REVIEW: Quaker Chewy Chocolatey Mint Granola Bars

Quaker Chewy Chocolatey Mint Granola Bars

O’hi there, lasses and leprechauns!

St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon us, and I’ve chosen to take the fast food company approach to celebrating. As long as it’s a nice, radioactive shade of artificial green and it’s edible, it’s holiday appropriate. This brings us to Quaker’s Chocolatey Mint Granola Bar, one of the new, real cocoa-laden entries into its Chewy line of snackables. It contains eight grams of magical whole grains and absolutely none of that banshee HFCS.

In the past I’ve found that the only thing at the end of granola rainbows is a very dry mouth… and sometimes, if I’m really Irish-level lucky, honey or berries. Quaker, however, has always taken the concept in a very rice-puffed, kid-friendly direction. Chewy bars aren’t meant to see much non-paved wilderness action or to blend serendipitously with Kombucha. These are the snacks that litter the ground below the granola rainbow. That is why I chose them for St. Patrick’s Day instead of Earth Day. For Earth Day, they’d have to ramp it up about a thousand notches, maybe add some actual clover.

The bar itself imparts little to no flavor beyond a whispered hint of cocoa. It’s basically just a whole grain home for the wee little flavor chips, which are left to do all the heavy lifting. While delicious, they’re constantly falling off the bar and finding places to melt at bizarrely low temperatures, so that by the last bite, I’m left with green spotted pants and a bland rolled oat has-been bragging about a cacao tree it once knew.

Quaker Chewy Chocolatey Mint Granola Bars Naked

“Like hell,” I say. “Little cocoa bar, you’ve no more rubbed elbows with Brazilian beans than you’ve hung out on the cliffs of Moher in the late evening mist, pining for your lost love, Little Debbie.”

If that isn’t a woeful pub ballad in the making, I don’t know what is. I’m pretty sure I’m like three green beers away from penning the defining junk food anthem here. Shall we make it two?

In response to my disbelief and persistent need to make this culinary experience all about me, the chewy bar drops several more mint chips onto the carpet in my living room.

Turns out my fridge contains no green beer. My options are Belgian ale or week old two buck chuck with green food coloring. Both seem like fitting choices for this completely non-Irish snack. I graduated from a college that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day two weeks earlier than the rest of the world and, honestly, I’m not even slightly Irish, so I feel neither compelled nor qualified to include anything authentic in my holiday choices. I need a shirt that says, “Kiss me for my minty breath and do not question my heritage.”

Surprisingly, pairing the oat brick and scattered mouthwash chips with a bit of ale actually kind of brought out the missing chocolate flavor, like a secret key. Not that I’m suggesting anything to any of you wee lads and lassies, but to you hardcore, daylong, age-appropriate St. Patty’s celebrants, all I’m going to say is that these are super convenient and breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, especially if the rest of the day’s meals are going to be imbibed in liquid form. Also, let’s face it: Lucky Charms are so passé. And, bonus, you get complimentary minty freshness in this deal, which is vaguely close to attempted personal hygiene. What’s not to love?

Now, if you’ll excuse, I’m going to get back to writing that soon-to-be-beloved folk ditty. Oh, chewy bar, my taste buds they are call-ing!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 90 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, 8% calcium, and 4% iron. Not a significant source of any vitamins whatsoever.)

Item: Quaker Chewy Chocolatey Mint Granola Bars
Price: 3/$5.00 (on sale)
Size: 10 – .84 ounce bars
Purchased at: Albertson’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Yummy mint chips liberally sprinkled about. Inspires me to write folk ballads. Pairs well with festive spirits. Unguarded pots of honey and berries. Minty fresh breath.
Cons: Lacks hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, and blue moons. Chocolate bar is a tasteless brick. One must eat multiple bars to equal even a child-sized breakfast. Unrequited snack food love.

