REVIEW: Limited Edition Doritos (Sour Cream and Onion & Salsa Rio)

Limited Edition Doritos (Sour Cream and Onion & Salsa Rio)

I once had a vivid dream that I traveled back in time to 1980. I don’t exactly remember why I’d chosen to time travel to that particular year, but I do recall being acutely aware that I had to avoid running into my parents at any cost. I also recall eating at a McDonald’s and being freaked out that I received my fast food in un-biodegradable Styrofoam containers. Faster than you could say “Marty McFly,” my alarm clock started buzzing, and I was whisked from my 80’s dream world, back to the present. I still have no idea what instigated my impromptu fast food run across the space-time continuum. Guess I was seriously jonesin’ for some junk food.

Which brings us to Doritos. Thanks to them, not only can we time travel in our sleep, we can also time travel at snack time! Old-timey, discontinued flavors, Sour Cream and Onion and Salsa Rio Doritos are out once again, sold in jaunty retro packaging, which I am assuming is Doritos’ attempt to duplicate the success of its re-released, late-60s era “Taco Flavor.”

Sour Cream and Onion Doritos were originally introduced in the early 80’s (…so I guess that means I could’ve bought some of those in my dream instead of destroying the environment with Mickey D’s). It’s strange that the Doritos people think we’d want that flavor again NOW, especially considering that we already have, like, eight thousand other Doritos flavors that more or less duplicate or improve upon the simplicity of sour cream and onion. Anyway, having come back to us now in the 21st century, Sour Cream and Onion Doritos have a robust onion flavor, which is balanced nicely by the sour cream taste. Not bad. But I can’t really tell the difference between this and Cool Ranch — a fact that does little to convince me that this flavor needed to be re-released.

Limited Edition Doritos (Sour Cream and Onion & Salsa Rio) Closeup

Salsa Rio Doritos are also visitors from the recent past…this time, from the late 80s. And we all know how awesome the late 80s were! I’m looking at you, Gorbachev! Just like glasnost, Salsa Rio Doritos are bold and delicious. These chips approximate the flavor of fresh tomato salsa with chopped onion very well and even have a little kick of heat. It’s interesting to note that this flavor had the shortest shelf life of the two when it was first introduced 25 years ago. Maybe people were too busy being coked up and rocking out in their leggings and Members Only jackets to Terence Trent D’Arby to go shopping for salsa-flavored tortilla chips.

I posit that Sour Cream and Onion and Salsa Rio Doritos have come in special Limited Edition retro bags so that they will attract more attention. Well, it worked. I like the detail and both flavors make charming little additions to the Doritos flavor spectrum, even if their Limited Edition status means they won’t be around forever. Not unlike Terence Trent D’Arby.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bag (28g) – Sour Cream & Onion – 290 calories, 17 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 380 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Salsa Rio – 290 calories, 16 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 430 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein)

Item: Limited Edition Doritos (Sour Cream and Onion & Salsa Rio)
Price: $1.09 (on sale)
Size: 1 ounce
Purchased at:
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Sour Cream and Onion)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Salsa Rio)
Pros: Time traveling in your sleep. Retro packaging. Two swell additions to the pantheon of flavored tortilla chips. Delicious, fresh tomato salsa flavor. Glasnost. Terence Trent D’Arby.
Cons: Styrofoam fast food containers. Being too coked up to care about salsa. Sour Cream and Onion tastes similar to Cool Ranch. “Limited Edition” means these Doritos won’t be around forever.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Chicken McBites

McDonald's Chicken McBites

Peer pressure is a bitch. When I was fourteen, I had my most memorable bout with peer pressure when my friends and I took turns jumping off a bridge. You heard me right. You know that old-as-dirt, parental warning “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”

Well, that bridge is real, dear reader.

And it was quite clear to me at the time that the answer was YES. There was a creek that ran through the town where I grew up, and at certain points throughout there were little footbridges. One particular bridge was about seven feet off the ground, and one day, my pals decided they would try to jump off and land on the level surface just on the edge of the creek. I was hesitant to do it since the ground was pretty muddy, and I was more than a little scared to sully my brand new jeans and awesome TLC CrazySexyCool t-shirt. You can probably see where this is going. I took a flying leap off the edge.

