REVIEW: Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Can

This review started with seven simple words, texted by my partner as he checked our mail: “Hey, did you order an exclusive Dew?”

I hadn’t… but my confusion quickly gave way to unadulterated joy. A month or so prior, I’d tracked down all three of Summer 2022’s Baja flavors — the OG and its new and surprisingly-elusive-in-my-neck-of-the-woods friends Baja Mango Gem and Baja Gold — diligently plugged the codes on their caps into Mountain Dew’s website for a stab at the Lost Treasures of Baja Island sweepstakes, and then summarily forgotten all about it… until I returned home triumphant to a coveted six-pack of my Baja Deep Dive winnings!

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Box

Sure, it sounds a little less impressive when I specify that I’m a mere one of 18,000 beverage buffs who got lucky this time around, but still, free, surprise, only-available-from-a-contest Mountain Dew straight to one’s doorstep is nothing to scoff at!

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Glass

I eagerly cracked open a tall, spiffy dark purple can of this subnautical nectar, which is decorated with what seems to be an artist’s interpretation of what normal fish would mutate into if oceans were made of Mountain Dew. A poison-dart-frog-bright, slightly bluish green (appropriately, one could even call it “sea green”) liquid whose hue I can best describe as “Yep, that sure is Mountain Dew-colored” pulsed out.

The perplexing potion smelled deliciously — and aggressively — fruity, candy-like even, but not in a way that I could immediately attribute to any particular flavor. If you’re familiar with Mountain Dew, such sugar-soaked ambiguity is probably not surprising. It is probably also not surprising when I report that this aquatic libation tastes… pretty much how just it smells. It’s violently sweet and heavily reminiscent of its citrus-y, mango-y, pineapple-y Baja brethren, but with a strange aftertaste that, bizarrely, reminded me of cucumber. A thorough sweep of the pleasantly active Mountain Dew community on Reddit suggests that I may literally be the only person in the world who thought that. Neat!

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Descript

Oh yeah, did I mention this is a mystery flavor? As of late I’ve been on an equally amused and bemused quest to try as many flavors of Dew as possible, but nevertheless, I haven’t yet developed the skill of actually being able to differentiate between them very well. So, when it came to cracking this maritime mystery, I was a bit lost at sea.

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Graphics

A deep dive into, well, Deep Dive produced a few hints that were as well-buried as a hidden treasure. Notably, there is a diver on the can whose mask looks like a pineapple, but that was about all I could fish up on my lonesome. (The can also prominently features, among other things, an eel, an anglerfish, and what appears to be a sentient grenade with a narwhal horn, so I hope those aren’t also clues about the ingredients at play here!)

Fortunately, the trusty True Dew-ers of the internet have also unearthed the tantalizing tidbit that the font used on this can is the same as on the dearly departed Mountain Dew Pitch Black, which was grape flavored. Come to think of it, aren’t sea grapes a thing? If that somehow ends up being this flavor’s secret identity, Team Mountain Dew deserves a hearty tip of my pirate’s hat (but maybe also an eye roll).

All in all, the allure of this oceanic new edition, just like the allure of any Mountain Dew, is both difficult to describe and difficult to deny.

Purchased Price: Free as a sweepstakes prize
Size: 16 oz cans
Purchased at: n/a, only available to winners of the Lost Treasures of Baja Island sweepstakes
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 220 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of sodium, 59 grams of carbohydrates, 59 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 72 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Pizza Hut Oven-Baked Pastas

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas All Four

As four distinct variants that nonetheless have many key characteristics in common, I like to think of Pizza Hut’s new line of Oven-Baked Pastas as quadruplets. Each flavor has a unique personality, but they share two crucial features, perfectly smooth penne pasta and a top layer of thick, baked-ziti-esque cheese. Two are adorned with Alfredo sauce, two don a sweet red sauce, and all four are delicious in their own ways. Serving size-wise, one order of any of these pastas would make a good meal for one person – maybe even with leftovers if all that cheese is too much for you! – but the portion is so filling that I can definitely see it as a shareable appetizer/side/snack too.

