Sunday, November 30, 2014

Clancy's Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips (Aldi)

FUN FACT: That's my wife's arm in the picture.
Well we previously reviewed Clancy's ranch version, so let’s take a look at how the nacho cheese version fares.

For starters, a quick visual examination also seconds what we saw with the ranch tortilla chips, and that’s that there is a generous helping of nacho cheese seasoning on each chip.  However, here’s where I feel the whole snack is derailed:  The nacho cheese seasoning, at least in my opinion, isn’t on par with the ranch in terms of being compared to the national brand.  It’s fairly close, but something to me just feels a little…off.  Like it’s missing some kind of cheesy “pop”.  Aside from this, the same complaints that we saw with the ranch, still apply here:  You really get a lot of the corn flavor, which doesn’t happen so much in the national brand.

Now in the case of the ranch, I thought that minor problem was overshadowed by the nearly spot-on ranch seasoning.  But in the case of the nacho cheese, I felt that minor problem was compacted into an even bigger one considering the nacho cheese seasoning isn’t nearly as…smooth (for lack of a better term), as the national brand.  There’s just something about it that’s not quite right, and that, when paired with the overall corny taste, stands out a lot more.

Now this isn’t to say that these are inedible…not by a long shot.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that my wife really liked them, which shows you nothing except just how subjective everyone’s tastes truly are.  Regardless, I must also give these extra points for value, as a bag is $2-3 less than the national brand, which are pretty substantial savings.  It’s also a perfect price point to be able to tell if these nacho cheese tortilla chips will hit the spot, like they did for my wife, or if they just end up falling short of the mark, as they did for me.

Overall: 6/10.  While this runs into the same problem as the ranch chips, namely that the taste of the corn clearly comes through, I thought that issue was compacted with a nacho cheese seasoning that just didn’t do it for me.  That’s not to say these aren’t edible, because they are, but to be perfectly honest, I will admit that I prefer the national brand.  Extra points have to be awarded for value, though, as a bag of Clancy’s is $2-3 cheaper than the national brand, giving you a great incentive to find out if you agree with my wife, who really liked these, or me, who wasn’t all that impressed.

Sorry Mike!  But hey, 1 out of 2 ain't bad!

Clancy's Ranch Flavored Tortilla Chips (Aldi)

If you're a fan of processed junk food, you've gotta try these!
Well it took about a year, and was put off thanks to bouts of forgetfulness, alternated with busyness, but I’m finally getting around to typing up a requested review for Clancy’s flavored tortilla chip line.  Better late than never, right Mike?  Haha.

Anyway, it should be pretty evident from the color of the packaging what product this is trying to emulate, and since it’s a well-known chip, I don’t really feel the need to preface anything, so I’m just going to jump right into the good stuff.

Upon examination, these chips actually look pretty exact to the national brand.  There’s also a generous helping of ranch seasoning on each chip, which is a good thing to see.  Oftentimes, I’ve found the major differences between national brand and private label chips, is that the private labels tend to have lesser flavor, so seeing this definitely upped my expectations quite a bit!

But how does it compare in the most important part:  Taste?  The seasoning itself is pretty spot on to the name brand, with just the right amount of tang mixed in with the cool ranch flavor.  The texture is also pretty darn close, as each bite gives you the nice, big crunch that you would expect from tortilla chips.  The only downside, as far as I’m concerned, is that you can definitely taste the corn of the tortilla chip itself a lot more.  In the national brand, the corn taste is virtually non-existent, and that’s how Clancy’s version starts off.  But the more you chew, the more the corniness becomes prevalent, until it becomes outright noticeable.  Now it didn’t bother me that much at all, nor did it bother either of the two other co-workers of mine that tried them and really liked them, but if you’re a flavored tortilla chip connoisseur, it might turn you off a little bit more.

As great as these things are overall, they get even bigger points for value, as a bag of Clancy’s tortilla chips are under $2.  Even when on sale, you can expect to pay at least $1 more for the national brand, and if you are used to paying full price, then you could be saving upwards of $2 or even $3 a bag.  Hmmm, all of a sudden think you can get used to that corny taste, huh?  That’s what I thought.

