REVIEW: Cheez-It Buffalo Wing Crackers

Cheez It Buffalo Wing Crackers

It’s officially football season (a.k.a. Americana foods season) and Cheez-It is getting into the spirit with its Flavor Playoffs. It’s a face-off between cheeseburger, cheese pizza, and cheddar nachos-flavored Cheez-It crackers and snack enthusiasts like you and me can choose the winning flavor.

Around the same time, the brand released a Walmart-exclusive Buffalo Wing flavor that features the same packaging but isn’t part of the promotion. Weird. But, that’s okay. It wouldn’t have been able to hold its own against the other classic tailgate flavors anyway.

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The crackers looked like the typical orange squares in a box of regular Cheez-It, but with some extra dusting. It would have been a nice visual touch to see the crackers bright red-orange to mimic a beautiful fried chicken wing doused in red-hot Buffalo sauce. I could also see the light dusting was inconsistent across the crackers, so I knew some were going to be more flavorful than others. I was even more surprised that for a flavor as pungent as Buffalo, these didn’t smell too different.

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Not surprisingly, the lackluster appearance and smell translated into a lackluster taste. I wanted it to be as flavorful as Cheez-It’s Sriracha Snack Mix, but it was nowhere close. Any initial Buffalo taste was quickly drowned out by a mild bleu cheese taste and then the sharp cheddar flavor that typically accompanies the regular flavor. The crackers that were extra toasted and extra seasoned were closer to that bold Buffalo flavor, but still not quite. This is the only time I will EVER say that the 100 percent real cheesy goodness did not work in its favor.

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When it comes to Buffalo wing-flavored snacks, the gold standard is the Pretzel Pieces version from Snyder’s of Hanover. So, I pitted the two against each other. The Snyder’s one was hands down better and continues to be reigning champion. It not only packed a flavor punch, but it also didn’t have any seasoning inconsistency as it didn’t look like they used powder only. But, I will say that the pretzel pieces didn’t capture the bleu cheese flavor as well as Cheez-It.

For good measure, I also tried Rold Gold’s Buffalo Wing Thin Crisps Pretzels and I’m happy to share that Cheez-It won that round. You could taste the Rold Gold’s Frito-Lay backing as it reminded me of Cool Ranch Doritos more so than Buffalo.

At the end of the day, Cheez-It crackers are damn delicious no matter what seasoning you sprinkle on it. So in that vein, this isn’t the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Buffalo-flavored snacks, but it isn’t best-in-class either.

(Nutrition Facts – 25 pieces – 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of total fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 12.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: It’s a Cheez-It. More complex flavor journey than other Buffalo flavored products: Buffalo then bleu cheese then sharp cheddar. Beats the flavor of Rold Gold’s Buffalo offering.
Cons: Seasoning inconsistency. Wanted that Buffalo flavor punch but it doesn’t deliver. Not as good as Snyder’s Buffalo Pretzel Pieces.

REVIEW: Jelly Belly Krispy Kreme Doughnut Jelly Beans

Jelly Belly Krispy Kreme Doughnut Jelly Beans

I once e-mailed Jelly Belly about making an Advil flavored jelly bean.

You know that sugary coating the orange Advils have for three seconds? That.

Needless to say, they never got back to me. Apparently dirt and dog food are acceptable flavors, but nooooo, not Advil.

I guess I just figured the innovators over at Jelly Belly might be open to some outside ideas. Then again, I found out they were hard at work mimicking Krispy Kreme donuts and I immediately let it slide.

Krispy Kreme is a treat. I don’t have one nearby so I envy anyone who can stop in and pick up a dozen whenever they want. I usually have to wait until I hop a train to NYC to get my fix, but they’ve never let me down. Now you’re telling me they’re teaming up with “THE original gourmet jelly bean?” I’m in.

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Here are my quick reviews of the five flavors included in the Jelly Belly-Krispy Kreme mix:

Cinnamon Apple Filled – Beige with brown – These tasted like apple pie. The taste starts as a normal sweet apple Jelly Belly, but is soon met with a dulling cinnamon flavor.

