REVIEW: Doritos Dinamita Sticks (Smoky Chile Queso, Tangy Fiery Lime, and Hot Honey Mustard)

In 1971, Goodmark Foods introduced Andy Capp’s Fries, a “unique alternative to potato chips” that “look like French fries, but crunch like chips.” Named for the English comic strip character — and perhaps peculiarly so, given their namesake’s penchant for drinking, gambling, borrowing money, fighting with his wife, flirting with young barmaids, etc. — Capp’s Fries have gone through several iterations throughout the years including Hot, Salsa, White Cheddar Steak, and Ranch, to name but a few.

Fifty-two years later, and no longer satisfied with its lack of footing in the crunchy snack-stick arena, Doritos is throwing its hat in the ring with three new stick-takes on its Dinamita line -— Smoky Chili Queso, Tangy Fiery Lime, and Hot Honey Mustard. Did the wait pay off? It did.

First, a note about all three Dinamita Sticks — because these are corn instead of potato-based, they run a little denser than those from its alcoholic British comic-strip counterpart. A closer comparison texturally would be Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries, another Frito-Lay product. But these are a bit heavier still. Reading the ingredient list tells me that Chester’s employs dried potato in addition to enriched corn meal. The nice thing about the Dinamita Sticks’ density is that they give you a fuller feeling than Andy Capp’s or Chester’s.

Smoky Chili Queso

I don’t know that I detected any smoky, but man, were these ever chili queso, with a pronounced emphasis on the chili. The first second or two is delightfully cheesy, and then comes the heat. And it’s a big heat, like an Arizona sidewalk on the 4th of July. It’s fast and it lasts. While I found the heat level enjoyable, it might be too much if you’re even slightly heat-averse. You have been forewarned.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams) 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Tangy Fiery Lime

Full disclosure: I’m not a lime guy. Well, okay, unless it’s in pie form. In which case, sign me up. But I’ve never been big on spicy things with a lime infusion. These things, however? They may have made me a convert. The lime in the TFL Dinamita is strong, but serves as a great complement to a heat that comes across as a bit sweeter than the spicy punch of the SCQ. It takes longer to build, too and is extinguished with each limey pop of a new Dinamita. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking these things.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams) 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, <1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Hot Honey Mustard

Did you hear that crack? That was the sound of a home run leaving the bat. THESE THINGS. It’s like a sweeter McDonald’s Hot Mustard nugget sauce, only in crunch form. So. it’s THAT kind of mustard — the sinus-burning, Chinese kind that those of us in the know dip their egg rolls and Rangoons into. There’s a sweet, honey-esque undertone that adds a welcome complexity. While I really found things to enjoy about all three Dinamitas, this one was my favorite.

Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams) 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Purchased at: All were purchased at Walmart
Purchased Price: $3.88 each

REVIEW: Little Debbie Turtle Brownies, Apple Fruit Pies, and Chocolate Chip Creme Pies Ice Creams

Conceptually, the idea of Little Debbie Ice Cream is pretty wonderful. You take everyone’s favorite low-rent snack cake, deconstruct it into nuggets or swirls, and commingle it with a complimentary ice cream flavor from Hudsonville Ice Cream. Unfortunately, the execution just isn’t always there. The “icing” from the Zebra Cake variety, for example— which I think is the same stuff from the belly of the Strawberry Shortcake Roll— assumes a strange and unpleasant consistency when married with the ice cream; the rainbow sprinkles from the Cosmic Brownies become insufferably hard, a veritable cracked molar waiting to happen.

The fact of the matter is, as much as I want to love these things — especially at a $2.74 Walmart price-point — the only one I’ve ever felt compelled to buy more than once is Star Crunch. For whatever reason, I find that one to be heavenly, so good, in fact, that I have to force myself to refrain from consuming an entire pint in one sitting.

Will any of the three new flavors buck the trend of general disappointment?

Turtle Brownies

Hudsonville Ice Cream’s website describes it as follows: “Brownie batter flavored ice cream with brownie dough and crushed peanuts throughout, finished with a caramel swirl.” Look, I’m not gonna lie: I’m not entirely sure how this ice cream was “brownie batter flavored” as opposed to just, you know, chocolate. There was a very small amount of tasty brownie dough (it tastes like they use actual Little Debbie brownie, in fact) interspersed throughout, and… maybe a few peanuts? I couldn’t find many at all. Ditto for the “caramel swirl.” This could have used more of both. And because it needed a little more everything, this one came up a bit short.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 230 calories, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 20 grams of sugar (17 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

Apple Fruit Pies

Here’s the thing — I don’t even know if I’ve ever had a Little Debbie apple fruit pie. (Or any of her fruit pies, for that matter.) I was always a wax-papered Hostess hand-pie guy. So I didn’t really know what to expect here. Hudsonville says this one is “Cinnamon vanilla ice cream with an apple pie filling swirl and pie crumbs throughout.”