Cheesy Alfredo

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Cheesy Alfredo

I worried this might pale in comparison to the chickened version; it turns out I needn’t have. This pasta was swimming in a gooey, creamy, downright decadent copious sea of sauce so bright white it looked positively pristine. (Though I am slightly confused how such a wonderful garlicky flavor could come from something whose handy-dandy online ingredients list only notes garlic under “Contains less than 2% of the following.”) Our friends at Pizza Hut were not kidding when they dubbed this one “cheesy,” and I’d say swapping meat for all that extra dairy is a worthy tradeoff.

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Cheesy Alfredo Closeup

Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 order) 880 calories, 48 grams of fat, 31 grams of saturated fat, 1,180 milligrams of sodium, 84 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of protein.

Chicken Alfredo

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Chicken Alfredo

If anything, the poultry felt paltry compared to its queso’d cousin. I described the cheesy Alfredo sauce as “gooey,” but the same can’t be said here, with the sauce relegated from main attraction to mere sidekick. The ostensible star of the show, that chicken, packs a hefty herbal aftertaste that I couldn’t immediately put a finger on, but apparently is courtesy of dried parsley. However, its distribution in my batch was sort of spotty —- some bites came with a dime-sized dollop, some with more like a silver dollar, and most with no chicken at all.

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Chicken Alfredo Closeup

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 order) 930 calories, 49 grams of fat, 32 grams of saturated fat, 1,340 milligrams of sodium, 85 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, and 37 grams of protein.

Italian Meats

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Italian Meats

The main meat in mind is sausage, and Pizza Hut’s offering is a perfect fast food specimen; chunky, juicy, zesty, and abnormally (like, almost scarily) tender. Because this is Italian meats, not Italian meat, I should also mention the presence of pepperoni. But, hidden directly under the cheesy coating, it was pretty handily obscured both visually and taste-wise. I also need to take a moment to appreciate the sweet red sauce, so pleasantly mild and yet so simply tasty that it felt like a hug for my mouth. I usually find pasta with red sauce a little boring, but this was more than enough to hold my interest.

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Italian Meats Closeup

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 order) 860 calories, 37 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 1,640 milligrams of sodium, 97 grams of carbohydrates, 17 grams of sugar, and 36 grams of protein.

Veggie

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Veggie

I liked this one more than I expected. I mean, not more than I liked any of the others, but still! The toppings were kind of random (sure, green bell pepper, black olives, and “diced Roma tomato” are pretty normal to find in a pasta separately, but all of them at once?), yet they mingled well. That gently sweet sauce and rich cheese were perked up by the refreshing pepper, which also provided a texturally delightful snap, while the tomato offered a surprisingly intense and unsurprisingly delicious burst of flavor, and the olives… well, I could have done without them, but their flavor was subtler and less briny than I typically fear, and I must give them credit for adding some nice umami undertones.

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Veggie Closeup

Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 order) 640 calories, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 1,170 milligrams of sodium, 99 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of sugar, and 17 grams of protein.

Pizza Hut Oven Baked Pastas Breadsticks

If you’re still not convinced to give one — or all! — of these a try, I should also mention that each comes with an order of breadsticks. Yes, that means that in the course of writing this review, I acquired twenty breadsticks, so if you need me, I’ll be busy trying not to devour them all in one sitting.

Purchased Price: $8.99 each

REVIEW: Brach’s Tailgate Candy Corn

Brach s Tailgate Candy Corn

You know storm chasers, those people who deliberately seek out horrifying and dangerous phenomena for the thrill of it? That’s exactly the kind of relationship I have with disgusting novelty snacks, so when I heard about Brach’s Tailgate Candy Corn, I got as excited as my dad at an actual tailgate.

I happened to have relatives visiting from overseas while I was reviewing this candy, and because I’m a bad person, I convinced them that these would be a great taste of American culture. After stomaching a single corn, one cousin begged me to include the phrase “offense to the senses” in my review (thanks, mate!), and spoiler alert, things will only get more scathing.

Brach s Tailgate Candy Corn No Description

There’s such a wide range of experiences in this bag (specifically, that range goes from “probably won’t make you puke” to, well, the opposite) that I had to give every flavor its own rating. I also had to take some liberties figuring out which flavor was which — Brach’s, perhaps rightfully ashamed of what they’ve wrought, doesn’t indicate this anywhere on the bag.

