REVIEW: Torani Chicken ‘N Waffles Syrup

Torani Chicken 'n Waffles

The story of Torani’s Chicken ‘N Waffles syrup presents internet marketing at either its best or most contrived (quite possibly both). To recap:

March 26, 2012:

Torani announces they’ll be releasing a chicken & waffles flavoring syrup. The Internet collectively says, “That’s disgusting. I MUST HAVE IT.”

April 1, 2012:

Torani reveals the new flavor was an early-April Fools’ prank and simultaneously launches a social media campaign to generate support for the creation of the “potential new cult favorite”.

The Internet expresses outrages over the prank, rolls its eyes at a corporation raising grassroots support for its own non-existent product, and goes back to watching Call Me Maybe parody videos.

November 20, 2012:

“Due to unprecedented demand,” Torani announces actual debut of Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup.

January 1, 2013:

Due to a need to immediately sabotage his resolutions of losing weight, not wasting money on novelty food items, and writing less often in the third person, Jasper tries the Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup.

January 14, 2013:

Due to the syrup being awful, Jasper waits two weeks before working up the spirit to actually write down all the awfulness.

The bar for the Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup was set pretty low – since it started as a marketing gimmick that was likely rushed through development and production, its best-case outcome was always going to be “gag gift that’s actually serviceable.” Alas, the syrup can only serve as another cautionary reminder against buying novelty foods.

I first tried a spoonful of the syrup on its own. It smelled very sweet and a little bit malty, which is about as positive as I’m going to get in this review. As expected, it tasted incredibly sweet, but the malty-ness was really a yeasty-ness, and there was a lingering aftertaste that was yeasty and greasy (presumably to reflect the fried chicken component) and nearly induced my gag reflex.

Torani Chicken 'n Waffles in Spoon

Of course, syrup isn’t meant to be consumed by its lonesome, so I added it to other meals. I had a brief, almost-ontological debate with my girlfriend on whether you could, in fact, eat Chicken ‘n Waffles syrup with the dish from which its essence is distilled. Since the Torani bottle recommends you eat it with biscuits, we figured waffles were close enough and ordered some waffles and chicken fingers.

Torani Chicken 'n Waffles On Waffles

To establish a fair baseline of comparison, we first ate the chicken and waffles with regular Aunt Jemima maple syrup. It goes without saying that I loved that combination. It probably also goes without saying that the Torani syrup didn’t measure up in the least. The Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup was still too sweet and so thin that it seeped into the waffles and made them soggy. The yeasty and greasy aftertaste was only more prominent and artificial in the face of the actual dish.

I then followed a recipe on the Torani website for a bourbon drink, and I tried it in my coffee the next morning. I had similarly negative impressions in those settings, though I suppose I’d find the syrup more tolerable if my palate were compromised by the dulling effects of alcohol or the tongue-burning effects of coffee.

Even the price felt dissatisfying, at $6.95 plus $5.95 shipping and handling. Just don’t buy the Torani Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup, not even as a gag gift or as a novelty food item for yourself. And hey, Internet: let’s avoid demanding that any more April Fools’ 2012 jokes be developed into real products.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 fl oz – 90 calories 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 40 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Other Torani Chicken ‘N Waffles Syrup reviews:
LA Mag

Item: Torani Chicken ‘N Waffles Syrup
Purchased Price: $6.95 (plus $5.95 S&H)
Size: 375 mL
Purchased at: Torani website
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Smelled mostly OK. Call Me Maybe parody videos. Clever April Fools’ Day gags. Aunt Jemima maple syrup with chicken and waffles. I would use Catblock.
Cons: Tasted yeasty and greasy. Gross, lingering aftertaste. Bad by itself, bad and too thin to have with waffles (and probably biscuits), bad with bourbon and coffee. Pricey. Contrived internet marketing. Immediately breaking my New Year’s resolutions. Ontological debates about syrup.

REVIEW: Lunchables Snackers Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets

Lunchables Snackers Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets

With recent news that the healthy school lunch initiatives undertaken by the First Lady might just be starving our kids, I can imagine quite a few in the K through 12 ranks are contemplating a switchover to the old brown bag lunch. As a former “bringer,” (every day, for 12 straight years, and DAMN PROUD) let me welcome them to the world where anything goes and what your parents pack you very rarely ends up down your gullet.

