REVIEW: Mountain Dew Kickstart (Fruit Punch and Orange Citrus)

Mountain Dew Kickstart

Wise men once said in the late-1980s, and more recently in a Kia commercial, “Ooh, are you ready girls? Ooh, are you ready now? Ooh, yeah! Kickstart my heart, give it a start! Ooh, yeah, baby! Ooh, yeah! Kickstart my heart, hope it never stops! Ooh, yeah, baby!”

During my teen years, those motivational words from Mötley Crüe made me run faster, drive faster, eat faster, build Lego kits faster, and feather my hair.

But today, because I’m old, decrepit, and my iPod’s alarm allows me to snooze it, I need more than Tommy Lee’s drumming, Mick Mars’ guitar licks, Nikki Sixx’s bassing, and Vince Neil’s screaming to kickstart my heart and morning. Well, Mountain Dew might have what I’m looking for with their new Kickstart beverages.

Sure, if you wanted to Dew the Dew while there’s morning dew, you could drink a regular can or bottle of Mountain Dew, but Mountain Dew Kickstart is made for the morning. It’s a sparkling juice beverage that combines the flavor of fruit juice with the caffeine of coffee. Yes, it’s basically a morning soda that can be part of your complete breakfast. But, just like breakfast cereals, consuming them at two o’clock in the afternoon would not be a faux pas.

Mountain Dew Kickstart comes in 16-ounces cans and two flavors — Orange Citrus (makes sense) and Fruit Punch (not so much). If you were to drink a can to start your morning, you’d have downed 80 calories, 20 grams of sugar, 100 percent of your daily vitamin C, 80 percent of your daily niacin, 80 percent of your daily vitamin B6, and 92 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine, all of which is much better than regular Mountain Dew. A 16-ounce serving of Mountain Dew has 230 calories, 62 grams of sugar, 72 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine, and isn’t a significant source of any vitamins and minerals.

Mountain Dew Energizing Fruit Punch Kickstart

We love our fruit punch here on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so a part of me was excited to see it as a Mountain Dew Kickstart flavor. However, at the same time I was a bit confused about the choice. Fruit punch isn’t a breakfast drink and is stereotypically (according to television) something that’s spiked at school dances with alcohol or Spanish Fly. Perhaps a more breakfast-friendly flavor, like apple, would’ve been better.

The aroma from the can was mildly fruity and somewhat reminded me of Hawaiian Punch. The sparkling juice beverage sparkled moderately, making it easier to drink than any other Mountain Dew soda. It started off with nice sweet fruity flavor similar to other fruit punches I’ve had (which is mostly McDonald’s fruit punch) and ended with an aftertaste that’s similar to Diet Mountain Dew. If you decided to test my taste buds for which fruits make up the punch, I would fail. Overall, it’s not a bad beverage, but I feel weird drinking it with breakfast.

However, Mountain Dew Orange Citrus Kickstart tastes more like something appropriate for breakfast.

Mountain Dew Energizing Orange Citrus Kickstart

The orange-flavored sparkling juice beverage doesn’t have an aroma as strong as its red sibling, and whatever smell there is its a generic citrus. Just like Mountain Dew Fruit Punch Kickstart, it had a mild amount of carbonation, so look elsewhere if you want to wake up with fizz tickling your nose.

The orange citrus flavor tasted more like tangerines, which was fine, but what wasn’t fine was how the initial taste, which, like its aroma, wasn’t very strong, quickly went from mild to extremely watered down to an artificial sweetener aftertaste. Its flavor wasn’t a kickstart; instead it was more of a downshift.

To be honest, I’m not sure who’s going to regularly buy Mountain Dew Kickstart. Xtreme Dew fans will probably sneer at the fact that it’s a “sparkling juice beverage”; hardcore energy drink drinkers will scoff at the 92 milligrams of caffeine per 16-ounce serving; nutritionists will ridicule the 5 percent juice both flavors contain; and 12-year-olds will laugh at the acetate isobutyrate they contain because they’ll probably pronounce it as, “ass taint I saw booty rate.”

But what do I know. I feathered my hair in the late 80s.

(Disclosure: I received free samples of Mountain Dew Kickstart from Mountain Dew.)

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – Fruit Punch – 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 100% vitamin C, 80% niacin, 80% vitamin B6, 60% pantothenic acid, and 10% phosphorus. Orange Citrus – 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 180 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 20 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 100% vitamin C, 80% niacin, 80% vitamin B6, 60% pantothenic acid, and 10% phosphorus.)

