Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ripples Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders Rippled Potato Chips (Big Lots)

Everyone responsible should be killed.
Okay, okay, I knew going into this bag that these chips were going to be complete junk.  I mean, how can a potato chip accurately portray all the flavors in a bacon cheeesburger?  Moreover, why would one even try, and why would anyone buy it?  Still, I tried Ripples’ Onion Blossom chips (review above) and they weren’t too bad, so I decided to give these the benefit of the doubt.

First things first, they are terrible.  Like, probably even worse than I was expecting.  But the main problem I have is that the flavor doesn’t necessarily fail in the way you would expect it to.  It’s such a bona fide failure because one has to dig to even find any hint of bacon or cheddar flavors whatsoever.  It would have been better marketed as a hot dog chip, as a heavy relish flavor gives way to a subtle smokiness, as well as a complex mix of other flavors (I think I got a hint of ketchup in there somewhere).  Now keep in mind “complex” is used in the loosest of terms--I think they just threw a bunch of chemicals and potaotes in a vat and prayed something resembling a cheeseburger would come out--but there really is a lot going on in each bite.  The curious (and ironic) thing about the cheese flavor being so hidden is that it’s just about the only “real” ingredient in the entire thing, and you can’t even taste it.  That’s pretty depressing.

If I were to give Ripples, the potato chip company responsible for this atrocity, any advice, it would simply be:  If you’re going to make a bacon cheeseburger chip, focus on getting bacon and cheese flavors in here.  Everything else should be secondary, and relish shouldn’t even be in here at all.  I mean, have the “culinary experts” that assisted in this atrocity, ever actually eaten a bacon cheeseburger?  Honestly, I was just expecting the flavor of Tato Skins in potato chip form, an idea that still isn’t even that appealing.  Yet it’s loads better than what I actually got.

The only plus side, if anything can even be considered a “plus” at this point, is that a bag was only $2 at Big Lots.  But if you make the same mistake I did and actually try a bag of these, you’ll quickly find that any nominal feelings of value will be quickly squandered when you realize just how offensively bad these chips are.

Overall: 1/10.  Ever wanted to know what dog food tastes like?  This is probably a close approximation, only worse.  A bacon cheeseburger with no bacon or cheese flavors to be found; instead, you get a bunch of condiments, including relish (?) and ketchup.  Supposedly, actual “culinary experts“ helped in the creation of this mess; if that‘s the truth, they should be killed.  I thought the only products this bad were required by law to have Larry the Cable Guy’s face on them, but I guess I was sadly mistaken.

Ripples Onion Blossom Flavored Potato Chips (Big Lots)

Tastes nothing like onion blossoms, but not as bad as you'd think.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, I eat potato chips just about every day at work, for the simple fact they’re easy to pack and go great with sandwiches.  Needless to say, the same ol’ chips over and over again get really old, so I tend to seek out the unique stuff.  When I saw onion ring flavored chips at Big Lots, they had me hook, line, and sinker.  Of course, there are other chips with similar flavors (a certain kind whose name is a combination of “fun” and “onion” immediately springs to mind), but I’ve never seen them available in a rippled chip format, so I was anxious to give these a try.

First taste reaction:  These are actually pretty good, and definitely hit the “different” spot of the ol’ taste buds.  But they also taste nothing like onion rings.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a very strong, unmistakable taste of onion (if you’re eating these in public, be sure to have plenty of gum on hand), but it reminds me more of a French onion dip than an actual onion ring.  There is a generous amount of seasoning on every chip, though, so that’s definitely a good thing--I can’t stand it when there’s uneven flavor distribution throughout a bag.

At the full retail point of $3.79, these are not worth it.  But then again, I wouldn’t pay that much for name brand chips; I guess what I’m saying is, no bag of chips is worth paying close to four dollars for, especially considering most chip bags are more air than anything else.  Thankfully, I found these at Big Lots for just $2, which is certainly more in line with what I’m willing to pay.  I wouldn’t say they’re as good as the name brand onion ring chip, but they are good, and it’s a welcome change of pace from the usual.

A side note:  This is but one style in a line of appetizer-inspired chips that, according to the Ripples company website, were “designed by a panel of culinary experts”, something I find to be WAY farfetched (would a culinary “expert” really be satisfied with an onion ring chip that tastes like French onion dip, and work with an unheard-of potato chip company?).  Needless to say, the remaining chips in the line range from Buffalo Wing and Blue Cheese, to a Chicken Artichoke Flatbread.  Hey, variety is the spice of life!