Long story short, the lovely ladies of TLC were soon covered in a slick of grime, dead leaves and any number of biological specimens dredged up from the creek bed. I should’ve heeded T-Boz’s warning to stick to the rivers and the lakes I was used to instead of careening like a howler monkey into certain doom. Now, I would have to go home covered in dreck and confess my bad deeds, so I was up shit creek. Literally. But like I said… peer pressure is a bitch. It can make you do things you really don’t need to do… and most importantly, probably shouldn’t do.

It is now evident that McDonald’s has also fallen victim to the sway of their fast food peers by introducing Chicken McBites. What KFC, Chick-Fil-A, Popeye’s, Sonic, and even Arby’s have already accomplished years ago, McDonald’s now feels it must also do in order to prove it isn’t… (waaaaait for it) Chicken. We all know that McDonald’s is no stranger to fried poultry, and that they are certainly capable of producing their own version of popcorn chicken. It just feels a bit like overkill when you already have McNuggets and Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips. Why would customers want smaller pieces of chicken with less meat in them? It doesn’t make any sense. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

McDonald's Chicken McBites Holder

The presentation of the Chicken McBites is on point. Chicken McBites arrive hot and fresh in a very cute and well-designed paperboard container with a built-in sauce cup holder that folds back from the lid. The sauce cup holder is very clever and handy, but make sure you don’t ask for honey with your McBites like I did. The holder is not constructed to hold the shallow honey container and appears designed to grip larger dips like Sweet n’ Sour and BBQ Sauce. Order honey, and you’ll be unwittingly setting up a very cute and well-designed honey catapult.

Given that popcorn chicken is high in fat and calories and sodium, all the bad things that go against nature and your better judgment, McDonald’s has decided to offer Chicken McBites in three different sizes, so you can make the “best” worst choice possible. They sell a 4-ounce “Snack” size, a 6-ounce “Regular” size, and a 12-ounce “Shareable” size. The fact that the largest size is called “Shareable Size” is interesting. This must be McDonald’s way of saying “Don’t eat the whole thing by yourself, Fatass.” Each size is sold individually, ranging from $1.99-$4.99.

McDonald's Chicken McBites Closeup

I ordered the Regular size and quickly discovered that the McBites themselves also varied in size. There were big ones and small ones. There were microscopic McBites (which could barely be called “McBites” in the first place because something that McSmall hardly required McChewing) and gargantuan McBites (that were clearly two McBites stuck together).

Like most popcorn chicken, the McBites were chewy and crispy on the outside with very generous breading. The breading was seasoned with spices that added the tiniest amount of heat. What the spices were, I do not know. The McDonald’s website says that McBites consist of “chicken breast meat” with a “savory home-style breading,” so I guess those spices can be found at home, y’all!

McDonald's Chicken McBites Closerup

But let’s talk about the meat-to-breading ratio. There were scanty amounts of “breast meat” here, folks. I understand it is popcorn chicken and that popcorn chicken is mostly flour, but this was really just fried, spicy flour with a slight, somewhat chicken-flavored filling. This is what McDonald’s — the #2 Fast Food chain in the world — came up with when faced with the possibility that they’d be excluded from the popcorn chicken game? Coming in second to Subway makes them want to go out and make fried, barely-meaty chicken chunks? They just had to do something, even if that something wasn’t their best effort. Did McDonald’s even have to pretend they cared about popcorn chicken?

Chicken McBites are not yet available everywhere, but they soon will be. They’re not as good as McNuggets or the Premium Chicken Strips, but they do come in several sizes. So they’ve got that going for them. I know McDonald’s will consistently try to impress with new additions to its menu that mirror what their peers have tried before, even if it the food doesn’t turn out the best… Even if their efforts result in disaster. Someone somewhere will look at the yucky, messy results and respect that McDonald’s did it; that they tried.

(Nutrition Facts — Regular size (6 ounces) — 470 calories, 28 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 730 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, 22 grams of protein.)