I’m talking trades, haggling, and straight up bartering for the best goods this side of a 7-Eleven snack aisle.

But before you trade away for old Howie Klinchenstien’s two bags of Cooler Ranch Doritos and Rachel Jimbobberycooters’ Dunkaroos, you’re going to have to equip yourself with some serious hardware. Forget that couscous and marinated mozzarella salad Mom made the other night, and ditch Dad’s homemade crunchy chickpeas with cumin and black pepper. These days, the freaking lunch lady’s can whip up that, and hell if I’m gonna eat something I can’t even pronounce. No, what’s really hot on the middle school lunch trade market right now is a bit more…how should I put this…elicit.

Chicken nuggets are where it’s at. And thanks to Lunchables’ new Snackers Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets, you can not only bring chicken nuggets to your no-fun lunchroom, but you can do so without even having to sneak into the teacher’s lounge to use the microwave.

Lunchables Snackers Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets Closeup

Because the 15 second heating instructions are “optional,” I decided to sample my pre-cooked nuggets both cold and warm. I highly suggest neither option.

After opening the bag, you’ll be greeted by a smell I can only describe as “soggy cafeteria chicken nugget.” Ah, the sweet smell of maltodextrin, corn meal, and reconstituted white meat chicken with rib meat. Tell me, is there anything more American?

Lunchables Snackers Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets Breading

Cold, the nugget breading rubs off on your fingers in a mealy and grainy way that gives new meaning to the time-honored grade school condition known as “you have cooties,” and tastes strongly – and only – of salt and garlic. The chicken is moist, I guess, but moist only in the sense that it came off as a circle of chewy chemicals and stuff that might have once gone “cock-a-doodle-doo.” Despite its name, I definitely didn’t taste any honey or BBQ flavor.

Lunchables Snackers Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets Breading 2

Warmed up, the nuggets are even worse. The breading becomes soggy and oily, covering your fingers in a mealy and wet substance that’ll make you drop more footballs in a recess pick-me-up game than Terrell Owens dropped in his short-lived preseason comeback bid for the Seattle Seahawks. The heated nuggets taste like, well, heated and overly salted pieces of something vaguely chickeny, with little, if any, taste of honey or BBQ. Instead, there are strong generic garlic and cornmeal flavors in the pinkish, orangeish “breading,” which can’t be overcome by ketchup or a dipping sauce alone.

Lunchables Snackers Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets Innards

On a scale on 1 to 10 in terms of the classic middle school lunch tradability matrix, Lunchables Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets score about a negative six. Meaning that if you’ve got a hankering for the lightly salted rice cakes that the girl on the “diet” has or the fishy smelly thing the kid from Thailand always brings to the table, then you’ve got the golden ticket. Otherwise, these little guys keep to the time-honored Lunchables tradition of making actual 1990s cafeteria food look halfway decent, and making us all question how we survived eating that crap.

(Nutrition Facts – 6 nuggets (85 g) – 180 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 420 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.)

Item: Lunchables Snackers Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets
Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 9.8 ounces
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Civil disobedience in the lunchroom. No heating required. Avoiding starvation due to healthy public school lunches. Great if you like trading your lunch away for rice cakes.
Cons: Absolutely freaking disgusting. Doesn’t taste like BBQ. Or honey. Or chicken. Lacking proper lunch-table trading material. Does actual deep-fried pieces of chicken byproduct an absolute disservice.

REVIEW: Pepsi Black (Japan)

Pepsi Black

Like a vampire completely sucks the blood out of its victim, the Instagram Inkwell filter removes color from a photo, and Toddlers & Tiaras completely destroys my belief in humanity, Pepsi Black from Japan made my mouth feel like it was being completely robbed of its ability to taste.

Pepsi Black had a pleasant lemon aroma, and for a brief moment it tasted like a Diet Pepsi mixed with lemon cleaner. While its initial flavor sounds a little bad, what quickly followed was much worse.