Overall: 7/10.  They taste absolutely nothing like the titular appetizer upon which they are based, instead resembling more of a French onion, but these hit the spot when I was looking for something a little different.  At their normal retail price of $3.79, they, like all other chips, are a massive gyp.  But at $2 a bag, which they are at Big Lots stores, there’s a bit more value there.  These chips are more circus curiosity piece than anything I could eat all the time, but they tasted good and were cheap, and sometimes that’s good enough for me.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Specially Selected Truffle Macaroni and Cheese; Mascarpone and Sun-Dried Tomato Mac and Cheese (Aldi)

Definitely not the blue-box macaroni and cheese you grew accustomed to!
It should only take you one, maybe two reviews before you realize that I do not have anything close to a refined palate.  I can’t pick apart certain flavors when given a complex dish, nor can I swish around wine and tell what vintage it is.  The only way I know to enjoy food is to put it in my mouth and rely on what my blue-collar taste buds tell me.  At least, that’s usually how it works.

I’ve eaten half of the bowl, and I still can’t even tell what I think of Specially Selected’s Truffle Macaroni and Cheese.  I will say that it cooks up nice and creamy on the stovetop, thanks partly to the packet of cheese powder and dried mushrooms that comes inside the box.  As you probably know, “truffle” is basically code for “mushrooms”, and while I’m not a fan of mushrooms, I felt like the combination could be pretty delicious.  And as the cheese sauce starts to thicken a bit more, it seems to explode with more flavor.  This definitely isn’t your typical boxed macaroni and cheese, as the cheese isn’t so cartoonishly exaggerated; there’s plenty of it here, but it’s also offset by the earthy taste of the mushrooms, so those looking for a cheese overload would do best to look somewhere else.

Even though I can’t exactly describe this flavor as “addicting”, it’s different enough that I keep getting urges to take another bite, so that certainly has to account for something.  The texture, between the soft noodles and the creaminess of the cheese, is a big reason for that; but you definitely can’t ignore the taste…I’ve seriously never had a macaroni and cheese like it, boxed or otherwise, and while I definitely won’t be getting this again any time soon, I certainly would get it again at some point in the future.

Points must also be awarded for value.  Given the “Specially Selected” label, I was figuring that the box would make even less than a typical box of national brand mac and cheese, but it ended up making the same amount, which was definitely enough to fill me up.  A box of this costs $1.99, which I initially thought was pretty affordable; after tasting it and seeing just how much it makes, I have to conclude that it’s a pretty solid deal, especially since it’s only a couple quarters more than the national brand of shells and cheese, yet packs in a much more unique cheese flavor.  If you’re tired of the same ol’ macaroni and cheese, and don’t mind a little fungus in your food, you should definitely scope this one out.

Overall: 7.5/10.  Tired of “typical” macaroni and cheeses?  This is definitely a step in the opposite direction!  I’m not a huge fan of mushroom, but decided to give this a shot anyway, and I’m glad I did.  The mushrooms provide a nice, earthy taste that coexists with the rich, creamy cheese; the end result is a surprisingly addictive twist on an all-time American classic!

A few days ago I tried Specially Selected’s Truffle Macaroni and Cheese, a review which you will find paired up with this one.  But the one I was secretly most excited for was this one, which my wife picked up during the same trip.  I’m not one for mushroom (though I did end up liking it quite a bit), but the combination of cheese and tomatoes have never let down anyone.

I’m not too familiar with my cheeses, especially “exotic” ones like mascarpone, so I can’t say with exact certainty that’s what this smells like, but this dish is packed with an overwhelming smell of cheesiness.  Like the truffle mac, once cooked, it’s smothered in cheese, with the added benefit of having little bits of sun-dried tomatoes, instead of mushrooms.  But this isn’t just one of those women that are just good looks and no personality…no, this has the taste to match.

It’s absolutely exploding with a decadent cheesy flavor, and “decadent” is a word I usually reserve for desserts at fancy restaurants.  The tomatoes actually play a key role here, helping to offset the mascarpone explosion, by balancing it out with a hint of sweetness.  For being completely dried out, the tomatoes manage to taste at least somewhat fresh in the finished dish, and have a nice, soft texture.

Now one thing I will say, is for this one, my wife added the recommended, but optional, additions of butter and grated parmesan cheese, something I did not do while preparing the truffle mac.  So that no doubt helped to make this even creamier and more delicious.  I have no doubts it would taste pretty darn good even without those additions, so if you don’t have butter or parmesan on hand, you’ll still be left with a delicious, and at least somewhat healthier, entrĂ©e.

Overall: 8/10.  We wouldn’t hesitate to get this again.  A ridiculously cheesy macaroni with bits of sun-dried tomatoes…how could you go wrong?  As this dish proves, you can’t.  If you like really any kind of cheese, but especially mascarpone, you owe it to yourself to check this out.  I should note that we did prepare this with the recommended additions of butter and grated parmesan cheese, which no doubt made it even creamier (and even less healthy) than it would normally be, but I also wouldn’t think twice to try it the way it is right out of the box.  It’s a Special Buy at Aldi stores, meaning once it’s gone, it’s gone until the next time, so time is of the essence!