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.)
Yo, do y’all remember the story of the Three Little Pigs?
Well, here’s a recap in case you recently fell off of a train of something.
Basically, there are these three anthropomorphic pigs that get kicked out of their house by their mother because they are probably all like 22 and have degrees in Philosophy or Russian Literature and don’t have jobs. Anyway, the titular three pigs travel out in the world and decide that they each need some new digs.
Two of the pigs, who apparently have never seen an actual house, each decide to erect crude little shelters out of straw and sticks respectively. The third pig, and possibly the only one that never received a traumatic brain injury in his youth, builds his using bricks like a champ. Eventually a hungry wolf arrives whose plan of attack, loudly announcing his arrival while blowing as hard as he can on each home, easily destroys the first two lousy shelters. Not wanting to be eaten, the first two pigs run to the smarter, craftier third pig and seek shelter in his house, which, because it’s basically a brick fortress, keeps them all safe. Hooray!
The moral of this little story is clear: You can get by in a group by being completely and utterly useless as long as at least one of you has their shit together.
Chex Mix, much like the Three Little Pigs, is similarly plagued by certain members who cannot carry their own weight. While greatly enjoyable as a whole, those dry, squiggly breadsticks and boring circular pretzels are clearly the straw and stick houses in this analogy. And, even though those zesty bagel chips can usually be a crowd pleaser, I have always felt that the true beauty of Chex Mix lies in the Chex themselves, and their flawless evolution from breakfast cereal to snack food.
But dammit, it’s 2014 and it appears Chex is finally ready to make moves in the snack department sans its slightly less enticing compadres, and the beautiful result is Chex Chips.
Let’s be honest, when I first saw this new snack at my local 7-Eleven (in the following four flavors: Caramelized Onion, Cinnamon and Sugar, Cheddar Jalapeno, and Wasabi) I had a few questions. How can my familiar Chex cereal pieces be transformed into a chip? How big are we talking here? Did I really ever want my Chex to taste like wasabi?
Scouring the front packaging for details, I was provided with only the following description, beneath the large printed Chex Chips logo:
“GIANT CHIPS. NO MIX.”
Personally, I take the purposeful capitalization of these two short, direct sentences as a sign that this text should probably be read in the brutish voice of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And, like The Rock himself, Chex Chips similarly appear to be significantly roided-up. Upon opening the bag, the texture of Chex Chips is a wonderfully effective hybrid somewhere between the puffiness of Bugles and the crispiness of the late (and well missed) Doritos 3D. Much less flimsy than their breakfast cereal brethren, these giant Chex seemed perfect for transporting each specific delicious flavor.
Let’s break it all down.
First, I began with the Caramelized Onion flavor. Yeah that’s right, caramelized onion. Did Bobby Flay whip these gourmet creations up on Iron Chef? Probably. Can you serve these at your next fancy gala or museum opening? Probably. Does a caramelized onion simply mean a cooked, browned onion? Probably. Was the name of this flavor an attempt to hide that fact they basically taste just like a sour cream and onion flavor minus the sour cream? Probably. Were they still shamelessly delicious? … Yes.
Next, I moved onto the Cinnamon and Sugar variety because, well, I like both of those things. Ignoring the fact that the pile of sugar with accompanying tubes of cinnamon displayed on the front of this bag look suspiciously like someone is ready for an 80s cocaine binge, this may have been my favorite flavor of the bunch and I strongly recommend it. Allow me to consider the reasons: They tasted like delicious churros. I like delicious churros. I liked this flavor. If you like delicious Churros you will also like this flavor. (See… it all adds up)
Moving along, I next tried the Cheddar Jalapeño flavor. Already pleased with the previous two flavors, I was not surprised when this variety blew my idiomatic pants off. Underneath its delightfully fiery kick; there is an impressive amount of real flavor. I’m a bit tired of the recent trend of using heat as a shield to cover up lousy taste, so it’s a welcomed surprise when spicy flavors such as this benefit from a good combination of the two.
Finally, this left me with the flavor that I had largely been anticipating, Wasabi. It has always surprised me that, despite the already established and steadily growing popularity of sushi restaurants, wasabi has made very few permanent appearances in American mainstream snack foods. Sure it might pop up as limited edition flavor, like sriracha, but it seems there are very few consistent outlets for this flavor. And, truthfully, it’s a shame. Yet, the taste of these Chex Chips have captured an essential part of what makes wasabi such a popular condiment; that perfect combination of spiciness and distinct flavor. I hope these chips stick around because they are impressively good.
In fact, Chex Chips as a whole are all surprisingly the crème de la crème of the usual 7-Eleven pickins’, and my hopes for the longevity of the Wasabi flavor spreads to Chex Chips as a whole.