Overall: 8.5/10.  A great knock-off of a classic product, Clancy’s Ranch Tortilla Chips provide a generous blast of “cool ranch” flavor, and a nice crunch.  The only downside is that the corn of the tortilla chip peeks through a lot more than in the national brand.  It’s wasn’t that big of a turn-off for me, but it’s certainly noticeable.  Value is also here in spades, as an 11 oz. bag retails for well under $2, saving you big over the national brand.  This is a must-try product.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Specially Selected Garlic and Olive Oil Pasta Crackers (Aldi)

Ever craved pasta, only in cracker form? If so, here's your chance!
In the above review, I went into what a “pasta cracker” is, so if you need an introduction, head there.  Otherwise, I’m just going to jump right in.

Even though I found Specially Selected’s marinara pasta crackers to taste pretty good, I did mention that there would have been no way I would have been able to detect that they were marinara-flavored if I was blindfolded.  It tasted nothing like it.  So I decided to try their other flavor offering, garlic and olive oil, as it seemed like that flavor profile would be a lot easier to hit in chip form.

My theory proved to be correct, as this definitely is way more accurate than the marinara version.  Olive oil even happens to be second on the ingredients list, and you can tell just from sampling a bite:  I was expecting the garlic to take front and center, but it’s actually the olive oil that does, followed up close behind by the expected garlic.  I also think these are a little bit stronger than the marinara ones, so you’re probably going to want some gum, or at the very least, mints, if you’re going to be talking to anyone right after eating these.

Although I didn’t get a chance to do so, I think dipping these in some French onion, or even some ranch veggie dip would probably take them to an entirely different level.  Maybe someone will give that a try and let me know how it goes.  Straight out of the bag, though, these have a nice, light texture and big crunch that does hit the spot.  The only downside to the stronger flavor, is I seemed to get sick of these a lot quicker than I did the marinara ones.  Then again, I don’t think garlic and olive oil are two flavors that anyone can really pig out on for that long to begin with.

Overall: 6.5/10.  Even though these are more accurate than the marinara pasta crackers, I still think I prefer those.  For starters, garlic and olive oil are a lot stronger flavors than tomato, so these tend to get to be too much after a short snacking session, and I have to stop eating them.  The light texture and crunch is nice, and the $2 price tag (per 5 oz. bag) provides some good value.  On a side note:  They would probably be very good in ranch or French onion dip, something I’ll have to try at some point in the future.

Specially Selected Marinara Pasta Crackers (Aldi)

Aldi ads are the only store advertisements I receive every week through my email, and I make sure to visit the site every week to see what they are carrying the following week (you can also look two weeks out, which makes it great to be able to plan for meals and Special Buys before most people are aware of them).  So needless to say, I pretty much know everything that will be coming in.

But these Specially Selected Marinara Pasta Crackers totally caught me off guard when I caught them in the store one day, as I did not recall seeing them at all in the weekly ads (I’m sure they were there, but I thought something weird like this would have caught my eye).  According to the bag, they are “Real pasta and Italian-inspired flavor in a thin, crispy chip.”  Okay, that made them sound so unappetizing and pointless, I just knew I had to give them a shot!

Sniffing the bag, you can pick up a faint scent of marinara, but I think I got more garlic and onion than anything else.  The crackers themselves actually look like thin little pieces of pasta, complete with serrated edges, but they also look very delicious, as they are coated with a generous helping of seasoning and parsley flakes, which I guess gives them the Italian look they are wanting.

Tastewise, I’ll admit that I was a little shocked, because these are pretty good.  Now if you were to blindfold me, I don’t think I would ever in a million years guess they had anything to do with marinara, or Italian pasta in general, for that matter, but the seasoning (made up of tomato powder and parmesan cheese, among other things) is tasty.  If you’re looking for something that’s going to overwhelm your taste buds, this is definitely NOT the snack for you, as each cracker is relatively light, in both weight and flavor.  The only downside is that it’s very easy to eat way more than you intended to, as I finished off half the bag the first time I picked it up.

