Pizza Dum Dum Lollipops

Children do not know how to accurately predict trends. Yeah, I said it. They’re lousy tastemakers. Call it an unpopular opinion like Carly Fiorina’s weird demon sheep campaign ad, but I’m sincerely tired of seeing what they come up with. They don’t know what America wants. I mean, I’m all for grapes that taste like non-grape things, but cotton candy is just another word for sugar. And now Dum Dums are still pandering to the fun-sized masses with pizza-flavored lollipops.  IMG_20150820_151555944_HDR

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Dunkin’ Donuts Red Velvet Latte

The universe conspired against this post from the start. First, by introducing a drink at a time of year, what with climate change and all, that I’m tempted to call ‘Summer II: The Reckoning,’ Dunkin’ has failed before the eponymous holiday tree has hit the ground running. But, as both a red velvet aficionado and a staunch opponent of solid food, I soldiered on to my local Dunkin’ Donuts to try their new red velvet latte.
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Umpqua Oats Super Premium Oatmeal Salted Caramel Meltdown

Hi! 

Do you remember me? I’m just an old writer, I know. But it’s a little different than that. I know I left you back on that wide, dark internet street some fifteen days ago, but…well, I’ve had the tests, I got the paperwork, and I have something very important to tell you. I’m your blogger. I’m the one you imprinted upon early in the morning after you had your nightly Mountain Dew. I’m the one you reached out to when you needed humor and implicit gay shenanigans. I hand-fed you your first bites of truffled popcorn, cheeseburger-flavored pasta, and, well…

I’m back, baby.

And I have a new apartment, a working, reliable internet connection, and new vocabulary under my belt. It’s like they cryogenically froze me for two weeks and uploaded me with information about blown fuses and summary judgment. What could be better than that? I’ll tell you: in my hamlet of West Hartford, close to the home of my new, shiny law school, I come bearing gifts of pretentious oatmeal! This is Umpqua’s Salted Caramel Meltdown, not to be confused with Chocolate Temper Tantrum or Vanilla Sensory Overload that Causes You to Fire Questions at Strangers About Dogs. And what kind they have. And what their names are. And when you can come pet them, instead of answering their inquiry as to what time it was, ten minutes ago.

You look so big! Here, let me feed you some of this oatmeal. Just try it. I know it’s ridiculously flavorless, which likely makes it accessible to a wide audience of Millenials and busy moms, but it’s filling and reliable, too. The chunks of salted caramel and miniscule pecan shards are easy to digest, if lacking in substance, and the whole thing is just one snide ‘on-the-go’ fallacy away from a car accident. It’s yet another rider atop the wheezing, dying salted caramel horse and if it doesn’t go away, I fear the universe may collapse on itself, producing an endless string of punny breakfast foods in trendy flavors for the offspring of the busy people purchasing them for $4.20 plus tip.

Whew.

If you must play the game, you’ve got to know the rules. This applies to the concept of using hyperbole and trends, in this case. If you’re audacious enough to use the words ‘super,’ ‘premium,’ ‘salted,’ ‘caramel,’ and ‘meltdown,’ in your product’s name, I expect to see all five in spades. The deceased Quaker on the Quaker Oats canister has more flair than this. It’s as bland as its audience and doesn’t even have the fashion sense to boot. Umpqua is yet another follower on this endless bandwagon. Hopefully it will run out of gas sooner rather than later.

Delicia Red Velvet Malt Beverage

Last week, the internet sent me broken champagne flutes, a clutch, lipstick and hell. Hell in the form of a premium carbonated malt liquor by the name of Delicia. Delicia is new ladyjuice for the ladies, especially the ones who crave something a little more dangerous than champagne with more instructions than the Anarchist’s Cookbook.

Delicia comes in four flavors: red velvet, whipped (yes, just ‘whipped’, which you’ll be both if you purchase this and after you drink it), peaches and cream, and strawberries and cream. Of course, it was essential that we try red velvet as my goal of becoming 14% red velvet cake can only be achieved by ingesting it in liquid form. Delicia came with activities for my ladyfriends and I. Little did they know that Stila lipgloss only makes me look more like a low-budget Chaz Bono impersonator pre-Chazzing. The more you know!

