REVIEW: Ritz Crisp & Thins (Salt & Vinegar and Cream Cheese & Onion)

Ritz Crisp  Thins  Salt  Vinegar and Cream Cheese  Onion

When I first heard that Nabisco’s Ritz Crackers were moving into chips, I was terrified. I have PTSD from Cheez-It’s attempt to move into chips with Grooves. Grooves didn’t do the Cheez-It cracker justice! I have almost the same love for Ritz as I do for Cheez-It; I love those damn buttery Ritz crackers. Point is, I had high expectations for Ritz’s new Crisp & Thins.

So, what are they?

It’s Ritz’s attempt to hop on the “Better For You” train – touting oven-baked, not fried, potato & wheat chips. It launched in the U.K. first and now they’re rolling out globally. There’s a lineup of four flavors on U.S. shelves: Sea Salt, Bacon, Salt & Vinegar, And Cream Cheese & Onion. I picked out Salt & Vinegar (because I like salt & vinegar chips) and Cream Cheese & Onion (because I kept thinking it was sour cream & onion and wanted to see why Ritz had to be all frou frou about it).

Ritz Crisp  Thins Cream Cheese  Onion

I first smelled the Cream Cheese & Onion ones, which didn’t really smell like much. On that basis, I vigorously inhaled the Salt & Vinegar, which was a mistake. The pungent vinegar invaded my olfactory with no mercy. 100 percent user error, not Ritz’s fault.

The chips themselves were very, for the lack of a better word, artsy but the kind of pretentious and annoying artsy. I say this because they couldn’t just choose a damn circle or square like all other crackers. Instead, they chose a puddle shape. But we all know that it probably took their manufacturing team way too long to perfect the mold for these. These puddles also had seemingly random air pockets/bubbles.

Ritz Crisp  Thins Cream Cheese  Onion Orange

In the same vein of pretentious artsy, it looked like they tried very hard to have a baked look – one side of the chip had scorch marks. They really reminded me of naan bread – oblong-ish shape, air pockets, and with the occasional imperfect scorch marks. The Cream Cheese & Onion had a slight orange tinge, while the coloring of the Salt & Vinegar was just normal, pasty cracker color.

Ritz Salt  Vinegar Crisp  Thins Salt  Vinegar

At this point, I concluded that these would probably be nothing like the buttery crackers that I know and love. But, you know what, I was okay with it – I knew I couldn’t hold Ritz back from their healthy chip dreams.

The Cream Cheese & Onion surprisingly tasted more like subtle cheddar & sour cream than sour cream & onion. Trusty ol’ cheddar & sour cream is always salty cheesy goodness, but it’s nothing mind blowing and I’m still eye rolling at the artsy fartsiness. However, I can’t believe I dismissed the air pocket/bubbles because they made the texture. Something about the crunch of the cracker with the extra oomph from the air pockets is amazing. Never judge a book by its cover, y’all!

As for the Salt & Vinegar, same textural amazingness but unlike other salt & vinegar flavored chips, there was a subtle-y sweet aftertaste. After almost an entire bag of them, I concluded that it might just be from the chip itself being wheat and potato that’s helping to balance out the vinegar tang.

After two bags of munching, I really appreciated that my fingers weren’t left with a greasy, powdery residue. There was some, but nothing like the usual chip residue mess.

Valiant “Better For You” attempt, Ritz! It might actually work; I liked the Salt & Vinegar ones so much that I’d consider replacing my usual salt & vinegar kettle chips with them.

(Nutrition Facts – 21 Pieces – 130 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 270 grams of potassium 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price:
Size: 7.1 oz. bag
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Cream Cheese & Onion)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Salt & Vinegar)
Pros: Nothing like a Ritz Cracker, but tasty AND “better for you”. Textural amazingness. No greasy, powdery residue.
Cons: Why the artsy fartsy chip shape & names? Cream Cheese & Onion is just semantics for cheddar & sour cream.

