REVIEW: Fritos Flavor Twists Queso

One of the biggest mysteries emanating from the chip aisle is why the hell aren’t there more Fritos Flavor Twists flavors? Originally released in 1992 in the now-beloved Honey BBQ, as well as two others I never had the pleasure to try — Cheddar Ranch and Jalapeño Cheddar — these twirly, crunchy corkscrew corn chips are inexplicably delicious to anyone who enjoys a sweet but smoky BBQ flavor. Yet for how excellent the form factor is, Frito Lay has sat on its hands for over TWENTY years without adding any new flavors aside from two limited regional drops in the early 2010s…until now! Fritos Flavor Twists Queso originally came out last year as a Dollar General exclusive (again, why the limited distribution?!), but are now making their way to most stores that carry the brand.

The reason why Flavor Twists are so fantastic is that fusilli-adjacent shape really does lock in a ton of flavor while delivering an exciting, crunchy, yet light and airy texture. This is coming from someone who loves regular Fritos, too, both the smaller and Scoop varieties. In fact, I think original Fritos are the most underrated “plain” chip in all of chips, but the Twist shape is better in every way aside from scooping. Frito Lay may have unlocked the ultimate cheat code in the early 90s and has criminally under-utilized it since, but this beautiful purple-accented bag of Queso Twists is a promising sign of things to come.

These new-ish Flavor Twists have a solid amount of seasoning that will leave your fingers decently caked after enjoying a couple handfuls. The flavor reminds me of Chili Cheese Fritos without the cumin-y funk. They have a solid cheese-forward burst in the front, followed by the classically strong and iconic Fritos corn taste, and then finish with just a teeny tiny bit of spice. I don’t think I would even call the finishing note “heat,” and it isn’t noticeable until you have eight or so in a row; it’s a nice round peppery spice that sits pleasantly beneath the salty cheese-prominence.

Queso Flavor Twists aren’t nearly as dynamic as their Honey BBQ sibling, but they are still a really tasty chip. They channel a big bowl of Fritos Scoops next to salsa con queso at a party, minus the mess. While they aren’t quite as good as getting a big scoop-full of meaty chili cheese on a thick salty chip, they are a fun new addition to the Fritos family that’s worth grabbing a bag in hopes that they stick around with more Twists to come.

Purchased Price: $2.69
Size: 3 1/2 ounces
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (23 pieces, 28g) 160 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Buttery-er Ritz Crackers

In the land of limited editions that dare to make the consumer want to try something more extreme or risky, we have the new, tame, and enticing, Limited Edition Buttery-er Ritz Cracker. Not extra butter, not heaps of butter, not movie theater butter — although an Ultimate Butter version in 2016 apparently took that dive — just the non-threatening and seemingly safe Buttery-er.

Before going into this, I should note that I love original Ritz Crackers. Growing up, there were two elite plain and buttery crackers — Nabisco’s Ritz and Kellogg’s Club. Ritz Crackers were always the preferred base for a ridiculous amount of squishy, squirt-y Easy Cheese or cream cheese, and Club Crackers felt like the more elegant, refined buttery choice for proper cheese and/or meat. As an adult, my favorite iteration of a Ritz is the fudge-covered one that pops up for the holidays — an absolutely underrated pinnacle of the modern sweet and salty snacking era.

Diving into this new Buttery-er version is a very familiar and satisfying experience. Soft and crumbly with a perfect amount of salt and a lovely golden buttery flavor throughout. My initial thought is that they are, indeed, more buttery, or, apologies, buttery-er. However, it isn’t an aggressive or artificial flavor like a Jelly Belly jelly bean; it’s simply a richer foundation to an already rich cracker. They also feel softer and more crumbly with an even quicker melt-in-your-mouth sensation than the original that’s been promising a “bite of the good life” since the 1930s.

Fun fact: both the original and these new limited edition Ritz Crackers contain no butter, and are vegan. Any buttery presence in one versus the other is the density of the science-flavored oils. The ten extra calories and half a gram more fat per serving in these, as opposed to the original, would imply a heftier hand in dosing that fatty flavor.

