REVIEW: Nabisco Oreo Thins Cookies

Oreo Thins

It was tenth grade.

Math.

Permutations and combinations, a late afternoon with a blood sugar dip, and time ticking down to come up with an semi-believable excuse for another day without my homework.

Sometime during the teacher’s explanation of how Jimmy has five pairs of pants and twelve pairs of shirts and blah blah blah blah blah, I think, in an act of defined desperation, I may have blurted out, “Who the fudgemuffin cares?”

Oreo cookies, for lack of a better analogy, have become like that. It’s not that the endless amount of flavors and limited time only combinations aren’t great, but at some point, yea, they aren’t great. It’s all just too much, and not only do I have a waistline to prove it, but I find myself wondering if, like Jimmy donning a classic polo and khakis every day, the standard chocolate wafer and creme filling aren’t the end all be all of Oreo experiences.

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The new Oreo Thins go back to the basics with that premise, with the caveat that each cookie is about 18 calories less than your standard Oreo.

Like anything that’s lower calorie, there’s a catch (more on this later). Fortunately the cookies’ texture and flavor aren’t part of that catch, because you’re actually getting a cookie that tastes nearly identical to the standard Oreo.

The cookies are crisp and not crumbly, sweet but not cloying, and taste like a good old fashioned Oreo. Do you love this taste? The answer, if you’re a human being, is probably yes. Interestingly enough, the difference in the amount of creme is negligible.

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When I weighed the creme from both the Oreos and the Thins, there was only about a half a gram difference. And even though the marketing buzz has played up the idea that the cookies should be eaten “as is,” I found the center to hold its form much better than the standard Oreo, which peeled off worse than a temporary Pac-Man tattoo on a hot day.

Oh yes, and that “sophisticated” routine of eating the cookies as-is? Don’t let it stop you from enjoying the Thins with a nice, cold glass of whole milk. You’re not missing out on the proverbial pleasures of the dunking experience, although you may want to use a smaller glass.

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Now, the catch. Each package is just 10.1 ounces, less than both original Oreos (14.3 ounces) and the standard (not LTO) Double Stuff varieties, which clock in at 15.4 ounces. So basically, you’re getting a lot less bang for your buck. You’re also getting a less substantial cookie in terms of the chocolate flavor. There’s a definite muffin top effect going on with the thin ones. They can replicate the taste and texture pretty well, but there’s a harder to describe element of “heft” that gives you a more pronounced chocolate taste with the thicker wafers from the original Oreos.

The differences between Oreo Thins and the original Oreos are about as pronounced as the differences between college football in the ACC and in the Pac-12. Are there differences? Well, I mean yeah. North Carolina is never going to run as up-tempo as Oregon. But really, it’s college football at the end of the day. And above all, Oreo Thins are Oreo cookies at the end of the day, and a welcomed reminder that sometime the best combination takes a page from the original.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 Thins – 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2.0 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Oreo Thins Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10.1 oz.
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Classic Oreo taste and texture with 18 less calories per cookie. Actual amount of creme filling is close to the standard Oreo. Wafers twist off easily.
Cons: Creme ratio can’t come close to Double Stuff. Wafer lacks substantial chocolate heft of original Oreo. Horrible price per ounce compared with other Oreo varieties.

REVIEW: Trident Layers Swedish Fish Gum

Trident Layers Swedish Fish Gum

Are you the one who wished that a fish-shaped gummy named after a Scandinavian country would be transformed into a piece of gum?

Zoltar says: your wish is granted.

While I am not sure which species of fish the original gummies are meant to mimic (Salmon? Halibut? An artistic rendering of Basking Sharks?), I’ve always admired the fish-shaped chewable candies for their sweet and tart tang, so to find them in gum form ruffled me with confusion, hesitation, and impossible joy at the possibility of such greatness.

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The berry gets a massive double layer, while a teeny bit of lemon smooshes itself in the middle. That ratio of flavor distribution comes out immediately in the gum’s taste.

If there was a Seismic Scale of Flavor Intensity, the Lemon of this gum would get a .004. Its lemony, citrus twang just disappears at first chew. Where did you go, Lemon Flavor? Are you jealous that Berry got two layers? Jealousy isn’t good for relationships, Lemon. Haven’t you heard about Brutus and Caesar? The first two Godfathers? That crazy witch in Snow White? Jealousy only brings knives, poison apples, and horse heads in your bed. Don’t let jealousy happen to you, Lemon.

