REVIEW: Thomas’ Limited Edition S’mores English Muffins

Thomas Limited Edition S mores English Muffins

As someone who works in the marketing department of an organization that has only discovered social media within the last year, I tend to feel an affinity with Thomas’ English muffins. For years, these guys had one shtick: nooks and crannies.

If sharing the same marketing platform as a dilapidated four bedroom Tudor didn’t do it for you, you’re not alone. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only reason people tolerate English muffins is because they’re the breakfast equivalent of chips. It’s all about the toppings —- I lean toward the classic cream cheese —- and that delightful round shape.

Well, no more. The new s’mores flavor joins a suddenly marketing-savvy Thomas’ lineup that includes pumpkin spice, salted caramel, and maple french toast. To be honest, each has sounded great, but all have only been okay, undone by a hit-or-miss internal flavor that’s never as pervasive as it should be, and has to be rescued by the spread.

Call me old fashioned, but I have higher expectations for s’mores. In fact, if you call something s’more-flavored, I expect it to taste like a s’more without having to build an actual s’more out of it. Unfortunately, that’s what you have to do to coerce the summertime campfire flavor out of these muffins.

Thomas Limited Edition S mores English Muffins 2

If you’re the kind of person who eats English muffins both plain and untoasted (in which case, why?) you’ll find these have very little resemblance to a S’mores Pop-Tart much less actual s’mores. The small bursts of cocoa and marshmallow are almost impossible to see without a microscope and almost as difficult to taste.

There is a sort of cocoa flavor that hangs in the background as well as a general honey sweetness, but it’s not discernible as a s’more. A Tootsie Roll? Yes, I can taste that, but not a s’more. To make matters worse, there’s this dough conditioner chewiness thing going on which doesn’t go away unless you toast the muffins well past the point of burnt.

Speaking of toasting, I tested the muffins on a light and a moderate setting and found the graham flavor decreased each time. Granted, there’s not much to begin with, but on a moderate setting the muffins taste like a honey whole wheat English muffin. And because there’s no actual chocolate chips, toasting doesn’t reveal any melty chocolate.

Thomas Limited Edition S mores English Muffins 3

Ultimately, when I spread the muffins with chocolate marshmallow frosting, they tasted moderately like a s’more. This was anticlimactic though, because I’d already licked some frosting with my finger, which also kind of tasted like a s’more.

Thomas’ S’mores English Muffins are only available for a limited time, which is probably a good thing, because you don’t need mediocre s’mores ruining your life. You also don’t need mediocre English muffins, which is what these are when you take away the chocolate marshmallow frosting.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 muffin – 150 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 6-pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Modest cocoa-flavor hangs in the background. Tastes better than a regular English muffin if you eat it plain. Inevitably signals the coming of peach cobbler English muffins come August.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like a s’more. Very lackluster marshmallow and graham elements. Even worse toasted. Overly doughy chew.

REVIEW: Kobi Dogs “Kobi Competition Pack”

KobiDog1

Where were you on the Fourth of July? Were you outside, barbecuing with friends and family? Spending the day at the beach? Illegally purchasing copious amounts of explosive pyrotechnics in hopes of putting together the world’s greatest firework show?

This past Independence Day, I was parked on the sofa, staring mindlessly at the television screen while shoveling fistfuls of Cheetos into my mouth. ESPN was broadcasting the 2013 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, where America’s greatest competitive eaters gather to engorge themselves with frankfurters, ingesting frighteningly high amounts of calories.

Though many find the Nathan’s competition to be unpleasant and off-putting, I find it bizarrely fascinating. Nothing screams “AMERICA!” more than a bunch of grown men racing to shove hot dogs down their throats as quickly as possible. This year, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut of San Jose, California set a new official world record with sixty-nine hot dogs consumed in ten minutes.

However, something was missing from this year’s competition.

Nay, someone was missing from this year’s competition!

Since 2010, Japanese competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi has been barred from competing in the Nathan’s event due to contract disputes with Major League Eating. Kobayashi, one of the world’s most famous competitive eaters, is largely credited with popularizing the Nathan’s contest, where his unnatural skill earned him the Mustard Belt six years in a row. As a result of the contract disputes, Kobayashi is presently limited to taking part in competitive eating events not sanctioned by Major League Eating.

However, Kobi hasn’t let this hold him back. Last year, Kobi set a new world record with thirteen grilled cheeses consumed in sixty seconds. He took first place at Wing Bowl XX by devouring an unprecedented 337 buffalo wings. On the Wendy Williams Show, Kobayashi set another record of fourteen Twinkies eaten in one minute. Kobi clearly hasn’t lost his touch.

