REVIEW: Mac n’ Cheetos Mac & Cheese Snacks (Creamy Cheddar & Flamin’ Hot)

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot

The Cheetos brand has been on fire recently (pun intended, of course.) Its Mac & Cheese snacks have been rolled out at Burger King twice. There have been bizarre genius marketing tactics, like Cheetos-branded toilet paper and most recently a pop-up restaurant in New York. Since the restaurant is only a three-day event and I live hours away, though, I have to settle for the next best thing, Mac n’ Cheetos Mac & Cheese Snacks from the freezer aisle!

I tried them when they first launched at BK so I was excited to indulge again, especially with a new flavor. The shape is still a chunkily shaped cylinder with a slight curve and when preparing these snacks Frito-Lay really wants you to work for them as there are no microwave instructions. This does mean, though, that the outsides continue to be crispy and crunchy without being too greasy, which I was expecting.

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot 2

The insides are full of mac and cheese creamy goodness and I mean that in every sense of the word. It’s an intense cheddar cheese flavor, very rich actually, and with the pasta it does somewhat reach into being quite heavy for a small bite.

However, when it’s bordering on too much, the outside breading always counteracts to save it. They work together really well and I always got a little jolt of excitement when seeing the round end of a macaroni piece unearth itself. The Flamin’ Hot ones have the same cheesy flavor on the inside but with a nice, albeit small, kick of heat from the outside breading.

Now, you’re probably thinking, ”Wow, Leonard is really digging these. I need to stop everything and run out to find these immediately!!!!” There’s no bones about it, these are great mac and cheese snacks and if that’s all they were I would be a very satisfied repeat customer.

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot 3

However, Chester Cheetah is on the packaging and that’s when everything starts to crumble. The shape and even coloration are very uniform, which is a stark contrast from the original Cheetos snacks. The Flamin’ Hot do get some points for being closer, though, in appearance, with an almost glowing red hue. However, they also get points docked for the spice level. They should almost be called simmering ember instead as the heat is nowhere near the level of their bagged counterpart.

Sure, these are “dangerously cheesy” on the inside but not on the outside where I really wanted them to be. In fact, I couldn’t even find any Cheetle dust on my hands after eating these, which is a signature trait of the Cheetos eating experience. Instead there were just breading particles.

On a scale of 1 to 10 for how dirty my hands were with 1 being I just laid out china for a dinner on a yacht and 10 being I just finished finger painting with a toddler, my hands were maybe only a 5. I even tried licking the breading and got no cheese flavor. I was dangerously disappointed and sad. I don’t even have orange paw-printed toilet paper to wipe away my tears.

(Nutrition Facts – About 3 pieces – Creamy Cheddar – 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. Flamin’ Hot – 240 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.98 each
Size: 14.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Creamy Cheddar)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Flamin’ Hot)
Pros: Great generic mac & cheese snacks. Crispy outsides and creamy insides really working together. Macaroni noodles occasionally making an appearance.
Cons: No Cheetle Dust. Dangerously small resemblance to actual Cheetos snacks. NO CHEETLE DUST. Temporary pop-up restaurants that aren’t local.

REVIEW: Lay’s Crispy Taco Potato Chips

Lay s Crispy Taco Potato Chips

First off, let me address the large potato chip in the room. Or seven potato chips, actually.

Lay’s decided to reveal the ten semi-finalists before announcing the top three and my taste buds were bouncing off the walls of my mouth with the imminent possibilities.

Smoked Gouda and Honey? Interesting, but still sounds yummy. Toasted Ravioli? Now you’re talking, Lay’s! Bring ‘em on! However, this new information soon turned to dread when the ten were whittled down to three.

This is it? The best you could do? Where’s the really off the wall flavor, like Cappuccino? Are you telling me Avocado Toast didn’t make it??? But it’s so trendy right now!!!

I was thoroughly disappointed. But, of course, I had to try the finalists.

Crispy Taco was the one I was the least excited about because it was probably just some of taco seasoning on a chip. Wow, how innovative Lay’s (here is exactly where I would be sending a side-eye emoji if I was texting my BFF). After opened the bag I got a big whiff of, yep, taco seasoning, just as I had suspected. The chips themselves are intensely covered with an red/orange color and a plethora of seasoning.