But on the note of vague feelings of injustice, it seems there has never been an official word on Swedish Fish’s actual “berry” flavor, and yet my anxiety and rapidly expanding fear of the unknown seemed fixated on finding the answer. Is it raspberry? Cranberry? Lingonberry? Sour cherry? Berry punch? Is there a professional horticulturalist with a highly refined palate on the blog?

Whatever identity that berry beholds, it presides over the entire chewing experience. I chewed for a solid 30 minutes, enjoying its non-rubbery berry tang that’s both tart and sweet. There was a slight bitterness that came in every now and again (I’m a little sensitive to red dye, so it may have been that), but the overall sugary-tartness made this chewing experience an enjoyably long-lasting one.

But I feel I should give you a warning. This gum lasts very long. So very, very long. Even after you have disposed of your little red knob of rubber, brushed your teeth, and gargled a glug of Spearmint Scope, the berry presence continues to linger somewhere in the back of your throat, which may result in it infiltrating everything you eat. Your tomato soup. Your tuna salad. Your medium-rare bacon cheeseburger. All of them, getting overthrown by a peculiar artificial berry tang.

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But, on the whole, I enjoyed this gum. Like a dentist reaching into the jaws of a wild boar just to see if it has teeth, Trident took a risk, and all in the hopes of seeing if they could transform an iconic gummy into a piece of gum. It was dangerous. It was spontaneous. It was successful. Facing such a risk is admirable in its own right. To have it come out successfully? Earns it big points.

Sure, the lemon got lost and the berry flavor comes across as bitter and overpowering at times, but there’s no question that Trident went all-out with flavor authenticity. I will chew my Swedish Fish gum again. Perhaps while staring at Swedish furniture in IKEA after eating some Swedish meatballs.*

*Thank you, Sweden, for being great.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 piece – less than 5 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Trident Layers Swedish Fish Gum
Purchased Price: $1.49 (single pack)
Size: 14 pieces
Purchased at: Publix
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes just like berry Swedish Fish. Flavor lasts forever. Tangy. Soft and chewy. Stays non-rubbery for a good 30 minutes. Zoltar. Basking Sharks.
Cons: Makes cheeseburgers taste like Swedish Fish. Lemon flavor gets jilted. Not shaped like a fish. What is the berry flavor?? Poison apples. Horse heads in your bed.

REVIEW: Little Caesars Cheese-N-Pretzel Dippers

Little Caesars Cheese-N-Pretzel Dippers

It’s baaaaack!

Like Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s “It” or the McDonald’s McRib (which one is truly scarier?), Little Caesar Soft Pretzel Crust Pizza made a big scene last year before stealthily going into hibernation shortly after. But now it’s back. And unlike the periodic resurrections of King’s killer clown and McD’s mysterious meat, the cult-favorite pizza’s return is much more “glory” than it is “gory.”

But it didn’t come alone. Looking like the illegitimate child from a Pretzel Crust Pizza/Crazy Bread love affair, Lil C’s also debuted their new Cheese-N-Pretzel Dippers, which come with a cute little tub of “Aged Cheddar Cheese” (oh jeez, I just described a cheese tub as cute; are you proud of me now, Mom?).

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I opened my bag and marveled at the doughy chaos within. Unlike the neat rows of Crazy Bread, the 16 or so Dippers are unceremoniously dumped into a pile. They say the pretzel was invented by a monk who shaped dough into the shape of children’s crossed arms during prayer. If that’s true, then he must have shaped these after Sister Agnes was finished “disciplining” the children’s arms with a yardstick.

Other than that, they do look like Crazy Bread, just firmer, browner, and dotted with translucent salt granules rather than parmesan. And the buttery-ness of my pretzels made the bag as translucent as the salt: even before opening it, the Dippers were tunneling through the paper like Andy Dufresne behind a poster of Rita Hayworth.

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Evaluating these Dippers is tricky, because their quality is very much dependent on their temperature. Eaten hot, the experience is largely pleasant. The rich, golden-baked pretzel shell has enough structural integrity to resist tearing (it’s denser than the pizza’s pretzel crust), but the uneven butter coating makes it lighter, softer, and more oily-tasting in select clusters. Biting through gives way to the same fluffy, aerated center in Crazy Bread.

It’s a recognizable “pretzel flavor” that is reminiscent of those microwaveable Super Pretzels, just with a more hearty chew. This is because the thin Dippers have a “crust to bread” ratio that highly favors the former.

