REVIEW: Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch

My seven year old son is clearly a college “dudebro” in training. His perfect day involves lying on the couch in his underwear watching cartoons and playing video games. His favorite bands are Fall Out Boy and Green Day. He’s earned the nickname “Dude Imperfect” for his desire to watch, recreate, and innovate sportz trickshot videos.

His eating habits are the most reflective of his inner fratboy. However, as he’s a decade away from the Freshman Fifteen, no junk food seem to put a pound on his lanky frame. This is most evident in his Doritos Locos Tacos appetite, and he was rush-week excited to try the new Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch.

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I prepared four pieces in the toaster oven and eight pieces in the conventional oven.

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Slightly smaller in diameter but four times as thick as traditional Doritos, these snacks are sprinkled with something breadcrumb-ish, as well as a muted version of the expected red and green Cool Ranch seasoning.

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The pieces looked practically the same fully cooked, except that some interior cheese spurted out of every piece onto to the pan via both cooking methods. The cheese did remove easily and remain on each piece, resembling a cross between a mohawk and a pizzelle.

The whole family weighed in positively. Comparisons to pizza rolls and mac ’n’ cheese bites were both apt. The consensus views:

  • Same from the toaster and conventional oven
  • Not crisp like a chip
  • Tasted like Cool Ranch, but should have been seasoned more liberally
  • The interior cheese has nice salty flavor and softer textural elements, but the product failed entirely to deliver on the graphic shown on the box of stretchy pull-apart cheese. In fact, the autopsy photo below indicates a nearly hollow product with slight remnants of cheese clinging to the outer walls.

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Despite the noted shortcomings, we all enjoyed these. As predicted, the future Epsilon Kappa Gamma founder was the most effusive, instantly rating them a 10/10 and subsequently remarking they would have earned an 11/11 had the center cheese been as displayed.

He clearly hasn’t developed certain college attributes yet, including a sense of cynicism that regresses most every experience toward the mean. After all, he’s 7 — and so is the rating for this product.

(Nutrition Facts – about 3 pieces – 270 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 690 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.98
Size: 15 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Compares favorably with other breaded appetizers. Cool Ranch taste. Tasty interior cheese. Potential scholarships in dizzy golf and slip ’n’ slide football.
Cons: Too little interior cheese. Not enough Cool Ranch seasoning.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Dunkin’ Donuts Frosted Chocolate Mocha Pop-Tarts

Limited Edition Dunkin' Donuts Frosted Chocolate Mocha Pop-Tarts

Pop-Tarts were never my first choice of breakfast pastry as a kid. Toaster Strudel always seemed more exciting to me, with the interactive DIY frosting packet and an ochre canvas to create masterpieces such as improved superhero emblems and schematics for a homework-completing robot. Toaster Strudel also seemed fancier thanks to an effective marketing campaign that trash talked Pop-Tarts more than a Ronda Rousey opponent.

Pop-Tarts, challenging the notion of Toaster Streudel being more “upper crust,” has introduced two coffee-inspired flavors.

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The Chocolate Mocha packaging created immediate skepticism, as the tie-in with Dunkin’ Donuts did not scream sophisticated. Furthermore, the Pop-Tarts Arts Peeps were not worthy of my failed palindrome attempt, as they appear to have re-purposed rejected images from their A&W Root Beer Float flavor.

The packaging lead to a revelation: Rather than using the toaster, the microwave directions called for just three seconds on high. Three seconds for fully cooked food? Is this the Tang of the 21st century? Call Elon Musk and tell him that, while his efforts were greatly appreciated, we have no reason to venture to Mars anymore.

Before you go selling your Tesla stock, however, please know that it took much longer before the pastry was actually warm. Although they largely tasted the same from the microwave and from my brand-new Toastation (thanks Staci Claus!), the toasted version seemed crispier on the less desirable outer crust, and should still be the preferred version for anyone living on this side of the asteroid belt.

The light brown pastry exterior does not impart as much chocolate as other choco-heavy varieties of Pop-Tarts, but the subtle cocoa flavor is far more effective than the silent B in “subtle.” I didn’t wince when biting into the center from the “sweetsplosion” that is typical with Pop-Tarts. The flavor of the filling isn’t muted like in the pastry crust, but rather more complex, featuring the bitter coffee notes. It was the most balanced Pop-Tart I can remember and tasted great.

