Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lays Flavor Contest 2016

So Lays has really attached themselves to the flavor competition, limited-time chips.

This time they're changing things up and pitting similar flavors against each other.

First up?  Honey BBQ vs. Korean BBQ

These are plain potato chips. The Korean BBQ smells sort of smokey and greasy (in a steak on the grill kind of way). While I love the smell of meat cooking, something about this is unappealing. I do appreciate that the smokiness seems authentic. It doesn't smell or taste like liquid smoke, a flavor I dislike.  Taste-wise, they match up quite well with how they smell. There is a toasted sesame note as well as hints of acidity and sweetness.

The Honey BBQ chips smell like sweet potatoes. Weird. These have that paprika-y orange color I associate with BBQ chips that the Korean BBQ chips lacked.  These taste like BBQ chips. A lot of sweetness, a hit of acidity. I don't buy BBQ chips, so I'm not sure how different they made these taste from the traditional. I feel like they're sweeter and there's a more ketchupy flavor. Fewer spices, maybe? 

Between the two I would choose the Korean BBQ. I don't really like BBQ chips much and the Honey ones are cloying in a way I don't like. That said, I prefer the smell of the Honey BBQ chips - it's less off-putting.

Next?  Fiery Roasted Habanero vs. Flamin' Hot

Habanero is bright orange and the smell perfectly captures that fruity-pepperyness of fresh chile peppers.  The flavor starts off as a continuation of the scent. More fruit/pepper/paprika before it quickly dives right down into just being spicy. The back of my tongue is roasting. I'm not crying, but I can admit that I have the tiniest runny nose now. The flavor before the burn was actually quite nice, but I don't know that I'll eat the rest of these.

In contrast to its analogue, Flamin' Hot are deep red. The color of Flamin' Hot Cheetos. These smell like BBQ chips. They taste like smoked paprika and BBQ. There wasn't much burn until I swallowed, but now my throat is on fire. If they didn't burn so much I think I would buy these.

Winner? Flamin' Hot. I love smoked paprika, I put it on everything. So having a chip that tastes like that is great in my book. I did appreciate that the Habanero didn't just taste like hot, though. 

Smoked Gouda & Chive vs. Cheddar and Sour Cream

So I didn't realize how Lays had arranged things until after my chips were on their way. I only have Smoked Gouda. I assumed that the Cheddar and Sour Cream were an old flavor.  The Smoked Gouda chips have the tangy scent of cheddar and sour cream chips, but there is a hint of onion/chive as well.  Okay, so I don't smell smoke here, but I do taste it. I was expecting this to come across as a loaded baked potato flavor, but it really does taste like a smoked gouda with chives. And again, the smoke flavor isn't the aggressive hot dog flavor of liquid smoke. It's a more subtle, balanced addition. These are delicious.

I can't imagine a Cheddar and Sour Cream chip that could beat the Smoked Gouda. The flavors blend well, I'm not left with an unpleasant aftertaste of onion or liquid smoke, and it tastes like it says it will. Yum.

And the final two, Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper vs. Olive Oil & Herbs - both Kettle Cooked

Sea Salt: yep, this smells like salt and cracked pepper. Not as pungent as fresh-cracked, but definitely not ground. Very crunchy, but not as assertive as I expected. I am probably biased since I've been eating my popcorn recently with salt and fresh cracked pepper on top, but the flavors here just aren't are big as I want. I can see salt crystals and chunks of pepper but the taste just isn't coming through. A mild pepper flavor, the salt is almost unnoticeable (if there wasn't enough, I'd notice. I'm glad there's not too much, but for you to list salt as one of the two main flavors and then give me this? Meh.).  These are okay.

Olive Oil and Herbs Kettle Chips smell like thyme and basil, and I love it.  A good, rounded herbal flavor from the basil, thyme, and oregano.. maybe a little thyme-heavy a few chips in. There isn't much in the way of olive oil flavor, really. A light nuttiness? And the garlic/onion powder has a bit too much kick. These are also okay.

Winner? You know, this is a tough one because they are both so mediocre to me. I guess Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper edges out Olive Oil, simply for the fact that I ate more of the Sea Salt without wishing for a drink or something else to taste.

Overall winner?  Smoked Gouda and Chives. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

While I'm talking about different things...

I might as well mention a few other things I've been trying, since I'm off-topic. First, a few German items.