Brach s Tailgate Candy Corn Vanilla Ice Cream

White top, yellowy bottom: vanilla ice cream. In addition to being the only flavor whose two-toned color scheme really makes sense, this is the least offensive by far. It’s overwhelming sweet with a weird caramel undertone. Maybe that’s supposed to represent the malty taste of a cone, but probably it’s just to justify calling this something other than “pure sugar.” Still, it’s impressively bearable. 5 out of 10.

Brach s Tailgate Candy Corn Fruit Punch

Reddish top, pale pink bottom: fruit punch. As overly sweet as the vanilla ice cream, this is probably the flavor that tastes the most like how it’s supposed to — and yet this time, the weird undertone is the taste of chemicals. It reminded me of Hawaiian Punch, if Hawaiian Punch was worse. 4 out of 10.

Brach s Tailgate Candy Corn Popcorn

White top, pale yellow bottom: popcorn. Or, to be more accurate, flavor-that-tastes-nothing-like-popcorn. I was (naively) expecting something rich like Jelly Belly’s exemplary Buttered Popcorn bean. Instead, I got something that tastes how nail polish smells. It’s reminiscent of burnt garbage, just slightly saccharine. 3 out of 10.

Brach s Tailgate Candy Corn Hamburger

Pinky-red bottom, yellowy top: is it hamburger? Is it hot dog? Is it fit for human consumption? The best way to describe this is to tell you that when trying my usual “take one bite for a first impression, then a second to understand the taste well enough to write about it” strategy, the prospect of having to choke down one more morsel made me genuinely distraught. More succinctly, this flavor is spicy, and that’s disturbing. I’m going to go ahead and associate that with hamburger, but — I hate to say it — more than anything, it tastes like vomit. 0 out of 10.

Brach s Tailgate Candy Corn Hot Dog

Pale pink top, yellowy bottom: hot dog, by process of elimination. And thank goodness for the process of elimination because there’s no way to tell what this is supposed to be just by eating it. It’s sort of smokey, but with an underlying — you guessed it! — sweetness that stresses me out. I’m sure there are situations where smokey and sweet flavors work well together, but this fluorescent party foul cannot be one of them. 1 out of 10.

I wanted to arrive at a total rating by taking the average of the scores for the individual flavors, but that would be a 2-rating, and that felt too high. This bag is worse than the sum of its parts; somehow, the fact that nearly half of the flavors are nearly edible just makes it even more demoralizing. The only thing it has in common with a real tailgate is the fact that both make me want to drink heavily.

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 11 oz bag
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 1 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (15 pieces) 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Sonic Churro Shake

Sonic Churro Shake Cup

Giddy at the prospect of living within a reasonable distance of a Sonic for the first time in my life, I couldn’t wait to make up for lost time by downing the new limited edition Churro Shake. Technically it doesn’t officially debut until August 1st, but us early birds can order now using the Sonic app.

I was greeted by a generous helping of the super-dense, velvety-smooth whipped cream that I always think of as “the good stuff.” That whipped cream, in turn, was topped with a sparkling smattering of cinnamon sugar (plus, like all Sonic shakes, a cherry, though that addition didn’t seem particularly relevant to this flavor).

Sonic Churro Shake Cherry

The shake consists of vanilla ice cream mixed with cinnamon sugar and caramel, but the taste of vanilla definitely packed the strongest punch to me. That might seem disappointing for a treat whose name gives the word “churro” top billing, but honestly, I didn’t think the relative subtleness of the churro-esque elements was a bad thing. Sonic’s vanilla soft serve is so dang good that all a new flavor has to do is complement it, and this shake certainly succeeds. Sure, mine was not quite as brown as the promotional images promise, but cinnamon and caramel are both substances where a little goes a long way, so I still appreciated how they added plenty of extra richness and warmth to this decadent dessert without making it too overbearing.

Of course, another notable discrepancy between the promo image and the shake I was actually served was the namesake itself. In the promo image, the churro peeks jauntily out from the top like a crunchy feather in the shake’s cap. In my shake, the churro was ostensibly AWOL. It’s understandable how something so dense and doughy would sink straight to the bottom, but I couldn’t even see a hint of the sweet snack submerged within. It wasn’t until I caught myself thinking, “What a pleasant churro-inspired shake” mid-sip that it occurred to me that there actually was supposed to be a real churro somewhere in there that was actually intended to be a major component.