My first few bites garnered nothing but ice cream, which, let me say this — the ice cream in these has always impressed me, particularly at this price. It’s creamy and thick and is pretty damn good, frankly. This was no different. But it took a bit for me to find any apple pie filling swirl or the pie crumbs. But when I did, I was pleased. The apple swirl was requisitely apple pie filling-like, both in taste and texture, and the pie crumbs were thick, with a bit of a crunch and a subtle graham flavor. The only thing keeping this from being elevated into the stratosphere of “I’m clearing space in the freezer for six more of these” was the sorrowful lack of mix-in. Even still, it was a winner.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 220 calories, 10 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar (17 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

Chocolate Chip Creme Pie

Like the Apple Fruit Pie, I’ve never had a Chocolate Chip Creme Pie from The Debster. The fact of the matter is, if I’m gonna consume a circular El Deb pie with a “creme” component, it’s going to be of the Oatmeal Creme variety, OR its chocolate sister, the Fudge Round. I may need to branch out after having this revelatory ice cream, however. Described as “Vanilla creme flavored ice cream filled with chocolate chip cookie pieces,” it was my favorite of the three. The “chocolate chip cookie pieces” were plentiful. There were a LOT of chocolate chips throughout, a few hundred, at least. Really, this just ended up tasting like chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with a bonus creme component, which was very enjoyable.

Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 240 calories, 11 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar (20 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Reese’s Cookie Dough Poppins

Reese’s Cookie Dough Poppins Pouch with the Pillsbury Doughboy on it. Oddly other than the logo on the Doughboy's hat, there isn't any other Pillsbury logo on the pouch.

What is it?

Despite the cutesy “Poppins” moniker, Reese’s Cookie Dough Poppins are just… little balls of ready-to-eat peanut butter cookie dough, no more, no less. Is it just me or has it only been within the past few years that companies began selling “safe to eat raw” cookie dough nuggets? Why did it take them so long to start doing this?

How is it?

In the case of this one, they probably should have kept fine-tuning the recipe before release. While there was nothing inherently bad or offensive about this particular Poppins, there wasn’t really much to love, either. The texture is a familiar one in line with any kind of unbaked cookie dough — though I was expecting a bit more grittiness — but the taste is lackluster.

Brown balls of edible cookie dough.

Look, I don’t know how you describe the taste of peanut butter as anything other than “like peanut butter,” but this was like half the taste of peanut butter. Maybe peanut, no butter. That’s not quite it, but I don’t know how to explain it. The PB flavor was there initially, but it just trailed off at the end.

Anything else you need to know?

You can’t bake these. Also, while there are a few safe-to-eat raw cookie dough products on the market that you can bake, there are many others that aren’t meant to be eaten raw. There’s a chance you could get some Salmonella from the eggs or flour or, perhaps more seriously, E. coli from the latter. Thankfully, the only risk with this edible Reese’s dough is the disappointment of spending over $7 on something you shouldn’t spend more than a buck on.


Even though these aren’t the worst things I’ve ever eaten, I’d never buy them again, and never in good conscience could I recommend that anyone spend $7 on them. But if I was at a party, and they had a tray of Poppins (not sure what strange party this is, but just pretend), I might eat, like, a couple. But only if it was the only dessert. You know, at the world’s weirdest party.

Purchased Price: $7.49
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (5 pieces) 120 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 25 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of total carbohydrates, 9 grams of total sugars, 0 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Red Baron Fully Loaded Hand Tossed Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza

Though factual evidence isn’t as plentiful as I’d like it to be (which, okay, maybe means my supposition is NOT true), it feels like nowhere are food cost increases more jarring than in the frozen pizza aisle. At most of my local grocery stores, a middle-of-the-road pizza like Tombstone or Red Baron, when not on sale, is somewhere between $6 and $7. A Totino’s — and I know, I know, it’s hardly a “pizza” (but it serves its own sort of purpose, like a McDonald’s hamburger) — is $2. And while I don’t want to be “old man yells at cloud” about it, I remember a time not all that long ago when these things were just a smidge over $1.

And then you get to the “top shelf” frozen pizza. At my closest grocery store, the DiGiorno Fully Stuffed Crust Ultimate Three Meat Pizza is $15.79. Take a moment and let that sink in. (I’ll also remind you that I live in Kansas City, not on a coast, and not on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.) The Screamin’ Sicilian Stuffed Crust Pepperoni is on sale… for $10.49. It’s hard to imagine anyone paying these prices, but I guess someone is. But when you can get a carryout two-topping from Dominos for slightly less than this, your frozen pie had really better bring it, right?

