REVIEW: Lay’s Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

I love Tex-Mex – breakfast tacos, fajitas – you name it, I’ll eat it. But, my favorite Tex-Mex invention is hands down: queso.

As part of their annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest push, Lay’s has unleashed another presumably LTO flavor – Southwestern Queso – to get the creative juices flowing. Of course, Lay’s had to be politically correct and name it “Southwestern Queso” but is there really any other kind of delicioso queso like this?! I think not. I am currently living very far away from the “Southwest,” so I was pretty stoked to see something, anything queso.

When I opened the bag, I was surprised that there was no pungent smell invading my olfactory system. In attempts to make up for the flavor not actually tasting like what it’s trying to mimic, a lot of limited edition foods overcompensate with smell or at least I think so. Unfortunately, this notion gave me false hope that the chips would actually taste like queso. Anyways, the smell of these reminded me faintly of BBQ; I couldn’t really pinpoint it immediately.

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 2

The chips looked like a normal seasoned chip color – a twinge of orange, but not neon Cheetos orange. Unlike the photo on the bag, they were also speckled with additional seasoning which reminded me of speckling on Lay’s Kettle Cooked Jalapeno Chips. Is it bad that I was surprised that the chip pieces were actually whole? I recall Lay’s being really brittle/always cracked for some reason. But, these whole oval slices looked like they actually came from a spud.

Like the smell test, I couldn’t really immediately identify what I was tasting. I kept thinking BBQ but realized the prevailing taste was another Lay’s favorite: Sour Cream & Onion. But, the aftertaste was like Cheddar & Sour Cream. So, the extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese (don’t ask haha). After a handful of chips, I was surprised that I was picking up on a little heat as well. But, it wasn’t too spicy.

Lay’s, what about this tastes like my beloved queso?

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 3

After my tastebuds were saturated in salt and artificial flavoring, I concluded that it wasn’t good but wasn’t terrible for a chip. But, don’t you dare try to tell me that this is queso-flavored. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

If I were naming the flavor I’d name it: Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion with a little bit of Hot ‘n Spicy BBQ. After this disappointment, I took a peek at the ingredient list. Lay’s attempted to make it look like they tried with “Southwestern Queso Seasoning”, red and green bell pepper extract, paprika extracts and even blue cheese. Either R&D really sucked or this “Southwestern Queso Seasoning” is the Franken-creation I previously mentioned.

I keep telling myself that some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex, but Lay’s Southwestern Queso flavor is a really hard sell.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: No pungent smell. Whole chips that look like they actually came from a spud! Some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex?
Cons: What about this tastes like my beloved queso? Extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

REVIEW: Peeps Filled Delights Vanilla Caramel Brownie

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie

In my experience, Peeps are a polarizing force in society. You either love them passionately or think they’re the most disgusting non-food ever created. Thankfully, I made it out of childhood with my sense of whimsy intact and fall squarely in the former camp. Every year, I buy two packages of yellow chicks shortly after Valentine’s Day, and three more from the clearance bins the day after Easter.

I’ve fallen in love with every novelty flavor and dipped version of Peeps that have hit shelves in recent years. Now Peeps with a filling? And there’s a caramel version? I am overcome with the vapors – fetch me my fainting couch!

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 2

This year’s novelty Peeps have been rebranded as “Delights.” Fitting. But because I was throwing flavors in my shopping cart in a sort of Peep-sterical fit, I didn’t at first notice the word “filled” above the Vanilla Caramel Brownie. More attention should be called to the fact that these are different than the dipped Peeps.

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 3

The aroma inside the bag was all glorious fudge brownie. A closer sniff of the Peeps themselves was equally brownie and vanilla marshmallow. They looked like the now-standard dipped Peep – sparkling sugar-studded chick, thin shell of chocolate on the bottom, and a smattering of errant crystals clinging to the chocolate. They felt so precious in their individual cubicles – these Peeps fly business class.

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 4

I expected the caramel filling to be a big central blob, like a jelly doughnut. Instead, it was laced throughout like a ribbon, hitting all the major geographical areas of the peep – including the furthest point of the tail. And yeah, I made the others watch while I split this guy up.

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 5

I popped a cross-section in my mouth to get the full flavor. The caramel was beautifully thick and stayed just on the right side of the line between real and fake-tasting. The vanilla marshmallow was the typical Peeps sweetness, and the chocolate was like a shot of rich hot chocolate.

