Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lay's India's Magic Masala Chips

Brand: Frito Lay
Style: India's Magic Masala
Origin: India
Type: Potato chips

Flavor: Indian sweet and spicy with a kick
Verdict: Approved!

Ah, how I love friends from faraway places.  Well, Pittsburgh isn't really all that exotic, but my friend there has a source for zany snacks and just sent me a huge box of them for the holidays!  Merry Christmas and Happy Channukah to me!

The first selection I tried from the box was one that came most highly reccommended from my friend: Lay's India's Magic Maslala chips.  They taste somewhat like I imagined they would - like Indian food, but they've got a real kick that I wasn't expecting!  The flavor is more complex than a lot of American styles.  First of all, the potato taste is good, strong, and definitely a better quality than American Lay's.  It's emphasized with a thicker, ridged cut, similar to Ruffles.

The spice on it taste very Indian, and I don't have a cultured enough pallette on Indian food to draw comparisons more than that, unfortunately.  I eat it often, but I just get whatever the special is at my local lunch cart and don't really pay attention to what any of it is called.  I can taste a sweet undertone at first (likely from the 'artificial raisin flavoruring substances' toted on the back of the bag), then the spicy and the salty flavors come in.  It has a slow burn, dying down after the initial shock, then sitting at the back of your tongue for a few minutes.  My nose is even running a little after having a handful of these.

The bag says that they'll make my heart go, 'DHAK DHAK!', but I wouldn't necessarily go that far.  They do make my tongue happy, however, and I'd definitely get these again if I saw them at a market here in town.  Approved!

Purchased in Pittsburgh, PA

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cheetos Giant White Cheddar Jingle Balls

Brand: Frito Lay
Style: Cheetos Giant White Cheddar Jingle Balls
Origin: USA
Type: Cheese Puffs

Flavor: A mild, more bland version of a regular toxic neon-orange cheddar Cheeto
Verdict: Approved, if only for the name

Seasons eatings, my snacktacular friends!  In the spirit of the season, I picked up these guys in an impulse buy, unable to resist eating something called "Jingle Balls."  Yes, I'm perpetually 12 on the inside, it's true.  The sad fact of the matter is, I was actually at the store to purchase one specific item only, yet the magical magnetic forces of the snack aisle reined me in, whispering sweet nothings to me across the store until I decided to peruse the aisle, you know, 'just to look.'  Next thing I know, I've got these things in hand, plus some plain tortilla chips and salsa to warm myself up on these cold winter nights.  My life.

But all of that is neither here nor there, and you're not here to read about my grocery store adventures, you just want to know the results of my snackapades.  Well, first things first, these Jingle Balls look like giant marshmallows, which threw me off initially.  I have this thing  about food that looks one way and tastes another (Pringles being my only exception), so I was a little worried about taking the plunge.  Nevertheless, I swallowed my fears, opened wide, and shoved one in my mouth, as one has to do with these awkwardly-shaped cheese puffs.  I was hoping for something fantastic and amazing to happen in my mouth, but I was rather let down.  Usually I'm a fan of white cheddar flavored things, such as the many varieties of white cheddar popcorn, but this was just bland and uninteresting.  

Honestly, I think Cheetos didn't really think this one through very well.  The thing is, white cheddar is more mild than your run of the mill sharp orange cheddar, so white cheddar flavored snacks need to be either saturated with cheese powder or on a very compelling vehicle to really achieve a good flavor.  These unfortunately, aren't quite cheesy enough for my tastes.  The initial bite is okay, like a mild regular Cheeto, but as you chew, the cheese powder dissolves quickly and you're left with nothing but a film of grease and the taste of mediocre corn puff on your tongue due to the large size of these puffs.

Would I buy these again?  Maybe, because I do like the satisfying feeling of the giant puff melting in my mouth, even if it doesn't taste quite as I'd like it to.  I'd likely purchase the regular flavor though, or the red hot kind, just to get more flavor with that feeling.  Approved, but just barely.

Purchased at Fred Meyer, Portland, OR

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pringles: Restaurant Cravers Cheeseburger

Brand: Pringles
Style: Restaurant Cravers Cheeseburger
Origin: USA
Type: Potato Chips
Flavor: Like a mild BBQ chip, only vaguely cheeseburger-like
Verdict: On the fence.

