REVIEW: Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups

Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups

Finally, General Mills has cornered the market on adults who have a suppressed desire to run off and join the carnival.

Having often risked my life on drop towers, fried Oreo cookies, and questionably constructed bungee cords, to say I am a fan of the carnival would be an understatement, and I am flat out excited to see Fruit Roll-Ups paying a tribute to the land of rickety rides with not one, but TWO special rolls. Let’s see what this is all about.

Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups 2

Attempting to unravel the rolls proves that there has been no evolution in General Mills’ plastic wrap since 1993. Indeed, it took me a good eight minutes to attain my first roll, a process which involved unrolling, re-rolling, unrolling again, tearing a hole in the roll, trying to patch it up, tearing 3 more holes, bonking my knee on a coffee table, and plenty of bad-mouth sailor talk.

While I have higher hopes for your agility, you, too, may find yourself frustrated in unwrapping your Roll-Up. Instead of resorting to my low, sailor-mouth tactics, perhaps you might look at peeling back the cellophane as not a struggle, but a lesson in how to better manage oneself in a harsh, unforgiving world.

Once you finally get these suckers unwrapped, the rolls’ images reveal a wealth of inspiration for aspiring carousel engineers and balloon salesmen. Each roll is split into two flavors: Cotton Candy/Caramel Apple and Berry Lemonade/Cherry Slushie. Let’s take it one flavor at a time, shall we?

Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups 3

Berry Lemonade – The lemonade is strong with this one. Sweet and tangy with hints of juice, this one avoids the zest and goes straight for lemonade’s sugary qualities. There’s a slightly floral aftertaste that reminds me of blue raspberry Air Heads. I am not certain that blue raspberry qualifies as a berry, but its presence doesn’t offend the lemonade. I dig it.

Cherry Slushie – A bit of a snoozer, although it’s still good in its own artificial cherry way. It’s a deep, sour cherry flavor, much along the lines of a cherry Starburst. It’s a little one-note, which makes me wonder if it may have benefitted from a bit of vanilla or some lime. Still, quite good.

Taken as a whole, the two make a solid cherry-lemonade mock-up. A less formidable lemon would wilt in the presence of such strong cherry, but there’s a tang that brings the deep cherry notes back into place and makes the experience surprisingly balanced. Well done, General Mills. You found equilibrium and put it in a pectin fruit roll.

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Caramel Apple – Snap dog, this is one tangy apple. It reminds me of that crisp, tart Jolly Rancher Apple flavor, which I greatly appreciate, but where is the caramel? Nowhere to be found.

I initially hoped the Caramel Apple might be a roll on its own, allowing the tang of apple to come into play with a separate Werther’s caramel-like flavor, much akin to the flavors found in Tootsie’s Caramel Apple Pops. But no. Instead of burnt-sugar caramel, the apple was paired with another, more nefarious flavor…

Cotton Candy – Not for the weak of spirit. Imagine the sugary, floral taste of six feet of Bubble Tape. Distill that into a microcosm of liquid flavoring. Combine with hydrogenated cottonseed oil and squish out onto a piece of dollar store plastic wrap. Voila. You have this flavor.

I ate this roll last, hedging my bets that its strong flavors would eliminate my powers of taste. They did. While I appreciate the green apple flavor on its own, I discovered that bubblegum-flavored apples are not for me. Those with sensitive taste buds should approach with caution.

Taken as a whole, the experience of these rolls ranged between surprisingly great to mildly terrorizing. I hammered through the Lemonade/Cherry combination with gusto, but the Cotton Candy/Apple? That’s filed under the clunkers.

While neither flavor will replace my favorite (Strawberry), I appreciate that General Mills branched out with their Roll-Up offerings in a fun, summery way that celebrates the carnival. The next generation of humans may never experience Mayor McCheese or the way, way back seat of station wagons, but I have hope we’ll hang tight to the questionably safe swings and giganto funnel cakes at the carnival.