REVIEW: Chick-fil-A Frosted Strawberry Lemonade

Chick fil A Frosted Strawberry Lemonade

I’ve heard fantastic things about Chick-fil-A’s Frosted drinks, so if you haven’t heard, now you’ve heard (Notorious B.I.G. anyone?) that there’s a new limited edition strawberry lemonade flavor.

For y’all that haven’t tried the O.G. Frosted Lemonade before, here’s the breakdown: it’s like a lemonade milkshake. I know that combo sounds disgusting but it’s really a rose by any other name if you decode the marketing speak – “a hand-spun combination of Chick-fil-A Lemonade (or Diet Lemonade), freshly squeezed daily, and our famous vanilla Icedream.”

By the way, Frosted drinks are classified as a “treat,” which is likely Chick-fil-A’s way of priming you for the sugar and calories.

Like everything else Chick-fil-A does, their new Frosted Strawberry Lemonade is genius and fantastic. Genius because they simply add strawberry puree in their O.G. Frosted Lemonade and call it a day. Fantastic because even though it’s simple, they do it right.

When you have something as creamy and milkshake-like, the question is often: spoon or straw?

Chick fil A Frosted Strawberry Lemonade 2

I took the plunge and went for the straw because I trusted Chick-fil-A to get the texture right. My trust paid off as it was easily drinkable even though it looked creamy and thick. Given the pink tinge, I wasn’t surprised that it primarily tasted like strawberry with a hint of tangy lemonade. The real strawberry pieces surprised me — there were seeds and all!

I thought these nuggets were critical to the drink for a couple of reasons: less artificial and adds texture. Not that the drink tasted at all like artificial strawberry flavoring, but having real pieces of strawberry makes me feel like I could justify fitting this treat into the fruit group on the food pyramid. As for the strawberry puree adding texture, it’s nice to have fresh fruit bits break up the thick, creamy Icedream.

Chick fil A Frosted Strawberry Lemonade 3

In under five minutes, I was almost done with the Frosted treat. But, for you slow drinkers out there (yes, I’m looking at you), I left a little bit to melt for about 10 minutes. I wanted to see if it would maintain its delicious strawberry lemonade integrity. I wondered why I even doubted Chick-fil-A because, of course, it maintained its deliciousness. I wasn’t surprised that it tasted slightly sweeter and that I could smell the strawberry aroma more.

The only downsides to the Frosted Strawberry Lemonade are that it’ll give you one hell of a sugar high and it’s only available for a limited time!

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: Small
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Genius – because it’s just their Frosted Lemonade + strawberry puree, but it’s delicious! Drinkable yet still creamy and thick. Real pieces of strawberry – even seeds – therefore, one can justify as treating this treat as part of the fruit group on the food pyramid. Good even when slightly melted.
Cons: Sugar high is real. Available for a limited time.

REVIEW: Butterfinger Peanut Butter Crisp Bar

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Crisp Bar

If Bart Simpson were still slanging Butterfingers today, he’d most definitely say, “Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger…Peanut Butter Crisp Bar!”

C’mon, you didn’t expect a Butterfinger review without a mention of Bart Simpson, right?!

But Nestle has moved on from Bart Simpson to Backstreet Boys covers with the Peanut Butter Crisp Bar.

Speaking of throwbacks like BSB, the latest version of this Butterfinger innovation is apparently a relaunch with “even more dose of Butterfinger” – whatever that means. However, they’ve added crunchy toffee pieces with the wafer layers and Butterfinger crème.

I think it’s interesting they’re now highlighting peanut butter on-pack because all Butterfingers have peanut butter in the first place. They now also tout that there are no artificial flavors or colors and that added colors are from natural sources. Well then, I don’t want to know what was in my Crisp Bar back in the day.