Sonic Churro Shake Digging

With some tactical spoon maneuvering, I was able to recover it. It’s a good few inches long and wasn’t the half-hearted mix-in I might have expected. It had the characteristic sweet-with-a-cinnamon-kick flavor, plus that coveted crispy exterior and softer (but not too soft, since it had just gone diving in a lake of ice cream, after all) interior. It’s just unfortunate that there wasn’t really any clear way to enjoy such a large chunk at the same time as the rest of the already-formidably-thick shake, so I had to take a break to munch it down before continuing my slurping. I also could have done with another churro piece or two in there, but hey, I’ll take it.

Sonic Churro Shake Churro Closup

This shake may not be reinventing the wheel (or the cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted snack), but it is extremely delicious. If you’re blessed by proximity to a Sonic like I now am, do yourself a favor and pick one up before it’s gone on September 25th.

Purchased Price: $5.09
Size: Medium
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 960 calories, 46 grams of fat, 29 grams of saturated fat, 560 milligrams of sodium, 120 grams of carbohydrates, 84 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Fanta What The Fanta Mystery Flavor

Fanta What The Fanta Mystery Flavor Bottle

I should start off by explaining/apologizing for how, when I recently finished a thriller whose twist ending blew my mind, I was quickly informed by online reviews that I was the only person in the world who hadn’t seen it coming by the third page. Please bear that in mind when I tell you that I had no idea what to make of my first sip of Fanta’s What The Fanta Mystery Flavor. It smelled like Marshmallow Fruity Pebbles, looked like dishwasher detergent, and tasted like a sudden inability to remember a single other flavor to which I could compare it.

After a few addled attempts, I realized that it reminded me of Fresca, the zero-calorie drink known to me throughout my childhood as equally for its sparklingly synthetic taste as for its inexplicable presence at every gathering my dad’s side of the family ever held. Fresca was grapefruit-flavored, but I don’t think the same can be said of this blue beauty. I don’t drink much sugar-free soda, so that was just one of my few frames of reference for the bright, biting, and ever-so-uncannily artificial flavor that overwhelmed any other tastes I might detect here.

Still, “fruit of some sort” seemed like a promising start, and I kicked into detective mode to find more leads.

My first clue was a message on the bottle that read, appropriately, “Find Clues: #WhatTheFanta.” Attempting to follow those directions immediately led to me drowning in a sea of disgruntled Twitter users comparing this soda’s taste, with varying degrees of tact, to a rear end. (Fortunately, another recurring guess was the way more helpful — not to mention plausible — “orange creamsicle”).

Eventually, I made my way to Fanta.com, an oasis of information where, for the price of my email address and birthday, I was granted access to a secret world by way of QR code.

Spoilers ahead!

Fanta What The Fanta Mystery Flavor Glass

The QR code transports you to a mysterious website where you’re greeted by an array of images: first, there is just an innocuous blue Fanta bottle, which quickly reconfigures itself into an ice cream truck, a weird bluish blob that I initially parsed as an octopus but eventually realized was probably meant to be a stylized scoop of ice cream, an ice cream cone (okay, I thought I got it!!!), an ear of corn (never mind, I was confused again!!!), a carrot, a traffic cone, and finally some sort of reddish donkey-thing.

The three pieces of ice cream imagery and the two iconically orange items lend a lot of credence to the orange creamsicle theory, but I must admit I still have no idea how the corn or donkey play into it. I guess if the cerulean color for an ostensibly orange flavor is any indication, Fanta isn’t above throwing in a few red (or blue) herrings (or donkeys).

So, that’s the mystery of the flavor resolved (probably). What about the resolution of this review? Unfortunately, the tinny tang that comes along with the “zero sugar” label meant that I regrettably found the QR code caper more compelling than the actual beverage that inspired it. Drink this if you’re thirsty for a good case to crack, but perhaps not if you’re thirsty for a good soda.

Update: We also tried the Burger King Frozen What The Fanta! Click here to read our review.

Purchased Price: $2.19
Size: 20 oz
Purchased at: Wawa
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 65 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.