But is it all just a mind trick? There’s only one way to truly find out: a side-by-side taste test. Eating an original Ritz cracker and then the new Buttery-er version right after confirms what I thought prior to having the control cracker — it’s more buttery, and it’s subtle. The limited edition leaves a slightly more pronounced buttery oil feeling on the tongue than the OG, similar to movie theater butter, but much less intense. This makes sense because the “butter” at most theaters is also butter-flavored oil.

The Buttery-er Ritz Cracker is a lusher, slightly elevated experience from its already elite predecessor that I’m happy I found and tried. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if they made this the full-time recipe, but unless you’re a cracker completist, you don’t NEED to rush out to find these before they’re gone.

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 13.7 oz
Purchased at: Nob Hill
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (5 crackers, 17g) 90 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: C4 Energy Popsicle Energy Drink Flavors

A caffeinated popsicle? Sign me up!

Okay, I’m actually not that fond of eating my caffeine, I love coffee way too much, but I do like drinking things flavored like other things I’m supposed to chew. The latest collaboration between a sugar-laden childhood treat and a sugar-free energy drink company comes courtesy of C4 Performance Energy and Popsicle. A 16-ounce can contains 200 milligrams of caffeine, some beta alanine for muscle endurance, and one of three nostalgic flavors — Cherry, Grape, and Hawaiian Pineapple. All three drinks use no coloring and have a middle-of-the-road carbonation that isn’t too aggressive but doesn’t feel flat — nice, tight, sharp bubbles that let their impact be felt without a trail of trapped gassiness.

Cherry is undoubtedly the most classic of the three, with a sweet and slightly muted cherry flavor that delivers on the Popsicle theme really well. Eating an actual Popsicle as an adult, you realize how much less rich and more watery they are than an ice cream bar, and this drink has that slightly diluted watery finish after the initial cherry rush. It’s a good drink, but for me, it’s held back by its dedication to the bit. I’m left wanting a bit more flavor, especially when compared to C4’s already available best-in-class Midnight Cherry energy drink. Still, I have to commend C4 for making a drink that honors the collaboration and isn’t just a simple rebrand of something that already exists.

Hawaiian Pineapple is a Popsicle I’m not sure I have ever had, but I am delighted it was chosen as one of the flavors for this line — it is excellent. The flavor starts off very smooth and juicy pineapple that finishes with just a touch of orange. It seems exceedingly rare to find a nearly pure pineapple drink, as it’s often paired with coconut for a piña colada flare, and this one stands out as not only the most unique in the line but one that warrants repeat purchases and a permanent spot in the C4 lineup.

Grape is another classic and iconic Popsicle flavor but also one of the most divisive, and as a grape lover…C4 Energy nailed it. This may be the best grape energy drink I have ever had, and I’m blown away by how dense yet not cloying the flavor is. The taste is a big, bold, candy-like grape, that familiar taste you either love or hate, and the watery Popsicle element that worked against the cherry works like a charm here. The flavor is an undeniably potent punch of grape, yet it never gets syrupy or weighed down in the way grape can trend towards medicinal. It’s classic, it’s nostalgic, and it’s perfect.

Purchased Price: $3.49 (each)
Size: 16 oz cans
Purchased at: Vitamin Shoppe
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Cherry), 9 out of 10 (Hawaiian Pineapple), 10 out of 10 (Grape)
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 5 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 0grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of total sugars, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Marshmallow Sky Ice Cream

When you stroll into the grocery store ice cream aisle, one thing will usually jump out at you more prominently than most — the Ben & Jerry’s section. It’s usually more prominent than any others in the area, and with as many limited, new, and classic flavors as they have stocked, you would think that is all Ben & Jerry’s has to offer…but it is not.

