QUICK REVIEW: Baskin-Robbins Tiramisu Ice Cream

Baskin Robbins Tiramisum Ice Cream

Bucking the ho ho ho-hum trend of cramming peppermint or gingerbread into every new or limited flavor this time of year, Baskin-Robbins’ November Flavor of the Month is Tiramisu. Tiramisu-flavored ice cream is filled with pound cake pieces, a chocolate mocha ribbon, and chocolate flakes.

Coffee is unabashedly the dominant flavor in this dish, emanating a distinct smell and exercising as much subtlety as a Targaryen barbecue. The tiramisu-flavored ice cream base seems enjoyable on its own, but I had difficulty isolating it from the generous mocha ribbon.

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Unfortunately, this proves to be too much of a good thing as a coffee-flavored ribbon in a coffee-flavored base leaves a somewhat bitter aftertaste and feels as unnecessary as taking a dip in Goo Lagoon when you already live in a pineapple under the sea.

It also creates a problem for the semi-sweet chocolate flakes which add a nice snap but fail to punch up the chocolate notes enough to stand out despite decent representation. Meanwhile, the scarce pound cake pieces are relegated to merely providing a pleasant spongy texture as their flavor is completely overshadowed by the coffee.

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Perhaps the rich buttery essence of a mascarpone swirl would have resulted in a more balanced and authentic flavor than the coffee overload created by the mocha ribbon.

I like a bold coffee-flavored chocolate ice cream, and this certainly fits that bill; it just isn’t the iconic, layered taste experience you know and love in ice cream form. This rendition of tiramisu is as authentic to its Italian heritage as a Brooklyn plumber riding a dinosaur.

Baskin-Robbins says a 4 oz. scoop has 26 milligrams of caffeine.

Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: Large scoop (4 oz.)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Small Scoop) 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 24 grams of sugar, 1 gram of dietary fiber, and 5 grams of protein..

REVIEW: Wendy’s Chicken Tenders and Side of S’awesome

Wendy s Chicken Tenders 1

Wait, chicken tenders are a thing again?

When McDonald’s killed its Chicken Selects in 2015, I could have sworn the burger-centric fast foods chains were done with premium, dippable chicken. But the resurrection of McDonald’s Chicken Selects as Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders seems to have started something a trend. Case in point, Wendy’s feels the need to one-up the Golden Arches with brand new Chicken Tenders and a never-before-seen sauce – Side of S’awesome.

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I’ve eaten a couple hundred pounds of chicken tenders and I can tell you these are decent as far as the all-white meat stuff goes. They lack the kind of succulent, peanut oil-infused flavor of Chick-fil-A’s tenders, and you’re not going to mistake them for Raising Cane’s or Zaxby’s. But the breading is crisp and well seasoned, the chicken isn’t dry, and there are no textural abnormalities like slimy meat or hollow crevasses under the breading.

But the flavor is predictable: the ubiquitous garlic, onion powder, salt, and black pepper mix you’ve probably tasted in dozens of chain restaurant and food service tenders. In other words, unless you’re really into the breading, you’re gonna want something to dip these in.

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I’m assuming Wendy’s came up with the name for their S’awesome Sauce because someone thought it was cool; that or “Spread,” “Fry Sauce,” and “Ed’s Sauce” were already taken. In any case, they should have named it “It’s Alright Sauce” because it’s okay.

Advertised as “tangy, sweet, and smoky,” it has elements of the first two flavors but very little smokiness unless you count the whisper of Worcestershire on the backend. Overall, it trends neither distinctly tangy or sweet, instead finding a mild middle ground which tastes like two parts mayo, one part mustard, and one part ketchup. But it doesn’t pop; it doesn’t wow; it doesn’t make me lick my fingers and declare to my coworkers that this shit is s’awesome.

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Put another way, if dipping is your thing, then you’ll probably want to stick with your usual Wendy’s go-to sauce.

