REVIEW: Smartfood Snickerdoodle Popcorn

Smartfood Snickerdoodle Popcorn Bag

What is Smartfood Snickerdoodle Popcorn

From the pre-popped popcorn giant Smartfood comes Snickerdoodle, a “limited holiday flavor” meant to capture the magical, Home Ec essence of buttery cinnamon-sugar cookies. It is not Smartfood’s only sweet popcorn offering. Its regular lineup includes kettle corn and a caramel/cheddar combo. But it ties with this year’s earlier offerings of Caramel & Cinnamon Apple Mix and Cap’n Crunch Berries Popcorn Mix in terms of ambitiousness.

How is it?

Perfectly mediocre, I’m afraid. While the concept is a wonderful one — soft, warm, cinnamon blasted cookies in popcorn form! — the execution is lackluster. There is no uniformity, really, with about every tenth piece achieving a perfect nirvana of true Snickerdoodle bliss.

Smartfood Snickerdoodle Popcorn Seasoning

The pieces that escape the cinnamon-sugar bath are bland and unseasoned, small, chewy bits of lightly salted styrofoam. Also disappointing is the lack of a discernible butter profile, a key component of the cookie experience.

Anything else you need to know?

Smartfood White Cheddar is wonderful, so I had high hopes for this. Alas, my heart was broken. Additionally, I had no idea that the brand also has Hot Buffalo and Sour Cream & Onion versions. Are these any good? I guess that’s more of a “anything else *I* need to know.”

Conclusion:

Lots of moderately sized cities seem to have “gourmet” popcorn shops these days, and, in my experience, most of these have some riff on the “cinnamon toast” popcorn variety. So do yourself a favor and get a bag of that, instead. Chances are, you’ll be much happier.

If you don’t have a gourmet popcorn shop, you should open one. And if you don’t want to do that, maybe go with a bag of Pop Secret and hit it with some of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust we recently reviewed. I feel like that would still beat this.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 6.25 oz bag
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2.5 cups) 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate

Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Wrapper

What is Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate?

After last year’s introduction of Mint + Dark Chocolate, Kit Kat Duos are back with a second flavor, Mocha + Chocolate. It’s described as crisp wafers in mocha crème with coffee bits and chocolate.

How is it?

A small disclaimer that I do love, love, love coffee. Like I can’t function in the morning without a large cup to get me going. Then maybe I’ll have another to counteract the mid-day slump. Sometimes one more is calling my name so I can finish out the day. A late-stage one…you get the point!

I did enjoy the first Kit Kat Duos, but I would take coffee over mint any day of the week, so I was pumped for these. That being said and with my high tolerance/love for all things coffee, holy crap, these are fantastic.

Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Fingers

The name Mocha + Chocolate is actually doing a disservice to these because the coffee flavor is so superb and way more prevalent than you would expect from the name. Of course, the chocolate is there, but these are coffee flavored through and through, and the flavor is so intense it could probably even be called Espresso + Chocolate. The profile actually comes remarkably close to actual chocolate-covered coffee beans in all their glory. WOW.

Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Split

The crisp wafers have the usual great Kit Kat crunch, and even though I was excited about the coffee bits and thought they might provide a different level of crunch or texture, that’s not really the case as they pretty much get lost among the signature wafers. However, they might be the main factor contributing to the amazing flavor, and they do give the tops of the bars a nice speckled look.

Anything else you need to know?

Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Ingredients

The ingredients list does show coffee, so heads up if you stay away from that glorious but addictive stimulant. These are also a permanent addition to the Kit Kat lineup, so you don’t have to rush out now to find them if you really want to try them.

Conclusion:

A behind the scenes secret is that I usually like to have at least two packages of something when I review it so I can take great pictures with one and thoroughly enjoy the other.

I have a confession, though.