Armed with an iTunes gift card and a studded clutch, which I like to imagine was hand-selected for me due to my sassy personality, the Bedfellow and I went about trying this. It took us a while. We were scared, unprepared to party, and not quite ready to experience the sultry bubbles of cream cheese frosting and copious red food dye. But some things, like awful teen blockbusters and traffic accidents, come together organically, so at 12:35PM this afternoon, in a dark warehouse of a studio apartment, we found ourselves duly prepared to rock out with our mock out.

Delicia is liquid Spring Breakers. It’s the kind of thing everyone will be talking about and be curious to try, but its disappointment is a special breed of cur, the likes of which will leave red streaks of dye on your fingers and the taste of Tootsie Roll and KoolAid hooch in your mouth. It’s so sugary it makes Coke look like a sensible diet solution- both the soda and the drug. It has a bitter, beerlike aftertaste and aggressive bubbliness, like Kristin Chenoweth. And for all that fuss- alcohol? Alca-who? The alcohol content on this is so far gone it’s on the walls outside Walmart under the ‘missing children’ section. A fifth grader couldn’t find the alcohol in this. In a sense, it is perfectly marketed- toward the women in the bar nobody wants to speak to. The ones from New Jersey or Boston with bubblegum in their cheeks like pink-hued chaw and an inch of caked-on eyeshadow. They’re drinking this.

And for all their pomp and circumstance about knocking someone’s mascaraed eye out of their socket with the cork popping, Delicia’s silky, sparkly outer liner reveals a hard, stubby screwcap. Disappointment abound, and another ladyexploring ladynight ruined by diabetes.

We’ll always have the party playlist, Delicia.

~~

I’m working on embedding this in the post- damn you, Playlist! In the meantime, enjoy this text list.

1. David Bowie- Cat People
2. Gwen Stefani- Southside
3. Beats Antique- Oriental Uno
4. RJD2- Gypsy Caravan
5. The Doors- Alabama Song
6. Federico Aubele- Contigo
7. Serge Gainsbourg- Qui est in, qui est out
8. Beck- Sexx Laws
9. La Bouche- Be My Lover
10. Scissor Sisters- Laura
11. Moby- Run On
12. Billy Squier- Lonely is the Night
13. Kanye West- Runaways

Snap Infusion Mel Naturally Designed Supercandy

My life is so busy. I am such a busy, important person. What does someone with such a jam-packed, watch-checking life need? A new candy! A new candy because I am perpetually bored with life, filled to the brim with existential ennui as my special, paper-free Generation Next smartphone-delivered horoscope would have me believe. Right now, or at least, until the next popular Buzzfeed article, that candy is Snap Infusions, a naturally designed supercandy that appeals to my busy and important life because it is also moving too quickly to do silly things like type out the word “caramel,” choosing instead to label it “MEL.” We’ll come back to that. The package is covered in more holographic noise than your favorite sweat-stained Pokemon card, and even features jizz-like blobs on the surface. It’s also filled to the brim with keywords like “energize,” “protect,” and “balance,” making it the confectionary equivalent of NeuroPassion.

MEL is small and turd-like in appearance, and tastes like poorly made Milk Duds. The chocolate coating is scuffed and has a crumbly, cheap flavor to it. The caramel would be inoffensive if each penny-sized piece wasn’t packed with more additives than a Flintstones vitamin. I can almost smell the freshly ground B12. The pleasantly salty nugget quickly transforms into a bitter-flavored chew, making each bite like eating a protein bar, torturous piece by piece.

Snap Infusions employs four catchy IM-style titles for its products that range from asininely short to all-caps words bordering on Inception. Reading the descriptions for GUM made me wonder if GUM was an automatic replacement for another, non-GenNext sanctioned activity. “I use GUM day and night. GUM gives me the energy I need. I like to take GUM the old-fashioned way, with a rolled-up BFranxxx and AmEx card. Amirite? Amirite? GUM, ladies and gentlemen!” It sounds like an old Robin Williams sketch.

