REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips

I’m an Italian kid from the Northeast, so when I hear “gravy” I think of that brown stuff you put on turkey, not the white sausage based stuff popular in the South. I also never, I repeat, never think of red sauce you put on macaroni as gravy. Anyone who tells you that’s “gravy” is certifiable. Sauce with meat is not gravy. You are wrong. Stop being wrong. You’re probably right. Who the heck knows?

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips 2

Lay’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips are the brainchild of Hailey Green from Noblesville, IN. Her idea was based on her “Nonnie’s” homemade biscuits and gravy recipe. So if these stink, I’m putting full blame on Nonnie. Moment of truth, Nonnie. Here goes nothing.

The chips have a nice gravy scent. Is that a thing? A “nice” gravy scent? Has anyone ever said, “Mmmm, this gravy smells fantastic?” There’s a very distinct smell you get when you pop open a bottle of turkey/chicken gravy or open a pouch of dry gravy mix. I’m sure it smells that way when you make any variety of gravy from scratch but…look I’m no Nonnie, I’ve never made gravy from scratch. Pity me.

My first inclination when trying a new chip flavor is to immediately compare it to a flavor I’m familiar with. With these my immediate first impression was that they were a saltier, less potent sour cream and onion. As I munched on, the gravy flavor poked through. It’s definitely there but it takes a little while to build. The flavor really reminded me of something familiar and it took me about 10 more chips to realize what it was — Stove Top Stuffing. After reaching that conclusion, I couldn’t taste anything else.

Ya know what I don’t really like? Stove Top Stuffing. Ya know what I do like? Chips that taste like Stove Top Stuffing. Go figure. Go. I’ll wait.

We good?

I’m not sure what exactly stuffing and biscuits and gravy have in common, save for the starch element and some onion powder, but they are definitely in the same ballpark. I want to say gravy flavoring on potato chips is strange, but who doesn’t like gravy on mashed potatoes? It seems dumb, but once that thought crossed my mind, I really started to enjoy these more. “Thanksgiving Dinner” was one of my contest submissions, and this might be as close as I’ll get.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips 4

I wouldn’t say these chips have a kick, but they are a bit peppery. Each chip is coated with little red, orange, and black specs of spice. You’ll come away feeling like you may have possibly eaten something spicy a while ago and your mouth is still recovering.

As for the biscuit element, there’s a hint of a creamy, buttery flavor, but it’s pretty understated. I kept trying to really separate a biscuit flavor but found it difficult. That seems authentic to me though as the gravy would overpower the biscuit flavor if you were eating the actual dish. Biscuits are delicious, but are also a textural food, so you lose that when converting that flavor to a chip.

Therein “Lay’s” the problem with most of the Do Us a Flavor chips. They don’t so much stand on their own as they just make me really want to eat the food they are copying. Like right now? I want a biscuit. I don’t want any more chips. I gotta have a biscuit. Where’s that little giggly Pillsbury Doughboy bastard when you need him?

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips 3

These are the traditional-style chip, which was a good call on their part. I don’t think they would have been as successful in Wavy form. As I said, I want the softest style chip possible for this flavor. The Greektown Gyro flavor really worked as a kettle chip, but there is almost no chance these would have. When thinking “biscuit,” you don’t want to be crunching down on something that could crack a molar at any given second.

I find the color of the bag aesthetically pleasing, but the image of the actual biscuits and gravy are unappetizing. This is admittedly a nitpick, but annoying people tell me that we “eat with our eyes first,” and that gloppy white stuff just doesn’t look tasty. I was pleasantly surprised these turned out a lot better than the picture led me to believe.