Lay s Crispy Taco Potato Chips 2

My first few bites were pretty uneventful. I only tasted taco seasoning. However, I was eating these with a friend who mentioned biting into a head of lettuce. I was very perplexed. But then, as I put another few in my mouth and focused, it hit me.

These are the Willy Wonka of potato chips! As in, instead of a three-course meal in one piece of chewing gum, these are potato chips that embody an entire crispy taco with all the toppings. Once you start chewing you get a little bit of the lettuce flavor then it morphs to the creaminess of some sour cream. I swear there were also tiny hints of cheese and tomato. The end of the bite turns into the common taco seasoning but you also get the meaty, ground beef flavor as well. There also seemed to be a bit of a corn taste representing the shell at the very, very end.

Lay s Crispy Taco Potato Chips 3

The more I ate these chips the more I liked them as it seemed like each time I would notice a new component in the flavor profile. The flavor is intense though, so I could only eat so many before it was too much to handle. I was also slightly concerned about succumbing to Violet Beauregarde’s fate and perhaps transforming into the world’s largest crispy taco that would have to be carted off somewhere for processing.

Even though my fingers are still crossed for Avocado Toast, these were fun and tasty. I’m sorry for suspecting they were made with just a simple seasoning packet, Lay’s.

I’ll never doubt you again!

(Nutrition Facts – about 15 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 7.75 oz. bag
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Willy Wonka’s chewing gum in taco-flavored chip form. Multiple layers of flavor. Not judging a potato chip by its boring flavor name. Eating new chips with friends.
Cons: Lay’s pulling back the curtain on some of the Do Us a Flavor Competition while crushing dreams at the same time. Big flavor that is sometimes overpowering. Turning into a giant taco that can’t be simply juiced like a blueberry. RIP Avocado Toast. Not having emojis when you desperately need them.

REVIEW: Domino’s Bread Twists (Garlic, Parmesan, and Cinnamon)

Domino s Bread Twists

Domino’s new bread twists have an interesting shape. They look like those cancer research ribbons people wear.

“Oh, good for you Domino’s, raising money for a good cause. And what cause will you be supporting? I can’t seem to find the organization on any of the news stories. Oh, there is none? Awwwkward!”

Anyway, while odd, the shape is a nice switch up from the standard small bite, knot, or very boring breadstick. There are two savory flavors to choose from, garlic and parmesan, and one sweet one, cinnamon. I couldn’t dare pick just one to try so I went with all three. Each order comes with a good number of twists and they aren’t uniform in appearance which gave me a good vibe of potentially being homemade.

On all three flavors the shining star was definitely the dough and the cooking method used to bake them. These two aspects worked together to make the exterior crispy and insides pleasantly soft. The weird shape actually made them more fun to eat and, as you probably have experienced with pretzels, there were different experiences when biting into either the center crossing, end pieces, or top bend.

Domino s Garlic Bread Twists

While the garlic ones were very buttery with a good amount of herbs and spices sprinkled on top, they were my least favorite. The garlic flavor was somewhat artificial. When I tried them with the marinara sauce, the garlic was completely overpowered so all I tasted was the dipping sauce.

Domino s Parmesan Bread Twists

The Parmesan Bread Twists were very similar to the garlic ones, just with a heaping amount of parmesan pieces on top. They started off tasting exactly like the garlic ones but then I got a blast of cheese at the end with the herbs and spices. These had multiple layers of flavor and, unlike the garlic ones, worked well with the marinara sauce provided, making them my favorite. It was like having a pizza party in my mouth.

Domino s Cinnamon Bread Twists

Finally, the only sweet one of the bunch was cinnamon. Cinnamon sugar is strewn about in strips atop the twists unevenly but this really allowed both the buttery bread and seasoning to shine separately. It also meant these weren’t a sugar bomb, until the mediocre sweet icing was added. When dipped, everything was too sweet to enjoy.

