Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tornado Energy Drinks: Storm, Active, and Ice (Big Lots)

TORNADO STORM ENERGY DRINK

Inspired use of a resealable cap! More energy drinks should have it, but none should taste like this.
The first thing I thought about when I saw a bottle of Tornado energy drink was just how bizarre it is that more of them don’t come in plastic bottles.  I kinda get the 8 oz. cans being in cans, because they’re more for guzzling quick, but I tend to break 16 oz. cans down into two servings, and by the second day, they’re always flat.  Granted, I drink them anyway, but I know a good number of people that won’t even look at them if they don’t have carbonation, so they tend to throw them away.  I guess that doesn’t really effect the manufacturer much--after all, they already have their money--but I like to think that some actually care about what the consumer thinks (they don’t).

Anyway, I break mine down because I just don’t need that much caffeine.  And assuming it’s not a diet, or “zero” drink, I sure as hell don’t need that much sugar all at once.  The average can has somewhere around 50g in 16 oz. and if I drank all that, Monday through Friday, I’m pretty sure I’d be a diabetic by Wednesday.  Besides, the only thing that happens when it goes flat is that the carbonation merely disappears.  Other than that, it tastes exactly the same and has the same caffeine content, so it doesn’t bother me.  This was just a longwinded way of saying I like that I can just screw the cap back on and lock in the freshness for another day.  There, I said it, and it only took me two paragraphs.

I was more excited than usual to try this, because Big Lots was out of energy drinks for a full two weeks before getting these in, and so I eagerly grabbed a couple different flavors and loaded them into my cart.  Unlike a lot of the beverages that seem to find their way to Big Lots shelves, I liked that this one was clearly labeled, so there was no confusion as to what I was getting.  “Storm” doesn’t describe the flavor too well, but it was an intriguing enough title that I wanted to give it a go (note: since then, I’ve discovered that the flavor is described on the back of the bottle, toward the very bottom).  The fact each bottle was only $.50, along with the knowledge that they were selling out fast really helped to solidify the decision for me, so I grabbed one.

I actually went back to get more a couple of days later, but they were sold out.  As it turns out, though, it was a good thing, because Storm pretty much sucks.  It takes the “standard” energy drink flavor, and throws in a ton of extra tartness; usually, this is counterbalanced with something not quite as tart, but here, it’s not.  What there is, is a severely watered-down back-end that tastes almost diety, leading to a nearly-pungent aftertaste.  But while it may avoid being called “disgusting” by the slimmest of margins, it’s still nowhere close to being considered “good”.

It still gets some marks for value--after all, fifty cents for a full-size energy beverage is pretty much unheard of--and it still retains its marks for the incredibly novel plastic bottle.  I had some left over after the first day, screwed on the cap, and had plenty of carbonation for the second go ‘round, which was a welcome addition.  Unfortunately, the poor taste and even worse aftertaste ultimately combine to do this one in.

Overall: 4/10.  The plastic bottle with screw-on cap is way niftier than it should be (seriously, why don’t more energy drinks use them?), but this is done in with a strong tartness that’s only counterbalanced with a watered-down back-end that leads to a nearly pungent aftertaste that makes you want to shave off your taste buds one by one.  It does get marks for value, as they are a mere $.50 at Big Lots stores, but no matter how inexpensive something is, if it tastes like crap, it’s not much of a value.  I’d avoid this one unless in a serious bind.

TORNADO ACTIVE ENERGY DRINK
An improvement over "Storm", but still not good.
Even after trying the terrible “Storm” version outlined above, I was still pretty excited to try Tornado’s “Active” energy beverage.  The back of the bottle reveals that it’s “tropical flavored energy”, and if there’s any kind of broad flavors that I like, it’s the flavor of tropical fruits.  I was also figuring that the sweetness would help to offset the disgustingly-overwhelming tartness of their previously-reviewed offering.

It smells tropical enough, with a nice sweetness that reminded me of bubblegum at first, before giving way to a fruity sweetness.  It’s hard to tell exactly what it is that I was smelling, because there isn’t an ounce of actual fruit juice, nor any fruit flavors explicitly listed--all we get is the mysterious “natural flavors” BS that’s typically found in cheap energy drinks.  But it smelled good enough that, despite all that, I was still looking forward to digging right in.