Strawberry Iced – Pink with a little sheen – These tasted just like strawberry cake icing. Unlike a normal strawberry flavor, it’s not very acidic or fruity.

Glazed Blueberry Cake – Basically a darker shade of the Cinnamon Apple – These tasted like a complex blueberry muffin. I got “baked goods” in this more than the others. They were definitely the “donutiest,” which is absolutely a word. Don’t bother looking it up.

Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles – Brown with a few sprinkle dots – These tasted like what I recall Chocolate Pudding Jelly Belly beans tasting like. I might actually say they were “Fudgsicle” flavored.

And now, it’s time for the Krispy Kreme staple. The bean you’ve all been waiting for:

Original Glazed – Color and sheen match the donut – These were really disappointing. Wow. I just didn’t get much here. I realize glaze is essentially just sugar, but that’s all I tasted – sugar. Maybe they slipped some Advil beans in for me instead? I didn’t really find them distinctly Krispy Kreme donut. I wanted to be immediately reminded of a hot conveyer belt glazed, but I got more of a toasted marshmallow vibe. I feel like I’m wrong, but I gotta trust my buds. What did I miss?

My Ranking:

Glazed Blueberry Cake

Strawberry Iced

Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles

Cinnamon Apple Filled

Original Glazed

I can’t believe it.

Despite my clamoring for the sugary Advil, this mix got cloying in time. I appreciate the larger Jelly Belly variety boxes because you can counter flavors like this with say a citrusy fruit flavor. You need that balance if you wanna consume mass beanage – which is also absolutely a word.

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As far as the “donut” of it all, I popped all five at once and found that brought a lot of the pastry effect out.

You might wanna wait to see if these break into the bigger mixes before dropping $5 on this box.

(Nutrition Facts – 27 Beans – 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 20 grams of sugar (+20g added sugars), and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.00
Size: 4.25 oz.
Purchased at: Five Below
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Some cool new flavors to add to the roster. Blueberry was really good. Unless they say “Bertie Bott’s,” Jelly Belly never really disappoints. Delicious Advil coating.
Cons: The baffling Glazed flavor making me question my taste buds. Lack of fresh glazed donut flavor. I prefer a Jelly Belly mix with a little more variety. No Krispy Kreme near my house. A little pricy.

QUICK REVIEW: Limited Edition Nature Valley Pumpkin Spice Crunchy Granola Bars

Limited Edition Nature Valley Pumpkin Spice Crunchy Granola Bars

I have found that the term “pumpkin spice” generally means one of three things: (1) real pumpkin and spices, (2) artificial pumpkin flavor and spices, and (3) just spices. In my experience, the items that have actual pumpkin are almost always better than those without. (Pumpkin Spice Cheerios > Pumpkin Spice Life.)

These Limited Edition Nature Valley Crunchy Pumpkin Spice Granola Bars have real pumpkin flakes, but unfortunately, they don’t follow that pattern.

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There’s nothing particularly egregious about these bars. It’s just that they don’t meet expectations. I shared a pack with my coworker, and he said, “If I were blindfolded, I couldn’t tell these from the Oats ’n Honey ones.”

If you’ve had that green-wrapped variety, you know what you’re getting with the pumpkin spice version—very crunchy, very dry, and crumbs all over the place. I ate mine with milk because they’re so dry. There is a little bit of spice to it, but not a lot, and I don’t detect the pumpkin at all.

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Since the Nature Valley commercials always show people doing something outdoorsy while they consume these, I took my second pack on a short trail run. I thought the dryness would not be suitable for the outdoors, but on the contrary, I found the crunchiness and oat-y flavor surprisingly pleasant in nature, and it didn’t matter if the crumbs made a mess! Still wouldn’t be my first choice, though.

Kashi makes their own Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola Bars, which they sell year round (although they seem to be getting harder to find). Even though those don’t have pumpkin flesh in them, I recommend the Kashi version over Nature Valley. They’re very similar, but I think Kashi has more spice, and it has more protein and fiber and fewer calories.