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I purchased the drink that inspired the product to enjoy alongside it. As a guy who aspires to someday film a “most expensive Starbucks drink ever” video for YouTube, I had to restrain myself in ordering a simple Dunkin’ Donuts mocha, but it was worth it. The similarities between the products were very evident, with complimentary chocolate and coffee flavors moving in unison like a Tour de France team.

I was impressed with the effort as something different from the standard Pop-Tart fare. Despite the reduced sweetness, my kids also scarfed these down happily. I guess their plans for soda-spewing garden sprinklers and dragon winged bunnies will have to be drawn in notebooks moving forward.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 190 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Purchased at: Food Lion
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Believable mocha flavor. Less sweet than most Pop-Tarts. The Flash’s timeless logo. Enjoyable with real coffee. Drinking Starbucks out of a vase for internet glory.
Cons: Strange packaging choices. Silent consonants. May not be chocolate enough for chocolate Pop-Tart lovers. Like everything else about him, Aquaman’s logo is a letdown.

REVIEW: Great Value Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed Donut Bites

Great Value Late Night Cravings Stuffed Donut BitesMy family settled in for some Friday night television, and the kids chimed in with dessert requests. I popped off the couch with a potential solution: Great Value Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed Donut Bites.

The frozen product did not require thawing, but my 12 year old still had to remain patient throughout the half-hour process of preheating the oven, the 15-minute cooking time, the recommended cooling time, and the glazing process. By that point she seemed eager to dig in, but was rather nonplussed by what she had been waiting for.

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She adeptly recognized one of the key problems — the holes were nearly all stuffing, with just a thin donut shell on the outside — and she wished for more donut, less interior. Anyone expecting a jelly Munchkin analogue will be thrown off.

There are two methods when consuming these:

1) Bite into the middle and have the innards spill every which way.

2) Stuff the whole confection in one bite, overfilling your mouth with a 70/30 peanut butter/chocolate sludge.

Method two is comparable to putting a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a blender, but considerably less appealing. I did appreciate the presence of a few pieces of peanut chunk within the mess, but they mostly seemed to be calling out for refuge as if they had never passed their Guppy swimming class at the local YPCA.

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Neither of us enjoyed the flavor of the barely-there donut or the wannabe filling. Donuts are normally pretty good by default, but this version did not taste good at all.

A lot of things here just don’t make sense. The labor involved is no more difficult than making a frozen pizza or slice n’ bake cookies, but these are not a quick snack. The expectation would be that enjoying these straight out of the oven held some advantage over a fresh version being produced, but the heat was at fault here.

I bagged the fully-cooked leftovers and put them in the fridge. I tried them the next day and preferred them cold as the filling had more time to settle, but they were still no better than adequate.

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There’s also the issue of the glaze packet, one-third still unused. What could I have done differently to use up the excess glaze? Elect one donut hole queen for a day and pour it a bath in a finger bowl?

The cost of these stuffed donut bites is equally distressing. I suppose there’s some cache to having a frozen dessert (especially with microwave directions for post-bar hunger pangs), but when a cup of 10 Munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts is $1.99, 14 of these for $4.94 is not great value.

The 12 year old was still hungry, and she did return to the kitchen – to grab herself an apple instead. She made the right choice.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 pieces with 2.5 tsp of icing – 210 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 0 grams of monounsaturated fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.94
Size: 16.79 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Real peanut appearances. Glaze tastes fine. Best served cold. Kids that eat fruit by choice.
Cons: Some assembly not usually required for donut holes. Excessive glaze provided. Goopy filling when warm. Not enough donut in each bite. High price tag. Kids that pester you to make dessert, then instead choose to eat the fruit that was there the whole time.

REVIEW: Milka Oreo Big Crunch Bar

Milka Oreo Big Crunch Bar

This morning I cracked open a fortune cookie (I tend to eschew traditional breakfasts for whatever happens to be in my car). The fortune read “All progress occurs because people dare to be different.” It made me ponder if the fortune tellers had encountered the Oreo Big Crunch Bar, as the product’s differences from its namesake served as deterrents to my enjoyment.

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My expectations for a “Big Crunch” were set immediately due to the naming contrivances employed. In the wake of snagging mini chocolate bars from my kids’ Halloween stashes last month, I felt foolish sitting alone in a room with this massive product — it was clearly meant to be consumed by a lacrosse team or a car full of clowns. Big, and then some, and then some more.