I will give it that the taste is much better than “Storm”, but there’s still that pesky tartness that feels even more out of place here (though it’s also a little more subdued).  The first flavor is a pleasant sweetness that dances on the tongue initially, but that’s when the uninvited tartness settles in, causing everything to come crashing down, and leading up to an unnecessarily sour finish.  Again, the bottle situation works to its advantage, so points must be given for that, along with the $.50 asking price at Big Lots stores.  But while this is a minor improvement over “Storm”, it still wouldn’t be my first choice for an energy drink.  Nor my tenth.  Nor my fiftieth.

Overall: 5/10.  It’s a little bit better than “Storm”, but this tropical-themed drink still has an unnecessary tartness that ruins what actually starts off as enticingly sweet.  The smell reminded me of bubblegum, and the initial flavor is a welcome combination of unidentifiable but tropical-y flavors--until the sour rush comes in, essentially ruining what could have been a delicious drink.  Points must be given for the cool, recappable plastic bottle that locks in freshness for multiple servings, as well as the low $.50 price point, but even keeping those in mind, there are plenty of better energy drinks on the market.  In a bind, this will work--otherwise, stay away.

TORNADO ICE ENERGY DRINK
An intriguing concept with decent execution.
Once again they have these available at Big Lots!  I missed out on trying the “Ice” version last time, because they didn’t have it, so I jumped on it this time!  The one problem with that is that I’m not supposed to have grapefruit (I take simvastatin for hereditary high cholesterol), and I didn’t notice until I brought it home that this is a mix of “grapefruit and lemon”.  Whoops.  But there’s no actual juice in it (it comes in the form of “natural flavors”), so I figure there’s probably not enough to do serious damage.  Let’s hope I’m right. [nervous laughter]

Anyway, if I wouldn’t have read the label before opening the bottle, I certainly would have noticed the presence of the grapefruit just by taking a sniff—it smells overwhelmingly of the fruit.  That was rather disappointing to me, because grapefruit is a pretty tart and unsweet fruit by itself, and I didn’t want something that was going to taste like that straight up.  And lemon isn’t a real sweet fruit on its own either, so I was really starting to doubt where this was headed.

Thankfully, it has plenty of sweetness in it, though even knowing what the flavor is supposed to be, it’s kind of hard to detect it in action.  There’s a brief, initial burst of grapefruit, and then it all just gets lost in a tangy little mass of citrus that I guess is supposed to be the lemon.  Really, the two fruits don’t mesh together all that well, but it’s still very drinkable assuming you’re just in it for an energy kick—at least the weird taste manages to be well balanced, as it’s neither too tart, nor too grapefruity.

But this is called “ice” for a reason, and you’ll find out a little ways in to this whole affair, as a creepy mint aftertaste starts creeping up on you.  It doesn’t happen immediately--in fact, it literally took me a couple minutes after I finished the can to even realize it.  By that time, I’d totally forgot that this was called “ice” and was starting to panic as to why there was suddenly a minty taste in my mouth.  The next day, after I drank the leftovers and had it happen again, is when I finally pieced everything together.  It’s really a crazy feeling, and not one that I can say I’ve experienced before.

This is clearly the best of the varieties in the Tornado energy line, whose major claim to fame (at least in my eyes) is that they are housed in 16 oz. plastic soda bottles. Normally that wouldn’t be very cool, but it’s different for energy drinks, and it’s a welcome addition to be able to pop on a lid and seal in the carbonation if I stretch it into two servings.   In other words, it’s good if you’re looking for a fruity flavor rather than the standard energy drink taste, and while the flavor itself is unremarkable, the frosty aftertaste is certainly unique enough to recommend giving it a go.

Overall: 6/10. A rather bizarre blend of grapefruit and lemon that tastes like a scattered mess. To elaborate, if you weren’t told what the taste was on the packaging, you’d have a hell of a time figuring it out.  It does smell strongly of grapefruit, and also tastes that way for a split second, before the tartness of the lemon taste kicks in and muddles everything.  To top it all off, there’s a weird mint aftertaste that creeps in slowly.  It also has 142 mg per bottle, so there’s enough here to give you a kick for at least a couple hours, and 50 g of sugar per can, which is standard for this kind of drink (and yet still rather excessive).  They are available for $.50 at Big Lots stores, so there’s definitely some value to be had—which is the main reason, along with the intriguing inclusion of mint, that it scores above a five…I certainly wouldn’t spend over a dollar on this stuff, but worth a look for the intrigued.