Overall: 7/10.  A delicious, light cracker that is way better than its weird description makes it sound.  The seasoning, while tasting nothing like actual marinara, seems to consist mainly of garlic and onion, and it’s pretty darn tasty.  Don’t be nervous about the texture, either--even though it proudly claims on the packaging that it’s made out of real pasta, the texture is exactly that of a typical cracker.  If you’re looking for a snack that’s going to blow up your taste buds, this isn’t it.  The seasoning is modest, and that’s what makes it work as well as it does.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Goldfish Mac & Cheese (Nacho Cheese, Cheddar, and Butter Parmesan) (Dollar Tree)

We reviewed all but the Cheesy Pizza, which sounds just absolutely disgusting.
While the Goldfish name certainly doesn’t evoke thoughts of budget foods, after all it is only one of the most popular snack crackers available, the attempt to cash in on it as a mac n’ cheese line was pretty much dead-on arrival.  As a result, excess stock of the stuff appears to be liquidated to just about every discount store on the face of the Earth, as I’ve seen boxes at both Big Lots, and Dollar Tree, and they were only $.33 per box at each place.

All it will take is a quick internet search to reveal that this stuff did not go over well.  At all.  And they were even sold only in Wal-Marts.  If Wal-Mart’s nightmarish clientele couldn’t even find use for this stuff, then it must be really, really bad.  I mean, from Wal-Mart at $.98 per box, to closeout at $.33 a box just a year later…it’s got to be terrible.  Right?

Well we grabbed each flavor, except for Cheesy Pizza, which both sounds and looks disgusting.  So if you want to try that one, you’re on your own.  But here are my thoughts on the remaining flavors, and some of them might surprise you.

In my opinion, this is by far the worst flavor of the lot.  (Amazon agrees, with users giving this a 1.7 out of 5 stars, not that the rest fared much better).  I was really reluctant to even try it, because just the combination sounds pretty repulsive, but figured it might be surprisingly good.  I don’t know if I just have built up an insane tolerance to mac n’ cheese flavors over the years, because while I would never get it again, I didn’t have a problem finishing the bowl. 

To me, it’s not that the flavor is offensive or repulsive so much as it’s not really there.  Sure, you can taste some butter (probably the butter you added to make it), but I didn’t get much of a parmesan taste at all.  There was a faint sweetness about it, which is fairly disturbing because neither of the titular ingredients are all that sweet, but no real discernible cheesiness at all.  I would avoid this one in the future, even though common sense told me to avoid it in the first place.

Overall: 3/10.

I am not going to lie…the wife and I actually liked this stuff.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I realize that it’s terrible for you, and that it’s severely processed, and I even understand that, even by nacho cheese standards, the flavor is incredibly exaggerated and tastes nothing like actual nacho cheese.  I get all of those things.  But you know what, we bought a couple of boxes of this stuff, ate it, and then went back to get a couple more, so go on, keep the judgments coming.

At its original price (which as I understand, was $.98 at Wal-Mart), I would never have given it a chance.  Even now that I’ve tasted it, and can say I like it, I would still say a dollar per box is flat-out robbery.  But for $.33, it’s a decent value, and a “meal” that can be quickly thrown together whenever neither of us actually feel like making real food.  And come on, it can’t be any worse nutritionally than your typical box of shells and cheese, or the national brand's own line of mac n’ cheese offerings, so I don’t get where all this vitriol is coming from.

So while it will never become a staple in our house, I thought the nacho cheese flavor tasted pretty good (in an exaggerated, almost cartoony way), and was a decent alternative to the other heavily-processed mac n’ cheese products out there.

Overall: 7/10.

This is the one that’s closest to your “typical” macaroni and cheese.  Like the others, I had to cut back a little bit on the amount of milk used (the 3 tablespoons recommended under the “Classic Prep” instructions resulted in an end product that was way too runny), but the end result still ended up pretty creamy.  The cheese flavor is more or less what you would expect from this kind of product…nothing to write home about, but pretty much on par with other boxed macaroni and cheese products. 

That being said, offering these for only $.33 per box definitely adds some value.  Even though the flavor is similar to other store-bought mac and cheese’s that I’ve had, they cost substantially more than this one, so that’s reason enough to grab this.  Why pay more for something that tastes pretty similar?  My wife and I both liked this one the most, and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another box of these if we came across them.

Overall: 7.5/10.

PRO TIP: The recipe on the box calls for way too much milk.  I followed the initial instructions for “Classic Prep” (3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons milk), and found it to be way too watery for my tastes.  So from then on out, I cut back to 2 tablespoons of both butter and milk, and the end result seemed to taste exactly the same while being, I guess, slightly “healthier”.  That’s just my two cents.

