REVIEW: Ruffles Mozzarella ‘N Marinara Potato Chips

Ruffles Mozzarella  N Marinara Potato Chips

Ah yes, mozzarella and marinara – the Italian M&M’s.

Actually, in my case, it’s “mutzadel and madanada.” I make no apologies for the way I pronounce these words.

Not to further sound like a stereotype but I’ve probably eaten mozzarella and marinara more than any food in my lifetime. Between pizza, Sunday sauce* dinners, mozz sticks, fresh mozzarella balls, meatball subs, etc. I was practically raised on ’em. If I had my own food pyramid, mozzarella and marinara based foods would have a section and said section would probably be right beside potato chips. (I never said I had the healthiest diet.)

As much as I love all the foods mentioned, I’m not an elitist snob about it. I still enjoy chain pizza, string cheese, or your run of the mill fast food mozzarella stick. For all these reasons, I felt like I would be a great judge for Ruffles’ Mozzarella ‘N Marinara chips.

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Right out of the gate, these chips nail the smell. I got all the elements I wanted –- tomato sauce, cheesy tanginess, and a bit of onion and garlic. It was a good start.

The taste absolutely delivered on that smell.

There’s a tangy flavor that for a split second that actually reminded me of Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles. The cheddar quickly morphed into a milder mozzarella flavor. That flavor is definitely more along the lines of a Polly-O/Sargento/Belgioioso store-bought cheese, but like I said, I like em all. Oh, and cheddar is listed in the ingredients if you’re wondering.

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The tomato sauce flavor rides the line perfectly. It doesn’t overpower the mozz in any way and actually takes a backseat to what I assume are Italian breadcrumb flavors. Even though these aren’t technically called, “mozzarella stick,” they taste like ’em to me. The Italian style herbs, garlic, onion, and parsley flavors you expect from the fried outer coating are all there.

The aftertaste is distinctly that of a mozzarella stick dipped in a cup of marinara. The flavors are perfect, but if I have one complaint it’s that I could have used even more of it.

I don’t normally want my chips saturated in finger-painting flavor dust, but I could’ve used even more of a coating. This is a very minor nitpick.

While mozzarella sticks are obviously an opposing texture, the ridged Ruffles were the best choice for this flavor. Regular Lay’s style chips would have been too flimsy and greasy. Plus, as a dumb child who choked on mozzarella sticks on numerous occasions, these are much safer to eat!

I’m struggling to find many other complaints. Besides wanting a tad more flavor, I did get a little agita after eating about four servings of these, but you gotta expect a little agita after eating mutzadel and madanada.

These were exactly as advertised for me. Cheddar and Sour Cream are in my pantheon of great chips, and I loved the All Dressed variety, but these might be my new favorite Ruffles.

(Nutrition Facts – about 11 chips – 150 calories 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.29
Size: 8.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Extra crispy mozzarella sticks. One of the better flavor translations Frito Lay has done. Not as big a choking risk as real mozzarella sticks. Reminds me of all my childhood favorites.
Cons: A little agita. Could probably use more flavor dust. *I don’t wanna hear your crazy “gravy” arguments.

REVIEW: Hostess Suzy Q’s (2018)

Hostess Suzy Q s  2018

Suzy Q Review: Take 2.

Back in 2015, I reviewed the re-release of Hostess’s Suzy Q’s and absolutely hated them. To this day they’re the lowest rated food I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure of reviewing for this site.

I remember being timid when submitting the negative review, thinking the comments section would light me up for blaspheming a classic snack cake. Thankfully, everyone kinda agreed. We all seemed to have some Q’s for Suzy.

There was a social media outcry for Hostess to fix their mistake, and they did, by re-re-releasing Suzy Q’s.

Guess what folks? They’ve now gone and *REEEEE-MIXXXX* re-re-re-released them.

Here we are in 2018 and Suzy is finally back and better than ever? Let’s find out. Everyone deserves a fourth chance.