NEWS: Der Wienerschnitzel Offers New Bacon Wrapped Dogs, Frustrating Millions Who Gave Up Bacon for Lent

Hot Dog 1

I lived within walking distance of a Wienerschnitzel for the first 22 years of my life, and I never went there once. I’m not going to delve deep into my psyche to figure out why, but the Occam’s Razor explanation is that my parents always bought Oscar Meyer hot dogs, and Oscar Meyer hot dogs suck, so I just figured all hot dogs suck. I’m older and more open-minded now; I eat Nathan’s all-beef natural casings and put all kinds of crazy toppings on them that would probably gross some of you out.

I now live within reasonable driving distance of a Wienerschnitzel, but I still have not experienced their hot dogs. Probably because I can make better ones at home. However, Der Wiener has come out with a couple of new dogs that have piqued my interest: the Bacon Wrapped Dog Bacon Wrapped Dog and the Bacon Wrapped Dog Street Dog. Now, I realize they’re calling a dog a dog here, but if you’re going to create a category of food such as “Bacon Wrapped Dog,” try to get a little more creative with the actual dog name. At least change up the order of words. Bacon Wrapped Dog: Dog Wrapped in Bacon. Okay, that sounds stupid, too. I give up.

Der Schnitz has very little to say about the Bacon Wrapped Dogs on its website beyond a coupon, but my source says that the Bacon Wrapped Dog is a…bacon-wrapped dog, and the Street Dog, while also wrapped in bacon, also has grilled onions, mustard, mayo, and ketchup as toppings. Mayo: interesting choice for a wiener topping.

The Bacon Wrapped Dog will cost you $1.79 and the Street Dog $1.99. Der Wien offers Original, Turkey and Big 100% Angus Beef Dogs on its regular menu; I’ll go out on a limb and say the Bacon Wrapped Dogs will also be available in these three options.

No nutritional information is available at this time.

Source: Brand Eating

REVIEW: Panda Express Golden Treasure Shrimp

Panda Express Golden Treasure Shrimp

When I think of treasure, naturally, I think of pirates. There is such a strong, fundamental connection between massive hidden hauls of loot and buccaneering that it can be difficult to envision anything else. So you can understand my hesitation to associate pirates with panda bears when I first heard about Panda Express’s newest entry, Golden Treasure Shrimp.

As adorable as pandas in pirate costumes may be, I am tired of pirates. Like so many other North Americans who have been assailed by three (soon to be four) Pirates of the Caribbean films of gradually decreasing quality, numerous high-profile news stories of Somali pirate attacks, several thousand Captain Morgan commercials, and countless Captain Jack Sparrow Halloween costumes, I am so deep in the throes of Pirate Exhaustion that I didn’t want to experience anything pirate-y again for a while. But, by the Beard of Barbarossa, the Golden Treasure Shrimp demands a pirate-speak review. CURSES! Here goes nothing:

Avast ye mateys! Golden Treasure Shrimp ’tis representin’ an improv’ment upon th’ texture and flavor o’ Panda Express’s other tempura shrimp dish, Honey Walnut Shrimp. Accordin’ to th’ proud pronouncements on their site, Golden Treasure Shrimp be a “succulent tempura shrimp, wok tossed with fresh bell peppers in a zesty citrus sauce.”

Arrrr… ‘Tis true, th’ sauce be zesty, but that’s due in no small part t’ its spiciness, which be an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Since th’ coatin’ be so similar t’ PE’s SweetFire Chicken’s sweet chili sauce, I wonder why th’ scalawags dinnae just call th’ new dish SweetFire Shrimp. While only a wee bit citrus-y, th’ sauce has a bold flavor ‘n a nice “lip spiciness” that provides enough heat t’ make it interestin’ without becomin’ too overpowerin’ or painful. A smart sip of grog should cure what’ever lingerin’ heat ails ya.

