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.

BUTTER PARMESAN
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.

NACHO CHEESE
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.


CHEDDAR
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.

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