Hostess snack cakes all have the same welcoming smell of oily processed chocolate goodness, so these started out on the right foot. The smell instantly put me in mind of a Drake’s Devil Dog. These even look like a Devil Dog’s stubbier little sister.

These new Suzy Q’s boast 50 percent more cake, and 50 percent more crème. I’ll let you do the math there. I will not fat shame Suzy, but I do feel the need to shame Hostess.

Hostess Suzy Q s  2018 2

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While the cake is spongy and moist enough, there’s too much of it. Sadly, it’s still the highlight here.

The crème is out of control. There’s wayyyyy too much crème. It’s thick, slightly gritty, cloying, and overbearing after two bites.

After the first bite, I was ready to say these tasted like Hostess’s famous cupcakes without the top coating and swirl, a.k.a. the best part. After the second less pleasurable bite, I knew exactly what these tasted like – Whoopie Pies.

Are you all familiar with Whoopie Pies?

My mother used to go to Pennsylvania Dutch Country and buy these Amish-made hockey puck-sized Whoopie Pies and that’s exactly what these put me in mind of. That may not exactly help you, but if you’ve ever had a Whoopie Pie from a Farmer’s Market type place, that’s a circular Suzy Q. They basically taste like a more processed knockoff of Whoopie Pies, and I was never a big fan of those to begin with.

For those reasons, Suzy Q’s almost taste like another company trying to mimic Hostess’ formula. I realize these were one of the O.G. Hostess cakes, so maybe I’m just not well versed in Hostess’ taste history.

In the end, these were an improvement from the last time, but I still think they’re in the bottom rung of Hostess products. The previous duds were definitely a more manageable size. With all the variety on shelves, I see no reason to ever buy Suzy Q’s.

Suzy Q, baby, I don’t like you.

I’m gonna freeze the rest of the box, because I feel like the crème will taste a little better cold and hardened, like my soul.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 260 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugar and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.97
Size: 15.66 oz. (6 cakes)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Much better than last time. Extra point in rating for Hostess admitting to its mistakes. I’ll probably like these better when I find ’em in the back of the freezer in a couple months. CCR is the greatest American rock band, don’t @ me.
Cons: Way too much crème. Too much cake. Tastes like a Whoopie Pie knockoff. Fool me twice, shame on me.

REVIEW: Sour Patch Kids Fire

Sour Patch Kids Fire

First, they’re sour, then they’re sweet, now they’re hot?

I guess that “sweet and spicy” candy trend continues to roll along. In fact, it’s already evolved on the premise by adding sour to the equation. What’s next, umami?! Am I gonna have to pretend to understand what umami is?!

Ya know what, don’t let me get off track. I’m not here to talk about “mamis,” I’m here to talk about kids – kids of the sour patch variety!

I’m also here to make awkward transitions.

I have a hard time believing there are people who don’t like Sour Patch Kids. I’m sure there are, I just won’t entertain the notion. A giant bag of SPK’s and a buttery $16 movie popcorn is in the running for my desert island meal, and the one thing you need on a desert island is fire.

SPK Fire chews smell like normal SPKs, but feature a duller color profile than normal.

I’m gonna “rapid fire” review each flavor:

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Berry Blaze – Pretty sour to start with an unripe berry flavor – blue, straw, black is my guess. There’s a very brief window of sweetness followed by decent little burn on the end.

Tropical Flame – Pineapple with a splash of citrus. It transitions from super sour to brief sweet, right into “oh yeah, I think I can kinda feel the heat.”

Apple Fever – You’re gonna pucker on this one. Think of the sourest Granny Smith you’ve ever eaten. The burn was almost completely masked because of that.

Angry Watermelon – Sweetest flavor in the bag. It’s hard to hype these too much because Sour Patch Watermelons might be my favorite candy of all time. Imagine those except 25 percent less sweet, and with a little numbing taste at the end. These pale in comparison, but they’re still good.