Speaking of things you take up the nose, ounce for ounce, MEL may cost more than cocaine in a glam-packed neighborhood. $2 for ten candies puts them at 20 cents apiece, a steep price for boiled sugar and the hopes and dreams of innocent athletes. Then again, Snap Infusion’s website would argue that it’s a small price to pay for not “ending up a dried-out shell of [your] former self.” As someone who may or may not have modeled for the “before” side of weight-loss scamvertisements, I take liberty in quoting from the late Roget Ebert (Houston, I sense a trend) in saying that someday, I may be thin, but Snap Infusions will forever be known for creating this awful candy.

Apericubes Limited Collector’s Edition Saveurs: Grilled shrimp, sweet spice, blue and nuts, and truffle

Happy New Year’s Eve. I thought it might be fun to ring in 2013 with this new, awful level of cheese fuckery. There hasn’t been this much tampering with lactose since the Nesquik bunny got arrested for coke possession in ’06. I’m not sure what to say about these. I think they speak for themselves. Apericube Limited Collector’s Edition Saveurs features four clever, awful flavors for all of your party-ruining needs. All of them. Truffle, grilled shrimp, blue cheese with nuts, and sweet spices await your poor, wretched tongue.

The package is classy and also larger than most Apericube commitments. 48 cubes is a lot of cheese for one person. On the package is a chance to win a trip to the Lapland region of Scandinavia, for skiing or something. In French, it’s “Laponie.”

I prefer to think that Apericube has come up with a whimsically branded term for winning a French pony. I may be clinically depressed. The package is also filled with all sorts of hyperspecific humor gems for enhancing your holidays with little flavored cheese cubes.

For instance: trivia and cheese ornaments? Ain’t nobody got time for that shit, I got partying and drinking to do, in a world where “partying and drinking” is synonymous to eating an entire pizza alone in your apartment with the soulful croons of Johnny Cash. 2013, you devil! Besides, why bother going out when I can subject my guests to the musky, most certainly artificial flavor of truffle, a $350 trendy tasting menu with truffles all over the place compressed into one cube? And who could forget the allure of grilled shrimp, the cheese that forgot the grill? Grilled shrimp, you taste and smell like wet cat food.

Moving down the line, we have the surprisingly inoffensive blue cheese and nuts, surprising as I am usually disgusted by blue cheese, so for this to be very, very removed from its original inspiration is a boon. It is also perfectly smooth. Nuts? Finally, we finish off 2012 with the enigmatic “epices douces,” which translates to “sweet spices.” Is it gingerbread? Gingerbread cheese? I wouldn’t put it past the criminal masterminds at Le Vache Qui Rit. Regardless, it tastes like cinnamon and crushed pink peppercorn.

None of these are very good.

Happy 2013!

Red Bull: Blue, Silver, and Red Edition

Christmas is over, the bounty of Thanksgiving leftovers has come and gone. Soon, the world will be getting ready for New Year’s Eve, the unloved drunken baby of the winter holidays. These days, staying up late and getting drunk is roughly as edgy as a Snuggie-wrapped newborn. Fresh on the heels of surviving yet another threat of an apocalypse, we need to up our game and appreciate life as the Mayans could not. And what better to up it with than three new flavors of Red Bull, the official drink of 2007, er, 2013?
Well, maybe you should wait before answering my rhetorical question, because it turns out there are a few better things to celebrate another orbit with than Cranberry, Lime, and Blueberry Red Bull, like milk, chocolate milk, milkshakes, straight up caffeine yo, soda, ice cream, raw sewage, Go Go Juice, champagne and scotch, chocolate syrup from the bottle, and bleach, to name a few palatable beverages off the top of my head. Despite an aggressive and patriotically-colored marketing campaign in all of the countries for whom blue, white, and red are relevant (suck it, Belgium!) these liquid Benedict Arnold Palmers are shameful mars on an otherwise decent year.