Peeps Filled Delight Vanilla Caramel Brownie 6

Of course, I had to give them the head-first treatment. It’s the only real way to eat a Peep, amiright? In this case, the filling added a nice little squish, which tickled the 7-year-old in me.

These were my favorite (excluding the originals). I want more. If you love Peeps, definitely try them. If you’re a Peeps hater, these just might win you over.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 chicks – 180 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 1.75 oz 3-pack
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Brownie-caramel-marshmallow-y goodness. Peeps finally have innards!
Cons: Easy to overlook the fact that they’re filled based on the packaging.

REVIEW: KFC Georgia Gold Chicken

KFC Georgia Gold Chicken

Recently, I’ve been referring to KFC as Kan’t Figure (out the) Colonel because of its revolving door of portrayals that started off as confusing and is now weirdly entertaining. The latest Colonel Sanders made his debut along with the chicken chain’s new Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ Chicken.

Let me preface by saying I’m a connoisseur of anything honey mustard-flavored. Amongst the fast food landscape there is the full gamut of choices, from Chick-fil-A’s non-creamy offering to Papa John’s liquid euphoria that I would very much like to bathe in.

That’s the thing about honey mustard and its flavor profile, it’s all over the place. As Forrest Gump’s mom would say, “Honey mustard is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Is it cream based? What’s the honey-to-mustard ratio? How seedy is it? Let’s see where Georgia Gold lies.

(Side note – KFC, how bout Tom Hanks as the next colonel? I BET HE WOULD CRUSH IT.)

KFC Georgia Gold Chicken 2

The chicken tenders I got came in an order of three in their own little container with some pickles for good measure. While I do love a good pickle, I’m not a huge fan when they are hot as they lose some of their gratifying crunch. They were marginal at best. I ate them first just so I could move quickly on to the stars of the dish, the tenders themselves, which were fantastic.

KFC Georgia Gold Chicken 3

The meat inside was juicy, like insanely juicy, which I definitely was not expecting. The breading was, as I like to call it, Goldilocks-style. Not too crunchy or too mushy, it was juuuuuussssssst right.

KFC Georgia Gold Chicken 4

With the perfect meat and breading I was excited for some intense flavor. However, it never materialized. It was hard to distinguish any flavor at all actually. As I looked to the bottom of the container, I saw what had happened. It had all pooled to the bottom grooves of the container so I decided to scoop up the concoction with my spork.

Once in my mouth, I got all the flavors I was hoping for. Hints of mustard and honey, a slight BBQ essence, even a little bit of heat towards the end, and all surprisingly well balanced. All notes could have been a bit stronger and I wish it was more of a smooth sauce rather than being slightly clumpy and oily, but regardless it was tasty!

I remedied the rest of my meal by adding the mixture right on top of the remaining tenders. After I was finished, forget my fingers, I wanted to lick those grooves. Yum, this was CONTAINER LICKIN’ GOOD!

(Nutrition Facts – 3 Tenders – 410 calories, 22 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 29 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Goldilocks-style breading. Insanely juicy white meat chicken. Tom Hanks as the new Colonel. A bathtub full of your favorite condiment.
Cons: Trying out a new honey mustard = taste bud Russian roulette. Georgia Gold sauce fleeing the tenders for the safety of the container grooves.

REVIEW: Coca-Cola Plus Ginger (Japan)

Coca-Cola Plus Ginger (Japan)

For most of my life I’ve thought of ginger as more of a medicine than an ingredient.

When I felt nauseous playing DOOM, I sucked on ginger candy. When I felt something funny in my tummy while watching someone play DOOM, I drank ginger ale. And when it felt like the room was spinning around every time I closed my eyes after playing DOOM, I hung out next to the toilet.

While ginger ale is quite possibly the most popular beverage with ginger, more drinks are being offered with it, like ginger beers, ginger kombucha, and, last year, Pepsi put some into their wonderful 1893 Ginger Cola.

Because of my love for Pepsi’s craft ginger cola, the first thing I sought out during my Japan trip was the new Coca-Cola Plus Ginger.

While Pepsi Japan comes out annually with limited edition soda flavors you’ve never seen in a PETE plastic soda bottle, Coca-Cola Japan keeps it simple by just adding a bit of flavor to the standard Coke and does it at an Olympics-like frequency. About three years ago, Coca-Cola Japan sold a delicious orange-flavored Coke.

It’s funny that the Pepsi Japan flavors are like ideas from a cocaine binge (cucumber, baobab, cherry blossom), while the cola that once had actual cocaine in it ends up being tame.