Panda Express Golden Treasure Shrimp Closeup

Bein’ a lubber o’ tempura-style anythin’, I was pleased t’ find th’ Golden Treasure Shrimp’s batter was crispy despite o’ th’ fact that it be drenched in tangy sauce. However, if let sit for a while, I imagine th’ batter would smartly become soggy. Good thin’ I dinnae wait. Th’ tempura coatin’ be a wee bit heavy ‘n leaves a touch o’ residue on th’ tongue, since it be a tad oily, but th’ shrimp itself be tender ‘n tasty, ‘n weren’t overpower’d by th’ coatin’.

Th’ only downside be th’ sparse addition o’ chopped bell peppers. There were not that many peppers in me servin’ o’ Golden Treasure Shrimp, and they be tiny pieces t’ begin with, so they hardly added t’ th’ overall presentation. But if you enjoy flecks o’ color in your food, these peppers accomplish that job. Compared t’ th’ Honey Walnut Shrimp, th’ Golden Treasure Shrimp be a nice kick in th’ britches, says I. Yeeeaaaarrr!

(Nutrition Facts – 5 ounces – 390 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, 16 grams of protein.)

Item: Panda Express Golden Treasure Shrimp
Price: Free sample during promotion (normally $6.57 incl. tax for a Panda Bowl)
Size: 5 ounces
Purchased at: Panda Express
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Pandas in Pirate costumes. Shrimp is tender and tasty. Hidden hauls of loot. Spicy sauce is a tasty surprise and isn’t overpowering. Tempura-style anything.
Cons: Pirate Exhaustion. Bell peppers are rather sparse. Captain Jack Sparrow. Sauce isn’t all that citrus-y. Tempura coating is heavy and a little oily. Pirate-speak.

NEWS: New VitaminWater Zero Glow Helps Your Complexion, Quenches Your Thirst, and Makes Me Remember Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

VitaminWater Zero Glow & Drive

Update: Click here to read our VitaminWater Zero Glow and VitaminWater Zero Drive review

There are two new VitaminWater Zero flavors available to frustrate those who think they’ve tried ever VitaminWater variety in existence. VitaminWater Zero Glow is a strawberry and guanabana (yes, that’s a real fruit) flavored water that contains biotin and vitamins E and A to “help support & maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails.” VitaminWater Zero Drive is a blood orange and mixed berry flavored water that has 100 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C and 75 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine per 20-ounce bottle, which it gets from coffee beans and yerba mate extract.

Both also contain electrolytes and 40 percent of your daily recommended consumption of vitamins B3, B5, B6, and B12. While I do think VitaminWater Zero Drive is useful, thanks to the sweet caffeine, I’m not sure how effective VitaminWater Zero Glow will be with helping one’s skin. With Drive, I can drink just one and the sweet, sweet caffeine will help give me a boost of energy when I’m watching bunda videos on YouTube at three in the morning, but with Glow, I imagine you’d have to drink more than one bottle for it to be beneficial.

And that’s how they getcha!

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Big N’ Toasty

Dunkin' Donuts Big N' Toasty

I had high expectations for the Big N’ Toasty. For one thing, the sandwich looks incredibly appetizing in all of its many, many commercials. For another, I like the usage of the “N” – it’s less formal than an ampersand, more fun than an “and,” and less algebraic than a plus sign. In-N-Out, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Salt-N-Pepa: I love them all and they all use an “N.”

And yet, the best-laid plans of mice and men (mice n’ men?) often go awry. The Big N’ Toasty was a definite disappointment. Let’s break this down piece by piece.

The Toast: The Texas toast is really supposed to be the major draw here, and while it was thick, fresh, and flaky, the toast’s defining quality was unfortunately its incredible greasiness. You’ll need as many napkins to eat the Big N’ Toasty as you would to get through a bucket of fried chicken. I actually skipped eating the very center of the sandwich because it was simply soaked through with butter, and my hands were so greased up that I wasn’t sure I could even hold the sandwich in place anymore.