I can has cheeseburger, but I can also has cheeseburger Pringles! However, I'm pretty sure I'd rather have the real thing (vegetarian, of course). The Restaurant Cravers line of Pringles is one of my favorite new snack lines, but the cheeseburger flavor is definitely my least favorite of the bunch. It's not that they're bad, per se, they're just lacking. With all of the other Cravers flavors, upon the moment of the flavor powder touching my taste buds, I was in snack heaven. These? Not so much.

To start off, the flavor is weak. It tastes like a very mild barbecue chip, instead of an intense flavor like other Pringles. It takes a moment of getting the palate adjusted before you can actually make out some of the individual flavors, such as the grilled meat, the ketchup, and the onions, as opposed to the 7-layer dip flavor where you can instantaneously taste all seven layers.

All in all, I wouldn't buy these, but I'd eat them if they were around. On the fence.

Bonus: Chinese Plum Candy of Doom!

I'm much like a goat, as I've mentioned before, and I'll pretty much eat anything (see Chinese Cherry Blood Clot Candy). I did not finish this candy. God knows I tried, I tried so hard, but I couldn't do it.

The candy itself isn't so bad, it's just a sugary hard candy. The bad part is the salted plum in the middle. As soon I tasted that, I literally started gagging, and let me tell you, there are not a lot of foods that make me gag.  The only foods I can think of that trigger my stomach to go in reverse are cottage cheese, Jones Brussels Sprouts soda, and now this. Fail. So, so hard.


Hey Snackies!

Well feed me garlic and call me Stinky, people actually read this thing!  I had no idea.  Life got a little full of crazy and a little depleted of snacks last summer and kept on keeping on for awhile.  However, I miss writing this blog, so I'm going to do my best to get back into the snack-eating swing of things.

Also, I believe my snackmaster@ieatsnacks.com email address is working again, so feel free to say hi!


Monday, June 29, 2009

Alexia: Crunchy Snacks Onion Strips, Savory Seasoned

Brand: Alexia
Style: Savory Seasoned Onion Strips
Origin: USA
Type: Onion Snacks
Flavor: Very similar to a Bloomin' Onion, but without the stupid name.
Verdict: Approved!

Do you like that delicious, heart-stopping appetizer known as a Bloomin' Onion? I know I do, but I also know that I hate steakhouses, and that's where those are usually served. Lucky for me, Alexia came out with this new product line with the amazing, to-the-point name, Crunchy Snacks. They have several different varieties, but today, I chose the Savory Seasoned Onion Strips. Let me tell you, I made the right choice.

They taste just like a crunchy, take-home version of the real deal. They're like onion petals, and they actual onions inside! (Spanish ones at that. I'm not sure why that's special, but the bag assures me it is.) They're seasoned well - a little spicy, a little peppery, a little salty - just enough to toe the line of overwhelming without crossing it.

Now that I've had these, I'm anxious to try the rest of the line! They had jalapeno onion strips, then several flavors of waffle fries (!!!), including ranch, spicy BBQ, and cheddar. If any of you devoted readers out there in Snackland try these out, let me know how they are, please!

Bonus: Chinese Cherry Blood Clot Candy

I feel nauseous right now. If you'd like to know why, try one of these strange cherry Chinese candies. It looks like a Tearjerker; one of those gumballs with the sour coating on the outside that we used to eat by the pailful as kids, but it's not. It's so, so not.

The outside is actually a medium-sized layer (slightly thinner than a hollow gumball) of barely cherry-flavored, sickly sweet sugar. Okay, a little gross, but I could handle that. However, unlike a gumball, this sucker ain't hollow. No, it's full of actual cherry. Some kind of horrifying, brown, mushy blob that was once a beautiful red cherry. I have no idea what these are or what they're called, as the label is entirely in Chinese, but if a stranger tries to give you one, run far, far away. In fact, run all the way to China and punch the dude that came up with these in the face for me, please!

Onion Strips purchased: Whole Foods, Portland, OR and Chinese candy purchased: Aji Ichiban, NYC

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Utz of Hanover: Baked Cheese Curls

Brand: Utz of Hanover
Style: Baked Cheese Curls
Origin: USA
Type: Cheese Puffs
Flavor: Like cheesy manna from heaven! Very similar to the old Planters Cheez Balls.
Verdict: Approved!

In the days of yore, there was once an amazing line of cheese snacks put out by Planters, the peanut people. I'm not sure exactly why they made cheese snacks in addition to nut mixes, but it was the best idea ever. They came in a blue can with a yellow lid, and those cans contained the best cheese snacks know to mankind. There were curls and balls, and my favorite was the balls, because you could have contests to see how many of them you could fit in your mouth at one time (37 is my personal record).