Ben & Jerry’s keeps some of its treasured flavors quietly close to the chest and only available in Scoop Shops. One of my favorites, a dairy-laden version of Seven Layer Bar, can only be found in the dip case, and if you make it into one of B&J’s shops, you may find a couple of other surprises, too.

Good news for those without a shop nearby: a Scoop Shop exclusive has become a Limited Batch pint for the first time in a long time (ever?). Marshmallow Sky features marshmallow ice cream with marshmallow swirls and gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough.

The blue base ice cream, colored naturally with spirulina extract, is delightfully creamy with a robust vanilla flavor that isn’t as aggressively sweet as I was anticipating, and I’m totally okay with it. Marshmallow is usually a two-note flavor — sugar, then vanilla — and this base has the same two notes, but it’s much more vanilla than sugar, which is a welcomed surprise given the presence of the mix-ins. The marshmallow swirl is sticky and sweet and brings both the sugary element and texture to the mallow-sperience, thoroughly doing its job to bring the sweet taste of the summer sky to the spoon.

The double punch of dough chunks is prominent throughout and helps bring some much appreciated texture to the bites. The classic chocolate chip cookie dough’s brown sugar flavor blends in a bit with the bold vanilla backdrop of the base. But its gritty, chewy crunch and hints of chocolate poke through well. However, the bells of the ball are the chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough gobs, which REALLY make their mark with deep bittersweet notes of cocoa that cut through the base like butter. The blast of chocolate really delivers the dynamic pop I want from a good mix-in that elevates marshmallow sky oh so high into a pint that you should certainly buy.

This flavor is essentially B&J’s classic cookie dough on steroids. The base is a more robust and full-bodied vanilla than the original, and the double chocolate dough gives it a layering that the original lacks, all tied together with the sweet, sticky bow of a marshmallow swirl. Coming from the company that created cookie dough ice cream, this eats like a love letter to those who consider the classic their favorite flavor and shouldn’t be missed by those who adore the gobs of dough and vanilla with a colorful twist.

DISCLOSURE: I received a free product sample from Ben & Jerry’s. Doing so did not influence my review.

Purchased Price: FREE
Size: One Pint
Purchased at: Received from Ben & Jerry’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup, 132g) 340 calories, 15 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates,0 grams of fiber, 35 grams of total sugars, and 5 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Ghost Energy FaZe Up Energy Drink

When Ghost Energy debuted in 2020, it had four core flavors, one of which was vaguely titled “Citrus.” That can gave me big time lemon-lime Gatorade vibes with a hint of Mello Yello, which always reminds, affectionally, me of a C-tier fast food soda fountain. Ghost’s “Citrus” is a solid, full-flavored energy drink that I revisited recently ahead of this review and still enjoy quite a bit. For its follow-up foray into the lemon-lime category, the brand has once again teamed up with heralded esports gaming group FaZe Clan for the even more cryptically titled “FaZe Up.”

Reading the name “FaZe Up,” I instantly expect a clean, sharp, and crisp lemon-lime flavor, a la 7UP or Sprite, but that’s not what I get. The flavor starts off eerily similar to the original Ghost Citrus, with a bit more of a Mountain Dew aura to go along with the Mello Yello I tasted before. There’s no background signature Dew taste (you know the one), but that blend of lemon-forward sweet citrus dominates the opening sip. Then the flavor changes and steers away from that lemon-sphere into lime-land and finishes with a pronounced sour pucker. It’s really good.

In essence, “FaZe Up” does have some of the sharpness of a 7UP or Sierra Mist (ahem, sorry, Starry), but only in the backend of the flavor. This is a Mountain-Dew-meets-7UP-meets-sour-candy-energy-drink for the lemon-lime lovers that really does hit the spot like a proper jolt of citrusy electricity. As always with Ghost, the flavor is dense and endlessly drinkable with a nice, tight effervescence that goes down smooth without feeling flat. It’s delicious, and with 200 milligrams of caffeine and solid doses of other focus ingredients, it is absolutely one I will come back to again and again.

Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 16 oz can
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.