The Eggs: The Big N’ Toasty features two peppered fried eggs. While I could see that the eggs had speckles of pepper and were otherwise a visual departure from the eggs found in every other DD breakfast sandwiches, I couldn’t actually taste any difference. If anything, I would say the eggs in the BN’T were more rubbery and artificial-tasting than the regular eggs.

The Bacon: Before I offer any criticism of the bacon in the BN’T, let me just say that, in my mind, bacon is the undisputed king of breakfast meats, and even a subpar serving of bacon beats the hell out of ham, sausage, or, god forbid, Canadian bacon. Some people might describe bacon as the Michael Jordan of breakfast meats; I prefer to think of Michael Jordan as the bacon of NBA players.

So while I imagine ham and sausage still would’ve been worse choices, I felt mightily letdown by the bacon in the Big N’ Toasty. There are supposed to be “four slices of Cherrywood smoked bacon,” but the four slices were more like two normal-sized strips cut in half. Given the bulk of the sandwich, there were more than a few bites where I tasted little-to-no bacon. Furthermore, I found the bacon to be too soggy, which was perhaps amplified by the excessive grease of the toast. I’ve had much better bacon experiences with Dunkin’ Donuts’ regular sandwiches in terms of bacon taste, bacon texture, and bacon-to-rest-of-sandwich ratio. Granted, the crew at my local DD may have been having an off-day with their bacon cooking, but that would only explain away the taste/texture and not the overall amount of bacon.

(By the way, I just set a new The Impulsive Buy record by using the word “bacon” in a single paragraph ten times. TIB: Where Amazing Happens!)

The Cheese: Just standard fast-food American cheese. Nice and melted but nothing special.

I feel like I’ve been a touch too harsh on the Big N’ Toasty up until this point. If its appearance in commercials weren’t so food porn-y, or if it were just named the Big AND Toasty, I probably wouldn’t have been so disappointed. On the whole, the BN’T makes for a sizable breakfast at a reasonable price, and since Dunkin’ Donuts previously hadn’t served anything on toast – Texas or otherwise – I appreciate the additional variety. If you feel compelled to give it a try, just make sure to temper your expectations and grab some extra napkins.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 580 calories, 320 calories from fat 35 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, 1370 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 26 grams of protein.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Big N’ Toasty
Price: $3.29 for the sandwich, 4.99 with medium coffee
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Thick, fresh, and flaky toast. Sandwich is big and reasonably priced. Using an “N” instead of “and.” Bacon, always. Entering the TIB record book.
Cons: Incredibly greasy toast. Eggs were rubbery, not peppery. Skimpy and soggy bacon. Food porn-y ads that inflate expectations.

REVIEW: SunChips Jalapeno Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks

SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks Bag

In the large, often nepotistic and incestuous (both words I used to win the 6th grade regional spelling bee) world of Frito-Lay, SunChips is the hippy that chained itself to a tree to prevent loggers from cutting down the local forest. SunChips got pepper-sprayed for protesting animal testing. SunChips likes to play hacky sack.

SunChips also created a chip bag that biodegrades, which is obviously cool and very environmentally friendly. However, people didn’t like it, because it was too loud. Really. Too loud. I’m far from a treehugger, but seriously people, don’t be assholes. It’s a bag that dissolves in 14 weeks. Deal with the crinkling. Not to be deterred, SunChips created a quieter bag, because SunChips is determined to save the planet, despite all those audio-sensitive butt-horns. Unfortunately, only specially-marked bags of Original flavor are biodegradable, so my bag of Jalapeño Jack SunChips will be hanging around the landfill for a while.

SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks All Natural

Do not despair, however; these chips are good for you! Made with all natural ingredients, no preservatives and no artificial flavors, Jalapeño Jack also contains no MSG, 0 grams of trans fat, and 18 grams of Whole Grain! It’s like a Whole Foods store in a bag!