These Kit Kat Duos were the first time I almost cleaned myself out of the product before my official reviewing even began! I had to hit up Walgreens again so I could get a few more while simultaneously praying that they were still in stock and that the masses hadn’t discovered these treasures. That’s how much I enjoyed these. They are Kit Kat’s version of chocolate-covered coffee beans and pretty much crispy chocolatey coffee heaven.

Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1.5 oz bar
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 Package) 210 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7g of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Box

I derive great joy from eating foods that are much too spicy for my taste buds and stomach. Call me a masochist, but I always aspire to be like the host of Hot Ones (Sean Evans) but usually end up with tears streaming down my face while blubbering, “..but it’s so good!!!” I’m going to come right out and admit that it was my first Paqui One Chip Challenge and that the reaper bested me. But keep reading for snot, tears, and antacids.

Paqui’s challenge first launched in 2016, and it’s come back every year. Over that time, it’s transformed from what could be mistaken as Flamin’ Hot Doritos to an all-black, super edgy form. Talk about a glow up. The Carolina Reaper, the world’s hottest pepper, has been the inspo and main pepper since Day 1, but the added pizazz this year is scorpion pepper and Sichuan peppercorn. I’m very familiar with Sichuan peppercorn’s delightfully numbing qualities, but had never tried scorpion pepper before.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Wrapper

Upon opening the inner package housing the single tortilla chip, the first thing I noticed was the unpleasant pungent smell. It was unlike anything that had EVER passed through my olfactory epithelium. The sour smell paired with the visual of what looked like charcoal for seasoning added to my already mounting trepidation.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Chip

The chewing experience was awful – not because it was immediately incredibly spicy but mainly because of the crumbly, stale texture. It felt like I was trying to chew through a mouthful of dried red pepper flakes.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Inside 2

As for the heat, it was the type of spicy that renders any talking, let alone breathing, impossible without wincing and choking. It was a very agonizing and intense 15 minutes of snot, tears, and saliva – even with milk. However, it was followed by capsaicin-induced endorphins. What added to this feel-good was the slight tingle from the Sichuan peppercorn. It was like Wrigley’s 5 Gum commercial vibes, but with peppers. This deluded top-of-the-world feeling almost made me feel like I could take another chip!

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Inside 1

I’m glad I didn’t have another one on hand because it took a turn for the worst. Once the endorphins dissipated, I was left with lingering pain under my tongue and gums (oddly specifically just around my molars). Furthermore, my taste buds were absolutely blitzed. Everything I ate that day tasted less flavorful than usual. The cherry on top came three hours later. I was minding my own business when a roiling stomach pain came to play. It took a max antacid dose before I could begin to function again.

My ultimate measure, though, is how spicy it comes out the other end. Sorry not sorry for the TMI, but it’s important! It was surprisingly tame compared to the entire pre- and during-experience. Thank goodness.

Paqui One Chip Challenge 2020 Banner

I don’t get to proudly declare myself as The Paqui One Chip Challenge Champ, but I think I held my own. Bring it on, 2021.

Purchased Price: $6.99
Size: .21oz (6g)
Purchased at: Plum Market
Rating: 10 out of 10 (for challenge factor, but 2 out of 10 for taste)
Nutrition Facts: (1 chip) 30 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: General Mills Elf Cereal

General Mills Elf Cereal Box

I vividly remember the first time I saw “Elf.” I drove two hours to meet an old friend at a Harkins Theater so we could take in the merriment together. Ever since, “Elf” has been a holiday staple of mine. It is the second-most quoted holiday film in my family. So, naturally, when General Mills launched its Elf Cereal, I wanted it in my life.

General Mills Elf Cereal Box Back

The packaging is fun, comforting, and makes ample “Elf” references. The back of the box implores everyone to help Buddy the Elf fill the Clausometer. I know it is just marketing for children, but it warms my heart. The box states that the cereal consists of sweetened corn puffs with holiday tree marshmallows, flavored with maple syrup.

Upon opening the box, a potent maple aroma punched me in the nose. This was momentarily concerning. I pulled the box closer and the smell had already settled. It was not overbearing at all.