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Crisp Bar 2

I bought the Fun Size pack because I was greedy and raiding the Easter chocolate section. I also thought Fun Size would be a good way to portion control. But, I ate three Fun Size Crisp Bars in record time, so I really should have just purchased one 2-ounce package because it comes with three pieces anyway. Ugh.

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Crisp Bar 4

Visually, my borderline-OCD-self appreciated the perfect machine-laid layers of the wafer and crème. You can see the toffee only sits on the top, so as expected, it doesn’t really translate like it does when eating a non-Crisp Bar. Overall, there’s less crunchety (aka no toffee bits stuck in your teeth) than a regular Butterfinger but there’s still a satisfying crispiness as you can hear loud and clear in the BSB cover video.

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Crisp Bar 3

It tastes really similar to the Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups – maintaining that trademark Butterfinger taste but with a smoother finish. The last flavor is the creamy, sweet chocolate coating. But I think it’s less sweet because of the wafer addition and the lack of crystalized toffee sugar-bomb bits. I personally don’t like my chocolate leaving a sickly sweet back-of-throat aftertaste, so I was totally into the chocolate on the bar!

I didn’t expect to, but I really enjoyed these. I even thought to myself – if I was a kid at trick-or-treating age, I’d love to have a jack-o-lantern full of these. Wrong time of year, I know, but that’s how much I enjoyed them.

My only request though: I’d love for Nestle to make a 2 lb Butterfinger Peanut Butter Crisp Bar so I can indulge in my sweet-tooth-Butterfinger dreams. Who’s with me?!

(Nutrition Facts – 2 bars – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.00
Size: 11 oz. Fun Size bag
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Perfect machine-laid layers of wafer and Butterfinger crème. Less crunchety but still satisfying. Less sweet than regular Butterfingers.
Cons: Where’s Bart Simpson at? Toffee doesn’t really translate.

REVIEW: Lay’s Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

I love Tex-Mex – breakfast tacos, fajitas – you name it, I’ll eat it. But, my favorite Tex-Mex invention is hands down: queso.

As part of their annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest push, Lay’s has unleashed another presumably LTO flavor – Southwestern Queso – to get the creative juices flowing. Of course, Lay’s had to be politically correct and name it “Southwestern Queso” but is there really any other kind of delicioso queso like this?! I think not. I am currently living very far away from the “Southwest,” so I was pretty stoked to see something, anything queso.

When I opened the bag, I was surprised that there was no pungent smell invading my olfactory system. In attempts to make up for the flavor not actually tasting like what it’s trying to mimic, a lot of limited edition foods overcompensate with smell or at least I think so. Unfortunately, this notion gave me false hope that the chips would actually taste like queso. Anyways, the smell of these reminded me faintly of BBQ; I couldn’t really pinpoint it immediately.

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 2

The chips looked like a normal seasoned chip color – a twinge of orange, but not neon Cheetos orange. Unlike the photo on the bag, they were also speckled with additional seasoning which reminded me of speckling on Lay’s Kettle Cooked Jalapeno Chips. Is it bad that I was surprised that the chip pieces were actually whole? I recall Lay’s being really brittle/always cracked for some reason. But, these whole oval slices looked like they actually came from a spud.

Like the smell test, I couldn’t really immediately identify what I was tasting. I kept thinking BBQ but realized the prevailing taste was another Lay’s favorite: Sour Cream & Onion. But, the aftertaste was like Cheddar & Sour Cream. So, the extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese (don’t ask haha). After a handful of chips, I was surprised that I was picking up on a little heat as well. But, it wasn’t too spicy.

Lay’s, what about this tastes like my beloved queso?

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 3

After my tastebuds were saturated in salt and artificial flavoring, I concluded that it wasn’t good but wasn’t terrible for a chip. But, don’t you dare try to tell me that this is queso-flavored. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

If I were naming the flavor I’d name it: Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion with a little bit of Hot ‘n Spicy BBQ. After this disappointment, I took a peek at the ingredient list. Lay’s attempted to make it look like they tried with “Southwestern Queso Seasoning”, red and green bell pepper extract, paprika extracts and even blue cheese. Either R&D really sucked or this “Southwestern Queso Seasoning” is the Franken-creation I previously mentioned.