Why, you might ask, am I reopening the wound left after finding out that Planters discontinued this snack line some years ago? Because the Utz Cheese Curls are the closest cheese snack I've found to those Planters ones. They're terrible for you, despite a creepy girl on the bag claiming that they give you a cozy feeling with every bite, but they have that perfect slightly tangy and strong cheese taste that only Planters Cheez Balls could provide for me in the past. The texture isn't quite as pleasing as the balls, it's similar to any cheese puff product, but the taste is out of this world. It makes me sad that I can't purchase these in my hometown, although I'm sure my butt is thankful for that.

An added bonus: Thai Pizza Candy of Love!

My friend that sent me the box o' snacks also included a giant bag of assorted Asian candy. Most of it is in languages I don't speak well or at all, and some isn't even labeled. However, I'm determined to eventually get through all of it and let you all know the best of the best and the worst of the worst.

Today's choice is entitled Thai Pizza Candy of Love. It's a hard candy with one of my favorite wrappers I've ever seen. There's a stereotypical Italian chef declaring this Pizza Candy of Love in English and (what I can only assume is) Thai. It's mango flavored, as indicated by the wrapper and the ingredients list, which informs me that this contains "natural identical flavor (mango)". I'm not sure what that means, but this little pizza-shaped delight is pretty tasty! It has a sweet flavor that is definitely identifiable as mango. The triangular shape is a little weird on the soft palate as it's rather pointy, but that's my only complaint. I'd be interested to try other flavors of this candy and I'm hoping there's more buried in the candy bag.

Puffs purchased: Pittsburgh, PA
Candy purchased: New York, NY

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Herr's: Heinz Ketchup Flavored Potato Chips

Brand: Herr's
Style: Heinz Ketchup Flavored Potato Chips
Origin: USA
Type: Potato Chips
Flavor: Like garlicky, oniony ketchup
Verdict: Approved!

Anyone who knows me knows my obsession with ketchup chips. They are, hands down, my favorite flavor of chips in the world. As a matter of fact, I once dated a Canadian, who did the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me: brought me 3 bags of each brand of ketchup chips available in the Vancouver metropolitan area. Unfortunately, things didn't work out between us, but I'll never forget that.

My favorite brand ever would have to be the summer Tim's Casacade did a limited edition run of ketchup chips. I think my poop was bright red for three months straight I ate so many bags of them! Second to that would be, as I discovered courtesy of my aforementioned special Canadian friend, the brand that they sell at Zeller's. The name escapes me, but they're completely covered and smothered with that heavenly tangy red powder.

The Herr's rank somewhere in the middle. The flavor is a little weak on the tomato, a litle strong on the onion and garlic, making them almost taste like barbecue instead of ketchup. It's not bad, don't get me wrong, I ate the whole bag in one sitting, but nevertheless, the USA just hasn't quite gotten a handle on the ketchup situation, I fear. I'm a little bummed, because, Heinz, you know? The ketchup experts! Maybe I'll write them an angry letter.

Dear Heinz,

Please make your chips taste more like Canada.

The Snackmaster

Purchased: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Cadbury: Turkish Delight and Cherry Ripe

Brand: Cadbury
Style: Turkish Delight and Cherry Ripe
Origin: Australia
Type: Chocolate
Flavor: Like eating chocolate covered soap
Verdict: Failed

It's always exciting to open my email at work and find something snack-related. Today, I thought I really hit the jackpot! My coworker returned from Australia with a huge bag of weird candy! I snagged a couple different kinds to try, so today you get a two-for-one review! And a lot of exclamation points! Woot!

I love it when things go from bad to worse, so I'm going to start off with the Cherry Ripe. This little guy sounded like it would be the terrible one of the two, but it actually wasn't too bad. The package describes it as, "Ripe juicy cherries and coconut in 'Old Gold' rich dark chocolate." I would describe it as, "Kool-Aid flavored, chocolate-covered blood clot." I tried to take a picture, but my fancy camera's at home and my cameraphone just didn't do it justice. All in all, this actually didn't taste like much other than Kool-Aid, and I can drink that stuff by the gallon, so this is okay by me. If I ever go to Australia, I won't be hunting it down, but I'd rather eat this than Vegemite!