Items: Mountain Dew Kickstart (Fruit Punch and Orange Citrus)
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 16 fl. oz. cans
Purchased at: Received from Mountain Dew
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Fruit Punch)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Orange Citrus)
Pros: 92 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine. Good fruit punch flavor. Nice energy boost. Significantly less calories and sugar than regular Mountain Dew. Mild carbonation makes it easy to drink. Awesome source of vitamin C, niacin, and vitamin B6. Mötley Crüe.
Cons: Only 5 percent juice. Weird drinking fruit punch in the morning. Both have an artificial sweetener aftertaste. Orange Citrus’ flavor goes from mild to light. Not sure who will buy this regularly.

REVIEW: SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks

SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks

It’s fair to say I’m not the healthiest eater, a regrettable side effect of unrelenting stubbornness meeting finicky taste buds. As a result, I’m even more desperate than most people for reasonably healthy food that actually tastes good. And man cannot live on Pirate’s Booty alone, so when SunChips’ new Sweet & Spicy BBQ flavor hit grocery store shelves, I was all over that like, well, me on frozen yogurt.

The front of the bag really tries to sell you on the complexity of the tastes you’ll soon be mouthfeeling, showing the chips leaning against a dipping bowl of barbecue sauce, alongside chili peppers and that weird utensil that seems to be used exclusively to drip honey. (Or “hunny,” if you’re a silly ol’ bear.) It’s an intriguing montage that creates the expectation of a great pairing, like brownies and ice cream or Spider-Man and Optimus Prime.

In keeping with the health-conscious branding of SunChips, the label reminds you that they’re multigrain and a stamp emphasizes the all-natural ingredients and lack of MSG, preservatives, and artificial flavors. No complaints from me — their marketing strategy has always revolved around being healthier than the competition (30% less fat than regular potato chips, apparently), and you’ve gotta dance with the one who brought you.

The back further expands on the flavor explosion you’re apparently about to experience. It promises “a bold and unforgettable taste” that will “start the sweetest, sauciest fire in your mouth,” which hopefully is an exaggeration because hey, SunChips… flattered, even curious, but married. It also encourages you to check out their Facebook page, being updated by some eager, unpaid intern even as we speak. Yes, this is why you went to Brown for four years, Sarah. Working your way up!

But enough talk! Let’s talk about the actual chips themselves. Opening the bag releases a pleasing smell, like a somewhat muted aroma of barbecued ribs or chicken. It’s enjoyable without being overpowering, even if you stick your nose in the bag, although why would you do that unless you’re a weirdo food reviewer? In terms of appearance, you’ve seen SunChips before; these look identical except for a slightly darker, more orange shade than the plain variety. Given their focus on all natural ingredients, I’m assuming that is genuinely due to the barbecue coating, not just food coloring to differentiate them in your mental food rolodex.

SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks Closeup

With respect to texture, they’re definitely crunchy — if you’ve never had a SunChip of any kind before, basically they feel just like any regular potato chip, possibly even slightly crunchier. But ultimately that doesn’t matter a whit if they taste terrible, now does it? Well, the good news is, they don’t taste terrible; in fact, they’re pretty darn good. The sweetness comes through loud and clear, more like molasses than super sugary, although it doesn’t linger for long. Still, I have a hard time imagining many people disliking the taste, even if it doesn’t absolutely blow you away.

However, I do have a bone to pick, which is simply this: I have tasted spicy before. I know from spicy. And this, my friends, is not spicy. Remember that business about the bold and unforgettable taste? I can’t give it the response it deserves, but suffice to say in gentleman’s terms, that’s a crock of horseshit.

This is as edgy and in-your-face as men piercing their ears nowadays: it still might slightly intimidate young kids, but nobody else is going to be impressed. (And yes, I had three piercings in college. Swimmers are pretty hardcore, you know.) The heat is conspicuously absent, and while I’m not looking to scorch my lips off, the word “spicy” evokes certain expectations that are simply not met. Compared to the sweetness, the spice is like unto a phantom flavor, evident in some pale shade but so insubstantial as to make you question your senses. And that’s the last time I read M. R. James before writing a review.

(Full disclosure: while the upper chips in the bag were almost entirely devoid of heat, around the halfway mark there started to be a tiny bit, presumably due to the spices settling downward. Still not much, but it at least approaches the heat of a typical “mild” flavor.)

