REVIEW: New Coke (2019)

New Coke  2019

As an older millennial, born in 1985, I never quite know how I should think of the ‘80s. Am I an 80’s kid? On the one hand, I distinctly remember hiding my He-Man themed Slap Bracelet in my Transformers Trapper Keeper because some kid two towns over had allegedly accidentally slit his wrist with one. Further evidence: that Trapper Keeper would later be lugged home in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles duffle bag and the map on the classroom wall still had an ominous swath of red labeled “USSR” on it.

On the other hand, my ‘90s kids sense of ironic detachment says it’s kinda sad so many of my early memories are dominated by commercial properties. Plus, I only saw The Breakfast Club last week, and still haven’t seen Labyrinth.

Whether I’m a child of the ‘80s or not, there’s one relic from the era that I regret missing: New Coke. The soda always seemed to symbolize something essential about the ‘80s. It’s an updated, new take on a decade’s old classic, ready for the next generation and eager to face a hopeful future. Yet, it failed.

(‘90s kids says, “Dude, it’s just flavored sugar water, get over it and go live an authentic life!”)

Ever ready to capitalize on nostalgic desire, Netflix and Coca-Cola have collaborated on the Stranger Things 1985 Limited Edition Collector’s Pack featuring New Coke. Will trying it fill in some ineffable hole from my childhood? Let’s find out!

According to internet lore, New Coke was actually Coca-Cola’s attempt to replicate Pepsi’s sweeter tasting formula, which performed better in blind taste tests. You can thank my internal internet-obsessed ‘00s teen for that factoid.

New Coke  2019 2

So, this seems like a perfect opportunity to perform a comparison: New Coke vs. Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola Classic.

Before tasting, I gave each a quick sniff. Coke Classic has a very mild scent, with both Pepsi and New Coke being much sharper. As I taste each, this pattern remains. Coke Classic is less sweet, with a rounder flavor. New Coke and Pepsi are sweeter and have a more acidic bite. I can see how Pepsi would perform better in a taste test. It’s also more carbonated, so it’s more exciting to drink in the moment.

A bit more internet research reveals that cola flavor is actually a combination of vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus. The citrus element of Pepsi is supposedly more lemon-forward, with Coke Classic relying more on orange. This unverified and poorly sourced research conforms to what I already thought, and so I will believe it. I would bet the primary differences between New Coke and Coke Classic are that the former is sweeter with more lemon in its cola formulation.

New Coke  2019 3

Additionally, Coke Classic has some caramel flavor that’s lacking in Pepsi. If there’s a difference between New Coke and Pepsi, it’s that New Coke also has some of this caramel flavor.

It turns out there’s a reason they don’t make New Coke anymore. It doesn’t deliver anything that Pepsi doesn’t already, and Coca-Cola Classic is better than both. (Don’t @ me Pepsi fans. 2019 adult me doesn’t need to be dragged through the mud on social media.)

Purchased Price: $19.85 (Included in Stranger Things Collector’s Pack)
Size: 12 fl. oz. can
Purchased at: Cokestore.com
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts:: 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates (includes 42 grams Added Sugars), 0 grams of fiber, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Cool Whip Mix-Ins Birthday Cake

Cool Whip Mix Ins Birthday Cake

What is Cool Whip Mix-Ins Birthday Cake?

Cool Whip is the kind of product that you notice when it’s not there. No, not in the good “Oh, my God we don’t have any Cool Whip? This is a disaster!” kind of way. It’s the “Oh! We have real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip? Nice!” kind of way. Everyone wants the real thing but will be fine with the tub of Cool Whip that’s been sitting in the freezer since last Thanksgiving.

Kraft Heinz Foods is trying to change that by introducing new varieties of the ubiquitous dessert topping, and its latest is Cool Whip Mix-ins Birthday Cake.

How is it?

I didn’t know what to expect from this product. Birthday cake frosting can have an overpowering sweetness, and bad frosting always leaves a waxy residue on your tongue. Neither would be welcome on top of my pie. Plus, how will the sprinkles work in this context? Will I have a bunch of loose sprinkles in my mouth once the Cool Whip has dissolved? There’s a conspicuous lack of pie in my house right now, so I’ll have to try this eat this with a spoon. A finger would be more typical for me, but I decided to bring out the good silver for this review.

Cool Whip Mix Ins Birthday Cake Spooned

I think this Cool Whip would work just as well on top a piece of pie as a spoon (or finger) because its flavor is subtle enough not to overwhelm anything. It has a distinct taste that’s really reminiscent of a birthday cake but won’t turn your mom’s famous apple pie into a monstrous birthday-pie hybrid. The sprinkles are more than coloring but dissolve quickly and without any waxy residue.

Is there anything else you need to know?

There are a lot of new flavors popping up these days, and I’m getting a bit confused. What exactly is unicorn flavor? Is cotton candy flavor more than just sugar? And what’s the difference between cake batter and birthday cake flavor? More importantly, how do manufacturers decide what to call their new stylishly mysterious concoctions when there are so many options?