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Conversely, I’m not quite sure about the crunch factor also used in the product’s moniker. The 2 to 1 ratio we are accustomed to with Oreo cookies has been replaced with a 1 to 4 ratio — Milka chocolate on the top and bottom, plus creme on BOTH the bottom and top of one layer of cookie. To further uncrunchify the bar, pools of creme and chocolate sans cookie occur in the corners.

One additional misconception furthered by the partnership with Oreo is that the creme inside the candy bar is going to be the same found in an Oreo. The familiar grainy texture has been replaced with something sweeter, smoother, and unfamiliar. It’s not bad but certainly unexpected.

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Differences aside, the first bites of Oreo BCB were enjoyable. It reminded me of an improved version of my least favorite Oreo incarnation, the insanely sweet White Fudge covered Oreos. Here the ratio of chocolate did not appear to be as overwhelming at first and had a pleasant taste, but consuming more lead quickly to sweetness fatigue.

Overall, this was probably not the reaction that Milka was hoping for when combining two hallmark products. Lacking in crunch or Oreo-ness, being big just isn’t enough. “One must fulfill what they intend to be” is the more telling fortune in this case, and Milka seems to have missed by quite a bit on that prophesy.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 pieces – 230 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99 (on sale)
Size: 10.5 oz. bar
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Hulking size. Improvement on Fudge-covered Oreo concept. Some Cookies N’ Cream overtones. The best fortune I ever read: “You like Chinese food.”
Cons: Crunch is suppressed. Creme is not “that” creme. Far sweeter than necessary. The worst fortune I ever made up: “Those who can cook, do. Those who cannot write food reviews.”

ANNOUNCEMENT: New Impulsive Buy Reviewer Brian

I’ve been preparing for this opportunity ever since I saw a Life cereal commercial and thought “Big whoop–I’d eat anything AND would survive mixing pop rocks with cola”. Ever since I wrote a poem for the first grade play about how perplexing it was (and still is) that tomatoes are fruit. Ever since I ran around the McDonald’s Playplace pointing out the Hamburgler was actually committing a hate crime and Mayor McCheese had a vendetta to settle.

My current interest and passion for new food products would be considered largely unacceptable by most members of society. I have been known to drive to six or seven locations in a day if I discover a product I must have. Six or seven isn’t THAT many, but it is if you’d like to maintain a family or a job or anything else that has a semblance of a 37 year old’s non-vagabond existence. And even when I don’t know something’s out there, I have a keen, systematic eye that I apply to convenience stores and supermarkets, scanning my eyes in all the right places (soda coolers, candy displays, potato chips, and the almighty holiday clearance section) in an efficient fashion that makes me feel that somehow I haven’t invested nearly as much time in this “hobby” as I have.

When I had less money at my disposal (my “monastic” grad school years en route to becoming a school psychologist) I would find a new product I was excited about, purchase one, and try it. If I liked it, I would then often engage in wild goose chases, trying to find the product again, only to meet with crippling, constant disappointment. As my wallet grew more proportional to my desire for Jolly Ranchers soda and Mint Skittles, I discovered that purchasing multiple items of a new product was effective insurance against the “one night stand” phenomenon I had incurred. However, I also found it was a proper way to fill your pantry with the dud products of the universe, the items so bad that you couldn’t pawn them off on the unsuspecting with a straight face. You might call it the “Why you don’t give out your address on Tinder”.

My family is subject to these whims now, as we try to find a happy medium. Two packages of new Oreos make it through the Ellis Island that is the grocery checkout (the worst Oreos will still get eaten by someone at 2am), but I invest more effort into defending my purchase of dessert Pringles than a court-appointed attorney. Ultimately, the cream rises to the top (save for the “Vanilla Heat” creamer I inflicted upon my loved ones). My students are not safe either, like the time I had them eating the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burn Doritos in a contest to win the extra cup of Rita’s Water Ice I had purchased. A true battle for the ages (of eight and up).

In all honesty, I think if someone took a close look at my behavior, they might consider it to be a little bit insane — for a person who doesn’t work in the food review industry. Therefore, this opportunity to include you all on my never-ending quest is a chance to restore my sanity, without me changing how I operate or responding to every Rorschach test with obscure product names like “Takis!” and “Bugles!” This is a match made in Heavenly Hash, so sound the, ahem, bugle–let’s get this hunt started.