REVIEW: Lay’s Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Potato Chips

Lay's Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Potato Chips

To my dear Impulsive Buy readers:

I have a bit of a confession to make.

If you’re as attentive to my reviews as my ego likes to imagine you are, you may have noticed my reviews on this site focus 100 percent on sugar. I completely avoid the fast food section. Some of this has to do with the fact that the closest McDonald’s is a half hour excursion, but it also has to do with the fact that I don’t really eat meat.

I know, I am sorry.

I’m definitely not about to get all PETA on anyone, I just never really liked meat and decided the easiest way to get out of eating burnt hamburgers at cookouts was to just give it up. This has worked well, except for one exception. Bacon.

The thing is, most other meats have some form of suitable substitute out there. But bacon is irreplaceable; it’s God’s bookmark. Have you ever tried the horrendous slices of fake bacon that look like the polymer clay art projects I used to make in Girl Scouts?

So instead of giving up bacon, I have spent the last five years hosting brunches so that I can fill my apartment with the smell of bacon fat, “accidentally” eating the veggie dishes that I know have bacon bits in them, and using Bacon Salt far more liberally than I should. I am a fraud, and this is my confessional.

I had high hopes for these Lay’s Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Potato Chips, since they had the potential to fulfill my bacon cravings without coming across as a complete hypocrite to all those who think I’m a real vegetarian. And while they weren’t as innovative as some of the other flavor submissions I saw, like “Salty Tears of Regret” and “Placenta,” bacon and mac & cheese are both pretty safe flavors in the salty snacks category.

Lay's Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Potato Chips Bag

After opening the bag, I got a strong whiff of cheddar, and that’s about it. In my first few bites, all I could think about were the cheddar and sour cream chips I used to inhale. Thinking that maybe my palate was lacking its bacon detecting skills, I consulted my roommate in a taste test without letting her know what flavor they were. She too thought they were just cheddar and sour cream. If I really paid close attention, I could detect a slight bacon-y aftertaste. But I can also not identify a single point in my life where I have sat down and mindfully thought about each bite of a chip instead of just chomping on handfuls.

Because I was unconvinced in my first taste of these, I left about half the bag sitting in my room for a week to go back for a second test. And because I am lazy and bad at storing food, I left the bag completely open to go stale. Strangely, on this test, I could detect much more bacon flavor. It may have had something to do with the soft stale chip texture being reminiscent of bacon fat, but I may also just be crazy and searching for a satisfying meatless bacon substitute.

Lay's Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Potato Chips Closeup

Of all the Do Us a Flavor finalists, Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese is near the top. But I would vote for the Wasabi Ginger instead just because these seem too similar to current offerings.

I dream of an America where we can have the ridiculous assortment of chip flavors that they have overseas. However, I’m not sure if the general consumer is as amped at the thought of salmon teriyaki chips as I am, so I see these easily appealing to the widest audience.

If you know you’re not an adventurous eater, these would be the chips to try. Otherwise, I’d recommend trying all the finalists. You can find them in small bags and you can force your friends to eat the ones you don’t like without telling them what they are. Although they’re pretty mainstream, they’re pretty good. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for Lay’s Placenta Potato Chips next year.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz/about 15 chips – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 320 milligrams of potassium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 2 7/8 oz bag
Purchased at: Co-op Food Stores
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Safe flavor. Appealing combo. Finding ways to still secretly get bacon in my life. Flavor intensifies when stale. Forcing your friends to eat gross food without knowing it. Placenta chips of the future.
Cons: Predictable. Taste like cheddar and sour cream chips. Having to eat mindfully and slowly to detect the actual bacon flavor. Fakin’ Bacon.

QUICK REVIEW: Fiber One Chocolate Chunk Soft-Baked Cookies

Fiber One Chocolate Chunk Soft-Baked Cookies

Purchased Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 6 cookies
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes mostly like a grocery store bakery chocolate chip cookie. Not a bad way to get 20% of your daily fiber. The 3-inch cookie was soft and chewy. Turning junk food into a vessel for fiber. I could eat five Chips Ahoy cookies and get the same amount of fiber.
Cons: It has the same weird aftertaste that most Fiber One products have. No nutritional benefits beyond the fiber. Possible side effects from eating more than one in a sitting. Still waiting for Fiber One Potato Chips. I could eat five Chips Ahoy cookies and get the same amount of fiber.

Nutrition Facts: 1 cookie – 120 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Chex Mix Xtreme Habanero Lime Snack Mix

Chex Mix Xtreme Habanero Lime Snack Mix

I like to think of myself as being an extreme type of person.

For example, when I’m getting tattooed, it never hurts enough, so I pay someone to punch me in the face while the artist is making their skin doodles. I also like to skateboard… down a mountain, while simultaneously juggling a tiger and a bear, which are fighting to the death. When I go to the bar and order a beer, I take the bottle from the bartender, chug the beer, and break the bottle on the head of the guy next to me, usually resulting in a giant Roadhouse-esque bar brawl. When I put my clothes in the dryer, I don’t use dryer sheets.