Domino’s Bread Twists are an odd product if you think about it. First, their shape makes me want to donate to some cause. Second, the garlic and parmesan varieties taste strikingly similar. Third, Domino’s already has parmesan bread on their menu, but in bite form. Fourth, Domino’s had cinnamon bread called Cinna Stix on their menu, albeit non-twisted.

While they may be odd, they are, for the most part, also pretty darn tasty. Just make sure to enjoy them hot and only sauce up the parmesan ones. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have one twist left that’s going on my lapel. I have to go to a fancy benefit for bread research.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 pieces – Garlic – 220 calories, 90 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat,4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein. Parmesan 230 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein. Cinnamon – 2 pieces – 250 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99 each
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Garlic)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Parmesan)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Cinnamon)
Pros: Breathtakingly good buttered browned bread. Unique shape that is surprisingly fun to eat. Parmesan twists plus marinara sauce = a pizza party in my mouth.
Cons: Strange shape that evokes cancer research. Garlic and Parmesan varieties taste similar. Marinara sauce overwhelms garlic flavor.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Waffles & Syrup Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Waffles  Syrup Oreo Cookies

Maple syrup seems to be having a moment. There were those Mystery Peeps that were my favorite of the three. It’s also a highlight of one of those new Signature Crafted Recipes from McDonald’s.

Now, Oreo has jumped aboard the syrup wagon and ventured into breakfast with their newest flavor, Waffles & Syrup. With the number of Oreo flavors debuting recently I hope that doesn’t mean either entity has reached their popularity now that they have joined forces.

Limited Edition Waffles  Syrup Oreo Cookies 3

The cookie has the familiar Golden ones as the sandwich pieces with most of the usual white cream for the interior. What sets this one apart is the dollop of brown tinted cream right in the middle of the cream filling.

Cracking open the package I immediately got a whiff of a graham/honey smell like ordinary graham crackers. Since I knew these were syrup flavored I could kind of smell the maple in there but if I didn’t know that was the flavor then I probably would have never ever guessed it. Not a good sign of what’s to come.

Limited Edition Waffles  Syrup Oreo Cookies 2

My first few bites just reminded me of regular Golden Oreo cookies. The maple flavor comes in a little bit towards the end, however, it was faint and, again, would have never picked up on it on my own.

Honestly, as I got through my first full cookie, I was kind of disappointed. I tried the components on their own but it didn’t help. These just tasted like Golden Oreos that someone in the factory accidentally let too much sugar fall in the mixer.

You are probably wondering where the waffles in the name comes into play?

I’m still pondering that actually. Were there any butter notes? Not really. A fluffy but crunchy nature to chewing? Nope. As you can see on the outside, they couldn’t even make the cookies indented with squares as that would at least make them look like waffle pieces!

After having a few more cookies, desperately seeking waffle flavor, I decided to succumb to the fact that it wasn’t there and that these were just okay. Other Oreo cookies I usually like coming back to over and over again but these were so cloyingly sweet, I didn’t really have the desire.

Maybe someone can offer up Waffles & Syrup for the new Oreo flavor contest that was just announced. There’s definitely room for improvement here.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 150 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: 10.7 oz.
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Nabisco venturing out of desserts and into the breakfast realm. Subtle hints of Maple.
Cons: Just a super-sweet Golden Oreo. Maple syrup and/or Oreo cookies potentially going downhill after this union. Waffle references that seem to be in name only.

REVIEW: Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

I thought it was a late stage April Fool’s Day joke, like the Rainbow Drink or possibly a foreign exclusive since only they get the cool, wacky Starbucks drinks. Take a moment to Google “American Cherry Pie Frappuccino” that is available only in Japan, (sigh) of course.

Once the Unicorn Frappuccino finally became official, though, my mind started racing. Would it be made with the tears of unicorns? Has Starbucks finally figured out how to manufacture eternal euphoria? So many questions, but one thing was clear – I absolutely needed this in my life.

The drink is marketed to play up its mythical nature rather than provide too many specifics on its actual composition. I’m glad they didn’t go low budget, though, when sourcing their rainbows as the in-store menu informed me it’s made with only the finest ones. I’ve had cheap rainbows before and they were not very good (very dull in color and lacking intense flavor).

