REVIEW: Limited Time Only Ketchup Doritos (Canada)

Limited Time Only Ketchup Doritos (Canada)

I still remember my shock, as a kid, finding out that ketchup chips are mostly just a Canadian thing, and that they’re not readily available in the States. This information stunned me. It made me question the way I perceived the world. Ketchup chips are such a fundamental potato chip flavour; this was like being told that Americans cannot perceive the colour blue.

As far as I’m concerned, there are certain bedrock chip flavours. Salt & vinegar. Barbecue. Sour cream & onion. Ketchup. All Dressed.

Wait — you don’t have All Dressed, either?? What kind of lives have you been living? I’ll answer that one: empty lives. Empty, horrible, All-Dressed-and-ketchup-chip-less lives.

Ketchup and fries are obviously natural bedfellows. Potato chips and fries are clearly brothers in the junk food family tree (or at the very least, cousins). It follows, then, that ketchup chips are a complete no-brainer.

But ketchup Doritos? That’s different. That’s as wacky to me as it is to you. I’ve never seen anybody dip a tortilla chip into ketchup, and I hope that day never comes. It’s too horrible to fathom.

So if the ketchup/tortilla combo is gross, Ketchup Doritos must be gross too, right? Well… read on, my friend. Read on.

Before I get into this particular flavour, I will say that I think Doritos are the best store-bought tortilla chip on the market. I don’t want to get too hyperbolic, but I think they’re pretty much textural perfection; they’re the perfect combination of crispy, airy, and crunchy.

(And I really wish they’d make plain Doritos easier to find, but they’re completely unavailable in Canada, and even in the States I’m almost never able to track them down. But I digress.)

I definitely wasn’t sold on this flavour after my first bite. Doritos and ketchup is such a weird combination that it just seems wrong. At first you’re hit with that vinegary ketchup sweetness and and it seems to confirm your worst fears. It feels off-putting.

But then you have another, and another, and before you know it, you’re hooked. There’s something weirdly addictive and oddly satisfying about it. A hint can be found in the ingredients. The third ingredient of the seasoning is monosodium glutimate, a.k.a. the dreaded MSG.

I should note that the notion that MSG is more unhealthy than any other seasoning has been thoroughly debunked at this point, in case you were wondering. What MSG does do is heighten a food’s umami factor. Combined with the dehydrated tomato (another umami-packed ingredient), it gives these Doritos (and quite a few other Doritos flavours) a savoury richness that you can’t quite put your finger on, but that keeps you coming back chip after chip.

Limited Time Only Ketchup Doritos (Canada) Closeup

The seasoning isn’t quite as liberally applied as with some other flavours. This is definitely a good thing; a little bit of the puckery sweet vinegar flavouring of the ketchup goes a long way. This means that more of the chip’s corn flavour shines through, which compliments the ketchup flavour fairly well, oddly enough.

It’s not my favourite variety of Doritos ever (it still has that distinctive ketchupy taste, which is never going to be perfect on a tortilla chip), but it is way, way better than you’d think it would be. I really only needed to sample one bag for the purpose of this review, and I’m already onto my second, which tells you how much I enjoyed it (it also tells you that I’m a pig whose boundless appetite can never quite be sated… but we’ll set that aside for the moment).

(Nutrition facts – 50 grams/21 chips – 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 290 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 2 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Time Only Ketchup Doritos (Canada)
Purchased Price: $3.50 CAN
Size: 245 gram bag
Purchased at: Hasty Market
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Way better than you’d think it would be. Surprisingly addictive.
Cons: The very idea of it is a bit off-putting. Ketchup and tortilla chips is never not going to be a weird combination.

REVIEW: Starbucks Caramel Flan Latte

Starbucks Caramel Flan Latte

Of all the jiggly desserts I’ve experienced, flan has to be my favorite. For those readers who have never had the pleasure of enjoying flan, it’s a bit like Jello’s fancier, wealthy cousin. While Jello’s at a frat party knockin’ back Jägerbombs, flan’s sipping on a glass of Dom Pérignon with the King of Latvia’s nephew.