I enjoyed these slightly more than the Gyro chips and I ended up eating half the bag in one sitting. I probably could have kept going but my mouth started to feel like the Sahara and I needed to chug an entire bottle of water. So congrats to Lay’s, the Jelly Belly of potato chips, for another successful flavor foray.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 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, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: They go down easy. Stuffing flavor. Not overpowering. Nice hint of spice. Nonnie finally getting her due. Bag color. Molars intact.
Cons: Masked biscuit flavor. Bag photo. Lay’s constantly denying my submissions. “Gravy” on macaroni. Actual biscuit cravings. Pillsbury Doughboy not being at my beck and call.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips

At the risk of offending those of you who actually liked the Lay’s Chicken and Waffles Potato Chips, I’m of the mindset that the whole Do Us a Flavor competition has been one of the more impressive fails of snack food marketing over the past few years.

Why do I say that? Well, because I still cringe at the thought of 2013’s aforementioned Chicken and Waffles chips, my taste buds panic whenever I’m around mangos, and I still have a nearly full bag of the Cappuccino chips buried somewhere in my pantry.

Come to think of it, I probably haven’t made it through a full bag combined of the past Do Us a Flavor finalists I’ve tried. Meanwhile, my unquestionably brilliant idea for a chip based on the flavors of a sandwich — Buffalo’s iconic Beef on Weck — has been shot down each of the past three years.

Given my past history with Do Us a Flavor, I was ready to write this year off until I saw the finalist chips. All I can say is, “Nice job, America.” You’ve obviously outgrown your suggestions for flavors that have no business on a potato, and finally thought strategically about the chips you want to eat. You’ve even managed to get another iconic New York sandwich on there — the Reuben.

(Seriously, why don’t more chips taste like sandwiches? Sandwiches are delicious, and everyone likes them. Oh shit. Now that I’ve said that, one you is probably going to suggest we start making Peanut Butter and Jelly flavored potato chips, aren’t you?)

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips 2

The Reuben sets the bar pretty high in terms of sandwich flavors but man do these chips deliver, starting with this distinct caraway and rye smell that emanates from the bag. If you’ve ever been to a good, old-school Jewish deli than you know the smell. The taste is familiar to anyone who’s ever had a Reuben, with strong notes of all those classic pickling spices and the tangy, fermented bite of sauerkraut. It’s a great taste and not the least bit overpowering, giving way to a hint of sweet and acidic tomato and a more potent, but mellow, buttermilk and cheese aftertaste.

It’s really an impressive array of flavors, and one in which every component of the sandwich is represented in one form or another. What’s most striking is that none of the flavors dominates or overtakes another, an important element in a sandwich which such a heavy connotation. If anything, the initial taste of caraway, then sauerkraut, and finally tomato (the Russian dressing) and cheese, mirrors the progression of flavors you’d get when biting into an actual Reuben. Heck, even the crunchy chips have a sort of buttery aftertaste that can’t help bring to mind griddled bread, going a long way to create the flavor of not just sandwich components, but an actual sandwich.

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips 3

More than anything else, these sandwiches chips are downright addictive. There’s nothing which says passing the litmus test of a potato chip’s noshability than reaching into the bag to grab another chip while writing your review, only to discover you’ve just consumed an actual Reuben’s worth of calories in potato chips. If I do have a small gripe it’s that there’s nothing really meaty about the chips. I didn’t get the flavor of the spices that make corned beef, well, corned beef.

Given my disastrous experiences with finalists from the past two years, the Do Us a Flavor promotion could’ve struck out with me this year if they didn’t give me something really good. Fortunately the New York Reuben Chips are really good, even if the Reuben may have actually been invented in Nebraska and not New York. Frankly, I could care less what the truth behind the origins of the sandwich are. I’m just glad I won’t be throwing away another full bag of Do Us a Flavor chips.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 330 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 7.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Finally getting a Do Us a Flavor finalist that I actually want to eat. Caraway and Rye. Awesome sauerkraut and pickling spice flavor. Distinctive taste of Russian dressing and cheese. Crunchy, buttery aftertaste mimics griddled bread. Smells like a straight up Jewish deli.
Cons: Beef flavor in the corned beef is missing. Having to supply your own over-sized kosher pickle. Someone please make me my Beef on Weck flavored potato chips!