When I saw that McDonald’s brought back chicken tenders, and then Wendy’s followed suit, my first instinct was to ask myself why major fast food chains had deserted them in the first place. But now that I’ve tried Wendy’s new Chicken Tenders, I can’t help notice how ordinary they taste when lined up against the Raising Cane’s, Zaxby’s, and Chick-fil-A’s of the world. And, unfortunately, even a name like S’awesome Sauce can’t hide the fact that the entire combo is average.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 pieces – 300 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 920 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 22 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5 combo ($3.49 for order of 3)
Size: 3-piece combo
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Meatier alternative to Wendy’s nuggets. Solid crunch and well seasoned breading. Lower in calories than most chicken tenders.
Cons: S’awesome Sauce is pretty average. Tenders aren’t particularly succulent or juicy. Breading flavor is predictable. $5 combo meal isn’t as good as Dairy Queen’s $5 chicken tenders lunch.

REVIEW: Snyder’s of Hanover Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Pieces

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Pumpkin Season is in full force and new this year is Snyder’s of Hanover’s Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Pieces, which got me excited since pretzels seemed to be an interesting and novel way to show of the much-loved flavor.

Recently, though, I have been tackling new pumpkin-flavored items with some hesitation because it seems like the flavor can vary greatly in execution. It’s best when the pumpkin-to-spice ratio is masterfully in sync, usually with one not overpowering the other. It also helps to have real pumpkin included. Let’s see how Snyder’s did.

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As I break open the bag, I am hit with intense spice aroma. I can definitely smell the cinnamon and nutmeg. Pumpkin, though? Not so much. The pieces are all different shapes and sizes with a nice orange hue affixed to a majority of the pieces. It’s not bright enough to be mistaken for a cheesy seasoning, but not too dull either.

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There’s also some dark speckling on top of the orange. As far as size, most of the pieces are bite-sized except for one that was still largely intact. As I stare at it more it kind of resembles a finger and with this being a fall flavor before Halloween it oddly fits right in.

The pieces are as crunchy as you would expect from a well-crafted sourdough hard pretzel. There’s a nice doughy kind of flavor that pops up as you break down the pieces in your mouth. Once you get it going after the crunch, the coating’s flavor comes through.

How does the flavor taste, exactly? Is it packed full of pumpkiny goodness? No, not really. Is there an explosion of earthy spices in your mouth? Maybe, but just a little.

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Honestly, though, all I tasted was cinnamon. There was cinnamon, more cinnamon and then some more cinnamon all backed by the sweetness of sugar. I kept eating more to try to convince myself I could taste the pumpkin or some of the other spices, like nutmeg, especially because I had smelled it earlier. However, no luck.

It’s surprising because pumpkin powder is listed as one of the ingredients. In the end, though, these are just very, very good cinnamon pretzels with a nice festive orange color. Next year, these should be rebranded as festively colored cinnamon sugar pretzel pieces for Halloween. Either that or the pumpkin powder needs to move up the ingredient list significantly.

(Nutrition Facts – about 1/3 cup – 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Shopfoodex.com
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy and delicious sourdough base. Pleasant orange coloring. Accidental shapes that turn out to be festive. Real pumpkin powder.
Cons: Off balanced pumpkin spice ratio. An aroma that didn’t match in taste. Faint to non-existent pumpkin flavor. Glorified cinnamon sugar pretzels.

REVIEW: FYE Food Fight Funky Fry & Killer Ketchup Milk Chocolate Bar

FYE Food Fight Funky Fry  Killer Ketchup Milk Chocolate Bar

Y = French Fry + Ketchup + Chocolate.

Take a moment to let the foodgebra (food+algebra) sink in. I could not believe my eyes either, but this franken-food was brought to life by retailer FYE and Astor Chocolate with an equally as complicated product name — Food Fight Funky Fry & Killer Ketchup Milk Chocolate Bar.