Classified in “editions” like some sort of limited release Encyclopedia Brittanica set or a numbered Audemars, the terrible triad features a sleek can design aping off the majesty of the Lamborghini without the finesse in engineering. In fact, the only thing they have in common with the cars are their mutual shared usage, or in the case of the Red Bull, incorporation, of motor oil. At least, as the texture of these drinks would imply. If motor oil wasn’t used in the composition of this beverage, someone on the staff was surely drinking it. I don’t see how it made it off the production line otherwise. The drinks are viscous and lurid in color, moreso than the traditional Red Bull and have an aggressive, slightly sinister overarching sweet scent to them, like the drink itself is trying to conceal its contents and drug you.

The first of our ill-fated ingestibles is the Red Edition, not unlike the Red Edition your piss will later be emulating. This is easily the most offensive of the drinks, mollified only by the fact that it is the sole soda of the three to not contain the creepy-sounding “bleu brilliant FCF” food coloring. However, it comes out of the bottle as red as the can, smelling like Jell-O powder. It tastes like a mixture of various red-colored and red-flavored hard candies, with a flat, sweet flavor and a sour aftertaste, not tart like a cranberry ought to be, but metallic. Next is the lime-flavored Silver Edition. This one goes down with the least resistance with a seltzer-like flavor, but has a powerful Windex nose. I’m thinking that this would make a fantastic knock-off Sprite. We’ll call it “Spite.”

Finally, the most intriguing of the special flavors, blueberry Red Bull, which sounds like the first of many unsuccessful cocktails on the Absentee Parent happy hour menu. This has a mild blueberry flavor, with a slightly acidic aftertaste like blueberry yogurt, but the resemblance ends there and it tastes like Warheads. I won’t even recommend this for New Year’s Eve cocktail shenanigans. If you need to chug these to stay up until midnight, you are either twelve, or out of touch like this MAD Magazine hilarity. Either way, the perfect demographic for these weird limited editions. I still wish I could have tried Mango Fratboy Heave. Stay classy!

Quinn Popcorn Vermont Maple and Sea Salt

Unless you’re the child of megalomaniac supervillains, chances are, you were probably taught to not be an infuriating asshat from a young age. Maybe your parents told you to quit stabbing your neighbor’s pets, or to help our around the house more. And if I’m ever a parent, my list will definitely include those, (do you know how damned stubborn terrier blood stains are?) but my ultimate goal will be to prevent said anonymous children from ever indulging in a self-indulgent, masturbatory fantasy like Kickstarter.

Call me bitter, but in the past year, I’ve seen a lot of things, man. I’ve seen a lot of things come of Kickstarter. I lost a good friend, good kid, to a band of Westchester-born roving accordian-playing lunatics singing bluegrass. Another friend? Let’s just say that guerilla knitting landed her 25 to life in the clink. So when I saw this Kickstarter-spawned popcorn prominently displayed in my local organic co-op next to quinoa bites and cruelty-free banjos for a mere $6.05, it was essential that I pick up a box. Ladies and gentlemen, I have won the internet. I have found what I believe to be the worst, most simpering product in the world. Quinn Popcorn, featured here in Vermont maple, grey sea salt, and shame, has met its pretentious match.

Your six dollars, which, I might remind you, could potentially purchase you anywhere between 1.5-1.75 gallons of gas, buys you two small bags of popcorn. Which you have to pop yourself. With a cutesy, minimal label reminiscent of craft fairs, handpainted jugs, and parents who want to embrace “the simple life” by forcing their children into hemp clothes so they can Instagram it later. Oy. Did I mention that the aforementioned flavoring also has to be added on its own after you shake a giant bag filled with popped corn and oil? And tossed together with a lackluster jingle so the toppings are evenly distributed? The price tag is like a giant middle finger on top of all that, complete with an idea tax for being the first to come up with such an audaciously shitty idea.