On this most recent Fourth of July, Takeru Kobayashi revealed his new line of hot dogs, appropriately called “Kobi Dogs.” Next to Oscar Ferdinand Mayer, Takeru Kobayashi is one of the most recognizable names in the hot dog world. It seems almost natural for him to start promoting wieners.

Kobi Dogs, manufactured by Rastelli Direct, are hickory smoked, seasoned with natural spices, and made from “100% source verified Western Beef.” At the moment, they can only be ordered from kobi-dog.com in a “Kobi Competition Pack” of thirty hot dogs. Most people wouldn’t dare to order so many hot dogs, but I’m a chump. Slap Kobi’s name on anything and I’ll buy it.

The Kobi Dogs arrived in a large styrofoam cooler along with a chunk of dry ice. I had imagined an epic cloud of smoke rising forth from the cooler as I opened it, slowly clearing to reveal thirty gold plated hot dogs engraved with the name of Takeru Kobayashi. Naturally, things were nowhere near as epic as I had hoped. The cooler only contained a small cardboard box featuring a sticker of a cartoon Kobi head and the “Kobi Dog” logo.

KobiDog2

The cardboard box held two vacuum sealed plastic containers of Kobi Dogs, each housing fifteen hot dogs. Sadly, the containers bore no mark designating them as Kobi Dogs; they were your average, transparent plastic hot dog packages. It’s completely possible that Rastelli Direct packaged up their generic brand of hot dog and relabeled them as Kobi Dogs. (I’ve never tasted Rastelli Direct’s other hot dogs, so I wouldn’t know!)

I feel a little bit cheated, actually. After spending my hard-earned money on thirty hot dogs, I would have liked to see some fancy Kobi packaging or promotional add-ins. Maybe a little card from Kobayashi thanking me for my Kobi Dog purchase? How about a Kobi poster to hang on my bedroom wall? Anything, really!

Nevertheless, holding the Kobi Dogs in my hands made me feel energized, as if I could down all thirty in less than five minutes. Could this be my moment? Was I born to be a competitive eater? It was time to find out.

I tore open the first bag of hot dogs and gave ‘em a whiff. Surprisingly, the seasoning of the hot dogs is evident in their scent even when uncooked. They actually smell pretty appetizing for raw hot dogs! The Kobi Dogs seem to be shaped a little strange, though, having a sort of spiral form. This is most likely due to compression from the packaging.

After cooking a few of the hot dogs, I decided it would be best to experience my first Kobi Dog sans bun and condiments. Too often, hot dogs are rubbery and resistant in texture, but the casing of the Kobi Dog provides the perfect give to the bite, revealing a juicy all-beef interior.

As I expected, the spices used in the seasoning of the hot dog are immediately evident in its flavor. The flavor seems very salty with subtle pepper undertones. The hot dogs are all beef, but after significant chewing, seem to have a flavor slightly reminiscent of pork. Although I failed to detect the “hickory smoked” flavoring, the seasoning fittingly complements the flavor of the beef. To be honest, I can’t recall ever having tasted a hot dog as well seasoned as the Kobi Dog.

Next, I chose to experience a Kobi Dog fit for the man himself. During his Reddit Ask Me Anything, Takeru Kobayashi stated that his favorite toppings for a hot dog are “Basic mustard and ketchup. It’s not just for the taste, but it’s so pop looking having the red and yellow stripe on it.”

KobiDog3

Sadly, when combined with a bun, mustard, and ketchup, the flavors of the Kobi Dog are dulled. The seasonings of the hot dog seem lost to the strong combination of mustard and ketchup. The condiments blend to drown out the Kobi Dog’s flavor profile and make it seem as if I’m eating just another run-of-the-mill hot dog.

The Kobi Dog excels in flavor when consumed without condiments, truly impressing with its well-seasoned flavor profile. Sadly, the hot dog’s favorable qualities become masked by the addition of ketchup and mustard. If I could order less than thirty hot dogs at a time, I might consider purchasing Kobi Dogs in the future, but the lack of creative packaging and add-ins fail to make the Kobi Dog seem like a value.

For a product so specifically tied to one person, more incentive needs to be added for the purchase of thirty hot dogs to seem worthwhile. Here’s a recommendation: bundle the hot dogs with a limited edition Takeru Kobayashi action figure, complete with a miniature “Free Kobi” shirt. Now that would be a deal!

And for those wondering, I was unable to eat all thirty in less than five minutes. I guess I’ll never be a professional wiener face-stuffer.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 hot dog – 195 calories, 135 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 7.2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 34 milligrams of cholesterol, 450 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1.5 grams of sugars, and 7.5 grams of protein.)