Other McDonald’s Chicken McBites reviews:
An Immovable Feast
Grub Grade
Fast Food Geek

Item: Chicken McBites
Price: $2.99
Size: Regular size
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: TLC’s Waterfalls. Fried poultry. Adorable packaging. Nice, affordable prices for all three sizes. Yummy home-style seasoning. Comes with a sauce cup holder.
Cons: Peer pressure. Scanty amount of meat in each McBite. Honey catapults. Creek bed filth. Deigning to care about popcorn chicken.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal

McDonald’s Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal

I own this amazing pair of sleek, light-as-a-feather pants that changed my attitude about what pants could be. I knew that I had to buy them when the changing room attendant began to wax poetic about her own pair that was waiting for her at home after a long day at work. These pants had it all: comfort, good taste, and style. I would not be embarrassed to be seen wearing them in public, unlike other “comfortable pants” I happen to own (I’m looking at you faded high school gym sweatpants). The price was a little steep, but I knew I was making a good investment on these heavenly pants.

I recently discovered that the same could be said for McDonald’s new Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal. Since it’s the latest in a long line of fast food establishment oatmeal initiatives, it’s certainly fashionable, and since it is only available in a few markets right now, it’s something you can brag about to friends (if you’re in the habit of bragging about what you ate… which is pretty ridiculous, so please don’t.)

The Apple Cinnamon Walnut oatmeal also costs more than you’d want to pay for instant oatmeal, but you knew what you were getting into when you pulled your car into a McDonald’s drive-through for breakfast, instead of boiling some water and tearing open a packet of Quaker Instant, so shut your mouth.

McDonald's Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal Walnuts

The oatmeal itself is pretty hearty. When you receive it, it’s already filled with generous chunks of apples (different types of apples, I may add) and thickened with light cream. In fact, if it weren’t for the delicious cinnamon flavor of the rolled oats and the accompanying packet of chopped walnuts you have to add in yourself, this oatmeal would be almost the same as the Fruit & Maple version, minus the dried cranberries and raisins. Even the McDonald’s where I bought my Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal got confused and handed me the older variety without so much as a blink! I mean, I understand the two oatmeal varieties look sort of the same, but you’d think there would be safeguards in place! Oh, wait, never mind, this is McDonald’s during the breakfast rush, not NASA. If someone’s headed for a burst O-Ring it would probably be the dudes in the headsets who don’t make eighty grand.

McDonald's Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal Closeup

The Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal is warm, filling and tasty, but the only thing that keeps it from getting a higher rating from me is the presentation. Seriously, it looks very unappetizing. When they first give it to you, the cream hasn’t really seeped into the oats, so it leaves a thin, cloudy layer of liquid at the top. Not cute. You really have to stir it up a bit to give it a more natural-looking (and non-disgusting) appearance. It’s confusing to the senses.

The oatmeal smells wonderful, and the container is hot and inviting, but it looks like baby food … after the baby has eaten it and spit it back up. As we’ve already seen with the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, it’s not guaranteed that every McDonald’s location will serve its oatmeal in this horrible fashion. Just be prepared to be a little frightened by the oatmeal straight off, give it a good stir and enjoy. Hopefully in some comfortable and stylish pants.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bowl – 270 calories, 8 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.)

Other McDonald’s Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal reviews:
Brand Eating
Serious Eats

Item: McDonald’s Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal
Price: $2.19
Size: 1 bowl
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Oatmeal initiatives. Generous amount of apple chunks. Delicious cinnamon flavor. NASA. Heavenly pants.
Cons: Can be easily mistaken for the Fruit & Maple version by non-NASA employees. Only available in limited markets. Must mix in the chopped walnuts on your own. Oatmeal’s presentation can be likened to baby vomit.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches (Queso Chicken and Cheddar Bacon Melt)

Hot Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches (Queso Chicken and Cheddar Bacon Melt)

I haven’t had much luck with giant soft pretzels lately. The most recent incident involved a soft pretzel at a baseball game which had most likely been fashioned out of brine-cured leather and sawdust then stamped with a $5.95 price tag. Another episode involved the greasiest, most stale-tasting mall pretzel ever created, which tasted like its main ingredients were leaden biscuit dough and the leftover grease scooped from the bottom of a fast food fry vat.

