REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

“We’ve all heard of Thanksgiving leftovers, but Thanksgiving pre-ftovers?” No laughs. I exit the room. I come back in, trying to make a better entrance. “Guys, if Trader Joe’s keeps this up, we’re going to have to rename Thanksgiving Christmas.” I exit the room. I enter again. “You know what they call three strikes in a row in bowling? A turkey. You know what they call four strikes in a row? Obama’s labor policy. That one’s for you, Uncle Jeff!” No laughs. I exit the room, fill my pockets with rocks and march into the ocean.

At least I died after getting to try Trader Joe’s attempt at a Thanksgiving cornucopia shoved into a snack, the Turkey Stuffing and Seasoned Kettle Chips. What it made me realize is that Thanksgiving is about dull, comforting tastes that feature varying textures, and that a subtle flavor with a light description of the product can possibly induce taste hallucinations.

Opening the bag, a waft of powdered mashed potatoes enters the air. Upon first bite, it tastes a little like powdered mashed potatoes, and maybe a hint of sage. It kind of looks like it’s dusted with powdered mashed potatoes.

We’re going to take a timeout from this review for a reassessment: Of course it tastes like potatoes, you dope. It’s a potato chip. And 80 percent of all the stuffing you’ve eaten has been dried and pre-mixed from a plastic bag, which is like the cousin of the powdered mash potato.

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Let’s read the packaging. “These thickly cut, kettle cooked chips are tossed in a seasoning that tastes like a traditional American Thanksgiving meal—first you taste the turkey, then comes the stuffing, and if you close your eyes, you’ll swear you can taste the creamy gravy, too.”

On a second taste a muted stuffing flavor appears. It’s good. Was it always there or was I eating the words on the back of the bag? Does it matter? Nibbling on one at a time, I even catch some dark meat turkey flavor, but only a whisper of umami. Eating the chips by the handful, the overriding flavor is stuffing seasoning before sodium overload makes it all taste like other non-Thanksgiving kettle chips. The aftertaste has a black pepper hum that resembles the outline of a gravy, that lends a tail of personality that elevates the final product.

The chip itself has a slight grit, which is not unpleasant but highlights the main difference between this and a real Thanksgiving dinner. There is no celery snap, no meat gristle, no butter gooey bread crumbs. A potato chip is a potato chip. A potato chip is not a Thanksgiving meal. Are all the flavors there? Sure. I caught them, whether they were real or not. And they serve as a pleasant nostalgia, priming the pump for all the other garbage food on the holiday table.

At best this chip has hints of just about all the main meal touchstones of a Thanksgiving dinner, which is pretty amazing. And even at its worst, it’s a decent kettle chip with sage flavoring. It would have been nice to have a little more kick in there at some point, like cranberries, maybe, or something acidic? But we must dance with the date we came with. And that date is racist Uncle Jeff and a crispy stuffing. Maybe slap them on the leftovers sandwich you’re eating in line for Best Buy at 4 a.m. Oh, that’s right, no Black Friday for me. I’m dead! What a blessing.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Stuffing flavors, turkey flavors, possibly present and enjoyable.
Cons: A tad dull. Could just be powdered mashed potatoes flavor.

REVIEW: Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos (Japan)

Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos (Japan)

Over the past year we’ve seen a lot of products with movie tie-ins. But it seems most of them have come from three movies — Frozen, Star Wars, and Minions. Sorry, Avengers: Age of Ultron and whatever DreamWorks Animation movies that came out this year.

Thanks to the shape and color of Minions and their love of bananas, it’s been easy for companies to produce fun products. One that comes to mind are the Tic Tacs with Minions faces printed on them. Another are Twinkies that can be decorated to look like Minions. And then there are these Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos from Japan.

Their bright yellow color instantly makes me think of Minions, but it’s a bit disappointing they’re crunchy Cheetos and not Cheetos Puffs. And it’s even more disappointing they’re not Cheetos Puffs shaped like Minions with their faces printed on them. Come on, Japan! You can make soccer playing robots, but not Minions-shaped Cheetos. You’re slipping!