However, if faced with a choice between Vegemite and my other Australian 'treat', the Turkish Delight, I might choose death instead. The Turklish Delight slogan is apparently, "The bar that is different," and I'll have to agree. Different doesn't necessarily equate good in this case, though. This thing tastes like licking the inside of a poorly sanitized bathroom in a train station. In fact, it was so terrible that I only was able to take one bite before throwing the rest away. Trust me, that's quite a feat, because I'll eat just about anything. I've been referred to as a goat on more than one occasion.

In conclusion, from what I've had so far from Australia, their snacks suck. It makes me never want to go there. I propose a challenge to you all (all 2 people that read this, ha ha): Someone send me something Australian and delicious! Please! I have friends there I'd love to visit, but I need to be convinced!

Purchased: Sydney, Australia

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Snyder of Berlin: Cheddar Jalapeno Kettle Cooked Chips

Brand: Snyder of Berlin
Style: Cheddar Jalapeno Kettle Cooked Chips
Origin: USA
Type: Potato Chips
Flavor: A perfect marriage of mild jalapeno and sharp cheddar.
Verdict: Approved, approved, approved!

Upon first glance of these chips, I thought that they were an offshoot of Snyder's of Hannover, a brand we have here on the west coast, but the back of the bag has informed that these are not affiliated with that company. It also informed me that these chips are made with Pennsylvania Pride, and upon eating these, I can say they have definitely been crafted with care. I am all about these chips.

I was a little skeptical at first, seeing as I've only just begun to tread into the world of spicy snacks. Just recently, I got over my fear of jalapenos by trying jalapeno poppers, so I wasn't too nervous about these being too hot. My fears were subsided once the chip hit my tongue. These have just enough kick to feel, but the cheddar mellows it out nicely in the aftertaste, lingering around boldly. The potato taste is strong on these as well, and I almost feel like I'm eating a really crunchy baked potato. This could also be explained by the fact that these are thick-cut kettle chips, which give them more body than their thinner counterparts.

I'll claim Pennsylvania Pride for these delicious, crunchy morsels of MSG-laden heaven any day! Approved!

Purchased: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bachman: Jax Cheese Curls

Brand: Bachman
Style: Jax Cheese Curls
Origin: USA
Type: Cheese snacks
Flavor: Not quite cheesy enough
Verdict: On the fence

I've heard many tales about Jax cheese curls from my pals on the east coast. Finally, upon finding out that I'd never tried these before, a buddy of mine in Pittsburgh sent me a bag, along with a whole truckload of other snacks that will be reviewed on here as I eat them. I'm going to weigh approximately 1700 pounds by the time I get through all of this, but it will be a delicious 1700 pounds, I'm sure!

Now if I were walking the aisle of a grocery store and spotted these, I might not necessarily be drawn to them because they look like every other generic bag of cheese curls, but they claim to be slow baked for a great taste, and that's pretty darn appealing. I was under the impression that cheese curls grew on plants naturally, so the image of them being baked in a firey oven such as the picture suggests was rather shocking to me.

Upon opening the bag, I was hit with the horrendous smell of feet, but that's pretty normal for cheese snacks. I grabbed a couple and popped them in my mouth, hoping to be wowed with their slow-baked goodness, but I was pretty underwhelmed. The taste is about 70% corn, 30% cheese, and I really prefer a 50/50. One cool thing about them though, is that they are all different shapes. Some are a short curl and some are so long they're almost a spiral, giving them almost a 'homemade' feel.

There's not much else to say about these guys. Cheetos are better. Sorry, Jax.

Purchased: Pittsburgh, PA

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eagle: CrunchFused Peanuts, Buffalo Wing

Brand: Eagle
Style: CrunchFused Peanuts, Buffalo Wing flavor
Origin: USA
Type: Nuts
Flavor: Zesty, not very spicy, not very buffalo-y
Verdict: Approved, but not firmly so

Many good things in life come from Asia, like my Mitsubishi, Ramune, bubble-eyed cartoons, peanut sauce, and hot pots. Another thing that I'm pretty sure originated somewhere in Asia (although this is purely conjecture, as I'm too busy eating snacks to do any real research) in what I've always known as "cracker nuts". Cracker nuts, or as Eagle calls them, 'CrunchFused' nuts, are peanuts with a wheat cracker coating. The odd thing about these Eagle ones, though, is that they say it's, "the crispy crunch of a chip," but I really feel that it's unmistakably a cracker. There were no potatoes harmed in the making of these snacks.

