REVIEW: Pringles Extra Hot Chili & Lime

Pringles Extra Hot Chili  Lime

The new Pringles Extra Hot Chili & Lime is a flavor so familiar that I thought it already existed, but a quick search only yielded Pringles LOUD Fiery Chili Lime and Pringles Chile Y Limon. Hmm. Maybe it was the purple packaging that reminded me of Fuego Takis.

Speaking of packaging, is it just me or is on-can imagery always fun? On the Top Ramen flavor, it’s a particularly sprightly sprig of parsley. For this fuego flavor, it features an Evel Knievel crisp jumping through a ring of chili fire. Let the LOLs ensue. Packaging aside, I had high hopes it would bring some real heat.

Pringles Extra Hot Chili  Lime 2

I noticed that the crisps looked much like the Evel Knievel crisp on the outside, which was somewhat sparsely sprinkled with red chili seasoning mainly clustered closer at the edges. I appreciate when the actual product reflects the image on its packaging. But they didn’t smell different from the usual Pringles.

The first thing I tasted was the tanginess from the artificial lime flavor, then the chili powder heat came. It was like rapid fire ray guns of flavor: lime, chili, lime, chili (Star Wars sound effects not included). I’ve never noticed this before with other flavors, but the curved crisp shape contributed to getting the flavor effectively and efficiently. I eat Pringles by shoving it whole into my mouth, so the surface of my tongue is completely covered by the crisp. So, my entire tongue felt like it was in a pleasant state of burn.

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I also sampled Takis to gauge heat level. They’re spicier and, of course, the corn flavor was very forward. Also, the heavily-seasoned rolled shape delivered a very pungent punch. To be fair, Takis claims to be extreme while Pringles just wants to be extra hot.

I think this Pringles delivers on the promise of extra hot and is well-executed. While Takis may be too extreme for some, these Pringles will keep chiliheads content but might be a stepping stone for those still building their capsaicin tolerance.

This doesn’t dethrone my favorite Pringles flavor, cheeseburger, BUT I’d be more than open to stacking a cheeseburger crisp with this one to make a spicy cheeseburger. Woo, the possibilities are endless! I know this slogan is old, but I think it still rings true – “Once you pop, you can’t stop!”

(Nutrition Facts – 15 Crisps – 150 calories, 9 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 5.5 oz. can
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crisp actually looks like the image on the packaging! Rapid fire ray guns of flavor: lime, chili, lime, chili. A tolerable kick that keeps chiliheads content, but also appeals to folks still building their capsaicin tolerance. Curved crisp shape contributed to getting the flavor effectively and efficiently.
Cons: A smidge of artificial lime taste. Still doesn’t dethrone as my favorite Pringles flavor (cheeseburger)!

REVIEW: Oreo Thins Bites

Oreo Thins Bites

It’s incredible and almost incredulous how much the Oreo factory is cranking out. Not only did they just launch Hot & Spicy Cinnamon and Chocolate Hazelnut, but also a whole new line of Oreo Thins Bites.

It comes in three fudge dipped flavors – Original, Coconut Crème and Mint Crème – and one original non-dipped variety. I feel like I need a family tree to keep this all straight (and a bigger stomach).

The first thing I thought of were Mini Oreos. And after trying them, I’ve concluded:

Oreo : Oreo Thins :: Mini Oreo : Oreo Thins Bites

Oreo Thins Bites 3

Why not just name it Mini Oreo Thins? Beats me. They have the same diameter as Mini Oreo, but are, obviously, thinner. The fudge-less Original tasted like Mini Oreo and Oreo Thins – same trusty chocolate cookies and crème combo. “Well, duh, Tiffany,” you may say, but I had to make sure!

I then eagerly moved on to the fudge dipped line. The dipped versions hide the distinguishable black and white cookie, but I guess the good thing is that there’s nothing else in the cookie aisle that looks like a tiny, smooth, and edible hockey puck. Furiously shoving them into my mouth makes me feel like I’m the hamster in those tiny hamster eating videos.

Oreo Thins Bites 1

I was pleasantly surprised the original fudge dipped one wasn’t noticeably sweeter than the non-dipped one, nor did it make the cookie any less crunchy. The fudge does subdue some of the signature chocolate cookie taste.

What REALLY got me going were the coconut and mint fudge dipped ones. The coconut one is in the same batch of deliciousness as regular Coconut Oreo Thins. It isn’t artificial like suntan lotion or some candy bars. It starts with a buttery note that mellows out into a subtle coconut taste. Also, the crème seems extra luscious because it’s smooth and doesn’t have any real coconut bits.

Oreo Thins Bites 2

As for the mint ones, they tasted exactly like Girl Scouts Thin Mints to me (but hamster-sized). So, if you love Thin Mints and want them year-around, here’s your answer! The only thing a bit off-putting is the artificial green color of the crème. It’s also the only flavor where the fudge doesn’t completely enrobe the cookie, so I could immediately see bits of off-putting green.

