpably high fattiness. Little meatiness could be found, and the chips got too soggy to lend any sort of fun crunch. Regardless, as a fan of quesadillas, this tasted a lot like a pleasantly zesty one.

As for the spice, after finishing a bite I noticed a relaxed buzz in the back of my throat, but nothing even my greenhorn tongue couldn’t handle.

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Kicking it up a notch (shame on Taco Bell for not working in the phrase “kick it up a nacho” somehow), I bit into the Hot Habanero griller. Aesthetically, it looked nearly identical to its plain-Jane little brother, except with a much thinner and angrier looking orange layer of creamy sauce.

Compared to Chipotle, the taste here was like a “hot beef injection.” Wait, wait. That’s not what I mean. Don’t Google that, please. But anyway, the noticeable tang of the pepper made the smoky, seasoned beef flavor much more prominent here, with undertones of garlic and black pepper. Our “chipper” friends manage to pop in with a brief, hot corniness, too.

The heat was a slow buildup, so much so that I thought I was safe until my tongue and throat started to tingle and whimper like a dog who played with a porcupine (thank my German Shorthair, who took a faceful of quills to bring us that analogy). Fortunately, the steady burn wasn’t nearly intense enough that a long swig of milk couldn’t wash it out.

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But then it was time for Fiery Ghost Pepper. It was to be my personal final boss: my Bowser, my Ganondorf, and my last mine in a tense game of Minesweeper. Unlike its creamy siblings, this one just oozed a sinister, bubbly red liquid (okay, maybe I imagined the bubbles).

In terms of flavor, I was barely able to sense a salty combo of meat and corn chips before the acrid acidity of the sauce took over, with the harsh, concentrated pepper flavor overwhelming and seeping into all else. Even the formerly friendly cheese betrayed me and became pasteurized magma.

Et tu, nacho?

To seasoned veterans of seasoned spice, the heat may not quite be “1,000,00 Scovilles,” but it was enough to make me say “Sco-ly s***!” My tongue went numb to flavor, my throat resonated with capsaicin, and trying to wash it down with milk was as futile as Smokey the Bear crying tears of disappointment onto a forest fire.

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For a total price of $3, the Dare Devil Grillers were a fun novelty, but outside of Chipotle, I can’t imagine buying any for an actual meal (though they are large enough for one), since the burn takes way from the familiar flavor, which you could easily get from many of Taco Bell’s other items.

Since I can see my word count here is already starting to rival Dante’s Divine Comedy, too, and since I’m still nursing a crispy tongue, I think a brief haiku summarizing each Griller will suffice:

Chipotle, my friend:
Cheesy, zesty mayo-filled
Beef quesadilla

Habanero, oh!
Peppered meat, slow-building heat
(That sounded dirty)

Ghost pepper: need Tums
Like Pompeii, heat buries taste
Ow ow ow, owww, ow!

(Nutrition Facts – Chipotle – 420 calories, 200 calories from fat, 22 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein. Habanero – 380 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 900 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein. Ghost Pepper – 400 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 970 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers
Purchased Price: $1 each
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Chipotle)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Habanero)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Ghost Pepper)
Pros: Flavorful beef with cheese and toasty flour tortilla. Unbeatable value. The sinful goodness of “palpably high fat content.” Conquering your personal Ganondorf.
Cons: Pain and heat mask flavor as you move up in heat. Only difference between Grillers is flavor emphasis. Soggy chips. The crushing betrayal of “pasteurized magma.”