My Rankings:

Sourness:

  1. Apple
  2. Tropical
  3. Berry
  4. Watermelon

Heat:

  1. Berry
  2. Tropical
  3. Watermelon
  4. Apple

Overall:

  1. Watermelon
  2. Tropical
  3. Berry
  4. Apple

My heat impressions might be skewed by the order I ate them. I only had three of each flavor, so while Apple had no heat, I imagine it would’ve if I started with it. That make sense? Either way, the heat is dull.

I’m not sure the sour and hot combination works. That flavor progression – with the tiny pitstop in sweet-ville – almost acts as a numbing agent. Sour overwhelms your mouth, so heat doesn’t have room to shine.

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These tasted sourer than normal SPK’s which seems dumb if “Fire” was supposed to be the star. You could probably convince yourself the taste at the end is just a remnant of the extreme sour start, as it almost immediately starts to suck your mouth dry of saliva anyway.

So, if you’re looking to tip the Scoville Scale, you may be disappointed. These are really good Sour Patch Kids, but they won’t have you running for the milk. They’re definitely worth a try, but I have a hard time believing they’ll be mainstays on candy racks, so get ’em while they’re hot.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 pieces – 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 25 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 23 grams of sugar + 23 grams of ADDED sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 7.2 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tasty overall. If you love sour candy, they deliver. Still kinda cool to taste a tiny lingering heat afterwards. I appreciate the attempt.
Cons: Dull Heat. Less sweetness than normal Sour Patch Kids. Not even as hot as “Sweet Heat Skittles and Starburst.” Dry mouth. Just made me crave Sour Patch Watermelons.

REVIEW: Peanut Butter Chocolate Blasted Shreds Cereal

Peanut Butter Chocolate Blasted Shreds Cereal

When I hear the word “shred” I think of a sick guitar solo, or some gnarly snowboarder carving up a mountain. Ya know, epic things like that.

One thing I don’t think of is Shredded Wheat. There’s NOTHING epic about Shredded Wheat.

Until now.

Folks, General Mills made Shredded Wheat epic!

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First thing I noticed when I picked up a box of new Peanut Butter Chocolate Blasted Shreds, besides the long name, was how heavy the box was. At 1 pound, 7.2 ounces, this might be the heftiest cereal I’ve ever bought.

After doing a set of thirty hammer curls, I cracked it open and was met with a smell reminiscent of peanut butter cookies. Epic, indeed.

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I popped a few of the cereal pieces dry, which I don’t normally do, and instantly came down from my high. The flavors were solid, and I could imagine these being a decent Chex substitute in a snack mix, but it just reminded me how boring Shredded Wheat is.

Thankfully cereal is nothing without milk. Once that milk hit, guitar solos rang out, and “shred” started to mean something new in my mind. To quote the back of the box – Whoa!

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This ain’t your daddy’s Shredded Wheat.

Each cereal piece has a powdery Reese’s Puffs-like flavor coating that was magically activated by the milk. The dry blocks of straw now had a slick flavorful sheen and a slightly softer texture that married together perfectly.

The peanut butter was more prevalent than the chocolate, but that was exactly what I wanted. I can’t stress enough how much better the flavor was with milk, especially the peanut butter.

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The flavor held as the cereal sogged but still managed to hold an outer crisp that was less harsh than I expected. A cereal like Frosted Mini Wheats “shred” my mouth, these went down smooth. I’d say they hit their peak after about a minute in the milk. They were still crispity, still crunchity, still peanut…I better stop before I get sued.

The silky cereal milk was also elite. It put me in mind of another product I reviewed and loved –- International Delights Reese’s Coffee Creamer.

I gotta also give it credit for feeling like a hearty meal, unlike other cereals. That clearly has to do with its weight and the fact the calorie count on these puppies dwarf your standard fare. You’re not gonna get “shredded” if you eat these daily, but you will get a nice dose of whole grain.