As difficult as this may sound, the inside of the box is almost worse than the outside. The bags are covered with keyword spam that lovingly massages the reader’s balls and ego with promises of no GMO’s, no artificial flavoring, and no susceptor, which is a bummer because I hear Captain Planet was looking for a new sidekick. Susceptor! At my side! The box informs you that the toppings are packaged separately because “it’s just not as good without your help,” despite forgetting that you “helped” by buying the damned thing at the store. Now they want to put you to work, too.
Popping the corn was easy, and while I was waiting I happened to glance at the “Pro Tips” on the other bag and happened to notice that-Shut up! Shut up! Just shut the fuck up, Quinn! I am an adult with a life and an income and a partner and bills. Do not congratulate me for popping my own popcorn. Do not inform me that dud kernels are a “fact of life,” you Granola University-educated douche.

These flavorless tidbits are ironically the boldest aspect of the popcorn. 80% of the kernels are left unaltered, despite a vigorous shaking (I use the “3%” method, meaning that if more than 3% of the kernels are unpopped, I dropkick the bag into the nearest trash can) and the remaining coated kernels are soggy and sweet. So far, this is underperforming the popcorn from Big Y that you can use as beanbag stuffing.

I enjoyed the flavor until about ten minutes after eating a few handfuls. The maple and salt was flavorful in the pieces with powder on them, despite my inability to orally recognize their origins. However, there’s a strange, filmy cardboard aftertaste, slightly sour and off in flavor, after eating the kernels. That’s what I find the most strange as the ingredient list is pretty transparent. Not knowing where that flavor is coming from is even more disturbing than eating Big Popcorn’s latest soma snack.
I wanted to love this, because in some aspects, I’m sure I’m as pompous of a fuck as Quinn Popcorn is. I’ve knowingly purchased a handcrafted leather wine pannier for my now-purloined vintage motorbike. I’m the one who wanted to name our new kitten “Patina,” for Christ’s sake. So, Quinn, you win. You’ve successfully created an edible Anthropologie store and have officially outpretensioned me and not only do I hate you for it, I implore you to recognize that you cannot rise from this. Please, go back to Jiffy Pop and save the world a bad taste in its collective mouths.

Duncan Hines Frosting Creations Starter and Chocolate Marshmallow Enhancer

Suffice to say, I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on French customs and culture before I leave. I’ve been to Paris before, but never for this long and not on my own, and I want to acclimate myself as quickly as I can to avoid being the ugly American in the supermarket, pawing through the canned goods in search of Doritos. Many of the ways of living are out of convenience and basic mannerisms. I’m still reeling from the fact that in all of Paris, there are only six membership-based health clubs that I can find. Wherever shall I tone my pecs and strengthen my abs, I say? The bulk of changes should be easy to adjust to, with the exception of one killer Achilles’ heel that seems to come up on every site: peanut butter and chocolate.

According to my research, the French aversion to peanut butter comes from a combination of respect for an already refined product, chocolate truffles, as well as a natural apprehension against fattening, caloric products like the PB&J. Nutella, seen as a snack on its own versus a condiment in a many-layered ‘wich, is in another class entirely outside of chocolates you’d find in a shop. That being said, it was this classic combination that inspired me to think of a few other things that might be harder to find outside of the US, one of them being the iconic s’mores flavors.

So I’ve been whittling down the days that I have left (9!!) enjoying some of the classically American flavor profiles I know and love. I was sent the new Frosting Combinations from Duncan Hines a month or two ago and decided to give them a whirl with some cupcakes this evening. The frosting comes in a container slightly larger than most canned frosting with ample room for stirring in the flavor powder, available in 11 varieties. I went for the slightly tamer chocolate marshmallow, but bubblegum and chocolate mint are also available. The base is gummy and sticky, with a texture similar to Elmer’s glue, a dull sheen, and a pasty, powdery aftertaste. Again, also strangely similar to Elmer’s glue. It’s not flavorless, it’s mildly vanilla tasting and smelling, so inevitably, whatever you make will have undertones of vanilla frosting. If that’s a bad or a good thing, I’m not sure.