Even without more spice, this is still a good flavor that I have no trouble recommending; it’s just that it could have been even better if the spice were commensurate with the sweetness. I don’t know if that would have made them less healthy or if artificial flavors are needed to really crank it up to 11, but it’s a missed opportunity. Even so, try not to let these slip away without giving them a shot; they might not knock your socks off, but they are good.

(Nutrition Facts — 1 oz (28g/about 15 chips) — 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of total fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Other Sun Chips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Chips reviews:
Chip Review

Item: SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: If you’re going to eat chips, these are among the least ass-fattening. Barbeque smell. Good texture. Effective degree of sweetness without being overly sugary. Spider-Man and Optimus Prime: great team-up, or the greatest team-up?
Cons: An Ivy League English degree is still useless. Misleading ad copy. As much heat as Hayden Christensen/Natalie Portman. Letting someone see you sticking your nose in a bag of chips.

REVIEW: Crystal Light Liquid Strawberry Lemonade

Crystal Light Liquid Strawberry Lemonade

I imagine Shakespeare was a connoisseur of lemonade.

Why, if he were around right now, he’d probably say something like, “Oh, ye citrus beverage of my youth, why do I crave for thee in the bitter of winter?” Then, he’d probably sit down and write a sonnet, maybe pull out some iambic pentameter. I dunno, but I do know that, if his love for lemonade were true, he, like me, would’ve been tickled to see that one of Crystal Light’s newest ventures came in the form of strawberry lemonade.

Gotta give it to Crystal Light: they’re game for innovation. Every time I pass the powdered drink aisle, there’s a new flavor: Mango Passionfruit, Cherry Pomegranate, Snozzberry (oh, wait, I don’t think that last one’s been done yet. Can they get on that?).

While the notion of portable, squeezy liquid concentrates isn’t the newest thing on the block, Crystal Light’s always experimenting with uncharted territory flavors that don’t threaten to decay my bicuspids or sag my rump. I don’t know if all this flavor experimentation is admirable, but it is risky, and I respect a company willing to haggle with the Devils of Downfall.

The design of these little buggers is fetching in that short-and-curved kinda way. At the same time, it somewhat reminds me of a mini robot alien sent to Earth to bring the galactic armada tumbling upon us.

Crystal Light Liquid Strawberry Lemonade Flip Top

“Take me to your leader.”

Upon flipping open the cap, the smell is magical enough, with hints of lemon drops, artificial strawberry, and maybe something fruit punchy.

The recommended serving is “1 squeeze” for 8 ounces, so I shook the contents to make sure the flavors were distributed, gave it a solid squeeze, and watched as the color poofed out with a sort of pink lava-lamp glow, a color that disperses itself upon stirring around.

Crystal Light Liquid Strawberry Lemonade Stirred Up

Yes, it’s a little murky, but the pink adds something magical. I imagine this is what unicorn swamp water would look like.

The romp in interactive drink preparation was nothing but joy.

The tasting, however, was the opposite of joy.

It started as a hit of salty water, then went into some sort of faint cotton candy bubblegum. I added more squeezes into the water, thinking that maybe I just got a bad blend on my first squeeze, but it only concentrated the saltiness, resulting in something that tasted like a melted sea-salt-and-cotton-candy popsicle.

Oh, I was so sad. I really wanted to like this. I really did. I tried it multiple times with varying degrees of concentrate: one squeeze, measured squeezes, at breakfast, at dinner, while doing handstands in my kitchen (a fun and difficult challenge, but still not very tasty). I even offered it to a friend who needed to take off a few pounds.

Crystal Light Liquid Strawberry Lemonade and the Sultan

He said it was dastardly, which I thought a bit hyperbolic of him.

Maybe I just got a bad bottle. Maybe there was a mix up at the factory. Maybe a Crystal Light employee was seeking vengeance for an under-salted lemonade s/he had in his/her youth. I dunno. I appreciate that I didn’t waste any calories on this experience and I know Crystal Light can make some pretty decent lemonades, but this just isn’t one of them. Nonetheless, I hold hope for the future. Crystal Light is willing to take risks. Even when they fail, they shall try, try again.

Maybe next time.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 teaspoon – 0 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 15 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and less than one gram of protein.)

Other Crystal Light Liquid reviews:
Drink What

Item: Crystal Light Liquid Strawberry Lemonade
Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 1.62 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Smells magical. Sugar free. Interactive preparation. Cool bottle. Cap snaps securely shut. Doing handstands in the kitchen. Shakespearean sonnets.
Cons: Tastes of watery, over-salted Jolly Rancher. Lingering cheap cotton candy taste. Unicorn swamp water. Galactic armadas that take over the planet.

