REVIEW: Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna-Roll Soda

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda

Autumn 2005 is one of the most pivotal moments in the history of soft drinks since it marked the arrival of Jones Soda’s infamous Holiday Pack. Featuring a wild medley of bizarre-flavored beverages (turkey and gravy, brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie, etc.), the strange soda set received heaps of media coverage, more or less putting the obscure cola manufacturer on the map.

Here we are 13 years later, and soda companies are STILL trying to replicate Jones Soda’s unusual (yet undeniably successful) marketing strategy. From upstart micro-cola companies to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo themselves, soda manufacturers continue to trot out unorthodox – and in some cases, downright disgusting – colas with the hopes that the (morbid?) curiosity of John and Joan Q. Consumer will be enough to turn a profit, or at least generate some free publicity.

Kroger’s Big K Candy Cane and Cinna-Roll Sodas are certainly emblematic of the weird-simply-for-the-sake-of-being-weird cola trend. Neither product is all that appetizing – nor do they even taste that much like their namesakes, for that matter – but the sheer kookiness of the drinks is appealing.

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda 2

The packaging has this ironic, half-hearted ClipArt feel to it, complete with two of the worst puns you’ll ever read in your life. And if nothing else, the soda hues are definitely cool; the candy cane one looks like mutated Hawaiian Punch (maybe lava lamp juice?), while the cinna-roll one is the same color of ultra thick maple syrup (or 10W30 motor oil?)

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda

Kroger Big K Cinna Roll Soda

Alas, aesthetics can only carry a cola so far, and in the one area that matters most, both these sodas fall flat. The candy cane variation is the better tasting of the two, but even then it just tastes like a jug of Sprite with about 50 peppermints floating in it. Granted, that’s not my bag, but if you’re a connoisseur of peppermint schnapps, you might foster a fondness for it.

Unfortunately, the cinna-roll one won’t impress anybody. First off, the smell is weird. Yes, it’s like a cinnamon roll, but one that’s really stale. Or a fresh one that’s in an old sock – I’ll let you judge that for yourself. Regardless, the taste isn’t there. Instead of tasting like a Cinnabon treat, it’s like thick ginger ale with a surfeit of sugar in it. In fact, both sodas are sugary to the point of being nauseating; one serving of either will net you a whopping 96 percent of your RDA of the saccharine stuff.

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda 4

Alone, I wouldn’t consider either of these novelty colas worth going out of your way to experience. Just for the heck of it, though, I merged the two for science’s sake, and the coalesced Candy Cane-Cinna-Roll abomination actually tasted better than either standalone soda. Take note, Pepsi Fire fans (both of you) – combining these two off-kilter Kroger colas might be the closest thing you’ll get to reliving the magic and mirth of summer 2017. 

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 180 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of total carbohydrates, 48 grams of total sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49 each
Size: 2 liter bottles
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Candy Cane)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Cinna-Roll)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Both flavors combined)
Pros: The packaging is hipster-tastic; the colors of the sodas are really groovy. Combining the two colas together gives you (unofficial) Kroger Fire.
Cons: Both colas are excessively sweet. The cinnamon roll one has an off-putting smell (and carbonation that takes forever to die down). Realizing there’s no rational answer for when your significant other asks you why you’re putting them in the shopping cart.

REVIEW: Reese’s Flavor of Georgia Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups

Reese s Flavor of Georgia Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups

Since I’ve lived pretty much my entire life in the metro-Atlanta area, I suppose I’m one of the more qualified people out there to judge the authenticity of Reese’s newfangled, Georgia-themed P.B. cup. Well, nice try, Hershey, but this thing is about as genuinely Georgian as a nasally accent, adequate public transportation, and unsweetened tea.

OK, I get that the two big Georgia food stereotypes are peaches and peanuts. But if you’re going to take the lazy, uninspired route, at least make sure it’s the RIGHT kind of stereotypical foodstuff. In all my 30-something years in Georgia, not ONCE have I ever seen anyone at a roadside stand hawking honey-roasted peanuts.

Reese s Flavor of Georgia Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups 2

In fact, the ONLY type of peanuts people in these parts seem to eat are the boiled variety – and to be frank, I think I actually would’ve enjoyed that more than this half-hearted “Flavors of America” offering.

This may very well be the least special “special edition” gimmick food of all-time. Not only is the advertised “honey roasted” flavor faint, it’s practically non-existent. Yes, there is some oily stuff in and around the cups, and the interior peanut butter at least looks a little slicker than your normal cup, but in terms of taste, this thing is virtually indistinguishable from your regular old Reese’s. I wound up buying two packages, just to see if the first one I ate was defective. Well, four special edition cups later and it’s distressingly apparent; this L-T-O product is basically the same thing as the standard product!