Cool Whip Mix Ins Birthday Cake Top

In this case, the Cool Whip people knew that one option was off the table: unicorn. You know why. C’ mon. I can’t be the only one thinking it. Cool Whip Birthday Cake Mix-ins is exactly what unicorn… excreta.. would look like.

Yes, unicorns are sacred, majestic, and importantly, not real animals, but they’re theoretically biological entities and need to undergo the natural biological processes such as waste removal. Now that I’ve put the thought in your head, enjoy Cool Whip Mix-ins Birthday Cake! It’s good!

Conclusion:

Cool Whip’s newest flavor threads the needle of being distinct enough from regular Cool Whip to be an enjoyable novelty without overpowering whichever dessert it’s topping.

Purchased Price: $1.84
Size: 8 oz. tub
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2 tbsp) 25 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2g of Total Sugars, 2 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Jimmy John’s Frenchie

Jimmy John s Frenchie

What is the Jimmy John’s Frenchie?

Jimmy John’s vaguely problematically-named “Frenchie” sandwich contains salami, capicola, provolone, and salted butter on a thinner version of its standard French bread. They’re premade in limited quantities each day, so plan on an early lunch if you want to be sure to get one.

How is it?

As the name suggests, the Frenchie is Jimmy John’s take the popular French jamon-beurre sandwich. I went to a fancy culinary school, and speak culinary French, and so can tell you that jamon-beurre means ham-butter. (That’s not true. The only language skills I picked up during my time working in restaurants was to answer to “Oi! Pinche pendejo!”). As the name suggests, it’s a straightforward sandwich of ham and butter on a baguette, which requires all three elements to be of top quality for it to work.

Jimmy John s Frenchie Side

I’m a fan of Jimmy John’s, but its ingredients aren’t up to the task. The bread is soft with a nice bite to its crust, but it doesn’t have the chew and crackling crust of a great French baguette. The cold cuts and cheese are better than Subway’s, but you could find the same in your grocer’s deli. I’m not looking for the Frenchie to transport me to a café in Paris, but without really top-quality ingredients this is a fairly plain sandwich.

Jimmy John s Frenchie Meats and Cheeses

Jimmy John’s tries to overcome this shortcoming by replacing the traditional ham with salami and capicola, but neither stands out, neither adding nor subtracting from the sandwich, making me think they should’ve simply stuck with ham.

Is there anything else you need to know?

The only ingredient Jimmy John’s added to their menu for this sandwich is the salted butter. For some, this may not seem enough to justify a whole new sandwich, but as a Wisconsin native, I must disagree. The home of the Butter Burger knows that butter can improve any recipe. I had a friend in grade school who had peanut butter and butter sandwiches for lunch every day. We like butter so much that we once outlawed margarine. Though I was generally disappointed in the Frenchie, the butter adds a salted richness that serves to meld the flavors is a pleasing way.

Conclusion:

The Frenchie is a good option if someone is looking for a few simple ingredients combined in a satisfying arrangement. Fans of the franchise’s “Plain Slim” options with only meat and cheese may find something to like. Others will be better served by ordering something else, unless they really like butter. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for the annual butter sculpture eating contest.

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jimmy John’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 760 calories, 34 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 2130 milligrams of sodium, 75 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 37 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Big Kahuna Sandwich

Arby s Big Kahuna

What is the Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Big Kahuna?

Remember when Arby’s first released the Meat Mountain? Piling every one of its meats on a single sandwich, the “secret menu” item was the subject of articles written with equal parts awe and disgust. I saw it as more of a stunt offering than a real menu item, not fit to be ordered by a respectable gentleman of refined taste such as myself. I certainly did not order and consume one late one night from the nearby gas station-attached Arby’s near my house.

I mention the Meat Mountain only to highlight that the Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Big Kahuna sandwich features three types of meat: a fried chicken fillet, ham, and smoked brisket, as well as Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a pineapple habanero mustard on a sweet Hawaiian roll. It’s a hefty sandwich, and it’s on the regular menu without any particular attention. Truly, the arc of the fast food universe is long, but it bends towards gluttony.

How is it?

The King’s Sweet Hawaiian roll is something Arby’s has returned to again and again for good reason. Its sweetness complements the sandwich without overwhelming any individual element. By itself, it’s noticeably sweet, but that sweetness lessens when eaten as a part of the whole.

Arby s Big Kahuna Halved

The chicken remains crisp even after the drive home, and the ham and Swiss are natural cordon bleu-esque additions. The smoked brisket adds smokiness, but is a bit dry. It seems extraneous to me, but doesn’t subtract from the whole. The pineapple habanero mustard really tastes like sweet pineapple and adds a needed kick to the whole affair. Without it, the sandwich’s sweetness could have been overwhelming.

Is there anything else you need to know?

There’s been a trend in recent years for burgers and sandwiches to be piled so high that they’re too unstable to be actually eaten by hand. I certainly remember the Meat Mountain eroding into a hill of various meats and cheeses, forcing me to pick through them with my fingers in the harsh, judgmental dome light of my car.

The advertising photos of the towering King’s Hawaiian Big Kahuna sandwich made me think I’d be in for a repeat of my shameful late-night mountaineering expedition, but I was pleasantly surprised at the structural integrity of this sandwich. This is one time I was happy the actual product was smaller than advertised. The tomato caused a bit of slippage, but I was able to handle it and get a bit of each element in every bite.