REVIEW: McDonald’s McCafe Oreo Frappe

McDonald's McCafe Oreo Frappe

It took 27 years but I’ve finally learned you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes you just get to have the cake, and you can’t eat it, you just get to possess it. We all have to settle at times.

Like how the escaped prisoners in New York had to settle for eating Pop-Tarts without a toaster. Cold Pop-Tarts?! Bleh! You’d have to be pretty desperate to eat those. Oh…yeah…escaped prisoners on the run. Ahem.

Or how in a fantasy draft you have to settle because the jerk picking before you takes the player you had your hopes and dreams set on, and you have to instead draft your fallback option. I cringe just thinking about the time Buster Posey was picked right before I could get him, and I panicked and blurted out John Axford. Please don’t laugh at me too hard, baseball fans.

My most recent case of settling came when I tried to save a few extra bucks by opting to go to McDonald’s for a tasty frozen beverage instead of Starbucks. I know what you’re thinking…life can be a real bitch! Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing!

But McDonald’s Oreo Frappe ended up being so good that I didn’t have to settle for anything. And being cheaper than a Starbucks drink it’s a win in both taste and price. Of course it’s also a win in the sense that I get to say “small” like a normal person, instead of “tall” at Starbucks, which sounds like it’s a large drink, but as most of us know it’s the smallest size.

McDonald's McCafe Oreo Frappe 2

At first glance it’s clear there are Oreo cookies blended throughout the drink. It also has Oreo chunks on top of the whipped cream. I suggest stuffing the whipped cream and cookie chunks into the drink and then mixing it, but that’s just my style. You do you, faithful TIB reader.

The cookie taste is strong with this one. Right away you’ll get a heavy chocolate cookie flavor. Along with frappe, I also noticed notes of vanilla. The drink is made with a cookies & crème syrup, and the crème flavor is definitely noticeable. To put it into fractions, it’s 3/5 Oreo cookie flavor, 1/5 frappe flavor, and 1/5 Oreo cream flavor.

I got a small since I was headed for a Dibella’s sub right afterward, and though my intentions were to sip on it so there would be some left to have with the sub, the Oreo Frappe was so good that it lasted only about a minute and thirty seconds.

There were a couple of issues with the drink. It has a thinner consistency compared with other Frappe flavors. It also has a higher calorie count and much higher fat count than my normal Starbucks choice, the always trusty Green Tea Frappuccino. Normally this would be a huge turnoff for me and I wouldn’t get the drink again but the taste is such a win that it easily negates these issues.

We all do have to settle at times, but when it comes to the Oreo Frappe, there isn’t any settling involved.

(Nutrition Facts – Small – 540 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 82 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 68 grams of sugars, and 7 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s McCafe Oreo Frappe
Purchased Price: $3.01
Size: Small
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Great Oreo flavor. Can taste both cookie and crème flavors. Cheaper than Starbucks. Possessing cake. Not having to say “tall” when asking for a small drink.
Cons: Thinner consistency than other Frappes. Not the healthiest drink. Panic picking John Axford.

REVIEW: Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

Sonic loves screwing around with their hot dog menu. That may sound like an insult, but it’s not; it’s a compliment. Keeping a fast food menu fresh and rotating earns you high marks in my book. That is, unless you discontinue something I love; then I hate you.

To give you an idea of Sonic’s wiener range, they’ve played with such toppings as blue cheese dressing, Fritos, guacamole, garlic parmesan sauce and crispy onions. They’ve also played with their buns, introducing pretzel, cheesy bread, and now croissant varieties.