On the left is Kohl-R√∂schen. That means Cabbage sprouts, or blossoms. I googled them and have seen them listed as both Flower Sprouts and Kalettes. They are a crossbreed of Brussels Sprouts and Kale. Honestly, they're quite good. They are milder than Sprouts, and less chewy than any kale I've eaten before. I roasted most of the bag for dinner one night. My husband even ate them, which was quite a surprise. I haven't seen them in the store since I first bought them, but they were not bad.  I did save a few out for a smoothie, since it was mentioned on the bag and online that they worked well for that purpose. I have a terrible cheap blender. It was a bad idea. I ended up with bits of the core/stalk that were not great to chew, and the whole thing had an odd grassy taste that lingered for hours after drinking.

On the right are two new Ritter Sport flavors. In the back is White Yogurt Mousse. It's one of three spring flavors. (Each season RS releases 3 seasonal bars). The other two spring flavors this year are repeats from last year, so I didn't bother with them. Good white chocolate flavor on the bar. The Yogurt Mousse filling was smooth and creamy, not too sweet, and lightly tangy. It balances well. I'm just not really feeling it. I'll have the occasional square, but I wont be sad to see this flavor go as summer gets closer.

The other Ritter Sport bar is Crispy Tortilla Chip. It's a traditional milk chocolate bar with crunchy bits of corn tortilla chip and... like corn nut pieces? (not seasoned, and not branded. I just don't know what else to call them) inside.  I didn't not have high hopes here. And I was extra concerned after buying a tray of nachos at a local theater and realizing with my first bite that the chips were like Doritos instead of being plain tortilla chips. I like Doritos as much as the next person, but the cheese sauce did not jive with the chip seasoning. And I kept hoping that there was no flavor dust on the chip bits in this chocolate. There wasn't! This bar of chocolate was quite good. The crunchy parts are perfectly crunchy and the milk chocolate is brightened by the extra salt. I intended to sample one square (each bar is divided into 9 or 16 squares from the mold), but ended up eating 3 or 4. This isn't going to knock my favorite flavor off its perch (Honey Salt Almond, seriously so good), but I did eat the whole thing and I'm excited to share.

A quick interlude of seasonal M&Ms

I have more Korean snacks to get to, but I want to talk about the seasonal M&Ms I tried recently before they are out of place. So for some marketing reason, the sent out one flavor to Walmart and one flavor to Target. It makes trying them both more difficult, but whatever. My mom gets extra bonus points for going out of her way to get both for me.

First up, Strawberry with Milk Chocolate. These are meant to taste like chocolate-covered strawberries, I think. They are bigger than a regular M&M, but the same size as a lot of their novelty, seasonal flavors (roughly the size of peanut butter M&Ms as well). I wonder why the bigger size? Possibly to make sure you can taste whatever subtler flavors they try to add? So - big, dark shades of pink. A bit of a fake strawberry flavor if you smell the bag. Taste? Well, at first you get the typical milk chocolate M&M flavor. But that is quickly joined by an unpleasant level of artificial strawberry. I tried a few just to see if the flavors balance, and the first taste was just a shock. Nope. Noooooooooope. These are.. not for me. They are somehow flat and overwhelming at the same time.

I had heard these were better, but that couldn't be hard to do after the last bag. So these are Strawberry Shortcake inspired. White, cream, and light pink candy coating over white chocolate with strawberry flavoring. Big, novelty-sized. These are not bad at all. The artificial flavoring is toned down, the smooth sweetness of the white chocolate balances well. They aren't my favorite M&M. I probably wouldn't buy them again - once is enough to satisfy my curiousity - but these are slowly getting eaten. If no one else likes the milk chocolate ones they will end up in the garbage.

Box 1 Part 2

Well, I've been working through more of the Korean snacks in box #1. Ready to hear about them?

Choco and Crispy Rice Snacks. It's in English! So I expected these to be individual pieces of puffed rice, coated in chocolate. I was half right. They are about the size of banana runts (maybe puffier). It's a crescent of what I assume is cooked rice mush (too big to be one grain). The rice is very crunchy and entirely unsweetened. Just toasty rice flavor. The chocolate layer (should I assume that choco means chocolate, or is this like in America where if you don't use the real word it's not 100% legit?) is quite thin, but decently dark. You can taste chocolate, not just sugar. The chocolate doesn't overwhelm the rice, but I found that after the initial bite the flavor disappears pretty quickly.