There are clearly some pretzel standards that were not being followed here. Sure, they were hot. Sure, they were twisted. But they weren’t pretzels. They made me wish there was some sort of graduate school for pretzel-making. Most of these pretzel vendors understood the basics, but they really needed a more intensive education in order to perfect their soft-pretzel-making skills. Crust brown and crackly? Check. Innards hot, light and fluffy? Check. Salt applicator well-calibrated? Check. Bam, Masters degree!

I know some people really only use giant soft pretzels as a delivery mechanism for nacho cheese, ranch dressing, melted butter, or icing, and they couldn’t care less about how it tastes by itself…but I really like soft pretzels as an actual snack food, so it disappoints me when they turn out horribly. Little did I know that Hot Pockets would revive my love of hot, salty soft pretzel goodness. They’ve made a new line of stuffed sandwiches called Pretzel Bread Sandwiches. So far, there are two varieties: Queso Chicken and Cheddar Bacon Melt. The results were top-notch. Looks like someone matriculated at the National Conservatory of Soft Pretzels.

Hot Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches

The Cheddar Bacon Melt is just as face-meltingly delish as it sounds. The melted cheddar cheese blends well with the generous chunks of bacon and tomatoes. I don’t know if the bacon is nitrate-free, but this is a Hot Pocket, guys. The bacon itself is slathered with creamy sauce, so it clearly doesn’t matter. The Queso Chicken is also a seriously tasty sandwich. The grilled white meat chicken breast is tender, and the cheddar cheese mixed with fire-roasted poblano peppers is a savory combination. And they are not kidding about the jalapeños – each stuffed sandwich contains large, chopped pieces that really turn up the heat. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the mega-spiciness these guys turned out. They would get an A+ in Jalapeño School.

But I’m burying the lead here. What you really want to hear about is the pretzel bread crust. Let’s just say that the creators of this pretzel crust must have built their graduate thesis around this recipe. It is exactly right for this sandwich. Meaning, it’s soft and crusty and salty, and once cooked, emits the distinctive aroma of freshly baked pretzel dough. The pretzel bread perfectly complements the creamy cheese in both sandwiches as well.

Hot Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Queso Chicken and Cheddar Bacon Melt

The only area where the pretzel bread crust gets a big fat F is ingredient seepage. The extremely hot insides can sometimes still ooze out during microwaving, so the somewhat firmer and sturdier pretzel bread crust doesn’t offer a solution to that little problem. But a little problem it is, especially when you’re chowing down on cheesy/bacon-y or cheesy/spicy deliciousness. So what if your fingers get a little burned? Try pursuing a Masters degree in Grubbin’, not Whining.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – Queso Chicken – 280 calories, 10 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 790 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 13 grams of protein, 6% vitamin A, 20% calcium, and 15% iron. Cheddar Bacon Melt – 320 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 810 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 13 grams of protein, 6% vitamin A, 25% calcium, and 25% iron.)

Item: Hot Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches (Queso Chicken and Cheddar Bacon Melt)
Price: $2.28
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: HyVee
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Queso Chicken)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Cheddar Bacon Melt)
Pros: Enjoying pretzels as more than a delivery mechanism for gooey dips. Generous chunks of bacon. Getting an A+ in Jalapeño School. Earning a Masters degree in Pretzel dynamics.
Cons: Ingredient seepage. Overpriced pretzel creations from vendors who believe pretzel = twisted anything. Whining. Grad school loans that cannot be paid off with hot, delicious soft pretzels.

REVIEW: Orville Redenbacher’s Flavor Singles (Sea Salt & Vinegar, White Cheddar, and Extra Cheese)

Orville Redenbacher’s Flavor Singles

Orville Redenbacher’s Flavor Singles gourmet popcorn introduces three new flavors to the line-up: Sea Salt & Vinegar, White Cheddar, and Extra Cheese. The hook is not only that they are sold separately in single packages, but also the fact that they come with little flavor packets, which you’re meant to sprinkle over your popcorn.