Okay, so none of those are true. They are just things I say to try and impress girls on Tinder (they don’t work very well, either). I’m only extreme in what I eat. So naturally I was drawn to Chex Mix Xtreme Habanero Lime.

Why do companies always use “Xtreme” rather than just the correctly spelled “extreme”? They may as well just spell everything else wrong, too. Checks Myx Xtreme Abbaniro Lym. Ugh, I care too much sometimes.

So the mix is a pretty typical one, containing corn Chex, wheat Chex, circle and square pretzels, bagel chips (at least that’s what I believe them to be) and these god-awful, crunchy Cheetos-shaped disasters. I guess they can just be called corn puffs?

Though the mix is Habanero Lime flavored, there is actually other peppers at play here, as jalapeño and red bell pepper flavors are present along with the habanero. Then there’s a lime flavor to throw in, and the resulting taste is like Cool Ranch Doritos dipped in hot sauce. Every ingredient except the pretzels has the spice on them.

It starts off spicy, and once you bite into it you really get the lime taste, and it sort of cools things down a bit. You’ll still have a bit of spiciness lingering in your mouth after you have a few handfuls but you’ll never be left needing water or anything. And by the way, you really shouldn’t drink water if you are trying to get the spicy taste out of your mouth. Instead, go for a cucumber, or a banana.

The mix is great, but really it is great only without the corn puffs.

Chex Mix Xtreme Habanero Lime Snack Mix Closeup

The crunchy Cheetos-shaped abominations are the least spicy of everything, probably because they don’t retain much of the seasoning, and they are also the most disgusting. I cannot describe how much I hate those awful things. They are very dry and crunchy, but don’t provide much else. It’s like if you stripped the cheese off Cheetos and they were just corn puffs. But why would anybody want to do that? You get a tiny bit of flavor out of the seasoning, but it is not enough to make up for the fact that… well, to make up for the fact that they are useless and should not be in the bag in the first place.

I have eaten many varieties of Chex Mix, but these corn puffs are the single most out-of-place item I have found in any mix. I wish they had kept the mini breadsticks in the mix and not put in the corn puffs. It would have been exceptional, as opposed to just being pretty good.

If I was stranded on an island and the only thing I had to eat was the corn puffs, I would just make a swim for it. Okay, so I wouldn’t really swim for it because I’m not extreme enough and have an overwhelming fear of sharks and jellyfish, but I still would not eat them!

Looking past the annoying spelling of “extreme” and the corn puffs, this Chex Mix is a really nice addition to the ever-growing group.

(Nutrition Facts – 2/3 cup – 140 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Chex Mix Xtreme Habanero Lime Snack Mix
Purchased Price: $2.69
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Seasoning is just the right amount of spicy. Skateboarding down a mountain while juggling a fighting tiger and bear. Roadhouse.
Cons: Corn puffs are gross. Fear of jellyfish. Realizing that you are, in fact, not extreme at all.

REVIEW: Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut

Advice to my 3-year-old self from the future:

1) Don’t put Barbie in the microwave.
2) Alistair Cookie is your mentor. Watch him. Glean from him many morals.
3) Remember: Play-Doh hamburgers are not actual hamburgers, even when you dip them in Ranch dressing.

Somewhere down this list, I’d probably put, “Try, just try, to eat your carrots.” While I always liked my broccoli, it’s the carrots that gave me grief as a kid. They’re sweet, but stringy. Woodsy, but super “orange-y.” Absolutely mushy when overcooked, but slap me sideways when done right. I hate them. But I love them.

So I’m celebrating my love/hate relationship. And celebrations demand sugar and sugar demands cake and cake demands to be deep-fried. That’s the scientific chain of events, right?

Well, that’s what Krispy Kreme thinks with their newest iteration on deep-fried toroids, all gussied up to resemble carrot cake.

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut Deep fried cake of vegetables

Devotees of the dense cake doughnut, celebrate: this dough is a solid cake specimen, sturdy enough for the deepest dip in your tea/coffee/milkshake. While perhaps a smidge dry, it’s chock full of a cinnamon-sugar-honey sweetness accompanied by specks of raisin nibs and carrot shreds that give it a little zing. Said carrot and raisin nibbles may not be abundant in number, but are present enough to add their trademark sweetness without making the doughnut taste like Old McDonald’s Farm.

And the frosting. It’s everywhere. On the doughnut. On my fingers. On my elbows (how did it get there?). I love it. The film of cream-cheesish frosting/glaze on top is a smidge tangy, but mostly adds a sugary sweetness that rounds out the out-of-season (but still delicious) blend of fall spices. There’s even a sheen of regular sugar glaze beneath the cream cheese icing for extra sweetness. All this melted sugar leaves a slight film of oil and glaze on your hands, but, so long as you have some napkins and don’t wear neatly pressed white linen gloves all the time, this shouldn’t be a problem.*

*I just realized: Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny will both have this problem. Take off your gloves, guys!