The flavor packets are sparse, but pungent. Chocolate marshmallow was intensely scented, smelling not of chocolate or sugar, but of dirt, black tea, and plant matter. Definitely not what you’d expect out of a frosting enhancement. I can’t say that the base flavor of the frosting was drastically enhanced by the powder one way or another. It vaguely resembled chocolate and marshmallows in the same way that knockoff Coach bags resemble the real thing. Both smell strange and are slightly sticky and are fairly far removed from their original inspiration. It also takes a lot of elbow grease to mix this. Three minutes into stirring, the frosting was still granulated and streaked. Five minutes later, it was brown and shiny and smelled like baking cocoa.

You can see here that my cupcake-making quest was successful. What you can’t see is that the inevitable passage of time, in this photo, approximately sixteen seconds, wrenched these cupcakes from the land of Twee, Adorable Things on Pinterest to Hashtag Blobby Baking Failures. Even after 45 minutes cooling and a stint in the fridge, the frosting slip-slid off these cupcakes both naked and anchored by graham cracker crumbs, into a sad pile on the counter. The flavor was muted in comparison to the cupcakes, the toppings, and the counter it sat on, and had all the edgy appeal of a 3PM television premiere on TNT. I didn’t like it. I think the ratios are off, and while the idea is in the right place, the intensity and accuracy of the flavors isn’t enough to make me want to try this again. You’re probably better off tinting plain frosting with extracts and natural coloring. 

Trader Joe’s Mini Chicken Tacos

Because I’ve focused mainly on specialty food and restaurant reviews, I’m always getting asshatted comments on my fast food posts that start with “snob” and end with “mother’s basement.” The truth is, they’re very different ends of the same tasty spectrum. And I can honestly say that I enjoy them both equally. The middle end of that spectrum is a dead zone, though. It’s the abandoned frozen foods and mediocre snacks that I’m also compelled to write about, though with less than satisfactory results.


Miss Love and I are not teenagers, nor are we men, so it’s unlikely for us to keep around appetizer and snack foods to graze on throughout the day. When I’m at my parents’ place, though, there’s always something fun around to try that we wouldn’t normally purchase back home. We found these mini chicken tacos from Trader Joe’s and thought they’d be tasty enough.

For all the ease of Trader Joe’s products, these are atypically annoying and labor-intensive to make. There are three different ways to make these, though the one with the coveted “best results” award is the deep-fry method. Four tacos is 190 calories. The ingredient list is roughly the length of a Tolstoy novel and the tacos were soft and salty-smelling out of the box. Kind of a far cry from my shredded chicken and tomatillo salsa tacos, but whatevs. The instructions said to fry these at 350 degrees for 1-2 minutes, but after 3 minutes, the tortillas were still soft and squishy. These finished cooking after 8 minutes. I flipped them once and drained them.

These are awkward with a side of awkward turtle to prepare. Sr. Jose recommends splitting these open and cramming them with toppings, which strikes me as counterproductive. They’re also molten hot and spewing oil all over the place after being drained in an oak’s worth of paper towels. Why bother going through the process of deep-frying what basically amounts to tortilla chips and chicken paste if you’re just going to put condiments all over it? It feels like a waste of calories and time. Unfortunately, the technique makes sense. These are pretty flavorless. Predominantly oil and corn, with a half teaspoon of uniformly textured, salty and cumin-heavy filling. No tomatillo tang. No cheesy goo. Just salt and oil.
So I split them and put in some sour cream and habanero gold jelly, one of my absolute favorite condiments. It’s a habanero and apricot spread that I love to use with savory foods. And lo and behold, the tacos tasted like sour cream and pepper jelly. Surprise surprise. If you’re looking for a greasy vehicle for condiments and want to feel like you’re doing more than just slapping nachos in the microwave, maybe these are right for you. As for me, I can eat better things with more flavor. These just missed the mark.