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino 2

The drink’s actual contents are a crème Frappuccino with mango syrup, a sour-flavored interior drizzle and sour-dusted whipped cream. I couldn’t taste an iota of mango flavor, but I did get intense vanilla and sour notes. It’s as if little extremities of sour patch kids had invaded my vanilla milkshake.

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino 3

I do applaud Starbucks for thinking outside the box with its creative claims that it changes color and flavor when you stir, although, execution wise, the color transition was very, very subtle and there didn’t seem to be enough of the blue sauce in my drink for it to completely change flavors.

The nutrition facts are frightening since a Venti supposedly contains 76 grams of sugar and 500 calories, but as only a rare treat, they are somewhat understandable. I was very concerned this meant it would be a sugar bomb that was so overly sweet and heavy it would be rendered nearly undrinkable. However, I was pleasantly surprised that it was instead both creamy and pretty delicious.

Overall, though, while this was a gimmicky drink through and through, Starbucks hit it out of the park on creativity and marketing. Seeing the hysteria ensue makes me wonder if it will be destined for a yearly reemergence. I just hope they push the envelope even further, like with a special iridescent straw that would glisten majestically like a horn, which I WOULD CAMP OUT FOR THE DEBUT OF.

Oh and your move, Starbucks Japan.

(Nutrition Facts – Venti – 500 calories, 18 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 79 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 76 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.45
Size: Venti
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: A domestic Starbucks drink that for once can make international outposts jealous. Not a revolting sugar bomb. Flavor that’s like the offspring of a vanilla milkshake and a sour patch kid. Destined for McRib-like limited edition runs.
Cons: Low budget rainbow sourcing. Nutrition facts that I wish were mythical. No glistening iridescent straw. So-so execution of flavor/color changing nature.

REVIEW: Starbucks Pink Drink

Starbucks Pink Drink

You know what’s awesome?

Secret menu items.

You know what’s not awesome?

Ordering a secret menu item and the employee not knowing what you are talking about.

However, when a secret menu item is then elevated to the main menu it’s like the best of both worlds. A special, kind of exclusive treat that you don’t have to worry about acquiring. That’s exactly what has happened with Starbucks’ new Pink Drink. It contains their strawberry acai refresher mixed with coconut milk and strawberries and is now officially available.

Since its moniker is simply a color, I was very hesitant to see the drink in person as I didn’t want to be let down if it wasn’t enough pink enough. I was definitely hoping for execution more like the fantastic colored ketchup of yesteryear and less like the recent underwhelming naturally colored Froot Loops. The color didn’t disappoint, though, as it was a lovely pastel pink with nice pops of red from the strawberries.

Starbucks Pink Drink 2

The strawberries get a passing grade, probably a C or so if I was a grade school teacher. They are freeze-dried so make sure you let them soak a bit in the drink. Otherwise, they are crunchy and dry which means the flavor is a bit subdued. They are much better with some moisture in them as they provide a nice blast of tartness.

Even though it is advertised to be acai flavored with accents of passion fruit the only flavor I could taste is that of the main one, strawberry, and it comes through very nicely. The drink isn’t a sugar bomb either. It has a creamy nature but is still incredibly refreshing. It’s again the best of both worlds!

It reminded me of a light strawberry milk or even better yet Yoo-hoo’s strawberry drink in a fancier, lighter, and fresher version. I’m not usually a straight coconut milk fan but here it made for the perfect base for the refresher without being too overpowering.

With this drink being promoted to the official menu and being pretty darn good, I wonder if any other of the colored drinks that blew up Instagram last year will make the jump as well. Since it’s my favorite color and there has been an immense void in this segment for years (R.I.P. Pepsi Blue), fingers crossed for the blue one!

(Nutrition Facts – Grande (16 oz) – 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.85
Size: Venti
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Creamy and refreshing strawberry flavor. Secret menu items getting a promotion. Fondly remembering childhood food.
Cons: Strawberries that are better suited for space travel. Unnoticeable passion fruit and acai flavors.