What’s better is, as you make your way to the center, you uncover the crispy little bit in the middle of the doughnut’s ring. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that ring where the doughnut hole was carved out. It’s crunchy, sweet, gooped with frosting, just on the cusp of being burnt. My favorite. This is why I spend them dolla dolla bills.

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut Yes, that is a mug from the Museum of the History of Tow Trucks

In an unofficial endorsement of the food pyramid, Krispy Kreme is providing you with a prime opportunity to overachieve in your life by consuming both fruit (raisins) and vegetables (carrots) via cake.

Unless my taste buds are undergoing some sort of reverse trauma from a hyperglycemic fit, the end result was tasty: the cake was cinnamon-y, the carrots were present without being stringy or overbearingly “orange-y,” the cinnamon and nutmeg gave some subtle spice, there was deep-frying going on, a few raisins splattered here and there added chewiness, and the tangy frosting added some cheesy zing. I may have even detected a hint of citrus zest in there? Oh, Krispy, you sneaky, conniving, brilliant conglomeration. Not a perfect ‘nut, but pretty good.

(Nutrition Facts – 340 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 35 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut
Purchased Price: $1.10
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Krispy Kreme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Solid cinnamon cakey goodness. Deep-fried. Cream cheese icing. Sugary glaze. Chewy raisin bits. Good for dipping. Fulfilling fruit/vegetable requirement via cake. Morals gleaned from Alistair Cookie.
Cons: Cake gets a little oily. Could maybe use more carrots/raisins. Crestfallen pineapple lovers. Reflecting on the foolishness of my three-year-old self. Consequences of putting Barbie in the microwave.

REVIEW: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar

Just like blue whales, the African wild ass, and Gary Busey’s sanity, commercial soft drinks made with real sugar seem endangered. Take a look at beverages found in your local convenience store. Most likely they’re sweetened with a processed corn syrup.

A Google search can reveal a multitude of negative health effects reportedly associated with the consumption of high fructose corn syrup. But a little bad press will never curb my soda consumption. After all, I don’t give a fructose what I put inside my body.

Nevertheless, soft drinks flavored with real sugar are making a comeback. All the cool kids are drinking them now, or at least that’s what the guy who sold me ninety crates of Mexican Coke told me.

Earlier this summer, beverage behemoth PepsiCo announced it would be manufacturing Pepsi Wild Cherry with real sugar for a limited time. Upon hearing the news, I hightailed it over to the nearest Walmart. I just couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to try Pepsi Wild Cherry, one of my favorite sodas of all time, made with that precious, ecstasy-inducing white substance. (No, not that one. The other white substance.)

If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting Pepsi Wild Cherry, trust me, it doesn’t taste like cherry cough syrup mixed with soda. Lovers of purple drank, look elsewhere. (Sorry, Lil Wayne.) Pepsi Wild Cherry is a simple beverage, offering the same cola taste of regular Pepsi but with a slight cherry zing as the flavor develops on the tongue.

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar 2

But this isn’t the first time PepsiCo has released a soda sweetened with real sugar. Pepsi Throwback, introduced in 2009, contains beet sugar. Though it doesn’t taste like beets, Throwback’s flavor is noticeably different relative to standard Pepsi. Because I tend to prefer Throwback, I wondered whether I would favor Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar over the original.

It’s packaged in a pink can decked out with a retro Pepsi-Cola logo. In comparison to standard Pepsi Wild Cherry, the real sugar variant contains two grams less of sugar and ten fewer calories. The caffeine content and ingredients lists are identical — aside from the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup, of course.

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar 3

Poured into a glass, the sodas appear indistinguishable, sharing the same color, aroma, and amount of fizz. But what about taste? Is Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar preferable to its high fructose counterpart?

I tasted each soda in a variety of different manners. I tried them in both blind and not-so-blind taste tests, hoping to identify some true difference between the two beverages. I tried the sodas cold and at room temperature from freshly opened cans, and at room temperature served completely flat.

I wanted the real sugar variant to prove superior, but dagnabbit, these two sodas taste identical. At times, it tasted like one soda might be a hint more cherry-flavored or just a bit more fizzy on the tongue. But I was unable to re-recognize these qualities during a blind taste test. Maybe my cola-tasting palate hasn’t yet reached the level of sophistication needed to distinguish between the two. But I would be lying if I claimed to perceive a difference. If PepsiCo sought to create an exact duplicate of their original Pepsi Wild Cherry, they pulled it off. Both colas possess the same sweet cherry flavor, and both make me gassy beyond belief.

Unfortunately, this means there’s little reason to buy Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar unless you’re looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup. The flavors are identical — so why should I choose one over the other? I will likely continue drinking beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, even if it cuts a few years off of my life.

Meh, I review junk food on the Internet. I’ll probably die young anyway.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 150 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 30 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 40 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar
Purchased Price: $4.28
Size: 12 pack/12 oz. cans
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes identical to regular Pepsi Wild Cherry. Made with real sugar, not HFCS. Not giving a fructose.
Cons: Doesn’t taste better than regular Pepsi Wild Cherry. Gassy food reviewers.