Sunday, February 21, 2016

E-on Pomegranate Blast Energy Drink (Big Lots)

Pretty good, but disappointingly straightforward.
Following the excitement of trying E-on’s “Almond Rush” energy beverage, I was terrifically enthused to try “Pomegranate Blast” one of four flavors that select Big Lots stores are currently carrying.  Very similarly to the almond variety, this one features 2% juice (hey, I guess it’s better than none), natural caffeine and cane sugar, and the ominous “natural flavors”.  The purple color even comes courtesy of “purple carrot juice concentrate” instead of synthetic colorants, which is pretty impressive.  In other words, the genetic makeup of all their drinks seem to be the same, the only difference comes down to color and taste.

In this case, the flavor isn’t nearly as overwhelmingly delicious as the almond counterpart.  It starts off kind of grape-y, then flows beyond that into something that I guess could be considered pomegranate (I’ll admit I’m not too familiar with the flavor profile of that particular fruit, though pomegranate juice concentrate is one of the top ingredients).  While overall sweet, there’s a slightly bitter finish that I feel as it hits the back of my throat--nothing too off-putting, but also something that doesn’t seem entirely necessary.  The aftertaste is fruity and inoffensive.

In short, I like this drink, and at $.33 you bet your ass I’ll be picking up at least one or two more, but especially compared to the almond, there’s just something lacking.  Maybe I’m just a little let down from the jump in audacity; to go from taking a serious chance on an almond/lemon blend, and succeeding, to just “falling back” into a standard fruit-based drink with no shred of originality.  Still, as long as these are being offered at Big Lots for mere peanuts, these earn a myriad of points for value, and you’ve got to respect the all-natural ingredients, which is a welcome change from most of the energy drinks offered at the closeout store.  Downside, again, is the sugar, but I harped on that last time (see above) and will spare you the lesson here.  If the almond gave you a kick in the pants, this should do the same.

Overall: 7/10.  Has the same makeup as the previously reviewed almond flavor (37g of cane sugar, 2% juice, natural flavors, 142g of natural caffeine per 12 oz. can), only this time we have pomegranate instead of anything unique.  Starts of grape-y with a slightly bitter finish in the back of the tongue, but overall still sweet and drinkable.  Overall, there’s nothing all that “wrong” with this; the “standard” flavor after the audacious almond+lemon combination is just a bit of a letdown.  But if you didn’t like the almond, or just want something a little more familiar, this should give you a nice kick for a ridiculously small price.

E-on Almond Rush Energy Drink (Big Lots)

E-ON ALMOND RUSH ENERGY DRINK
Don't let the almond scare you away...this is amazing.
There are many flavors that dominate the energy drink spectrum, but I can’t ever say that I’ve seen “almond” anywhere in the title of one.  But of course, that was all the more reason for me to grab a can of E-on’s Almond Rush energy drink, especially since I happened upon it at Big Lots, where 12 oz. cans were a mere $.33.  How in the world could this possibly be good?  I was also looking forward to the look on my wife’s face when I showed her this purchase--much to my chagrin, she eagerly announced that can was hers to drink.  My plan kinda backfired.

I don’t know much about E-on’s energy beverage line, and a quick search of the internet actually revealed a little bit more than I cared to know: The line is owned by the ominously named “Global Functional Drinks”, and the 12 oz. can each E-on beverage  is housed in, is manufactured by Rexam, a UK-based consumer packaging company.  Okay.  Other than that, and a few Amazon reviews, there isn’t much information available on these; any time there’s not much information on a nationally-available product via the INTERNET these days, you have good reason to be nervous about said product.

Then, one day right before I was leaving work for the day, my wife texted me saying the almond drink “was the bomb!”  Now, she’s into energy drinks just as much as, if not more than, I am, so this was definitely a surprise revelation.  Thankfully, she saved some for me to try when I get home…and I have to agree that this is an excellent-tasting energy drink.  The “almond” in the title is evident, but there’s the surprise addition of fruit juice flavor in there--that my wife and I both incorrectly guessed was cherry (it’s lemon)--and the combination surprisingly makes a solid one-two punch.  The taste actually reminds me of something from my childhood, but I can’t place my finger on what…if it ever comes to me, I’ll update this blog accordingly.

Now, I did specify it’s “excellent-tasting” for a reason…because there are some typical energy drink concerns still at play here.  For starters, a 12 oz. can has 37 grams of sugar.  While there are definitely drinks with more in them, that’s still quite a lot for such a small drink (even though it looks larger, 12 oz. cans are the standard can size for soda).  I am impressed that there is no high fructose corn syrup in it, though--it’s made with actual cane sugar, so that’s some good news.  Now as for its effectiveness, it has 142 mg of caffeine per can, which puts it about on par with most similar drinks (which tend to have around 160-180 mg, but are generally in 16 oz. containers).  I only had a few sips of my wife’s leftovers, and they gave me some slight jitters, but I also tried it at 5 p.m., and wasn’t looking to be up all night.  I have no doubts that a full can would provide some solid energy.  B vitamins are actually a little weak, with a whole single serving providing between 20-25% of three of them…and that’s it.