So before I bought these, I perused the ingredients list to ensure no animals were harmed either, and I'm pretty darn sure they're vegan. Ironically, there is something listed as "chicken flavor", but the ingredients after are a lot of chemicals and no chickens. There's also a "buffalo flavor", which includes no buffaloes. To top things off, there's also hot sauce powder, but these aren't particularly hot, and I've got a fairly weak tongue for spice.

The buffalo flavor is more like a mildly spicy barbecue sauce with an undertone of bleu cheese (although they definitely don't contain any cheese...creepy!). It's not that it's bad, it's just not...awesome. When I eat something buffalo wing flavored, I expect my mouth to burn, preferably to the point where it's slightly uncomfortable and I have to stop eating after a few bites. I could easily tear through a bag of these without a second thought, which is unfortunate considering the nutrition label and the ingredients list (hellooooo, MSG!).

All in all, these aren't anything you need to run to the nearest store to find, but if you're hungry and it's this or octopus chips, go for it, man!
Purchased: Safeway, Portland, OR

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dry Soda: Cucumber

Brand: Dry Soda
Style: Cucumber
Origin: USA
Type: Soda
Flavor: This is delicious...if you enjoy drinking carbonated cucumber-melon lotion
Verdict: Fail, fail, fail!

I went to get my haircut the other night, and my barber was ranting about this cucumber soda that his coworker had brought in from the Starbucks down the street. He said it was awful, but me being me, I had to go buy one immediately. Maybe it was inspiration from the pickle chips? The world may never know.

When I stepped into the Starbucks and boldly strode to the counter with it in hand, I asked the barista if she'd tried it. She assured me that A. yes, she had, and B. it was delicious. I asked if it tasted like cucumber water, as in water with a slice of cucumber in it, a refreshing treat I sometimes enjoy. I was also assured that this was the exact flavor of the soda, so I purchased it in good faith that no one at Starbucks would ever lie to me.

I have never been more wrong in my life. Ever. The thing with this pop is that when you first drink it, it tastes like plain club soda. The problem is, about a half-second later, the fake cucumber taste kicks in, and it's the worst thing ever. It's exactly like what I would imagine drinking cucumber-scented lotion would taste like, which is not something that I've ever in my life wanted to do. However, if that's a goal of yours, I highly suggest you go the less-toxic route and drink this pop. You'll love it.

Purchased: Starbucks, Portland, OR

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pringles: Extreme Screamin' Dill Pickle

Brand: Pringles
Style: Extreme Screamin' Dill Pickle
Origin: USA
Type: Potato Chips
Flavor: Salty, pickle-y, like eating chips dipped in the juice from the pickle jar
Verdict: Approved, but these might not be for everyone...

Pickle-flavored chips are something I'm always skeptical about, even though I'll eat dill-flavored chips with no qualms. I suppose it's something about the 'extreme' pickles on the can of these Pringles that makes me a little weary? Or perhaps just the thought of trying to cram the complex flavor of one of my favorite condiments into a chip is what I find bothersome. I'm not quite sure, but either way, I'd been avoiding buying these guys for awhile.

However, seeing as I've tried nearly every other flavor of Pringles on the market, it was inevitable; the divine force of fate would see that the screaming pickles and I would someday meet. (I think that would be an awesome band name, BTW. If you want it, it's yours!) I saw the can sitting on the shelf at the drugstore, and before I could tell it to stay back, it had leaped into my hand!

I'm glad it did, though, because these are actually pretty delish! Sure, the MSG is starting to give me a rash even though I've only had about 10 crisps, but the aftertaste of pure pickle on my tongue is still making my taste buds tingle with delight. These do taste, like the name implies, pickles. I'm not exactly sure where the 'extreme screamin'' part comes in, they taste just like every other pickle chip I've had, except possibly a little better (hello, MSG!), but I'm willing to deal with the inexplicable name for the great taste.

Purchase: Rite-Aid, Portland, OR

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Doritos: Last Call Jalapeno Popper

Brand: Frito Lay
Style: Doritos, Last Call Jalapeno Popper
Origin: USA
Type: Corn Chips
Flavor: As the title implies, a jalapeno popper from a dive bar
Verdict: Approved, although would probably taste even better drunk than sober

Ah, Doritos, how I love ye plentiful and varied flavors. Some are hits, some are misses, some...some fall into the realm of the completely unexplainable (X13 anyone?). They've released two new flavors under the "Late Night" name: Last Call Jalapeno Popper and Tacos at Midnight. I'm not entirely sure where they got the protocol of eating tacos two hours earlier than jalapeno poppers, but apparently the folks at Frito Lay are well in the know of the proper etiquette when ordering spicy bar food.