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 6 2-bar packs
Purchased at: Smith’s (Kroger)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2 bars) 190 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbs, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

QUICK REVIEW: Limited Edition Werther’s Original Pumpkin Spice Soft Caramels

Limited Edition Werther s Original Harvest Caramels Pumpkin Spice Soft Caramels

When I first pop one of these Werther’s Original Pumpkin Spice Soft Caramels in my mouth, I get a flavor that makes me think, “Whoa. This totally tastes like fall.” It may be over 90 degrees, but the pumpkin spice flavor truly makes it feel like autumn.

Unfortunately, a few chews in, that autumnal flavor has faded, and all I taste is typical Werther’s candy. It doesn’t give me enough time to parse out whatever spices or flavors they used. All I get is caramel, with a weird, almost floral aftertaste. Even if I start fresh on a new piece, I can’t taste autumn. I have to wait awhile to detect the pumpkin spice again.

I had three separate tasting sessions, and this was the case each time.

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The serving size is six pieces, but I don’t recommend that many in one sitting. For one thing, it’s a lot of sweetness and a lot of wrappers all at once; but furthermore, there’s no way you would taste the pumpkin spice by the sixth.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the caramel. It’s soft and chewy, but not so sticky it stays stuck to your teeth. It’s a yummy candy, except for that weird aftertaste. This is not a salted caramel flavor, even though the typo on the nutrition label says they’re 276 percent sodium.

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Overall, it’s great as a caramel. But you only get a few seconds of pumpkin spice.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (6 pieces) 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Smoky Jack

Jack in the Box Smoky Jack

When I look at the Jack in the Box Smoky Jack, all I think to myself is, “Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with a random drug test today because that’s a urine-tainting amount of poppyseeds.” There are so many that this bun would look at an everything bagel and yell, “Have some decency and cover yourself up!”

Besides the artisan poppyseed bun, the burger also includes a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, hickory smoked bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, and a condiment called hickory sauce. The Smoky Jack is also available with crispy chicken.

While the bun might blow away any chance of me passing a drug test, the burger as a whole doesn’t blow me away taste-wise.

The smoky cheddar is a welcomed change from the regular cheeses Jack uses. Usually, it seems as if the cheese is there to prevent other toppings from falling out, but not provide much flavor. But the smoky mild cheddar does add a bit of smokiness AND prevents toppings from falling out. Its flavor lingers in the mouth well after the burger is consumed.

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The bacon, cemented to the cheddar, is a bit chewy, but adds even more smokiness. As for the beef patty, it’s a little dry, but that’s par for the course and something I’m used to.

The tomato seems fresh and the lettuce is as green as lettuce could be, which I bring up because that’s rare in the fast food world. As for the hickory sauce, I’m not sure my burger got it because the condiment tastes more like peppercorn mayonnaise. But whatever it is, its light flavor allows the smokiness of the other two toppings to come through. The bun has a sweetness to it, but the poppyseeds don’t add any flavor or texture.

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Thanks to the bacon and cheese, the Smoky Jack earns its name. But its smokiness make me yearn for another. As a whole, it’s a decent burger, but it’s also boring when you compare it with something like the chain’s Buttery Jacks or anything from the late night Munchies menu. Think of it as a slight upgrade from a Jumbo Jack.

I have to admit, being the headliner of a special inexpensive $4.99 combo does make it taste a little bit better. But it’s not something that would make me beckon the Crave Van and its property damage wake so that I can eat it.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $5.99* (combo)
Size: N/A
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Decent burger. Cheese’s smokiness is noticeable. Green lettuce. Being part of a $4.99 combo makes it taste a little bit better.
Cons: Blanket of poppyseeds on bun might cause you to fail a drug test. Kind of boring when comparing it to other Jack in the Box offerings. Dry beef patty. Chewy bacon. I don’t crave it.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. In most areas the Smoky Jack combo is being advertised for $4.99.