(Now, I just want to see those bagel chips get the right idea and go solo too).
(Nutrition Facts – 1 pouch – Caramelized Onion – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 320 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein Cinnamon and Sugar – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Cheddar Jalapeno – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 380 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Wasabi – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 320 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)
Item: Chex Chips (Caramelized Onion, Cinnamon and Sugar, Cheddar Jalapeño, and Wasabi) Purchased Price: $1.49 each Size: 42 gram bag Purchased at: 7-Eleven Rating: 8 out of 10 (Caramelized Onion) Rating: 9 out of 10 (Cinnamon and Sugar) Rating: 8 out of 10 (Cheddar Jalapeño) Rating: 9 out of 10 (Wasabi) Pros: The chips themselves were way tastier than I had anticipated. Large portion size. Interesting variety. Cons: I have only seen them that one time I was at the 7-Eleven at two in the morning and I knocked over a gallon of milk and the store clerk looked at me funny and now I don’t want to go back there even during the day when he probably doesn’t even have a shift.
Like bricks, electricity, and duct tape, Chex is a multi-tasker.
It can be used as a breakfast, a snack, a party mix, or, in a pinch, Monopoly board pieces.
Its whole-grain-boosted carbohydrate energy has the capacity to sully forth good ideas, nourish lumberjacks in the woods, or provide the inspiration to bust out the Jock Jams and dance, dance, dance.
It is the chameleon of crunch, the gymnast of the three-ring-circus of cereal. Supposedly, it also makes a fine crust for fried chicken.
Fortunately, the folks at Chex have realized this proximity to perfection and embraced it, releasing a conglomeration of checkerboard-shaped cereals throughout its 76-year-old existence. Their newest iteration? Vanilla.
Frosted and unfrosted: these are the players of the Vanilla Chex game. The unfrosted Chex are of the rice variety, which is welcoming in its simple, one-note taste. The smidgeon of flavor it sustains is that of toasted rice (think Rice Krispies). While they may not hold much in the way of flavor, these unfrosted squares really succeed in crunch.
Their sturdy square shape provides a solid structure that maintains its shape in milk for 10-18 minutes (pending on your tolerance for milk-coated cereal) while the checkerboard holes give a quilted texture to your crunching experience. What’s better is that this unfrosted rice backdrop highlights the bespeckled bits of vanilla-coated Chex, which dot the canvas bowl like pink flamingos on a lawn.
In a world where birthday cakes are slathered with bleach-white frosting and starch-colored dairy dessert qualify as “vanilla”, it is easy to forget that vanilla is a spice and, thus, has the potential to add notes of honey, caramel, pineapple, clove, and, if the planets align just right, hints of bourbon.
Here, the folks at Chex are banking on the honey qualities of vanilla, a taste that provides the rice Chex with a little fructose kick, making it sweet enough for a snack/dessert without becoming too sweet for breakfast. Tasted alone, the frosted bits remind me of the no-cream-involved crème of an Oreo, adding a nice sugary crumble to the rice crunch. Sure, this may not be the vanilla of a Tahitian bean, but it goes splendid with chocolate milk.
Speaking of milk, might I mention how well suited these bits are for the creamy beverage? And not just regular ol’ dairy milk. I’m talking adventuresome milk. The kind of milk that broadens horizons: almond, soy, strawberry-banana-flavored, you name it. The vanilla sugar seeps down into the milk, leaving you with a honeyed, slightly nuttier version of said milk. It’s just enough of a shift in flavor to be noticeable without being aggressive (and really, who wants to eat aggression for breakfast?)
I’ve tried many iterations of gluten-free snacks that have been so dry and tasteless that they have entered my nightmares in the form of anthropomorphic Frankenstein-ian dry cookies. I’m relieved to report that this Vanilla Chex is one gluten-free snack that will not haunt my nightmares. In fact, it’s a pretty tasty spin on the classic without flipping the cereal on its backside. Basic, but not fuddy-duddy. Crunchy, but not mouth-shattering. Inoffensive, but flavory (which is a word, despite what my spell check says). Good show, Chex.
(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 15 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 45 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein.)
Item: Vanilla Chex Cereal Purchased Price: $3.29 Size: 13.5 oz. box Purchased at: Target Rating: 7 out of 10 Pros: Crunchy. Crumbly vanilla coating. Vanilla bits reminiscent of Oreo crème. Not fuddy-duddy. Gluten free. Good as snack or breakfast. Broadening milk horizons. Nourished lumberjacks. Cons: Could use more vanilla bits. Not necessarily revolutionary. “Flavory” is not accepted in my spell check. Memories of grocery store Birthday cake. Frankenstein cookie nightmares.