I could describe Pepsi Black’s flavor as almost nothingness, but I could also say it’s as if Pepsi Japan figured out a way to bottle sadness and give it a flavor.

Thankfully, Pepsi Black’s bleak flavor disappeared soon after the liquid passed my oral cavity, but my taste buds experiencing sadness is a feeling they won’t soon forget.

So what makes the limited edition Pepsi Black taste more like Pepsi Bleck?

My guess is the fact that it’s a significantly reduced sugar cola. According to the bottle, it has 50 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi.

Using the power of mathematics, I calculated a 490 ml bottle of regular Pepsi in Japan has around 54-56 grams of sugar. So this Pepsi Black should have around 27-28 grams of sugar.

Because I can’t read Japanese, which makes my ancestors weep, I’m not sure if Pepsi Japan replaced the sugar with artificial sweeteners, but it doesn’t taste like they did. Since Pepsi Black tastes like depression, I wonder if they used artificial saddeners by mistake?

Pepsi Black is quite possibly the second worst soda that has ever passed through my parted lips, with Jones Bacon Soda being the worst. It’s not refreshing or tasty. Instead, it’s liquid depression.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 24 kcal, 0 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 8 milligrams of sodium, 5.8 grams of carbohydrates, 5.6 grams of sugar.)

Item: Pepsi Black (Japan)
Purchased Price: Received as gift
Size: 490 ml
Purchased at: 7-Eleven Japan
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: 50 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi. Limited edition. Pleasant lemon aroma.
Cons: It’s taste more like Pepsi Bleck. Chemically lemon flavor, which was replaced by depressing nothingness. Not refreshing. Liquid depression. Not being able to read Japanese. Toddlers & Tiaras.

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.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Stuffed Breadsticks (Pepperoni & Cheese and Cheeseburger)

Dunkin' Donuts Stuffed Breadsticks

For those of you who have busy Mondays, here’s a short review, in haiku form, of the Dunkin’ Donuts Stuffed Breadsticks:

Like bad Hot Pockets
Less filling, blander tasting
Same burns in my mouth

For those of you who are looking to waste some time on Monday, stick around for further elaboration (and rest assured that it will be elaborate).

I believe it was Tolstoy who once wrote, “Tasty fast food items are all alike; every crappy fast food item is crappy in its own way.” To this principle I must add a corollary which shall forevermore be known as the Stuffed Breadsticks Corollary: “… but some crappy fast food items are crappy IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE.”

Dunkin’ Donuts is offering their newest concoction in two flavors, Pepperoni & Cheese and Cheeseburger. Both varieties of Stuffed Breadsticks had very little stuffing, and all the tiny chunks of meat had slid down to the bottom of the breadsticks by the time I started eating. To set up the second photo, I had to dig around the breadsticks with my fork like I was trying to reach the fruit at the bottom of a yogurt container.

Dunkin' Donuts Stuffed Breadsticks Innards

I ate multiple bites of only bread before reaching any meat. The bread was tasteless, too chewy, weirdly pale where it hadn’t been toasted, and droopy to the point of shape-shifting. So it failed on the dimensions of taste, visual presentation, texture, and even shape, which hadn’t struck me as a significant feature of bread until just now. (Now that we’re heading off on a tangent, what would you say are the best and worst shaped breads? After careful consideration, I would nominate Challah bread as the best and – you guessed it – these breadsticks as the worst.)

Things didn’t get any better once I finally got to the stuffing. The Cheeseburger breadstick supposedly contained ground beef, cheese, and mustard, but all these ingredients were so bland that I couldn’t really taste anything. If I had to pick one taste sensation that I felt, I’d say there was a sort of sweetness to the filling. That doesn’t speak very well to Dunkin’ Donuts’ ability to recreate the taste of a cheeseburger; I’d estimate that I’ve said “Sweet, cheeseburgers!” (interjection to express excitement over anticipated cheeseburger consumption) roughly a million more times than I’ve said “sweet cheeseburgers” (descriptive phrase to communicate actual flavor of previously consumed cheeseburgers).