REVIEW: Cracker Jack’D Power Bites (Cocoa Java and Vanilla Mocha)

Cracker Jack'D Power Bites

Cracker Jack.

The name itself conjures up thoughts of small town nostalgia, fireworks, Dixieland jazz, and old grainy footage of smiling baseball greats with voiceovers saying nonsense stuff like, “Get your lemonade here!” or “He put some mustard on that fastball.” Cracker Jack is so innocent and simple in design. It’s just caramel corn, peanuts, the “aw-shucks” Sailor Boy mascot and his dog Bingo. Is there anything more inviting than caramel drenched popcorn?

Yes, thick slabs of bacon and foamy root beer are more inviting, but you know what I’m getting at.

However, it looks like Cracker Jack traded all of its innocence and simplicity for its post-modern apocalyptic Cracker Jack’D Power Bites line, switching out caramel corn for large pellets that I can only describe as cat droppings. One thing I should tell you…these Power Bites are not like the other Cracker Jack’D lines which are amped up party snack mixes. I’ve eaten those and you can do worse, like with these Power Bites.

Oh, and the Cracker Jack toy surprise?

Not to fret because the Cracker Jack’D Power Bites do have a “toy surprise” that comes in the form of caffeine (Yay chemicals!). The package touts one two-ounce bag has the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee. I believe it should be more specific and say, “This bag of cat poopies have the same amount of caffeine as one cup of that cheap ass coffee your tree-hugging jerk brother buys that sits in the cupboard for years because he only drinks green tea and says stupid things like ‘Namaste’.”

Namaste indeed.

These Power Bites are made with real coffee and come in two flavors: Cocoa Java and Vanilla Mocha. Frito Lay promises these are “snacks with impact” and it makes sense somebody thought of these considering how successful the energy drink market is.

Cracker Jack’D Power Bites Cocoa Java

Cracker Jack'D Cocoa Java

The chocolate coating on these have a cheap waxy texture, but it opens its way to a pleasant flaky wafer cookie with a nice roasted coffee taste. The roast is complex and deep with a hint of saltiness. The cookie is slightly sweet to almost savory, almost… I like the bitter finish the cookie presents, but it may be a bit too bitter for most. However, if you like espressos, whiskey, and other harsher flavors of the world (like unrequited love) this will be a good surprise.

The snack did not give me a buzz, but a conscience…as in health conscience. With a package containing 290 calories and 14 grams of fat, it makes me wonder why I didn’t just get one of those disgustingly sweet fatty Starbucks mochalochachocolatabarataventiburgs?

Cracker Jack’D Power Bites Vanilla Mocha

Cracker Jack'D Vanilla Mocha

For every Sylvester Stallone there’s a Frank Stallone. Meet the Frank Stallone of the two Power Bites. While the Cocoa Java did not yield a total success for me, these are way worse. The same cheap waxy chocolate coating, but the complex roast is muted by this overly sweet, almost chai-like flavor. The cookie also has a mealy finish and any “mocha” flavor is flushed away into taste bud hell. There’s no way to say it but these are just fucking miserable. I wanted to microwave them into a mush and napalm the Sailor Kid with it.

Overall, the Cracker Jack’D Power Bites are purely a novelty to make your friends go “What’s that?” I think you’re better off drinking an actual cup of coffee. Even if that coffee has been sitting in a cupboard for years next to your jerk brother’s lavender sea salt.

Namaste.

(Nutritional Facts – 1 package – Cocoa Java – 290 calories, 14 grams of fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 180 mg of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 21 grams of sugars, and 3 grams of protein. Vanilla Mocha – 290 calories, 15 grams of fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugars, and 3 grams of protein)

Other Cracker Jack’D reviews:
Allison Meets World
Junk Food Guy (not Power Bites)

Item: Cracker Jack’D Power Bites (Cocoa Java and Vanilla Mocha)
Purchased Price: $1.99 each
Size: 2 oz. bag
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Cocoa Java)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Vanilla Mocha)
Pros: Cocoa Java’s complex roasted bitterness. Texture is good. Cracker Jack toy surprises, even if they are cheap paper things now. The slight salty edge Cocoa Java has. Old timey voiceovers.
Cons: Everything about Vanilla Mocha. The poop shape of these nuggets is gross. The fat, the calories, the cheap waxy chocolate coating. Lavender sea salt. Produced no caffeine buzz. People who say “Namaste.”