Item: Kobi Dogs “Kobi Competition Pack”
Purchased Price: $19.99 (plus shipping)
Size: 60 oz. (30 hot dogs)
Purchased at: kobi-dog.com
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Well seasoned. Good texture. Flavorful and juicy. Televised hot dog eating competitions.
Cons: Must purchase packs of thirty hot dogs. Condiments drown out flavor of hot dog. No add-ins or creative packaging. Contract disputes. Failing to eat thirty hot dogs in less than five minutes.

REVIEW: Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage

Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage

There are certain cravings that make sense.

I want an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Watching Chris Davis go yard at the Yard, I feel a sudden urge for peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Other cravings are a little more “out there,” but understandable given extenuating circumstances. It’s what excuses adding pork rinds to your milkshake after a night at the bar, or what allows pregnant women to justify eating Pillsbury brownie mix right out of the bowl. Some cravings, though, just make no sense whatsoever.

Take me and canned meat. Growing up with a bountiful supply of, well, your typical American upper-middle class food, I always had the blessing of fresh meat to eat during my formative gastronomic years. Likewise, in college, I enjoyed an all-you-can-eat dining hall which, despite being a young man with a plan, did not leave me with a necessary reliance on any sort of can. And having never lived through a natural disaster, been subjected to a dinner party at a Doomsday Prepper’s home, nor decided to engage in any kind of cross-oceanic voyage that would make canned food a necessity, you might surmise that I should have no attraction to the canned meat aisle to begin with.

You, my friend, would be wrong.

Quite the opposite, really. My fixation on canned meats knows no limits, which is probably why the 53 cent can of the new Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage captured my imagination.

First, a word on perspective. My romanticized version of canned meat aside, I’m still a realist when it comes to these kinds of products. At less than a pack of the really cheap gum (you know, the one with the multicolored striped zebra), I realize I’m getting something which probably has no taste whatsoever of the chicken, beef, and pork which I’m told make up each sausage. By the same token, I can dull my expectations of full bodied maple flavor when it comes to “syrup type sauce.” Just a quick recap of the hierarchy of syrup and such:

1) Maple Syrup

2) Pancake Syrup

3) Syrup-Type Sauce

Clearly we fall below the gourmet line. Actually, we even fall below the school cafeteria line, but who’s judging? Well, besides me. Now, about this aroma. There really is no experience short of a career as a dump truck driver that will prepare you for the initial waft of a freshly opened can. “Fresh” is the operative word here.

Overall, the smell strikes boldly of truck stop leftovers. Not just your generic Route 66 truck-stop leftovers, mind you. I’m talking Western Pennsylvania scrapple drowned in a weak corn syrup liquid which proudly claims a hue bordering on Diesel brownish-yellow and “if your pee is this color, please consult a doctor immediately.” Yeah, that kind of leftovers.

If you’ve never had a Vienna sausage, the best way I can describe it is like a cheap hot dog, only the size of your thumb. It’s a bit slimy on the outside, with an initial rubbery bite and a bit of pasty consistency on the finish. It doesn’t really taste like meat, but bad smell and all jokes aside, it’s not completely objectionable.

Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage Syrup Closeup

If you’re not averse to eating highly processed meats you might even find it “meh.” That said, you probably will need something to jazz it up. That’s where the “syrup type sauce” comes in. But who are we kidding? Calling this stuff a sauce is like calling watered down Pepsi a sauce. The consistency is that of water, with no body in texture and little, if any, flavor to the sweetness. It’s just kind of there, and what’s more, only has seeped into the sausages in moderate amounts. What it creates is a mildly sweet-salty combination, but only one on the atomic level. All things considered, it tastes exactly like you’d expect; a mini cheap hot dog with some sugar poured on it.

Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage Toothpick

While the epicurean toothpick method is highly preferred in most “snack from the can when nobody is looking” occasions, consider that the fine folks at Armour want you to remember that these are “Great with Breakfast!” To this end, I must admit, they are not.

Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage Waffle

And should you take it upon yourself to whip sliced pieces of Syrup flavored sausage into your favorite waffle batter, you will in fact yield an utterly insipid waffle with burnt pieces of said Vienna Sausage. Unless you prefer your waffles burnt on the outside, chewy on the inside, and just kinda weird tasting all over, I recommend passing on this cooking application of the product.

At 53 cents a can, Armour’s new Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausages might be the most economical way of getting your sweet and salty fix on this side of pouring a Splenda packet and salt packet in your mouth simultaneously. Nevertheless, the latest and greatest creation from Armour serves as a tried and true reminder that you get what you pay for.