SUMMARY: I didn’t find most of these to be as bad as I thought they would be.  With the exception of Butter Parmesan, which was terrible all around, the cheese flavors were surprisingly edible, and…dare I say it…even good.  But the scores listed above are assuming a price of $.33 a box--anything more, and the value is pretty much gone.  The 5.5 oz. boxes only make two servings, as opposed to other brands, which give you three servings, and the shortage is definitely noticeable.  If you see these on a clearance shelf somewhere for under 50 cents, pick them up.  Otherwise, spend a little more and go with the macaroni and cheese in the blue box, or even better yet, Aldi's brand.

Larry the Cable Guy White Cheddar & Bacon Shells (Big Lots)


Great to keep on hand if you run out of dog food.
Let’s just get this out of the way, because it’s inevitable:  I HATE Larry the Cable Guy.  Hate him.  He’s the perfect example of what’s wrong with American comedy and, if you decided to delve deeper, you could further that by making a case that he’s a good example of what’s wrong with America in general.  His jokes are lower-than-the-lowest common denominator, his accent and redneck appearance is completely faked, and perhaps worst of all, he’s now so popular he gets to put his name on food products and rake in the dough without having to do a single damn thing.

But you know what?  I also love macaroni and cheese and I’ll be damned if I was going to let a personal hatred of a celebrity get in the way of at least giving this a shot.

I totally should have, because now I‘ve found a reason to hate him even more.

This has to be food that was actually made for dogs, but accidentally marketed to human beings.  It’s complete slop.  You’re probably thinking “What did you expect”, and to that, I have no real response.  I guess I should have taken it as a clue that the box declares “Made with real bacon!”, while completely ignoring the cheese, which looks like mayonnaise, and tastes like mayo mixed with a heaping helping of human feces.  In a world full of processed supermarket garbage, this somehow manages to be two notches under “below-average“, which is ironically an exact parallel with the career of the man on the box.

Even if you are a huge fan of Larry the Cable Guy, and I realize there are way more than there should be, do yourselves a favor and pass this up.  Use the savings to buy a Larry the Cable Guy yoyo, or something.  Go to the dollar store and get two Larry the Cable Guy DVD‘s.  Buy two tickets to a Larry the Cable Guy show.  Whatever you do with the two dollars you were going to spend on this product, please just do us all a favor and spend it somewhere else. 

Overall: 0/10.  The only thing worse than Larry’s “comedy” career is this joke of a product marketed to his redneck minions.  But even they will be disappointed by the mayonnaise-y “cheese product” that tastes every bit as horrid as it looks.  But hey, at least that bacon is real!  One of the worst things I’ve ever had the misfortune of eating.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Block Party Hard Lemonade 6-Pack Bottles (Aldi)

An overly sweet, but refreshing hard lemonade.
When I first started shopping at Aldi very nearly a decade ago (my best estimates peg the year 2005 as the year I first set foot in one), they carried a hard lemonade by the name of T-Dubs.  To put it plainly, it was swill, with a flavor more akin to a lemon cleaning product than the actual tart fruit.  Yet I still bought it anyway, if only for the reason that it was (if my memory serves me correctly) $5 for a six-pack.  Well, I couldn’t have been the only one that found it offensive, as a short while later it was pulled off the shelves, never to return again.

But the only problem was, it wasn’t replaced by anything.  As a non-beer drinker, Aldi’s options are severely limited, to either wine, or the occasional special buy coconut rum or strawberry daiquiri.  I’ll even down a good cider, but for reasons unknown, they never get any of those in, especially considering Trader Joe’s has a fantastic one that could easily (at least in my head) be ported over to Aldi stores.

So imagine my surprise when, after at least seven years, a quick perusal of an Aldi advert revealed--a hard lemonade!  Then imagine my brief letdown when I saw the name: Block Party.  I mean honestly, could they have picked a more ghetto, ridiculously cheesy name than that?  Still, my interest was more than piqued, and I knew that no matter what, I was going to try one.  And I also knew that there was a good chance it was going to be terrible.  After all, this was the same company that thought T-Dubs was fit for human consumption.  So I grabbed the first six-pack at my local Aldi, went home, grabbed one, twisted off the cap and…

…was incredibly shocked.  This is what Mike’s Hard Lemonade strives to be; a refreshing mix of authentic lemon flavor and carbonation that dissipates into a sugary sweet finish.  There’s no bizarre aftertaste or bitter notes, it’s just a very sweet, very refreshing drink for a summer’s day.  Granted, even for someone as in to sweet drinks as I am, a little bit can go a long way, so you probably won’t be downing more than a couple in one sitting, but it’s pretty delicious.