What’s also disappointing about these Cheetos from Japan are how they don’t have much of a banana flavor. There was a banana aroma that came out of the bag when I first opened it, but subsequent openings produced a strong cinnamon smell.

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Instead of banana, their flavor reminds me of churros, which is still awesome, but not the flavor I was hoping for. The snack also has a slight butteriness to them that’s similar to what I experienced with the Cinnamon Sugar Sweetos released earlier this year. So if you had those, you have a general idea of what these Cheetos taste like.

The Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos are tasty, but the lack of banana flavor drove me…bananas. I’m sorry. That was horrible. But not horrible enough for me to use my arrow keys to erase it from the internet.

There is hope though. The Minions movie made a BILLION dollars worldwide, so there’s a BILLION percent chance there will be a sequel. And when there’s a sequel and more money to be made, there might be another version of this snack that’ll be Cheetos Puffs shaped like Minions with their faces printed on them that are banana-flavored.

(Nutrition Facts – 75 grams – 418 kcal, 24.8 grams of fat, 194 milligrams of sodium, 45.2 grams of carbohydrates, and 3.6 grams of protein.)

Item: Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos (Japan)
Purchased Price: $6.98 (includes shipping)
Size: 75 gram bag
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tasty. Tastes like churros. Bright yellow like Minions.
Cons: Doesn’t have banana flavor. Could’ve looked like more like Minions. Can’t remember what the last DreamWorks Animation movie was.

REVIEW: Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips

Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips

This is the Canadian citizenship test. It’s two questions.

Question 1: Who is the best rapper?

a. Jay-Z
b. Notorious B.I.G.
c. Eminem
d. Drake

Question 2: Please describe, in 500 words or less, the flavor of Ruffles All Dressed.

In short, they are delicious.

I’d heard about Canada’s Ruffles All Dressed years before I got to taste them, little rumblings here and there about how great they were. While I never made it over the border to give them a try, Frito-Lay has finally decided to bring them to the United States (or ‘Murica, if you are an unfunny person) for a limited time.

All Dressed is not just a Ruffles flavor. Other chips also feature this taste and their recipes may differ. But overall, All Dressed usually displays elements of barbecue, salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, and ketchup. (“Ketchup” flavor is a whole other Canada thing entirely, which I have eaten and is unique but too ketchup-y.)

Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips 4

The Ruffles All Dressed bag from Canada features pictures of a halved onion, a white vinegar dispenser and maybe a tomato, but it might actually be a red bell pepper. The Ruffles All Dressed bag from America—stamped with a maple leaf—has a picture of an open bottle of barbecue sauce, some off-color vinegar in a carafe and a spilled jar of paprika. This marketing difference exists because Americans hate vegetables and love spilling condiments. It’s a bit vague what elements are exactly featured in this version of the chip.

Actually, it’s pretty apparent. It’s a bunch of chemicals. But I can say I love those chemicals so much.

The introduction is a tangy hit. It’s not as sharp as a cheese chip, more rounded like a blunt spear of ketchup. Then vinegar-flavored flecks dance on the tongue and send up acidic flares, which eventually dip into a smooth taste not unlike the Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream.

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The flavors are nuanced with a light touch and many dimensions are present, which makes the chip extremely easy to eat. As my mouth adapted to each taste, new corners appeared and others disappeared. Some chips had the mouth cloud of a barbecue chip, others had the pleasantly harsh spank of a salt and vinegar. Handful after handful, a prevalent aftertaste emerges —- light ketchup, a sweet-savory tomato hug. The flavors interplay well and complement each other like no other potato chip I’ve had. All Dressed is optimized for consumption. I obliged.