I can forgive highly processed meat that doesn’t taste like meat. I mean, that’s what canned food is all about. But I was really expecting more from the syrup. to this end, I have to proclaim this bold innovation in canned food a failure. Oh well. I guess there’s always SPAM.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 sausages with syrup – 120 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 510 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Armour Syrup Flavored Vienna Sausage
Purchased Price: 53 cents
Size: 4.75 oz. can
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Not completely detestable. Extremely cheap. Has kind of the salty-sweet thing going on, albeit in a leftover truck-stop diner food kind of way.
Cons: But, why? Syrup looks like gasoline. Not desirable by any means. Syrup lacks body, depth, or noticeable flavor outside of high fructose corn syrup. Sausages taste like cheap hot dogs out of a can, which technically they are. Cravings that make no sense.

REVIEW: Torani Chicken ‘N Waffles Syrup

Torani Chicken 'n Waffles

The story of Torani’s Chicken ‘N Waffles syrup presents internet marketing at either its best or most contrived (quite possibly both). To recap:

March 26, 2012:

Torani announces they’ll be releasing a chicken & waffles flavoring syrup. The Internet collectively says, “That’s disgusting. I MUST HAVE IT.”

April 1, 2012:

Torani reveals the new flavor was an early-April Fools’ prank and simultaneously launches a social media campaign to generate support for the creation of the “potential new cult favorite”.

The Internet expresses outrages over the prank, rolls its eyes at a corporation raising grassroots support for its own non-existent product, and goes back to watching Call Me Maybe parody videos.

November 20, 2012:

“Due to unprecedented demand,” Torani announces actual debut of Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup.

January 1, 2013:

Due to a need to immediately sabotage his resolutions of losing weight, not wasting money on novelty food items, and writing less often in the third person, Jasper tries the Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup.

January 14, 2013:

Due to the syrup being awful, Jasper waits two weeks before working up the spirit to actually write down all the awfulness.

The bar for the Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup was set pretty low – since it started as a marketing gimmick that was likely rushed through development and production, its best-case outcome was always going to be “gag gift that’s actually serviceable.” Alas, the syrup can only serve as another cautionary reminder against buying novelty foods.

I first tried a spoonful of the syrup on its own. It smelled very sweet and a little bit malty, which is about as positive as I’m going to get in this review. As expected, it tasted incredibly sweet, but the malty-ness was really a yeasty-ness, and there was a lingering aftertaste that was yeasty and greasy (presumably to reflect the fried chicken component) and nearly induced my gag reflex.

Torani Chicken 'n Waffles in Spoon

Of course, syrup isn’t meant to be consumed by its lonesome, so I added it to other meals. I had a brief, almost-ontological debate with my girlfriend on whether you could, in fact, eat Chicken ‘n Waffles syrup with the dish from which its essence is distilled. Since the Torani bottle recommends you eat it with biscuits, we figured waffles were close enough and ordered some waffles and chicken fingers.

Torani Chicken 'n Waffles On Waffles

To establish a fair baseline of comparison, we first ate the chicken and waffles with regular Aunt Jemima maple syrup. It goes without saying that I loved that combination. It probably also goes without saying that the Torani syrup didn’t measure up in the least. The Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup was still too sweet and so thin that it seeped into the waffles and made them soggy. The yeasty and greasy aftertaste was only more prominent and artificial in the face of the actual dish.

I then followed a recipe on the Torani website for a bourbon drink, and I tried it in my coffee the next morning. I had similarly negative impressions in those settings, though I suppose I’d find the syrup more tolerable if my palate were compromised by the dulling effects of alcohol or the tongue-burning effects of coffee.

Even the price felt dissatisfying, at $6.95 plus $5.95 shipping and handling. Just don’t buy the Torani Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup, not even as a gag gift or as a novelty food item for yourself. And hey, Internet: let’s avoid demanding that any more April Fools’ 2012 jokes be developed into real products.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 fl oz – 90 calories 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 40 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Other Torani Chicken ‘N Waffles Syrup reviews:
LA Mag

Item: Torani Chicken ‘N Waffles Syrup
Purchased Price: $6.95 (plus $5.95 S&H)
Size: 375 mL
Purchased at: Torani website
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Smelled mostly OK. Call Me Maybe parody videos. Clever April Fools’ Day gags. Aunt Jemima maple syrup with chicken and waffles. I would use Catblock.
Cons: Tasted yeasty and greasy. Gross, lingering aftertaste. Bad by itself, bad and too thin to have with waffles (and probably biscuits), bad with bourbon and coffee. Pricey. Contrived internet marketing. Immediately breaking my New Year’s resolutions. Ontological debates about syrup.