I didn’t think I would like the Oreo Thins Bites as much as I did because I didn’t see how they would be different from the other Oreo offerings. But, I’m a believer in the Oreo factory!! I even made a “Trail Mix” out of my remaining cookies. While I have to admit mine was all Oreo cookies, I could easily see these taking the place of M&M’s in regular trail mix.

If I had to make one complaint, though, it would be in the words of Ben Stiller in Zoolander – “What is this?! Oreo Thins Bites Fudge Dipped Coconut/Mint Crème for ants?!” Why couldn’t they have made regular-sized enrobed coconut/mint crème Oreo Thins? Guess they have to keep us wanting more.

(Nutrition Facts – Oreo Thins Bites (13 cookies) – 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. Oreo Thins Bites Fudge Dipped (9 cookies) – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99 each
Size: 6 oz bags
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Oreo Thins Bites)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Oreo Thins Bites Fudge Dipped Original)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Oreo Thins Bites Fudge Dipped Mint)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Oreo Thins Bites Fudge Dipped Coconut)
Pros: Coconut is seriously one of the best flavors in any form! Mint Crème tastes just like a Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie. Mindless, delicious snacking.
Cons: Why are there so many iterations? Family tree may be needed to keep track of Oreo varieties. A little bit confusing with Oreo Mini unless Nabisco is phasing it out. Green in the mint crème is a little off-putting.

REVIEW: Starbucks Toffee Almondmilk Hot Cocoa

Starbucks Toffee Almondmilk Hot Cocoa

It’s been Christmas season for me since Starbucks released their holiday drinks and cups on November 1st. Yes, I’ve been blasting Christmas music for a solid month now.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to get another holiday surprise when Starbucks released a new festive hot chocolate – Toffee Almondmilk Hot Cocoa. It joins Peppermint, Snickerdoodle, and Salted Caramel on the seasonal hot cocoa menu this season.

While they all sound fantastic, Toffee Almondmilk Hot Cocoa (steamed almondmilk with mocha sauce and toffee nut syrup, finished with whipped cream and Caramel Brulée topping) is the star in this lineup because it’s the first Holiday drink that prominently features almond milk. This means it can be vegan and non-dairy when ordered without the whipped cream — no substitutions are needed like with other Holiday drinks.

But that’s not all when you order now (said in my best infomercial voice), you don’t have to pay extra for the almond milk! It’s usually 60 cents more to substitute drinks with almond milk at Starbucks, but this drink costs the same as all the others! Winning!

In full disclosure, I’m not vegan or lactose intolerant. I eat all meats and drink whole milk, but I do have vegetarian days. I believe the term du jour is “flexitarian.” Oui oui!

Now on to the good good.

When I first received my drink, it looked like a whipped cream wonderland speckled with brown sugar crystals (the Caramel Brulée topping). Naturally, I plucked one off and tried it. It was just sugary and feels like the candy that gets stuck in your teeth – nowhere near as bad as say a Butterfinger though. Its flavor was fine on its own.

I particularly enjoyed my first sip because of the temperature contrast with the cool whipped cream and warm drink. I immediately tasted the chocolate from the mocha sauce, but didn’t really pick up on the distinct toffee nut. I could tell there was a subtle “je ne sais quoi” but I took a blind taste test, I wouldn’t be able to say that it was toffee nut. But as I continued drinking, I almost forgot it was an almond milk hot chocolate. I was amazed and surprised by its richness.

Starbucks Toffee Almondmilk Hot Cocoa 2

But, I didn’t love the topping with the drink. When I did get some of the topping in my sip, I didn’t enjoy that it was large enough to require chewing. It also threw the sweetness balance off because the drink itself wasn’t overly sweet or artificial tasting despite the four pumps of sauce and syrup. But the topping pushed it over the sugar edge. I actually liked it better without it.

As whole milk’s #1 fan, I’m overall very impressed by Starbucks’ execution with almond milk (except for their decision to make almondmilk one word). I also love that Starbucks is being extra inclusive this holiday season; this new release is great for vegans and non-vegans alike. It’s officially been added to my Starbucks holiday drink rotation!

(Nutrition Facts – Grande – 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 28 grams of total sugars, 4 grams of protein, and 15 mg of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $3.75
Size: Grande
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: It’s vegan and non-dairy when ordered without whipped cream. No additional cost for almond milk = winning! Surprisingly rich for almond milk.
Cons: Toffee nut, who? Caramel Brulée topping is gratuitous.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Oreo Cookies 1

The Oreo factory has been cranking out limited edition flavors like a proliferative hen laying her eggs. The latest to come out of the Mondelez coop is the Hot Cocoa Oreo. I thought this was a curious move as they recently launched their Hot Cocoa Mix – maybe they’re running out of ideas.

I also thought it was odd that there was a new packaging bubble on the front stating that it’s “Always Made With Real Cocoa.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought about it being/not being made with real cocoa. It has always been in its own league – dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and Oreo. Oreosities (oreo + curiosities!) aside, I thought this latest flavor was a nice break from all the pumpkinundation, caramel apple, and gingerbread flavors.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Oreo Cookies 2

Lifting the flap, they looked and smelled like regular Oreo cookies. The only difference was the crème which was half chocolate and half regular. Of course, it’s never as pretty in real life as it is on the outside packaging shot, but, whatever, when it comes to food aesthetics – I always say that it’s all going to the same place (my stomach).