That being said, there are a couple downsides.  As I just stated, the sweetness will be a turn-off for many, as each bottle feels the equivalent of drinking three cups of sugar.  The price is also a little alarming; at $7.99 (in OH; price may vary elsewhere) per six-pack, there’s really little incentive for people to give this a try, as it’s just about the same price as the main brand of hard lemonade.

Overall: 7/10.  Though it will undoubtedly be too sweet for many, I found this to be a refreshing mix of authentic lemon flavor blended with lots and lots of sugar.  If you’re looking for something to get drunk off of, you’ll probably want to steer clear and look for something else, but as a patio drink on a hot summer’s day, this just might be the perfect beverage.  However, the $7.99 (in OH) price tag is also a little off-putting, as it’s very close to, if not the exact same price, as the national brand of hard lemonade.  I would still recommend this to those that are into this sort of thing, as I am.

Vivache Peach Moscato (Aldi)

Old pic I stole from the internet.  The bottle looks different now.  I've really got to get better about taking pictures...
I am not, by any normal sense of the term, a wine drinker.  Sure, I’ve been known to throw some down with my wife, but my only requirements are that it has to be sweet--dry wine, at least to my unrefined palate, is the equivalent of drinking rubbing alcohol with the faint taste of grapes--and it has to be cheap.  I can’t see spending even half of what a typical connoisseur might drop on a single bottle of wine, so I tend to look for offerings that are in the $10 or lower price range.

Even though my wife can go far dryer than I can, her favorite kind of wine is moscato, which as you probably know is a light, sweet, and often sparkling wine.  Obviously, that’s right down my alley, too, so we often buy cheap moscato’s just to give them a whirl.

So imagine our excitement when we saw Aldi was offering Vivache Peach Moscato for just $6 a bottle.  Curious as to the origins of this wine, I discovered it was exported by a Prestige Wine and Spirits Group.  A little further digging through their portfolio revealed they produce a large selection of labels in both spirits and wines, of which I am familiar with exactly zero (I guess that’s what happens when you do most of your alcohol purchases at grocery stores and convenience marts).  Curiously, the brand Vivache is missing from their wine brand list, and a quick Google search only reveals hits from Aldi stores.  Could this be a label made specifically for Aldi?  It sure looks like it.

Anyway, being unfamiliar with fruit-flavored moscato, I was a little nervous as to how this would taste.  How “realistic” would the peach flavor be?  How would it blend in with the existing flavor of moscato?  A sniff right after twisting off the cap revealed a very strong, and very welcoming, peach aroma that is very akin to a wine cooler (sure enough, its label reveals that this is, in fact, a “wine cooler with natural flavor”).  Alcohol content is pretty lame, at 6%, but that's in relation to what you would expect from this kind of beverage, so if you’re looking to get drunk, I would definitely look elsewhere (you’ll probably get a headache from the sweetness before you even get hammered).

But if you’re just looking to sip some wine by the poolside, or out on the deck on a nice warm day, this is the perfect drink for you.  The peach takes center stage, with a mouth-watering flavor that I really didn’t find to be fakey at all, yet you can also taste the moscato hovering just below the surface.  I thought the flavor combination was pretty incredible, and the wife and I unanimously agreed that we wouldn‘t hesitate to pick this stuff up again whenever it becomes available.  Unfortunately, it was gone within a couple weeks after becoming available at our Aldi store, so it seems that we’re not the only one in on this secret.