The new croissant bun hot dogs come in two varieties: the Original, which comes topped with mustard, and the Bacon Double Cheddar, which I chose because it sounded infinitely more interesting. Here’s how Sonic describes it:

“SONIC’s Croissant Dogs take a new, gourmet twist on a Sonic classic hot dog. We start by baking a soft roll, with all of the flakey goodness and buttery taste of a delicious croissant. Then, we nestle the juicy premium beef hot dog in the croissant and top it off with cheddar cheese and bacon.”

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog Bun

Of all the different types of breads out there, I wouldn’t have even thought of turning a croissant into a hot dog bun. Croissants are for breakfast. Although, now that I think about it, how long has Pillsbury been telling you two wrap tiny hot dogs in their croissant dough? Well-played, Sonic.

Since the crux of this new menu item is the bun, I immediately tried it on its own once it had been procured. I found it to be flaky like a croissant, but quite a bit denser than the dainty bakery product you would consume with an espresso. It also had a tiny bit of buttery flavor, but there was no buttery sheen or greasiness to the bun itself.

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog Innards

When I bit into the dog, I could see the layers that are one of the signatures of the croissant. However, in addition to being more dense than a traditional croissant, the bun was also quite thick. As I worked my way through the hot dog, the bun didn’t compress like some cheap buns – it retained it’s fluffiness throughout.

And it’s a good thing, too, because the Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog is loaded with toppings. I couldn’t even see the hot dog under all that cheese and bacon.

While the subtle buttery taste of the bun immediately disappeared due to the toppings, the texture still worked and the bun managed to both not sog and actually contain the toppings, which I figured would be all over my hands by the end of my meal. Unexpectedly, it was the bun that wound up making the most mess – it flaked off all over the place, which would leave you with a lap full of crumbs if you were to eat this on-the-go.

As for the toppings, as I mentioned, they were ample. However, they diverged rather mysteriously from both the description on the website and the picture. First of all, it’s called “Double Cheddar”, and the picture on their online menu clearly shows both cheese sauce and melted shredded cheese. However, mine only came with cheese sauce.

If there was anything “double” about it, it was the amount, which was a heaping ladle full. Again, I was impressed that the croissant bun was able to contain that much oozing cheese.

The cheese sauce was incredibly artificial-tasting, but what do you expect from a fast food joint? It’s one of those situations where you either like or you hate that kind of unnatural orange goo. I personally enjoy it.

Another deviation from the menu description is the addition of brown mustard. While not mentioned or pictured on their website, my Croissant Dog came with a little squiggle of brown mustard on top of the cheese sauce. It added a nice little twang and a bit of a kick to the hot dog.

Speaking of the dog itself, I wasn’t going to say much, because I’ve been through the Sonic hot dog experience several times and found them downright unremarkable. This time, however, I was struck at how juicy the dog was. I’ve never had a Sonic dog this good. I don’t think they changed their dogs, so maybe I just hit them on a good day, but either way – good job, Sonic!

The real star of the Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog was the bacon. Thick, crispy and wonderfully flavorful, it tasted just like it had come straight from the cast iron skillet on my stove at home. And there were a lot of the pieces, too. This has to be some of the best fast food bacon I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much praise for Sonic before!

Overall, Sonic’s Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog was one of the most satisfying fast food hot dogs I’ve ever had. I prefer natural casing hot dogs, but this dog was juicy and satisfying. The toppings were more than generous, which is a minus if you hate processed cheese sauce, but the bacon was fantastic.

Of course, the whole point of this new dog is the croissant bun, which I declare a fine substitute to regular buns that can easily fall apart. While the buttery qualities got masked by the toppings, you can see the layers when you bite into the dog, and it is both fluffy but sturdy at the same time. While your toppings won’t land in your lap, watch out, because flakes from the bun certainly will. Just use a napkin, you savage, and enjoy your dog!

(Nutrition Facts – 510 calories, 310 calories from fat, 34 grams total of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 1670 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugars, 18 grams of protein, 15% calcium, 30% iron, 6% vitamin A, and 2% vitamin C.)