So, as you can tell, I kinda loved this cereal. I picked up a box of Nutter Butter cereal as well, and while those were excellent, Shreds still edged ‘em out. These are also better than the Jif Cereal and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios, in my opinion.

I’m not ready to boost them over Cap’n Crunch or Reese’s just yet, but those are 10’s to me, and also have a lifetime of nostalgia on their side.

(Nutrition Facts – 2/3 cup – 230 calories, 50 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 210 milligrams of potassium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 23.1 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Delicious when activated with milk. Some of the best peanut butter flavor I’ve had in a cereal. Substantial breakfast. Good source of whole grain and fiber. Creamy flavorful cereal milk. Rejuvenating the Shredded Wheat brand.
Cons: Nothing special when eaten dry. Some may crave more chocolate flavor. Calorie count is pretty high. Not good for the low-carb in 2018 resolution crowd. Butterfinger took their potential slogan. Pretty lame back of box.

REVIEW: Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino

Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Baristas are selling me Fraps while misspelling my name at cashiers!

I must mumble, because per usual, my Starbucks cup said “Ben.” That’s ok though because nothing could break my holiday spirit, for today I was trying the new Christmas Tree Frappuccino that looks exactly like a Christmas tree!

Well, kinda like a Christmas tree, I guess?

Look, I know how advertising works. I wasn’t expecting my drink to look like Rockefeller Center, but then again, I also wasn’t expecting Charlie Brown.

The whipped cream looks more lime than pine, and when you think about it, the entire premise is flawed. In theory, the whipped cream portion represents the iconic image of a Christmas tree, so said tree would be like five feet of trunk, and one foot of branches! More like, “Bark, the herald angels sing.” Right?

Guys?

Fine. ‘Tis not the season for petty whining, so I’ll just let it go, let it go, let it go. (Sung to the tune of “Let it Snow,” not that Frozen song, although I guess that works too. You decide!)

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The whipped cream gets its green color due to a matcha infusion, which I’ll be honest, I barely noticed. The topping was drizzled with caramel as well as candied cranberry “ornaments,” so I tasted those more than the actual cream. I mainly order Caramel Fraps, so the whipped cream tasted like it usually does on those.

Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino 3

Phantom matcha aside, the caramel was delicious as always. The cranberry pieces added a nice little crunch element. There’s a freeze-dried strawberry tree topper that did its job because it was the “star” of the show. I enjoyed it.

I made sure to leave plenty of toppings so they could mix in with the Mocha Peppermint Frap.

I finally took a big gulp and O Tannenbaum was it good! That chocolate mint goodness had me singing Ave Barista.

If I had to equate the flavor to something familiar, it tasted like a liquid Andes mint. It wasn’t quite mint chocolate chip ice cream like you’d expect. There’s not much flavor discrepancy when combining chocolate and mint, but I still say this leans more towards an Andes.

I mixed the toppings in, and they got a little swallowed up. Subtle caramel fought through the mint a couple times, and the cranberry bits provided a fun crunch, but the flavors kinda disappeared into the dark abyss.

I also think there may have been too much ice because it tasted watered down about halfway in. The mocha and peppermint dulled and never lived up to the first couple sips.

In the end, it may not have been exactly what I wanted, but I still appreciated it. I’d like to call “bah humbug” on the $5 price, but I’ll leave you on a positive note. Merry Christmas.

(Nutrition Facts – 420 calories, 21 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 50 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, and 15 milligrams of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $5.08
Size: Tall
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Mocha and Peppermint are a winning duo. Freeze dried strawberry was kinda brilliant. Caramel drizzle never fails. Fun overall concept. Candied Cranberry ornaments were a great addition.
Cons: As far as looks go, it’s the thought that counts. Pretty expensive. Didn’t pick up the matcha. Flavors got watered down. Ave Maria isn’t a Christmas song. I did not intend for the Frozen song to get stuck in your head. “Ben.”