The FYE-exclusive Food Fight Chocolate Bar line includes other franken-flavors, like Crispy Caramel Popcorn, Crunchy Tortilla Muchacho Taco, and Together Forever Peanut Butter & Jelly.

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I was very intrigued by the Killer Ketchup wild card because the chocolate and deep-fried potato combo has been done. A little part of me was dubious that they’d actually put all of it into a chocolate bar, but the ingredients were listed on the back very plainly: milk chocolate, potato chips, sea salt, freeze dried white onion powder, dried tomato powder, roasted garlic powder, and chipotle chili pepper powder.

I assumed the chili is where the “killer” part comes in. After reading the ingredients, I was a little terrified but the Aqua Teen Hunger Force-esque characters on the packaging dared me to take the plunge.

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When I opened it, I was surprised to find the chocolate bar looked like a regular chocolate bar – even the cross-section reminded me of a plain ol’ Nestle Crunch Bar. It also didn’t smell any different – whew. The chocolate did seem softer as it started melting where my fingers were holding it. Said softness translated into a pleasant melt in your mouth texture (think Hershey’s Kisses) and I thought the chocolate itself actually tasted better than Hershey’s.

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Despite the rich milk chocolate-y sweetness, there was no mistaking the savory elements. After the initial chocolate taste, the garlic and onion flavors were the most prominent followed by a mild heat. It was like eating slightly spicy sour cream and onion chips topped with chocolate, which tasted as weird as it sounds.

Net net, it was nothing like eating ketchup and fries. I simultaneously felt relief and disappointment. It would’ve been pretty epic if this was the ultimate food mind-trip, but it would also ruin chocolate and/or ketchup and fries for me forever.

So, let’s solve the equation at the beginning of this review and let Y = WHY?!

I know it’s trendy to create crazy limited time only flavors, but I think this is way too far on the deep end. It was definitely a unique-once-in-a-lifetime-because-you-only-need-to-try-it-once experience, but don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

(Nutrition Facts – 260 calories, 15 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 10 mg of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 1.75 oz. bar
Purchased at: FYE
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Most unique chocolate experience I’ve had. Better chocolate than Hershey’s. Good heat from the chili.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like fries and ketchup. Honestly, not something I want to eat again.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco

Taco Bell Naked Egg Breakfast Taco

I’ve heard of eggshells, but an egg AS a shell?! What the…

Let me clear the air here, I love Taco Bell breakfast. The A.M. Crunchwrap should win them whatever a Michelin Star is. If there was a location closer to my house, I’d have breakfast there weekly.

When it comes to fast food innovation, no one can compete with Taco Bell. So far they’ve given us “shells” made from Doritos, chicken, waffles, now an egg?! Other restaurant chains may try to match their creativity, but in the end, the marketing geniuses at Taco Bell always retain the belt.

So, you’re probably wondering, is the Naked Egg Breakfast Taco worth the extra morning drive time?

Well, it’s interesting.

I’m gonna go ahead and skip past the fact I’m not a big fan of the word “naked” when pertaining to food and get to the review.

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It’s not exactly the most photogenic menu item Taco Bell offers, that’s for sure. It looks like a three-day old omelet. The fried egg “shell” does its best to show off a yolk, just so you know what you’re eating.

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The taco came with a cardboard sleeve that I found inconvenient to eat out of, so I ditched it. Once I did, I realized why it was there. As you might expect, a fried egg taco “shell” is greasy. It’s probably best to eat it with utensils, but that kinda kills the novelty of eating a taco, right? Also to be fair, it’s not much greasier than a McGriddle cake.

Using an egg as a “shell” is all good in theory, but in order to keep some stability, it had to be firm. The egg was overcooked. I’d compare it to a rubbery hard-boiled egg white that got cold almost instantly.

The taco comes filled with cheddar cheese, nacho cheese sauce, seasoned potatoes, and the sausage crumbles I opted for.