Reese s Flavor of Georgia Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups 3

You know the product formula is fouled up when consumers have to literally FOCUS on what they’re eating to pinpoint the flavor. It doesn’t matter how slow you chew them or how hard you try to let the flavor seep into your tastebuds; simply put, the “honey-roasted” flavor just isn’t there.

I’m a big fan of Reese’s, but this product is a colossal disappointment. Granted, it still tastes pretty good, but the whole point of L-T-O products is to give consumers something different – if not in terms of flavor, at least in terms of aesthetics.

Reese s Flavor of Georgia Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups 4

If Reese’s can release pumpkin-shaped cups for Halloween, they easily could’ve made regular-flavored cups shaped like famous Georgia iconography like, I don’t know, the silhouette of a Waffle House or a zombie from The Walking Dead or the Falcons logo (which, for bonus realism, could fall apart when you only have a quarter left to eat.)

From Coca-Cola-soaked pecan pie to Gladys Knight’s chicken and waffles (no, that’s a real thing, I promise you), my home state offered plenty of interesting, novelty food options for Reese’s to consider. And with all that potential on the table, how disappointing that they ultimately decided to aim this low with their final effort.

(Nutrition Facts – 220 calories, 110 calories from fat, 13 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 2 cups
Purchased at: CVS
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Overall, the product does taste pretty good. And at least the packaging is pretty.
Cons: It tastes just like a regular Reese’s cup. The “honey-roasted” flavor is so slight, I’m not entirely sure it exists. Realizing we could’ve had a Chick-Fil-A Icedream Cone flavored Hershey Bar or a Peach Cobbler Mr. Goodbar instead of this seasonal snoozer.

REVIEW: Keebler Cereal

Keebler Cereal

Those crafty Keebler elves!

Not content with just a good portion of the snack aisle (they make Town House crackers, too?!) or hollowing out trees for mass cookie production, they have decided to expand their reach by entering my morning time with the debut of their eponymous cereal. They are so excited by it, actually, it doesn’t need any wildly descriptive title as it is simply just called Keebler Cereal.

Thank goodness the packaging shows the actual product so you know that it is chocolatey cookie based like their Chips Deluxe line rather than Sandies shortbread. PHEW! However, there is a red flag on the top flap noting that I need to “SHAKE IT UP!” as the “Cookies may have settled.” Uh-oh. Upon opening the box it is worse than I imagined as there is nary a cookie in sight even after examining all sides of the inside bag.

Keebler Cereal 2

After a good, hearty shake the “real mini chocolate chip cookies” do reveal themselves as promised but the ratio is off. They are present but not predominantly and this is in addition to the fact that they are nearly half the size of the chocolatey puff pieces they are paired with. I wonder what kind of math curriculum the elves have in school because whatever it is it needs to be reevaluated.

Keebler Cereal 3

The taste of the cookies is okay with a nice milk chocolate richness that definitely comes through upon chewing, even though they are probably better suited for a snack mix than a breakfast cereal. The other pieces are mediocre, just kind of generic chocolate puffs that are very similar to those in other kid’s cereals. They remind me of the bagged bargain ones you have to buy on the bottom shelf while waddling like a penguin through the aisle as the memorable commercial dictated.

Eating the cereal with milk offers a better experience as you get a nice blast of chocolate every time you stumble upon one of the cookies amongst the puffs. However, I noticed that while eating my way through the bowl there seemed to be even fewer cookies than I had started with.

I did a test by putting one cookie and one puff in milk and stirring vigorously. Upsettingly, the cookie started to dissolve while the puff stayed intact. I was expecting Keebler magic, but not like this!!!

Better luck next time elves.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 130 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 2 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.39
Size: 11.2 oz. box
Purchased at: ShopFoodEx.com
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Rich chocolate flavor from real cookies. Keebler venturing into other grocery aisles.
Cons: Questionable elf math skills. Boring chocolate puff pieces that make me think about waddling like a penguin in a grocery store. Unintended cookie disappearing acts.

REVIEW: Starbucks Chile Mocha

Starbucks Chile Mocha

Some like it HOT and I am one of those humans.

No, I’m not talking about the 1950’s movie starring Marilyn Monroe, but the Scoville scale. Just in case you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about: the Scoville scale measures the heat of a pepper from 0 units (bell peppers) to 16MM units (pure capsaicin). I can realistically only handle up to a habanero (350K units) so I’ve been on a mission to increase my capsaicin tolerance.

Along comes Starbucks’ latest drink innovation, the Chile Mocha. I drink Starbucks religiously (who else spent way too much money on Starbucks for Life) and I like heat. Advertised with “ancho and chile spices” and “for those mornings that need an extra kick,” I expected the Chile Mocha to dazzle my taste buds.

In true Goldilocks-fashion, I had to try all three: the Frappuccino, the hot mocha, and the iced mocha. Unfortunately, the only thing consistent about the three was that they all came with too much whipped cream.