But can you really be too picky for a mere $.33?  The flavor alone is worth that kind of price, and I’d consider any other benefit just icing on the cake.  The sugar content will prevent me from getting too many of these (because I’m sensitive to caffeine and tend to crash super hard on sugary drinks), but this is a delicious beverage that I’d be happy to sip throughout the day.  One of the better tasting energy drinks I’ve ever had.

Overall: 9/10.  One of the best-tasting energy drinks I’ve ever had, and best of all, they’re available for a mere $.33 at select Big Lots stores.  The “almond” in the title is definitely noticeable, but is also blended with some (2%) real lemon juice…the combination is actually way more bearable than you might think.  The biggest drawback is the 37g of sugar per 12 oz. can…while many other sugared energy drinks (and sodas) are comparable, it doesn’t make it any better.  142 mg of caffeine per serving (again, one can) is about on par with other energy beverages, and even a few sips gave me a quick little burst of energy; it should give most a similar jolt.  Extra credit is given because there are no weird, synthetic ingredients…even the sugar is cane sugar, as opposed to high fructose corn syrup.  Definitely worth a try at this price, assuming the “almond” doesn’t scare you away.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fresh Finds Jalapeno Popper Kettle Cooked Gourmet Potato Chips (Big Lots)

Misleading name, surprisingly delicious chip.
One thing I don’t understand is why chip companies lately seem to have shifted toward tabloid-style sensationalism when naming their products.  Every day, more and more, it seems we’re bombarded with “Hot Dog” flavored potato chips (which really just taste like ketchup and relish), or buffalo hot wing flavored chips (which really just taste like chips with buffalo seasoning).  Do they not realize they’re alienating more fans than they are earning with these ridiculous concoctions?

The latest offender of this rule is Big Lots, whose own Fresh Finds label has released a “Jalapeno Popper” potato chip, complete with an image of a cream cheese-filled popper at the bottom.  For someone that complains about these all the time, why do I buy them?  Simply because I like trying something new—I never have high expectations for them (which is good, because they always fail), but I always figure that maybe one day, I will find that diamond in the rough, for which all the time and money spent perusing weird chips down dollar and closeout store snack aisles will have been worth it.

And you know what?  These are as close to a diamond in the rough as I have yet to find, though my rant from the first paragraph wasn’t just annoying rambling.  These chips are vastly, terribly mismarketed as jalapeno popper chips.  They simply taste nothing like them.  There’s no cream cheese taste, nor anything soft and creamy that would resemble  that flavor.  But replace the name with “Cheddar Jalapeno”, and you have yourself both a more apt name, and a chip that more people would be willing to try.

These really taste exactly like other jalapeno potato chips that I’ve had, complete with the same (or very close) level of heat, only with the added benefit of some pretty delicious cheddar cheese powder to help balance it out.  Since they are kettle cooked, there’s also some extra crunchiness versus a regular potato chip, which I prefer (but they’re not so crunchy that you think you’ll break your teeth, which has been a concern with some kettle chips I’ve had in the past).

Unlike most products that Big Lots carries, which are often here today and gone tomorrow, the stuff in the Fresh Finds line seem to be their attempts at carrying things consistently throughout the year.  Like the closeouts for which they have become famous, they are also affordably priced—an 8 oz. bag is just $1.90.  While that’s at least a couple quarters more than chips at other discount grocers (i.e., Aldi) it’s still way cheaper than national brands, so they provide some solid value.  If you like jalapeno chips but have always dreamed they’d be better with cheese, then these will let you test out that theory.

Overall: 7.5/10.  Misleadingly titled--they taste nothing like jalapeno poppers--yet still delicious in their own right, these are actually jalapeno chips with a generous helping of cheddar cheese powder.  So then what’s with the picture of cream cheese jalapenos on the front?  Anyway, mismarketed attempt to over-sensationalize the flavor of the chips aside, these are surprisingly delicious.  There’s a decent amount of heat, but nothing too outrageous, while the cheese helps to balance everything out.  For $1.90 per 8 oz. bag, there’s plenty of chips to go around, too, for a really affordable price.  The Fresh Finds line is quickly becoming one of my favorites when it comes to potato chips, and these are another step in the right direction. Solid bang for the buck.