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The “warm layer” of cheddar cheese they promised was actually congealed plastic, but it did act as a glue to hold the taco together. I thought there was way too much of it, but when I opened the taco to check out the other ingredients, they all kinda spewed out.

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The other three inner ingredients were tasty. I have no complaints there. The zesty nacho sauce added a (this is gonna sound gross) lubricant, and I’ve always been a fan of their seasoned potatoes. The sausage crumbles were standard fare.

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So overall, it’s kind of a mixed bag. You have a rubbery egg, some plastic cheese, and then the good warm inner contents. Mixed together, it’s not bad, but I absolutely missed a tortilla to tie everything together.

The Naked Egg Breakfast Taco is a cool gimmick, but unless you’re trying to cut a few carbs from your morning, I see no reason to ever get this over other superior Taco Bell menu items. It’s a one time purchase.

(Nutrition Facts – 300 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 170 mg of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Fun little gimmick. The inner ingredients all worked well. Taco Bell innovation. A.M. Crunchwrap is the G.O.A.T.
Cons: Rubbery egg “shell.” Plastic cheese. Greasy. Pretty small. The word “naked” pertaining to food. Not even close to the other breakfast options at Taco Bell.

REVIEW: Lay’s Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers Potato Chips

Lay s Bacon Wrapper Jalapeno Poppers Potato Chips

A recent Gatorade campaign featuring the best athletes of the last three decades identifies a surprising motivator common amid these elite performers: the staggering defeats they experienced. In response to the failure, they found the secret to victory was to work harder, work smarter, and not let the next opportunity get away from them.

Lay’s Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Popper Potato Chips are hoping to demonstrate a similar resolve. For the first time since the Do Us a Flavor contests began in 2013, Lay’s released a flavor that was not a finalist.

This year, they allowed a round of online voting based on interest alone to bring the list of ten semifinalists down to three. Although the medal stand was occupied by Everything Bagel, Fried Green Tomato, and Crispy Taco, Lay’s opted to release this variety as a Walmart exclusive.

I have to wonder what a bacon-wrapped jalapeno popper is. Is this a niche appetizer? I found exactly one restaurant menu that offered this item. Recognizing I don’t get invited to many catered events (assuming birthday party pizza and Iron Man sheet cake don’t count as catering), I did find more caterers offering these. If only the bag had featured an out-of-work actor in a pink bow tie.

A smoky smell emanated from the bag, but it wasn’t very strong. My son laughed as I nearly stuck my entire head into the top, hoping to find something else, anything else.

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The chips had green speckles reminiscent of sour cream and onion chips, as well as a fewer number of brick red colored bits as well. The familiar Lay’s crunch and texture were present upon first bite, but were not greasy like the Original variety.

The taste was as unremarkable as the smell. The chips generally didn’t have much of a distinct taste at all. I occasionally sensed bacon but the taste would fade. The jalapeno wasn’t notable at all. Sometimes a light tingle, indicating the spicy component, would sit on my tongue tip or palate for a short time. There could have been a hint of sour cream or cream cheese as well, but it was minor and I would have been unlikely to detect it if I wasn’t considering the art on the front of the bag.

Lay’s made the decision to produce a flavor that in concept alone failed to excite chip lovers, and it is no surprise the real life results were no more inspiring. Some of the Do Us a Flavor entrants have been truly horrifying, but never before have I been more bored with a product from the contest.

Perhaps next summer, there will be a Frito-Lay campaign with an executive, donned in a hairnet, goggles, and lab coat, walking the factory floor who leans in real tight to the camera and says, “You want to know the Secret to Victory? Release a new product people didn’t want.”

(Nutrition Facts – about 15 chips – 160 calories 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size:
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Spice level. Attractive packaging. The Vinny Vegas pizza at Skyzone trampoline park.
Cons: “Incomplete” grades for bacon, jalapeno, and cream cheese flavors. All six of the other flavors that didn’t make the finals sound more interesting. Asking Matt Ryan to recreate the midfield walk after the worst loss of his life.