The only downside of this chip is what all Ruffles suffer from: The mealy, warm mush that ends every mouthful. Also they aren’t as crispy as I have come to expect from a “good” potato chip. But it’s unclear whether this flavor would reign on a Kettle Brand or a Cape Cod. The oily, ridged, soft body of a Ruffle thrusts the flavors into center stage, unobstructed by mountain ranges of crunch. I ate half a bag in a day and then another half a bag during that same day. So a full bag. If these leave America, so will I. And if this happens during a draft, then All Dressed will still be the number one reason.

I hope this chip is the same as the one I had heard legend about and not some tweaked American version. Because if it is this same fabled mutant flavor, I can agree with my Canadian brothers and sisters and people who have visited and smuggled back cheap pharmaceuticals. I am casting my vote for Ruffles All Dressed for Prime Minister.

(The correct answer to question one is, strangely, “b.” Canada recognize.)

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 7.75 oz. bag
Purchased at: Ralphs
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Tasty flavors with lots of dimensions. Easy to eat so many.
Cons: That hot, mealy Ruffles mush that sits in your mouth after a few bites.

REVIEW: Pringles Exclusive Flavor Bourbon Barbecue Chicken

Pringles Exclusive Flavor Bourbon Barbecue Chicken

It’s been some time since I hung with Julius Pringles. I missed him. That mustachioed egg man may have gone through image makeovers throughout the years, but his tennis ball can-packed product has remained the same – kinda boring, kinda cardboardy, but undoubtedly addictive.

Pringles has had an Oreo-like run of flavors, but none really jumped out at me until I saw they had turned my favorite free mall food court sample into a chip — Bourbon Barbecue Chicken.

I’ve never walked though my mall’s food court without a friendly peddler offering me a free bite of bourbon chicken. Sometimes the sample even convinces me to buy a plate, so why not try the chip version?

So, did Pringles nail the flavor?

No, they basically re-purposed their BBQ flavor.

Pringles Exclusive Flavor Bourbon Barbecue Chicken 3

Once you pop, you get the familiar BBQ Pringles smell. Once you bite in, you get an instant vinegary/soy sauce-like tang which turns into a smoky BBQ flavor. It’s a pretty intense initial flavor, but it fades quickly. It’s actually weird; they’re like Gobstopper chips – multiple flavors in layers. Once the chip’s coating dissipates, it’s just a BBQ Pringle.

Pringles claims that once I pop I won’t be able to stop. But I stopped. I had to; in fear I wouldn’t have any water left in my body. These have a little spicy kick to them. That coupled with the fact they are really salty leaves you with almost immediate dry mouth. One can say I only ate about 2 fingers worth of these Bourbon baked beauties, Sinatra-style.

Pringles Exclusive Flavor Bourbon Barbecue Chicken 2

I initially thought the word “chicken” seemed completely unnecessary. You’d never know these were chicken flavored as you’re eating them, but about three minutes after I ate that handful of “crisps,” my mouth tasted like I had eaten BBQ chicken. It brought back memories of hanging by my friend’s pool and eating a chicken leg from the grill. So that aftertaste was spot on as far as the “chicken” goes.

As far as “bourbon” flavor? I mean, I’ve had BBQ sauces that were made from whiskey, and it’s never really been pronounced. I tried to convince myself that I did get a very quick taste of bourbon when I was eating these, but if I did it was just for a split second.

They don’t taste like the aforementioned bourbon chicken from the mall food court, which was disappointing. To be fair though, I haven’t had it in a while. I even bypassed the free sample the last time I was there. That’s what we call self control, ladies and gentlemen.

I guess I’d say these are slightly better than regular BBQ Pringles if only for that brief difference on first taste, and the chicken-y aftertaste. If I’m being honest, BBQ is not the Pringles I’d usually go for. I’ve always preferred their sour cream and onion. Is that a controversial opinion? I have to live up to my “badboy” image.