Some things aren’t meant to be experimented with. I get it — snack foods are the interminable guinea pig. There will never be a time when a snack food manufacturer won’t have the desire to tweak their signature item with a new flavor or texture or shape. Their goal is to create a need where there was never one before; to lure the itinerant snacker over to their side of the grocery aisle and convince him or her to lay down their hard-earned cash for their latest Frankenstein-like creation. But damn it, Orville, you sort of beefed with this one.

Orville Redenbacher’s Flavor Singles Extra Cheese Pouch

Let me explain. The only flavor I actually liked was Extra Cheese. Despite the neon orange glow of the cheese powder, the Extra Cheese popcorn possessed a rather robust cheese flavor, which, when applied to a bag full of freshly-popped, already-cheesy popcorn, made things quite delicious… and doubly cheesy. But when it came time to sample the other two, I was terribly disappointed.

Orville Redenbacher’s Flavor Singles  White Cheddar Pouch and Packaging

To start things off, the White Cheddar popcorn was really just regular white popcorn with no seasoning. All of the white cheddar flavor came from the packet of seasoning, but when I sprinkled it on, it tasted… well… a little mature. That is, the White Cheddar popcorn was a tad bitter. Now, I know that white cheddar itself has a more distinguished cheese flavor than regular cheddar, but on microwave popcorn, I don’t think it’s the best combination.

B-b-b-but wait, it gets worse! Sea Salt & Vinegar popcorn must be the popcorn they serve in Hell’s movie theater that only screens From Justin to Kelly on a loop. For $50 a pop. And it’s mandatory. Once again, the popcorn is unflavored, white popcorn to which you must add seasoning. I evenly distributed the flavor packet’s contents on my popcorn and was startled to taste nothing but vinegar. I couldn’t taste a bit of the sea salt. This was the ultimate in disgusting. I think the problem may be the popcorn itself. Sea salt and vinegar potato chips and French fries with sea salt and vinegar are sometimes an acquired taste (one which I have… ahem… acquired), but there is something about the base flavor of the fried potatoes themselves that I think balances the tanginess of the vinegar with the bite of the salt. That does not exist here with this popcorn. It is like eating straight-up vinegar on Styrofoam. Now, some of you may like that kind of flavor experience, but I will tell you right now, I am not a fan.

Orville Redenbacher’s Flavor Singles Closeup

I would probably go back for the Extra Cheese flavor again, since it fulfills my expectations of what a cheesy snack food should look and taste like. However the other two flavor experiments, White Cheddar and Sea Salt & Vinegar were not as satisfactory, with one of them being an abject failure in the realm of culinary innovation. I could only manage a couple bites of each, and boy, those were some rough bites. Looks like my friends will be receiving tins of leftover popcorn this Christmas! It will be mandatory.

(Nutrition Facts – serving size varies – 2 Tbsp (about 5 cups – 6.5 cups popped) – Sea Salt & Vinegar – 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 280 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein. White Cheddar – 140 calories, 8 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 3 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 350 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. Extra Cheese – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 3 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 330 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein.)

Other Orville Redenbacher’s Flavor Singles reviews:
Junk Food Guy (Salt & Vinegar)

Item: Orville Redenbacher’s Flavor Singles (Sea Salt & Vinegar, White Cheddar, and Extra Cheese)

Price: $1.49
Size: 3.24 ounces
Purchased at: Albertson’s
Rating: 1 out of 10 (Sea Salt & Vinegar)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (White Cheddar)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Extra Cheese)
Pros: Two words: Extra Cheese. Doubly cheesy snack foods. Mandatory gift-receiving. Apparently there’s money circulating in Hell, so at least you can save up for something nice down there.
Cons: Three words: Sea Salt & Vinegar. White Cheddar flavor is a tad bitter. The popcorn itself in the White Cheddar and Sea Salt & Vinegar packages is unflavored. Paying money in Hell to watch an American Idol reject sing and dance.