I tried it in multiple ways — whole sandwich form, then layer-by-layer (cookie, regular crème, chocolate crème then cookie), then dunked in milk (per standard Oreo protocol!), and finally compared it with the Oreo Hot Cocoa Mix.

I thought it tasted best whole because I experienced more of the hot cocoa, or what I interpreted as such because of the subtle marshmallow flavor. Like a regular Oreo, the last taste in your mouth is still the chocolate cookie, but the marshmallow was definitely there.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Oreo Cookies 3

When eaten layer-by-layer, it was like a disappointing peek behind the curtain of magic. They just replaced half of the regular crème with some chocolate crème, which I was able to peel away. But, it’s surprising to find the marshmallow flavor was actually coming from the chocolate crème. My least favorite combination was the cookie dunked in milk because the marshmallow flavor was completely washed out, which made it taste like a regular Oreo.

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Oreo Cookies 4

Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Oreo Cookies 5

Finally, I compared it with the Oreo Hot Cocoa Mix. Depending on how you look at it, it could be a good or bad thing that they taste nothing alike. Dipping the cookie into the hot chocolate also didn’t do much; it was a chocolate cookie wash. But, I thought the cookies were better than the drink.

Even though this new flavor is very subtle, I think subtlety is an art! Plus, I don’t know how else they would’ve done a better job capturing hot cocoa experience – except to make something pie in the sky like a self-heating Oreo or something. These still don’t dethrone my favorite limited edition flavor (Reese’s), but it’s still a tasty addition.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.7 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Nice break from all the pumpkinundation, caramel apple, and gingerbread products. Marshmallow! Doesn’t taste like the Oreo Hot Cocoa Mix.
Cons: Subtle flavor gets drowned out if dunked in milk. I don’t know how else they could’ve better captured hot cocoa since a self-heating Oreo doesn’t exist.

REVIEW: Cheez-It Buffalo Wing Crackers

Cheez It Buffalo Wing Crackers

It’s officially football season (a.k.a. Americana foods season) and Cheez-It is getting into the spirit with its Flavor Playoffs. It’s a face-off between cheeseburger, cheese pizza, and cheddar nachos-flavored Cheez-It crackers and snack enthusiasts like you and me can choose the winning flavor.

Around the same time, the brand released a Walmart-exclusive Buffalo Wing flavor that features the same packaging but isn’t part of the promotion. Weird. But, that’s okay. It wouldn’t have been able to hold its own against the other classic tailgate flavors anyway.

Cheez It Buffalo Wing Crackers 2

The crackers looked like the typical orange squares in a box of regular Cheez-It, but with some extra dusting. It would have been a nice visual touch to see the crackers bright red-orange to mimic a beautiful fried chicken wing doused in red-hot Buffalo sauce. I could also see the light dusting was inconsistent across the crackers, so I knew some were going to be more flavorful than others. I was even more surprised that for a flavor as pungent as Buffalo, these didn’t smell too different.

Cheez It Buffalo Wing Crackers 3

Not surprisingly, the lackluster appearance and smell translated into a lackluster taste. I wanted it to be as flavorful as Cheez-It’s Sriracha Snack Mix, but it was nowhere close. Any initial Buffalo taste was quickly drowned out by a mild bleu cheese taste and then the sharp cheddar flavor that typically accompanies the regular flavor. The crackers that were extra toasted and extra seasoned were closer to that bold Buffalo flavor, but still not quite. This is the only time I will EVER say that the 100 percent real cheesy goodness did not work in its favor.

Cheez It Buffalo Wing Crackers 4

When it comes to Buffalo wing-flavored snacks, the gold standard is the Pretzel Pieces version from Snyder’s of Hanover. So, I pitted the two against each other. The Snyder’s one was hands down better and continues to be reigning champion. It not only packed a flavor punch, but it also didn’t have any seasoning inconsistency as it didn’t look like they used powder only. But, I will say that the pretzel pieces didn’t capture the bleu cheese flavor as well as Cheez-It.

For good measure, I also tried Rold Gold’s Buffalo Wing Thin Crisps Pretzels and I’m happy to share that Cheez-It won that round. You could taste the Rold Gold’s Frito-Lay backing as it reminded me of Cool Ranch Doritos more so than Buffalo.

At the end of the day, Cheez-It crackers are damn delicious no matter what seasoning you sprinkle on it. So in that vein, this isn’t the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Buffalo-flavored snacks, but it isn’t best-in-class either.

(Nutrition Facts – 25 pieces – 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of total fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 12.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: It’s a Cheez-It. More complex flavor journey than other Buffalo flavored products: Buffalo then bleu cheese then sharp cheddar. Beats the flavor of Rold Gold’s Buffalo offering.
Cons: Seasoning inconsistency. Wanted that Buffalo flavor punch but it doesn’t deliver. Not as good as Snyder’s Buffalo Pretzel Pieces.