So is the Red Baron Fully Loaded Hand Tossed Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza worth the sticker shock? Look, I cannot in good conscience ever recommend that someone pay almost $10 for a frozen pizza. I just can’t. However, I can say that, compared to other pizzas at the same price point, this pizza is pretty great.

Though the “hand tossed” crust is pedestrian in terms of taste, it supports the heavy pizza well. There are three types of pepperoni present, regular circular, what seems to be a thicker cut triangle variety, and cubed. Accordingly, each bite is packed full of salty little bits of deliciousness. It’s worth noting that, for frozen pizza pepperoni, these things carry a bit of spice; not enough to make someone with an aversion to heat avoid it, I don’t think, but something that might surprise you if you’re not expecting it. The cheese isn’t snappy, but it stretches a bit, which isn’t ideal if, like me, you go at it too fast and end up with a napalmed chin. It appears to be a blend of mozzarella and cheddar, and there’s some parmesan sprinkled on the top, too, if I’m not mistaken. The sauce tastes like a canned generic pizza sauce, but it works.

Here’s what really struck me about this pizza — the sauce, coupled with the parmesan, really evoked the flavor of a Chef Boyardee home pizza kit. You know the kind. It comes in a box with the dough mix and the canned sauce. (And, in olden times, a packet of grated parmesan and Romano cheese.) If you’ve had that, you’ll have a good sense of how this pizza tastes. It tickled something nostalgic in me and momentarily made me forget that I was an adult paying exorbitant prices for any and everything, including frozen pizza. For that reason — and the fact that the pizza was damn tasty — I’ll buy it again. Provided, of course, that I find it on sale.

Purchased Price: $8.99 ($9.99 regular price)
Size: 28.75 oz
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/6th pizza) 370 calories, 19 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 mg of cholesterol, 950 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 17 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Smoky Ghost Pepper Puffs

I’ve never been much of one for eating something hot just for the sake of saying I did it. I don’t need a Guatemalan Insanity Pepper to make me feel macho. But I like spicy things. I usually get my Thai food “Thai hot.” I over-wasabi when I eat sushi. A little burn – when correctly applied – makes me feel alive.

While I’ve never had an ACTUAL ghost pepper, the flavor seems to have popped up everywhere over the past year plus. Burger King did an orange-bunned ghost pepper Whopper last October. Arby’s had the Diablo Dare last year, too. And within the past few months, Wendy’s has gotten in on the act with a ghost pepper sandwich and fries.

I’ve had none of these. It’s not because I’m not interested, don’t get me wrong. It’s more like if I’m not eating fast food to review for this site, I’m usually only interested in getting something tried and true. Something I know I’ll enjoy. Like everything else, fast food has gotten too expensive; my metabolism ain’t what it used to be.

The nice thing about the new Flamin’ Hot Smoky Ghost Pepper Cheetos Puffs, however, is that it’s pretty low risk — even if they’re terrible, I’m only out a single Abe Lincoln. And I don’t mind tossing a bag of chips.

(Okay, that’s a lie. I’ll hang on to it for years, slowly nibbling away and also offering them up to unsuspecting guests with a friendly, “Hey, you like to consume food. Would you like a handful of these? How about the whole bag?” Eventually, they’ll grow stale and inedible, at which point I will still have a few pieces at a time for the next three months before I finally pull the trigger on a full expulsion.)

From an appearance standpoint, you know exactly what you’re getting into with these. In addition to being shaped like peppers, they are an aggressively violent shade of red. A slight smoky vinegar aroma wafts up when you open the bag. That artificial smoke flavor is prevalent in the first second of the bite – I was surprised by that and appreciated the layered flavoring – and then the heat immediately sets your tongue on fire. There was no “slow build” here, just immediate and unapologetic mouth-arson.

If you don’t like hot, well… come on. Did you really think you might enjoy these? If you’re someone who doesn’t like chili unless it makes you weep and you end each night with half a pack of Tums, you may be unimpressed. These didn’t make me cry. They were tolerable, but even still, the hottest Cheeto (or chip or cracker) I’ve ever eaten.

Additionally, I enjoyed the fact that these weren’t just novelty-hot. There were nuanced layers of flavor and an appreciable complexity you don’t find in many other “hot” snacks. But still, a little goes a long way, so let’s not be surprised if this bag sees the next presidential election. As long as the other people in my house keep remembering to close the bag up tight, anyway.

Purchased Price: $4.30
Size: 7 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams) 160 calories, 12 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.