I started with the Frappuccino. Nothing about the Frappuccino tasted like chile or even mocha for that matter. It was so sickeningly sweet that it tasted toffee-like; maybe the barista used the toffee nut syrup instead of Chile Mocha powder. So, heat was nonexistent. I even tried the Spiced Mocha topping on top which looked like straight cayenne/paprika but actually also had sugar crystals mixed in.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 2

The powder fondly reminded me of a less concentrated version of Lucas Mexican Candy. However, cayenne is only 50,000 Scoville and paprika is, if you’re lucky, maybe 100 Scoville units. Instead of ordering the Chile Mocha Frappuccino, I might as well have just ordered a plain ol’ coffee frap for $1 less and 90 less calories.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 3

I moved onto the iced mocha next. I was immediately a little off-put by the powder sitting at the bottom of the drink. I tried mixing it but the powder at the bottom was just out of straw reach. After my first couple of sips, I felt a very slight warming/heat sensation in the back of my throat. FINALLY!

However, it was short-lived as it quickly neutralized. While the iced mocha was a little more coffee-forward, it still erred on the too-sweet side. Disappointed, I proceeded to eat the whipped cream with tasty wannabe Lucas Mexican Candy power and left the rest of the drink.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 4

Lastly, the hot mocha. At this point, my high expectations were demolished. But, the fact that my first sip actually tasted like a mocha was a great start. Unlike the iced mocha, the heat actually built up. At first, I thought it was way too subtle but as I drank more, I concluded that this level of heat probably works for people not trying to burn off their taste buds (unlike me). If it were any spicier, it would likely be too spicy for some folks. I also really enjoyed the temperature contrast of the cold whipped cream with the hot mocha.

Net-net, stick with the hot mocha. I know it’s still 90 degrees in certain parts of the country, but fall is right around the corner! For my fellow capsaicin enthusiasts, I’m dropping a Ghost Pepper Mocha suggestion in Starbucks’ inbox.

(Nutrition Facts – Tall 12 oz (Hot Chile Mocha with whipped cream) – 270 Calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 29 grams total sugars, 10 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: Varies
Size: Tall
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chile Mocha)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Iced Chile Mocha)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Chile Mocha Frappuccino)
Pros: Fondly reminiscent of Lucas Mexican Candy Power. Hot Chile Mocha.
Cons: Too much whipped cream. Frappuccino and Iced Mocha are sugar bombs. Minimal heat.

REVIEW: Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries

Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries

Eating Burger King’s new Cheetos Chicken Fries (CCFs) is very similar to going on a Tinder date. You see pictures and read a description of somebody, use a cheesy pick-up line, chat them up for a bit, and then you agree to meet at a bar.

Only when you get there, you find out the person looks nothing like their picture or they just aren’t the person they represented themselves to be online. I mean, you write that you like sailing in your profile but then you tell me you can’t even tie an anchor hitch!?

Cue dramatic piano music.

This was how I felt after eating the newest in the Chicken Fries line. Sure, the box had art similar to a bag of Cheetos. Sure, it says the word “Cheetos” on the box. Sure, they’re covered in a Cheetos breading. Sounds pretty great, right?

Well, the CCFs have one whale of a problem. No, that’s not enough. They have one MOBY DICK of a problem, and it is the fact there is barely any Cheetos flavor on them.

I do not know if it’s because I went on the initial release day and the BK workers hadn’t quite perfected their technique, but the final product tasted like somebody dropped Chicken Fries onto a pile of Cheetos crumbs and a minuscule amount of the flavor rubbed off on them.

Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries 2

I was expecting them to be bright orange, just like actual Cheetos. Instead, they just look like darker Chicken Fries with some orange specks sprinkled on them. The lady who took my order asked if I wanted a dipping sauce, so I ordered a side of ranch thinking I would not need it. But after eating the third one plain I started dipping so they would have some kind of actual, noticeable flavor.

Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries 3

I did get a tiny hint of Cheetos flavor but it was all in the aftertaste and I didn’t even notice it until after I ate several of them, and I really had to concentrate and use my imagination. They just didn’t have the cheesy kick many others and I were probably expecting.

I thought maybe my sense of taste had temporarily gone on vacation, but I got an order for my co-worker and he said the same thing, barely any Cheetos flavor.

The best part about the CCFs was, in all honesty, the box art. Woof.

I imagine somewhere Chester Cheetah is blowing lines of Cheetos cheese dust whilst crying, listening to Joe Satriani and uttering words of contempt about Burger King’s hack job of a recipe using his moneymaker.

(Nutrition Facts – 280 Calories, 18 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 890 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams total sugars, 14 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 9 pieces
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Cool box art. Cheesy pick-up lines on Tinder.
Cons: Hardly recognizable Cheetos flavor. Chester Cheetah having his good name tainted.