Long before Chex exploded in popularity thanks to mascotless boxes appealing to the Gluten Free eaters of America, jokes regarding the long litany of cereal variants in a particular brand were limited to Cheerios. Original, Honey Nut, Multigrain, Team, Berry Burst, Frosted, Chocolate…the list went on and on, and flavors came and went, as new, supposedly better and more tasty improvements were developed.
Unbeknownst to Cheerios, a cabal was brewing to take the goodness of whole oats to the insipid base of rice. Like spies prowling the nighttime streets of Los Alamos, raiders from Chex came and stole the secrets to Cheerios’ success, giving way to Chex’s own creation of weapons of unspeakable flavor potential.
It may have begun with Honey Nut and the now defunct Frosted, but it did not end there, and out of this treason within the think-tank of General Mills’ laboratories, a new paradigm of cereal proliferation had begun.
Not one to fall behind the rapidly expanding flavors offered by Cheerios, Mini-Wheats, Cap’n Crunch, Fiber One, Honey Bunches of Oats, and yes, just about every cereal variety ever conceived, Chex has added a new flavor with a familiar profile: Apple Cinnamon.
Not to be confused with regular old Cinnamon Chex, Apple Cinnamon Chex makes the claim to having the distinct and all natural flavor of apples with the warm, sweet taste of cinnamon. Of course, the ingredients also feature allspice and ginger, but I’m guessing they ran out of room on the box to name it “Apple Cinnamon Allspice Ginger Chex.”
Whatever the case, I tasted all the spices in my initial handfuls, and received — for a brief moment — an almost Cinnamon Toast Crunch intensity of flavor. Its short lived, though, and overpowered by an odd tartness of the apple powder. The flavor, as well as the aroma, comes across as too intense. Like those dry bits in a sugar free apple cinnamon oatmeal mix, the powder is concentrated and even off-putting, while the spices make for a slightly unpleasant aftertaste with the rice base.
Speaking of the rice base, Apple Cinnamon Chex unfortunately suffers from what I like to call “Chocolate Chex” syndrome. Meaning, among other things, that the pieces not coated in the flavor base taste like absolutely nothing. And by absolutely nothing, I’m talking as close to uncooked white rice as you can imagine.
Fortunately, like Chocolate Chex, Apple Cinnamon Chex sucks a great deal less when eaten with milk. As the spices disseminate throughout the milk, they yield to a more balanced, less astringent chew that combines the best of slowly cooked oatmeal with none of the mushiness or oppressive heat. Likewise, I hardly notice the insipid bite of the plain pieces, and find myself chugging the end-milk like it was Coke Zero. Dare I say, these ‘warming spices’ even become somewhat refreshing.
As the kind of person who prefers cereal as a snack and enjoys the none-too-complicated fake apple but not-really-apple taste of Apple Jacks, I struggle with Apple Cinnamon Chex. While it’s certainly saved by a shower of ice cold skim milk (or, as Tony Perkins likes to say, ‘success’) it strikes me as reaching too far in its flavor aims, combining a natural tartness and warming spice flavor that’s so natural its positively unnatural in the realm of dry cereal.
A complete waste of espionage resources on the part of Chex? Perhaps not, but until they’re willing to rediscover the secrets of Frosted Cheerios, I’ll be passing on America’s favorite gluten free cereal brand.
(Nutrition Facts — 3/4 cup (31 grams) — 130 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 40 milligrams of potassium, 26 grams of total carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 1 grams of protein.)
Item: Apple Cinnamon Chex Purchased Price: $2.49 Size: 13.75 ounces Purchased at: Safeway Rating: 5 out of 10 Pros: Surprisingly refreshing in milk. Tart green apple taste. Brief seizure by ethereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch flavor. Terrific end-milk. Cereal company espionage. Hope for a return of Frosted Chex. Cons: Smells artificial. Spices taste too prominent. ‘Chocolate Chex syndrome’. Apple taste is too astringent for snacking purposes. Apple-Cinnamon blend falls to the bottom of the box. No back-of-the-box fun and games.
Do you stand in the cereal aisle and think to yourself, “Damn. Cereal be multiplying like rabbits.”
Well, I do. And soon there will be more cereals to choose from. Next month, the Big G will be releasing Apple Cinnamon Chex Cereal and Fiber One Nutty Clusters & Almonds. Impulsive Buy contributor Adam learned about the upcoming cereals from the back of a Honey Nut Cheerios box.
The Apple Cinnamon Chex Cereal consists of sweetened whole grain rice cereal sprinkled with real apple and cinnamon. It’s made using no artificial flavors or colors and is gluten free. The cereal will be the fourth flavored Chex cereal variety, joining Honey Nut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon. As for the Fiber One Nutty Clusters & Almonds, it’s made up of lightly sweetened whole grain flakes with sliced almonds and almond clusters.