Fresh Finds Aged White Cheddar & Sour Cream (Big Lots)

Who knew Big Lots' house brand could be so good?

Here we have a surprising, but welcome, chip offering: Fresh Finds chips!  Fresh Finds, you may recall, are Big Lots own private label products, and while there have always been a slight smattering of them here and there, they didn’t seem to be offered with any kind of regularity.  Well now, that seems to be changing; they’ve had the same Fresh Finds chips in stock every time I’ve gone for the last couple of months.  This is good, because the nature of closeout shops always makes it difficult to know whether or not the item you’re looking for will be there.

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of cheddar and sour cream chips, so the replacing of aged white cheddar with standard cheddar really appealed to me.  An 8 oz. bag retails for $1.90 (which seems to be the price of all of their Fresh Finds offerings), so while it’s a little bit more than you’ll pay at discount grocers (such as Aldi), it’s still well below national brand price.

These are described on the packaging as “gourmet potato chips”.  I’m not sure I would go that far, because the white cheddar powder looks and tastes strongly reminiscent of the white cheddar powder that you sprinkle on popcorn, but it somehow tastes really good, and is a nice change of pace from your average cheddar and sour cream chips.  There’s also a generous helping of each of the titular ingredients on each chip, ensuring that there’s plenty of flavor in each bite.  Occasionally, you’ll come across one with too much seasoning on it that crosses the line into overly salty, but those pieces were few and far between (and I’m sure it’s impossible to make every bag exactly even).

I’m actually hoping that Big Lots does make an effort to start keeping their Fresh Finds products in constant inventory, because chips like these, and their poorly named (but delicious; see below) Jalapeno Popper rippled chips are actually pretty tasty.  I also like that the chips they are offering are a little outside the norm—they’re not just your typical wavy or sour cream and onion varieties.  I frequently make trips to Big Lots to purchase chips, because there’s generally always something that looks enticing amongst the constantly-rotating inventory, but I never thought I’d be making trips over there just to get their own house brand!

Overall: 8/10. These are actually really good.  “Gourmet” seems a bit far-fetched, because the white cheddar powder reminds me of the cheap stuff you sprinkle on popcorn to give it some flavor, but it still goes well with the sour cream.  The price is also pretty good; at $1.90 for an 8 oz. bag, it’s just a bit more expensive than discount grocers, but is on par with other store brands, and way cheaper than name brands.  This is definitely a product I can get behind, and I’m hoping Big Lots continues to keep these in stock.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mama Cozzi's Chicken, Spinach and Garlic Rising Crust Frozen Pizza (Aldi)

"Rising crust" is right...you'll be chewing on it longer than you do the rest of the pizza.
It probably doesn’t take long to realize that I eat a lot of frozen pizzas.  I know they’re bad for you, but they’re so easy to make, and many of them taste good, so we (or I) tend to eat at least one per week.  This week, with my wife’s weird work schedule, I was left to fend for myself for a couple days, and so I picked up a Mama Cozzi’s Chicken, Spinach and Garlic Rising Crust Pizza from Aldi.  If you remember, my wife is a vegetarian, so I made sure to grab something with meat in it, since I would be enjoying it without her.

I like a lot of Mama Cozzi’s frozen pizza offerings, but the last “rising crust” one I had was hugely, disgustingly underwhelming.  It was a four cheese, that both my wife and I denounced; I will never pick that one up again.  Truth be told, I didn’t really have high hopes for this one, either, but the ingredients made the pizza unique enough that I hadn’t had it a million times, and that was good enough to get me to pull the trigger on the purchase.

I burnt it a bit, but it was the good kind of burn: where the outer edges and some of the middle got a little charred, but the rest was perfectly cooked.  I like the charred flavor, especially on cheese, so if anything, I actually did this pizza a favor by giving it a little extra taste.  The garlic sauce, which replaces typical pizza sauce, is pretty good for a frozen pizza; it’s not at all overwhelming, and becomes the dominant flavor in this whole shindig.  The cheese and spinach are just there for support, and while they only slightly add to the taste, they’re welcome additions.

The chicken, on the other hand, is completely unnecessary.  They’re just small, white chunks of dry, bland chicken that adds absolutely nothing of value to the mix, besides a soft, chewy texture.  This is by far the weakest link; I think the pizza could benefit a great deal from substituting the chicken with some kind of crumbled cheese--feta springs immediately to mind--which could really take this whole thing to the next level.  But alas, I don’t work for Mama Cozzi, and so we must deal with it the way it is.