Flan seems to have its origins in Ancient Rome, where it was often served as a savory dish. The Romans, after eating rodents for lunch and brushing their teeth with their own pee, would gather at the dinner table to enjoy a nice plate of eel flan.

Just recently, Starbucks thought up a new way to experience flan without the addition of eel — in latte form. The popular coffee chain’s new Caramel Flan Latte features espresso with steamed milk, caramel flan-flavored syrup, caramel-infused whipped cream, and a caramel flan drizzle. Will the combination of flavors prove a dud? Or will the result be flantastic?

The first thing I noticed upon receiving my Caramel Flan Latte was the sweet, caramel aroma of the whipped cream and caramel sauce drizzle. The topping adds noticeable caramel and vanilla tones to the flavor of the beverage. However, once all of the whipped cream disappears, the beverage loses much of its appeal.

The caramel flan syrup added to the coffee base seems smothered by the coffee’s actual flavor. Only a slight hint of caramel and vanilla are present toward the end of a sip, once the coffee flavor has faded off the tongue. The entire essence of flan seems to be absent from the beverage; the coffee lacks any trace of custardy, eggy flavor.

To be perfectly honest, the Caramel Flan Latte is quite tasty, but its flavor profile more closely resembles a run-of-the-mill sweetened latte than anything flan flavored. If I tasted this beverage blindly, it would be impossible for me to identify its flavor as anything remotely related to flan. Though pleasant, the slight caramel and vanilla aftertaste provides little incentive to purchase the beverage, as Starbucks already offers a Caramel Macchiato with a more defined and noticeable flavor.

Starbucks’ new Caramel Flan Latte was a letdown. Next time, I’ll be ordering a drink with a more discernible flavor. Until Starbucks chooses to add a pump of eel-flavored syrup to their Caramel Flan Latte, I’ll be skipping the flan-flavored beverages.

(Nutrition Facts – Tall (12 oz. with 2% milk and whipped cream) – 260 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 31 grams of sugars, and 9 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Caramel Flan Latte
Purchased Price: $3.75
Size: Tall (12 fl oz.)
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Light caramel and vanilla aftertaste. Tasty coffee beverage. The King of Latvia’s nephew.
Cons: Coffee flavor smothers caramel flan flavor. Far from flan-like. The idea of eel-flavored syrup.

REVIEW: Stride Sour Patch Kids Gum (Lime and Redberry)

Stride Sour Patch Kids Gum

Over the years, I’ve collected questions for the Sour Patch Kids: What makes a Sour Patch Kid? How do you become so perfectly sour, then sweet? Must you always come in gummy form? Why do you all look like oblong gingerbread men? Are you there, Sour Patch? It’s me, Margaret.

Despite the many unknowns they present, I love those little Sour Patches, munching their gummy innards down until my mouth is raw and I’m left clutching my stomach in sheer, unadulterated sweet/sour bliss. Until recently, I could only enjoy this Sour Patch sensation in gummy form, its sour-sugary grit flitting away in the 15 seconds it takes to dissolve. Way too short. Give me your sour! Your sweet! Put it all in a glycerin gum base! Well, it looks like Sour Patch did just that, cobbling together two new gum flavors that recently struck their territory at my local Target.

The gum has the typical dimension of a piece of regular Stride, which is about the length of a large paperclip. They strike their cubist pose in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle green and what can only be a super intelligent shade of neon red. Seeing as I admire super intelligent inanimate objects, let’s start with the Redberry, shall we?

Stride Sour Patch Kids Gum Super Intelligent Shade of Red

Sourness brings out my primal competitor. You eat one Warhead. I’ll eat 5. You down 4 Cry Babies. I’ll take 10. A box of Lemonheads is nothing for my resilient tongue. Knowing that Sour Patch Kids are usually medium on the scale of sourness, I went in hoping for a mellow, but still sparky sour experience, but, alas, came out disappointed. Perhaps there’s a sparky jolt of citric acid somewhere in there, but, overall, these pieces feel about as mild as a jellybean, but how does it deliver on the fruit end of things?