Ehhh, not so fast there, buddy. I always thought SunChips were a healthier alternative to other chips, but I stumbled across an interesting comparison – Jalapeño Jack SunChips just baaaarely edge out Tostitos Artisan Recipes chips in calories and fat, actually contain more sodium, and contain just one gram more of dietary fiber. Now, granted, nutritionally they blow away the greasier chips, but I hold SunChips to a higher standard, and I found it surprising that Tostitos could go toe-to-toe with Frito-Lay’s “healthy” chips.

But hey! 18 grams of Whole Grains! Let’s see Tostitos beat THAT! (They could actually beat that I have no idea.)

Okay, now that I’ve blown your mind and shattered your worldview about the nutritional integrity of SunChips, let’s get to the chips themselves. I have to admit, I’ve had SunChips once, maybe twice, many years ago. I’ve never been a consciously healthy eater (shocking!), so when I’m in the chip aisle, there’s about 200 other chips I’d rather buy than SunChips. I have a very vague memory of what they taste like. I’ll take this as an advantage, as I can come to the table with a fresh palate.

SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks Chips

From the mouth of SunChips: “Jalapeño Jack flavored SunChips are just the right balance of tongue-tingling Jalapeño with the creamy smooth taste of Monterey Jack cheese. Our newest creation is for bold snackers who like a chip with a little kick.”

One point to SunChips for actually utilizing the diacritical tilde. I go into an unrealistic rage whenever I see someone use the word jalapeno. I worked for a company owned by Spaniards for four years, and alt+0241 comes as naturally to me as using the shift button instead of caps lock when I’m yelling at someone on the Internet. Make the extra effort, people. It will give grammar spergs one less twitch of the eye.

Where was I? Oh, right, the chips! I actually didn’t think jalapeño would be a good fit with so much whole grain. Not sure why; they just didn’t seem like a good fit. I also figured the flavors would be pretty subtle. Of the few SunChips I’ve had, they were all Original flavor, but it just seemed to me that SunChips would go the muted route.

I was pleased to find I was wrong on at least one of these points. When I opened the bag, I was greeted with a very strong but pleasant spicy cheese smell. The cheese came through more in the smell than the taste, however. There was a nice hint of cheese when the chip hit my tongue, but it was quickly overshadowed by the wheat flavor of the chip itself and the Jalapeño flavor powder. They claim the cheese to be Monterey Jack, but really, let’s be honest, there’s pretty much two cheese flavors in the chip world – “nacho” and “generic cheese flavor that can be passed off as pretty much any other cheese”. At least, that’s how I feel. Perhaps my palate isn’t refined enough to distinguish between different cheese powders.

The Jalapeño heat built as I went along, with the height of the heat being just right. It definitely wasn’t bashful, but it didn’t hit you over the head, either. I enjoyed the wheat flavor, too, but I’m not sure the two should have joined forces. It wasn’t disgusting, or even disconcerting; I just feel like the two flavors were fighting for dominance over my taste buds, instead of holding hands and being friends.

I didn’t not like SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks, but they didn’t exactly wow me. The hint of cheese is tasty, but quickly disappears, and the Jalapeño and wheat don’t mesh as well as say, Jalapeño and tortilla fit together. With so many other chip options out there, I’ll probably never buy these again, but if they were offered to me as a free snack, I wouldn’t turn them down. For die-hard SunChip fans, they might be worth a try.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce/about 15 chips – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein, 2% iron, 6% vitamin E, 2% niacin, 4% phosphorus, 2% magnesium.)

Item: SunChips Jalapeño Jack Flavored Multigrain Snacks
Price: $2.49 (on sale; reg. $3.79)
Size: 10.5 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Jalapeño has just the right of heat. Diacritical tildes. All-natural ingredients with 18 grams of Whole Grains. Hippies getting pepper sprayed. Hint of cheese was good.
Cons: Jalapeño and wheat didn’t go together that well. Hacky sacks. Not enough cheese flavor. Jalapeno. SunChips not as healthy as you’d think.