REVIEW: Kellogg’s Frosted A&W Root Beer Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's Frosted A&W Root Beer Pop-Tarts

I really expected to love these Kellogg’s Frosted A&W Root Beer Pop-Tarts, write a review that just said “G.O.A.T.,” drop a mic, light my keyboard on fire, do a touchdown dance, buy a new keyboard to write a Buzzfeed article with the title “Pop-Tarts You Have To Pop Into Your Toaster and Then Pop Into Your Mouth Right Now”, light the new keyboard on fire, flip a baseball bat, salute, and then walk away with two thumbs up raised above my head.

But after trying them at room temperature, toasted, chilled, frozen, and with a goat on a boat, I have to say these new soda-inspired Pop-Tarts aren’t the Greatest of All Time.

But they are good.

I think my expectations were too high (ya think) because of all the great root beer float-flavored snacks that have made their way onto shelves over the past few years. There’s been the Nabisco Ice Cream Creations Root Beer Float Chips Ahoy Cookies (awesome), Betty Crocker’s A&W Root Beer Float Cookie Mix (awesome), and Limited Edition Root Beer Float Oreo Cookies (good).

What I loved about the Chips Ahoy and Betty Crocker cookies was how the root beer flavor stood out. But what prevented the Root Beer Float Oreo Cookies from reaching the pantheon the other cookies did was how the Golden Oreo wafers muted the creme’s flavor. Unfortunately, that’s similar to what’s going on with these Pop-Tarts.

Kellogg's Frosted A&W Root Beer Pop-Tarts 2

I thought not having the “float” part in the toaster pastry would’ve made the root beer flavor stand out even more, but, sadly, the crust and frosting are the pillows that smother the root beer filling’s flavor. The crust, although dark in color which makes it appear it might be flavored, tastes like regular Pop-Tarts crust. The same can be said about frosting’s flavor. As for the brown, red, and orange crunchlets (yes, that’s what they’re officially called), they’re just decoration.

Kellogg's Frosted A&W Root Beer Pop-Tarts 3

The filling has the sugar and spices one would taste in A&W Root Beer, and it’s good, but, again, I do wish it was stronger. I thought toasting would help, but it doesn’t. I thought that was strange because with most Pop-Tarts the flavor hits my taste buds harder when toasted.

There’s no optimum way to eat them. I enjoyed them equally at room temperature, toasted, chilled, and frozen. Also, it may have just my imagination but I might’ve felt a little bit of fizzing.

Of all the big root beer brands — Barq’s, Mug, and A&W — A&W is my favorite. I can’t specifically explain why I like it, but drinking unlimited A&W Root Beer from a tap at an A&W Restaurant is one of favorite food-related memories. Tasting these Frosted A&W Root Beer Pop-Tarts probably won’t break into my list of favorite food memories. They also don’t make me want to walk away with two thumbs up raised above my head. But I’ll give them one thumbs up.

Disclosure: I received this sample for free from the Kellogg Company. Being free didn’t affect this review in any way. If it did, the whole review probably would’ve been just “G.O.A.T.”

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 200 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: FREE from Kellogg
Size: 8 pack
Purchased at: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Great idea. One thumbs up. Filling tastes like root beer. Fizzing? Enjoyable at room temperature, toasted, chilled, or frozen.
Cons: Not G.O.A.T. Crust and frosting hinder the root beer flavor. I wish root beer flavor was stronger. No Dr Pepper Pop-Tarts, yet.

QUICK REVIEW: Limited Edition Triscuit Sriracha Crackers

Limited Edition Triscuit Sriracha Crackers

To be honest, I’m more interested in the Limited Edition Triscuit Sriracha box than the actual crackers inside of it. What can I say, the black box is sexy. You may disagree, but it definitely looks better than every Triscuit box that’s come before it.

The sexy box suggests putting shrimp, avocados, peanut sauce, and cilantro on the sriracha-seasoned crackers to make hors d’oeuvres. Since I don’t have fancy ingredients around me and shrimp makes me pass out, I ate them sans topping.

They have a sweet, savory, peppery, and garlicky flavor, and that’s almost everything I want sriracha flavoring to be. Yes, almost. It’s lacking in one of sriracha’s most notable characteristics — spiciness. The crunchy crackers barely register a blip of heat on my tongue. They’re Doritos Nacho Cheese spicy. But they’re also Doritos Nacho Cheese delicious, if you’re into sriracha.