Much like the amount of orange flavoring in the last limited edition Japanese Coke I had, this soda had the right amount of ginger flavor. You can’t miss it, but it doesn’t overwhelm the cola. To be honest, it tastes right at home with the cola spices. Also, it didn’t burn, like it does with ginger beer. Coca-Cola Plus Ginger is such a great tasting soda that I bought two more bottles at the end of my trip.

If you enjoyed Pepsi’s ginger cola, you’ll like this, if you get your hands on it. It’s only available in Japan for a limited time (it was available in Australia in 2016) or from an online Japanese snack seller. If you think you’ll be able to replicate it by mixing Coca-Cola with Seagram’s Ginger Ale, you won’t because I tried using various ratios and none of them tasted anything close.

I really hope Coca-Cola Plus Ginger ends up in the United States, or at least be an option on a Coke Freestyle machine.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 44 kcal, 0 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sodium, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 130 Japanese Yen
Size: 500 ml
Purchased at: Lawson Station
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: If you’re a fan of Pepsi’s 1893 Ginger Cola, you’ll like this. Right amount of ginger flavor. Ginger complements the cola spices. Doesn’t have ginger burn.
Cons: Not available in the U.S., but might be available through online Japanese snack sellers. The nauseous feeling I got when playing DOOM.

REVIEW: Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream

Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream

There are few better values in the snack world than Hostess CupCakes. One buck gets you two spongy delights topped with a sheet of chocolate plastic and that oh so beautiful white curl of icing. Name a more recognizable cupcake in the world. I’ll wait.

You’re stumped. I know you’re stumped, because as far as store bought cupcakes go, Hostess has by far the most iconic. I’ve been eating those bad boys since I was crawling.

These days, I’m a huge fan of the orange variety, but I’ll never say a bad word about the classic chocolate version. Especially now that Hostess has decided to release them in ice cream form.

The ice cream flavor is described as “chocolate cake,” but it’s really just a fancier way of saying “chocolate.” This is chocolate ice cream through and through. You’d never think “cake” if you just ate it by itself. That being said, it’s creamy and stacks up fine to other chocolate ice creams I’ve had.

Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream 2

The ice cream is lined with white frosting swirls and chunks of cupcake, and this is where the overall product shined. But also really let me down.

The cake pieces were fine, when I actually found them. I’d say I got a nice chunk of cake one out of every three spoonfuls, but that’s just not enough.

Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream 4

They also tasted more like brownie bites than cake. I could imagine some people will be bummed about that, but I actually loved it. A hard chewy bite of frozen brownie is a texture all its own and they’re something I personally like to top my ice cream with. Still, I’m sure a lot of people are gonna be disappointed they aren’t more “cakey.”

The frosting swirls were also way too sporadic – probably even more so than the cake pieces. Normally I’d chalk this up to a small sample size, but I’ve eaten half the carton so far and the problem has persisted with each bowl.

It’s a shame because the three parts of this ice cream really did taste authentic to its namesake. When I actually got a chunk of cake and a ribbon of frosting on my spoon, I was essentially eating a frozen Hostess CupCake.

Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream 3

I know the cupcakes they’re mimicking here are chocolate, but I almost wish they reversed it and made the base ice cream a frosting-like flavor with chocolate swirls and chunks of cake. They could have at least used a chocolate ice cream mixed with a frosting ice cream to really pound the flavors home. The Twinkies Ice Cream uses a cream based ice cream, why couldn’t this?

So I guess what I’m getting at is that Hostess CupCake Ice Cream is really good if you wanna work for it. You could poke around the container in order to get cake and frosting in each spoonful, but you shouldn’t HAVE to do that. Call me lazy if you’d like, but they skimped on the best stuff and that was a big mistake.

If you like chocolate ice cream with a few brownie bites, that’s pretty much what you’re getting here. I guess the added bonus of tasting a Hostess CupCake every few scoops is nice, but not when the ice cream itself is named after said cupcakes.

In the end, it’s still not bad, but kind of a tease. I found myself thinking I’d rather spend four bucks on eight CupCakes than the ice cream. Actually, if you pick this up, grab some of the CupCakes too and just have them a la mode.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup (65g) – 180 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 4 grams sat fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.09
Size: 1.5 qts
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: When all three flavors mix it tastes just like a Hostess CupCake. Hostess branching out into the ice cream world. Brownie Bites as a topping. Orange Hostess CupCakes. The iconic icing curl.
Cons: Needs more icing ribbons and cake pieces. Chocolate cake ice cream tastes like normal chocolate ice cream. Wish they used an icing-flavored ice cream. Having to work for your flavors.