Just maybe keep the cotton candy-flavored apples out of it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 roll – 50 calories, 5 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Carnival Fruit Roll-Ups
Purchased Price: $4.98 (Triple Pack)
Size: 3 boxes – 10 rolls per box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Berry Lemonade/Cherry Slushie)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Cotton Candy/Caramel Apple)
Pros: Lemonade/Cherry nicely balanced. Cherry tastes like a Starburst. Pears in ingredient list. Jolly Rancher Apple. Inspires balloon salesmen. Mayor McCheese.
Cons: Cotton Candy can get too sweet. No caramel in Caramel Apple. Blue raspberry is not really a berry. Dollar store plastic wrap. Bonking knee on a coffee table. A harsh, unforgiving world.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips

Lay's Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips

I haven’t had a really good gyro in a long time. Am I even saying that right? “Jy-ro”? Or is it “hi-ro?” “Guy-ro?” Meh, whatever, it’s all Greek to me.

*ducks tomatoes*

I’m sure by now you are all familiar with the yearly “Do Us a Flavor” competition Frito-Lay has been running. Last year brought us such favorites as Bacon Mac & Cheese and Cappuc…Bacon Mac & Cheese! It seems this year they decided to go with a theme – Tastes of America. The four finalists are – West Coast Truffle Fries (which are Wavy), New York Reuben, Southern Biscuits and Gravy, and the Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro.

My suggestions of “Funnel Cake” and “A Complete Breakfast” were unfortunately declined, which is Grade A hogwash. “Malarkey,” I say. Am I even saying that right?

Tastes of America, huh? I know where the West Coast is. I’ve been to New York and the South. Where the heck is Greektown? I assumed it was in Detroit, but James, the man who submitted the flavor, is from Texas and claims the flavor is inspired by his local gyro place. Let’s see what they’ve got, Jimmy.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips 2

As I tore open the bag, I was hit with a semi-unpleasant but distinct, almost peppery smell. The more I inhaled; I recognized the scent of your standard Greek herbs and spices. These chips do indeed smell like a gyro.

The immediate taste of the first chip was off-putting. That, combined with the smell, had me ready to chalk these up as a loser, but the more I chewed the more the taste improved. Greektown Gyro chips actually ended up having a pretty complex and layered flavor.

The first thing I pinpointed was the “zing” of Tzatziki sauce. This is not a flavor new to Frito-Lay. “Greek Tzatziki” was one of the finalists in Canada’s “Do Us a Flavor” competition last year, so I was ready to write these off as a lazy rip off. But that’s when the other flavors started to hit my tongue.

I definitely tasted the lamb/beef/mystery meat flavor in these chips. The same spices you’re used to in your gyro meats were definitely used to coat these chips.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips 3

I have to say, it’s actually impressive that I could breakdown multiple flavors if I focused on them. I definitely got some faint tomato and onion flavor, and I actually think there is even a little lingering cucumber in the aftertaste, but that’s probably just part of the Tzatziki. Feta is one of the standard ingredients in most gyros I’ve had, but I couldn’t really pick that out. It could possibly be thrown in there in some way, but there doesn’t appear to be any cheese element in the ingredient list.

Also, I thought the kettle cooked texture was perfect for this flavor. I don’t think these would be nearly as good as a normal potato chip. That extra crunch really enhances the experience.

So to answer the million dollar question, “Do they taste like a gyro?” Yeah, sure, I think they do. If I was blindfolded I honestly think I would be able to narrow it down to that flavor. But let’s get one thing straight, when it comes to gimmicky potato chips like these, you always need to take the flavor they are trying to imitate with a grain of salt – or in this case 7.7 mg of sodium per chip. Did you guys know there is a calculator app on your phone?! What an age we live in!