REVIEW: Extra Dessert Delights Lemon Square Gum

Extra Dessert Delights Lemon Square Gum,jpg

I’m starting to believe Extra Gum has ambitions to expand their Dessert Delights collection to include every single dessert ever made. This, of course, would result in thousands of different gum flavors, resulting in Extra having to open Walmart-sized stores filled with nothing but sugarfree gum sticks. I can’t decide if that would be awesome or a sign of impending dystopia.

If such a Gumopolis existed, I believe their new Lemon Square flavor would be found in the “Bake Sale” aisle, because lemon squares just seem like one of those items that show up between the homemade brownies and cupcakes at bake sales, with all the moms standing behind the table pretending like they’re not secretly competing to see who will buy the most of whose sugary treats.

I feel like the only other place you’ll commonly find lemon bars are at potlucks, possibly sitting next to a suspiciously empty dish of lutefisk. Lutefisk does not fit in with my vision of a Dessert Delights megastore, however. Not unless you consider lutefisk a dessert, in which case, I am terrified of you.

Please don’t take these remarks as disparaging to the lemon square; if you’ve never had one before, it’s kind of like a lemon meringue pie minus the meringue – flaky crust with a slightly tart lemon custard and usually a good sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar on top. I love the sour tartness of lemons and the consistency of custard, so lemon squares are right up my alley.

On their website, Extra describes their gum as “Refreshingly sweet and tart to the tongue, Lemon Square is the go-anywhere twist on the delicious dessert classic.”

While this gets the point across nicely, I thought I’d spice things up and make my own marketing pitch for it:

“Have you been craving a lemony dessert, but aren’t allowed within 500 feet of a school and thus can’t attend a bake sale? Is that blinking box strapped to your ankle preventing you from going to your local bakery? If so, you’re in luck with Extra Dessert Delights Lemon Square Gum! Our gum captures the taste of this classic homemade treat without you having to endure the glares of the entire PTA.”

I think it gets the point across rather nicely. Give me a call, Wrigley; I’ll work for spec.

Extra Dessert Delights Lemon Square Gum Closeup,jpg

So, how does this gum stand up to its real-life counterpart?

Well, gum ain’t ice cream, so it’s kinda hard to throw in some crust-flavored swirls or lemon custard like Ben & Jerry’s would. That said, I thought Extra did a pretty bang-up job on their Lemon Squares. As promised, the gum smells and tastes both sweet and tart, but strikes a nice balance between the two. The sweetness doesn’t drown out the lemon flavor, and the tartness doesn’t leave your cheeks puckered. Like a well-made lemon square, the citrus flavor shines without being overwhelming.

Unfortunately, Lemon Square Extra falls victim to a common gum phenomenon – it had great flavor at first, but that faded quickly, leaving me with a gum that tasted like aspartame and the faintest hint of lemon. Quietly ignoring the fact that I have too much time on my hands, I popped a stick in my mouth and set the stopwatch on my phone – it took exactly 2 minutes and 38 seconds for this gum to turn from “yum” to “blah”.

Extra Dessert Delights Lemon Square Gum could have gone wrong several ways – too tart, too sugary-tasting, too similar to chewing lemon zest – but it struck a nice balance between sweet and citrus. I’m not a big fan of fruit-flavored gum, but this one struck all the right notes and pleased my palate. Until 2:38, when it went from pleasantly-flavored to a bad aftertaste. I would have preferred if it had just faded into tasting like nothing, but thus is the curse of sugarfree gum. You enjoy it, that enjoyment turns into boredom, and you spit it out. Or stick it under something. Or swallow it, where it will then stay in your stomach for seven years. Hey, I’m not going to judge your gum-disposal preferences.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 stick – 5 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar and 0 grams of protein.)

Other Extra Dessert Delights Lemon Square Gum reviews:
TV and Gum Are Awesome
Snack Love
The Mind of a Big Cat

Item: Extra Dessert Delights Lemon Square Gum
Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 15 sticks/pack
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nice balance of sweet and tart. Gumopolis. Mild yet refreshing lemon flavor. Gum lasting seven years in your stomach is a myth.
Cons: Good flavor only lasts two minutes and 38 seconds. Obscure King of the Hill lutefisk references. Aspartame aftertaste. People who stick their ABC gum under things.