Unfortunately, the haphazard salt sprinkling dampens the experience, as some bites are purely bland butter-dough, while others are overwhelmingly salty enough that’ll you’ll be channeling your inner George Costanza: “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” The few bites that are well balanced, though, make me smile contently and whisper, “That’ll do, Dipper. That’ll do.”

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And the cheese. Oh, the cheese. The only thing aged about this cheddar is how it tastes like the orange goo on boardwalk nachos that a carny left out too long. Overwhelmingly oily and slightly too coagulated, it takes away from the pretzel goodness by plastering a tangy, slightly zippy taste in the back of your mouth.

But that’s when it’s all hot. If left too long (and it reached this point even after my short ride home from Little Caesars), room temperature or cold Dippers turn into insanely chewy lengths of flavorless rope as the salt begins to fall off. Biting into any remaining salt clusters tastes like you’re munching on a pirate’s doormat. And room temperature cheese? Like a repulsive cube of Cheez Whiz someone tried passing off as post-modern art.

Little Caesars’ new Cheese-N-Pretzel Dippers are certainly an enjoyable alternative pizza side dish, but only under two stipulations: eat them immediately (or keep a microwave on hand), and send the cheese dip directly to Hell, where it belongs the trash.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Item: Little Caesars Cheese-N-Pretzel Dippers
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 16 pieces
Purchased at: Little Caesars
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Dippers)
Rating: 2 out of 10 (Cheese)
Pros: Authentic pretzel taste when salt and butter are balanced. Charming patchwork of crispy and light sections. Adorable cheese receptacles. Seinfeld reruns.
Cons: Rare balanced sections. Temperature-based devolution into cardboard. Semisolid satanic cheese. Sister Agnes’ painful wrath.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Milky Way Marshmallow with Caramel

Limited Edition Milky Way Marshmallow with Caramel

You know that old friend you have? The one you only talk to when they’re visiting town? The two of you pick up right where you left off, but you both know that as soon as you part ways, you won’t be speaking again for another year or two? That’s how I’d describe my relationship with Milky Way.

Our interactions are generally limited to the Halloween season, when they’re included in those giant bags of fun size mixed treats. And even then, it’s usually a week into November before I finally get around to eating them (long after the Reese’s, Twix, and Baby Ruth have been exhausted).

And I don’t even dislike Milky Way! I just sorta group them in with Mr. Goodbar, or Krackel, or any other inoffensive, middle-of-the-road candy bar. Strange since Milky Way is such a close cousin to the widely beloved Snickers, but there’s no disputing that peanuts and nougat are radically different ingredients; swap one out for the other and you’ve created an entirely new piece of candy.

By the same token, when I first read about a new Milky Way that traded in regular nougat for a marshmallow-y nougat filling, I was intrigued. It sounded like a brilliant way of taking a longstanding favorite and infusing it with fluffy, summery goodness. Lucky for me, and despite its proclaimed “limited edition” status, I found the bar easily, just around the corner at my local convenience store.

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As I unwrapped it and split it open to check out its contents, I was shocked. It looked exactly like – if not better than – the illustration on the wrapper! When does that EVER happen?

How many times have we as junk food enthusiasts been duped by package art into buying burgers that turned out flimsy and pathetic? Microwave dinners that congealed into greasy, mealy porridge? Ice pops that looked like terrifying, disfigured, goblin versions of the cartoon characters they were meant to represent? This was a strong start for Milky Way.

Biting in, the texture is different from that of the standard edition, but certainly not worse. The marshmallow nougat is significantly smoother and less chewy than its original counterpart, which makes this bar a nice option for chocolate lovers who try to avoid stickier foods.

But the taste is the most important part, and it leaves little room for complaint. This set of flavors complement each other well. The ratios are sound, and everything is properly layered with no single component overwhelming another. If forced to be nitpicky I would say that, considering its top billing, the marshmallow flavor is a bit light and takes a while to develop, but that’s about it. Overall, this is a well constructed piece of candy.

While nothing can replace the original, this variation serves as a nifty take on the classic bar. Similar to those tasty Caramel Apple squares Milky Way puts out every autumn, I could easily see myself snacking on miniatures of these throughout the summer.

M.W., perhaps I was wrong about you – I think I might be ready to take this relationship to the next level.