I’m not gonna sit here and declare these the winner until I try the other three flavors. The voting is open until October, so you have plenty of time to track them all down and do whatever hashtag Twitter voting I’m sure they’ll set up. Just going off the other flavors, I think this one might have a really good shot at winning. But let’s be real; you’ll probably see all of them on the shelves even after the voting ends. I still see Sriracha on shelves and that wasn’t a winner.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugars, 2 grams of protein, 2% iron, and 10% vitamin C.)

Item: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.68
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Gyros getting their due. Layers of flavor. Tzatziki sauce. Great kettle cooked crunch. Do us a Flavor competition.
Cons: Smell. Greece’s current economic state. Kind of a rehashed flavor. “A Complete Breakfast” denial. Bag confusion. Where is Greektown?

60 SECOND REVIEW: Chex Clusters Fruit & Oats Cereal

Item: Chex Clusters Fruit & Oats Cereal
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 13.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Target

(Nutrition Facts – (without milk) 200 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 100 milligrams of potassium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, 27 grams of other carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein, and a bunch of vitamin and minerals.)

REVIEW: Nabisco Oreo Thins Cookies

Oreo Thins

It was tenth grade.

Math.

Permutations and combinations, a late afternoon with a blood sugar dip, and time ticking down to come up with an semi-believable excuse for another day without my homework.

Sometime during the teacher’s explanation of how Jimmy has five pairs of pants and twelve pairs of shirts and blah blah blah blah blah, I think, in an act of defined desperation, I may have blurted out, “Who the fudgemuffin cares?”

Oreo cookies, for lack of a better analogy, have become like that. It’s not that the endless amount of flavors and limited time only combinations aren’t great, but at some point, yea, they aren’t great. It’s all just too much, and not only do I have a waistline to prove it, but I find myself wondering if, like Jimmy donning a classic polo and khakis every day, the standard chocolate wafer and creme filling aren’t the end all be all of Oreo experiences.

Oreo Thins 3

The new Oreo Thins go back to the basics with that premise, with the caveat that each cookie is about 18 calories less than your standard Oreo.

Like anything that’s lower calorie, there’s a catch (more on this later). Fortunately the cookies’ texture and flavor aren’t part of that catch, because you’re actually getting a cookie that tastes nearly identical to the standard Oreo.

The cookies are crisp and not crumbly, sweet but not cloying, and taste like a good old fashioned Oreo. Do you love this taste? The answer, if you’re a human being, is probably yes. Interestingly enough, the difference in the amount of creme is negligible.

Oreo Thins 4

When I weighed the creme from both the Oreos and the Thins, there was only about a half a gram difference. And even though the marketing buzz has played up the idea that the cookies should be eaten “as is,” I found the center to hold its form much better than the standard Oreo, which peeled off worse than a temporary Pac-Man tattoo on a hot day.

Oh yes, and that “sophisticated” routine of eating the cookies as-is? Don’t let it stop you from enjoying the Thins with a nice, cold glass of whole milk. You’re not missing out on the proverbial pleasures of the dunking experience, although you may want to use a smaller glass.

Oreo Thins 2

Now, the catch. Each package is just 10.1 ounces, less than both original Oreos (14.3 ounces) and the standard (not LTO) Double Stuff varieties, which clock in at 15.4 ounces. So basically, you’re getting a lot less bang for your buck. You’re also getting a less substantial cookie in terms of the chocolate flavor. There’s a definite muffin top effect going on with the thin ones. They can replicate the taste and texture pretty well, but there’s a harder to describe element of “heft” that gives you a more pronounced chocolate taste with the thicker wafers from the original Oreos.

The differences between Oreo Thins and the original Oreos are about as pronounced as the differences between college football in the ACC and in the Pac-12. Are there differences? Well, I mean yeah. North Carolina is never going to run as up-tempo as Oregon. But really, it’s college football at the end of the day. And above all, Oreo Thins are Oreo cookies at the end of the day, and a welcomed reminder that sometime the best combination takes a page from the original.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 Thins – 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2.0 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Oreo Thins Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10.1 oz.
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Classic Oreo taste and texture with 18 less calories per cookie. Actual amount of creme filling is close to the standard Oreo. Wafers twist off easily.
Cons: Creme ratio can’t come close to Double Stuff. Wafer lacks substantial chocolate heft of original Oreo. Horrible price per ounce compared with other Oreo varieties.