Item: Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog
Purchased Price: $3.87
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Sonic Drive-In
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Bun was fluffy but sturdy. Making weiner and buns jokes. Bacon was both plentiful and excellent quality. Hot dog was juicy and flavorful. Lots of cheese sauce.
Cons: Cheese sauce was very artificial. I congratulated Sonic way to many times in this review. Croissant bun flakes will get everywhere. Whoah, that’s a lot of fat for one hot dog! Mysterious deviations from the menu description – where’s my double cheddar?

REVIEW: Limited Edition Chocolate Banana Chips Ahoy Cookies

Limited Edition Chocolate Banana Chips Ahoy Cookies

Chocolate dipped bananas are popular at fairs, carnivals, and during episodes of Arrested Development.

Now the chocolate and banana combination has made its way into Chips Ahoy’s crunchy cookie. As you can see in the photos, these Limited Edition Chocolate Banana Chips Ahoy Cookies have chocolate and banana flavored chips. Actually, they’re more like chunks. They appear to be slightly more substantial than the chocolate found in regular Chips Ahoy cookies.

Now Nabisco could’ve gone a few routes to get the banana flavor. Banana chips is one way. But looking at the price of banana chips at my local Safeway and the saturated fat content on the internet, it’s probably not a good choice.

Freeze-dried bananas is another option. But while they’re great for astronauts and monkeys we send into space, their weird texture wouldn’t be so great with a crunchy cookie.

They also could’ve baked banana Runts into them, which, to me, would’ve been super cool. But with all the banana Runts hate in the world it would’ve also been super not profitable.

Instead Nabisco’s bakers went with, according to the packaging’s front, “naturally flavored” banana chunks. Those quotes are there because “banana” doesn’t appear anywhere in the list of two dozen ingredients, but there is the mysterious “natural and artificial flavor.” (Let’s be honest, a naturally flavored banana product without “banana” in the ingredients is a bit…well, unnatural sounding.) The banana chunks aren’t like the chocolate chunks. They’re more like flavored toffee and crunchy like the cookie they’re enclosed in.

From the moment I first unsealed the resealable package and inhaled that “natural” banana aroma with a hint of chocolate, I knew I was going to love these. The banana flavor is pleasant and mild, but then again an actual banana’s flavor is mild as well. It’s somewhere between being natural and artificial tasting. Also, it’s stronger than the chocolate.

Limited Edition Chocolate Banana Chips Ahoy Cookies Closeup

Before I took a bite out of a cookie, I could taste the banana in my mouth. This made me wonder if there was banana flavoring in the cookie dough. Because there were so many damn chunks in each cookie, nibbling around them was difficult and I couldn’t get a definite answer.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chocolate dipped banana, so I can’t say if the flavor is the same. But the chocolate definitely takes a backseat to the banana. There were times when I could taste the chocolate, but the banana is top banana here.

While I do love these cookies, I had some issues. It appears I was, perhaps, gypped a cookie. The tray has three sections and the two outer sections had six cookies, while the middle tray had five. You owe me a cookie, Nabisco! Also, there were fleeting moments when I thought I tasted black pepper.

Last year, Nabisco released their Ice Cream Creations line. If this flavor was released with those, I think it could’ve easily been a banana split variety. But it would’ve also been my second favorite behind the wonderful Root Beer Float Chips Ahoy Cookies.

But those root beer float-flavored cookies are now gone and I’m sad about that. And I’ll feel that same when these Limited Edition Chocolate Banana Chips Ahoy Cookies disappear from shelves too.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 160 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 30 milligrams of potassium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Chocolate Banana Chips Ahoy Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 9.5 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: I love these cookies, but I do love bananas (and artificial banana flavored candy). Nice mild banana flavor. Lots of chocolate and banana flavored chunks. Arrested Development.
Cons: Limited edition. Nabisco might’ve forgot a cookie. Chocolate tastes a backseat to the banana. Occasional fleeting black pepper flavor.