Limited Edition Triscuit Sriracha Crackers 2

However, the crackers in the box had varying degrees of flavor. It’s easy to tell the differences by looking at them. Some looked like plain Triscuit, but had a light sriracha flavor; some had a stronger flavor and looked like they got caught in a paprika dust storm; and some were sriracha potent and so red that they could be served to folks waiting to get through the Gates of Hell.

Maybe it’s a production error or maybe it’s Triscuit getting back at me because I’ve always said Wheat Thins are better. But I think the seasoning should’ve been applied evenly on every cracker.

Limited Edition Triscuit Sriracha Crackers are a nice addition to the vast Triscuit lineup. But it’s a bit disappointing they’re a limited edition, not spicy, and the seasoning wasn’t applied evenly. If they were to fix those issues, I’d probably like them more than the sexy box they came in.

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 9 oz box
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (6 crackers) 120 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 120 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Jam

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Jam

There has to be some mandate from Trader Joe’s corporate that gives talking points to the Hawaiian-shirted cashiers flanking the stores. The bespectacled, olive-skinned gentleman scanned all my groceries and stopped at the new-ish item, Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Jam.

“Have you tried this before?” he asked. This is a popular question I get when I’m not just, like, buying six handfuls of dried pasta and a gallon of Charles Shaw wine. I have also gotten “I like your shirt,” and “Why did you stare at that box of Joe Joe’s for fifteen minutes, grunt really loud, and then drop kick that bunch of bananas onto the conveyer belt?” The answer to that one is actually something reasonable about trying to look good for girls, but I have to shop at the other Trader Joe’s now.

I hadn’t tried the Uncured Bacon Jam. The man recommended toasting a sliced baguette and drizzling olive oil on it, then spreading a bit of jam on each piece during a dinner party, with a tinkling piano playing in the background, I’m sure. That sounds really nice. I went home and slathered it on some white bread with peanut butter. It was good.

I was fully prepared to hold up the container and point, declaring, “But it says ‘jam’ on the jar! Like peanut butter and jam!” in a dumb voice, but the sandwich was good. The ingredients complemented each other. In fact, I would say it’s a suitable substitute for any fruit jam use, for better or worse.

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Jam 2

The jam itself is spreadable meat immersed in liquid. So, that seems kinda gross. It looks a little like the contents of a sink’s garbage disposal. At first taste, it’s sweet, like any fruit jam would be. It has a baby food-texture that ends in little chewy bits of meat. The sweetness subsides and opens up a smoky, savory roundness that eventually lands on a tart aftertaste.

I ate it off a knife (and only cut my tongue a tiny bit… ladies) and it proved too sweet to eat alone. Even with some bread, anything more than a dollop was too sweet to bear. Like any other jam, a little goes a long way. One thing I did notice is that one of the main ingredients is “dark brown sugar,” which makes this more of a faux-maple bacon food item. The jam definitely needs to pair with something bold to counteract the cloying element.

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Jam 3

The jar itself says to add it to pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and appetizers, but I only had it in a peanut butter sandwich and with a grilled cheese. If you use a sharp cheddar/muenster combo, it helps balance the flavor profile nicely, if you don’t use too much. I can’t really think of too many other times I’m putting jam on things, though. With the bacon trend in the rearview mirror, the usefulness of this is a little in question.

Perhaps the jam is not as versatile as the jar would have you believe, but I can see how a tiny spot of this stuff would work at a dinner party with all your Trader Joe’s cashiers in attendance. They’re all sitting around the table wearing Hawaiian shirts, serving tiny paper cups of coffee and commenting on each other’s groceries. Man, I want an invite. Do you think they serve that half-popped popcorn there? And cookie butter? Oh, rainbow carrots and hummus! That’s it. I’m going to march back there and compliment them on their shirts.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 tablespoon – 45 calories, 2 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 8.5 oz jar
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Goes well with a peanut butter sandwich and a grilled cheese. Can be used to substitute any jam.
Cons: When do you put jam on anything? Can be a little too sweet.

REVIEW: Burger King Chicken Fries Rings

Burger King Chicken Fries Rings

Chicken Rings.

Doesn’t that have a logical ring to it.

Sorry.

But Burger King didn’t follow my logic, they went with the convoluted name Chicken Fries Rings. I can understand their logic. These rings of chicken fall under the Chicken Fries banner, but I imagine when most folks order them they’ll call them Chicken Rings, which is what I did and the cashier knew exactly what I wanted.