I keep telling myself that some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex, but Lay’s Southwestern Queso flavor is a really hard sell.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: No pungent smell. Whole chips that look like they actually came from a spud! Some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex?
Cons: What about this tastes like my beloved queso? Extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Cap’n Crunch’s Blueberry Pancake Crunch Cereal

Limited Edition Cap'n Crunch's Blueberry Pancake Crunch Cereal

I have fond childhood memories of the Cap’n, but like many childhood heroes, he’s faded into irrelevance for the adult me. But, Quaker Oat’s latest innovation, Cap’n Crunch’s Blueberry Pancake Crunch drops the Cap’n right back into my consideration set! I should’ve guessed that this limited edition cereal would be delicious because there was only one left on the shelf. It was a lone box nestled all the way in the back, so I had to contort myself to even reach it.

The age-old debate: do you pour milk or cereal first? If you answered milk, you’re a monster. My vote is always cereal first, so you can taste the cereal in its untainted form. Plus, you have better control of the milk to cereal ratio. Tangent aside – as I poured the cereal out, pretty teal blue and cream corn/oat cereal orbs tumbled out. The pretty teal orbs reminded me of little Saturns; maybe the Cap’n is at the helm of a new spaceship because this cereal is out of this world. Ha – get it? Too much? Fine.

To complement the pretty coloring (yay, blue 1), there was a rich, sweet syrupy smell. No, not like the finest Canadian maple syrup, but more like Aunt Jemima high fructose corn syrup syrup. I say that in the most endearing, nostalgic way possible. I grew up with Aunt Jemima and kid-me loved that syrup. But, we all know, Aunt Jemima doesn’t have anything on Canadian maple syrup. So, if this nostalgia factor doesn’t resonate with you, I could see how this artificial smell would be off-putting.

Limited Edition Cap'n Crunch's Blueberry Pancake Crunch Cereal 2

I proceeded to try each of the three orbs by themselves. First up was the teal blue one – it didn’t register until the aftertaste that this was supposed to be the blueberry. The initial taste was very much a generic, sugary cereal. I was worried that once these hit milk, it would dye the milk blue and it would be like drinking liquidated Smurfs. Yuck.

The next up was the semi-teal orbs – these looked like an accident, like the teal orbs brushed up on the cream ones and transferred some color. But, the box does show various shades of teal so maybe it’s intentional. It did, though, have a slightly different aftertaste. I imagined this is the equivalent of a blueberry buried in the pancake batter.

The final orb was the cream colored one. I was guessing this was supposed to be the pancake part of it. It just tasted sweet, nothing to write home about.

Limited Edition Cap'n Crunch's Blueberry Pancake Crunch Cereal 3

Then, I ate them all together. I liked the subtle complexity of the cereal. Don’t get me wrong, the Blueberry Pancake Crunch clearly isn’t some fantastic molecular gastronomy or anything. Heck, if you blindfolded me, I probably would have a 50 percent chance of guessing that it was blueberry pancake-flavored.

If you add milk, it decreases my chances of guessing to about 5 percent. The milk somehow really washes out the flavor instead of enhancing it like I hoped. I was glad that the teal didn’t come off and dye the milk blue, though! But, honestly for a $3 box of sweetened corn and oat, I’m not complaining.

By the way, National Blueberry Pancake Day was on January 28th so pick up a box and have a belated celebration with me!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Cup – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 15.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Making the cap’n relevant again! No liquidated smurfs (a.k.a blue milk). Pretty teal orbs.
Cons: High Fructose Corn Syrup smell can be off-putting for some. Eating it with milk (which is the whole point of cereal) really washes out the flavors.