(Nutrition Facts – 220 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Milky Way Marshmallow with Caramel
Purchased Price: $1.25
Size: 1.72 oz.
Purchased at: Krauszer’s Food & Liquor
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Enjoyable variation on a classic candy. Pleasant flavor profile. Bar looks exactly as pictured!
Cons: Marshmallow flavor is a bit light. Might be better in fun size. Adequate item which makes it difficult to think of a humorous third complaint?

REVIEW: Wendy’s Baconator Fries

Wendy’s Baconator Fries

“How are the Baconator Fries?”

“They are banging. You need to get them.”

That’s how my recent Wendy’s transaction started – word for word. I obviously ordered them. Who could argue with that assessment? I hope she was instantly promoted to management, because she knows how to sell a French fry.

I recently returned home from the West Coast, where I made the obligatory stop at In-N-Out. As I sat there eating my Animal Style fries, I wondered why more fast food places didn’t have more menu items featuring the fry as the star. It’s pretty damn hard to mess up a French fry, so why not mess around and provide more toppings than just standard salt? Enter Wendy’s with their new Baconator Fries.

Like the delicious burger of the same name, Baconator Fries are… well, they’re fries covered in cheese and bacon. Wendy’s website claims the ingredients are as follows – natural cut fries, cheese sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, and Applewood smoked bacon. I don’t believe my order had the shredded cheddar though, which is fine, because I believe that would have been overkill.

Baconator Fries aren’t the most attractive looking dish, but at this point we all know the pictures in the commercials aren’t remotely true to life. This was kind of a mess. You won’t be enjoying these with your fingers. There’s something inherently depressing about eating a non-salad fast food product with a fork. I’m not sure why I feel that way, but it just seems to amplify the fact you’re eating greasy fast food.

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To Wendy’s credit, they don’t skimp on the bacon. There was plenty, and despite what I’m going to say next, the bacon held up well and kept a nice crisp – something that I’m frankly not used to when it comes to fast food bacon. I usually pick at least one grisly strip out and toss it.

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The fries themselves were limp and soggy, but to be fair, that should be expected due to the excessive amount of cheese sauce. I also think the plastic casing it came in was a major culprit. I’m never a fan of food served in plastic containers like this. No matter how fast you open it, the contents are still sweating worse than Shaq at the free throw line. Really, the only purpose the plastic container has is to expedite the sog progress, or “sogress”™ of the food inside.

Like I said earlier, it’s hard to mess up a French fry. I like Wendy’s fries a lot actually. They made the change to the natural cut, sea salt version years back and it was definitely for the better. Even without a crispiness, they’re tasty. The cheese sauce is the same from the Baconator. It’s not bad, but I couldn’t help but think a different cheese would have suited this a bit better. Still, coupled with the fries and the crispy bacon, you get at least a few really good bites of food here.

It’s fun to say “Baconator,” isn’t it? That’s a winning name, Wendy’s. Nice job. It doesn’t quite make up for the “Dave’s Hot and Juicy,” but you can’t win em all. I hope they continue messing around with fry-based menu items, but also hoping they leave the “Dave’s Hot and Juicy Fries” on the cutting room floor. Nobody wants to actually say that out loud. The Baconator is also just a really solid hamburger. In fact, that’s one thing that was constantly on my mind while eating these fries – how much I wanted an actual Baconator burger. These fries are kind of a tease in that sense.

Here’s the thing though, this portion is more than a side dish. The size is problematic because I don’t believe it’s enough to pass off as a meal, but it’s also too big to pair with a good sized burger. You’re either gonna be hungry again in an hour, or miserably full for the next few depending on what you order.

I’d say either pair these fries with a 4 piece nuggets, or a Jr. sized burger, or just enjoy them as a Taco Bell-style “FourthMeal.” According to the website, you can also customize your order, so who knows, you might even be able to add hamburger meat and make a Top Chef style “deconstructed Baconator.” Fancy.

So yeah, this is standard Wendy’s fare. They’re often on the mark with their new exclusives. Baconator fries are not something I’m gonna flock out and eat weekly like I did with the Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich, but I definitely recommend giving them a try. For only two bucks, you can’t go wrong.

In conclusion… bring back the Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich!

(Nutrition Facts – 490 calories, 250 calories from fat, 28 grams of fat, 9 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 550 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of protein.)

Item: Wendy’s Baconator Fries
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Price. Crispy bacon. Good flavor pairing. The name “Baconator.” The cute actress in the Wendy’s commercials. Enthusiastic employee. Wendy’s in general.
Cons: “Limited” time only item. Sogress™. Too much cheese. Dave’s Hot and Juicy. In-between portion size.