So Burger King’s Chicken Fries Rings are what’s next in fast food chicken finger food technology.

Cue up Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”

Oh, it’s not?

Cue up “Yakety Sax” to take us back to 2011 when White Castle introduced their Chicken Rings.

Burger King’s version looks exactly like White Castle’s — flat rings with a seasoned golden brown coating. They’re aerodynamic enough that if you wanted to fling them they’d probably get more airtime than a Burger King onion ring. So let the food fights begin!

Burger King Chicken Fries Rings 2

A serving has six pieces and comes with your choice of dipping sauce. I went with BK’s Zesty Sauce. I’m sure the breading and spices are the same ones used on their straight Chicken Fries, but these rings taste better. They have a stronger flavor and the spices stand out a bit more. Maybe it’s because there’s more surface area touching my tongue with each bite. I don’t know. I’m no food physicist. But I do know they have enough peppery flavor that I’d be fine eating these without a dipping sauce, which is something I can’t say about McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

Their exterior is not what I would consider crispy, but it’s also not soggy. When I bit into them there was a little noise, but not enough to rattle my brain with every chew. I wish these came out crispier. The white meat chicken was on the dry side, but the dipping sauce hides that.

Burger King Chicken Fries Rings 3

One issue I’ve always had with Burger King’s Chicken Fries is their lack of chicken meat. Of course, being the shape of fries makes it hard to fit a decent amount of chicken into one. But I don’t feel the same about these Chicken Rings. Their flat and round shape allows them to have about twice the amount of chicken.

Overall, I enjoyed Burger King’s Chicken Fries Rings and I do think taste-wise they’re a step above their Chicken Fries and miles above their regular chicken nuggets. But for those looking for value will probably prefer BK’s regular Chicken Nuggets, which currently are available for $1.49 for 10-pieces.

(Nutrition Facts – 310 calories, 18 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1020 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 17 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $6.99 (value meal)*
Size: 6-pieces
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: They have more flavor than BK’s Chicken Fries, even though they’re made with the same breading. I’m fine with eating them without a dipping sauce. Zesty Sauce. More aerodynamic than a BK Onion Ring.
Cons: Its name. Looks like White Castle’s version. Breading isn’t very crispy. Chicken meat was on the dry side. BK’s Chicken Nuggets.

*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: Wendy’s Crispy Chicken BLT

Wendy's Crispy Chicken BLT

“What if I want to buy it by itself?” I asked.

She responded, “You can buy it by itself but it’s from over here and doesn’t have bacon on it.” The cashier gestured at the value menu, at their value chicken sandwich. At least at this Wendy’s, they do not sell the Crispy Chicken BLT alone. I was being railroaded into buying a meal.

In a true “Mom, don’t tell me what to do” moment, I grimaced. Yes, Wendy’s is offering a “4 for $4” deal that is basically Frankenstein-ed value menu options, and is kicking it off with a new item, the Crispy Chicken BLT.

Here’s the thing: I have piecemealed together feasts from Wendy’s in the past. This is one of my favorite places to do it. But if you’re saying I have to buy a soda and I have to buy some fries, I’m going to push back a bit. No Frosty? No baked potato? As the combinations dwindle, it feels like Dave Thomas’ ghost hand is holding my head under a vat of Wendy’s chili as he mumbles something about how ground beef should have right-angled corners.

The meal comes with a sandwich, four nuggets, a soda and fries. And once the sandwich is unwrapped, it’s clear why it comes with friends. It’s pretty tiny. Turns out, it’s a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger but with a fried white chicken patty replacing the beef.

Wendy's Crispy Chicken BLT 2

The Crispy Chicken BLT boasts a two slices of bacon, a slice of American cheese, mayo, lettuce, and tomato on top of the patty. The bacon is crispier than I’m used to on other Wendy’s items, but it and the lettuce add a nice texture to the entire bite. The bun is soft but dry, and combined with the mild hum of the American cheese and mayonnaise, can get a little overbearing at times.

The chicken itself is fine—the white meat is free of soft bones (unlike a McChicken, sometimes) and contrasts nicely to the sodium boost the pork adds. The patty is nothing particularly special, similar to most other sandwiches on the value menu, but this seems to complement the other ingredients a tad better than the beef counterpart.