The second problem is that the crust is way too big; it feels like it overwhelms everything else.  Like a lot of crusts, it’s dry although I must admit it has an unexpected hint of sweetness in it that makes it surprisingly good for the first few bites.  However, there’s so much of it that one can’t help but grow tired of it; it seriously feels like you get a side of breadsticks with your pizza, that’s how much crust there is.  I never leave crust, but I had to on occasion simply because I got sick of chewing it so much.

The upside to all of this is that I must confess this is a pretty filling pizza.  I’ve been known to devour entire frozen pizzas all in one sitting, but I left half of this one for later, and ended up eating it for dinner the following night.  That has never happened to me--usually, the leftovers are just an after-work snack, since there is so little left.  I have to also admit that I won’t be getting this again for a long time, simply because the crust has me absolutely burnt out on these rising crust pizzas.

Overall: 5/10.  The crust is overwhelming; you’ll spend more time eating the crust then you will the rest of the pizza.  At first, it’s surprisingly sweet, but once that novelty wears off, it’s just a dry hunk of bread.  The garlic sauce is the best part of this whole thing, and thankfully it’s the dominant flavor, although the spinach and cheese offer up some decent support.  The chicken, however, is completely unnecessary; they’re just dry pieces of chicken, with absolutely no flavor besides the faint taste of “default chicken”.  I think this pizza would be a lot better if they just plucked off the chicken and replaced it with some kind of crumbled cheese (i.e. feta or maybe even blue); it would also give it the added benefit of being vegetarian.  But I don’t make these decisions, and so what Mama Cozzi’s has here is a woefully average frozen pizza that could be a whole lot better.



Mama Cozzi's Four Cheese Rising Crust Frozen Pizza

Want something with more flavor? Eat the cardboard box.
There was something that looked kind of…boring in the packaging to Mama Cozzi’s Four Cheese Rising Crust Pizza, which is precisely the reason that I have avoided buying it for several years.  There just seemed to be many more delicious options that I never felt the need to pick this up; those options range from their often-excellent take and bakes, to their neverending rotation of frozen pizza Special Buy’s that are always available.

But give it enough time, and under the right circumstances, any of Aldi’s main offerings become a good fall-back plan.  In this case, it was most of the Special Buy pizzas involved meat, which my vegetarian wife refuses to eat, for obvious reasons (though we did pick up a deep-dish cheese pizza, as well).  So we stumbled on this and decided to pick it up, if for no other reason than to have a simple cheese pizza that we could throw in the oven when my wife didn’t feel like cooking.  Works for me.

I will admit that I overcooked it a little bit, completely forgetting to check on it after I set the timer for ten minutes too long.  Oops.  But if anything, this little problem only gave it more flavor than it otherwise would have had; there’s no excuse for anything with four cheeses to taste so incredibly bland.  Especially given Aldi’s propensity to offer generally above-average frozen pizzas.  Even in the occasional failure, there’s usually something that stands out, but even the crust is listless, boring stuff.  I received no joy out of taking a single bite, and we ended up letting just slightly less than half of it go to waste (and we usually down our frozen pizzas).

I was also expecting the crust to rise a little bit more, or to at least look more inviting than it actually is.  But it’s just a tasteless ring that surrounds the largely listless cheesy center.  Adding insult to injury, this pizza is, if I remember correctly, $3.99.  I’ve had far better pizzas for around the same price.  Hell, even their cheap national brand knockoffs (which retail for a mere $1.99 last time I checked) still pack way more flavor for a third of the price.  If I ever walked into an Aldi store, and discovered this was the ONLY pizza they offered, I would turn right back around, drive to a Little Caesar’s, and be much, much happier.

Overall: 2.5/10.  An offensively listless, tasteless pizza.  How can something with four cheeses be so incredibly bland?  I’d actually put off buying this because even the packaging made it look boring, but when it was one of only a couple options that my vegetarian wife wanted, we decided to give it a shot.  I did overcook it, admittedly, but I’m honestly convinced the charred cheese actually gave off more taste than it normally would have had had it been properly cooked.  If this was a $2 pizza, it would still suck, but at least a case could be made for it being an “entry level” pizza.  But no, this is a $4 pizza, and all it had my wife and I thinking was, “For another dollar, we could have had Little Caesar’s”.  This is a complete waste of money, plain and simple.