So, if you’re in the mood for a BBQ Pringle, but aren’t near a Target, you can make do with the old standard. If you’re feeling extra rowdy, pair them with a nice glass of bourbon because… well, you don’t need an excuse for that. You work hard.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates,1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Pringles Exclusive Flavor Bourbon Barbecue Chicken
Purchased Price: $1.33
Size: 6 oz. can
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Intense initial flavor, good Pringle crisp, Chicken aftertaste, Julius Pringles’ modern makeover, Summer BBQ déjà-vu, Free samples, My badboy image.
Cons: Not much difference from plain BBQ, People who say “Tar-jhey,” Dehydrating, Not really knowing the difference between Bourbon and Whiskey… because Sinatra drank Whiskey.

REVIEW: Funyuns Steakhouse Onion

Funyuns Steakhouse Onion

Of all the snacks in the crunchy family and salty genus, Funyuns remain one of the more overlooked specimens. Like the wild Australian Dingo, it defies simple classification. Are Funyuns onion rings? Nope. Are they fun? Not really. What exactly do they taste like? Um…you get the point.

Still, like the untamed dog-wolf hybrid that only lives in the Australian dessert, the corn-based, popped onion ring-shaped “things” have their place. Granted, this place is usually confined to the tops of guilty-pleasure snack lists and last second checkout line additions, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, I’d go so far to say that Funyuns are easily one of the most underrated snacks on the market. That’s why I had to get my hands on one of the few flavor variations we’ve ever seen from Funyuns — the new Steakhouse Onion Flavored Rings.

If you’re expecting a trip to the Australian Outback Outback Steakhouse in the strip mall down the street, you may be disappointed. Consuming a Bloomin’ Onion appetizer (preferably on your own) is an experience unto itself, and I would never deny a skilled botanist the chance to cultivate what is essentially a 2000 calorie deep fried allium in the shape of a sagebrush.

Funyuns Steakhouse Onion 4

Still, the Funyuns Steakhouse Onion Rings capture that zesty flavor and crisped texture which makes “onion-flavored” a flavor, while providing just enough savory and salty corn aftertaste to remind you that you’re not actually eating a raw onion, which would probably be pretty disgusting.

The thing is, they’re not terribly different from the standard Funyuns, a fact which could either be good or bad depending on your stance on Funyuns. The additional flavor—in reality just a bit of tomato-y sweetness, black pepper, and garlic seasoning—is moderate, but doesn’t win the battle for the aftertaste, which remains distinctively like the classic Funyun.

Funyuns Steakhouse Onion 3

Similarly, the there’s no texture variation from your good ‘ol Funyuns. For me that’s a big deal. I love the aerated fried crispness of Funyuns, which in a lot of ways remind me of Asian shrimp chips, but I can see how the lack of a really substantial crunch can be problematic. Likewise, the salty corn and onion powder aftertaste which characterizes regular Funyuns still wins the flavor fight, so unless you’re already well indoctrinated into team zesty onion ring snack, it’s unlikely you’ll be swayed over by the additional seasoning.

Funyuns Steakhouse Onions rings have all the great characteristics that have helped to make Funyuns such a niche (some might say cultish) snack, with just enough zest and seasoning to kind of sort of taste like Outback Steakhouse’s iconic appetizer. They won’t leave you saying “g’day,” and aren’t going to win over any new converts from the chip world, but they make a great addition for those of us looking for a new take on a guilty pleasure snack.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 1.0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 270 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Funyuns Steakhouse Onion Flavored Rings
Purchased Price: $3.28
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Classic Funyuns texture and fried crunch. Zesty seasoning is a bit sweet, a bit salty, and very garlicky and peppery. Aftertaste combines the best of the shrimp chip world with the best of the corn nuts world. The wild Dingo of the chip aisle.
Cons: Not an acceptable substitute for an iconic Outback Steakhouse appetizer. Seasoning adds only moderate flavor value. Strong corn aftertaste may be distracting for some. The inconsistent spelling and phonetic usage of “onion” compared to “Funyun.”