These are little crackers in cute animal shapes. I wondered if the characters are from a show, or something because the penguin in the helmet seems odd if you're just doing animal crackers. These are quite plain. Like a less buttery Ritz. Good texture, the shapes hold up well (not a bag of crumbs). Not bad at all.

Okay, so I have only tried the chocolate straws at the moment. I'll have to share about strawberry after I buy more milk. These are clear plastic straws filled with tiny (nonpareil-sized) beads of chocolate or strawberry milk flavoring. At the top and the bottom of each straw, the plastic is crimped partially closed, with evenly spaced holes too small for the beads to slip out of. You take the straw out of a plastic bag, stick it into your glass of milk, and suck. As the milk goes through the straw it dissolves the flavoring beads and creates chocolate or strawberry milk.  In theory. It ends up being kind of like the milk in your cereal bowl. Right after you pour, you get maybe a tiny hint of the initial flavor. It takes time for the milk to steep and take on the fruity or chocolaty tones. After the initial pulls proved nearly flavorless, I let the straw sit, occasionally providing just enough suction to fill the straw with milk. Eventually my glass of milk started turning light brown and the chocolate beads had started to dissolve. My straw was less than half full of chocolate sludge when I decided to drink in earnest. 10, 15 minutes? Not impressed. Still a very light chocolate flavor, with the occasional sugary hit of goop making it through the small holes at the top of the straw. To be fair, maybe I used too much milk for the straw (around 200 ml). The directions weren't very clear on ratios, just that you should put the straw in a glass of milk and drink. (Do not cut the straw.) Not too thrilled about the strawberry if it's a repeat of the chocolate, even though I do like strawberry milk on occasion.

Monday, February 01, 2016

A Fresh Start

I've been mulling getting back into this for a while, but I just generally can't be bothered. I didn't do well blogging about my feelings and life, but sometimes I really want to tell people about the food in my life, and so this is happening. Sometimes it'll be recipes I tried - and how they turned out, sometimes food I ate somewhere, and sometimes snack reviews.

The real impetus to my return to the blog is because I just got this huge box stuffed full of Korean snacks from my brother's girlfriend. She got hooked on stroopwafels while she was here visiting him, and agreed to a snack exchange in return for more wafels.

So, it's all Korean snacks for at least a minute.

First up, Pumpkin Taffy. I was hoping for a quick, easy, inoffensive treat. My experience with pumpkin pudding Kit Kats from Japan made me think this was the right choice. First bite: bad idea to bite down hard, these are quite firm at first. They soften well as you chew, attaining a true taffy consistency. I didn't like the first taste I got of the pumpkin. It was too vegetal. As I chewed, though, a sweetness came out that made things more palatable. Final thoughts: very lightly flavored, not bad, not amazing. Glad it wasn't just pumpkin spices, though.

Next, I had some Lobster Wavy Potato Chips with my sandwich. I was worried that these would be very funky and briny - I don't like the taste of the ocean. The actual flavor of the chips is very mild. A little salt, a touch of sugar, maybe something else going on? Almost just a plain potato chip, although occasionally I would open the bag for another chip and I would get a teeny whiff of lobster/crab/shellfishiness. I never tasted that though.

I was very excited for snack cakes. I started with the round ones, because they looked smaller, and also like maybe there was jam inside. First impression - moon pie sized, coated in chocolate like a moon pie, but about half as thick. I took a bite. Hmm.. That's an odd texture. This is very chewy. So chewy. Lightly sweet. Not terrible. But not at all what I was expecting. No jam, by the way. I ate the whole thing. Then I had to google what I could because it was not like any snack cake I'd had before. I finally found it - Glutinous Rice Cake. That explains the texture. I guess I'd be okay to eat another one, but it's not something I think I'll ever crave. Which makes the fact that I have a ton of them.. something. I would feel bad throwing them away, but I don't feel so bad about wasting food that I'd want to commit to finishing the box.

Maybe the rectangle snack cakes will be better (cheesecake?, although the swiss-looking cheese on the box has me concerned). Okay, this one is actual cake. Sweet, bland, maybe a hint of cheesy tang? They're okay. I don't dread the thought of having to eat the rest of them.

Peach chewy candies. These look like Hi-Chews. Chewy, sweet, SO PEACHY! These are quite strong, but I like that. I wonder why some of the snacks are whispers of flavor and these are full volume? No complaints. I do kind of wish she'd sent more flavors, but I'm glad peach made the cut. Mmm.