The Pepperoni & Cheese breadstick was definitely the better tasting of the two, but that’s about as much of an accomplishment as being the most useful poopy-flavored lollipop, or being the most entertaining re-appropriated Ben Stiller movie quote, or being the TIB writer who uses the fewest commas. The pepperoni pieces look and taste exactly like the meat in pepperoni Hot Pockets. They add a certain zest to the breadstick’s overall flavor, but the cheese and sauce contributed nothing to the eating experience except the burning destruction of my mouth.

Even the price was crappy. With each Stuffed Breadstick costing $1.79, two breadsticks and a small iced tea will run you over $5, which is enough to get you a much heartier and tastier combo from any number of fast food restaurants, Dunkin’ Donuts itself included.

In case I haven’t made myself clear yet, here’s another haiku to wrap things up:

These Dunkin’ Donuts
Breadsticks fail in taste, look, cost

(Nutrition Facts – 1 stuffed breadstick – Pepperoni & Cheese – 210 calories, 7 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 380 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein. Cheeseburger – 200 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 400 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Stuffed Breadsticks (Pepperoni & Cheese and Cheeseburger)
Price: $1.79 each
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin Donuts
Rating: 1 out of 10 (Cheeseburger)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Pepperoni & Cheese)
Pros: Pepperoni pieces were sort of tasty. Haikus. Challah bread. “Sweet, cheeseburgers!” as interjection.
Cons: Not much stuffing in either Stuffed Breadstick. Bread was bland. Cheeseburger stuffing was bland. Pepperoni & Cheese stuffing burned my mouth. Kind of pricey. “Sweet cheeseburgers” as descriptive phrase. Poopy-flavored lollipops.

REVIEW: Nice Look Drink

They did it. I can’t fucking believe it. Someone is selling a canned beverage that has bird spit in it. Is demand really that high? Or was there a choice between a drink based on bird spit or bird balls soup? I guess the Nice Look Drink is a Chinese energy drink or something like it, judging by its cheesy name and the can is the size of a Red Bull. The avian saliva comes from the bird’s nest soup in the beverage, which according to Wikipedia is believed to, “aid digestion, raise libido, improve the voice, alleviate asthma, improve focus, and boost the immune system.”

So basically, it’s a fuck drink. Oh, and the ingredient list is mercifully short too: water, white fungus, bird’s nest, rock sugar, and vanilla. So it’s an organic fuck drink, I stand corrected.

I popped the top open to find myself inhaling a rather unusual smell for a beverage. It smells like a Chinese bakery, a really good one that has fresh baked buns, cakes, and tarts. It’s actually one of my favorite kinds of smells when I was a kid, visiting bakeries in Toronto on the way to see my relatives. Although, it is a bit strange to smell baked goods just before you fuck; nothing like a freshly baked pie before you get your pie!

It gets worse. Although, I’ll admit, how good can a drink based on a soup loaded with bird hock really be? Especially if it looks like the toilet bowl at my work, loaded with piss and toilet paper? Nice Look Drink, my ass. I should have bought the Ass Am Milk Tea instead. At least you get what you pay for, literally.

It feels thicker than water, like sugar syrup, and the fungus/bird’s nest feels pretty gelatinous on the tongue. It’s kind of like a thin egg drop soup, so to speak.

How does it taste? It almost tastes like Yeo’s White Gourd drink (similar smell, too), with a sweet bread/cookie-ish taste to it. That’s not to say it’s good. It’s not. There’s also this floweriness to it that peaks in the aftertaste. And I’ve never been much of a fan of flowers in food. I think it feminizes the food somehow. It’s sort of like dressing Batman up with pink or Scottish plaid external underwear instead of the black underwear. It just doesn’t work.

I wish I was in California, cause then I could recycle this crap and get 5 cents back, which I’d use for a cheap tranny hooker.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 godawful can – 72 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 12 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 400% DV of bird hawk.)

Item: Nice Look Drink
Size: 250 ml
Purchased at: China Mart
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Chinese bakery smell. Fuck drink. Probably organic. Short list of ingredients. Recyclable in California for $0.05. Cheap tranny hookers.
Cons: Sweet bread taste. Flowery-ness. Thin texture. Piss and TP appearance. Bird hawk. Misleading name. Batman without black undies.