Conclusion:

It’s a sandwich that will satisfy your inner gourmand without being too much. I mean, we’re through the looking glass now with eating contest-sized sandwiches becoming the norm, but I’m not complaining. I look forward to trying Arby’s Meat Continent in a few years.

Purchased Price: $6.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 860 calories, 39 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 195 milligrams of cholesterol, 2380 milligrams of sodium, 69 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 60 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Monster Energy Ultra Paradise

Monster Energy Ultra Paradise

What is Monster Energy Ultra Paradise?

Monster Energy just released “Paradise” as the newest addition to its sugar-free Ultra line of energy drinks. According to the back of the can, Monster Ultra Paradise delivers “Pure, Crisp, Invigorating Island Flavors.” The question is, what exactly is an island flavor?

Monster Energy Ultra Paradise 2

How is it?

I’m a frequent consumer of Monster Ultra, so I know the flavors can be difficult to place. Sure, Ultra Red kind of tastes like fruit punch, and Ultra Sunrise tastes vaguely orangish, but what flavor is Ultra Blue? Ultra Zero? Ultra Paradise at least gives us a hint that it’ll be tropically flavored.

Monster Energy Ultra Paradise 3

Upon opening, Ultra Paradise is a hazy light green color. The island flavor is… nondescript. Pineapple, maybe? Or maybe Pina Colada? Is the green color supposed to be a hint? It’s definitely tropical, but I still have no idea what that means exactly. You could tell me it was passion fruit flavored, and I’d believe you. (Full disclosure: those weird purple Starburst are the complete extent of my experience with passion fruit.)

Is there anything else you need to know?

Some varieties of Monster Ultra can be too sweet for my tastes, so I appreciate this one keeps it more subdued. It allows the citric acid tang to add a bit of a kick, which is appreciated when I’m looking for a pick-me-up.

Conclusion:

When imbibing a caffeinated beverage, I’m mostly interested in its pharmacological effect. Most of the time that means coffee, but if I’m at a convenience store of questionable quality, with a pot of coffee that’s been there longer than the clerk, I may reach for an energy drink instead. Monster always gets the job done with 140 milligrams of caffeine, and Paradise fits in well with the rest of the Ultra options.

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 16 fl. oz. can
Purchased at: Festival Foods
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 160 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 gram of protein, 100% Niacin, 100% Vitamin B6, 100%, Vitamin B12, 100% Vitamin B5, and 140 mg of caffeine.

Click here to read our previous energy drink reviews.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Bites

Kellogg s Pop Tarts Bites

Do you wake up precisely 43 seconds before you need to be out the door? Or maybe you have a heart condition, and the sudden POP! of the toaster would too much for the ol’ ticker? Or perhaps you don’t like your kids too much, and don’t want to do anything that could be mistaken as cooking for them?

If so, Pop-Tarts Bites are the product for you! Able to go from box to mouth in under 10 seconds, these bite-sized pieces promise the classic Frosted Strawberry or Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon flavor without all that tedious toasting.

An even faster, less labor-intensive version of toasted Pop-Tarts may seem like a product in search of a problem, but I’m willing to be convinced. After all, I’m a guy so impatient that I’ve never successfully cooked a TV dinner using the conventional oven instructions. I always get tired of waiting and throw it in the microwave.

Kellogg s Pop Tarts Bites Pouches

I open a pouch of each and stick my nose in deep to sniff that classic Pop-Tart scent of slightly undercooked pastry. The Brown Sugar Cinnamon has an additional spice scent, and the strawberry strongly reminds me of strawberry jam. So far, the experience is identical to regular Pop Tarts.

I pop a Brown Sugar Cinnamon Bite into my mouth, crunch through the frosting, and into the sugary center. These taste like Pop-Tarts. The Brown Sugar Cinnamon Bites have a kick of spice to them, and the Strawberry Bites have a nice tartness, but these are fundamentally the popular toaster pastry.

Kellogg s Pop Tarts Bites Innards

If anything, they’re a bit more monotonous. With a traditional Pop-Tart, you can vary the eating experience by adjusting the amount of filled center vs. unfilled edge in each bite. I know I’m not the only one who likes to nibble away all the edge first, leaving the super sugary center for last. It’s also possible I way over think these things.

For me, the major drawback to these is that they can’t be toasted. While I understand one of the selling points of Pop-Tarts is that they allow you to eat breakfast while still in REM sleep, I’ve always preferred them toasted. Having a “cooked” breakfast will enable me to maintain the facade of being a functional adult. Plus, it gets rid of the aforementioned undercooked dough flavor. A brief 20 second trip in the microwave results in a pillowy crust and warm filling, an improvement, but one not intended by the manufacturer.

Everything you need to know about Pop-Tarts Bites is right there in the name. They’re mini bite-sized Pop-Tarts. They deliver precisely that but don’t add much to the Pop-Tarts Extended Universe.

Purchased Price: $4.98
Size: 10 pouches/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 pouch) Strawberry – 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. Brown Sugar Cinnamon – 150 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.