While I can’t confirm it, I hypothesize this Redberry is the closest we’ll ever come to a snozberry: there’s a strong kick of maraschino cherry zing, a little sweetness of strawberry, and an echo of raspberry tartness at the tail end. It’s unashamedly “red” flavor with a slightly metallic aftertaste, but, on the whole, it tasted like Cherry ICEE concentrate. A good first showing. If you ever wished cherry Life Savers and strawberry Starbursts had a tectonic collision, this is the gum for you.

Stride Sour Patch Kids Gum Ninja Turtle Green

Avoiding the trend to mutate green-colored candies into green apple flavor (lookin’ at you, Skittles), Sour Patch left their green lime-flavored and, for better or worse, the little citrus fruit is given its due, starting with a peculiar “household cleaner” flavor that is so often found in limes. It’s shockingly astringent at first before mellowing out into a tangy, but still somewhat bitter citrus profile. The bitterness got the best of me. I tried to keep chewing to see if it might open up into lime’s more sugary qualities, but, alas, the household cleaner taste took over and it ended up tasting like gnawing on a Pledge-soaked rubber tire.

However, not all is lost! One of the many joys involved in Sour Patch consumption is combining the gummy flavors together, which got me thinking: what would happen if I combined the two flavors of gum TOGETHER?

Struck by an acute case of Curiosity, I did just that.

Stride Sour Patch Kids Gum The power of their flavors combine!

Chewed together, the flavor’s about as crazy as a 3rd grade diorama, starting off with a shock of bitter sourness from the lime that lasts for a good two minutes until it mellows into a zingy maraschino-cherry with a hint of citrus. Together, they seem to balance one another out, whistling a tune that tastes quite similar to Sonic’s Cherry Limeade if your soda maker tossed in some extra bitter limes.

Fortunately, the flavor and soft chew of Stride lasts for a good 22 minutes of jaw entertainment so you can chew on your Cherry Limeade for an entire episode of Parks and Recreation if you want. Not bad. Not bad at all.

History is marked with times in which inspiration translates into a new and altogether unique phenomenon: floppy disks inspired USB drives. Hamlet inspired The Lion King. Popcorn inspired popcorn ice cream. And now Sour Patch gummies have become chewy, slightly sour gum.

While a bit too bitter and not as puckeringly sour as one could hope, Stride’s Sour Patch Kids gum delivers an okay showing. Their fruit flavor profiles are spot on, if a little too strong, and they’re even sugar-free, which is great if you have plaque concerns, braces, or are looking to expand your intake of sucralose. I don’t necessarily seeing myself buying them again, but if you like strong cherry flavors, the Redberry’s worth the try. The lime is a little too household cleaner-y for me, but, hey, if that’s your thing, no judgments. You ask me, it’s still better than green apple Skittles. Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything.*

*I’m definitely holding a grudge.

(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, 0 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Stride Sour Patch Kids Gum (Lime and Redberry)
Purchased Price: 99 cents each (on sale)
Size: 1 pack/16 pieces
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 2 out of 10 (Lime)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Redberry)
Pros: Redberry tastes like Cherry ICEE concentrate. Lime eventually takes on more citrus juiciness. Together, they taste like a Cherry Limeade. Sugar-free. Chew time lasts for full half-hour TV show. 3rd grade dioramas.
Cons: Bitter metallic aftertaste. Sourness is mild. Lime started off tasting like a Pledge-soaked rubber tire. My grudge against green apple Skittles. Overused reference to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

REVIEW: Frito Lay Mountain Dew Corn Snack (Mountain Dew Cheetos)

Mountain Dew Doritos 1

I like spaceships. Serenity, the Enterprise, Galactica, Bebop, the Nostromo, the Yamato, the Heart of Gold, the Protector, the Discovery, Prometheus. All of them. I even like real spaceships like the space shuttle Atlantis and the Millennium Falcon.