When I first tried these chips, I'd eaten some actual jalapeno poppers about a half hour before, then happened upon these chips in an unforeseen chain of events. It was deja vu all over again! These chips really do taste like jalapeno poppers - greasy, deep-fried, crusty poppers with too much breading and not enough cheese. However, you can distinctly taste each element of the popper on the chip. There's the tangy, mild burn of the pepper, the bready coating, and the creamy cheese. I almost feel like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory eating these things! This seems to be an interesting trend in snacks, this whole taking a food and putting it on a chip thing. Pringles new Restaurant Cravings line is another example of this type of flavor sensation.

All in all, these chips are approved. I wouldn't eat them every day, especially given how they make me crave actual jalapeno poppers, but it's safe to say that they're going in my regular rotation of snacks. Score one for Doritos on this one!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Calbee: Snappea Crisps

Brand: Calbee
Style: Snapea Crisps
Origin: USA
Type: Puffs
Flavor: Like split pea soup flavored cheese puffs, without cheese
Verdict: Approved wholeheartedly!

God bless the USA. My friend recently acquired food stamps, now that she and her job have unfortunately departed, and they gave her approximately 4 times what I spend in a month on food. Naturally, the first thing we did was run out to the store to buy snacks! After realizing that food stamps work at Whole Foods, we went there, because they have the best weird snacks. One of the treats we ended up with is Calbee's Snapea Crisps.

Now, the picture on the front of this bag is highly misleading, because it depicts some crispy looking peapods. I'd assumed that this would be some kind of baked-not-fried in tact vegetable snack, like Trader Joe's green bean snacks. I could not have been more wrong! As you can see in the photo above, they are vaguely peapod-shaped puffs, made of rice and pea flour. The flavor is distincly pea, but with the puff texture and the salty tang, they taste a lot like some bizarre vegan Cheeto.

I realize that my description makes these sound awful, but honestly, they're simply scrumptious! My friend is picky about my 'weird' food choices, but she and I actually agreed on these ones. Definitely worth a try, and they aren't nearly as healthy as they seem. They paper I set them on to take the photo was covered in grease spots afterwards. Om nom nom!

Purchased: Whole Foods, Portland, OR

Friday, May 1, 2009

Brand: Herr's
Style: Old Bay
Origin: USA
Type: Potato chips
Flavor: MSG and overwhelming celery salt
Verdict: Failed

I'm on the road today, having left my ever-green mountains of the Pacific Northwest and ventured across the spacious skies and over the amber waves of grain all the way to the Big Apple! It's snack central up in here, so I'll be posting as much as I can with all of these exciting new (at least to me) treats!

I've heard of the nearly-mythical Herr's brand of snacks for years, but had yet to try any of their potato chips. I've eyeballed the website and almost bought myself a variety pack about ten times now, but never could talk myself into hitting purchase. Fortunately, they sell Herr's here in New York, and being ever-adventurous, I went for the weirdest flavor on the shelf: Old Bay. The crabs on the bag were definitely the selling point for me, as I have no idea what Old Bay is. I don't eat seafood, but I'm assuming it's some kind of shellfish seasoning? It reminds me of Johnny's seasoning, although Johnny's is traditionally reserved for french fries, mashed potatoes, and other starchy goodies (and Tim's Cascade Johnny's Seasoning chips!), so I'm not exactly sure why there are crabs on the Old Bay bag.

The thing is, though, Johnny's has A. stopped using MSG, and B. has a much better balance of spices. I keep eating these wretched things, hoping for them to grow on me, or some how magically taste good, but they're really, really gross. I've had about five now and I already feel like I'm going to break out from the amount of MSG in them, and the lingering taste of celery salt and a mild spice at the back of my tongue is making me feel like I just ate at some all you can eat truck stop. It just tastes like cheap, crappy junk food. It's hard for me to explain it any other way; I think these just need to be experienced to understand the horror.