Overall: 8.5/10.  As with many of the alcoholic beverages I enjoy, this will no doubt be too sweet for some, and true wine drinkers will scoff at the mere recommendation of a wine cooler, but I thought Vivache’s Peach Moscato is an excellent blend of the two titular items.  The peach is pronounced, and is complimented by an equally-sweet moscato background…honestly, the two flavors seem to feed off each other in perfect balance.  The 6% alcohol content is pretty lame, but what you would expect out of a wine cooler, so you can’t really knock it for that.  Value at $5.99 a bottle (in Ohio; it's usually $1 or $2 cheaper elsewhere) is very good, and for those that are just looking for a refreshing summer drink, I can’t recommend it enough.  Act fast; stock was out within two weeks at our store, so if you happen to see a bottle, grab it before it’s gone!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Busy Baker Tangy Cheddar Squares (Dollar Tree)

Don't be afraid...they're better than you think.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I always get a very hesitating feeling wash over my body any time I pick up a food item from Dollar Tree.  And it’s not without its reasoning, as more than a few food items I’ve purchased here have been pretty…subpar, to put it politely.  So imagine just how nervous I was when I grabbed a box of Tangy Cheddar Squares off the shelf, knowing full well that Aldi’s knockoffs are every bit as good as the national brand.  Could there possibly be room for another one?

In a side-by-side taste test, I found Aldi’s Savoritz crackers to be a lot closer to the taste and texture of the national brand.  Busy Baker’s crackers didn’t have quite the same cheesy punch, and they feel a little less crunchy than Savoritz’s version.  On the value front, both boxes are pretty close to a tie--although Busy Baker’s offers a 7 oz. box for $1, Savoritz offers their 12 oz. box for less than $2, so really the ounce-for-ounce comparison is pretty neutral.

But don’t go looking at this like it’s a complete loss for the Busy Baker’s version, because while it doesn’t have the same flavor as Aldi’s version or the national brand, that almost works to its advantage.  The taste is just different enough that it almost feels like its own separate product; like it’s just a unique twist on the same thing, yet it‘s still so good that I found it hard to limit myself to just a handful or two.  The cheese is muted a little bit, giving you a slightly more subtle (but still completely noticeable) cheesy flavor that would also be perfect in a soup or dip.

There’s also 90g fewer sodium in Busy Baker’s version.  While in the grand scheme of things, it’s still pretty high (250g per 27 cracker serving), that’s still a whole percent less sodium per serving than Savoritz’s crackers, so for those eyeing their sodium intake to a “T”, you could save a little bit going with the Busy Baker (though curiously, there’s four times more saturated fat per serving, despite similar overall fat content, which could negate that advantage).

Overall: 7.5/10.  While not as close in taste to the national brand as Aldi’s Savoritz crackers are, Busy Baker’s Tangy Cheddar Squares are almost every bit as addicting.  The cheese flavor is dialed back just a little bit, but there’s still plenty to go around.  There’s also 90g fewer sodium per serving, which can certainly add up.  If you don’t have an Aldi store nearby, or just want to try something a little different, I’d definitely urge you to give the Busy Baker a try.  For $1 per 7 oz. box, you won’t be disappointed.

Savoritz Cheddar Baked Snack Crackers (Aldi)

Any guesses as to what product this may be knocking off?
If you are a fan of the national brand, and chances are you can tell exactly what product this is emulating simply by looking at the box, go out and buy some, because these are every bit as addicting as the “original“, and for at least a dollar less per box.

I had my reservations the first time I grabbed Savoritz’ Cheese Baked Crackers from Aldi…who wouldn’t?  After all, the product on which it is based is a nearly perfect snack, with a nice, satisfying crunch, and a delicious cheese powder that leaves you coming back for more.  The margin for error was such that I thought there was no way that these could compare.

Everything here is just about perfectly emulated, even down to the national brands’ sole flaw (at least in my eyes) of being pretty darn salty.  Don’t get me wrong, it never stopped me from shoving these down my gullet by the handful, but it’s something that you notice, especially the longer the snacking session continues on.  The texture is every bit as crunchy, while the cheese flavor is pretty much spot-on.  I’ll just keep this one simple and to the point:  If you like the national brand, I can confidently say that you are going to like these.  And if you like saving money, then you’ll like these even more.

Overall: 10/10.  Not much needs to be said about these, other than the fact they are an almost perfect replica of the national brand.  The crunchy texture, the strong cheddar flavor, and the heavy dose of salt are all here in overabundance.  Even better, it’s at least a dollar less for the same size box, making it an excellent value.  Once you buy these, you may never go back to any other brand…not even the original.