They represent what’s out there. The great unknown. The vast expanses of the galaxy and the universe. And it saddens me that the national space program is in such a state of decline. If we don’t continue to expand our presence into the Local Group, how are we going to colonize and terraform Mars? How are we going to make first contact? How can we even start to think about making the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs?

The answer is that none of these things is going to be happening anytime soon unless we find a major reason to motivate us. Clearly the huddled masses aren’t interested in learning or human achievement, so I believe the motivation lies in snack food.

At some point, we’re going to run out of food ideas. Mathematically this seems inevitable. There is a finite number naturally occurring foods on our planet, so there is an equally finite number of ways to combine them. We are already there. When molecular gastronomists are forced reduce garden peas to their essence to be huffed from a balloon animal made from a section of a bison’s intestinal tract, it seems the end is almost nigh.

We’ve already started remixing with our processed foods. Bacon’s been smashed into every product in every grocery aisle. Name something you bought in October or November that didn’t have pumpkin in it. Impossible.

Even the corporations who are in charge of these things are running out of ideas. They’ve been reduced to farming out ideas to the common man through flavor contests.

The end is on its way, you guys. And that end, that day when everything has been combined with everything else, is going to be the day we head back into space. People may not be excited about studying moon rocks, but they’ll sure as hell be excited about the possibility of Limited Edition Romulan Ale Doritos and Blue Bantha Milk Oreos.

Until that day, we’ll continue dreaming and smashing together things we have. And we do that today with these Mountain Dew Cheetos from the Japanese arm of Frito-Lay.

Mountain Dew Doritos 3

As with the Pepsi-flavored Cheetos I reviewed a while back, the color of these things bothers me. Not making them bright Mountain Dew green is a wasted opportunity. This kind of product is a novelty and an attention getter, and their color should reflect that. Orange Cheetos-dusted fingers are a tradition. How great would obnoxiously green Mountain Dew Cheetos fingers be?! Pretty damn great.

The nosegrope of these Cheetos is very intensely citrus. There is a lot of lemon, and they smell sweet. There is also an underlying current of stale, flat cola. They smell very similar to the Pepsi Cheetos but with the lemon ratcheted up.

The flavor recreation they were going for falls a bit short of their goal. There is an initial blast of sour lemon flavor that is followed by some underlying sweetness. The lemon flavor tastes pretty artificial. I don’t have a problem with artificial flavors, obviously, but it tastes artificial to the point where it forces you to stop and think of the artificialness.

Mountain Dew Doritos 3

The sour blast is a bit too much here. It takes the Cheetos from the realm of “Mountain Dew” to the realm of…something with a lot of lemons. I know people who have consumed a Star Destroyer’s worth of Mountain Dew in their lives, and I’m not confident they could blind taste this and come up with anything other than a quizzical “something lemony.”

Like the Pepsi Cheetos, the aftertaste of these lingers for a very long time. I also didn’t get as much mouth-fizzing action as I hoped for. The Pepsi Cheetos are definitely the superior hybrid food, but that’s not saying a lot.

Mountain Dew Doritos 2

These are not bad. A lemon-flavored corn snack is not a terrible idea, but a lemon-flavored corn snack is really all we get here. Nothing transcendent, nothing revelatory. Just a good idea that is off the mark.

I’m already looking forward to Dr. Pepper Cheetos (and distantly to Klingon Bloodwine Kit Kats.) Until then!

(Nutrition Facts – 188 kcal, 10.3 grams of fat, 221 milligrams of sodium, 22.1 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.8 grams of protein.)