General Mills Elf Cereal Bag

The quantity of marshmallows sitting on top was striking. It seemed to be more marshmallow-heavy than some similar cereals. I tried a handful dry and was underwhelmed. The maple syrup flavor was almost indiscernible. The corn puffs were slightly sweet, but not nearly as sugary as I expected for a cereal based on “Elf.” After all, Buddy subsists almost entirely on sugar.

General Mills Elf Cereal Bowled

Once milk is added, the cereal moved closer to my expectations. The maple syrup taste is more evident, but still very restrained. It has been many years, but I used to eat Waffle Crisp regularly when I was younger. I was expecting Elf Cereal to have a maple flavor like Waffle Crisp, but it did not.

General Mills Elf Cereal Spooned

The sweetness really comes out with the milk also. It was not as saccharine as I anticipated, but it was pleasant. If you were to mix marbits with Kix and put a few drops of maple syrup in the milk, you could emulate the flavor profile here relatively closely.

In the spirit of Buddy, I contemplated dousing the cereal in maple syrup, but could not bring myself to do it.

General Mills’ Elf Cereal is a fun, festively themed holiday offering, but it may fall short for some. More maple syrup flavoring could have elevated it to North Pole levels.

At the very least, this cereal makes me smile, and smiling’s my favorite.

Purchased Price: $3.64
Size: 18.6 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 cup) 140 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: California Pizza Kitchen BBQ ‘Don’t Call Me Chicken’ Pizza

California Pizza Kitchen BBQ  Don t Call Me Chicken Pizza Full

What is the California Pizza Kitchen BBQ “Don’t Call Me Chicken” Pizza?

It’s CPK’s Original BBQ Chicken Pizza, but with a plant-based chicken substitute. So it has the same smoked Gouda, red onions, fresh cilantro, and BBQ sauce as the original, but the bawk bawk meat has been replaced with a 100 percent meatless vegetarian product that’s made from soy and wheat.

How is it?

California Pizza Kitchen BBQ  Don t Call Me Chicken Pizza Closeup

Well, it tastes like a California Pizza Kitchen Original BBQ Chicken Pizza. Although, not EXACTLY like one. The flavors of the cheese, onions, cilantro, and especially the BBQ sauce do an admirable job at masking the fact that the protein is not chicken. Even when biting into the plant-based meat with the other ingredients, it’s difficult to tell it’s something other than chicken.

But, with the pizza I ordered, I thought the barbecue sauce flavor wasn’t as bold as what I’ve tasted with the many regular Original BBQ Chicken Pizzas I’ve had. Of course, maybe it was just with my order, and you may have a different experience. But, overall, I did enjoy it, and most eaters won’t be able to tell it’s faux faux meat.

California Pizza Kitchen BBQ  Don t Call Me Chicken Pizza Soy

However, that changes when one tries to eat the plant-based meat on its own. It looks marinated, but it tastes like what I imagine a soy and wheat product would taste like. In other words, it’s a bit bland. So, Public Service Announcement alert, don’t eat the plant-based chicken by itself.

Anything else you need to know?

Plant-based meats haven’t been about being a healthier option for us. It’s been about being a healthier option for our planet. Holy cow! I mean, holy faux cow! Did I write that? That is deep. Sorry. It’s about using fewer resources to produce the plants to make the meat substitute than what it would take to raise animals for meat.

California Pizza Kitchen BBQ  Don t Call Me Chicken Pizza Slice

But if you’re curious, a slice of this has roughly the same nutrition numbers as a slice of The Original BBQ Chicken, except the one with real meat has ten more calories, ten more milligrams of cholesterol, ten fewer milligrams of sodium, and one more gram of protein per slice.

Also, at least at my local CPK, a $1 premium over the original version.

Conclusion:

California Pizza Kitchen’s BBQ “Don’t Call Me Chicken” Pizza is a delicious vegetarian version of its classic menu item.

Purchased Price: $17.99*
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 slice) 180 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 490 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.