How was the rest of the meal? I would have liked a Frosty, to be honest. The fries seemed like overkill, but were fine. And surprisingly, I did not get sick of chicken, as I gulped down four nuggets no problem (didn’t they use to have five nuggets?).

I’m not a fan of the “4 for $4” promotion. It looks too much like 4-4-4, which gives off Illuminati vibes, and the entire situation definitely feels like paying for a cable package when all I need is Warriors basketball, the Property Brothers and the People v. OJ Simpson. “Kar-dash-i-an! Kar-dash-i-an!”

The sandwich is a decent value menu item, and four bucks is a pretty good price for a meal. Just lemme pick my own stuff, Wendy’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 440 calories, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 950 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, 1 gram of fiber, and 20 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4 (includes meal)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Serviceable value menu item. Better than the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. Chicken and bacon go together well, lettuce adds a nice crisp.
Cons: Cheese and bread can overwhelm. You need to buy four things at once.

REVIEW: Red Robin Red Ramen Burger

Red Robin Red Ramen Burger

Much like how all the Brits are stealing all the good lead acting gigs (Rick Grimes, Daredevil/Matt Murdock, Norman Bates… yes, they’re all Brits!) chain restaurants are taking food crazes and making their own versions. Dunkin’ Donuts did it with the Cronut, and Red Robin is doing it with the Ramen Burger.

People seem to get upset about the so called “food plagiarism,” but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so people should chill out. These foods typically come from big cities like New York or Los Angeles, and seeing as not all of us live in those cities, we deserve to try it too. We have food rights! Pretty sure that’s what Patrick Swayze died fighting for in “Red Dawn.”

Red Robin’s version of the ramen burger, dubbed the “Red Ramen Burger,” features the ramen noodle bun, is topped with teriyaki and chiu chow aioli, fried jalapeño coins, chili-infused shredded cabbage, carrot and onion, and is garnished with basil.

Red Robin Red Ramen Burger 2

The first thing you will notice with the burger is it is going to be a messy affair. I’m talking three to five napkins, minimum. Maybe a wet-nap. The ramen bun falls apart faster than a millionaire’s marriage to a stripper he fell in love with after seeing her on stage. You typically don’t eat burgers with a knife and fork but this is one you’ll want to deploy the silverware for.

They did a good job with the bun. The ramen was crispy on the outside, and when you bite into it there is soft ramen on the inside. That seems really tough to pull off. The bun is apparently seasoned but there wasn’t any noticeable taste, just tasted like normal ramen.

The teriyaki and chiu chow aioli dominates the burger and is easily the strongest flavor. Teriyaki is, er, teriyaki, and chiu chow is God knows what. The first four Google search returns didn’t give me a clear answer so I gave up. But the sweet teriyaki most definitely runs the show.

Red Robin Red Ramen Burger 3

Next you have the ginger-infused cabbage, carrot, and onion mix. This did not belong on the burger. The taste did not stand out at all because the teriyaki covered it up, so there’s just this shredded vegetable nuisance you have to deal with throughout the course of the burger. Honestly if you order it you should hold the veggies. They just get in the way, kind of like me in a pickup basketball game.

The fried jalapeño coins are insanity. They weren’t spicy but they just melt in your mouth. You still get that jalapeño flavor but without the sweating, coughing, eye watering, and the pointing and laughter of your fellow diners. The coating on the peppers was buttery and delicious. If these coins were a real currency, they’d be, like, the golden dollar of fried coins.

Red Robin Red Ramen Burger 4

My burger was cooked perfectly and overall was a unique treat that you don’t typically see anywhere. The ceramic cat in the burger promo suggested I eat the burger with a Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale, so I gave in like a sad sheep and listened. They did pair really well together, and I got a good chuckle when the bartender handed me the bottle and I exclaimed, “This isn’t my father’s ginger ale!” Oh man, it gets me every time! It doesn’t seem to get anyone else though. The bartender didn’t acknowledge the joke, he just asked if I needed anything else. Yes, I do. I need you to laugh at my joke so I don’t feel like a King Goober.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $11.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Red Robin
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Ramen bun is neat. Nice teriyaki flavor. Fried jalapeño coins are heaven. Making jokes about your father’s ginger ale.
Cons: Teriyaki flavor takes over at times. Burger is rather messy. Veggies just get in the way. Having your father’s ginger ale joke fall flat.