Item: Frito Lay Mountain Dew Corn Snack (Mountain Dew Cheetos)
Purchased Price: $4.50
Size: 35 grams
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Lemons. Sour blasts. Spaceships.
Cons: Wrong color. Too much lemon to be Mountain Dew. Lingering aftertaste. Lack of fizz.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger

Wendy’s Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger

Chipotle.

What does it mean?

They tell me it’s a smoked jalapeño, but the word has been repeated so much in recent years, it might as well be Klingon on my tongue. Assembled in an American trend factory, “chipotle” has been introduced to the public, pumped full of hype and then abandoned, surreptitiously left outside to slowly evaporate. My brain doesn’t even register it anymore. It took me three passes to not just read “Wendy’s Spicy Jr. Cheeseburger.” Chipotle. Chipotle. Chipotle. Oh no, I just summoned a Beetlejuice made of peppers.

Standing in line waiting for my order at the local Wendy’s, the question suddenly presents itself: What exactly am I about to eat? And then I look up to see this sign.

Wendy’s Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger sign

Thoughts, in order: Is this Russian? I can read “brioche.” Can I … read Russian? Am I in Russia right now? (I am waiting in a line for food, after all). Have I been in Russia my entire life? Does Wendy’s serve cold beet soup? … What is chipotle again? Am I ordering a cheeseburger with a mediocre Mission-style burrito on it? A cheeseburgeritto? Well, at least I know nobody in Russia would come up with “cheeseburgeritto.” I must be in America. Whew. Anyway, I got the cheeseburger and it wasn’t bad!

The Wendy’s website lists the components of the Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger in a handy list. “Sandwich bun, junior hamburger patty, spicy burger sauce, pepper jack cheese.” If you’ve dabbled in the Wendy’s value menu before, the bun and patty are familiar. The bun is springy, functional, and inoffensive. The patty is chewy like a warm ground up sponge, but, like, a reasonably tasty sponge. The meat is also noticeably less greasy and flavorful than the non-“Right Price Right Size Menu” burgers.

Oh, boy.

“Right Price Right Size?” Shut it down, Wendy’s. Nobody wants to say that many words. I’ll eat at Wendy’s every day for a year if one person has ever said the name of that menu out loud in casual conversation. (Someone say it! I need an excuse to eat Wendy’s for a year!)

Wendy’s Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger Topless

Let’s get to the flavor portion of the pageant. There’s the sauce, cheese and jalapeño, which, in concert, give a decent kick to the burger. While the aforementioned “spicy burger sauce” is a little too mysterious for my liking, it has a hit that immediately dissipates into a soft numb that barely lingers at all. The tiny pile of jalapeño looks like it fell off a truck on the way to a Subway, and definitely exhibits that earthy jalapeño taste, for better or worse. The peppers are sliced but not chopped, and the texture of “full” vegetables along with the spiciness kind of recreate the feeling of eating some sort of torta-burger concoction. The cheese adds a reliable, creamy counterbalance to the bite of the sauce, rounding out the burger.

The Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger is a decent choice (great for the price point) but feels a little like a relief pitcher, good enough to get you through a few innings but not the entire game. It has a unique heat that seems to draw inspiration from Mexican sandwiches, rather than the sharp, aggressive burn from most other fast food spicy fare, which almost marginalizes it as a novelty or a side dish. Since it lives on the value menu, perhaps that’s by design.

I would recommend getting this item in a collection of foods, as it serves as a good change-of-pace burger. Okay, we ain’t in Russia for sure. We eat so much we got change-of-pace burgers, y’all. And I’ll eat Wendy’s every day for a year if Vladimir Putin has ever eaten anything that had “chipotle” in its name.

(Nutrition Facts – 340 calories, 170 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 210 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 17 grams of protein.)

Item: Wendy’s Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger
Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Great price. Well balanced flavor. Good chance of pace from regular Jr. Cheeseburger.
Cons: Some may not cotton to the taste of jalapeño. Not satisfying enough to eat just one. Saying “Right Price Right Size” out loud. “Chipotle” means nothing. Never learned Russian.