REVIEW: Trident Layers Swedish Fish Gum

Trident Layers Swedish Fish Gum

Are you the one who wished that a fish-shaped gummy named after a Scandinavian country would be transformed into a piece of gum?

Zoltar says: your wish is granted.

While I am not sure which species of fish the original gummies are meant to mimic (Salmon? Halibut? An artistic rendering of Basking Sharks?), I’ve always admired the fish-shaped chewable candies for their sweet and tart tang, so to find them in gum form ruffled me with confusion, hesitation, and impossible joy at the possibility of such greatness.

Trident Layers Swedish Fish Gum 2

The berry gets a massive double layer, while a teeny bit of lemon smooshes itself in the middle. That ratio of flavor distribution comes out immediately in the gum’s taste.

If there was a Seismic Scale of Flavor Intensity, the Lemon of this gum would get a .004. Its lemony, citrus twang just disappears at first chew. Where did you go, Lemon Flavor? Are you jealous that Berry got two layers? Jealousy isn’t good for relationships, Lemon. Haven’t you heard about Brutus and Caesar? The first two Godfathers? That crazy witch in Snow White? Jealousy only brings knives, poison apples, and horse heads in your bed. Don’t let jealousy happen to you, Lemon.

But on the note of vague feelings of injustice, it seems there has never been an official word on Swedish Fish’s actual “berry” flavor, and yet my anxiety and rapidly expanding fear of the unknown seemed fixated on finding the answer. Is it raspberry? Cranberry? Lingonberry? Sour cherry? Berry punch? Is there a professional horticulturalist with a highly refined palate on the blog?

Whatever identity that berry beholds, it presides over the entire chewing experience. I chewed for a solid 30 minutes, enjoying its non-rubbery berry tang that’s both tart and sweet. There was a slight bitterness that came in every now and again (I’m a little sensitive to red dye, so it may have been that), but the overall sugary-tartness made this chewing experience an enjoyably long-lasting one.

But I feel I should give you a warning. This gum lasts very long. So very, very long. Even after you have disposed of your little red knob of rubber, brushed your teeth, and gargled a glug of Spearmint Scope, the berry presence continues to linger somewhere in the back of your throat, which may result in it infiltrating everything you eat. Your tomato soup. Your tuna salad. Your medium-rare bacon cheeseburger. All of them, getting overthrown by a peculiar artificial berry tang.

Trident Layers Swedish Fish Gum 3

But, on the whole, I enjoyed this gum. Like a dentist reaching into the jaws of a wild boar just to see if it has teeth, Trident took a risk, and all in the hopes of seeing if they could transform an iconic gummy into a piece of gum. It was dangerous. It was spontaneous. It was successful. Facing such a risk is admirable in its own right. To have it come out successfully? Earns it big points.

Sure, the lemon got lost and the berry flavor comes across as bitter and overpowering at times, but there’s no question that Trident went all-out with flavor authenticity. I will chew my Swedish Fish gum again. Perhaps while staring at Swedish furniture in IKEA after eating some Swedish meatballs.*

*Thank you, Sweden, for being great.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 piece – less than 5 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, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Trident Layers Swedish Fish Gum
Purchased Price: $1.49 (single pack)
Size: 14 pieces
Purchased at: Publix
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes just like berry Swedish Fish. Flavor lasts forever. Tangy. Soft and chewy. Stays non-rubbery for a good 30 minutes. Zoltar. Basking Sharks.
Cons: Makes cheeseburgers taste like Swedish Fish. Lemon flavor gets jilted. Not shaped like a fish. What is the berry flavor?? Poison apples. Horse heads in your bed.