Purchased: Associated Foods, NYC

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arrico: Barbecue Bliss Cassava Chips

Brand: Arrico
Style: Barbecue Bliss Cassava Chips
Origin: USA (by way of Indonesia)
Type: Cassava chips
Flavor: Solid, mild barbecue flavor
Verdict: Approved

There's nothing I love more than being in the tropics, except eating the food of the tropics. Although I'd prefer to be munching on these cassava chips while lounging on a beach or a mountainside in Costa Rica, I'm thankful I can eat them at my desk and close my eyes, pretending the never-ending drone of my coworkers is some sort of very talkative ocean, and that the refrigerated blast of air from the vent over me is actually a soothing, steady sea breeze. Pura vida, verdad? Oh, sorry, I was so caught up in my fantasy, I started speaking Spanish!

For those of you whose palettes have yet to be expanded into the tropical treat that is cassava, it's basically the root of a plant that looks like a small tree. The texture is akin to a starchy potato, only somehow better. It's also known as yuca (not to be confused with yucca, totally different species) and it's what tapioca is made of.

These chips are thinly sliced and have a delicate crunch to them. It's difficult to describe, but more something that simply needs to be felt against one's tongue. The barbecue flavoring is a little sparse, but tasty. It's mild and sweet, my favorite kind. All in all, these get a thumbs up from the Snackmaster!

Purchased: Grocery Outlet, Portland, OR

Monday, April 27, 2009

Walkers: Cajun Squirrel

Brand: Walker's
Style: Cajun Squirrel
: England
Type: Potato chip (or crisp, if you're in jolly ol' England)
Flavor: Greasy, spicy meat. Did I mention greasy? And meaty?
Verdict: Failed, but at least it makes a good story

A friend of mine recently traveled overseas, and I gave her my usual request that I give everyone when they ask me what I want brought back: “The weirdest chips you can find. Make sure there’s no actual meat, but meat-flavored is cool.” I’m a vegetarian for ethical reasons, but still miss the taste of meat. Generally, everyone forgets and I end up with a souvenir shot glass or magnet, but this time, my girl pulled through and brought me Walker’s Cajun Squirrel Crisps. Upon having the bag presented to me, I had to take a moment of silence to compose myself before the emotional logorrhea of gratitude started pouring out of my mouth. I almost cried.

The chips themselves are part of a promotional contest that Walker’s is putting on, with other flavors including Fish and Chips and Builder’s Breakfast, amongst others. I had to restrain myself from asking why she didn’t bring me all of them to sample. We gleefully opened the bag and were hit with a powerful wave of a definitively Cajun scent: spicy, peppery, and meaty. I popped one of the oddly-orange-colored crisps into my mouth and was assaulted with the flavor of what can only be described as greasy, spicy meat, with an emphasis on the greasy. My father told me a tale of his youth where his friend’s mother served him raccoon for dinner one night, and based on that description, I’d say these chips are right in line with the essence of animals usually reserved for roadkill. Everyone that I made try them got sick, self included, so I can’t say I’d recommend them for the weak of stomach, but for those with a stomach of steel and a palette to match, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can’t be missed.

Purchased: England

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bhuja: Cracker Mix

Brand: Bhuja
Style: Cracker Mix
: India
Type: Mix
Flavor: Spicy, exotic, strong cumin and chili balanced by sweetness of raisins
Verdict: Approved

As the Snackmaster, I've tasted many a snack from around the world, and although I love to go through an entire bag of one flavor of treat, I can't deny the lure of a mix. I'm ADD when it comes to many things, and my snacks are no exception. Eating a tasty mix like Bhuja is like Adderall for my mouth.

There are actually four flavors of Bhuja: Original, Cracker, Fruit, and Nut, of which I've tried the Original and the one which is the focus of this post, the Cracker. The mix contains several different shapes of rice crackers, some spicy, some with seaweed, green peas, peanuts, raisins, and two types of multigrain noodles. The noodles are made with yellow peas, rice, potato, tapioca, and sesame seeds, and spiced with chiles, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and paprika. The overarching flavor is definitely the cumin, which gives it an exotic flair.

The whole peas and raisin thing might sound a little weird to some of you novice snackies out there, but it works well. Everything is mildly spiced and the sweetness of the raisins complements that perfectly, keeping the spice at a managable level even for those with sensitive palettes.

The only discernible difference between the Cracker and Original flavors, as far as I can tell, is the addition of the rice crackers, as well as less fat. The Snackmaster definitely approves of this snack!

Purchased at Grocery Outlet, Portland, OR